Wednesday, January 30, 2008

WTF Wednesday: Enter: The Beard Hunter!

Are you prepared for the baby-faced terror? Are you braced for the silky smooth feel of freshly shaved menace? Are you ready for ...

The Beard Hunter?!?

Click for a closer shave!

In my mind, Grant Morrison's run on Doom Patrol is the definitive version of the misfit group of heroes, and the sheer tonnage of pure bat-shit crazy in any given issue is a big part of that. There's so much nuttiness in this one issue that one WTF couldn't contain it! To share this bounty I give you the first installment of WTF Wednesday Presents: The Beard Hunter!

Next week: More Beard Hunter!

Panel from Doom Patrol #45
Grant Morrison, writer; Vince Giarrano, penciller; Malcolm Jones III, inker

The Pull List (1-30-08): A trip to the tradin' Post

In my mind, this little feature is supposed to be posted on Tuesdays. Who knew, right?

This week I'm going to blame the slight delay on something new being added to the Pull List: Trading Up is a section highlighting comics that I'm interested in reading but, for various reasons, I'll be waiting until they come out in trade. Sometimes it's something that looks like it would be better to read in one big chunk, and sometimes it's something that I had been picking up monthly, but have decided to see whether or not it's worth following all the way to the end of a storyline (or at all — dun-dun DUN!).

Now — on to the list!

Wormwood: Calamari Rising #1: Wormwood is without a doubt one of the weirder comics out there. It's sort of a horror comic, but that's mostly because the main character is a tiny demonic worm that tools around in a fully-functional corpse. In spite of its macabre setting, Wormwood is really a humor comic, wringing comedy out of clever word-play, sight-gags and good-old-fashioned gross-outs (seriously, leprechauns are far from anything magically delicious in this book). It doesn't hurt that Ben Templesmith continues to be a hell of an artist, drenching everything in washes of color that brings his weird, sketchy little world to life. He also does a solid job with the tongue-in-rotting-cheek writing of this title, and putting it all together it's easy to see that Wormwood is his baby. If you only know Templesmith from 30 Days of Night or Fell, give Wormwood a try and see his work from a slightly different, and much funnier, angle; it's good stuff.

The rest ...

Captain America #34

Daredevil #104

Green Lantern #27

The Spirit #13

Maybe ...

Ral Grad Vol. 1: On one hand, this fantasy-based manga about a dragon, hellish creatures that spring from shadows, and a boy who's kept prisoner in a pitch-black cell for 15 years sounds interesting. On the other hand, it's based on a video game. But on another, Stryker-like hand, one of the personality quirks of the main character is a fascination with squeezing booby. Decisions, decisions ...

Salem #0: I had to read the solicitation a couple of times to get it, but I think this is about a coven of witches who are a manifestation of God's punishment for some major sin of mankind, and a Solomon Kane type of character is all that's between them and ... God's will? I guess? I'm not sure I get the conflict, but still, it sounds kinda neat so I'll be giving it a look.

Trading up ...

Conan #48

Suburban Glamour #3

Y The Last Man #60

Recommended ...

Manhunter Vol. 4: Unleashed: I really, really wish they would bring back the Manhunter monthly. It was fun while still maintaining some grit, with a strong and smart female character that readers actually cared about. In the meantime, the trades are a good way for people who are new to this Manhunter to catch up and pine with the rest of us.

What Were They Thinking? Vol. 1: The stories from this occasional anthology are silly, funny and almost as much a love-letter to the goofy age of comics as it is a roast. And hey, Kevin wrote some of it (and other fine folks like Blue Beetle writer John Rogers and comics godfather Keith Giffen) so check it out.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday Night Fights: Winter Soldier's brand of unarmed combat!

In a recent issue of Captain America, the Winter Soldier was captured by the Falcon and Black Widow and then held prisoner on board the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier. Considering his reputation as a bad-ass, you'd really think the S.H.I.E.L.D. scientists studying his cyborg arm should have realized he'd have something up his sleeve.

Panel from Captain America #33

I love that the second scientist tries to reason with it; arms don't care, man! A foot might give you a break, but arms — like the mighty Bahlactus — will only hand you a knockout!

