Archive for multiverse

Blackest Night #1

Posted in Blackest Night, Comics, DC, Green Lantern with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 20th July, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Black is the new Green.

Black is the new Green.

Author: Geoff Johns
Artist: Ivan Reis
Inker: Oclair Albert
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Nick J. Napolitano
Associate Editor: Adam Schlagman
Editor: Eddie Berganza
Cover Artists: Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert & Alex Sinclair
Alternate Cover Artists: Ethan Van Sciver & Hi-Fi

If you had of told Dan DiDio four years ago that Green Lantern, under Geoff Johns’ guidance, would not only stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Batman and Superman in stature and following, but would also spawn the biggest comic book event of 2009, he probably would have slapped you twice and thrown you to the Crises.  Well, that was then, and this is now, and let me tell you, I was more than excited to be opening the first issue of Blackest Night proper.  In fact, I can’t remember ever being this excited for a comic book event in all my years of reading comics (which I’ll admit, is not very long at all compared to some).  Well, it turns out that all that anticipation is paying off in spades, and that Blackest Night is every bit the bee’s knees it promised to be.

Naturally, Blackest Night #1 picks up where Blackest Night #0 left off, in Gotham Cemetery.  It’s a dark and stormy night, and Black Hand ushers in the Age of Dark and Stormy Nights with a decidedly sick and twisted invocation.  The first thing I noticed about this issue was, damn, it’s great to have Ivan Reis back on a Green Lantern book.  Then of course I noticed the striking visuals, the epic presentation, et cetera, but honestly, there’s so much going on here that I really don’t know where to start.

This book is a great jumping-on point for newcomers, but they’ll also find a lot to digest here; while long-term Green Lantern and DC Comics readers have plenty of Easter eggs to scour through.  Sure, there’s a fair bit of background that the DC faithful will already know, but Johns is clearly highlighting which parts to pay attention to (and believe me, there’s a lot to pay attention to) and fleshing them out to augment the emotional impact of future events.  It’s actually surprising to see which untended plot threads he does highlight – without giving too much away – fans of Keith Giffen’s Justice League will no doubt be intrigued by the developments they see here.  It’s pretty clear by the end of this issue that Blackest Night represents his life’s work, drawing on every major DC storyline he’s had a hand in, from JSA to Hawkman to Infinite Crisis to 52 and everything in between right up to Flash: Rebirth.  Perhaps contrary to his original plans (though not by much), Blackest Night encompasses the entire DC Universe (or is it ‘Multiverse’?).  That is to say that its scope is far greater than just the Green Lantern universe – which is already massive thanks to Johns – and centres upon his two no-doubt-favourite heroes, Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) and Barry Allen (The Flash), as our anchors to this epic tale.

The core of this super-sized issue takes place appropriately on the anniversary of Superman’s death; once a national day of mourning, now a day used to honour fallen superheroes.  Geoff Johns has stated in interviews that this issue mentions all the major players in this storyline, and I believe it – many names are checked by the mourners, which may as well be a roll call for the Black Lantern Corps – some are expected, though many may surprise you.  In point of fact, the first Black Lanterns to reveal themselves surprised the hell out of me, and their first dark deeds shocked me all the more, due in no small part to Ivan Reis’ grisly depiction.

It’s getting very dark in the DC Universe, and I, for one, am loving it.

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Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #2 (of 6)

Posted in Comics, DC, Final Crisis with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 22nd June, 2009 by Adam Redsell
She aint much to look at, but shes got it where it counts.

She ain't much to look at, but she's got it where it counts.

Author: Joe Casey
Artists: Andre Coelho & Eduardo Pansica
Inkers: Andre Coelho & Sandro Ribeiro
Colorist: Pete Pantazis
Letterer: Sal Cipriano
Cover Artist: Stanley “Art Germ” Lau
Editors: Ian Sattler, Rex Ogle & Will Moss

I have to admit, after such a stellar debut, I’m more than a little disappointed with the second issue of Dance.  This is largely due to the artwork, which not only suffers from the absence of previous artist ChrisCross, but also from the inconsistency that comes with having two artists on board (Coelho and Pansica).  This is unfortunate, because it lets down what is otherwise a well-written comic by Joe Casey.

