Friday, August 25, 2006

Robot sin disguised

I've never really "got" the whole Transformers thing. When I first encountered them I was already watching anime and they just seemed like an american take on Mecha, only where instead of being machines for Our Heroes to pilot, the machines themselves were anthromorphised into having personalities like Thomas the Tank Engine. That was strike one.

Strike two was the whole rationale of having a whole bunch of robots living on a robot planet who all turned into like cars and planes and VCRs and shit. I could never understand why they should be designed to do this, since the robot planet didn't seem to have any people in it anyway. Or why they should pretend to be consumer products from Our Planet anyway. I'm sure it's all rationalised somewhere in Transformers lore, but I was never that interested to find out. And how is it that untransformed they are all pretty much the same size, but transformed, one can be a fighter plane or a truck while another will turn into a CD player or a gun? How does that work?

So the appeal of Transformers passed me by and the only one I ever owned was the one that's basically a Macross Valkyrie, because some guys I used to hang with didn't believe it really existed, so when I saw it in a thrift store I bought it.

And now I just heard about Transformers Kiss. It's so utterly bizarre and fucked up I almost like Transformers now.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The failure of 52

Warning: contains spoilers for 52 #15

I'm enjoying 52.

It's an interesting approach to the anthology - turning it into an ensemble piece where different characters are off doing their own thing, but having it all occur in the same comic without any discrete separation, so the various storylines thread together and build up a rich background that informs all the characters' separate adventures.

Where it falls down is that the different stories are not integrated enough. So when the main character in one thread appears to die I am entirely unconvinced because there is nobody to continue his storyline. A storyline that is full of unanswered questions that is so clearly not over. It's a shame, because the format is ideal for a situation where the plot from one segment runs into the plot from another, but they just don't overlap that much. This is a comic where events in one storyline should affect the others, but other than in a general background way, it's not happening, and there is nobody in place to take over this particular plot. And 52 has been far too well organised so far to have this come grinding to a halt with so much unresolved, or for some new figure to come in and take over the story.

He's not dead, Jim.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Pigs fly

Geoff Johns has confirmed that he will be working with Kimiyo Hoshi, Doctor Light 2.

Which just leaves the mystery of why she was ever depowered in the first place, since it seems to have had no relevence to anything in the last year, and caused a big continuity screwup to no apparent purpose.

For a character who was created in the original Crisis the timing seems very odd that she should be depowered just before (in real time) the big sequel. Did some editor want her removed beforehand so she couldn't take part, or was Judd Winick the lone gunman who didn't bother to check whether she was scheduled to appear in the biggest companywaide crossover for twenty years that was about to occur? How is it then that she appears at all? Why is it that she subsequently appears in more comics than she had done in the previous five years, to the confusion of all the readers who assumed that she must have been repowered in a comic they'd missed? And will we now get a resolution to the storyline that's been left hanging for a year, or will one of Plotdeviceboy Prime's continuity punches have erased the whole thing?

After all, it wouldn't make much difference to any characters other than Kimiyo. Bad Dr. Light would still be a scumbucket, Green Arrow seemed to have forgotten her before the story was over, and Kimiyo's appearance was so lacking in continuity in the first place that it didn't make much sense anyway. We'd all just be left with a sour taste of a story that was bad, but which we'd still like to have seen the end of.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Losing the Green

I have continued reading the sequence following the Green Lantern comics I reviewed a few days ago, but nothing stood out enough to move me to writing about it specifically. There was some stuff about Sinestro escaping imprisonment yet again (1) and teaming up with a sentient galaxy, and everyone except Hal Jordon going off to fight them.

Meanwhile Hal is working on his secret identity and getting lots of subplot set up for the big Millenium crossover. Everyone else turns up in time for the main event (2). By this point Englehart seems to be running out of steam on the title, or perhaps he doesn't like where it's going. Either way, his writing is lacklustre and missing any subtext. Characterisation is practically at the level of everyone reciting their catchphrases at least once an issue.

I can see where Englehart might be fed up. It's clear that the entire storyline post-Millenium is a set up to destroy the team he's been building for the previous two years. This culminates in the trial of Sinestro where the Green Lantern Corps decides that since Sinestro always escapes from prison and goes on to commit genocide, the only option left is to execute him (3).

So they all zap him with their rings and he drops dead and the main power battery explodes. It seems that the guardians had programmed in a failsafe to stop them ever killing a male of Sinestro's race. Killing of any other race or sex is apparently fine, but they didn't like the males so they fixed it so they wouldn't be tempted to kill them (4). And just to make sure they were serious about it, not only would this make the main power battery implode, but it would turn OA into a black hole that would engulf the universe.

Seems like a touch of overkill, there.

And you know what? They totally forgot to mention this to anyone before they left. Isn't it always the same? You go away and there's always something. If it's not forgetting to cancel the papers, it's leaving a bomb that could destroy the universe on a hair trigger and not bothering to mention it to anyone.

Anyway, Hal Jordon saves the day, of course, because it's always about Hal Jordon, and all but a handful of Green Lanterns are depowered. What was an ensemble cast of equals is now Hal Jordon and his cheerleaders. And the comic is canceled so that Green Lantern can move into the experimental weekly anthology version of Action Comics that nobody liked much because it wasn't very good.

It's a contrived and sucky end to a good period in Green Lantern, where the focus was on the corps rather than a single ring weilder. Why DC felt the need to dismantle it, I don't know. My only guess is that sales were poor. It's not the only reason for canceling a comic or radically changing its direction, but it is the main one.


