Wednesday, 27 June 2007

I could spend all day giving you reasons why I loved John Ostrander's Suicide Squad series. Instead I'll spend one second and give you one - it's fricking awesome.

It's a story of incarcerated super-villains forced to carry out dangerous and controversial black-ops missions for the government in return for time off their sentences. It's got a rotating cast of third-stringer bad guys who, when they aren't sniping at each other, they're getting killed or having their arms blown off. What's not to love?

The one thing I never warmed up to about the Suicide Squad was Colonel Rick Flag. He's the field leader of the Squad, appointed by head honcho Amanda Waller, a tough military man to keep the others in line. What he really is though is a moody, moany jerk with a stick up his ass. Put on a team alongside such raving, drooling psychopaths as Deadshot and Count Vertigo just emphasised his distinct lack of cool.

That is until Suicide Squad #26.

By the time this issue comes around Flag has left the Squad (yayyy!) but he's been floating about in the background doing evil deeds that he thinks will make life easier for the Squad. His helpful attempt to kill a US Senator who was blackmailing Waller does more harm than good. So the Colonel decides he needs a grand gesture to show the Squad how much he cares (awwwww).

'I know' he thinks 'I'll break into the Jihad's mountain headquarters and blow the shit out of them all with a nuclear bomb'. Hallmark just don't make a card that tugs the heart-strings quite the same way as annihilating your loved ones enemies in a nuclear firestorm.

After 26 issues all it took to make Flag cool was a suicide mission of apocalyptic espionage. If only he'd thought of it sooner.

Suddenly Flag is all super-cool spy-guy. He sneaks into the Jihad's mountain stronghold with a grappling hook like James Bond, knifing guards left right and centre like Rambo, dressed in a fetching black leotard like a ballet dancer:
That's nineteen guards and not one uniform that fits. Damn you carbs!

Flag primes the bomb and is about to make his getaway when the fiery sword wielding, leader of the Jihad, Rustam stumbles across him while on his morning constitutional. Flag can't risk failing his mission by letting Rustam diffuse the bomb before it blows - so he does the only thing he can...

..he punches Rustam's teeth down his throat while the countdown ticks away:That's just goood stuff. The tension during the fight just jumps off the page and throttles you. It's stuff like this that proves that John Ostrander is a master craftsman - one of the most under-rated writers in the industry.

After calling him mean names since issue 1, Ostrander has somehow managed to get us rooting for Rick Flag! We're cheering him on as he whips out his knife and tries to gut Rustam. We're celebrating when he gets the upper hand. We're ordering the balloons for the victory party as he's about to land the final blow and then.......oh well, at least we've still got Captain Boomerang.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Everyone's Favorite Scene From Grosse Point Blank...

Doesn't Kraven make a wonderful Minnie Driver?

It must be the moustache

Not My Arm...

Buddy Baker was never going to be one of life's success stories. I mean for a start he's got the alliterative name which only works when you were created by Stan Lee. He's got one of those super-hero names where they just take your powers and stick 'Man' on the end. Don't even get me started on the costume with the big 'A' on the front. Clearly this guy's tailor hates him pretty bad.

Buddy's got the power to absorb the abilities of any animal in the immediate vicinity. You'd think that would make him at least vaguely interesting, but it doesn't. Sure he can have the strength a bear - but he's no Superman. Sure he can have the speed of a puma - but he's no Flash. Without the robotic horse with the southern drawl and the gun with a girl's name - he's not even as cool as Bravestar!

Yup, Buddy Baker was just a poor, super-powered slub destined to fade away into comicbook obscurity forever.

Then along comes a young whippersnapper from across the pond called Grant Morrison. He decided he would take poor, slubby Buddy and make something of him. Grant Morrison's brain overflows with wild and crazy ideas looking for a place to be turned loose. I guess Grant figured that nobody would really care if he turned them loose on Buddy. It took exactly 2 issues before he made Animal Man more interesting than any writer had managed since his creation.

How you ask? Well he had a mutated rat creature hack off Buddy's arm that's how:What's interesting about that you may ask, after all that kinda crap happens to Wolverine every other issue. Well, y'see, my mouthy, impatient friend, it wasn't the arm-hacking that was interesting. When it comes to losers like Animal Man you've gotta think outside the box if you want to make them and their powers interesting.

