Realism and Art in Comics - Part One of an Ongoing Perspective

We all hate Rob Leifield. At least that's what one quick look at a few comic book message boards would tell you. His giant shoulder pads, the manly women, the biceps larger than a human head; at one point or another, I have even cited these reasons for loathing the man's presence in the world of American comic books. Yet, this got me to wondering: are we attacking the man for creating bad art, or are we attacking him for not doing realistic art.
Yes, I have seen the Captain America pictures. I have also seen Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso. Leifield will never be in their league, but what makes their departures into the strange, obscure and grotesque so much better than Leifield's? Before you flame me for supporting the man, here me out. I've often found myself supporting the more experimental painters, favoring impressionism and certain forms of cubism. How can I call myself an artist if I accept this in paintings, but not in any other medium? Its easy to point out anatomical inaccuracies in a comic book. Its easy to tear into a woman's giant breasts (take that as you will) or mocking the giant mouth on Plasticman. Yet, what if we're stifling some experimentation that could herald in a new artistic era in the comic medium? We've dealt with the same paneled format for decades, and we only rarely see any major departures from these formats. Yes, Leifield's work may hurt the eyes at times. But maybe we should take a break from torching everyone who does a stylistic approach and see if it flows with the story. That's my two cents.

"Realism and Art in Comics" will be an ongoing series, posted as more observations are made and more conclusions have been reached. The regular column, "The 25¢ Bin," will explore other topics.

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Why I hate Punisher MAX.

With Garth Ennis penning The Punisher under the Marvel MAX label, Frank Castle seems to be more popular than ever. I, for one, have no idea why. Ennis is blatantly ignoring everything about the character and making him something he isn’t. Don’t see it? Go grab your copy of where it all began, Amazing Spider-Man #129.

Back? Good. Take a look at the second page. The Jackal is talking to The Punisher about killing Spider-Man. The Jackal assumes Frank kills because he likes it. Frank is quick to say that he doesn’t enjoy killing, and he only kills those who deserve killing. Later in the book, The Punisher says he doesn’t enjoy killing again. Okay, remember that. Twice he says that he doesn’t enjoy killing. Now get your copy of MAX #1.

Open to page 14-15 spread, when The Punisher is gunning down some random mob guys. Last panel. Frank says “And only now, pouring automatic fire into a human wall – do I feel something like peace”. So, in the first issue of the MAX series, Frank has down a full 180 since that first appearance. Now, he enjoys killing. Check out Punisher: Born for more examples of how much he loves killing. Okay, character’s sometimes change, right? Well, check out (link).

The interview asks Ennis if he likes the character. He replies “I wouldn’t say I’m a big fan of the character…” Well, I guess you don’t have to be a huge fan of the character to write about him, as long as you've read it. You can skip down to where the interview asks Ennis “What kind of guy is the Punisher?” Read Ennis’s reply to that and the next question. Ennis just comes out and says Frank kills because he likes it, or so he assumes, because you can tell he hasn’t read much other Punisher work (if any). The rest of the interview isn’t about The Punisher, so you can skip it or keep reading if you really want to.

Let’s go back to the second page of Amazing Spider-Man #129, or the first paragraph. The Punisher says he only kills those deserve it. He doesn’t kill innocents. That is well documented through-out The Punisher’s history. Let’s check out issue 7 of the MAX series now. Page 7. A bomb goes off outside of a dinner our guy happening to be eating in. Lots of carnage. A man is lying on the floor with a whole in his chest. He asks for help. “So I do.”, says Frank. He starts to kill the man. The point isn’t that he doesn’t go through with it. The point is that he broke his biggest rule. He tried to kill an innocent. There is nothing to make us believe this man did anything worth punishing him for. He was eating a dinner at the wrong time. Frank doesn’t seem to care. He doesn’t want to help at first, he’s simply going to kill him. Ennis believes that is Frank’s idea of helping. Frank wouldn’t kill an innocent for any reason. As I said before, that is his number one rule.

So, Ennis just doesn’t simply care about The Punisher’s back-story. Okay, so I guess that isn’t so bad for new readers, but these simply aren’t great stories. They’re filled with shock value (Punisher #31 is a prime example, although it isn’t outlandish for the series) and constant talk about sex and cussing. Not to mention, Frank hardly appears in most of the issues. They aren’t stories about The Punisher, they’re stories about criminals with The Punisher thrown in to just move the story along. You could just replace him with any other character and have the same stories. Maybe that would be better.

If you are looking for good stories about The Punisher, check out Carl Potts and Jim Lee’s “An Eye for An Eye” (Punisher War Journal #1-3) or Mike Zeck and Steven Grant’s “Circle of Blood” (original 5-issue mini-series). Those aren’t the only good Punisher stories, but you should check them out to see how The Punisher should be written. If you’re looking for other stories, most comic stores sell back-issues of The Punisher for pretty cheap. The recent Bullseye VS Punisher story wasn’t bad, although it was more about Bullseye. You don’t need to put up with Ennis disregard for the characters continuity or childish humor. I want you all to get up right now and stick your head out of the window and yell “I’m mad as Hell and I’m not going to take Garth Ennis’ Punisher anymore!” Or maybe not.

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Giant-Sized House Rules! Part One (Week of 04/12/06)

Death and Return of HouseT: Part One: Death of HouseT

By Thomas "HouseT" Houston

(On Deck: FNSM #7, Captain Atom #7, T-Bolts #101, Ms. Marvel #2, Cable & Deadpool #27, Superman #651)

Man! Who knew there'd be so much pressure trying to put together a review column. Deadlines, compilations, spell checking... it's almost too much to handle and now, without warning... I'm... behind?

Oh no. It's the most dreaded foe I'll ever face.

They call him... Backlog.

It'll take every thing I have to overcome him, to stop this from snowballing into the end of everything. Have to push harder than I ever have before. Even if it kills me.

So much stress... lame issue jokes... no one cares about these comics anymore... no one reads these reviews anyway... no! Must push on. Must make one final push... to post draft...



Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #7

"Masks Part 2 (of 2)"

Writer: Peter David
Art: Roger Cruz/Victor Olazaba

Note-a-Quote: " Look! Over there! It's Doctor Strange's ectoplasmic form, delivering a woman's baby!" -Tony Stark, Iron Man (This guy's so great he should have his own boo... oh yeah...)

Juan-Carlos AKA the masked wrestler El Muerto lies in a hospital bed recovering after having been speared by Spider-Man's poisonous stinger last issue. J. Jonah Jameson rants about how Spider-Mna will pay for pulling a weapon during a wrestling match. Jonah's apparently out of touch with the state of modern wrestling.

Meanwhile, Iron Man and Spidey fly through the city. Well, one of them glides, but you get the idea. Spidey has been in the process of trying to explain what the nature of his stinger appendage is, but has a hard time embracing the mystical aspects. Tony uses the above quote to note that, as superheroes, the two of them face magic and science co-mingling on a regular basis. Tony tells Peter that just because Peter chooses to investigate a mysticla connection doesn't mean that he's abandoning science. It's entirely possible the two are connected by some as yet undiscovered aspect. As scientists, they should consider all of their options.

Back at the hospital, Juan-Carlos asks where he is. Jonah explains to Juan-Carlos that he's in the hospital because of Spider-Man's stinger (but then, we already know that). Jonah tells Juan-Carlos that he will recover and that he's perfectly safe, which may be premature as a large gold figure becomes visible behind them.

Meanwhile, Aunt May and Jarvis prepare to go on their "special evening." Unbeknownst to them (great word, that is. Unbeknownst...), a figure lurks in the shadows, watching...

Over at the hospital, the gold fighter El Dorado tells Jonah nad Robbie to stand aside or die. Jonah is either too brave or too stupid to listen, and notes that the pen is mightier than the sword. Unfortunately for Jonah, El Dorado has two swords. And I'm not even sure that Jonah has a pen to begin with.

Enter Spider-Man through a window to save the day. Or at least to distract El Dorado long enough for Jonah and Robbie to beat it. El Dorado figures that Juan-Carlos has lured Spidey here as an offering to him, and as such decides that Juan-Carlos' life can be spared. Unfortunately, that means that Spidey must die.

El Dorado goes sword crazy. Spidey blocks with his stinger spikes. El Dorado tells Spidey that he is a creature of legacy, just like El Dorado and El Muerto. Spidey counters that his powers come from science and nature, but El Dorado notes that Spidey's powers are far from natural. Despite his attempt to the contrary, Spidey has a stinger spike cme out again, but El Dorado boldly states that his mystical gold armor can deflect any power and sends Spidey to the next floor up without the use of an elevator.

At Avengers Tower, Tony Stark puts the finishing touches on removing the hidden cast he placed on Mary Jane's arm. Tony Stark jokes that he has also has a built-in liposuction device and an onboard dessert cart, leading me to believe that he really did build a George Foreman grill into Peter's outfit. Tony asks MJ why she seems a bit guarded around him lately, and she admits that Tony has been a good friend, she's worried that that might change.

At the hospital, El Dorado stalks Spidey, who has ducked into a laboratory. El Dorado tells Spidey that despite his protests, magic does flow through him. Spidey, meanwhile, is mixing liquids in test tubes. Aw, no. He couldn't be...

El Dorado finds Spidey before the web slinger can complete his process, but El Muerto appears and distracts El Dorado for a few precious moments. That's all Spidey needs to finish his mixing and and unleash his chemical creation. One part nitric, three parts hydrochloric, all acid, and in just the right formation too melt El Dorado's gold armor.