Following a link? You can read more of the Post here!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

WTF Wednesday: That's a pretty good excuse

Who else could that handsome devil be but the intrepid Jimmy Olsen, who is nothing if not a gentleman. Seriously, would you still have the cojones to show up for a date after:

• chugging down some old elastic-serum to save a little girl who's falling from a building,

• turning into a shapeless pink blob (with freckles),

• running from a mob that thinks you're trying to hurt the little girl because your vocal chords are apparently as blobby as the rest of you and all the explanation you can give is "rraaggh,"

• and finally being presumed dead because an eagle-eyed reporter saw the pile of clothes you left behind and quite rationally concluded, "The monster ate Jimmy!"? (Thanks a pantsload, Lois)

Hell, I've been an hour late for things just because I wanted to catch the end of Blossom, and I don't even stop off for flowers. Oh, and you might be wondering if there was anything that could've hipped Jimmy to the thought that drinking old, unstable elastic-serum wasn't a good idea.

Well, nothing Jimmy would notice.

Panels from Action Comics #563
Craig Boldman, writer; Howard Bender, penciller

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Pull List (1-23-08): Coming clean about Jack Staff

There are some good comics coming out this week, and some serious new contenders that might be showing up on this list for months to come. Like what, you ask? To the list!

Jack Staff Special #1: I have to make a confession; I've never actually read a full issue of Jack Staff. I've flipped through copies, and I've read plenty of reviews that made it clear it's a book I'd probably really like. Believe me, I wanted to read Jack Staff. I burned to read it. But most of the reviews also hinted at a fairly deep back-story, with characters and a background that, honestly, was a little daunting. Thankfully, this Jack Staff special is supposed to be a stand-alone story that makes a good jumping-on point, as well as a kick-off for the now-monthly title. Wow — that's a lot of hyphens. Anyway, I'm looking forward to finally seeing what I've been missing: Jack Staff, your mysteries will be revealed!

The rest ...

Army @ Love #11

Astonishing X-Men #24

Blue Beetle #23

Wonder Woman #16

Maybe ...

Afterburn #1: Maybe it's just the afterglow from re-reading Atomic Robo talking, but this pushes a lot of the right buttons for me. Good looking art, a distinct crime-adventure feel, and it's all dropped into a post-apocalyptic setting — which, y'know, is one of my drugs of choice. And I appreciate that the premise — treasure hunters chasing the valuable artifacts left behind after half the world is ravaged by a massive solar flare — puts a new spin on a familiar set-up. Check out the preview and see what you think.

New World Order #1: You know what else is like crack for me? Anything that name-checks the Illuminati. I don't know if that'll be enough for me to pick up this occult-espionage thriller that makes me think of a mix of Planetary and Challengers of the Unknown, but it's something I'll be at least keeping an eye on. Get it? An eye? With the Illuminati and the ... ? Aw, forget it.

Recommended ...

Infinite Horizon #1 (2nd printing): I'm enjoying this title — a modern retelling of The Odyssey set in a Mideast war zone and anchored by a character known only as The Captain — in almost every way. The writing is measured and well-paced, keeping things moving with a mix of gun-burst action and steadily building tension. And the art, which has so far used a surprising palette of mostly pastel browns and yellows, really works for what is turning into a quietly muscular title. If you missed it the first time around, be sure to pick up this reprint of the first issue.

Heath Ledger, 'Dark Knight's' Joker, dies unexpectedly

There was bad news tonight when it was reported that Heath Ledger, the Oscar-nominated actor who will be playing the Joker in the upcoming Batman movie The Dark Knight, was found dead in a New York City apartment.

Making it especially sad was his young age — he was only 28 — and the family he's left behind, including a 2-year-old daughter. At the moment there hasn't been any cause of death given, but pills were allegedly found near Ledger so there has of course been speculation that he committed suicide. It's still early in this sad event, so there are a lot of theories and stupidity flying around; someone on CNN just commented that Ledger had said playing the role of the Joker "really got into his head, and he was having trouble letting it go," and needed Ambien to go to sleep — apparently making a half-assed attempt at connecting it to his death. We'll have to wait and see how the whole thing washes out.