Okay so you're Buddy Baker. You've got touchy-feely animal powers. Some big rat-looking dude comes along and hacks off your arm. You're slowly bleeding to death while wearing a questionable orange and blue spandex suit - what do you do?

You absorb the power of the earthworms in the ground beneath you and just grow that sucker right back of course:That, my friends, is animal-tastic! That's like Manimal levels of coolness.

What do you mean 'who's Manimal?' Get out of my blog you heathen!

Anyway..savage arm-hacking was only the tip of the crazy, surrealistic iceberg that Grant Morrison turned the Animal Man series into. You'll never look at our buddy - um - Buddy the same way again.

Which is a good thing, because before I would look at him and say 'BWAH HA HA - Lookit the big dopey A on your costume! Did you dress in the dark in the morning you jackass?'

Friday, 15 June 2007

Do you remember when Venom was cool? Sure it's been a long time, Eddie and his slimy symbiote buddy have been through the mill since then - but there was a time there when Spidey villains didn't get much better.

Amazing Spider-man 346 came smack dab in the middle of that glory period. In those days when it came to Venom writers knew how to work it. In this issue David Michelinie works it good.

This one issue has all of the essential ingredients that once made Venom Spidey's number one foe.

1.) He doesn't effect Peter's spider-sense-Until Spidey crossed swords with Venom you just didn't appreciate how important a power Pete's spider-sense was. He relies on it to keep him alive in those hairy situations he gets himself in. Venom however can take him by surprise. I mean one minute Pete is in a greasy spoon tucking into a stray-cat burger next minute Venom is borrowing the ketchup to put on his steaming plate of Spidey-lungs:
2.)The symbiote can change it's appearance- At least when he's battling Electro or Mysterio they're dressed as stupid as Spidey is. Not so with Venom. Eddie's symbiote can mimic street clothes. So he can show up to read May Parker's electric meter in a vomit-green Electric company uniform but he's still every bit as dangerous as if he was wearing his spiffy black Spider-duds. So while Pete's trying to find a shady spot to change into his red & blues Eddie could garrote him with a chunk of his 'captain-of-the-football-team' jacket:
3.)Venom lives by his own twisted moral code-Despite being a homicidal maniac with a dental hygiene problem Venom's not such a bad guy. Sure he wants to turn Peter into Spider-bolognese but he wants to do it without hurting any innocents. He'll toss them around a bit sure but he won't hurt them unless it's absolutely necessary. In Venom's eyes he's the hero:
Ah those heady, glory days - what I wouldn't give to have them back. Unfortunately over the years overexposure, bad 90s guest appearances and one too many bad limited series have transformed Eddie from the barbell-pumping, lung-eating, smiley psycho that we all know and love into *gulp* Eric Foreman?
We'll eat your brains

PS: Note that sweet Erik Larsen art. Before he became an Image high muck-a-muck he did some great stuff on Spider-man.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

My Hat Is Like A Shark's Fin...

The Ray was one of those under the radar series that few people ever read and fewer still ever remember. As is the case with a lot of these little books that get no hype and no attention - it was pretty damn good.

I must warn you though the book starred a surly teen in the nineties so you must have the ability to survive a terrible onslaught of cheesy hippety-hoppity slang. It's enough to make Vanilla Ice cringe:
I Beg your pardon?

If you can turn a blind eye to the overuse of the words 'gafflin', 'buggin' and Ray's constant attempts to 'get his serve on' then this is a really great little book - and I ain't trippin' holmes.

No! Please readers, wait! Come back! I'm sorry, I won't do that ever again I promise.

Anyway, the book is about Ray Terrill - the son of the original Ray from Uncle Sam's Freedom Fighters. He's inherited his dad's powers and decided to become a super-hero. Unfortunately for Ray, he sucks at it.

Stories of fledgling super-heroes botching things up and finding their feet are always fun to read. This one ditches all of the usual angst and keeps things light and frothy. Even when he's in costume Ray's pretty much just a goofball kid in a bad leather jacket and a dopey fin hat.

Ray #1 is full of quality goofball moments. None of them match my favorite moment though and it doesn't even involve Ray. It involves this little green fellow:Our lil green buddy here is an exile from Apokolips who's trying to curry favor with Darkseid, ruler of Apokolips, by kick-starting one the Big D's Techno-seeds. These Techno-seeds grow into big scary monsters that like to stomp cities and eat babies. Darkseid's a big fan of baby-eating.