Oh snap.

Oh. My. Snap.

That's right. Peter Parker just beat a bad guy... with science.

Old school! Old school!

Spidey knocks the snot out of El Dorado, but the bad guy is no where to be found when Spidey tries to catch up too him.

At the restaurant, May and Jarvis are having a hum dinger of a time. May catches herself talking about Ben and apologizes. Jarvis is quite understanding about it though, which helsp put May at ease. Just as May is about to tell Jarvis something, she notices a shadowy figure on the street through a window and goes pale.

Oh snap.

Oh. My. Snap.

Could it be... Uncle Ben?

...? That can't be the end of the book. How can you possibly end the book that way? PAD, you cad, why must you leave a cliffhanger that... hangery?

And heck, this title is beyond good right now. If someone had told me you could do a two-parter about a masked wrestler and make it utterly enjoyable, I'd have had my doubts up front. If you told me PAD would do it, I might think it possible. But by gosh, this was a nicely laid out story.

PAD shows us that someone other than JMS can delve into the debate over Spider-Man's roots without it getting too preachy. And he also shows us that it's entirely possible to address the scientific side of a mystical aspect without abandoning the mystical side (and vice versa). It's pretty deep stuff, and if you ask me I'm still as fine with Peter having a possible mystical tie as I always have been. And I have always been fine with it.

The art in this book makes the grade. In a book that includes masked grapplers, the design and stature of figures like El Dorado and El Muerto are well laid out. Iron Man is particularly... irony? Nah, that ain't it, but you get the idea. Even May and Jarvis have nice detail to them, which is good for a pair that can sometimes best be described as "old lady and butler dude."

There are good things afoot with this book. I highly recommend F'n Spider-Man. Er, that is... F.N. Spider-Man. That's what I meant.

Story: 8/10 (As solid as a Spider-tale gets.)
Art: 7/10
Overall: 7/10

Captain Atom: Armageddon #7(of 9)

"Who Says the World Needs Saving?"

Writer: Will Pfeifer
Art: Giusieppe Camuncoli/Sandra Hope

Note-a-Quote: "Can't imagine they'd still be printing newspapers if I destroyed the universe." -Captain Atom (Ah, Nathaniel. Never underestimate the tenacity of the New York Post...)

The Skinny: Faced with the newly increasing powers of the Void-infused, Nikola, Atom pulls a page from the Superman playbook and opts for speech over fisticuffs. It has a surprisingly positive result.

Meanwhile, the Authority, convinced that Atom is still set to blow up all of their reality, send Engineer to put him down for good. Nate decides he needs more proof than a machine can provide and uses his powers to jump a week into the future. Finding proof of the continued existence of the universe and bringing physical evidence back, Nathaniel confronts Engineer with a choice of what to believe, his proof or some wacky trans-dimensional computer. Yeah, you know a fight breaks out.

Engineer gets the upper hand quick, but Grifter lends the Captain an assist and provides just enough time for him to revert Engineer to human form.

Aboard to Authority's ship, Jack Hawksmoor notes that the world is doomed unless someone stops Captain Atom now. Apollo and Midnighter appear up for the task, which they note won't take long.

My Take: Captain Atom is still awesome. That's the long and short of it. Where I was first asking why this series was set for nine issues, I'm now quietly resenting that there's only two issues left. Not that I don't want this storyline resolved, because I do. But it's been such a great run so far that I hate to see it end.

Despite solid appearances by Wildstorm characters, Captain Atom is still showcasing the title (as he should). His realization when confornting Nicola that he was thinking like "them" and needed to try smething other than violence to solve his problems is the type of thing you'd expect a hero of his caliber to do. Ironically, his attempts at not destroying everything lead to people being equal parts impressed and annoyed by him.

There's also the interesting twist of whether or not Nathaniel is still set to blow up. The fix he recieved last issue seemed a little too convenient, but so then does the computer data that he's still broken. Especially since both he and the Doctor have been to the future and seen that it's still there. Unless, of course, something Atom does in the next day or so voids all that, which may be likely.

Captain Atom has put all kinds of applications of his powers on display, and this issue is no exception. Between controlled time jumps (which we all know CA rarely does) and removing powers from Engineer by altering her atomic structure, the guy's a virtual powerhouse. And that's the way I like him.

My only major gripe about the issue would be the cover art, which would have been better used in the next issue since Apollo and Midnighter don't even appear in this issue until the last page. Not to mention it ruined any chance of their appeanace being a surprise. Really, guys, don't drop the ball like that again.

Story: 8/10 (Captain Atom needs his own title... pronto!)
Art: 7/10 (Aside from the cover snafu, pretty solid.)
Overall: 8/10 (Only two more issues, but what a lead-in.)

Thunderbolts #101

"Why Ask Why?"

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Art: Dave Ross/Cam Smith

The Skinny: In the aftermath of the loss of Genis-Vell AKA Photon, Songbird checks in on her teammates, each of whom has settled into their personally designed quarters in Baron Zemo's Castle O' Portals. Through flashbacks, we see how Zemo and Songbird spent time together in the past, and what led to their eventual... pairing.

Only Chen Lu, the Radioactive Man, figures out that something is amiss with Melissa's actions. but it turns out that not even he's completely in the know, as Mel reveals that the only reasons she's close to Zemo is so that when the time is right... she can kill him.

My Take: Thank you. I had been hoping there was some kind of double swerve in effect when Mel got all tongue happy with Zemo. And while the cover made me cringe a little, I held out faith that maybe there'd be something redeemable in the book. Fortunately, I was right, although who can tell what will eventually unfold when you're dealing with the T-Bolts.

I liked the personal interactions in this issue, as they show that Mel does have the leadership of the team well in hand. Her approach with each team member shows that she does have a firm grasp on what motivates them (or conversely, what discourages them). Aside from the fact that she's deliberately misleading them, it shows a good team dynamic.

Also enjoyable about the book was the discovery of the deception by Dr. Chen Lu. You know, the guy is actually a doctor, which means he's no slouch in the brains department. And it's always nice to see him use his powers in conjunction with said mind, especially when it grants him the power to see the big picture.

The T-Bolts have slowly become one of my favorite hero teams, so here's hoping they can steer back to the right track and stay that reluctant hero team I've come to know and love.

Story: 6/10 (An okay bridge, but still convoluted in a few places.)
Art: 6/10 (I should dock this one point for forcing me to look at the cover... ech!)
Overall: 6/10

Ms. Marvel #2

Writer: Brian Reed
Art: Roberto de la Torre/Jimmy Palmiotti

The Skinny: Carol Danvers is having one of those nights. No, not one of those "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" nights (and I don't exactly endorse those myself). Having stumbled upon a crash landing Brood space pod, Carol ends up in a bitter battle for life The battle is interrupted by the arrival of Cru. Cru who? God bless you.

Sorry. I couldn't resist.

Cru grabs Carol and creates some sort of link, forcing her to reveal the location of cavortie crystals. What's a cavorite crystal? More on that in a minute. Cru takes off, but Carol stays behind to take out the remaining Brood before they can pose a threat. Cornering a Brood warrior, Carol forces it to reveal why its on Earth.

We go on to learn that the Brood fear Cru because it is an alien that hunts them. That alone would be problematic enough, but the Brood have hatched a plan whereby they have tricked Cru into believing that it could use a cavorite crystal as a weapon. Of course, if Cru tries to do that by channeling energy through a crytal, it will blow itself and half the planet up. Nice guys, those Brood,

Carol rushes to try and stop Cru from achieving its goal, but appears to arrive mere seconds late as Cru channels energy into a cavorite crystal and the world fades to white.

The world's being disintegrated, but it could be worse. It could be the start of House of M II. Oh, what? You know you wanted to say it, too.

My Take: And a good deal more of Carol Danvers goodness is had by all. The story of Carol's solo adventures continues as she battles with dual alien threats and her own insecurities. It's both refreshing and disturbing to see a hero with an internal dialogue that's so honest. It's also a little painful to see Carol not get much respect from anyone, alien or human. I'd like to think that if someone just saved me from alien disintegration or worse, I could come up with a better thought to have than, "I wish a real Avenger was here..."

On top of that. Carol has to deal with second guessing herself when she let Cru go and stayed behind to stop the Brood. Mind you, trading a few hundred innocent lives to save the world isn't a choice to be made lightly, but all things considered, she still feels like she's dropped the ball. Heck, given the book's ending she may well have dropped the ball.

Of course, that would make for a very short ongoing title.

Story: 7/10 (Still solid storytelling)
Art: 6/10 (Woman in spandex and aliens... how can one go wrong here?)
Overall: 7/10

Cable and Deadpool #27

"Born Again Part Two: With Eyes Open"

Writer: Fabian Nicieza
Art: Lan Medina/Ed Tadeo

Note-a-Quote: "I would do something about it, but I'm afraid I'd get turned into the spleen of Apocalypse or something." -Deadpool

The Skinny: Cable has revealed his master plan... the revival of Apocalypse. Why? That's a complicated answer, but it goes something like this.

It turns out that way back when, a time-travelling Cable managed to kill a fairly mortal Apocalypse. But then Cable spilled his own blood on the battlefield, and his techno-organic infected blood mixed with Apocalypse's allowing him to become nearly immortal.

So now that Apocalypse has been finally killed by Cable in the here and now, Cable feels the best way to keep his dream of a world of peace and love on track is to bring Apocalypse back to life. Yeah. Let's just say that when you have a plan and Deadpool thinks it makes sense, that should be your first red flag.

