And Apple Computers lawsuit in 5...4...3...
While I could give a long and detailed history of Isaac Asimov, there’s really no need to do so. Most people are probably aware of the science-fiction writer’s extensive list of material (be it fiction novels or not).
Tekno Comix was an independent comic publisher in the Mid-90s who specialized in having big-name creators write up a two-page outline for a comic series and then hand it off to their own stable of writers and artists to work from it. Some of the names included Leonard Nimoy, Mickey Spillane, Neil Gaiman, and even an idea by Gene Roddenberry. The company folded in 1997 after only two years of publishing, but during their lifetime they loved to splash the names of their initial creator across the top of their books in order to get some attention from the comic readers.
But things are a bit murky with today’s subject. While some of the other creators listed I can find proof positive of their involvement with the projects they did, I can find no evidence that Isaac Asimov had any ideas of what we’re seeing here, be they for a comic book or not. It’s not even mentioned on his Wikipedia page (whereas both Neil Gaiman and Gene Roddenberry’s contributions have been listed on their pages). As such, I’m afraid it makes me fearful that while the creators of the comic may have had the best of intentions of honoring the memory of the late Isaac Asimov, it just comes off either as plagiarism (if he really had ideas about this) or just plain exploitive of the dead.
Admittedly, the comic itself isn’t as bad as others that we’ve seen on this site. It’s even penciled by George Pérez (yes, Crisis on Infinite Earths George Pérez). It’s sure as hell no All-Star Batman and Robin, but it just seems goofy in its embrace of THE FUTURE! and there are plenty of small dumb things abounding. Like most #1 issues of comics, it tends to fail in its aspects of really wanting to draw the reader back, since we learn very little about the world of the book or about the characters besides for a vague inkling of their personalities.
As with all team books, this one’s cover is a group shot, albeit in this one they’re actually posing for the camera. As if in another dimension, the paparazzi that are photographing the Ibots are all colored purple... just like the mechanical junk they’re standing in! My God, they’re alive! Run, Ibots! Run as fast as you can! Okay, admittedly the cover isn’t really that bad. This is due solely to George Perez’s fantastic pencils but I’m afraid the designs themselves could still use some work. If you’re going to be starting a new superhero team, you’ve got to give us some sense of iconography – these are supposed to be superheroes after all. Even with changes in artists and even giving Superman a mullet, the thing that most people tend to draw their eyes to is that big shiny red ‘S’ on his chest.
Instead, the heroes here all have pretty generic outfits, with the best one being Radiant (the woman with white hair), but like I said, it’s pretty standard fare... besides for the fact that her eyes are covered by her mask. And what’s the deal with Killaine’s (the woman in green) costume?! Apparently Sheena got a new agent after Sultry Teenage Super-Foxes bombed.
We open on the middle some sort of political debate viewed through a high-tech lens. We know it’s high-tech because it’s got little text lines around it like “Mode: Seek” and “Vertical Align” over the screen. The person on the left states emphatically, “--absolutely vital that we fully support new technology development, with tax dollars if necessary.” Damn it, Senator Hutchison, we get that you like NASA! His opponent, throwing out all rules of a televised debate, responds with, “So high tech can be controlled by the government instead of those independent researchers who develop it? No, thanks.” So essentially he wants new technology in the hands of either scientists who have no personal use for it or in the hands of mad scientists who would use new technology to conquer the planet. Also, forgive my squirrelly ignorance, but isn’t the majority of scientific research funded by the government in some capacity, anyway?
Oh and by the way, there are robots on the platform with them. A heavily-armored terrorist shoots something at one of the robots, causing it to explode along with the other robot guard. One of the politicians informs us that it’s an “EMP slug” and that without the robots, they’re unprotected. The terrorists, wearing green and yellow (and subsequently resembling members of the Marvel terrorist group HYDRA) swing down on ropes while brandishing futuristic-looking guns. The lead terrorist orders the group to shut up, so of course, like an idiot, Senator ‘raise your taxes in the name of science’ demands to know, “Who are you? EMP Slugs are restricted to cops and milit --” And he’s subsequently shot. This has been a public service announcement paid for by the Tax-Payers League of the Future.
The terrorist jokes, “Think of this as a favor, Senator --” Yeah, because making him bleed half to death from a bullet to the shoulder is really such a nice thing to do. “-- You don’t want the mouth there taking your cushy job away come November, do you?” Yeah, the mouth can be such a pain, sometimes. I much prefer the finger. The terrorist warns the next shot goes through the heart and that he has “smartbullets,” which apparently are designed to lock onto a heartbeat and “nothing stop them! They always go for your heart! That means if we shoot, you’re dead! Got it?” Well, considering you gave us essentially the same idea three times, I’d hope so.
“When we leave, someone call whoever’s in charge of Silver’s money and tell him we’ll be in touch, okay?” Wait, how are you going to be in touch with someone if you don’t know who they are? The leader opens up the studio door with his gun [!!], pushing the barrel into the button. A silhouetted figure appears on the other end of the opening door with, confusingly, a Photoshop lens flare effect superimposed over the head of the person. She reaches in and grabs the guns of the nearest two, crushing them in their hands, channeling Johnny Five from Short Circuit. I half expected her to say the “play-doh” line from that movie, but instead we get this bit of superhero negotiating: “Make that “When” and “If,” and you’ve got a deal.” I don’t think that contract’s going to hold up in court.
Cut to the next page where we see Killaine herself (by the by, what the hell kind of a superhero name is Killaine?!) in all her impractical outfit glory as she grabs the two guys whose guns she smashed and promptly bonks their heads together. In a bit of grammatical error, one of the terrorists proclaims in shock, “What’s(sic) she?!” Well she seems to be a person with super-strength who is a woman; that’s what. Another terrorist, unconcerned, opens fire while proclaiming, “Big and strong, Brainfry -- some kind of augment. EMP her jumpers, then hamburger[!!] her.” “Hamburger” her? What, are they going to add lettuce and tomatoes with a side of fries?
The other guy, still panicking, shouts out, “How’d she know we were here? No one’s supposed to know.” Even though they’ve got those “smartbullets” that are supposed to track her heart, Killaine dodges out of the way and nimbly tosses the two terrorists she had in her hands at the others, somehow causing them all to roll around at confusing angles instead of just knocking them over.
