Monday, August 31, 2009

Comic Moments That Make You Go "Ouch!"

Yes, I know that comic books aren't real. Those punches through walls and into outer space never actually happen, but still there are those comic book moments that make you cringe because you know that's gotta hurt! Here are a few that I think made for a bad day for those involved:

Bane "breaks" Batman

In the midst of the powerful "Knightfall" storyline, we have our first moment. Through the evil machinations of Bane, all of Batman's major foes are set free from Arkham and he has to gather them all again. With no rest and one fight after another, Batman is worn down by the time Bane shows up for the beat down.

As he finishes this first encounter, Bane picks up the Caped Crusader and slams him across his knee. With a sickening "KRAKT", Batman's back breaks and Bane leaves him crippled (temporarily).

You have to admit, that's one bad moment in Batman's life. Just looking at that panely you can tell it HURTS! It was a level of brutality Batman had never been subject to before, and it was a major turning point in the storyline for years to come. Even though Batman's replacement (Azrael) faced Bane and beat him down a few issues later, Bruce never faced Bane for a rematch until much later.

Magneto takes Wolverine's Adamantium

Wolverine and Magneto had fought before, and Magneto had used Wolvie's metal skeleton to throw him around a bit here and there. Nothing could prepare comic readers for just how brutal Magneto could be in the right circumstances. Having had enough of the X-Men's meddling, Magneto chooses to pull the adamantium off Logan's skeleton--through the pores in his skin!

Take a moment to glance at your arm. See those hairs? Now imagine adamantium oozing through each one and every spot in between. Just look at that picture and you see the pain on Logan's face. It's obvious this is worse than anything he's had before and hurts me just looking at it.

Fortunately, quick thinking by Jean Grey kept him alive long enough to get him to the mansion and get the rest of the adamantium out of him. The cool little plot twist from this storyline was the revelation that Logan's claws were bone covered in adamantium, and not the metal itself as we'd been led to believe over the years. He eventually got it all back again (thanks to Apocolypse) and carried to true hatred for Magneto from that point on.

In the recent Ultimatum storyline, Magneto killed Wolverine--but not before Wolvie stabbed him through with his claws...while missing half his face. A very grusome ending to this bitter fued.

Captain America stops Baron Blood

Captain America 253 and 254 forever hold a special place in my heart. Those two issues introduced the new incarnation of Union Jack (one of my favorite heroes) drawn by John Byrne (one of my favorite artists). However, one of the big jaw-droppers for me was what happened at the end of the two-part tale.

Cap and Union Jack are attempting to take down Baron Blood as the sun is setting. Though they've fought hard, time is running out and Blood is getting stronger while our heroes are weakening. In the heat of the battle, Captain America is forced to make a hard decision that changed this character forever for me. Using his shield as a Ginsu, Cap slams it down and takes Blood's head...the only way to kill a vampire (according to the story). Cap had never purposefully killed any of his villains before, so the moment had a bit impact for me.

What got me here was the look on Cap's face as it dawned on him what he would have to do. It really pained him to make this decision, whereas today it would have been the first thing most of the heroes would have done.

Another thing to mention was how this occured: off panel. There was no graphic scene of the head flying off with blood spurting everywhere or anything like it...and yet we are easily able to tell what took place. If this had been drawn today there would have been a splash panel of Blood's head flying away trailing blood as Cap looked on with a smile on his face. It would have robbed the story of its impact.

Well, those are three moments I thought looked like they hurt. What about you? Any from the older days of comics that stayed with you over the years?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Stupid Plot Twists

Last year I put together my list of favorite plot twist moments from comic book stories. Now I'd like to look on the flip side of things and talk about those plot twist moments that were just plain stupid. There are those that make you gasp in surprise and there are those that make you groan in pain. These are the groaners:

Rawhide Kid comes out of the closet

So you have this stable of western heroes and you want to find a way to drive sales for your floundering market share. A little movie called "Brokeback Mountain" comes out and suddenly you think: "Hey! Gay cowboys!" Rather than create a new title or series, you take one of the oldest western characters in your lineup and turn him into a flaming homosexual. Not subtly different, mind you, but as far into stereotypical as you possibly can get. Never mind that previous stories he's been in have had him clearly hetero, the fun word here is "retcon"! This formerly tough gunfighter is now a truly sensitive man who loves to throw out double entendre like candy as he flirts with whatever man comes within sight.

