The first thing I ever heard of Morning Glories was that it was the comic equivalent of the TV series Lost. A comparison that it richly deserves, plot threads are introduced every episode often very surreal plot points. However while I've criticized Lost in the past for doing this, it was mostly because they were never connected and were never properly resolved. Morning Glories however has been acting in a far more cohesive way, it's released monthly and only up to issue 11 but so far feels as though everything is leading up to one final unified conclusion.
The series beings straight away with an escape attempt and graphic death, setting the oppressive tone that is kept through the entire series. There is a very brief lead up where we see the main characters at home with their families; the back story of the characters is something that I think is mostly meant to be released in the actual episodes as flash backs, for instance issue 10 has a lot of history on the character of Jun done very well. The problem with most of the back story being released in later issues is that this is a monthly release and as such we often have a lack of care about these characters and as such a lot of the oppressive atmosphere is lost.
The characters so far are the strongest thing about the writing in this series, you want to know more about them from the small hints that are given and most of them seem to be more then a little unhinged. Unstable characters are often the most interesting and finding out their motivation is enough to keep you coming back. So far I would give Morning Glories a tentative recommendation, teasing plot threads only work so long as you continue the feeling that it will all come together and that as new ideas are introduced the old ones are either tied in or explained. If you enjoy mysteries and the tension created by an oppressive environment then the characters are solid and the art work is impressive.
I was musing on some of my favorite comic characters and I realised how few of them had been made mainstream. Yes they may be well known among comic fans but blank stares from people who only know the characters through movies, television, and through word of mouth. The clear stand out A-listers of the main characters use to be only, in my experience at least, Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, X-Men, Hulk, and Spiderman. These days that has increased to include far more Marvel characters as their movie franchise has exploded over the last ten years now including The Fantastic Four, Thor, Iron Man, and of course the latest Captain America. Whilst there are many characters in that list that I love and a few who I read with regular continuity such as Batman the majority that I get excited about really are less known. And many of them really could have movies or television shows made about them, explaining the reasons for each.
Booster Gold - The D.C. Universe
This character has made an appearance on television as a one-shot character in season ten of Smallville. But I don't like that series so I'm going to ignore it. Booster Gold tells the story of a man from the 25th Century, who at the height of his success as a College Footballer throws a game in order to get some money for his family. Due to this being discovered no team will sign him and he is forced from the limelight to get whichever job he can, and thus become a night janitor at a Museum. There he steals a super suit and a time travel belt and uses his robot Skeet's knowledge of the past to become a popular hero. Originally seen with advertisements covering his costume he is an ambitious and often superficial hero who craves attention. Throughout a number of story arcs he turns into a true hero who only wants what is best for the world but is hampered by his reputation as being a false hero. He has played major roles in DC cross over events such as 52 - which if you haven't read... you should. As well as playing the other major role in Flashpoint alongside The Flash.
The Birds of Prey - The D.C. Universe
Now this did in fact have it's own T.V. show... and despite good ratings was cancelled and only produced 13 episodes so I can't really call it well known. I hadn't even heard of it 'til I was researching this post. Seeming like a direct response to claims that comics can be overly male-centric The Birds of Prey features an all female main cast. I'd already mentioned a little about the 'brains' of the operation The Oracle in my first blog post about the DC Reboot. To recap quickly, originally Batgirl (Barbara Gordon, the daughter of Constable Jim Gordon) was paralyzed after being shot by the Joker and took up the mantle of the Oracle - the information source for the Justice League. She then contacts Black Canary, a hero who has herself been going through an unfortunate period involving losing her powers due to a miscarriage as well as financial difficulties. Other strong, and often recognisable, female characters are introduced such as Hunteress, Lady Shiva, Catwoman, Harley Quinn and Lady Blackhawk. Originally written by Chuck Dixon the series reached its prominence under the penmanship of Gail Simon a popular writer, especially with myself, who will be writing Batgirl after the reboot in September.
Deadpool - The Marvel Universe
Deadpool first came to my attention in the X-Men Wolverine Origins, played by Ryan Reynolds, and I found him to be a very enjoyable character. Since then I have been slowly working through the comic history of Deadpool and I realised how watered-down and disappointing the movie's representation of Deadpool was. Originally a rip-off of Deathstroke 'Slade Wilson' from D.C., to the point where Deadpool was given the name Wade Wilson. However while Deathstroke is played completely serious, Deadpool turned into a parody of the hardened mercenary and it was the humor that really set this series apart form others. Deadpool frequently breaks the fourth wall and has two separate internal monologue boxes that frequently converse with each other. I am thrilled to write, and yet at the same time incredibly worried, about the news that there is to be a Deadpool Movie. At time of writing it is still only in scripting stage and thus wouldn't be coming out 'til 2014. I do like that they have the boys from Zombieland writing it although they have given its direction to Tim Miller, who so far only has two shorts and a documentary to his name. Considering how different a Deadpool movie would need to be from a normal movie set up, the lack of experience for Tim Miller may in fact be a good thing. Although that could just be hoping in vain that they don't completely mess up one of my favorite characters anymore than Wolverine did.