There’s a small blast and we see Psy-4 (the guy in red and orange on the cover) and Stonewall (the guy in the back on the cover with curly bowl cut hair) crawling out of a hole under the stage [!!!]. What, were they hiding out in there during the debate or something?! Psy-4 shouts out orders: “Killaine! Protocol One! Make sure the people are safe first! Stonewall?” It’s your line, Stonewall! “We know what to do, Psy-4. You don’t have to keep reminding us.”
The terrorists, in a complete panic and spazzing all over the place, open fire and start shouting, “You’re all dead! Everyone’s dead!” “We told you!” Come on, I call you’re dead, you meanies! Most of the bullets slam into Stonewall’s body with no damage (so much for the “nothing stops them” theory), but a few zip around him and Stonewall shouts, “Smart bullets, Psy-4! I can’t stop them all!” Psy-4 shouts back, “Work on your maneuverability and response speed!” Oh, wait, too late – the people are dead. Maybe you two shouldn’t have been yacking back and forth while the bullets were flying at people! Well, that’s what should’ve happened, anyway. Actually, smartbullets move at only 2 miles an hour, since Psy-4 then demonstrates his own power:
“Fortunately, I can handle it. Those slugs are chip-driven--” Lays or Pringles? “--And reprogramming chips is no trick -- for me.” All the bullets explode in mid-air and the terrorists are shocked that their plan of slow-moving bullets didn’t work. They decide to make a run for it, but Killaine’s still in the way. Killaine taunts them: “Exit’s this way, boys. If you can make it, welcome to[??].” Once again acting like a jaded eight year-old, a terrorist responds, “Stop it! We’re not playing here!”
And in the next panel, we have our third Shocking Superhero Tactic! The first was, of course, Diehard’s Crotch attack. The second was the Batmobile driving through a car and completely slicing it in half. And here? Killaine grabs a terrorist’s neck and it knocks him unconscious. That’s right, even confirmed by the dialogue, “A swerve, a nerve, no damage and you’re down”, Killaine has just performed the Vulcan neck pinch from Star Trek!
Radiant, appearing for the first time in the comic, apologizes for Killaine: “You have to excuse Killaine, she lets enthusiasm run away with her. You can call me Radiant!” Using her powers, two of the terrorists proclaim that they’re blind. Radiant explains that she’s actually “canceling out light so it can’t hit your eyes.” I’ve got to admit, that’s actually a pretty creative use of light-based powers for a superhero, but why the heck didn’t she just do that from the start instead of having Killaine pull the neck pinch?
The final terrorist grabs Senator Silver and continues the terrorist temper tantrum: “You don’t decide that! You don’t decide that! I decide that! I walk out of here and you do nothing -- or his brains go for a walk! Got it?” Well, considering you’re actually holding your gun against the side of his chin it’s more likely his lower jaw will be going for the walk, but I get you. The final member of the Ibots leaps down onto the terrorist, quipping, “Politicians need brains? That’s a new one on me!” Ah, not since Much Ado About Nothing has their been such witty repartee!
The person (dressed in the worst Wolverine rip-off costume since Cougar from Youngblood) takes off the terrorist’s helmet and states, “Maybe we should have a look at your brains!” Psy-4 grabs the guy and tells him to knock it off: “Easy, Itazura! Remember the protocols!” Okay, forget Killaine – what sort of a lame-ass superhero name is “Itazura?!” Senator Silver proclaims how amazing the heroes are, but the blonde Senator, still clutching his bleeding arm, walks over and yells at their saviors: “You’re not human! You can’t be! What are you?! How did you know what was going on here?!” Well, they were actually just hanging around the TV studio, from what we can tell. Probably rejects from the set of Justice League Unlimited.
Radiant’s eyes suddenly glow and upon a close-up we see the head of a fat bearded guy in them [!!!]. A ghostly voice answers Senator Tax-For-Science, “I told them, Kevin. They’re with me.” A spectral image of said fat guy suddenly appears with a glowing aura around him, so I suppose it’s a hologram. Senator Tax-And-Spend-Democrat, AKA “Kevin,” identities the man as “Zac Robillard?! But you died You’re dead!” Actually he’s about a 250, give or take. Bah-dum-ching!
Zac Robillard (who must’ve had really cruel parents to name him that) states that, “These things don’t mean quite what they used to.” The two confusingly argue for a bit about people we don’t know about and implying that Senator Kevin may have played a part in his death. An explosion suddenly happens from a roof entrance, making Radiant terminate the hologram. Policemen (OF THE FUTURE!) run down and order everyone to freeze. Senator Silver leaps in front of the Ibots and explains that “These fine specimins(sic) saved my life -- and I’m offering them my hospitality and thanks.” The police, skeptical of why they should trust a team of losers that include a guy with hair that KISS would be ashamed to see, a tall guy with a bowl cut hairdo and a Star Wars padawan ponytail, and a scantily-dressed redhead with huge yellow earrings and random straps around her arms and legs, demand to get names and addresses.
Senator Silver replies, “Contact them through me -- tell terrorists and criminals there’s a new law in town -- its voice will soon be Gregson Silver -- and the new long arm of the law is -- THE AMAZINGS!” You see, in the future, good superhero team names have all been taken. Still, could be worse – they could call themselves Secret Defenders or Youngblood or something idiotic like that.
A news reporter brings his own thoughts in on the situation: “And so a moment of horror apparently becomes a promise of hope -- while America wonders if this was all a clever political machination -- or whether, as with computers and the atom bomb, we have been thrust, unawares -- into a strange and unknown future.” So, in the future, reporters will still speak blandly and over-dramatically about situations instead of reporting the news?
The woman watching the news report is Annabelle, mentioned briefly during the scene earlier with Zac Robillard and now I must laugh my ass off. Behold the fashions... OF THE FUTURE! as we see Annabelle wearing a cleavage-exposing brown top with a huge collar. Furthermore, the sleeves of the outfit are colored green and not actually connected to the top – instead they just somehow cling to her upper arms and have a huge shoulder area with a pointed tip at the top. Just as Annabelle is about to make a call, Senator Tax-My-Ride comes barging in wearing an arm sling as robots try to stop him. The two get into an argument as the Senator warns Annabelle that if she had something to do with the assault earlier, there’ll be hell to pay. Eventually it devolves into an exposition fest where we learn that the two are cousins and that Annabelle had originally wanted to get into politics and the Senator the business world, but their grandfather elected for her father to be President of the company and, well, it’s really all pretty dull since we don’t know anything about Annabelle except for the last panel of the scene where she contacts one Major Blicero – who is no doubt EEEEEVIL because of the weird-ass moustache he’s sporting.
