Funnybook Babylon

December 24, 2008

Batman #683 – “What the Butler Saw”

And thus, we end Grant Morrison’s first run on Batman. You’ll be missed. Lots to annotate this time around; lots of stuff referenced that’s more within our lifetimes. Let’s get to it.
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December 23, 2008

Remember That Secret Invasion Comic?

I know I’ve been hip deep in the Distinguished Competition’s “summer” event for a while, and I apologize to the House of Ideas. (I won’t even bring up everybody else; I’m still a goddamn troglodyte making my way through 100 Rooms in the first Maggie the Mechanic trade, so please speak to me in short sentences with easy words, I’m a bit slow.)

So – Secret Invasion! The epic culmination of Brian Michael Bendis’s years-long epic, building since Secret War and possibly all the way back to Alias! I remember being pretty goddamn excited when the first issue hit, and thinking it was a pretty great detonator for a summer crossover. Hell, I liked it to the point where I wrote an article about some of the Internet reaction to it that made Kevin Church hate me forever. I remember saying, and I can pretty thoroughly regret this now, “I have no idea how Final Crisis can possibly match this level of high-octane excitement.”

Why was I excited? Because what Bendis promised, and what I really, honestly expected to receive, was (I mean, he had eight issues to do this!) a fairly decent and smart balance of high-octane superheroic mass violence and reflection on what happens when our planet is invaded by a bunch of dudes who thoroughly believe they are correct and just and don’t come anywhere close to sharing a moral or ethical worldview with us.
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December 17, 2008

FBBP #83 – Degeneration AXM

Filed under: Podcasts — Tags: , , , , , , , — Chris Eckert @ 10:31 pm

Happy Holidays! We hope to put together a year-end podcast, but for now here’s a dissection of Joss Whedon & John Cassaday’s run on Astonishing X-Men!

We’ve talked plenty about Whedon’s predecessor on the flagship X-Title, not to mention his successor, but precious little time on Mr. Spunky Strong Female Lead himself.
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Map Appreciation Day

Filed under: Blurbs — Tags: , , , , , — David Uzumeri @ 2:55 pm

I’d just like to take a moment for us all to recognize the best thing ever.

Earth A.D.: A Map of the World of Kamandi!

Earth A.D.: A Map of the World of Kamandi!

Man, why don’t they ever do it like this anymore? Millar’s doing his best with the new map of America in Old Man Logan, but that’s nothing in comparison to this creative masterpiece. Everything you need to know about why Jack Kirby and Kamandi are awesome is right here, right in this map. Also in this map: legions of amazing band names that for some reason haven’t been used (come on! THE HORRIBLE HUNG-UPS, THE DEATH WORSHIPPERS!).

This was in the back of the first issue of Kamandi. It relates and emanates a sort of vibrant creativity and holistic vision that envelops you in a world, purely by these teasers. Kirby’s use of cartooning and design elements here is, as always, impeccable – look at those creepy eyes on the Island of the God-Watchers! What are the God-Watchers? Why haven’t I read that far in Kamandi yet? Is there *anybody in the industry* at this point (other than, of course, our patron saint Mr. G. Morrison) creative enough to pull a Kamandi revival off? I know Busiek’s been itching a go at it for years, but… really, can anyone do it?

And come on! KANGARAT MURDER SOCIETY!

*KANGARAT MURDER SOCIETY!* And look on the upper right, they even have toques and domino masks like burglars from DuckTales! Christ, this is why I love comics.

December 13, 2008

Lasting Legacies

Filed under: Blurbs — Tags: , , , , — David Uzumeri @ 3:45 am

If you think you can leave any sort of lasting legacy, you’re deluded. And I was deluded for a long time. But we live and we learn.

Mark Waid

I really, really love Superman: Birthright.

More than any other story, to me, it defines what Clark, Kal, the Kents and the House of El represent and the beacon they’re meant to be to humanity; far more than the dyslexic Lois Lane and meek Clark of the 1970s, the overconfident football jock of the 1980s or the po-faced stoic of the 1990s, Birthright illuminated and really crystallized, to me, who and what Superman is. I owe Mark Waid that forever.

So I was pretty damn surprised to see that he feels he hasn’t left a legacy. I don’t know if this is some kind of momentary lapse of reason or what, but dude, snap out of it – who gives a shit if your story got thrown out of continuity a few years later? It’s not like a whole generation of comic nerds didn’t read it, many of whom will re-enter the industry. Remember Len Wein’s Untold Legend of the Batman, perennial favorite of cereal box tie-ins, and how it got tossed out of continuity (just like Birthright!) a few years later by Crisis? And how basically the past two years of Batman stories have centered around reincorporating its “let’s compress the entirety of Bat-history into X number of years” method to dazzling effect?

