Funnybook Babylon

June 8, 2010

FBBP #126 – Four Number Ones

As a follow-up to our theoretically award-eligible podcast Three Number Ones, Funnybook Babylon planned to look at Four Number Ones, the Billboard #1 singles on our respective birthdays!

Sadly, due to a quirk of fate, our birthdays are paired closely together, so we only have two number ones:

MacArthur Park” by Donna Summer (Chris & Jamaal)
Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes (Joseph & Pedro)

So we had to go with our backup plan: reviewing comics. I think we can all agree those are a couple of wretched songs; will the comics be any better?
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April 9, 2010

Avenging the Week, pt. 1 – The Origin Story

Do not imagine yourself a caretaker of any tradition, an enforcer of any party standards, a warrior in an ideological battle, a corrections officer of any kind. Never, never try to put the author “in his place,” making him a pawn in a contest with other reviewers. Review the book, not the reputation. Submit to whatever spell, weak or strong, is being cast. Better to praise and share than blame and ban. The communion between reviewer and his public is based upon the presumption of certain possible joys in reading, and all our discriminations should curve toward that end.

-John Updike

Hello. The quotation above is reflective of what I’d like to do with this column. It’s an idealized view of criticism that I plan to strive for in this this column. I expect to fail on a pretty regular basis, but it’s always important to have a goal. The plan? A weekly review and potpourri/linkblogging with commentary column. Warning: Spoilers below.

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September 23, 2009

FBBP #113 – The Trouble with Norman

Filed under: Podcasts — Tags: , , , , , — Joseph Mastantuono @ 8:00 am

With Dark Reign entering a new phase with the release of the first Dark Reign: The List one-shots, the gang looks at Marvel’s recent experiments with telling One Big Story, from Civil War to today. Of special interest in Norman Osborn: is he the Green Goblin, Super-Cheney, or the second coming of Hitler? Marvel’s stable of writers seem to hold different opinions, and we explore them all.

September 22, 2009

Pull List Reviews for September 16th

Daredevil: The ListDark Reign: The List – Daredevil
by Andy Diggle & Billy Tan

Bad art can ruin even the best of stories, but lesser known is its ability to obscure mediocre writing. Billy Tan’s art in this issue is bad: it’s static during action sequences featuring ninjas, masked superhero gymnastics and government agents rappelling from the roof. Tan’s talking sequences fail to display any emotion besides tension. As a result, at first glance, this art is terrible enough to hide a weak effort from Andy Diggle.

I wish Diggle had exercised some restraint here since the book’s “everything is rotten from the core” vibe already wears out its welcome by the time the corrupt judge shows up six pages in. When we finally see Norman Osborn, he is exhaling pure evil. It’s not as if Daredevil hasn’t tangled with some sinister dudes before, but the moral conflicts and ethical backsliding that had been the bedrock of Bendis and Brubaker’s Daredevil runs begin to feel less complex when Murdock is trying to take down the next Hitler.

Diggle’s overplaying of the systemic corruption moves Daredevil from a troubled man trying to straighten up a clan of killer evil ninjas to the leader of a band of freedom fighters. Regardless of if Murdock succeeds here, his goal becomes noble enough to the reader that he will be redeemed in their eyes. This isn’t Diggle’s intent and this will push Matt away from the tipping point that has been teased since the title was relaunched back in 1999. It’s a shame since there was just so much farther he could have fallen.

-by Pedro Tejeda

Dark Avengers #9Dark Avengers #9
by Brian Michael Bendis, Mike Deodato, and Rain Beredo

In a week with a Grant Morrison Batman comic and a new volume of Pluto, somehow I think I enjoyed these 22 pages the most. Bendis’s recent work has gotten slagged on a lot – sometimes deservedly – but I think this is a solid crystallization of everything that makes his style work: Character, Character, Character. The cover promises Ares versus Fury in a glocks-versus-battle-ax contest to the death, and I’m glad the cover lied because the mature conversation inside is so, so, so much better. Then Bendis drops a shock ending bomb on you, one he’s clearly been waiting to drop forever, and one that works pretty well at eliciting an “OH SHIT!” from almost anybody invested in the Marvel status quo right now.

But Bendis isn’t even really the main reason. Mike Deodato fucking shines on this comic, with interesting but clear panel layouts, especially in the middle section. This guy has really evolved from a tits ‘n muscles artist in the ’90s to a guy who, despite his propensity for swaying hips, constantly tries to make his panel layouts interesting (and still clear) – check out the “Ares smash!” two-page spread to see what I mean. He’s good with balls-out action and talking heads (as displayed near the end with the Dark Avengers just chillin’ and chattin’), versatile enough to move from the everyday to the extraordinary and make it seem like it’s in the same world. I’m willing to take his (increasingly rarer) propensities towards T&A in stride as long as he keeps turning in superb storytelling like this.