My Take: Okay, here's the thing. I've been good with going along with what Cable was up to because, up until now there was some kind of method to his madness. Annoy the world governments to unite them against a common foe and solidify his own haven for world unity. Steal or find the items necessary to mimic his old powers. Not so bad.

But... reviving Apocalypse? The Apocalypse that threatens the world and humans and mutants alike. The Apocalypse that gave you the techno-organic virus that you somehow apparently gave him first (and heaven knows I hate paradoxical Terminator time logic)? Revive that guy, because you know that the good guys will win again, and you'll be closer to bringing the world together afterwards?

That's just nuts. And coming from what's supposed to be the sane side of the duo in this team book, it hinges on unacceptable. Even with an ace up his sleeve, Cable's hinging on bonkers with this one.

The only good news is that it looks like things will get back to abnormal next issue with a guest appearance by Domino. Just in time for me to forget this whole thing ever happened.

Story: 4/10 (Not the issue or arc to have jumped on board.)
Art: 6/10
Overall: 5/10 (Just enough story and humor to carry it, but not very far.)

Superman #651

"Up, Up, and Away! Chapter Three: Bare Hands"

Writer: Kurt Busiek/Geoff Johns
Art: Pete Woods

Note-a-Quote: "To be honest, Lois, I was expectng a big, green 'S' at the very least." -Hal Jordan (You, me, and every fanboy within a 1000 mile radius, Hal.)

The Skinny: Clark tries out the ring given to him Hal Jordan with interesting results. Instead of making him into a green clad Superman fan art design. it simply makes him a glowy Clark Kent. While he tells Hal that he'll think it over, Clark later tells Lois that he has no intention of accepting the ring and becoming a superhero again. Clark notes that if he had that desire, he would have made a costume with the ring instead of keeping his Clark persona. Clark is content with being just human adn having an ordinary life.

In the meantime, Hal and Hawkgirl have to handle an assault from the Prankster, which keeps them from stopping the Flea Circus from springing Kryptonite Man from Stryker's Island Prison.

The K-Man is taken to Luthor's hideout, where Metallo is being prepped for a special... "Operation." With Toyman involved, it means exactly what you'd expect it would. Luthor pulls out Metallo's kryptonite heart, and Toyman asks Luthor if luthor finally has enough.

Revealing a massive storehouse of green kryptonite, Luthor notes that he'd liek to have more, but this will have to do.

My Take: I'll be honest with you. As plots go, this is about as avaerage as you can get without being bad. And the issue isn't bad, mind you. It's just very, very directed. Once the potential of GL Supes is proven nil, this issue becomes nothing but a bridge between last issue and the next one. As such, the only real new information is that Lex Luthor has a massive stockpile of green K, and intends to use it for some evil purpose.

Beyond that, not much. Clark's happy with being human, but we knew that. The city's being covered, but we knew that. Lex still has a few favors he can cash in, and Toyman has a twisted sense of humor. Known, and known. Luthor will do something bonus evil, clark will stop him, and Superman will be back before long. Heck, we knew that in the first issue.

Story: 5/10 (Nice introspective, but still just a bridge issue)
Art: 6/10 (Art's still nice, though.)
Overall: 5/10 (A nice issue, but skippable.)

That's it for part one of Giant-Sized. Tune in for part two. Who are these strange new reviewers, and which one will rise up and reveal himself to be the one true HouseT? Or will any of them? Wait and see. Wait... and see.

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'Meister's Musings: Batman: Thrillkiller TPB and Action Figure

After waiting months and months since the release of the Batman: Thrillkiller action figure, Thrillkiller is finally traded. Since I collect action figures of Batman, I had to buy it when Elseworlds Series 1 came out; since I like to know where the versions come from, I had to try to track down the issues. Was it worth it? Read on. Reviewed are both the TPB and the action figure that made me buy it in the first place.

Batman: Thrillkiller TPB

Batman: Thrillkiller is an Elseworlds story set in 1961 and ’62 in Gotham. The summer of ’61 sees a ‘dynamic duo’ take the streets: Batgirl and Robin, who are trying to clean up the ridiculously corrupt GCPD. Detective Bruce Wayne is assigned to bring in both the Bat-guys and the bad-guys, in this case meaning the corrupt policemen. Bruce is, of course, his usually goody-two-shoes self, and foolishly doesn’t accept bribes. Wotta loser.

Anywho, hijinx ensue, Bruce gets involved more and more, and eventually he even becomes Batman. Why? I ain’t tellin’. Read it yourself if you wanna know. Is it worth reading? Yeah, I suppose. Is it worth buying? Probably not. Here’s why:

Art: 8/10

The art in Thrillkiller is both great and kinda crappy, all at the same time. It’s a very painted look (probably because it was painted, though you can never be sure...), though not necessarily the cleanest. And yet sometimes the art is great: faces here and there will look as realistic and expressive as any of Alex Ross’ work, but sometimes it just looks clunky and the faces are just…ugly. Brereton’s style is certainly unique, and it does work for the most part; the gaudy colors all pop, the action is clear enough to follow; and yet sometimes, particularly with Robin, the characters just don’t look too good. Their faces are distorted, their lips like Angelina Jolie but worse; kinda weird on that front.

Story: 7/10

The story itself is OK. Maybe even pretty good. But I wouldn’t classify Thrillkiller as a must-read among Bat-stories. As an Elseworld it isn’t too bad, as the concept of Batgirl and Robin inspiring Bruce is rather interesting; however, beyond the 3 issues of the main story, there’s also Thrillkiller ’62, which is really just an excuse to throw in as many cameos of as many characters as possible. Overall the story is relatively gripping, and you really do get a sense of Gotham’s corruption; it just isn’t among Batman’s most memorable adventures. The three-issue series itself is quite decent, but Thrillkiller '62, which is really when Batman comes into play, is almost a chore to read.

Overall: 7/10

I would recommend reading Thrillkiller if you’re a fan of Batman or especially of Batgirl. I’m just not sure if I would recommend shelling out 15 bucks for it. Everything is pretty good overall, but there are enough flaws to bring the total score down a bit, and aside from a decent plot, there isn’t a whole heckuva lot of other stuff going for it. Borrow it, enjoy it, but don’t expect another Long Halloween or DKR (assuming, of course, DKR isn’t the Antichrist in your eyes.)

Ooh, but there’s more: the action figures!

Batman: Thrillkiller Action Figure

DC Direct’s Elseworlds Series 1 contained 2 Thrillkiller figures: Batman and Batgirl. Of all of the Batman figures I have, this is one of the coolest, particularly now that I have the source material it comes from. I don't have Batgirl, though that one looks pretty cool. So, quick review of good ol' Bats:

Sculpt: 9/10

DC Direct is phenomenally good at capturing artists’ individual styles in the action figures they produce. The Tim Sale Long Halloween figure looks exactly like it stepped out of the page; Thrillkiller Batman is really no different.

Following the blocky, square style of Brereton’s painted work, the figure has the stocky physique Detective Bruce Wayne has in the comic. The head is particularly well-sculpted, as everything down to the little eyebrows on Batman’s mask look like a 3D version of Brereton’s art. DC Direct has yet to disappoint me on that front. The rest of the figure is also pretty cool: far from being just a boring, dull black, Batman’s dubiously-long gloves and boots are all nice ‘n shiny. Great for entertaining simple people like myself if you have a flashlight nearby. Much like the only dancing hooker in Vegas, Bats is ‘very twinkly, very sparkly, like a holiday.’ Good fun to be had by all.

Posability: DC Direct/10

Do I really need to give this one a score? It’s DC Direct. Of course the posability sucks. This isn’t usually a problem, as DC Direct figures are really more like small statues, but in Batman’s case he has problems standing on his base. It’s not too big of a deal, but don’t expect him to compete with your Marvel Legends figures. The only one he’d be whupping would be X-23.

This really is a pretty good figure, though. If you’re obsessed with Batman like me, add him to your collection; if you like shiny boots, add him to your collection; if you like having artists’ work in 3D, add him to your collection; if you like posability, run like Hell.

Well, that’s it for this installment of ‘Meister’s Musings. Never hesitate to drop me a line here or at and I’ll happily reply to anything you have to say. And if you didn’t notice my banner, all of my posts are archived at, so if you want to feel better about your own writing talents, go have a laugh at my expense. Should be fun. ‘Till next time, folks!

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On the Rag: An Opinion on Advertising & Comics

Product placement in comic books.

There are people deriding this. There are some begrudgingly accepting it as a necessary evil.

I look upon it as excellent.

First off, the most ridiculous aspect of the single issue comic book is the ratio of story to advertising space. Sometimes every other page is an advertisement. It ruins the flow of the story and artwork. In fact, as an artist working to provide that storytelling, I'd be insulted to have something break it.

Or, as Marvel and Top Cow often attempt, you cram all the ads in the back. Which results in a seamless comic...but who's ever going to read those last 10 pages of pure advertising? Advertising is a necessary evil. It helps subsidize the costs, and if you're anything like me, $2.99-$3.99 for a single 22 page issue is really pushing it already.

Advertising offsets this, somewhat. But the advertisers have a problem.

What gets me is that many of these "hip and trendy" ads are vague as all get out. If the whole point of an ad is to make me want to buy a product, then why am I instead perplexed by hip graphitti art and street slang, that don't do a very good job of telling me what the hell "Nike 6.0" is?