Nobody’s deluded for thinking people are going to be inspired by a really damn good Superman story, personally or creatively, and that’s what Birthright was. It may not be THE OFFICIAL BACK STORY of the ONE TRUE SUPERMAN OF NEW EARTH right now, but these things embed themselves in the soil of continuity to take root and grow; they’re percolating in the back of the minds of the readership, and a few years from now some guy’s applauded take on Superman is going to be based on this story that’s getting “bulldozed over.”

The short-term decisions can always be short-term with the wave of a magic wand. Nothing is permanent, and the whims of editors will always be overriden by popular consensus in the long run, even if it takes a little bit too long. Perhaps I’m channelling Adam Smith a little bit too much in my vision of the the equilibrum of comics continuity, but I really think that in the end the shit falls to the bottom and the cream rises to the top no matter how long it takes, and if the work is solid – and especially if it’s a highly marketed story that’s likely to remain in print and available, like most of Waid’s material – there’s no telling what effect it could eventually have, or what kind of legacy it could inspire.

December 10, 2008

Final Crisis #5 – “Into Oblivion”

I think this is was my favorite issue of the series yet, although I can’t imagine the girl-wonder crowd is going to react very favorably to… certain developments with Mary Marvel. Despite the fact that the issue has three pencillers with the addition of Marco Rudy, also known as “the guy who filled in for Ryan Sook on Final Crisis: Resist, but it’s all shockingly contiguous.

Anyway, let’s get to it.
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December 8, 2008

FBBP #82 – A Podcast of Northern Aggression

This week: Two podcasts! Two first issues! One long Astonishing X-Men dissection!

Previous “Yes, This is Being Published” subject The Haunted Tank is now amongst the ranks of Has Been Published, and we discussed whether or not “A Racist-Ass Old Confederate Ghost teams up with a multi-ethnic group of wisecrackers to murder a lot of Iraqis” is everything it promised to be.

We also checked out the David-approved debut of X-Men Noir, one of Marvel’s latest iteration of Don’t-Call-Them-Elseworlds titles. X-Men Noir seemed better thought out than a lot of “Justice League Pirates” type stories, but is that enough?

Finally, this is so weird we want to throw it out here for people who don’t listen to the podcast to the end: it looks like Adam Felber, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me panelist, is writing a Skrull Kill Krew mini-series for Marvel. Why? We’re not upset. We just want an explanation.

Check back on Wednesday for an in-depth look at Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men. Two podcasts! Both under an hour! Will this trend continue? Will spring see dozens of podcasts, each a few minutes long? Stay tuned!

December 7, 2008

This Blog is Cancelled!

Torches? Check. Pitchforks? Check. Two-gallon drum of Haterade? Check. Looks like it’s time for Internet rage about comics getting cancelled again.

What’s up on the chopping block this time? One Marvel book (She-Hulk) and a whole lotta DC books (Nightwing, Robin, Birds of Prey, Manhunter and Blue Beetle). Why are they cancelled? Well, that’s a bit more complicated.

Conventional wisdom might tell you that these cancellations are due to today’s harsh economic realities. Other sectors might tell you that it’s about sexism, or subtle racism against minority characters, or a general unwillingness on the part of the publishers to give these books a shot. I’ve seen blame passed around, from the nature of the periodical medium to the willingness of the reader base to accept new characters, a lot of arguments from people who either weren’t reading the books or admitted they didn’t like them. What’s up with that?

Blue Beetle had an astounding 25-issue run that was a slow-starter and is forever kind of hurt by the fact that the opening stages are greatly affected by, and have to refer to, the events of Infinite Crisis where Jaime made his first appearance. As much as I hate to say it, this’ll always hurt its ability to sell in trades. Once you hit issue seven (which is, ironically enough, the most Infinite Crisis-linked of all the issues), it really kicks off, though, and Rogers turned it into what was probably one of DC’s strongest books during the time it was coming out. I’m sure somebody will comment about how that’s damning with faint praise, but this was during 52 and the start of Morrison’s Batman and back when Busiek/Pacheco Superman was cool and it looked like DC might actually keep its momentum.
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Alex Ross and Paolo Rivera: Painters Turned Pencillers and Storytellers

This is some stuff I started writing a few weeks ago, when Amazing Spider-Man #577 and JSA Kingdom Come Special: Superman had just hit. It’s a bit late now, but I sort of like where I was going with it, so I’m gonna finish it off anyway.