1. *yawn*

2. which I didn't have available, so had to do without. Thankfully

3. Which seems a bit harsh. I mean ok, Sinestro has warranted execution for some time, but they have changed their policy at this point not because he has done anything especially nasty but because their security isn't doing its job effectively.

4. which shows a lack of imagination on their part, if you ask me.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Curiously Bob

If there is one type of comic that is a prime target for ridicule, it's the DC comics from the seventies with a political message. I haven't actually read the Green Lantern/Green Arrow road trip sequence, though I know it has enjoyed a better reputation than most. But that may be due more to the Neil Adams artwork than the quality of the writing.

Other efforts have not fared so well, particularly the "women's lib" issue of Wonder Woman (#203) and Lois Lane's venture into racial awareness in "I am Curious (Black)" (LL#106).

I don't believe the criticism of this comic is entirely fair. I thought it was an honest effort to address the issue from a time when comics were expected to be light entertainment and political stories were virtually unknown. Not to mention that it was written by Bob Kanigher, an old white guy who was more used to doing stuff about haunted tanks and nonsensical superhero fantasies.

To complain about the clumsy politics in a comic from 1970 is like sneering at the poor quality of the computers in the Apollo space rockets of that period. Sure, today's digital watches have more computing power than the spaceships that went to the Moon, but they were the best available at the time, and they still got there. And look at the clumsiness of the social message in original Star Trek - having men who are half black and half white being prejudist against men who are half white and half black is at least as painful as Lois blacking up for a day, and yet it is hailed for its insight.

Rather than denigrate them for their faults, I think we should honour stories like "I am Curious (Black)" as the pioneers that opened the way for the more sophisticated comics we have today.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Nobody stays dead

On one comics messageboard I used to hang out at someone had a sig that went "Nobody stays dead except Bucky and Uncle Ben".

It's now got to the stage where you would be very hard put to find any character you could be reasonably sure would be pushing up daisies on a permanent basis. Hell, I would have considered Cir-El a safe bet and then she got a cameo in one of Jeph Loeb's guest star fests, which means that she's still alive somewhere.

I can't honestly think of any character too iconically dead or generally disliked that there isn't a real possibility they won't pop up again. I'm expecting Alex DeWitt to climb out of that refrigerator any time now.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Random comic review: Green Lantern (Corps) #212-213

Okay, so I should probably be doing something more retrospective to mark not only the first post of my second year at this, but also my 200th post, but I couldn't work up the enthusiasm, so you are getting a review of an old comic (okay, two old comics. It's only the one story) instead.

In this story Star Sapphire and Hector Hammond team up to make slaves of Hal Jordon and Arisa. Well, they initially try to kill Hal, but then when that doesn't work they mind control him.

It's a mixture of stuff I liked a lot and stuff I disliked a lot. Steve Englehart clearly had some issues he needed to work through, but I don't see this as the place to do it. The whole male vs female/mind vs body debate that he has going between the villains is not entirely out of place, but it sits heavily in the comic, repeatedly bringing the action grinding to a halt while the two vie for superiority.

The scene where Star Sapphire strips naked to prove she can even make the immobile intellectual Hammond sweat is particularly tangental, and I'm not convinced that she even scores a point there unless you take it as read that any woman can control any man simply by taking her clothes off. Affect them, sure. But control? I don't think so.

And where did all that hair come from? Star Sapphire's hair varies from waist length to below her knees, and in this scene there's so much of it that she can wrap herself in it like a beach towel.

The whole slave segment where Arisa and later Hal (at least it's equal opportunity) are degraded by their captors under mind control kind of fits the story, and it pretty mild compared with what I'd expect in a similar scene today, but there's some unpleasant subtext going on that I can't quite put my finger on.

This debate/contest is never really resolved. Ultimately they are stalemated until Star Sapphire gets Arisa to help her. Perhaps this is a comment on the duplicity of women, but it could also be read as their being more resourceful.

Anyhow, aside from Englehart's issues this is a well written story with clever twists and turns, and a great cliffhanger at the end of the first part where we see Hal Jordon burst. The first part revolves around Arisa being mind controlled to lure Hal into a trap, and it is explained that she is vulnerable because of her recent transformation, so there's no suggestion that it was because she was the girl. I particularly liked that at the end of the story she gets a good solid cathartic resolution. It is Arisa who rescues Hal, Arisa who beats the trap that caught her companion, and Arisa who punches Star Sapphire's lights out.

If they could do that in 1987 why is it such a problem now?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Rape of the month: July

Months without a rape in comics: 0

This is an ugly little regular feature that I am running monthly to highlight just how often sexual abuse appears in comics and to make it clear that it is neither clever nor original to address this issue. In fact so many comic writers have addressed it so often and so badly that it has become a ghastly cliche. It doesn't matter how thought provoking or moving your rape story may be, just don't. There are few enough unmolested women left in comics as it is.

Only one comic this month has include a rape as far as I am aware:

The Walking Dead #29

The serial rape we are promised at the end of last issue is not averted by a last second save, and the character is repeatedly raped during the course of this issue. But apparently the writer does not feel that he has made his point sufficiently, and it looks set to continue into next issue.

If you know of any other comics published in the last month that feature rape or sexual abuse, please leave a comment so I can update this entry.

I really don't like doing this feature so please, writers, stop abusing our heroines, and I won't have to do this anymore.

Happy Birthday blog

One year old today.

I should bake a cake.