This advertising within the artwork is a solution to the comic publishers, and the advertisers. And if you're a creative pop-culture whore artist like myself, it's great for the artist.It works the same way that advertising in video games works: if you're trying to ground something in reality, specifically Western culture, then for better or worse, name-brand and corporate logos are the easy way to do it.

It's easy to sell a setting with a Ford billboard in the background, or sell a character with the Converse star on their t-shirt. And as an artist, I find it fun to decide what band or brand my characters would logo themselves with, as many real people do.

In fact, I find the complaints ironic, coming from people proudly sporting Punisher and Superman logos whenever they get the chance.

And perhaps, if all the major advertising can be tastefully merged into the artwork, we might get more pages for our issues.

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Batman Mini-Reviews: Issues 224 - 227

Hello everyone, and welcome to the my topic giving mini-reviews on the greatness that The Batman comic. I have about 400 Batman comics available to read and review, thanks to a friend who trusts me with them. All he asked in return was to organize them for him. Anyways, I decided to start where I was told that the, campiness ended, and the dark, plot oriented things began, which is near the end of the first year of the 1970's. August 1970 is the exact month.

Well, I'll just cut right into the mini-review, and if you have any questions, please, don't hesitate to ask. Just be aware that I don't have every single Batman issue, and I don't have anything outside of the regular Batman comics. My friend thinks that he has more, he just doesn't know where in storage they may be.

Anyways, here's the first mini-review:

Oh, and needless to say, this DOES contain spoliers.

Batman Issue 224: Carnival of the Cursed

Let's see. It's about Batman going to New Orleans to capture the people who took out his favorite Jazz player, and stop their plan to defile his grave by stealing the trombone that was burid with him. Kinda thought it was interesting to have it set in New Orleans, and to find out that Batman's into jazz. I'm not, but still, I had no idea what kinda music he was into. The way he escaped from that boat motor was also pretty nice.

That said, it overall wasn't all that interesting, and I'd really like to see a an interesting crazy villan like the Joker or The Riddler, or someone else. What can I say? I actually usually find the crazy named psychos more interesting than Mr. Invincible under any circumstance except for random times just to make you think that he's actually somewhat vulnerable...I mean Batman. Hope to see one soon.

Rating: 3.0 Mediocre, or just Okay. Really hoping to see some better ones out there soon.

Well, hope that you enjoyed reading this. I really would like to hear some comments, as this would be a little boring without them. Even if it's a simple "I liked it" or whatnot, it'd be great.

P.S. I'll try to start Spider-Man too real soon, only with that, I'm going to have to start somewhere in the middle of 1979. I apologize for this, but the thing is, I have to work with what is available to me.

Ok, now onto the second issue I read, It's a double-feature, since it's actually two different stories in the same comic, which Batman seems to do quite a lot.

Batman: Issue 225-Wanted for Murder-One

First of all, I guessed from the beginning that judging from the title, this is part of a multi-part issue,(unfortunately, it turned out it was just half the issue, and that's it.) and usually when the main hero is framed, it makes things pretty interesting, but some reason, I feel a bit of dispair if it goes on for so long, not that it stops me from enjoying the story nonethelesss, mind you. After all, I do really love Spider-Man, and when I think about it, I've actually read issue 90 something to issue 194 or so.

Anyways, it really shocked me when Batman revealed that Jory killed himself. I really thought the person dressed as Batman was Jory himself, and he might have had a body double or something.

4.0 Geniunely good and interesting.

That said, I'm still looking for Batman to go after one of the psycho villans like The Joker or The Riddler. Hell, even The Penguin would be nice.

Part 2 of issue 225: Shutdown on York Street

This one was about Batman seeking the truth about a driving race-related death. Interesting how Batman knows right off the back that Alex didn't actually mean to kill Vic. (BTW, Vic, that reminds me of the greatness that is Fallout 2: A Post Nuclear Role Playing Game, but eh, that's a whole other hobby.)

Side notes:

I never knew that Powerfully was actually a word :P

Ok, onto Batman issue 226: The Man with ten eyes.

Started off kinda interesting with Batman getting his ass handed to him by a blind man, and then they showed what happened before the intro moment, about how The Man With 10 Eyes lost the eyes on his face, and gained 10 eyes on his fingers, which made things more interesting. This sorta thing is kinda nice when they just do it once in a while. Really liked Batman's idea of blinding the villan in one...well, hand.

Batman: Zapped me--Right smack on the button!

Side notes:

Finally, Alfred shows up! Was beginning to think that he didn't exist in the comics or something, as I've heard thay Harley Quinn didn't exist in the comics till she appeared in Batman TAS.

I remember the one episode where Batman became blind when The Penguin stole this one jet in BatmanTAS, that was a great episode, wasn't it?

And btw, even though the main villan is this issue is a vietnam vet and all, why doesn't he have the intelligence to tie him up before he kills him with that pink blast in the eyes?Honestly, that little bit knocks down the score I give for this issue.

One more thing: who the heck is Aunt Harriet?

Oh, and yes, there's a second part, but it felt like nothing but filler, so I won't even comment on what i skimmed through it. Seemed pretty boring
rating: 3.5 not half bad.

Kinda interesting to hear Batman mention Robin, and it makes me wonder where all the Robins are in this timeline.

Personallly, I think that Jack should have gotten more than manslaughter because he ****ed up 2 lives there. I don't know what they could have given him, but they could have given him something of a huger charge.

Overall: 4.0: Genuinely good and interesting, but I'm still hoping for a psycho villan.

Now onto the next, and final review for 1970:

Batman: Issue 227 The Demon of Gothos Mansion

To start off, something seemed really cool and creepy about the cover, and once again, Alfred is in the picture, only now Batman is helping a friend of his out. The demon Ballk, wasn't he in TAS as well? Maybe I'm mistaken, but still, it sounds familiar. This is definitely supposed to be a halloween episode, that's for sure, unfortunately, though, Ballk never showed up.

Rating: 2.5 Nice cover, and that's about it. Kinda regret not just skimming over it.

There also was a little extra bit with something called Casey the Cop, and god was it corny! IF anything, this crap is holding Batman back.

Sorry that this one's so short, but hey, this was a really plain, boring issue to me. I'm sure that the author wasn't aiming for that, but there was nothing really special about this at all.

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Almeister's Top 6 Self-Contained Stories

Yep, I'm finally getting around to writing another column! Amazing, isn't it? This one's pretty self-explanatory: my top 6 self-contained stories are the ones without forty years of continuity behind them, so you can get the entire thing and not be missing out on anything the story has to offer if you don't live in your mother's basement reading back issues. I keed, I keed. Why six? 'Cuz I was too lazy to write ten. So here goes.

First of all, I love continuity as much as the next guy. In fact, that's probably the biggest factor keeping me reading DC and Marvel Comics, since they essentially have their own mythologies, histories literally spanning billions of years and nearly 70 real years of stories behind them. That's incredible to me. But as much as I love that, sometimes it's nice to just read a tighter story that you don't have to be a die-hard fan to enjoy. A story where the writer creates everything he needs to tell the story, rather than relying upon others' creations to give the backstory.

There were a lot of comics I could have picked for this column. Some of them are relatively famous, some aren't. I didn't, for instance, choose Watchmen; I personally just didn't think it was nearly as spectacular as everyone else seems to think it is. I also could have chosen more indie books, but my exposure to them is honestly very limited. I've been branching out into less mainstream titles lately but I'm still sorely lacking in that department. So books like Blankets, which I've heard many a good word about, aren't on here, though I will likely add that one to my already-overstuffed bookshelf soon. The stories on my list are all very good, at least to me; but more importantly, they've all made me stop and think a bit, and, with all of the cookie-cutter comics out there, that's quite an accomplishment. While I love good ol' Spidey as much as the next guy, rarely have I returned to thinking about a Spider-Man adventure months or even years later. These are different. These have all really made me think about the world or my own life or something in a new way, and I think that's pretty cool. So here goes (and I mean it this time):

*Note that these are in no particular order. I love all of these, and I really can't pick a #1.*

#1: Rising Stars--JMS

Were I to pick an all-time favorite story, this would have a very good chance of getting that honor. JMS' 24-issue epic is absolutely phenomenal in its execution. What begins as a story about some kids with superpowers evolves into a murder mystery, followed by a touch of superheroic brawls, and ending with a truly thought-provoking climax. I really can't say much without spoiling a wonderful ending, but the story becomes much more than your average superhero fare. It deals with the fact that superheroes are essentially gods, and that they have the power to reshape the world if they would only work together and apply themselves. Rising Stars is actually 3 TPBs (or apparently a single omnibus edition as of a few months ago, though I've never actually seen a copy), each collecting an 'act': act 1 is the intro and murder mystery, act 2 is the superhero bit (and also, in my opinion, the weakest section), and act 3 is where the story matures and becomes exceptional. Everything comes together, everything is explained, and it all fits beautifully. You can't help but think about humanity as a whole reading the last act: our greatness, our folly, everything. I honestly can't praise the story enough. It's clever, and ir really does more for the superhero genre than most stories I've read. The art is fine too, though it does look somewhat bland in a late nineties/early whatever-we're-calling-this-decade kind of way. But it certainly does its job, and the focus here is really on the story anyway. Buy it. It's good stuff. Really. Quick side note: there have been a few miniseries going into more detail about the characters, but I haven't been too impressed by them, nor do they really affect the overall story. I wouldn't worry about them.