Considering the amount of time I've devoted to the titans of the comic industry Marvel and D.C. Although it's not as though I've made some painfully obvious favouritism towards one of the two, *cough* *cough* *DC* *cough*. But I thought I should give some attention to comics from the little, rather strange, brother of the comic heavy hitters Dark Horse. Known for comics such as Buffy, Star Wars and Angel. This is also on the heels of some of my feminist rants for Tarot Witch of the Black Rose, I can talk about a comic that uses female sexuality well. Empowered. It has the main female lead being tied and gaged as Tarot but does it in a way that doesn't make me want to hunt down the author and drop him in a room of blood thirsty feminists dressed in a shirt that reads 'If your here, whose cooking me dinner?' The reason for this is that the author Adam Warren has a distinctly tongue in cheek style of writing that only leaves me to wonder how many jokes he would have made about the phrase 'tounge in cheek'. The fact that the main character is continuously tied and gaged is a joke amongst her other superheros.
Elissa is the main character, and inspired by the death of her dad when she was a child she has become a super hero, through means unknown she has ascertained a super suit that allows her super strength as well as a few other powers. The skin tight suit however looses power if it is damaged in any way and while it can stand up to showers of bullets but can rip easily and often does. As such she is often rendered powerless and captured by, well, everybody. Unlike Tarot, please forgive me but this comparison will pop up a lot, she is not a self confident character, she is plagued by body images and insecurities. Elissa, nicknamed Empowered, or Emp for short, does not want to be wearing only the skin tight suit but cannot wear anything under or over it as that then negates the power of the suit or gives her visible pantie lines. Despite often being captured and humiliated, both by the villains, and her fellow superheros. Including the more goth looking Sistah Spooky, we find out this is because of her own past insecurities. Emp is always willing to stand up and fight again. She is someone who has a power that is very unreliable yet will still try to be the best hero she can be. Granted there is a point where you really must ask whether she is planning on changing career paths at some point. But she has had moment where it appears as though she may grow into the roll, as well as being seen actively training and trying to improve. This is another thing that sets her apart from Tarot who despite being continuously tied, gagged and milked (no, really) she never seems to learn anything new or even feel as though she has to do better. Emp is a student of the superhero. She has room to grow and the desire to do so.
Elissa has a strong support network, although not a first, her boyfriend and friend are introduced and play off each other like a real world relationship. Ignoring the super powers and super villains. When I look at the boyfriend I again feel myself wanting to make the Tarot comparison, John, the apparent gender swap of the Tarot books is weaker than Tarot and often finds himself in perilous situations. He however is rarely rescued by Tarot. Which is one of the entire points about the gender swap, if you are having a male in the traditional damsel in distress role than he needs to be saved by the female protagonist. But John is not, he is either saved by himself or random other characters, and more often than not is saving Tarot because Jim Balent, the author, has a fascination with trying to be the knight in shinning armour to big busted witches in bikinis' who keep shouting about how they can protect themselves but never can. Thugboy, Elissa's boyfriend, is shown to be able to protect himself. And when he gives emotional support to Elissa it is believable. The relationship between the two of them seems to be the right mix of respect for her skills and a manly desire to protect her.
The drawing is very reminiscent of Manga, not a problem for me as I was reading Manga long before I started reading comics. For fans of a more Western drawing style though shouldn't just dismiss it. A common criticism of Manga is that it over simplifies facial structures and uses a more, shall we say, cartoonish. Empowered is beautifully drawn, if you are not a fan of Manga you may have some difficulty getting into the art style but I would recommend that you do at lease give it a try.
All this may make you think Empowered is without its flaws and is some kind of feminist polemic. It is not. It is still an excuse to draw women in revealing clothes or nothing at all as well as playing to the bondage crowd. It is saved by the fact that it doesn't pretend to be anything other than this, as well as a healthy mix of humor. Some of the jokes can get a little repetitive, but that may be because I attempted to read more than one volume in a single sitting. I'm still on volume 2 and if my opinion changes I shall inform you but for the moment Empowered is an enjoyable mix of adult humour, beautiful art, a real self-awareness and just a lot of fun.