Switch over to the terrorists from before being carted off in a prison van... OF THE FUTURE! They’re rolling through a forest and one of the cops expresses confusion about why this would be the pickup point and asks if he’s sure it’s the right place. His partner is less concerned: “Of course I’m sure. It’s on the printout.” It’s on a printed piece of paper?! That’d be IMPOSSIBLE to fake! I don’t suppose anyone thought of radioing into headquarters and confirming the location? The cops shuffle the terrorists out and they’re all wearing manacles... OF THE FUTURE! No, I won’t stop doing that. Said manacles are painted gold just like parts of the terrorists’ armor (why are they still in those, again?) and according to the officers are called “Shockcuffs,” designed to paralyze them if there are any sudden moves on the part of the prisoners. How it distinguishes between sudden moves and slow moves isn’t exactly described, but...
The concerned cop points out that it just doesn’t add up: “Why are we in the middle of nowhere? Where’s the pickup crew? This stinks!” It certainly does. Apparently convinced by this logic, the other cop orders the terrorists to get back into the van. Our ever-panicky terrorists, however, point out that, “It’s too late! Don’t you hear it?!” Callin’ me the way it used to? Sorry to say I can’t. Anywho, the police robots blow up thanks to helicopters above, completely vaporizing the entire group as the terrorists scream for the choppers not to shoot them. The chopper pilot reports in to Annabelle, identifying himself as Blicero even though he looks nothing like the Blicero of a few pages ago.
To make matters more confusing, they’re apparently part of the military, yet they’re wearing similar outfits to those of the terrorists earlier. They are apparently leading a group of differently-designed robots along too, who were apparently responsible for the carnage of the previous page. We never learn exactly why the terrorists needed to be so harshly eradicated along with their two police escorts but damn if those robots don’t look spiffy.
Cut to the home of Senator Silver, where he proposes to use his own home for their crimefighting activities. Damn, I know we’re using comic book logic when we have a rich politician offering his own house as a base of operations for a superhero team. Radiant responds that they don’t fight crime, they help people. And then we get some speculation on what exactly the difference is between the two:
“But isn’t fighting crime the best way to help the largest number quickest?”
“Arguably. But widescale crime involves property, which is hardly our concern[?!]. Bring it down to the individual, and crime is only one of many ills that must be dealt with.”
Okay, how exactly does Radiant plan to use her superpowers in other uses besides crimefighting? ‘Hey, kids! It’s time to play We’re All Blind again!’ Furthermore, isn’t combating other kinds of problems Senator Silver’s job, not yours? Silver asks for Psy-4’s opinion on the matter since he’s the leader, but Psy-4 responds that he’s not the leader, “I’m only first among equals.” Psy-4 then asks them to drop the conversation since he’s “busy wave-surfing. I’d rather not discuss this now.” Silver looks to Radiant because Psy-4 looks completely insane for making such a statement (rightfully), but Radiant just puts her finger to her lips in a ‘hush!’ gesture.
As they continue their walk, Radiant informs Silver that Psy-4 wants to add that they won’t be calling themselves the Amazings. Silver expresses shock not that he rejected his lame team name, but for that the fact that he didn’t hear him say that. Radiant just looks back- er, well, she doesn’t really look because she has no eyes, but her face is turned in his direction and responds, “No. You didn’t. You couldn’t.” And with that bit of foreshadowing, it’s time to switch back to the EEEEVIL helicopters.
The helicopter pilot notes that they’ve found the Ibots and Silver’s mansion and Annabelle yells at them: “And you found them how? Eighty million dollars worth of satellite tracking They announced it on SATCAST, Blicero! Silver’s called a press conference for tomorrow. I want them gone today.” You know, as a boss, she should be building up her employees, not making them feel worse. I don’t see how she could be such a successful businesswoman and not understand that.
Switch to a television news studio that’s reporting on a deal between the Japanese and the French on “International Cybernetic Control Standards” (since it’s the future and all). Suddenly, the graphic next to the reporter’s face fizzes out, replaced by an image of Rick Olney! Oh my God, Rick Olney is Big Brother! Well, okay, it’s actually the head of Zac Robillard, who says, “If it’s a war you want[??], I know where there’s going to be one... right now...” Any minute now... Yep... War... Yeah...
But we switch over not to a war, but back to the estate of Senator Silver, where the military are attacking. Apparently the Ibots are expecting them as bullets fly and hit Stonewall, who proclaims, “This is it! Go!” Radiant tells the Senator to stay with Stonewall and they start fighting the helicopters. Psy-4 suddenly flies up to Stonewall and shouts, “What are you standing around for? Do I have to do it for you?” Well, gee, Psy, could it be he’s protecting the non-superpowered person from harm? Psy-4 suddenly has an Heroic Spaz Attack as he shouts, “Timing’s everything now! EVERYTHING!” So it’s EVERYTHING, then? Still a yelling jumble, he shouts at Itazura for no particular reason.
Itazura tells him, “You’ve got to learn to relax. We’re not robots, you know.” Yeah, with a comic called Ibots, does anyone buy that even for a second? I didn’t think so. Itazura continues to act super-confident, laughing about how easy it is to destroy the robots. Psy-4 once again berates him and I have to wonder what with him being all pissy about this that he was actually looking at porn when he was “wave-surfing.”
The military realize something’s wrong when Itazura of all people is managing to kick their asses. “That security breach! If the control code’s been compromised... It’s a set-up! We’ve been set-up!” Jeez, everyone want to take a chill pill for five seconds? Even Itazura starts panicking when a robot manages to get through him and heads right for Stonewall (who is still standing in front of Senator Silver). Itazura yells for someone to stop it, but the robot just slams right into Stonewall and explodes, leaving him unfazed. Stonewall: the hero who bravely stands there!