– by David Uzumeri

Vengeance of the Moon Knight #1Vengeance of the Moon Knight #1
“Shock & Awe Chapter 1”
by Gregg Hurwitz & Jerome Opena

I haven’t paid attention to the Moon Knight book for years, and viewed him as a third-rate Batman suffering from mental illness. But sometimes a comic doesn’t have to be original to be entertaining. We’ve all become familiar with the use of the super-hero narrative to explore identity and mental illness. Not only that, but the story of a lone man who must do battle with a crazed totalitarian state is older than John Galt. So what sets Vengeance of the Moon Knight apart from the crowd? The art. Gregg Hurwitz turns in a competent script, but Jerome Opena transforms what could have been a banal book into an entertaining romp.

The first issue sets the status quo – Moon Knight is a hero who is in the midst of an identity crisis. Will he be the restrained old-school hero who avoids unnecessary violence or a brutal vigilante close to the edge? We see MK elegantly dispatch armed bank robbers and escape from the authorities with ease in the first half of the book, which unfolds like a slick action movie filled with bright colors and unambiguous victories. In the second half, we begin to see the cracks in the facade – the criminals from Heat have been replaced with the degenerates in Taxi Driver, Moon Knight’s resolve is tested, and his instability becomes more apparent: the voices in his head/ghosts that haunt him become clearer. There are shadows everywhere, and triumph is replaced with temptation. An atmosphere of fear lurks in the background, with the visage of Norman Osborn staring at us from billboards and video screens. And that’s without even looking at the words.

– by Jamaal Thomas

September 1, 2009

FBBP #110 – Parker without Spiders, Spiders without Parker

The word of the week is “adaptation”, as we take a look at two pieces of media with roots in a different form.

First up, Marvel debuts Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D. #1 as a “Motion Comic” on iTunes, over a month before the plain ol’ paper version hits the stands. Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev are an all-star creative team, but can they transfer the magic of their Daredevil run onto your iPod? Will there be Clutch Cargo lips? We tackle these questions and more!

Then, we take a look at IDW and Darwyn Cooke’s Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter, the first in Cooke’s planned series translating Stark’s 1960s crime novels into funnybook form. Not every one on the podcast is in love with The Hunter, but do those flaws lie with the Cooke’s adaptation or the source material? Could Parker just not be made for these times? Or, if the rest of the blogosphere is any gauge, are we objectively wrong?

February 14, 2009

FBB Valentine’s Day Weekend: 25 Things Pedro Loves about Comics

On the worst day of the year for single people and absent-minded married men, Team FBB stood back and thought of the things that we love about comics. We capped it at 25 so that this series of articles would be completed sometime this year. One interesting thing that I came across while compiling my list was how many of these selections were based on visual storytelling moments. I’m starting to realize that I enjoy the art side of comics more than the writing.
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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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October 29, 2008

FBBP #77 – A Spidery Meta-Argument About a Single Panel

Filed under: Podcasts — Tags: , , , , — Joseph Mastantuono @ 3:40 pm

Joe has returned from Korea to talk to Chris, Jamaal, and Pedro about Secret Invasion, Final Crisis, and the rumors that have been floating around the blogoverse. It’s followed it up with what was supposed to be a short discussion of Amazing Spider-Man #574, but became a long drawn out argument. Listeners Beware. Shockingly, Pedro comes in as the voice of reason. It is a troubling harbinger of the apocalypse.

As a side note: The new editors page is up with easier ways to contact us.

October 28, 2008

Pull List Analysis for October 29, 2008

Ultimate Spider-Man Annual #3 by Brian Michael Bendis & David Lafuente (Marvel Comics): There comes a time in every young superhero’s life when someone decides to do an issue about their sex life. These “very special” issues have come with a range of tasteful comments from the creators:

static25

I understand that teenage sexuality is a difficult subject for a lot of people. And, as is the custom, I won’t even mention black sexuality. But I don’t think that the people who read Static are afraid to explore storylines ground in the issues of contemporary life.

Dwayne McDuffie on the publication of Static #25

petenkitty

I called Bob Harras and said, “Excalibur #90, Kitty Pryde gets fucked.” He went deadly silent, then he said, “Just try and keep it tasteful.”

Warren Ellis on the publication of Excalibur #90

eab1 1 sbl

Where will USM Annual #3 fall along the axis? Who knows, though it has the “added bonus” of being part of the MARCH ON ULTIMATUM, though I’m still not entirely sure what that means besides having a really ugly banner along the top.

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October 26, 2008

Managing the Event: Then and Now

Here in the Year of Superhero Event Comics, we’ve by this point become pretty accustomed to the yearly cycle. Every year there’s a point where all the books in a shared universe intersect and stake a common ground, then separate again for a while, then come together the next year. Events have stopped merely being important simply for the sake of providing a sales tentpole; the event comic has become the glue that holds a shared universe together. Every year, something big happens that affects everybody, and this provides a framework whereby the different stories can coalesce and characters can touch base while also providing most writers and books the ability to simply continue with their own stories if they so desire.