Whilst making a comment about Batman's and other hero's refusal to use lethal force it got me thinking about those who do. Granted they are usually called 'anti-heros', which I like to define as people who work towards a heroic end with un-heroic means. This is a look at them, as well as some of the other kinds of anti-hero's in comics
It is strange that I would have an issue with hero's refusing to take life as I personally am strongly against the death penalty. I believe the difference is that these are not real lives, and yes they may be real lives to the hero's who take them but I often find the refusal to take life stems almost more from a simple desire to have the most popular villains return rather than the morals of the hero. And as such it often rings false and simply annoying to the cynic in me. A hero should have a good personal reason for the decision not to take life, here I use Batman as a positive example, his parents murder at gunpoint and as such he refuses to use guns or lethal force. Superman's upbringing in Smallville taught him a strong moral core.
Does this make the hero's who will kill less honourable. Looking again at Batman, and Batman from Flashpoint we have two opposites. Bruce and then Thomas Wayne. Here we have a Batman who clearly will not kill and one who has and will again. Thomas Wayne seems even more brooding then his son, this is understand as loosing your parents at a young age can be traumatic, but it is a death that as an adult you learn probably would have happened anyway. A parent is not expected to outlive their children. Does his unhappiness stem simply from his loss or the emptiness that revenge has left him with. A general distinction between the two would be the word 'revenge' compared to 'justice'. The key difference being in the morals that motivate the actions, Thomas Wayne appears to act from a desire to punish those who killed is son and wife (granted I have only read the first of three issues) while Bruce seems more motivated to make sure no one goes through the pain that he went through. The lack of Robin in Batman Flashpoint I think is the real evidence of this. Say what you want about the boy wonder but he really was meant to represent the 'heart' of you were of Batman, the evidence of his real motivation being not revenge but justice and the benefit of society.
Thomas Wayne is a fairly typical example of an anti-hero, but he's not the best example because he is going to be compared to Batman, one of the best comic super hero's. A different good example is the hero Frankenstein from the mini series Flashpoint- Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown. I've already written a lot about him in my views on the D.C. reboot, but suffice to say he is a hero who does kill. In fact he kills Hitler. Which is awesome. I would say that this is because while Frankenstein is strong, and in many respects immortal he doesn't have the power of someone like say Superman, who generally has the ability to stop criminals without using lethal force. Hero's who have less power find themselves in need of taking every opportunity to end a fight, even if it may mean the death of the villain.
Hero's who have a large popular following can get away with killing it seems, Wolverine's attitudes make him a excellent example of an anti-hero. At least in his origins, people often complain that there is too much continuity to follow to jump on to new comics. That said, it is mostly just continuity in terms of relationships and previous enemies that changes, personalities rarely do. I've only just started to read X-men comics and yet the personalities are exactly what I expected based on my knowledge of the movies, and animated series. The amount of time that Wolverine has spent with the X-men, his relationships with the female members and mentoring roles to others should have helped to turn him more into a leader rather than the 'lone wolf' personality that is so iconic to him. This is not really a complaint so much as an observation. There does not seem to be a member of the X-men team to compare Wolverine too as I do not believe there is a member who has not at one point or another used lethal force. Those more acquainted with the Marvel universe please feel free to correct me. So in this case to ascertain the value of the anti-hero compared to the hero we look to a different Marvel hero, Captain America. Captain America is a hero very similar to Superman in many respects, it is his more limited power that I think makes him more accessible to people.
Is Wolverine more popular than Captain America, at least in the main stream non-comic crowd, as possibly even in the comic readers themselves, because of his attitude. He is just more enjoyable to read, he treats people in authority the way we want to respond to the authority figures in our life.
A different kind of anti-hero, at least in the style of comic would be V from V for Vendetta, who has the increadible Hugo Weaving's voice.
Where does the line stand between hero, anti-hero and villain. Well our final two examples are easily considered in the villain line and yet have some thing special about them. First off we have Selina Kyle, Catwoman. Catwoman is considered a 'harmless' villain, I in no way intend to minimise her abilities as an ass-kicker, I mean that her crimes tend not to hurt people. She only really steals from the wealthy because they are the only people to have the jewelery and gems she is interested in and doesn't kill. She will even help the hero's stop worse villains as long as it doesn't inconvenience herself too much. This kind of villain allows for an interesting relationship with the hero, especially in the case of gender opposites such as Batman and Catwoman. This is probably one of my favorite kinds of anti-hero, while most breeds of anti-hero are brooding hero's these ones are fun and enjoyable cheeky characters who play off more serious hero's.