The plot’s pretty interesting, and reminiscent of Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, perhaps to a fault.  Those who have read it will likely recognise one of the major plot points, perhaps with fondness.  The whole satellite headquarters thing didn’t work out so well for the Super Young Team, so they’ve been transferred to a suite in Las Vulgar (which is apparently Vegas in DC-Land).  Their ‘handlers’ try to get a reality TV show off the ground, accompanied by a bit of product placement and a hot-tub, in hopes that Shiny Happy Aquazon might get her Shiny Happy Gear-off.  Aquazon agrees to the product placement – much to the surprise of her teammates – but not the gear-off (much to the disappointment of lovesick Atomic Lantern Boy), and things get stranger from there with a product-launch-gone-wrong.  Meanwhile, the rest of the team get bored and go looking for a fight.  This results in a pretty interesting tea conversation with a supervillain.  It’s good to see that the flavour of their first outing hasn’t been lost altogether.

Cut to Tokyo, where a burnt out and bottle-broken Rising Sun decries Japan’s disrespect for its heroic traditions.  Tokyo has been quarantined, closed to everyone – especially superheroes – and no-one seems to want to say why.  All we know is exactly this: Japan has been in a very bad way since the Final Crisis; the powers-that-be don’t want anyone to know about it; and the Super Young Team is being groomed as a Grade-A distraction from it.  Never has Rising Sun been such an interesting character – not during the first Crisis, not ever – as he has been in this Drunken Also-ran incarnation.  He’s the Voice in the Desert, crying out for Japan to reclaim its honour, and I for one can’t wait to see what lies ahead for this super-prophet.

Superbat’s ‘tweeting’ reveals the conflict they all feel: they want to be heroes, but they want to be teenagers too.  Fame and fortune is nice, but it’s ultimately empty thrills for these eager youngsters (“but we saved the Multiverse!”, they exclaim).  The slick PR people do their darned best to distract them, but their restlessness is almost tangible.  The Super Young Team’s True Enemy brings all new meaning to “friends close, enemies closer”, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

As you can see, there’s a lot of story packed into these 22 pages (and a lot of pointed observations on commercialism, truth decay, and Reality TV); more, I dare say than most of the stuff on comic book shelves.  It’s certainly worth continuing with this one; it’s just such a pity about the art!  If either one of these artists penciled the full story, it would have been better for it.  And with colours as brilliant as the day-glo-rific Dance #1, anything less was doomed to be a disappointment.  Bring back the art team from the first issue, DC, and this could be the best book on the shelves.

Legion of Superheroes #40

Posted in Comics, Legion of Superheroes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 17th May, 2009 by Adam Redsell

Legion of Superheroes #40, ‘Enemy Rising Part 1: Headlong into Darkness’
Author: Jim Shooter
Artist: Francis Manapul
Inker: Livesay
Colorist: JD Smith
Letterer: Steve Wands

The Legion of Superheroes really embodies everything that DC has been trying to achieve with their re-instated multiversal approach. Legion is packed with vibrant characters and fantastical adventures across the 31st Century cosmos. This issue opens with the latter, but majors in the former, and with Legion veteran Jim Shooter at the helm, that’s not a bad thing. There’s a wealth of characters in the Legion of Superheroes, and I use that word very deliberately. While it’s near-impossible to remember every character’s name and abilities (though names like ‘Shadow Lass’ and ‘Lightning Lad’ do help), Shooter deftly handles each character pitch-perfectly and switches between them with ease and purpose. You may forget the names again when you put the book down, but you won’t soon forget the personalities that crackle and smolder through each line of dialogue. Shooter’s familiarity with his cast is apparent; they are his personal playground. Not in a self-indulgent way, like Brad Meltzer’s love-letter to the Justice League; more like an artisan who knows his tools.

The Legion of Superheroes were never really on my radar until Geoff Johns re-introduced them, first in the ‘Lightning Saga’, then in his work on Action Comics. Now, between this and Action, the Legion are far and away one of DC’s most fertile properties. And if it’s one thing I’ve learned from Action, it’s that a good Legion tale benefits from crisp, clean artwork, and artist Francis Manapul has this in spades. Whether he’s depicting physical or emotional action, Manapul has the details spot-on.