The battle is over and Johnny Turbo (AKA Zac Robillard) speaks to them, talking about how things are going to change now that their existence is so public. Meanwhile, back in the helicopter, Blicero looks like he’s on the verge of tears as he shouts: “I’ll kill them! I’ll destroy them!” Isn’t destroying them presupposed by the killing? “I’ll have this place sanitized! Flies won’t be able to live on it!” Holy Hannah – he plans to put bug zappers and cleaning agents on the estate! His underling informs him that news helicopters are arriving and he panics even more:
“The Press? Please, not the Press! The Press ask questions.” They do? I thought they just gave biased accounts of their interpretation of what they consider ‘newsworthy,’ but if they ask questions, then they must be a serious threat to the military! Whole government quake in fear of -- The Press! The EEEVIL plans have been foiled by -- The Press! No, Tom Brokaw, please don’t hurt us! And seriously, the helicopter flies in retreat while a speech bubble proclaims, word for word here, “Get out get out get out get out get out get out.”
The reporters land and start flashing pictures of the team and Psy-4 proudly announces, “We’re stars now, stuck in the public eye...” Then someone should get some Clear Eyes – call Ben Stein! “...right where our enemies don’t dare come for us...” Yeah, because no celebrities have been assassinated by their enemies before.
We cut back over to Annabelle, who’s having a migraine while she speculates on whether the Ibots are working on their own: “They weren’t built for it.” Her video monitor flashes on and three figures appear, one an old man, one a silhouetted figure, and one guy with a poorly-tied tie and a goatee. They tell her that “There are new players on the board!” “And they don’t belong to us.” They order her to find out what they are and get rid of them, but the issue ends with Annabelle lighting a cigarette and saying, “They’re Ibots. They belong to me. Let me explain...”
Foundation, eat your heart out – there’s a new greatest Isaac Asimov work! And he didn’t even write it!
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Who says there aren't any overweight superheroes?
Ah, the Defenders.
What a terrible concept, you know? I’m sorry, I know there are fans out there, but I just don’t get the point of the team. You get concepts like the Justice League or the Avengers – the best of the planet’s heroes uniting together to defend the world from threats beyond the normal capacity of superheroes. You get concepts like the Teen Titans – a group of teenaged superheroes and sidekicks banding together to help each other grow up and work together as friends and family. You get concepts like the X-Men – oppressed individuals with unusual abilities working together to show that the prejudices against them are unjustified.
But what is the need of the Defenders? Doctor Strange, the Hulk, Silver Surfer, and Namor have nothing that unites them; they just exist. Still, The Defenders lasted an impressive 152-issue run from 1972 to 1986 before there was a new concept thrown out there in the 1990s – The Secret Defenders.
The idea was akin to the one used in Justice League Task Force - Doctor Strange would call upon a group of heroes to temporarily work together to deal with a specific threat. In theory, this actually isn’t a bad idea for a comic, kind of a Showcase Presents type of thing to highlight heroes, but if the rest of the series was anything like the subject today, I’ll have to say it failed miserably.
The writer, Ron Marz, has a love-hate relationship with comics fandom. While it may have been editorially dictated, he was the one who wrote the infamous Green Lantern story where Hal Jordan goes insane, murders several of his friends and colleagues, before turning into a full-on supervillain by absorbing all the Green Lantern energy and taking the name Parallax. He’s also responsible for inspiring the Women in Refrigerators criticism of comics and their tendency to depower, murder, rape, or otherwise just screw over female superheroines or characters. On the other hand, he also wrote Ion: Guardian of the Universe, so I won’t fault him for every bad thing he’s done.
As for the penciler Tom Grindberg... well, hell, I don’t know what to say. The artwork in this book is atrocious as we’re about to see, possibly a result of the Dark Age-style that may have been editorially handed to him, but from the other art I’ve seen of him, it baffles the mind why exactly we’re getting what we’re getting here.
Let’s start off with the hideous cover, as always. What does it say about the art when the small “icons” of the characters in the top left corner look better than the ones on the cover itself? The dizzying cover for Secret Defenders #9 features the three who will be working for Doctor Strange in this little adventure – Silver Surfer, War Machine, and our good old pal Thunderstrike. While it’s bad enough that the background colors are a nauseating collage of various shapes and wavy lines, the artwork on the three we see here is just as nerve-racking. I know Dark Age artwork took muscular structures and emphasized them considerably, but this is just sad – it’s like all three of them were balloons that got filled with enough air that any minute now they’re going to float away. Their necks are only about an inch long and they look like they can’t run, only waddle.
We open up on a ballooned, menacing Roger Delgado- erm, I mean Doctor Strange. Either of his hands are roughly the size of his head and he has a third eye on him for some reason. Oh and there are eyeballs floating around in yellow sulphuric mists that seem to be emanating from... well, I don’t really know what to call them. They look like stone, orange bones, and a single candle flame that doesn’t seem to be an actual light source. The good Doctor asks in the direction of the reader, “Why have you come to the house of DOCTOR STRANGE?” And his name is in red and made huge, as if he routinely walks around talking about himself in the most dramatic manner possible. I can just see him walking up to a Starbucks and proclaiming, DOCTOR STRANGE demands his grande double mocha!’
Cut to a two-page spread of Doctor Strange floating above the weird crap we saw on the first page as well as seeing what a cluttered mess his home, the Sanctum Sanctorum, really is. Oh, and his third eye is now gone. Silver Surfer is standing nearby and- oh, dear lord has he put on weight! Seriously, the guy’s stomach is clearly shown from the backside and his ass is at least twice as big as his head! I guess Galactus wasn’t the only guy chowing down on planets when the herald went a surfin’! The tragically-obese Silver Surfer says, “Wong let me in. He thought you would not mind. I can go if I’m intruding.” Doctor Strange replies, “Of course not, Surfer. I wouldn’t hear of it. Your arrival is simply unexpected -- as are all your appearances lately. But you know you are welcome in my home at any time.” Then why were you yelling at him a minute ago for entering your house? Furthermore, what’s with the weird emphasis on certain words? Try to say that last bit of dialogue for yourself and try not to giggle when you start talking like a stereotypical hairdresser and saying ‘dahling!’
On the next page we see that the Surfer finally put his power cosmic to good use and seems to be flattening out his stomach a bit, albeit his arms and chest are still pretty weirdly drawn. Doctor Strange inquires as to why he’s here and the Surfer explains he needs some assistance. And now it’s time for the ol’ flashback to kick in detailing stuff that no one really cares about. Here’s the gist of it – apparently, a self-styled pirate named Nebula tried to steal the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos and was imprisoned on Saturn’s moon Titan. She was later broken out of her prison and ran into the Silver Surfer after she had killed some of her former crew and I swear to God here that this page contains no less than four footnotes listing off where those actions took place, one of them even listing off a seven-issue[!] stint for the main Silver Surfer comic.