In spite of his youth, Ledger had plenty to brag about: He was nominated for an Academy Award for his work in Brokeback Mountain, and was also known for his roles in popular popcorn movies like 10 Things I Hate About You, The Patriot and A Knight's Tale (one of my mom's favorite movies).

Like a lot of people, I was a little surprised when Ledger was announced as the Joker for The Dark Knight, the sequel to Batman Begins. I thought there was no way this pretty boy could pull it off. But as more news and movie stills started coming out I started to think he might not only be able to pull it off, but he could actually be a great Joker. I reached a point where I was excited to see Dark Knight, and especially Ledger's Joker.

I'll still be looking forward to seeing it, but it will be sad to think that the movie was the actor's last. I think when I see The Dark Knight, I'll be rooting for the bad guy.

Monday, January 21, 2008


I feel a little guilty for flaking on this weeks' Seven-Day Spotlight, so to make up for it I give you Aunt May's recipe for wheatcakes — so good, you'd sell your soul for a stack!

Click to super-size!

Aunt May's old-lady scratchings are a little hard to read, so here's the lowdown in case you're having trouble:

Mix together:

1 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup sifted whole wheat flour
2 tsps double-acting baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

In a separate bowl, mix 2 cups buttermilk and 2 tsps molasses, then set aside.

Add to the flour mix:

2 beaten egg yolks
1/4 melted butter
the buttermilk/molasses mixture

Whip 2 egg whites until stiff (but not dry!), then fold them into the batter gently until blended. Don't overmix!

Cook on a greased hot griddle or frying pan, until small bubbles appear on top. Then turn pancakes over and cook until bottom is lightly browned. Serve hot, with butter and maple syrup.

Peter's favorite!

Page from Untold Tales of Spider-Man '96

Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday Night Fights: Namor for the 'block!

Thanks to Marvel EIC Joe Quesada and his burning fanboy need for an unmarried Spider-Man, we've now got a Peter Parker who's swingin' in more ways than one. Does this mean we can look forward to all the married heroes suddenly hitting the singles bars? Will Mephisto open a matchmaking service? Most importantly — will Spider-Man get another shot at Sue Storm?!?

Gosh, I wish Marvel could publish a one-shot or something so we could see what that would be like. Oh wait — it already did!

Click to ... blah, blah, blah.

Other guys? OK, sure, Reed Richards might mope around a little but it's not like he and Sue didn't separate during Civil War anyway (or did they? I'm so confused now). Reed shouldn't be any competition for a Spidey on the prowl. And Namor? C'mon — the Sub-Mariner's always walking around in his tighty-greenies and reading weight-lifting magazines! It'll be all over for the little prince once Sue gets a back-rub from Parker's magic fing ...

Panels from Untold Tales of Spider-Man '96

Yikes! I guess a massage really will get you thrown out a window! Well, there's always Gwen Stacy — that should turn out OK, right?

One thing we know for sure ... Bahlactus is a lover and a fighter!

Following a link? You can read more of the Post here!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I (heart) my comic shop

Like most of us, I go to my local comic shop every Wednesday to pick up my new books for the week. It’s like clockwork, and it’s about as interesting as it sounds; I go after work, weave my way around the other customers while I grab my titles, and then try to talk my wife into going out for dinner before heading home.

But now the routine is a little different and I’m getting to Austin Books & Comics later than normal. Driving to the shop last night around 8 p.m. I thought, “No problem – they’re open late on Wednesdays.” Which is true. What is not true is that “late” means "9 p.m." Which is what I thought.

So we got to the shop and I yanked on the door and KA-CLUNK! Locked! And right there on the door is the sign I’ve seen a hundred times that says, “Wednesdays: Closed — 8 p.m.” Well, hell. I was already walking away when my wife said, “Hey, hey — they’re going to let us in!”

Wait — what? It was still sinking in when Brandon (I think he’s the manager, but is mostly referenced in my head as “that cool guy at Austin Books”) unlocked the door and said, “C’mon in.”

So, yes, even though the store had closed at least a half hour before I pathetically tugged on their door, the staff still let me in so I could get my comics. Sure, it got one more sale in before they went home, but I don’t think it was the reason for unlocking that door. I think they just wanted to give some guy a chance to get his comics.