The week of November 12 was pretty lackluster, but there’s one thing I noticed that I think is worth talking about: we had not one but two painters making their debut with traditional pencil & ink comic book art, which is a significant shift in style for one and… well… we’ll talk later about the other.

Alex Ross wrote, pencilled, and sort-of-inked-but-really-washed-and-shaded the interminably-named Justice Society of America Kingdom Come Special: Superman. I was actually pretty surprised by how decent the scripting and dialogue were; Ross certainly has a huge leg up on Dan DiDio in that department. However, to be completely honest, it’s really only through realizing the story-based context (painted pages are Earth-22, other pages are Earth-0) that I can tell which parts are painted and which parts are colored by Alex Sinclair; while his work here is certainly more kinetic than his work on Marvels and the original Kingdom Come, I don’t know if that’s a function of the switch to pencil & ink as much as it is the passage of time and perhaps him learning from painting over Doug Braithwaite’s dynamic pencils for Justice. (As a side note, I actually like his non-photo-referenced faces in the back thumbnails more than the photoreferenced finished work; the faces are more expressive, and Ross clearly has the chops to be an above-average penciller if he ever wanted to drop the painting and reference and go that route.)

On the other hand, we got Paolo Rivera on Amazing Spider-Man #577. And, uh, damn.
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December 6, 2008

Food for Thought: An Astonishing X-Men Release Schedule

Filed under: Blurbs — Tags: — Chris Eckert @ 2:05 am

We’re doing a podcast this weekend looking back on the soon-to-be collected Astonishing X-Men run by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday. Re-reading the series, it struck me that the series started shortly after Grant Morrison left New X-Men, which turned out to be almost five years ago. So I dug up release dates for Whedon and Cassaday’s full run, and salted in some other significant Marvel books of the past half-decade:
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December 4, 2008

Batman #682 – “The Butler Did It” (A Final Crisis Tie-In) (A Last Rites Tie-In)

Batman #682

Batman #682

Double crossover banners, bitches! THIS ISSUE IS IMPORTANT!

And the title of this post isn’t even a spoiler, I ain’t doin’ my victory dance just yet. Note time. Also, this issue? Less straightforward than the last two.

But first, a note.
If you’ve dug Grant Morrison’s run on this title, and the sort of philosophical psycho-thriller approach he’s taken, then I highly recommend you check out this week’s X-Men Noir #1 by Fred Van Lente and Dennis Calero. It’s a gorgeous book, and Van Lente’s script is incredibly smart and bursting with novel ideas in a way I haven’t seen on an X-title since, well, Grant Morrison. It’s astonishing how well he translates the X-Men’s core themes – and I don’t mean the Claremontian “wah wah we’re persecuted just like real world minority” themes, I mean the themes about evolution and natural selection and the generation gap – into a world without powers, but everything remains intact, and the manners in which this is accomplished are absolutely inspired. It’s a great book, totally worth both the admittedly high price of $3.99 and the considerable amount of hype Marvel’s given it, and may have actually been my favorite book I’ve read this week. (I haven’t hit up Jason Aaron’s Punisher X-Mas Special, though, which Tim Callahan seems to have adored, so that might change. But I doubt it.)

UPDATE: I just read the X-Mas Special. Tim’s right, it really is brilliant, so get that too.

Lo, there shall be… annotations!!
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December 3, 2008

FBBP #81 – The Batcast

Filed under: Podcasts — Tags: , , , — Chris Eckert @ 10:37 pm

We aren’t above cashing in on Bat-Mania, so if you can’t get enough of David’s Batannotations and all our other Batcoverage, LOOK NO FURTHER! Batman #681 dropped last week, with #682 in stores today.

Our final Morrison on Batman podcast (until the next one) featured topics including:

  • WHO IS THE BLACK GLOVE?
  • Class Warfare in Gotham City
  • Joseph’s continued attempt to monetize the site using “space medicine” beer
  • Chris’s continued attempt to stick media theory square pegs into round comic book holes
  • Jamaal’s questioning of that Bald Scot behind the curtain
  • Ragged Robins and Millionaire Playboys
  • The Balkanization of the DC Universe and Why This Could be Good
  • There are no Atheists in a Batcave (or are there?)

We’ve got winged mammals coming out our ears, and now you can too!

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