The Surfer further exposits that she’s mustering forces on the Martian moon Phobos (since when did Phobos have its own recruitment center for evil henchmen?). “Her target seems obvious -- Titan.” Well, obviously. “She’ll want revenge for her imprisonment.” Wouldn’t she want revenge against the people who initially imprisoned her and not some jail (a jail of which we know nothing about... are there aliens on Titan who imprisoned her? I love how Marvel always proclaims it strives for a “real world” feel for their comics and ye we seem to get the impression that most of the moons in the solar system are inhabited!)? Doctor Strange offers assistance, but the Surfer declines. We zoom in on his face as he explains why his help would be useless, showing his face get chubbier and chubbier as if the more he speaks, the more his body fills out.
Apparently Nebula is a “Master Strategist” and that when she came into contact with many of Earth’s heroes before, she gained knowledge on all of them and subsequently what their weaknesses could be. The Surfer explains that though he failed to stop her the last time, he’ll take his chances now (yeah, go up against the woman who already knows you and your weaknesses! Who’s the master strategist now, eh?) As such, he requests Doctor Strange give him some allies who would be unfamiliar to Nebula.
Some time later, Doctor Strange has the Surfer come back to him and he shows who he has obtained. They’re veiled in silhouettes at first, making him confusedly think that Doctor Strange has obtained Thor and Iron Man. Strange replies, “No. Not quite.” Not even by a long shot, pal. And thus we are introduced to Thunderstrike and War Machine! And I just have to laugh here about how horrifying the artwork is on this page. War Machine looks like someone smushed him down so he was really wide and his legs were compressed to make up about half his body. Thunderstrike got off a little better, but his head is the size of his fist while the rest of his body is just muscled to the extreme. I’d like to say he’s on steroids but I didn’t know steroids made someone that friggin’ tall.
Just an artistic aside here – the average human body from the top of the head to the toes is usually about the height of one’s head times seven. Shoulder length is usually the width of two heads. Thunderstrike in this picture measures eleven head heights tall and five head-widths for the shoulders, just going to show once more that one needn’t to really have any anatomical knowledge in order to draw a comic.
The (unintentional) humor continues with the dialogue. Doctor Strange comments on how “Almost nobody recognizes them... least of all Nebula.” No, least of all the comic-reading public. What I really love is how Doctor Strange says right in front of them that these two are losers that aren’t well-known in the public. Still, I’ve got to say Ron Marz in this book does capture Thunderstrike’s unique and complex grasp of the English language as we saw in his own book:
“Honored to meet you... Though we’ve met before, sort of. But that’d be a long story (Oh, why stop now?) and... well... uh...Like I said... I’m honored. Really.” Somewhere out there Shakespeare’s swooning, folks.
Silver Surfer must be kicking himself now as he asks, “You’re sure they’re up to it?” Doctor Strange affirms his confidence in the two and the Surfer asks the two if they’ve been explained what they’ll be up against. War Machine replies, “All right with me. Sounds like a good scrap.” If you mean your armor, then yes, your armor will make good scrap. “I need a chance to work out the kinks in this suit, anyway.” Oh, well that should put the Silver Surfer’s fears to rest – your armor’s apparently not even perfected and yet you want to go up against the Master Strategist. Doctor Strange apparently didn’t spend much time looking for these two, did he?
Thunderstrike expresses his own confidence in the mission: “I mean, with the three of us, this nebula doesn’t stand a chance, right?” This coming from the guy whose original arch-nemesis was a Rastafarian Doctor Doom called “Carjack.” On top of that is War Machine, who I’m sure has quite an arsenal that would make him a threat on Earth, but the amount of alien technology at Nebula’s disposal must easily trump War Machine’s weapons. And as the Surfer explained, even he is pretty much useless in this fight because Nebula’s already encountered him and therefore can out-strategize him. Here’s a thought – instead of bringing in two losers that even Doctor Strange admitted “nobody recognizes,” how about you organize the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and every other hero at your disposal and go on a huge assault on her? Sure, she’s a master strategist, but the number of superpowered individuals at their disposal must create too many variables for her to have to factor in.
The Silver Surfer warns them not to get overconfident, especially since even by his own admission: “We are only three, and it’s certain Nebula has gathered a sizable force by now. Her troops will be well-armed and well-trained.” This is going to be like the superhero Bay of Pigs, isn’t it? Doctor Strange teleports them away amidst more nauseating magical effects and we can see once again that apparently between panels the heroes have gained significant weight (especially in their legs. Wow!), making me think this is actually going to be a superhero Bay of Pigs orchestrated by Fat Bastard, an elderly Marlon Brando, and Chris Farley.
Cut to a two-page spread of the battle on Phobos! It’s the kind of battle one would see in Infinite Crisis or Civil War except it’s ridiculously lame compared to the group shots in those books because only THREE heroes are here and the rest are just an assortment of unrecognizable aliens who are either standing around or just getting blasted through by Silver Surfer, War Machine, and Thunderstr- BY DIEHARD’S CROTCH! What the hell happened to Thunderstrike’s spine?! He’s curving his body more than a female character by Michael Turner! Come to think of it, none of these people have any kind of space suits on. How the hell are they breathing?
The Silver Surfer says he’ll go on ahead to hunt for Nebula while the other two take on the horde of alien soldiers. War Machine responds with a non-chalant, “Fine. Everything’s under control here.” I guess he’s grown as bored with this stuff as we have. Thunderstrike has this to say: “Sure, you track her down, but, uh... leave some for us, okay?” I just gasp whenever Thunderstrike speaks – his words are spoken softly -- through gritted teeth -- but they strike with the force of a thunderbolt! *Sigh*
*Ahem* Anyway, Silver Surfer flies up, blasting an alien in half (come to think of it, all three of them aren’t exactly pulling their punches to prevent slicing and dicing the alien soldiers here) as he reasons where Nebula could be: “Resistance is heaviest near Nebula’s flagship. I suspect that’s where I’ll find her... waiting for me. I won’t disappoint her.” So his plan is to fly into Nebula’s Flagship guns ablazing right where she wants to and... what, exactly? I guess Surfer’s plan is:
1. Fly right into Nebula’s hands.
Brilliant strategy, Napoleon. Weren’t you the one lecturing the other two a minute ago about being overconfident? A weird energy burst comes from a gun in some green guy’s hands that knocks out the Silver Surfer in one blast. We see Nebula herself now and apparently she’s Locutus of Borg with child-bearing hips and actually quite an impressive package for a woman. She explains that the weapon was a “Synaptic Disruptor,” for those who were wondering how some energy weapon could take down someone with the power cosmic. Oh, and she’s also wearing a leather jacket for no particular reason with the Flash’s lightning bolt on the lapel. Make ‘Buried Alien’ jokes at your leisure.