And that’s pretty cool.

Austin Books already had me with its crazy-complete inventory and helpful staff, but this just cemented it. This is the sort of thing that makes a regular customer a loyal customer.

What about you guys? Let me know in the comments which comic shop you call yours, and how they've earned your superhuman loyalty.

Photo swiped from Austin Books & Comics' Flickr site (and I swear — I am not The Preventor)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

WTF Wednesday: DOOM, I SAY!!!

Holy crap — nobody does "crazy-ass scheme" quite like Dr. Doom, do they?

Click to biggie-size!

And that's why you always decline when you get an invitation to the Von Doom family reunion, no matter how good the hors d'oeuvres are supposed to be.

Panel from Fantastic Four #199

Marv Wolfman, writer; Keith Pollard, penciller; Joe Sinnott, inker

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Seven-day Spotlight: To me, my fishy friends!

I don't just read comic books every week, I also read a lot of comics blogs. Here are some of the posts written by fellow bloggers that I read during the past week that shouldn't be missed:

Aqualad was afraid of fish? And people think Aquaman's a loser.

Heidi asks a good question.

Suddenly — pop quiz!

Sims once again wrestles the new Previews into submission — with his 24-inch pythons, brother!

Hey, someone gets their peanut buttery history in Diamondrock's comics!

Siskoid shares the Gospel according to Kirby.

Snell unleashes the evil that is Fu Manchu's schizophrenic gorilla.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Friday Night Fights: And not a single dance number!

Remember that movie starring Jim Carrey about a magical mask that let him live out his deepest, cartoon-based fantasies? No, not those fantasies! It was cute and kinda funny and gave us our first look at Cameron Diaz, and only mildly hinted at the darkness it brought out in the mask's wearer.

The Mask collection of limited series' it was based on was nothing like that.

Over-the-top violence, sick humor and just the right amount of gore for the discriminating connoisseur made the early issues a fun read. In The Mask Returns, Kathy has taken the mask from police lieutenant John Kellaway, who has been keeping it with the idea that it's safer with him than out in the world where anyone might come across it. Unfortunately for him — and various criminal types — Kellaway kinda can't resist using it once in a while. Kathy figures it's up to her to get rid of it.

It doesn't work out that way.

And now Kathy finds herself becoming The Mask and tangling with the town's underworld, including the golem-like gangster Walter. It's a good thing the mask makes its wearer pretty much immortal.

Hey, Walter! Where do you like to sit in the car?!?

I told you it was gory. Kathy and Walter trade bullets for a few panels before she manages to escape. Walter is what we like to call "determined" though, and he catches up to her, unmasked. She does what any sane person would do, and then makes Walter a reasonable offer.

OK, maybe not that reasonable.

Waaaaait for it ...

Panels from The Mask Returns #4 (of 4)

(Where the hell DO those guns come from?!?)

Bahlactus' greatest weapons are a left and a right!

Following a link? Read more of the Post here.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Die, Steve, Die

I was thinking about the latest issue of Captain America recently, and something occurred to me: I’m glad Steve Rogers died, and I hope he stays dead.

Captain America is one of those characters that has seemingly always been there, along with Superman, Batman and Spider-Man. When I was a kid my dad made a shield for me out of cardboard and rope, painting it in that red-white-and-blue so I could run around outside (for a change) and block imaginary bullets that peowed! off my indestructible disk. I loved Captain America.

I still do, especially with what writer Ed Brubaker has been doing with his definitive run on the title. Brubaker has taken what has always been great about Cap and brought him — as much as is possible — into the real world. Captain America became complex, all too human while remaining iconic and inspirational to other characters in the Marvel Universe. He had gnawing regrets, loneliness and the simple pleasure of friendships. And then, seemingly betrayed by one of those friends, he died.

I’m OK with that. When it was first rumored that Captain America was going to die I rolled my eyes like everyone else. The only sure thing about death in comics is that death is not a sure thing. If they even have the guts to do it, I thought, they’ll bring him back eventually. Lame, lame, lame.