#2: Superman: Red Son--Millar

My favorite Superman story of all time. In an Elseworld setting, Superman's rocket ship lands not in the American Midwest, but in Soviet Russia and, as such, Superman is raised believing wholeheartedly in Soviet ideals. Hilarity ensues. Somewhat similar to Rising Stars, Red Son looks at the fact that Superman really is an uber-mensch. Assuming I spelled that correctly, this means that Superman is a genius, he's superstrong, and he can essentially rule the world singlehandedly. So he does. Lex Luthor over in America opposes him at every turn, and a Soviet Batman even joins in the fun. While a little knowledge of the DC universe doesn't hurt, you really don't need anything beyond simple name-recognition to get most of the nuances, and even without that you'd be fine. Again, like Rising Stars, the ending made the book for me. In fact, Red Son's ending utterly blew me away, boggled my mind, and did all sorts of other cliché things to me. Again, spoiling it would ruin everything, but it's a truly amazing ending that made me enjoy the book even more than I had when we were examining how Superman's control may have made him a monster instead of a hero. The saga of Superman's life is a very well-told and compelling one, and it really makes you think about what it means to be a hero. Again, good stuff.

#3: V for Vendetta--Moore

Everybody holds Watchmen as the gold standard of mature comics, but I firmly believe that title should go to another Alan Moore comic: V for Vendetta. Maybe it's just because I'm a fan of Orwell's 1984, but I absolutely loved V: the imagery, the theatrical elements, the story itself, the underlying themes present...I loved it. If you enjoyed the movie, you'll probably love the comic even more; if you didn't like the movie, read it anyway. The story of freedomfighter/terrorist V and his quest for anarchy is extremely well executed, and V is one of the most compelling characters I've seen in a work of fiction for quite some time. The contrast between his truest form as an idea and his human form as a vengeful, theatrical murderer is striking, and the entire story is brilliant in large part because of this. Though it gets bogged down by too much emphasis on the nuts and bolts of government sometimes, V for Vendetta is nonetheless a very powerful story. The ideas are very mature ones, the story a very cool one, and this sentence a very fancy one. Isn't that nice? I think so. Honestly, V for Vendetta is everything comics are capable of as a medium. Just like novels, comics are capable of producing true works of literature, and I think V is one of the finest examples years upon years of comics' publication has produced.

#4: Bone--Smith

Ah, Bone. Everybody who's read it most likely loves it. How could you not? Except for the fact that it's 1300 pages in its entirety, the story of the lovable Bone cousins and their adventures far from home are a combination of Lord of the Rings and Bugs Bunny cartoons, and it's simply a fun read. On the surface the cartoony art might turn some people off, but that really becomes a strength of the story. The art itself is phenomenal, as, even though the series took years to finish, the style is amazingly consistent throughout. On the story side, the fact that Bone is in fact 1300 pages is also a strength: characters can be developed to a degree not found in any other comic I've seen, and that makes them all even more lovable. Like Lord of the Rings, there is an entire world and mythology the characters inhabit, and both are fleshed out enough to give you a sense that the world of Bone has existed for centuries, and we're just reading about one small saga in their overall scheme of things. Like Bugs Bunny cartoons, there's enough of a sense of humor to get even the most surly reader smiling, as evil rat creatures discuss quiche and an old lady races cows (as in, she tries to run faster than them) for fun. Though I thought the ending could have been a bit better, Bone is nonetheless a great ride if you're willing to read it all the way through. And once you pick it up, you won't put it down, even if your arms can't hold up such a massive book for long. While not necessarily particularly thought provoking I suppose, Bone is a great example of how a good story should be told. So give it a shot. Two quick notes: Rose and Stupid, Stupid Rat Tails are both pretty good fleshings-out of the story, though they shouldn't be read until after you've read all of Bone; also, the one-volume edition is rather difficult to find, so either see if your library or comic shop has the individual books or buy the new colorized versions that are being released slowly right now.

#5: Wanted--Millar

This is the iffiest book on my list. While it's certainly thought-provoking, some people are sure to hate it pretty much beyond all other comics. It's about bad guys and the evil things they do, and it's most definitely not for children. Swear words, blood, guts, fecal matter, and sex are all quite prominent in this second Millar book on my list, so if any of those don't sound appealing to you, don't buy it. Simple as that. The last two pages will also either make you stop and think or make you throw the comic out the window; I personally found it insightful, while the owner of my local comic shop was enraged and offended by it. The story overall was good, though perhaps not spectacular; for me, though, the thought-provocation level was pretty high at the end. I recommend borrowing the book from a friend, a library, a store ('borrowing,' of course, being the active word there), or reading it in the shop, since you might hate it. Or you might love it, but see if you can avoid spending the money on it before you know. It's good, but it also has the possibility to turn you into a ball of living rage. And that can't be good for your blood pressure.

#6: Demo--Wood

Demo is actually the most recent addition to my comics library, and I loved it overall. Yet another Brian Wood book I really enjoyed, Demo is a collection of 12 completely self-contained stories that have no bearing on each other whatsoever. It's also the clearest example I've seen of a series evolving over time, since, to be honest, I think Demo starts out somewhat weak. The first few stories deal with young adults with some kind of abnormality (read: superpower) which, while good, are somewhat less enjoyable because of the fantastical element added into what are otherwise very well-developed character studies. While I like superhero stories, I think the first issues would have been better if they dealt with normal people rather than employing what is essentially an out-of-the-blue surreal element to end very real stories. However, as you read more and more issues, they become less fantastic and more relatable: two of them, 'Mixtape' and 'Breaking Up,' deal with relationships in a way nearly everyone can relate to; others look at the evolution of friendships over time, or how people deal with personal convictions in the face of outside pressures. All of the stories certainly have something to offer, but I myself preferred the later, more down-to-earth tales. I highly recommend picking this one up as, much like Local, if you don't like one story you're sure to find one you do enjoy.

So there you go. These are, in my experience, some of the best comics have to offer. With the possible exception of Wanted, these are all truly great stories, and they've all made me stop and think (except for Bone, which wouldn't let me stop reading it since it was just a damned good story). When a story can do that, and when I carry part of it with me for years to come, I think it succeeds in a way most things never do. I began reading exclusively superhero comics, but the more I branch out, the more I realize what the medium has to offer. So put down your Batman comic and try something new (you can even start with the Superman one if you want); you might even learn something. Lighten your wallet and expand your mind. Materialism isn't good for blood pressure either.

As always, please feel free to leave comments/criticisms/love poems either here or in my inbox at

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House Rules! Week of 04/05/06

By Thomas "HouseT" Houston

Remember how I said last week that this week would probably leave me with more books than I could handle. Yeah, funny story about that... heh... here's your comic review goodness.

On Deck: Infinite Crisis #6, Teen Titans #34, JSA #84, Spider-Girl #97, and Young Avengers #11

Infinite Crisis #6


Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Phil Jimenez/Jerry Ordway/George Perez/Ivan Reis

Note-a-Quote: "Booster. You have no idea how to talk to kids." -Batman (The first of many sweet moments for Bruce Wayne.)

Space, the final frontier. Or... space, a nice setting for any super sweet battleground. From within the Beetle craft, Batman's team prepares to engage the evil satellite Brother Eye. Of course, they have to find it first. Luckily for them, Jaime Reyes (the new Blue Beetle) has satellite location power in his list of abilities. Brother Eye materializes out of thin air... er, space, and engages a small army of OMACs onto the group.

On Earth-Two, E2 Superman and E1 Wonder Woman and Superman continue their discussion. E2 Superman admits that he's made a mistake, and also details Alexander Luthor's plan (which we all know by now, but recaps are fun). E2 Supes notes they need to return to Earth One to stop Alex. Wonder Woman asks which earth is Earth One, a daunting question as there are a multitude of Earths currently floating in the air.

Alexander Luthor continues his crazy plan, dragging two of the alternate Earths to his "petri dish" and slamming them together. One new Earth is fromed, but it fails to give Alex the success he craves. Psycho Pirate notes that the lives on E1 and E2 are being tossed around created and destroyed, but Alex is less than sympathetic. But really, what kind of maniac would he be if he had sympathy?

On E1 at Stonehenge, the remaining mystical beings assemble and attempt to summon forth the newly bonded Spectre. Felix Faust thinks it may be a bad idea, but it's not like he has a better one. Their little ritual works, but the newly arrived Spectre ignores the group on the whole save for Star Sapphire, Declaring that she has numerous sins to atone for, Spectre blows her up. Yeah, there's that kinder, gentler Spectre they were hoping for tossed right out the window. But at least he didn't blow up all of them, so that's something, right? Yeah...

Up in ye old Arctic, Nightwing and Superboy plot how they can possibly overtake the Anti-Monitor Tower O'Doom by themselves. Dick notes that if they can free their friends that are strapped into the machine they might have a chance. Wonder Girl arrives just in time to help with the assault. Three Titans against a would-be god... they may actually have the advantage now...

Batman's assault team breaches Brother Eye's... ahem, eye. Batman sends his various charges out to their assigned tasks, which include blocking surveillance and scrambling circuits. Only two people aren't given assignments. Among them is Mr. Terrific, who notes that he only has one superpower: he's invisible to technology. Keep note, kids. This is important.