Cutting back to Thunder Strike and War Machine, the two are actually having a decent conversation about how it shouldn’t matter if they’re viewed as imitations of more well-known heroes. “If you’re in this to do some good, doesn’t matter who you look like. Long as you get the job done. Remember that, Thunderstrike, and everything falls into place.” Of course, the touching little commentary on heroism and resemblance is undercut by the fact that the two look like two overweight bikers trying to storm their way over to a sack of White Castles, but it’s a nice sentiment for the two.
And of course the “well-armed, well-trained” soldiers are easily smacked around by a guy in a suit of technologically-inferior armor and a guy who looks like Crocodile Dundee if he let his hair and beard grow out. Suddenly, some red, demonic-looking alien grabs Thunderstrike and threatens him with a curvy blade, which is somehow supposed to create dramatic tension, except for the fact that we know the guy has enhanced strength, which means a little blade isn’t going to do crap on him. War Machine frags the alien and I’ve got to shake my head at the thought that just a second ago they were talking about being heroes.
The two fly off in search of the Silver Surfer and we finally get an explanation for how they can breathe: an “artificial atmosphere envelope.” Hmmm... Nope, not buying it. Sorry. They arrive at the edge of the “artificial atmosphere envelope” and find the Silver Surfer strapped to some big hunk of metal. Nebula starts ‘mu-ha-ha-ing’ about how she was ready for the Surfer while she stands in an awkward pose that once again points out what a tiny waist she has but that she’s got a big butt, too. Oh and this page has the only bright spot in this whole issue – it’s the reflection of light on the bottom of the thing Silver Surfer’s strapped to.
Nebula gets in a nice zing on the two has-beens: “And you two jokes -- whatever you’re supposed to be -- can’t do a thing to stop me.” Damn, those two just got owned by a cyborg Sinead O’Connor. Thunderstrike’s ready to open a can of whoopass over the insult, but War Machine tells him to take it easy (in quite possibly the best-drawn panel of the entire comic if only because we can’t see their bodies, just their faces and part of their shoulders). Nebula exposits that the Silver Surfer is strapped to a fusion-reaction bomb that “he’s going to ride it all the way down to Titan.” Doctor Strangelove, eat your heart out.
This does raise even more questions, though – how exactly does she plan on getting the bomb to Titan? She supposedly has a “Flagship,” yet every time we see her here she’s standing on a bunch of rocks. And again I must ask – what’s the point of taking out Titan, exactly? It seems to me that the Silver Surfer probably has more to answer for in terms of doing crap to you than some prison and you even have the surfer captured and you can kill him with the bomb already. And perhaps most damning of all, are we really supposed to take Nebula here as a “Master Strategist?” So far the ‘heroes’ are the ones who have bumbled around just leaping in without a second thought. And not to mention it doesn’t exactly take much to take down either of these two. Bear in mind, a good EMP could probably leave War Machine defenseless. And Thunderstrike here was taken down by Bloodaxe of all people.
Thunderstrike asks, “And you expect us to stand by and let you do it?” Nebula, channeling her inner James Bond villain, responds, “No. Of course not. I expect you to stand here and be killed.” The book ends as two more overweight aliens suddenly come floating down (or is it supposed to be leaping? I can’t imagine having that much fat on a body and being able to leap like that) and Nebula explains that they are her Lieutenants Kurg and Kruk and that they’re “particularly good soldiers because I’ve had all their nerve endings cauterized. They feel no pain. But you will.”
Dun dun duuuuuuuun! Will Silver Surfer become the Silver Smudge?! Will Thunderstrike and War Machine get on the Slim Fast Plan before they run afoul of a heart attack?! Does Nebula realize that Persis Khambatta isn’t a good role model for one’s hairstyle?! Who knows, who cares. I have to go order a new crate of donuts for the Silver Surfer.
Friday, April 6, 2007
So basically by Frank Miller's own admission here Batman is a rude, murderous child abductor who cares what twelve year-olds think about his toys and eats rats when not mourning the loss of the bloody, incestuous affair he had with his mother.
For the previous installments, please check below:
Once again we have a beautiful Jim Lee cover, albeit it’s pretty static compared to the previous one of the Irish ninja Black Canary doing a flying kick. On the opposite side of things is Frank Miller’s slightly-confusing alternate cover (which I decided to feature with someone else’s scan just for its sheer confusion factor). It features Superman running across the water (he can FLY, you know) with his face shadowed expect for a red glow from his eyes. While the initial confusion comes from the fact that this is supposed to be All-Star Batman and Robin and not All-Star Superman (a book written by Grant Morrison that does everything RIGHT with the idea of the All-Star line), the real confusing part is the bomb/missile behind him that’s falling towards the water. At no point does such a weapon appear in the book and I have a feeling it’s only there to invoke Miller’s earlier work with Dark Knight Returns that featured the Cold War pretty prominently. And even then, unlike Black Canary’s presence on the previous cover, Superman only appears for two panels in the whole freaking thing.
Perhaps to contrast with the endings of the previous two issues’ last pages, we start things off with a bat symbol at an angle with flames around it. On the next page, we check up on Vicki Vale. She’s apparently now in a hospital and she’s dying pretty rapidly. Medical dialogue worthy of E.R. informs us that her left ventricle’s been punctured by a bone. We see Vicki flailing about on her bed still in her cleavage-revealing dress and bandages around her leg and arm, presumably from Alfred’s earlier care. Now, I’m not a doctor, but it seems to me that in cases like this, a flailing patient is probably the last thing you want if you’re going to be performing surgery to remove bones from hearts. Shouldn’t they be gassing her or at least putting restraints on her so they can work?
Vicki’s eyes roll into the back of her head and the heart monitor flatlines, revealing that it seems she’s died. The doctors (none of whom we actually see) scramble for a cardiac needle… but enough of that scene! It’s time to check back in with everyone’s favorite Goddamn Batman – BINO!
