Train Challenge #2: Red Robin 23

So I really, really liked this comic. Tim Drake is consistently the best teen superhero around. Above that I love the Dick Grayson Robin. As my favorite comic book store desk worker put it, “He is the coolest kid ever.” He is engaging, fun, a little dark, and really, really fun to watch in fights. The warm brotherly relationship between the living good Robins is written naturally, without too much overwrought emotion. Nicieza handles the characters with apparent joy and an almost magical  focus on what makes them work.

So the train challenge is over?

Sadly no.. I am looking for something  something that adds meaningful, something unique, something fresh to the public discourse. As much as I enjoyed the implementation of this story, the mini-Batman story has been told to more than once before. Even down to the focus on each Robin’s unique talents we’ve seen it all before. I liked it a lot, but it super derivative. The search goes on.

Train Challenge 1: Alpha Flight

The Vestrymen have repeatedly made the claim that Marvel’s 0.1 numbering  system exists as some sort of Eldritch attempt to undermine our understanding of math, counting, and comic book reading order. At least up till now the point one numbering had some sort of internal logic. The point one books are supposed to be “jumping on points” set between or apart from the regular stories that exist in order to catch readers up with what was happening in their “home books.” That makes a lot of sense for books in the 600s or even a dozen issues in. For books that are just relaunching the concept of a point one looses all meaning. We’ve had  #0 books to fill that purpose for quite a while, but they are a little silly too. New series have an obligation to help new readers catch up with any continuity that we need to be caught up on. The whole reason for point ones, I thought, was to simulate number ones for running book. Moral of the story? Marvel hates your ability to count and wants you to cry.

You want an actual review of the comic, you say? You picky, picky readers! Fine, but don’t expect it to be way longer than I originally intended! The comics plot revolves around a Canadian election. A new party, the Unity Party, is set to win in a landslide and ex-members of Beta Flight have decided to out their evil, evil plans using domestic terrorism as their political tool. Beta’s members deliver a lot of “your just servants of the corporate-fascistic technocracy” lines in the book put there to convince me that this is cutting edge political satire, allegory, or direct punditry. Without an actual point is just comes across as sophomoric. I can’t find any other way its trying to engage me either… Greg Pak is no Warren Ellis.

On the plus(?) side this comic does have what might be the finest example of superhero medical malpractice I’ve ever seen and I’ve read books featuring Doctor Strange AND Mister Terrific!

Worst Doctor .... Ever

I believe Shaman when he tells me that his body is capable of doing routine surgery, but I have assume that whatever part of himself he astrally projects holds something. I want to know if I ever need open heart surgery that my surgeon is giving my procedure 100% of his ability, ‘cuz, you know, he is going to break my chest open in order to work on my unprotected, often still beating heart. I really, really, don’t want to believe that there is a chance he is going to be multitasking a brawl at the same time. The book plays this nurse’s nagging as her just being a bitch, but really? She may be the most reasonable person in the whole dam book.

The whole book reads this way. I’m totally down with hard-to-like protagonists, but they need to do at least one thing to make me think they are worth rooting for at least once in every issue/episode/movie. This book has my rooting for Beta Flight and they don’t have a single character moment and only really one character trait shared between two characters. All the members of Alpha Flight have at least one asshole moment in this book and not even one of them has a redeemable moment. Don’t believe me? Upon capturing a protegee, who they say they really like, that has access to such extreme second hand evidence that she has decided that it is so extreme it justifies terrorism against all her recent character development (thank you wikipedia) what do they do? Refuse to make eye contact and tell the police to not make the cuffs chafe too much. Seriously? Would listening to the poor girl tell you what her evidence was really have been so dangerous? If you where worried about her mind control, listen to the other guy who you used to train.

Not convinced? There is a whole section where Northstar refuses to be a superhero, despite having flight and superspeed, and I think, a level of invulnerability because he just wants to make out with his boyfriend. I get that the creative team wanted to deal with the fact that Northstar is gay head on, and I applaud them for that. Treating him like a responsibility ducking horndog likely won’t get that job done. Also that gay kiss looks like it was drawn by a middle aged woman who says she is “down with the gays” but is massively uncomfortable with them.