But Brubaker’s a hell of a writer, and he pulled it off in a way that made perfect sense while still moving the story forward. And since then we’ve had something strange; a very good and engaging comic book that doesn’t feature its title character. With the exception of an autopsy room scene, Steve Rogers has been missing. Gone. Dead. And yet, the story goes on and the influence of Captain America permeates everything. His death is part of a larger conspiracy, one that his friends and colleagues are determined to put to an end. Characters find themselves looking to Steve’s example when trying to make tough decisions. And now, someone is poised to take up the shield in his absence.

It makes sense. Both as a character and as a living part of the Marvel U, Captain America has become more than Steve Rogers. As obvious as it is to say, Captain America is an icon, a symbol of ideals to strive toward. You could argue that Bucky Barnes, Cap’s former partner and now a trying-to-reform assassin known as the Winter Soldier, doesn’t embody those ideals. And you’d be right.

But he wants to, so badly it jumps off the page. Bucky wants to live up to the example Captain America provided; he wants to be better than he is. They all do. From the Falcon to Black Widow to Agent 13 and even Tony Stark, no one wants to let Steve Rogers down. Ultimately, they know the world needs to have a Captain America. And no one believes in Captain America more than Bucky.

Brubaker’s not going to write Captain America forever (though I wish he would), but he’s laid what could be a solid and lasting foundation for years' worth of stories. Watching Bucky step up as the new Cap (assuming there’s no last-minute fake-out), struggling with his own demons while trying to meet the enormous expectations he and others will put on him, would be an interesting part of that story. Watching how other characters and heroes react to him and his no-doubt different methods has a lot of potential. And watching how those characters continue to deal with the loss of Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, offers something that has been missing from comics — a meaningful death.

It can’t happen if Marvel decides to bring the original Captain America back to life. Steve Rogers has died, and he needs to stay dead.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

WTF Wednesday: Wait - Superman's a furry?!?

Who loves his kitty? Who loves his itty kitty?!? Superman! Superman loves his little woogie woogie, yesh he does! Yesh he ... oh. Oh yes. Oh my, yes.

Ugh, sorry. I even grossed myself out there.

Honestly, I don't even know where to begin. There are aliens, a kid in the hospital, a cat and the term "boomerang powers" running amok through this issue of Superman, and even though I've read it a few times I'm still not exactly sure what the hell is going on.

Also, that smile on Superman's face is the creepiest thing I've ever seen. Stop clipping that tail on under your cape, Superman!!

Panel from Superman #254
Denny O'Neil, writer; Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson, artists

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Pull List (1-9-08): So long, Spirit

Wow, only two titles that are definitely being picked up this week? OK, OK, I know I probably won't be able to resist the latest B.P.R.D. offering, but man, talk about your small weeks. Still, there's plenty of other titles to consider giving a good home, so — to the list!

The Spirit #12: Well, it was nice while it lasted. The Spirit has reached its 12th and final issue to be written and drawn by Darwyn Cooke, and even though the title will continue it's essentially the end of one of the best comics currently out there. A lot of people thought it would be impossible for anyone to do Will Eisner's legacy any justice, especially on a regular basis, but Cooke pulled it off with charm, wit and intelligence — hallmarks of what made Eisner's creation so special to begin with — and produced a comic that was just a whole lot of fun.

I've been a fan of Groo creators Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier for a long time, but I have a hard time seeing this new team reaching the bar Cooke has set (particularly when you consider Aragones' so-so showing on his first issue of the recently launched Bat Lash). Is that fair, or even reasonable? Probably not. But it doesn't mean The Spirit — at least as we've come to know it —isn't coming to an end with this issue, either.

In this case, I don't think it would be a bad idea to let the next issue run as a one-shot (it's a stand-alone anyway), and then relaunch with a new #1. Let Cooke's dozen impeccable issues be as self-contained as they already are in the minds of readers.

The rest ...

Infinite Horizon #2

Maybe ...

B.P.R.D.: 1946 #1 (of 5): Look, Dark Horse, why don't I just send you all my money now? If you keep putting out cool stuff like this tale from the early days of the monster-hunting spook squad, you're just going to be getting it anyway. I mean, Mike Mignola writing a B.P.R.D. book that includes the Nazi Occult Bureau and something called "Project Vampir Sturm?" That's not even fair.