The last issue had an almost complete lack of our grinning, psychopathic protagonist, to which I complained about because it’s his book, after all. But now I suddenly wish we were back with Black Canary. Or maybe we could check in on Green Lantern, whom I’m sure Frank has rewritten so that he’s a KKK member who devours the hearts of young girls after molesting them. In any case, Dick Grayson brings us up to speed: “BATMAN’S thrown me into a CAR that turns into an AIRPLANE and then a SUBMARINE.” I’m tempted to make a Transformers joke, but frankly this thing’s already draining me. “BATMAN’S completely nuts.” NO! What would ever make you think THAT, Dick Grayson, Age Twelve? “He KIDNAPS a kid. He knocks the SNOT out of COPS.” I think he knocked their internal organs out, too. Remember when he drove the Batmobile through the car and split it in half?
Dick tells Batman about how he’s about to drive into a bunch of rocks, but BINO just has that expression on his face like he’s about to reach over and start fondling Dick’s hair, and then tells him he doesn’t know anything. Dick’s narration continues: “He’s out of his MIND. And I’ve just signed ON with him. To FIGHT CRIME. How lame is THAT?” Considering how many people would give their right arm (Oops! Sorry, Risk) to be a superhero, not that lame. BINO commands the hologram to come off, but the Batmobile just crashes into the rocks and everyone dies. The end. Oh, how I wish that it what would happen.
Instead, it’s time for BINO to exposit for a bit. “I’ve had my EYE on this Grayson for MONTHS. He’s the most promising CANDIDATE for the job I’ve SEEN.” I wonder if BINO hired a temp while he waited for someone to fill the position? “Still, I’d have waited YEARS before RECRUITING him. At least until he’s old enough to SHAVE. I’d have waited YEARS. But some soulless SLOB with a GUN changed the whole EQUATION.” Well, you heard it from the guy himself, folks – he would’ve killed Dick’s parents himself in a few years so he could draft Dick into his war. The Batmosub rises up and Dick yells, “When are you going to let me out of this thing? It feels like its been days!” Well, considering the whole milk carton thing from the previous issue, it wouldn’t surprise me if he WAS in there for days.
What we have next is one of three reasons why people remember this comic. The others are coming up, but this thing is all Jim Lee right here – a SIX PAGE SPREAD OF THE BATCAVE. And this is why Jim Lee should be commended – he saved us from six more pages of dialogue from BINO. Dick Grayson is, of course, stunned silent by the grandeur of it all and once again Frank Miller embarrasses us all when he gives us BINO’s child molester grin again and asks Dick, “Is this cool or what?” Dick, trying to play it smooth, replies, “Yeah, I guess it’s okay. I mean, I’ve seen better, but I guess this is okay.” BINO clamps up, obviously put down because the twelve year-old boy isn’t impressed with his crib. Yup, he’s the Goddamn Batman, but dang it, he put a lot of work into this!
A “Boop” sound is heard from BINO’s utility belt and Dick Grayson, Age Twelve, actually channels Kevin Smith’s villain Onomatopoeia when he asks, ““Boop”?” BINO, for the ninth time since the series started, tells Dick to shut up. While BINO answers the call, we see in the background that robot lasers are shooting the Dinosaur prop in the cave for some reason. Dick wonders to himself why the cave’s so cold and I actually have to wonder that, myself. Even if we were to buy the excuse that Dick gives that BINO “likes it cold,” the amount of machinery and lasers within the cave that we’ve seen should’ve raised it a few degrees. Alfred informs BINO over the phone that Vicki Vale’s in terrible shape and we can see that indeed, she has recovered from her heart completely stopping from the first pages and someone finally put an oxygen mask over her and some better clothes.
Alfred informs BINO that pieces of her clavicle and ribs are loose in her chest and that her lungs and heart are compromised. Furthermore the Doctors, “seem somewhat at a loss.” Again, I’m not a Doctor, but it seems to me that surgery of some kind would probably be a good first step. Maybe it’s the kind of thing that’s rather difficult to do in a surgery to find all those pieces of bone, but I’m pretty sure Doctors can handle extracting bones from certain places and patching up the individuals. Confusing matters is the fact that the Doctors seem to be crowded with people for an unknown reason – perhaps victims of BINO’s rampage across the countryside while in Dr. Claw’s MADmobile?
Dick Grayson, Age Twelve thinks to himself about the strangeness of the Batcave – how it seems like a construction site and yet there’s music playing. He recognizes it as Bach and that his parents would listen to it all the time. Maybe Frank was trying to evoke a Shawshank Redemption thing with Mozart or a V for Vendetta thing with Beethoven thing with the Bach music, but all it really does is remind us of stuff that’s better than this comic. BINO orders Alfred to “Get Ekhart. In Paris. Get him there. He can do anything.” Alfred informs him that Ekhart wouldn’t be able to get there in time, but BINO tells him to “Get that clown in Metropolis to fetch him.” Lord, what I wouldn’t give for some clowns right now.
BINO takes a moment to talk about how much better he is than Superman. Yes, a woman is about to die from bones puncturing her organs, you’ve kidnapped a twelve year-old child whose parents were just killed in front of them (“Their BRAINS splashed all over my FEET” as Dick Grayson, Age Twelve puts it), but now it’s the time to compare sizes with the Man of Steel. And that brings certain thoughts to mind, as Vicki Vale put it in the first issue – particularly what a moron you are. Also compounding matters is that like Wolverine’s tendency in certain Civil War parodies to only speak in the words “Snikt Bub,” it seems Superman is only capable of speaking in the word “Damn!”
“That’s RIGHT Kent. You’re BUSTED. I know who you ARE. And you’ve got NO damn idea who I am.” X-ray vision, anyone? “I’m a DETECTIVE.” No, Sherlock Holmes is a detective. Encyclopedia Brown is a detective. You’re a loser who kidnaps a young boy and creepily refers to him as your “ward.” You haven’t done one goddamn bit of detective work since you started this goddamn comic and- oh God, Frank Miller’s writing is infecting me! Save yourselves! “I can’t LEAP TALL BUILDINGS with a single BOUND. But I’m SMART. One HELL of a lot smarter than YOU’LL ever be.” Sadly I have to agree with BINO here, since if I were Superman, I’d fly all the way to Gotham, break into his cave at super-speed, rip that mask off of BINO and fly him up to about 2,000 feet above the ground and say, ‘Who’s smarter now, dumbass?’ Out of character? Perhaps, but not on Earth-Miller, where I’m sure Superman is a cigarette-eating alcoholic who brags about how he screws Lois Lane as Superman and then makes her bow to his will as Clark Kent and she’s none the wiser.