The final example is one who has funny crossed the line into villain, and in my humble opinion is a villain with one of the best back stories and motivations. Magneto will kill, he has in the past and will kill again. Unlike some villains such as the Joker who kill for pleasure or say Dr. Doom who does for power Magneto believes in his cause. He believes that humans and mutants cannot coexist and that Mutants are the next form of evolution. Magneto doesn't believe this without cause, he has seen mankind at their worst over and over again. What is especially interesting about this villain is that he has actually been a hero in the past. There was a run of X-men that had Charles Xavier killed and Magneto decided to follow his friends lead, and despite his own personal views he lives to a higher standard of morals and from what I've heard from my friends this was a fantastic run. Magneto was really good as a hero, and ignoring the horrible way in which that was ended it is because of his real motivations, and capacity for good that I consider Magneto in the realms of the anti-hero as well as the villain.
This all ended up becoming more of a tangent then the planned study of the idea of anti-hero's it was meant to be. So I'll now try to compose the thoughts into the main points.
1. Anti-hero's do things that are morally wrong. Frankly wolverine only really just makes it into the anti-hero, hero's with attitude problems really should be their own sub set of hero.
2. They generally need a tragic past to explain their actions, it for this reason that Batman is often called a anti-hero, but I don't frankly think his occasional bad cop action of scaring people, he never kills and his actions are only really bad when compared to boy scouts such as Superman and Captain America.
The most important question I asked is an anti-hero less heroic then a hero. First as a hero. If we take the idea that hero's of comics are real then who would we want to be protecting us. The boy scout perfect hero's who will take the time to save a cat from a tree whilst protecting the world from Darkseid. As a role model however, as a fictional character for us to follow, the anti-hero is easier for us to identify with and can make for a stronger read. They are easier for us to identify with and their problems and also more with their decisions, after all even though I am against the death penalty if I had come up against the Joker that many times I can't say that I wouldn't have gently knocked him off a tall ledge by now.
As such I am unwilling to throw away the more archetypal hero's such as Superman, or Captain Marvel. It can be argued that it is harder to write a compelling story about them as their powers do raise them far above humanity, as do their moral cores. Both anti-hero's and hero's have their important place in fiction. They work against each other as contrasts. And I don't believe that one is better than the other.
This mini-series was really my jumping onto point for the Green Lantern series, I'd heard a couple of basics before like Hal Jordan was a fighter pilot. The rings use the energy of will power. Sinestro is a villain, as if the name couldn't tip you off to that. And that there was a CGI movie based on the idea.
This turned out to be a pretty good book to jump in on, the characters back stories were explained briefly, with more in depth comic references that people who read the series would not doubt be able to pick up on. The four human green lanterns are introduce, Hal Jordon, Guy Gardner, Kyle Rayner and John Stewart. As well as the idea of the guardians, a race of people who created the Green Lanterns to protect the universe from chaos, which they believe to come from uncontrolled emotions. Lanterns who have given into other emotions become other colours.
Black: Death (Main villains in Blackest Night)
Krona a former guardian, a recurring villain, who does not believe in the lack of emotion by the other guardians captures the entities of the emotions. Creatures of pure energy of their respective emotion, Parallax, the creature of fear has already been a villain and touched the four human lanterns in the past. The focus of the adventure is battling Krona and the Green Lantern Corps who has been infected by Parallax.
This miniseries left me with only a slight feeling of disconnect, as far as jumping on mini series events this was a decent place for me to start. I enjoyed the characters of Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner, as well as a couple of the villains. That said certain things did annoy me, particularly the ending. When people show no development and continuously makes the same mistakes you wonder why anyone listens to them. This is what the guardians felt like to me. After only one mini-series I was already annoyed with them and the ending which is kind of a tease for the reboot in September. I do not know how long this change will last but we shall see.
Kingdom Come is a four part mini series for DC, it is good. However being the next elseworlds book for me to read straight off the heals of Red Son it was always going to have a steep mountain to climb. I feel as though the idea's are looked at in a rushed way and it would have been better as maybe a eight or even ten part miniseries.
This comic takes place 20 years in the future in the DC Universe, the hero's of old have retired from the world whilst a new bread of hero's emerge who care about showing their power and battling then protecting the innocent. A lot of the story is told from the point of view of a priest named Norman, who after the death of his friend who received visions can now see the future and the upcoming Armageddon. After giving a depression sermon about his lack of hope he is visited by the Spectre, part of the magically balance of the universe takes him alone to witness the upcoming Armageddon.