As I hinted earlier, the story begins with the takedown of a rampaging alien on Talok VIII. This scene had me hooked within the first few pages – Shadow Lass provided the action, while Brainiac 5 brought the humour (surprisingly) – and strapped me in for the ride to come. The contrast between the interplanetary scope of the story and the close-knit relationships between these teenage superheroes is interesting to say the least. This issue focuses mainly on Lightning Lad’s struggles as a leader. It really is quite masterful, the way the writer reins in the story to create an engaging teen-superhero-space-soap-opera. Even though this issue is a little light on action, it’s certainly not light on humour, charm, or drama, and I can’t help but feel that it’s building towards something far bigger. For now, Shooter is quite happy to mine the depths of his rich cast, so that we can familiarise ourselves as he has. The great thing is that all of the character sketches really serve the story, and don’t feel contrived in the least. Shooter’s approach means that we actually will care when the time finally comes to throw the Legion in harm’s way.

A great deal of the humour in Legion comes from Shooter’s extrapolation of a litigation-mad society. If you think it’s ridiculous now, wait until you see what Lightning Lad and Princess Projectra have to deal with 100 years later. The rest of the humour is sourced in the team’s domestic arguments – Brainiac’s freaking out about an impending alien invasion while the rest of the team bickers about the ethics of mind control. Enter Lightning Lad, the star of this particular tale, who swoops in and takes control, then chills to a cup of coffee.

The multiverse was made for stories like these. The Legion really has come a long way in recent times. The goofy camp of yesteryear is all but gone, but the humorous and endearing team dynamic remains. I can’t help but think that a story like this would not have been possible in the 90s or even the gritty-and-grounded 80s. If you enjoyed Johns’ run on Action Comics, then I highly recommend you pick up Jim Shooter’s entire run.

TMNT #1 25th Anniversary Reprint

Posted in Comics, Mirage, TMNT with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 10th May, 2009 by Adam Redsell
"Go check out the East Warehouse over at Lairdman Island."

"Go check out the East Warehouse over at Lairdman Island."

I’ll be honest with you, when presented with a second choice of free comic for Free Comic Book Day, I was fairly indifferent.  I was even thinking of picking up a second copy of Blackest Night #0 just to be a tool and sell it on eBay.  But being the considerate guy that I am, I surveyed the stand to see if nothing else would catch my eye.  My eyes stopped on a familiar image:

Is that the first issue of ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’?

I checked the corner of the cover art, and sure enough it was signed ‘Eastman ’84’.  Sounds about right.  Looked at the back cover: ’25th Anniversary 1984 – 2009′.  In my Sherlock-ian wisdom, I reasoned that okay then, this must be the 25th Anniversary reprint of TMNT #1.  “I’ll take it!”

Now, before I read this comic, I’d have proudly declared my intimate knowledge of the Turtles mythos.  I own 30+ Ninja Turtle action figures with weapons; the Turtle Van (or ‘Party Wagon’ as described on the box); four limited edition, fully-posable, hand-crafted Ninja Turtle figures based on the original comics still in their box; two copies of the Ninja Turtles Joke Book (which, you won’t be surprised to hear, is terrible); and a copy of their first (and best) live-action motion picture on VHS recorded from TV – NO ADS (it still hasn’t been released on DVD in Australia), among other things.  I memorised the ‘T-U-R-T-L-E Power’ rap!

I worked hard for my Turtles fandom.  When I was 6 years old and these mutant amphibian warriors set playgrounds alight the world over, my mother would not allow me to watch the cartoon because it was “too violent”.  So what did I do?  I watched it in secret.  Four o’clock, Channel 7, every afternoon after school.  I don’t even remember how I furnished such an elaborate lie, but I did, for an entire year before I was discovered.  After which, my mother, in her Sherlock-ian wisdom (which she has since passed down to her son), allowed me to continue watching it, as she deduced that I had not become (noticeably) more violent over the past year.  It took another year of wearing them down to get my first action figure.  In the meantime I had to settle on a handheld Game & Watch-style Ninja Turtles game (which I got a lot of mileage out of) “and that’s it”.

My parents' first Turtles concession - <em>"and that's it"</em>.

My parents' first Turtles concession - "and that's it".