The industrious little scamp manages to awaken a big fiery beastie called Brimstone. Unfortunately it turns out that Brimmy just ain't a morning person:Ouch! Such a shame - those bloodstains will never come out of that snazzy Hawaiian shirt!

So if giant redneck monsters crushing little aliens dressed like Sammy Hagar is what you want from a comic, not to mention inept super-heroics and even worse leather jackets, then I can't recommend Ray #1 enough.

It's the bomb!

Word to your mother.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Amputees Need Love Too..

Well when you've got razors for hands I guess you've got no choice but to be a hit with the ladies.

Friday, 8 June 2007

His Name Is The Captain....

Nextwave, just so you know, is awesome. It was the one of the, if not the, best series Marvel was producing for a while there. Sadly for some reason it got cancelled by some corporate suit - damn the man!

While it lasted we were thrice blessed. We had Warren Ellis bringing his cranky, English, super-hero-hating style back to Marvel, we had a team of 3rd rate nobody super-heroes being pursued by Dirk Anger (the funniest Nick Fury homage ever to grace a page) and big freaking monsters to fight every month!

It was like a Saturday morning cartoon during a bad acid trip. That is to say, in case you missed it the first time, it was AWESOME!

One of my favorite Nextwave moments (of which there are many) was in Nextwave #4. The flashback sequence where we find out how The Captain got his powers:You know that it's going to be good now because little green aliens are involved.

So, as you can see, the cute little green guys come to earth to give some lucky human the gift of superpowers. Sadly the first human they run across is The Captain, who has been out enjoying a few refreshing beverages.

Misunderstanding their intentions The Captain breaks out a little drunk-fu, to teach these fiendish alien invaders what they get for landing their green asses in the old US of A:Clearly The Captain has been being distracted from watching his X-Files boxsets by reruns of Darby O'Gill and the Little People again. Tsk Tsk.

Obviously disappointed by the failure of the normally foolproof violence+leprechauns=gold coins formula The Captain presents his new alien buddies with a 'Welcome To Earth' gesture that Will Smith wishes he'd thought of:Just in case you missed it the first two times I said it, and that little demonstration hasn't made it clear to you, again I say:


C'mon wouldn't all super-hero origins be much better if the hero was drunk at the time? Just picture it: 'With great power comes....Ey! Whatchoo looking at? *hic*'

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Tantrums & Tiaras....

Out of the three DC big guns Wonder Woman always get dealt the short straw. She is too often portrayed as just a female Superman. Apart from a few powers the two have very little in common.

Supes is the boy-scout super-hero, the font of all that is good and true to which all other heroes have to measure up. Batman is the vigilante doing what he has to keep his city safe, however ruthless it makes him look.

Diana, on the other hand, is an amazonian warrior princess. She's not even human technically, and she doesn't pretend to be. She isn't bound by the same rules of conduct as Supes and Bats. When writers play up this contrast we get to see why Diana was born to be one of the big guns!

Greg Rucka gives us this Diana in Wonder Woman #219. The Diana who's a warrior princess. The Diana who has fought countless bloody battles across countless centuries. The Diana who's not squeamish about jamming her thumbs into an enemies eyes when his heat vision starts pissing her off:
Try looking at my rack now pig!

Sure even here, she's still one of the good guys. When she's not trying to scoop out Superman's eyeballs she's trying to break him free of Max Lord's telepathic control.

For those that don't know this issue was part of the whole icky OMAC Project hoopla* (which wasn't so great). One time JLA benefactor Max Lord, has decided super-heroes suck and they should all be wiped out for the good of mankind. So he uses his spiffy new telepathic powers to make Supes throw a tantrum and sics him on Wonder Woman.

Throughout the fight Diana fends Superman off, trying not to hurt him as best she can. Until she gets bored. Big Blue repeatedly punching her in the face is getting irritating so she makes him stop:
Elton John's got nothing on me

That is cold. Not even Bats would have the balls to do that!

With Supes bleeding profusely from the neck Diana can focus all her attention on Max. Under the thrall of her golden lasso he tells her that the only way he'll release the Man of Steel from his control is over his dead body.

Diana's response - 'Okey Dokey':
It's was Diana's over-enthusiasm that lost that job at the chiropractor's office

This is the stuff that we should be seeing from Wonder Woman. An amazonian princess doesn't need to be playing by the rule's of man's world. She should be saving it despite itself - and if that means snapping a few necks here then that's just dandy.