The Titan trio continues their effort to free the people strapped into the Tower O'Doom with limited success. Alex decides to fool around with Earth-2 now. From space, Donna Troy notes that Superman and Wonder Woman are about to die Donna tells all of the spacebound heroes to launch a focused attack on Edward Giant-Hands in the hopes of at least hurting him. Ed... er, Alex decides that destiny may be wrong about Luthors and Supermen always being enemies and decides to merge them together. It looks as disturbing and painful as it sounds. Firestorm converts all of the heroes combined attacks into positive matter. Since Alex and his body are anti-matter, it creates enough force to blow off one of his fingers. It's just enough to stop his cosmic fiddling and save the merging heroes.

It's also just enough time for the Titans to get the heroes freed. Alex notes that none of them are needed alive anymore and proceeds to try and relieve them of that status. Psycho Pirate tries to turn Power Girl's mind into putty with his powers, but Black Adam arrives and turns Psycho Pirate's mind into putty with his hand. Yuck. Nightwing notes that he can't figure out how to stop the tower from replicating Earths, so Wonder Girl suggests they tear the tower apart.

Say, have you been wondering when Superboy Prime was going to make his presence felt? That would be now. Black Adam tries to put the smackdown on SBP, but the kid is disturbingly resilient to his attacks. SBP smacks Black Adam away from the Tower, which sends Bladam back to his home Earth. SBP tracks down Alex and tells him that his search for a perfect Earth is over. SBP tells Alex to find Earth Prime, and that they'll make that the perfect Earth. Martian Manhunter, Ray, and the rest of the heroes all attack SBP, with only Manhunter managing to hold his ground. Nightwing tells Superboy to try and dismantle the Tower using his powers.

Back on Brother Eye, Batman makes his way into Brother Eye's main processing core thing-a-mabob. The door isn't really labelled, but you get the idea. Batman attempts to hack into the satellite's systems while it tells him how all of his friends will fail, in particular Nightwing, who is facing a Boy of Steel. Brother Eye wonders if Batman will blame himself for what happens next.

At the Tower O'Doom.Superboy tries to dismantle the tower with his telekinesis. Cassie starts to get overwhelmed by OMACs, and SBP charges in to break up Nightwing and Superboy's attempt. SBP prepares to attack Nightwing, but Superboy swoops in at the last second and declares Superboy vs. Superboy: Round 2 to have officially started.

Brother Eye informs Batman that while Batman has been hacking into the computer system, the computer has been rerouting files to other parts of the satellite. Batman informs Brother Eye that while it's been busy rerouting files, one of his friends (the "invisible" Mr. Terrific) has been activating the satellite's propulsion system. It's been thrown out of orbit, Ensnaring Batman in a group of wire tendrils, Brother Eye tells him that if it falls, Batman will fall with it.

Outside the satellite, the Lanterns note that the OMACs are breaking apart, John Stewart grabs all the now vulnerable humans while Hal goes after Batman. As he vanishes, the Blue Beetle tells Booster that the Scarab is telling him that they're done, and that now Beetle has to get away from the Green Lanterns. Hal pulls Batman out of the satellite in the nick of time, and Batman tells Hal to fly them both to where Superman's fortress used to be.

At the Tower, the OMACs begin to dismantle as SBP continues his tirade. He continues putting the smackdown to Superboy and Wonder Girl, but Superboy won't stay down. With one last huge push, he drives himself and SBP into the Tower, which is enough to destroy it and seemingly refracture reality. The nigh infinite worlds shatter and then reassemble into one New Earth.

Nightwing and Cassie search for Conner, whose battered form is burried under rubble. Conner tells Cassie that he forgot that he was the real Superboy for a while, that they all forgot, but that she should make sure that they never forget again. Cassie tells Conner that he did it; he saved the Earth and everyone. Conner quietly notes that it's cool... then slips away into death. Cassie quietly weeps over his body while the currently assembled heroes look on sadly.

Remember kids, teenage sex will kill you.

What do you mean that wasn't the point of the book? It couldn't be clearer if it was a slasher movie. When kids have sex, one of them has to die, most notably at the hands of a megalomanical superfiend. Doubt me, do you? Fine. Just don't blame me when your heavy petting session get's interrupted by Superboy Prime smashing your head in...

Enough abstract? Okay, I'll stop now.

This issue seemed a lot more settled than the previous few have. There were all of the same venues, but they were a lot more organized than they did before. Maybe it was the fact that there was a lot more story resolution here than in prior issues. That helps things along, too.

Also helping matters is the large amount of good characterization for the leads. This issue could just as easily have been titled "How Bruce Wayne Got His Groove Back," because it was a great showcase of the human side of Batman that gets missed sometimes. Having seen it spotlighted in many OYL titles, it's good to see him get back to basics here.

Bruce's staunch faith in his friends is something that we, as readers, really needed to see him get back to. Yes, they screwed him over, but it was time to put the chips are down, and it made sense for Bruce to get over himself and do his part. Not to mention his sense of humor returned, too. My favorite exchange of the issue was between Bruce and Ollie, after Bruce had given assignments to everyone but Ollie.

Green Arrow: Hey, Dark Knight, what about me? Why the hell'd you call a guy that can shoot trick arrows?
Batman: Just to see if you'd show.
Green Arrow: Brave and the bold, huh? You got me all misty.

And Conner Kent, we hardly knew ye. What is it with DC and writing such great character moments in stories that result in the character's death? We get Superboy back to acting like he should and not some wishy-washy mopey duck, and he has to go and kill himself in the process. It's still a good moment, but it does suck that he's gone... or is he? More on that later.

And lest we forget that there were a ton of other characters that had their own little moments here and there. In particular there are so many characters that had brief, but completely nice moments that it would be difficult to list them all here. Things like Firestorm getting advice from Prof. Stein and Black Adam just being the "lovable" guy that we all know he is just made the book for me.

While I'm not one for art most of the time, there are some pretty good images on the pages. The art only serves to compelment and even magnify the story at times, and that's always a good thing. There's tons of little things and background images that looking at pages a second or third time will net you.

So there's one issue left, and the multiverse is dead... again. Nobody really thought it would last all that long, did they? And all that's left is to take this Crisis parallel full circle and have the fight with the Super Big Bad in the last issue. If it's anything like this issue, then the mini-series will be going out on a strong note.

Story: 7/10 (A lot of story, and all of it solid.)
Art: 8/10 (A lot of art, and all of it pretty.)
Overall: 8/10 (Worth checking out.)

Teen Titans #34

"New Teen Titans Part One: One Year Later"

Writer: Geoff Johns
Art: Tony Daniel/Kevin Conrad/Art Thibert

Note-a-Quote: "Looks like there's no brain damage. He remembers me... Uh, oh. He remembers me" -Ravager (Truly a grasp of the obvious by Ravager.)

It's One Year Later... but not yet. First, we see things through Cyborg's eyes... er, receptors? Anywho, we get nothing but blurry images and static at first. The audio tells us that something big and bad is happening. Things are chaotic, and Cyborg's CPU is failing.

From here on, we only get bits and pieces of imagery. Beast Boy and Raven lament recent losses and talk about their feelings. A... "new" group of Titans are at odds with each other, Two teens tinker with Cyborg's systems with less than successful results. Gar reluctantly tells Vic that he's leaving the team because someone else needs his help. And then, we come to now.

Victor Stone wakes up and struggles to remain standing. In the distance he hears a conversation that leads him to the kitchen. There he runs into Kid Devil and Ravager. Now we all know from the cover that they're part of the current team, but since Cyborg hasn't had a chance to keep up with his subscription, hilarity ensues. Okay, destruction and chaos ensues, but it's pretty funny, too. A set of teenage whiz kids comments on how their newly incorporated tech is working up to specs, but they’ve apparently neglected to include an emergency shut off. Not a big problem though, as Vic is stopped short of completely trashing his would be teammates by the arrival of Robin. Hey, look everybody! Teenage Robin is back. Woohoo!

Ahem. Anyway, Robin catches Vic up to speed on the old teams whereabaouts. Starfire is still in space, presumably alive. Mia is off with Connor Hawke on some island. Bart is... sort of retired... whatever that means, and Raven left the team after she and Gar broke up (tough luck for any of you wanting to see that relationship). And Gar has joined (or rejoined) Doom Patrol. We all know what's up with Superboy (and if you don't, then shame on you for skipping ahead!). Vic wonders (ha!) where Wonder Girl is, and it's funny he should ask.

Over at STAR Labs in San Francisco, Gemini attempts to steal a some wacky science mumbo jumbo. Her radio conversation indicates that she's working for Monsieur Mallah, Monsieur and the Brain, Brain, Brain, Brain (narf!). But Gemini gets sidetracked by the appearance of Wonder Girl. Gemini tries to get Cassie by truning into a bull. Silly girl, you can't beat Cassie with one of her dad's go to moves. If anything, you'll just freak her out a little.

Needless to say, Cassie stops the bad girl just in time for the rest of the Titans to catch up with her. Cassie's happy that Vic's back, but won't rejoin the group. Ravager tries to get under Cassie's skin. Cassie slugs Ravager, so I guess it worked. Robin states that the Titans need Cassie and that he "needs" her, too, but she's still mad about Tim not being around for the past year. To top it off, Gemini manages to disappear while their all yelling at each other, so Cassie, having nothing else left to hold her there, takes off .

Back at the Tower, Vic tells Tim that these aren't the Teen Titans. Vic tries to call Gar to talk him into coming back to the team, but is surprised to find a recording of Bumblebee sayign the Doom Patrol is unavailable. Tim reminds Vic that the past year has changed everyone, prompting Vic to ask Tim if he's changed, too. Tim notes that he has his share of problems, but that he's fine.