Next thing I know, I’m 8 years old and I’m holding my very first Ninja Turtles action figure (Raphael) “and that’s it”.  This went on until I collected the whole set.  Eventually, I think my parents gave up.  They must have resigned themselves to the fact that Ninja Turtles and I were destiny.  They wouldn’t let me see the live-action film at the cinema because it was, well, live-action (you can watch the cartoon series, “and that’s it”).  When it aired on TV, my father recorded it for me and cut out the ads for me.  Bless his heart.  Bless both their hearts.  Hopefully now you have a fairly accurate picture of my TMNT pedigree.  Now, allow me to drop the megaton on you: I HAVE NEVER READ A NINJA TURTLES COMIC BOOK IN ALL MY LIFE. Until now.

This comic grabbed me, shook me violently, slapped me in the face multiple times, and rebuked me in a terrible, Shredder-like voice, “YOU KNOW NOTHING OF THE TURTLES FOUR!!”

When I read in words and pictures, black and white, the true origin of the Ninja Turtles, and their greatest foe, Oroku Saki, I was surprised by the marked differences between the comics, the cartoons, and the live-action film.  To their (and their characters’) credit, Eastman and Laird have been more than flexible, adapting their creative property with a clear sensibility for medium and audience, but by the same token, I empathise with the true Turtles fan’s impossible task: to reconcile these clearly contradictory continuities into a cohesive mythology.  I suppose it’s really no different to the task of any comic book reader (Marvel’s 616 Universe vs. the Ultimate Universe, DC’s pre-crisis Multiverse vs. the post-crisis Universe vs. the post-post-crisis Multiverse, etc.), but these continuities contradict and parallel each other to this day.  For me, it’s simply a case of picking and choosing the bits that I like, and willfully ignoring the parts that I don’t.  More ardent fans likely have to settle with juggling three or more separate Turtles universes in their heads at the same time!

To begin with, Hamato Yoshi was a member of the Foot clan in Japan, a guild of assassins by trade.  Secondly, it was not Oroku Saki who competed with Yoshi for the love of the woman Tang Shen (a surprisingly Chinese name), rather his brother, Oroku Nagi (that’s right, ‘Oroku’ is the surname, and it is spoken first as is the custom in Japan).  Oroku Nagi assaulted Tang Shen when she refused his love, and Yoshi in turn beat Nagi to death in his blinding rage.  Yoshi, disgraced for having killed a fellow clansman, flees to America with his wife Tang Shen, while Saki swears vengeance for his brother’s blood at Nagi‘s funeral.  Saki becomes the Foot’s most accomplished assassin by the age of eighteen, and is sent to New York to found their new base of operations in the U.S.  As the Shredder, Saki tracks down and kills Shen and then Yoshi.  And the rest, as they say it, is history – Splinter sends out his fully-trained Ninja Turtles on their first mission to avenge the death of his Master.

That’s right, the Ninja Turtles fight and kill their greatest foe – The Shredder – in their very first encounter; in the very first issue!  That this one-and-done story spawned a series and a franchise is nothing short of amazing, and yet, at the same time, it isn’t.  Laird defends the hasty disposal of one of comics’ most notable villains in his opening letter, and rightly so.  It lends the story a raw power and urgency – as Laird confides, he wrote as if there was no second issue.  He also mentions that Eastman and himself simply wanted an opportunity to play on the same field as their heroes Jack Kirby and Frank Miller (an odd couple if ever I heard one), and the two influences shine through in this issue.  On the Kirby side of things, I could feel the energy and vitality of a story that may never be told again.  In the Miller corner, I could see the grim and gritty visual style; the heavy line-work; the fascination with Ancient Japan; and even the *suggestion* of an intersection with Daredevil’s origin story (could the ooze that transformed the Turtles be the same chemical that blinded and empowered Matt Murdock?).

Daredevil: The Secret of the Ooze.

Daredevil: The Secret of the Ooze.

It’s indie; it’s lo-fi; it feels like rare vinyl and vintage jeans.  The lettering and panel layouts are very rough, but all in all, I could really appreciate the inherent, visceral power of what is essentially a classic Japanese revenge tale.

Certainly the Ninja Turtles have since taken on a life of their own, larger than Eastman and Laird’s original vision, but damn if this comic wasn’t a great place to start.  Otherwise 25 years would have been a bit of a stretch.  Happy Birthday, boys!