We find that Superman became disheartened with the public who embraced the 'hero' Magog who killed the Joker and was found not guilty. After his departure the other hero's of the Justice League also stepped down, which is where I first start to take issue with this book. This is a superman focused story and I understand that, I just find it frustrating that so many other hero's would be disheartened just by him leaving. I can't see WonderWoman willing to quit that easily. It should be noted that Batman is still active, having turned Gotham into something similar to a police state.
Magog in his carelessness while apprehending a villain causes the Midwest to be devastated by a nuclear explosion. From this the old superhero's return and force the new hero's to either submit or risk imprisonment. Again this rises similar issues of freedom that are explored in Red Son, granted this did do it before it but I think it was also weaker. When the hero's return the fear of the government that their power is too great, and Lex Luthor steps in to help create a war and protect mankind from the threat that mankind posses. There are a few intertwining stories, each with enough substance to them to be the focus of their own series, including Batman gathering his own league to stand against Superman's league, Captain Marvel facing off against Superman, WonderWoman being removed from her role as ambassador from Themyscira and her royal title as well. Again we find looking at too much in too short amount of time, things feel as though they are getting glanced over.
The ending is with the superhero's reads a little too much like the epilogue of Harry Potter to me, in order to compensate for the massive loss they make the 'happy ending' a bit too much. That said the ending of the observer of all of this, Father Norman is where the real heart of the story lies and his inclusion made the entire thing far stronger.
This is a good, strong story, and while there is sometimes too much going on for the reader to give full attention to the action it is still well worth a read, just don't read it straight off the heels of reading Red Son.
The elseworlds title is used for stories that for one reason or another cannot work in the continuity of the DC Universe. One spectacular such story features the story of Superman, if his rocket crashed in the Soviet Union rather than the heartland of the United States. Setting Superman up with a moral system that is eerily twisted from his normal views leaves a strange and unsettling taste in my mouth. In the best possible way. This is everything an elseworld title should be, it takes what we know about Superman and finds a new and insightful way of looking at it. As well as one of the best and most maddening endings which I wont spoil for you here.
With the strength of the man of steel behind him the Soviet Union wins the cold war, the survival of the United States is left solely to the arch enemy of Superman, Lex Luthor. Who they really do write well as his intelligence and ego as well as maddening obsession with Superman are all well intertwined into the proper running of the story. The largest focus of the three-part story is on the idea of where the line of safety and freedom should be drawn, how much of Superman's power should be used to keep us safe? There is an impressive 1984 vibe to this story, one of my favorite literary works of all time. The leader of the resistance against this government is none other than Batman. Those who are interested in who would win in a fight can finally have it answered... somewhat, I do not want to spoil it for you but suffice to say there is interference by an outside force.
A friend of mine described the ending of this mini-series as a massive troll, and I can see why that comes across. This series would have stood up on it's own merits with a more traditional ending so it shows the impact it has when I say that the ending is one of the most memorable things about it. You will be tearing your hair out over it and in my opinion it's just brilliant.
Not only worth a read well worth multiple reads.
Fables in one of the comics that I really have an odd fascination with. Re-imaging fairy tails has existed pretty much since the recognition of what a fairy tail is. That said I don't think I have ever seen one quiet like this.
Published by DC's Vertigo line and written by Bill Willingham Fables Legends in Exile has the characters of fairy tales living in New York city after their home town was ravaged by war and taken over by the evil 'adversary'. Thus having the fabled kind hide in plain sight in Modern New York, as such a fair portion of the book is dedicated to explaining the workings of this secret community, although it never feels bogged down or tedious. The rest is dedicated to the problems that fable community have that come with creatures of a mystical base. The first story arc features the murder of Ruby Rose, Snow White's sister. The sheriff of fable town, Bigby (the big bad wolf disguised in human form) is on the case, added or hindered by Snow White he sets out to find out what happens and several of our main characters are introduced. Aside from Snow White and Bigby we have the philandering Prince Charming, whose three ex-wives include Snow, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty. We have the bickering couple of Beauty and the Beast, who turns back into a beast whenever his wife is mad at him, and then a few supporting characters who in time get their own story arcs such as little boy blue and the pirate Blue Beard.
Lan Medina has a beautiful and detailed art style as the penciller which the sometimes gritty colour style and the dramatic inking complements well. While the art is beautiful it is really the writing and ideas that make this a stand out comic, at the risk of spoilers I'll leave proper descriptions out of the review. Suffice to say that if you enjoy wither the fantasy genre or real world political thriller you'll find a home here lovingly greeted with a large amount of wit.
A strong 8/10
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.