The Verdict:

That was way longer than I intended it to be. Time for the train challenge tst. Does Alpha Flight .001 have new ideas, intersting thought or social comenteary that is not completely derivative? No, sadly it does not. Train 1 Cabel 0

Random Self Challenge Number One: On The Train

I’m on the train, heading to Santa Fe for a weekend of debauchery and and insanity. I’m alone so I’m looking for something to entertain me. I have a whole ton of digital content available to me here.   I’ve decided, after the last two quick reviews to give myself and the mainstreams comics industry a little challenge. I’m gonna read content available to me at random. I’m gonna keep writing and writing quick reviews until I find a book that has SOMETHING new and interesting to say. When I get there I’ll write a more in depth review. In a shameless drive to increase the amount of content that we create I’m going to release the reviews across the week. First up Alpha Flight 000.1Go Canada!

Flashpoint 1: QuickReview

So my question is this: How many times does DC think I’ll reread the, admittedly awesome, The Nail and enjoy it? The JLI did something like it this year, the JLA has done it a bazzilion (yes thats a number) times, Batman has had more than one version of it.  The best generation of the JLA freeken launched with it. I guess it was the Flash’s turn.

The story has two central thrusts. First we follow Barry’s attempts to make heads or tails of the new reality he wakes up in. You’d think he’d be good at this stuff by now, but no, he stumbles around like a trip-happy trippy dude. The second thrust focuses on Cyborg trying to put together a JLA of Villians to oppose the tyranny of  alternate Aquaman and Wonder Woman.

Geoff Johns is an undeniably talented writer and he packs a quite a few interesting turns in here. My favorite what his alternate reality reinterpretation of the Shazam family, though quite a few standbys get fun, interesting turns. I’ve always had warm feelings towards cyborg, despite his Smallville appearances, and he makes a great leader of the B-list heroes.

Its another pain-by-numbers superhero story. Its got a better writing team though, and (snicker) tried and true premise, so its pure superhero fun. I really hope that after laying out the world that we are in Geoff Johns decides to go somewhere a little more interesting with this book.

Quick Review: The Amazing Spiderman Annual 38

I enjoy paint-by-number superhero stories, but I’m not sure why. This is an archetypal superhero story too. Peter gets sent to an alternate reality where The Spider is the only superhero in that reality. Not because other people like Tony Stark are not around, but because alternate reality PP is actually THAT good at his job.  He took down The Big G all by his lonesome. From there it pretty much follows as you’d expect. There are some odd Hulk and Deadpool (shutter) subplots, and there are some twists and turns, that you should see coming from miles away, but there are no real close character moments, no revelations of human nature, no criticism of political or social trends, no real meat whatsoever.

And it all ads up to fun. Not a huge amount, not Invincible levels of fun, or even Batgirl Showcase, but its a good serviceable story and I feel a little guilty for having spent time on it.  Go figure.

Pioneer One: Why Free is Awesome

There is lots of free TV out there on the internet, for your entertainment. Most of the fan/open source/creative commons stuff has failed to catch my attention. Either through poor acting, unoriginal concepts, or just low production values most of this stuff, that I feel like I should really like, falls flat for me. I was sick, and super bored over the weekend and discovered something AMAZING!

Pioneer One is the best of all the truly free TV ever made! What is so great about it you ask? It somehow completely believable high concept science fiction set in the modern age.

Also its written with the wit pacing and character depth of the West Wing, it has the respect for science and space travel of a Larry Niven book and the intimate interpersonal moments of Joss Whedon’s work at its best. The plot is interesting and eminently spoilable so I’ll just leave you with this: Torrent the damn thing!

VFCast Episode 10: The Loneliest Man Who is Also a Bat… Man.

The Joker, pointing all the guns at you in Batman: Under the Red Hood

Episode 10: The Loniest Man Who is Also a Bat… Man

  • Quick Reviews: Cabel does the heavy lifting here, reviewing Suicide Girls #1, Elephantmen Vol 1, Hellboy: Seeds Of Destruction. [Pretty sure I reviewed all of those, too. -Lee]  Lelander reviews Eli Stone which has everything to do with comics and nothing at all to do with George Michael, we promise! We confuse Dark Horse (who publish Hellboy and CANNOT print a trade) and Image (who publish Elephantmen and should teach everyone how to put inked paper in a binding). We also compare digital comics to physical comics!


  •   Next we talk about the “sequel” to the above movie, Batman and Mr. Freeze: Sub Zero. It has a terrible title and is not that hot. It’s not that cold either, though, to be fair.

  • Lastly we feature Batman: Under the Red Hood. Its Batmany and Robiny and Nightwingy, and Neil Patrick Harrisy! [Neil Patrick Harris has all of 5 minutes of screen time in this movie. -Lee]