Later, Tim slips away to a secret underground chamber and asks for the status of a project. The computer system informs him that cloning attempt number 96 has failed. The machine states that a stabilizer is needed, and Tim orders the machine to start a new attempt. The machine announces that Superboy cloning attempt number 97 has begun.

So now we have the Teen Titans excursion into the next year. Well, at least the issue's timing is darn near spot on. Here's the breakdown of things that have gone on in the past year.

1) Cyborg is critically injured at some point between now and the next year (most likely early on), and it takes the remainder of the year before he recovers fully.
2) Robin is the only other Titan from the team that Cyborg remembers that is still on the team. Everyone else has either moved on or is dead.
3) The current team includes Kid Devil, Ravager, and has whiz kid twins Wendy and Marvin as caretakers of Titans Tower.
4) Robin is currently working on a secret project to revive Superboy by cloning... re-cloning him. How he expects this to work or even how he's capable of making the attempts is as of yet unknown. Let's face it; Tim's good, but he ain't that good.

The team's new line-up isn't liekly to win any new fans over. If I had made such a prediction, Ravager would be an obvious choice for someone due to flip sides OYL. Kid Devil almost comes out of nowhere, but seems like the pre-requisite animal type for the group. Cassie, while on the cover with the team, isn't back yet, although odds are she will be before too long.

Speaking of which, Cassie's new look is interesting, if not lazy. So her new outfit is a tank tee with her logo and a set of jeans. Hmm. I wonder (heh) where the inspiration for that came from? Ah well, the girl's still mourning. And apparently she's none too pleased with how she was treated (or not treated) in the past year. Tension seems high between her and Tim. A little too high, almost. Of course, by conversation alone, one could argue that Robin may well have "tension" with Ravager as well. She is, after all, hanging on his shoulder. That and Ravager and Cassie don't get along. But with Ravager's attitude and being Deathstroke's daughter, it's not that unusual for her to get on anyone's bad side.

So it's really no big surprise that once Vic activates, he finds this new team so hard to stomach. But rest assured he'll get used to it. Or head off to join Doom Patrol. They're having one heck of a recruitment drive.

And while I know there are quite a few people who are groaning about it, I was pleasantly amused by the inclusion of Wendy and Marvin. Pointless side characters placed there for nostalgia? Maybe. But at least they have the tech knowhow to be useful to the team over time. But if they build a Wonder Dog, I may not be able to shield them from comic geek wrath.

Well, maybe Wendy. She's sort of cute. Er... as comic... teen... girls go.

Just pretend you didn't read that last part.

Story: 5/10 (A OYL title that needs to build itself up.)
Art: 6/10
Overall: 5/10

JSA #84

"When the Dead Call"

Writer: Paul Levitz
Art: Rags Morales/Luke Ross/Dave Meikis

The Skinny: The JSA continue to scrap with Gentleman Ghost, who attacks them with... ghosts. Yeah, I'm still scratching my head, myself.

My Take: Little known fact about me: as much as I loved Watchmen, I got tired of all those old school pirate interludes real fast. So it should come as no surprise to you that I'm tired of the old world flashbacks presented in thsi JSA arc. At least the ones in this issue help advance the story, which appears to revolve around Gentleman Ghost killing the JSA on a certain day to get his life back. Yeah.

This issue is just a notch better than the last one, but not by much. I keep trying to figure out if my lackluster feelings for the arc are the fault of the plot or the characters, but I think I know which way I'm leaning. I hate repeating myself, but once again I have to note that Gentleman Ghost doesn't appeal to me as a high level villain. Which is odd, because other ghost-like villains appeal to me. I absolutely adored the Ghost when he was harrassing Tony Stark... but I digress.

The story got just a little better, so maybe it's going to pick up as it nears resolution, which hopefully will be soon. I sincerely hope this isn't a six part story arc. Improving or not, I want it over.

Story: 4/10 (It didn't improve that much.)
Art: 4/10 (The art's not exactly winning me over, either.)
Overall: 4/10 (The JSA picked a really bad time to go on a downslide...)

Spider-Girl #97

Writer: Tom DeFalco
Art: Tom DeFalco/Ron Frenz/Sal Buscema

The Skinny: May Parker continues to feel the pressure of having seen a premonition of her own death. Normie Osborn continues making his mark with the help of the Venom symbiote. The Scriers attempt to get at Spider-Girl by freeing Roderick Kingsley, AKA the Hobgoblin. In light of all of the events taking place, Black Tarantula prepares to return to the U.S. May decides the best way to stop a precognitive image of her death from taking place is with a fashion makeover. Aren't teens crazy?

Okay, so what May does is change costumes so that she's not wearing the same one she is in the premonition. But all Greek theatre readers know that tricks like that never work. Fate's just mean that way.

My Take: Spider-Girl benefits from consistent storytelling and a solid supporting cast. No matter how many side stories there are going on, all of them end up interesting. Maybe that's because no matter what's going on in the story, it always relates back to May in some way. Her school friends have issues that involve her (whether she knows it or not). Her other friends and family are aware of her secret identity, and thus have their own related issues and anxieties. And of course, her enemies are going to affect her life at some point, be it now or in the near future.

And that's what we're made aware of during the course of this issue. Hobgoblin's going to be gunning for May soon, the Scirers aren't done with her yet, Black Tarantula is prepared to make his presence felt again, and Normie is so afraid of the venom symbiote that he's setting up failsafes in the event that he begins losing himself (failsafes which involve May). And that's just the superpowered problems. Evrything's coming to a head, and there's no doubt that there's a big finish in store.

At least, I hope there is.

Story: 7/10
Art: 7/10
Overall: 7/10

Young Avengers #11

"Family Matters: Part Three"

Writer: Allan Heinberg
Art: Jim Cheung/Livesay/Jay Leisten/Dave Meikis/Matt Ryan/Jaime Mendoza/My Grandmother (What? Everyone else is on the list...)

The Skinny: The true origin of Hulkling is revealed! It turns out that Mar-Vell was indeed a space pimp, which makes Teddy the heir of both Kree and Skrull heritages. So what happens when both sides try to stake a claim? It takes the elder Avengers to keep things civil. But even they can't keep the peace when Teddy decides he doesn't want to go with either planet's delegation. Fighting ensues, and Patriot becomes the first casualty while taking a blast intended for Captain America.

My Take: Why the brother man always got to be the first one to get shot?

But seriously, it's the only thing resembling an issue I have with the book at the moment. It's not like Cap, standing there with his shield, in the presence of a small army of Avengers, is really going to get zapped or anything. But then it's completely expected for an excitable kid like Patriot to not realize that before diving in front of him.

And this is a keystone event in the series thus far. Remember that one of the major issues the adults have with the Young Avengers is the fact that they could be seriously injured. Now that that's happened, there's no telling what the repercussions will be. Assuming, of course, they manage to deal with the Kree and Skrulls with no further incidents.

I like the plotting and pacing of this book so far. There are a lot of internet theories on the backgrounds and histories of the kids. The fact that a good many of those either end up being right or come close to hitting the mark is less a mark of predictability and more a testament to how much background history the creators tap when plotting the book. It's refreshing to see someone be able to make use of continuity without cleaving it into pieces in the process.

One thing I liked about this issue which was discussed in the letters column was the way the covers are drawn. The editor noted that while they like for the covers to convey story elements, they also realize that due to solicitations and the like, cover art will be released months in advance of the actual book. This month's cover is a good example of what they try to do: giving a little insight into the story without giving too much away. Granted, a careful perusal will clue you in that something's going to happen to Patriot, but not exactly what.

This story won't be cooling off any time soon, especially since the Young Avengers are due to play some part in the upcoming Kree-Skrull war. At this rate, it looks like they're the ones that might start it.

Story: 7/10 (Solid pacing and escalation of the current story.)
Art: 7/10
Overall: 7/10 (Hopefully, there's a knock down drag out superfight next issue.)


It's time to read us some T-Mail!
Reply to some posts and some e-mail!
Might even get one from a fe-male!
(But it'll probably be from a dude.)

Alex "Almeister112" Swindle posted:

Since when has the easiness factor stopped you? Developed a set of standards recently or something? P-shah. Also, I would honestly love an actual T-Mail song to listen to. So if you're a touch too tipsy some night, share your (yes, that's the word I wanted...) with the world!

Alex: Always good to hear fans of the T-Mail song. To be perfectly honest, the only thing really keeping me from attempting to make a version of the T-Mail song is my lack of a proper instrumental copy of the song it's based on, "Let's All Go To the Lobby!" Come to think of it, I'm not exactly sure what the name of the song is, but that's the one that makes the most sense. For all I know, it's called, "Lobbytime" or "Traversus Lobbicus" (and yes, I realize that isn't any real language).

But should I get bored enough to track down a copy of said song, I would no doubt make my own cracked version of it in audio form. And then I'd be obligated to hold that T-Mail theme song contest that I've been bouncing around in my head. But the contest is at best still a good many months away...

Uli posted:
(In reference to my Blue Beetle #1 review)

Yeah, he should be able to shrink that scarab on his back down to nothing most of the time, and he could armor up for battle.

I can't really say I was a Ted Kord fan, so I didn't pick this up - but I like Guy so I might grab it. How long before Booster shows up?

Uli: I'm sure they'll resolve the costume thing before too long. Also be warned that Guy has a less than interesting appearance in the book. He's really just there to mindlessly attack Jaime, so make of it what you will.