Dick asks if he can get a change of clothes: “First off, could I get something to wear instead of these stupid tights? I mean, tights really blow chunks.” BINO gives him a look that makes me think he’s about to SLAP Dick (once again showing that BINO gives a rat’s ass about whether or not the little kid thinks he’s cool or not), but Dick continues with: “Sorry. It’s just I’m all sweaty and dirty” (No, Dick, you’ll just make him want to molest you MORE!) “and I’ve still got Mom and Dad’s blood and stuff all over me.” And now we have the second reason why this issue is so memorable. BINO’s narration caption gives us another example of disgust, shock, and horror (for the reader, anyway) with this line: “I touched my mother’s breast. It BLED on me.”
Excuse me, I have to go “blow chunks” for that mental image. We get a shot of Bruce sitting over his dead parents with blood on his hands and without the pearl necklace that Frank Miller was responsible for including in Batman’s origin story. “I heard her cough her last and I pressed my hand against my mother’s breast just in case there was any hope at all and there wasn’t any heartbeat.” So not only is he a pedophile but he was involved in an incestuous relationship with his mother? Anyone think THAT aspect of the origin story is going to be used by future writers?
Dick’s narration captions continue: “His HAND lands on my SHOULDER, weightless as a falling leaf.” Damn it, Frank, this is no time for your blasted haikus! “Those bigass FINGERS of his SQUEEZE like a gentle CARESS.” Oh, ye flippin’ God – Dick wants to be molested as much as BINO wants to do it! BINO says he’ll get him some new clothes and tells Dick he’s leaving to go work. Dick asks what he’s supposed to do now and BINO says he can do whatever he wants. Maybe this is why the Batcave has all the laser things shooting out – BINO routinely kidnaps young boys and lets them play in the Batcave until they get killed and the machines have to clean it all up. It’s like an even more demented version of the Neverland Ranch.
Dick asks what he’s supposed to do for food and BINO replies that there’s plenty of food around him and that it’ll present itself to him. At that moment, we get shots of a bat and a rat, clearly telling Dick that he’s meant to be eating the animals in the cave. And there we have our third reason why this comic is remembered – The goddamn Batman wants his “ward” to eat cave rats. Thanks, BINO, eating the stringy, rabies-infected, living-in-its-own-filth rodent will do wonders for Dick’s health and agility.
The artwork (possibly the most symbolic so far) shows us Dick sitting in a fetal position with his shadow coming out and the rat about a foot away from him. “For a while I just SIT there and CRY until the SNOT’S running down my chin.” Umm... Ew? “Then I guess I doze. BATMAN is a CREEP. I hate his GUTS.” Personally, I don’t like his personality, but I guess any part of him is really unlikable.
We switch back briefly to Superman as he, for some unknown reason, is now carrying the car across the water as he continues to run across it. As he gives off his trademark catchphrase of “Damn!” I have to tilt my head in confusion and wonder why exactly he’s not FLYING over the water or just carrying the guy in his arms, where I’m sure he can offer better protection from the G-forces than a car.
But enough of that scene! I mean, BINO’s the star here, isn’t he? We switch over to a confusing shot of BINO punching a police officer in the company of who I presume to be a prostitute. Yes, all of four women have been shown in this series. The first was a slut and is now dying, the second was murdered, the third was an Irish ninja who beat up an entire bar full of people and stole a bunch of stuff, and now the fourth is just some background prostitute. Frank Miller: feminist, ladies and gentlemen! Anywho, BINO is punching the guy and proclaims for no logical reason, “Hah!” followed up by, “So what’s the story on Jocko-Boy, officer?” Who is this guy?! Who’s Jocko-Boy?! WHAT IS HAPPENING?! The officer responds that the “Whole thing is rigged. He walks tomorrow. Lack of evidence. That’s all I know.” BINO says “Thanks” and we see a “Krunch” sound effect while BINO’s arm is extending down off the panel, leading me to conclude that he just punched the guy’s nose in and the bone is piercing into his brain given BINO’s track record so far.
Dick wakes up to discover he’s now in pajamas (Oh God, Alfred’s just as sick as BINO!) and discovers a tray of food nearby. He gobbles it up happily and thinks that “there must be SOMEBODY nice around here.” Yeah, somebody nice who had no problem stripping you naked while you slept. I feel dirty just having read this stuff. BINO assaults Alfred[!!!], slamming him against the cave wall and yelling, “What the hell do you think you’re doing, Alfred?” Okay, this scene just further pushes away my believability that this is supposed to be Batman. It was one thing when batman pushed Alfred aside and yelled at him in Infinite Crisis because of how much stress and pain he was undergoing at the time, but him knocking Alfred around because he showed some compassion?! Frank, you’re either doing this deliberately to get off of this book or you’re just insane.
Alfred says that he won’t allow Dick to eat rats and BINO tells him that he himself was reduced to it[!!]. At what point in Batman’s training around the world did he ever get sent into a cave and was forced to eat a whole bunch of rats to survive? I think we might’ve missed that issue. Alfred proclaims proudly, “Sir I am your butler. I am your aide. I am your medic.” I am the walrus, koo-koo-kachoo. “I am not, however, your slave. Unhand me.” He is, however, unwilling to quit this psychotic job and work for some other rich guy who wants to be a superhero, apparently.
And thus our issue ends as BINO walks away grumbling with the narration boxes saying, “ALFRED just told me to take a FLYING LEAP.” Uh, I thought he said he wasn’t your slave. Were you under the impression he was? There’s so much not to like about this guy... “This little BRAT is going to ruin EVERYTHING.” Hey, you’re the one who kidnapped him, you dick. Consequently, the Bat symbol on BINO’s chest just happens to be the same one that Miller used in his drawings. Kudos to Jim Lee for remembering that detail. Sadly, it just reminds us of Frank’s BETTER Batman stuff we’ve seen.
Well, as of this writing, that’s all we’ve seen of All-Star Batman and Robin. Issue 5 has been resolicited a few times and DC claims that they’re trying to get a few issues done before they start shipping it out again and all I’m going to say is take your time, DC. I think we can live without the goddamn Batman who touches his mother’s bleeding breast and kidnaps twelve year-olds so they can eat rats for a while longer.