We’re seeing two very structurally different events right now – Final Crisis takes place in a time period entirely separate from the rest of DC’s line (with the exception of Green Lantern). Reading Batman or Superman or Checkmate, you’d have absolutely no idea that there’s a Crisis on if not for the house ads. While every book staking a common ground has been hinted as occurring after this event, for the most part, it’s entirely self-contained, not unlike Morrison’s previous Seven Soldiers. By virtue of this, its structure is small – a main series, two ancillary series that so far seem more like they’re pushing their respective writer’s ongoing DC Universe plots than really interacting with Morrison’s story, and a handful of oneshots (including the cleft-in-two Superman Beyond). And an unofficial #35.5 of Green Lantern, and a three-issue build-up to Flash: Rebirth (not to knock Rogues’ Revenge, it was awesome, and it was greatly informed by Final Crisis, but it didn’t in any way seem to really inform the main narrative itself). This tight and controlled creative approach has led to many people calling it the “arthouse” take on an event; while it certainly matches previous Crises in scale, it’s paced like a horror movie and I really can’t imagine any logical way ongoing books could have been tied into this without getting, well, completely fucked up.
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October 22, 2008

Pull List Analysis for October 22, 2008

It’s a big week for known quantities at Marvel and DC, as their respective Summer Blockbusters stretch into sweaterweather.

finalcrisis4

After last week’s Rogues’ Revenge and Legion of Three Worlds tie-ins, the fourth issue of the core Final Crisis title by Grant Morrison and JG Jones (and Carlo Pacheco, and Doug Mahnke… what up’s, Jonesy?) drops, its “gap month” extended to ten weeks. We’re also getting Submit, a one-shot by Grant Morrison and Matthew Clark. David will be stepping up with annotations later today.

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September 28, 2008

New New Avengers Lineup Leaked! Spoilers!

Filed under: Blurbs — Tags: , , , , , — David Uzumeri @ 10:12 pm

Yeah, apparently the full roster and cover for the post-Secret Invasion New Avengers has been leaked thanks to what I assume is the Dynamic Forces section of Previews.

Kevin Huxford, eat your heart out. (I know I said I hated spoilers, but this lineup makes me so excited I can’t contain myself.)

LO! BELOW! (more…)

August 29, 2008

FBBP #69 – Explicit Invasion

Filed under: Podcasts — Tags: , , , , , — Funnybook Babylon @ 2:01 pm

Jon, Pedro, Chris, and Joe got together on Wednesday to discuss the current status of Marvel’s (not-so) Secret Invasion.

Enjoy your Labor Day weekend!

May 15, 2008

FBBP #58 – Political Crossover

After the blockbuster Iron Man talk of episode 57, we return to the niche market of comics.

First up, we talk the Egyptian Comics Confiscationissue and the general lack of interest on the part of the blogalaxy.

Now, DC Decisions, there’s a story bloggers can sink their teeth into! Who will Superman vote for? Which senators are in the pocket of Big Meta? Judd Winick and Bill Willingham will give you the scoop this fall!

Finally, we try to shake off politics by talking Secret Invasion and its tie-ins. Wait, SI is a political allegory too? Damn you! Damn you, Election Year!

What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Infiltration?

Filed under: Articles — Tags: , , — Funnybook Babylon @ 8:00 am

Hey all. Most of you will not know who I am, and shame on you. I’ve made a brief appearance during the NYCC podcasts, but the Secret Invasion has inspired me to actually write an article to help you all figure out whom to trust. So I took a break from drinking (ok, that’s a lie, there’s a scotch by my side), and would like to share some observations. I’ve been re-reading nearly all of Brian Michael Bendis’s Marvel comics from the past few years. While some series have been mostly dead ends (Alias, I’m looking at you, though it was nice to re-read it, just because it’s a good series), New Avengers and Mighty Avengers are, as expected, chock full of clues.

Veranke plans to replace Jessica Drew in NA #40

At first, some people seem to think that the ending of New Avengers #40 is misdirection. In a flashback, it shows Skrull Princess Veranke planning to infiltrate Earth disguised as Jessica Drew/Spider-Woman. But since it’s not explicitly shown that she does replace Drew, it does not necessarily indicate that Spider-Woman is a Skrull. It could simply be misdirection. I hate to be the bearer of bad news (ok, that’s another lie), but it’s not misdirection. “Spider-Woman” is a Skrull. I would like to point first at New Avengers #30. Most of the team is suspicious of Clint Barton, (who was thought to have died in “Disassembled”, and was apparently resurrected in House of M, as shown in New Avengers#26), and Dr. Strange casts a spell to prove that Barton is indeed who he says it is.

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