Hulk #1: Goodwill left over from World War Hulk made me think I might give this a chance. But then I saw the Red Hulk. And then I saw it's written by Jeph Loeb, who's work I used to like before he went off the rails in an almost Frank Miller-like train wreck of ego and nuttiness. And then I read this solicit: "
When one of The Hulk's oldest cast members is murdered, everyone turns to the team of Iron Man, She-Hulk and Leonard Samson to solve the grizzly case." Grizzly case? Unless a bear is somehow involved, I think they meant "grisly" — not exactly inspiring confidence there, Marvel. Unless a homicidal bear really is mixed up in there. Because that would be awesome.

North Wind #1: Boom Studios is doing something interesting with this new title set in a near-future Ice Age by releasing it online (in partnership with MySpace) at the same time it's released in print. The whole issue. The whole series. For free. And you know what? It might work. The first issue is already up and it's well-written and exceptionally well-drawn, and even though I've already read it online I'll probably still pick it up in print because I ALREADY KNOW I LIKE IT! Go read it, and then go buy it.

Recommended ...

BRPD Vol. 7: Garden of Souls

Conan Vol. 5: The Blood-Stained Crown and Other Stories

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Seven-day Spotlight: In case you missed it

It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say I read a lot of comic book blogs. I mean, I read A LOT of comic blogs, and even then there are things I'd miss if someone else hadn't linked to it.

I'd hate to think that some of the posts my fellow bloggers have written are slipping past anyone, so with that in mind I'll be listing some of the posts that — for one reason or another — caught my attention and should get a little of yours. (While you're at it, check out the blog links on the right there; I read those nearly every day, and you can't go wrong with any of them.)

Here we go!

Everyone sing along with Khairul!

Sleestak has some ideas on where Marvel can put its product placement.

Remember those we lost this past year? Erich does.

Bully has a last dance with everyone's favorite redhead ...

Chubby-chasers rejoice! Brian Hughes runs down the fatties of DC's Silver Age (read the whole series!).

Kalinara sheds some possible light on the Black Lantern Corps ...

The bell has rung again, and Bahlactus is ready to deliver a Knockout!

Kevin Church answers your questions — and don't miss the follow-ups! (And this was posted weeks ago, but Kevin's list of recommended titles from 2007 is pretty indispensible.)

One day later, and MJ is already on the rebound — Caleb has the pictures to prove it.

Mike Sterling has seen the End of Civilization, and it's made of PVC. And it has eight nipples.

Spider-Man has needed help for a while now — Alan David Doane says One More Day wasn't it.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Friday Night Fights: Translation - pain!

Bienvenidos and welcome to sunny San Juan, Puerto Rico! For your entertainment tonight we bring you two giants of the throw-down for a Monster Mash of epic proportions!!

Entering the ring we have the reigning champion, that rocky wrecker, the man from Yancy Street, the one, the only, BENJAMIN J. "EL MORRITO" GRIMM!!!!

And in this corner we have a local legend, a sly fighter with nearly mythic skills, the scourge of goats everywhere, ELLLLLL CHUPA-CAAA-BRAAAAaaaaa!!!!!

(Hey, get that skinny guy out of the ring!)

There's the bell and OOOH! El Chupacabra lands an early blow! El Chupa may suck but he's certainly not sucking!

Grimm is off his feet! The champ looks staggered, but wait! He's back up with a look of determination! He's charging into the challenger!

QUE CASUALIDAD! El Chupacabra is reeling! He's wide open and WILL SOMEONE GET THAT GUY OUT OF THE RING?!?

DONDE ESTA LA CASA DE PEPE!?!? What a blow from the champ! The crowd is on its feet, chanting, "Que hora es? Que hora es?" and waiting for Grimm's trademark answer ...

AND IT'S A KO! Ben "The Thing" Grimm, winner by knockout and still champion of the San Juan squared circle! Ben, do you have anything to say to the fans?!?

Panels from Fantastic Four: Isla de la Muerte! (one-shot)

"Bahlactus" means champion in any language.

Following a link? Read more of the Post here!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Why yes, we still have family visiting - why do you ask?

Regular posting will be starting soon — honest!