As for Booster, no clue when he'll show up, but my guess would be somewhere around issue 3 or 4. Of course, he may not show up at all, things being the way they are. There's no telling if or when the book will jump one year ahead.

If you have any ideas/suggestions/comments, feel free to leave them here or contact me at Please reference either "Waiting for Wednesday" or "House Rules!" in your subject, so I have some idea why you're mailing me.

That's it for now. I'm running way too late with this to get extra witty now. See you next week, which is actually this week. Aieeee!

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The First Ones

Greetings fellow comic book enthusiasts! Az here, and this month (yeah, thought I could pull this thing down every other week but that's sadly another fantasy of mine that isn't going to happen. Keira, if you're reading this, I'm in the book. Call me) I want to talk about my very first comic books.

As you may have guessed, I love comic books. So much in fact that I named my internet handle after one (though he is not my top dog. Save that tidbit for a future article.) Today, I'll let you see what my very first books were. I won't include any real spoilers, that you couldn't find or deduce from the cover art. After all, we all know how accurate those are!

All of the books bear the July 1983 cover date (except War, which has March on it), so chances are that it was either in June or July when my dad bought them for me.

War #38

The first book is War #38, which is from the defunct Charlston Comics Group. The issue is as you may have guessed, about war from a soldier's perspective. If you liked Saving Private Ryan or The Longest Day, then this issue might sing to you as it did for me. Yeah, good versus evil is a dominant theme but the personal struggles of the men portrayed was what really got to me.

The backdrop for this story is World War 2 and the Korean War, split into three vignettes or short stories. The first is about an officer who freezes under pressure and tries to redeem himself after losing his command. The second jumps into the Korean War about a former WW2 pilot who has the worst luck and fights once more against the Red threat. The final story goes back into WW2 about what the soldiers are really fighting for.

I can't tell you how many times I read and re-read this one issue. I managed to buy another copy after my mom threw away my collection when I went to college (been rebuilding since), and boy, I still don't get tired of leafing through the yellowed pages. Harkens me back to a more innocent age, when a kid could be a kid and not have to worry about real life.

Supergirl #9

Next is the venerable Supergirl, pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths and also pre-headband and pre-disco. Heh, not my favorite rendition of a character but hey, that's comics for ya -- can't like'em all. Supergirl (vol.2) #9 also featured the wacky Doom Patrol crossover. Suffice to say, I was not wholly impressed with them at the time, but they were played straight and I could take them seriously. The story was kind of mediocre, but Supergirl was a fun read. Can't knock mindless fun when it's coming at you in a blonde wearing hotpants.

Green Arrow #3

Green Arrow (vol.2) #3
Oh yes! This was the comic book that really said to me that heroes didn't need powers to get it done. Sorry Batman, Adam West and Hanna Barbera didn't do you any favors to me when I was growing up. Green Arrow was the true ruler of the night in DC. Yeah, in his travels with Green Lantern, they threw in a lot of politics and it fit his character.

In this mini-series, Ollie is working a strange case that would make the tv show "24" jealous. Conspiracy, evil tycoons, and corrupt politicians -- nothing new, but throwing in the dude with green dud and a bow was... ok, Robin Hood already tread this road, but screw him! Robin Hood didn't take down bullet-spitting thugs or Count Vertigo!

Daredevil #197

Daredevil (vol.1) #197
Ah, where would I be without mentioning a little Marvel. Yep, here's the shocker -- my first Marvel book was Daredevil and I was impressed. This followed the Miller run so yeah, you know how that went, but in this issue Miller is long gone but the aftermath of those events play a major role here.

Matt Murdock is actually being an attorney... not a very great one, but at least he's in the office. The plot surrounds Bullseye and Lord Darkwind. If that isn't a hook, I don't know what is. Fluidic art styles and overshadow effects very reminiscent of Green Arrow seemed to be a common theme for me I guess. I liked action -- hard and fast. Seeing DD being a one-man army like Green Arrow in a situation where I could buy into it, didn't hurt either.

Captain Carrot #17

Captain Carrot #17
And finally, the "spoof" comic or what 90% of America thought of comics before Will Eisner set them straight in '78 with "Contract from God". Anyways, this is the zany Zoo Crew outing featuring Captain Carrot and his furry band of spinoffs. If you've never heard of them, imagine the JLA.... just fuzzier and sporting tails.

In this installment, we get to see the other characters and more into their backgrounds. Fastback, Pig Iron and Rubberduck are the main stars.

Well, didn't want to bog you down with the details, but suffice it to say, this is just a sample and possibly an explanation into how or even why I am the enthusiast I have become. Sure, my interests have drifted somewhat but the core remains true. A good comic book is what you make of it. Keep on reading and never forget where you came from!

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Tips For Tuesday: Surviving A Company Wide X-Over

So you've just found yourself in a company wide crossover that doesn't seem to be keeping down the death toll? Not an A-Lister that is pretty much ensured a safe trip and two mini-series after this whole thing blows over? Well, there are a few tips that you can use next time you find yourself next to that one guy from that one Fantastic Four arc and the alternate version of that one villian from that one Daredevil issue in the back of a brawl panel, and want to make it out of this whole crazy thing alive.

#15: Do not be a sidekick or a "Hero Name I/II/III/IVXVIVX." You'll either get screwed with like you or you'll be despised. Oh, you saved the world and defeated a villian who can blow up people's mind by blinking? They don't give a shit. They're to busy swooning over that vet who betrayed them twice, killed a few of them, and made them look like idiots. Ah well. At least Kinko's is hiring.

#14: Also Slasher Flick Survival Tip #32: Do not show any signs of love towards any other living being at this point in time, because if you do, your heart and main arteries will kerplode. Don't know why, but they usually attack the ones with all the heart, and rip them out Temple Of Doom style.

#13: Do not be The Flash.......... Do I need to explain?

#12: Do not be the villian. This may come as a shock to you, but every villian dies at the end of each crossover, whether it's a cosmic entity or Earth-5 Snapper Carr eating paint pigments, you'll be dead at the end of this whole thing. Suprised?

#11: Do not be "cult" popular. And a C-F lister. Before your 30 fanboys can shed a tear, you'll be torn apart by a bolt in the back of a panel with that one character who showed up in two Generation X issues.

#10: Wear sleek, shiny, pitch black leather and/or pleather suit, with menancing mask if possible. Never say something the least bit humourous or break your constant "I must break you" pose. If you wear something one speck brighter than black, or crack a smile, your dead where you stand.

#09: Do not be heroic. Even if a bus full of babies and old women is teetering on a tootpick-thin string above a river of flaming puppy blood, act like you heard someone call your name and wander off in the other direction. Some villian shot a death ray towards your friend? Let him go. He had a good run, and that one mini-series was okay. Because the first instance you jump at a chance to do something remotely heroic, you'll be playing Yahtzee with Dr. Conner's arm up in Heaven.

#08: If killed or dying, find Superman and rub your face or smoldering arm remains unto his cape. Evidence has shown that Lois nor Clark washes that shit. You'll have a good chance of being resurrected when a cosmic being passes by and resurrects from a few skin flakes or sweat beads. This would also give you an oppurtunity to introduce Superman to the wonders of washing machines.

#07: Do everything in your mind to be a collosal douchebag. Be on the other end of every discussion, start arguments for no reason, and claim other heroes aren't doing their job. You can go a step further by doing things like lighting people's capes on fire, sleeping with their spouses, ding-dong-dicthing their house. The most unliked or despised character always seem to come out of things healthy and shiny.

#06: Avoid the big battles. Twenty Galactuses are terrorizing New York?! Don't be one of the groups of people who decided that even though they have trouble fighting pre-teen bank robber or have no powers what so ever, they can somehow help out killing a being that can litterally sneeze at them to blow them up. Find a town thats on fire or some hobo getting mauled by a dog, help out there, and every now and then say things like "Things are such hectic over here, too!" in the communicator, even though the others are fighting someone who could crush the globe was his pinky, and your putting extra change in all the expired parking meters.

#05: Do not uncover some big mystery by yourself. Wow, you found out the government has been brainwashing heroes for several centuries? Great, now your dead. You couldn't have just gotten D-Man or The Doom Patrol to come with you?

#04: Stay on earth. All of those space-based crisis folk are dead in the water. Sure, there may be twenty Earths all in a state of emergency or a crazy witch lady alternating reality, but at least your not one of those characters who is doomed to die in a one panel space brawl explosion.

#03: Do not be part of the main crossover title. This is where B through Z Listers go to die. An elephant graveyard of sorts. You may be safe in that one crossover title where that other hero is helping the hobo getting mauled by a dog, but in the "big one," your name is praticlly drawn out of a hat.

#02: Die with dignity. Yes, the person killing you may have only been in one Howard The Duck issue in the seventies, but don't just keel over and die that instant. Find a death pose your comfortable with, and a saying to yell with your last gasp, and let it all out. (Note: Do not use last breath to promote your on-going, since it's probably cancelled.)

#01: If you find yourself suddenly in the back of a group shot, the subject of one panel, or your in the middle of huge battle AND your a Z-Lister, you are royally fucked. Don't think "Hey, it's finally time for Exploding Bear Cavalier's big moment!," because your tattered and bloodied uniform will soon be used to buff Bendis'shiny head. My advice: Kill someone. Anyone. And then blow up the world with your mind. That will make you a D-Lister, at best, and might make you eligible to die after three panel appearences.

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