Supes, Bats and co - should just be glad she, and that tiara of hers, are on their side!

* I'm still trying to repress the OMAC Project and the crazy things they did to Max Lord (wasn't he a cyborg one time?) but this issue I liked.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Sorry folks I was lying about the arthritic nun/rabid werewolf thing for comical effect.

Instead, to make it up to you, here's a picture of a gorilla in Superman jammies hitting the man of steel with a tree:

Showdown of the Century.....

Check out the sweet John Romita Jnr cover to Daredevil #263. Sure it's fantastic but it fails to mention the five words that would've guaranteed that this book would've sold by the case:

Blind lawyer versus demon train!

You heard me right people, it's the showdown of the century. You've got to see it to believe it.

Daredevil starts this issue lying in a hospital bed all busted up from a recent scuffle with his crazy bit on the side Typhoid Mary. What better time for squillions of demons to invade Manhattan?

Matt notices that something is up when the walls of his hospital room turn to blood and a bunch of little snaky demons start talking about eating his eyeballs:
Is Matt listening to Devo?

Realising his beloved Hell's Kitchen may be in trouble Matt breaks out of the demon encrusted hospital. Still half dressed and covered in bandages, he heads for home.

Unfortunately the subway he goes to catch is having minor technical difficulties:Being a hopelessly over matched blind lawyer armed with a stick, facing a huge living demonic subway train Matt does the sensible thing - he jumps on board as the train begins to burrow it's way down into the depths of hell.

It's only Matt's selfless, heroic attempts to stop it and save the passengers that turns the horror back towards the surface.Surprisingly once out of hell Matt is able to dispatch the enormous fire-breathing demon with - well a big stick actually.

Giant demon slaying sticks aside this a great little done in one issue. It's actually a tie-in to the big X-Men event 'Inferno' (hence all the demons and stuff). It has no real relevance to the ongoing stuff happening in the DD title at the time. It does however give Ann Nocenti the opportunity to wax poetic about evil, demons and how we're all going to hell in a handbasket which is a real treat.

I always loved her purple prose style of narration - it was a perfect fit for the grimy, street-level feel of the DD book. You felt like you needed to go shower off the Hell's Kitchen dirt after you were finished reading an issue.

Well that's it for for this entry, but next time on Showdown of the Century: an arthritic nun with a wooden leg takes on a rabid werewolf with an AK-47! It'll be the comicbook adventure of the decade.

Friday, 1 June 2007

Bear On Spaceknight Action...

I was always liked ROM. I mean it was never a 'set your world on fire' kind of book. It was never gonna change your life or anything. Sometimes though, not often, but sometimes the ROM crew, aka Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema, would deliver a book piled high with huge, steaming mounds of unadulterated AWESOME!

That's right baby - ROM #45 is awesome!

The main reason it's awesome is right there on the cover. The Soviet Super Soldiers! Mother Russia's own mutant militia. What isn't great about the SSS? I'll give you a clue - nothing!

You've got Darkstar, the slinky seductress of the team. She's got a mutant twin made out of Darkforce energy and she once dated Iceman. Iceman for crying out loud! Try as you might you cannot love that!

How about Vanguard. He wears a big blue cape and carries a hammer and sickle around everywhere. He has vague energy powers and a great big mouth.

Best of all is Ursus. What can I say about this guy? Well I could say HE'S A BIG FREAKING BEAR who likes to kick ass and talk politics:What did I tell you? That is all kinds of awesome!

Sure, it's got the Soviet Super Soldiers, we all know they're awesome, but that cover also promises Bear on Spaceknight action. I don't wanna buy this book full of hope of some B&S only to be disappointed. My little heart couldn't take it.

Don't worry pal, Bill and Sal don't write cheques their butts can't cash. Behold the sweet awesomeness that is: Bear versus Spaceknight:That right there, is why we buy comicbooks. Am I right?

As if you're not already convinced and rushing out to buy this issue while still wearing your jammies - there's more. The issue thunders to a climax as Russkies and Spaceknights put their differences aside and join forces - for a BIG MUSICAL NUMBER:Okay, okay, that last part was a lie! There's no big musical number, no transcendent Spaceknight vocals, no Russian, mutant bear on tambourine! I'm sorry, I got carried away, I couldn't help myself.

Good book though