Unfortunately for Marvel, this little 2003 limited series was so unpopular with the fans that it has been quietly swept under the table. Rather than take a subtle approach to the change of the character, they did this huge instantaneous about-face that alienated the fans and killed the sales of the book. No further mention of this incarnation of the character or moment has been made since then.

Sentry is the Void...again

So you put out this miniseries that is cleverly disguised as a huge piece of Marvel Comics controversy with a "forgotten hero" called The Sentry. During this six-issue miniseries, the supervillain known as The Void keeps tormenting the hero. The big plot twist moment is revealed when the hero and villain are revealed as the same person! Brilliant! The miniseries doesn't sell much though, and the hero is shelved for a couple of years.

Enter the New Avengers storyline. They need a Superman character, so Marvel dusts off the Sentry and brings him in for a really cool moment as he rips Carnage apart in space! That, my friends, is awesome storytelling! During the second six-issue storyline of the series, we get a focus on The Sentry and come to find out--dah dah daaaaaaaaahhhh--The Sentry and the Void are the same person! Again!

Now flash-forward to a new miniseries called "The Sentry: Reborn" and we get yet another look at the Sentry's "history" in the Marvel universe as a key player during the Golden Age. During this huge battle with the Hulk and he fighting the Void, this major reveal is given as we find out--blah blah blaaah--The Sentry is the Void! Yeah, we get it.

Why Marvel keeps considering this a major reveal is beyond me. Yes, the first time was cool. The second time was good for those who missed the miniseries. The third time? Getting a little desperate, aren't we? Sentry is the Void...we get it.

Batman dies...twice!

What happens when you have a comic book writer who creates two stories so convoluted the reader has no clue what's going on? You get an iconic hero who dies twice in the same month--in two different ways!

Grant Morrison is writing the wildly-unpopular and incomprehensible piece of tripe called "Final Crisis". In this book, he decides to let Batman kill Darkseid with a gun (going against everything he's ever stood for in fifty years of comics) while simultaneously being blown apart by his Omega beams. Ok, Batman's dead.

At same time, in Batman's own title, he's running the "Batman R.I.P." storyline. In the final issue of the story, Batman jumps onto a helicopter carrying the villain of the plot (if you can call it that) and the helicopter gets blown up with Batman on it. The iconic moment in the story is Nightwing holding Bruce's cowl as an obvious foreshadowing of him taking Bruce's place soon thereafter. Um, so Batman's dead...again?

There are a few things about this that make it just plain stupid. First, Morrison wrote both stories, so there's no way he can blame someone else for this. Second, even though he wrote both stories, he made the revelation of Batman's death a key moment in both while negating the other. Batman's death in a helicopter crash has been the driving moment to his title during the race for a replacement (eventually going to Nightwing). At the same time, his death in Final (please let it be so!) Crisis drives DC's universe to mourn him.

The capper to all this? Morrison lets us see him in the past drawing on a cave somewhere. The subtle meaning behind all of it? He's not dead but is trapped in the past. How is he trapped in the past? The Omega beams have disintegrated every other person they've hit, but Batman's so bad he just uses them to time travel? Is he going to show up with Doctor Who in a future issue? Maybe he'll come back in an 8-issue miniseries called "Batman: Rebirth" written by Geoff Johns someday?

Ah, Grant've somehow found a way to make Spider-Man's "Brand New Day" not look so stupid. Marvel is forever in your debt.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hero Deaths We Need to See

Ok, so there are a lot of heroes who die for no other reason than to sell books. I've never been a big fan of deaths done just to progress a bad story or throw a little shock value into a lagging title, but there are some heroes whose deaths might actually be a powerful moment in comics. Here are my candidates and why:

John Stewart

Ok, so you have entire sectors of the universe that have one Green Lantern patrolling them, but on Earth we have four? In an effort to cut down on things, I say Stewart should go. Kyle and Guy are part of the Honor Guard and are key players in "Green Lantern Corps" stories, and Hal Jordan isn't going anywhere, but imagine the possibilities. In the middle of "Darkest Night", we have Stewart fall and become a Black Lantern. Since the Black Lanterns all come back with their super-powers, we have a former Green Lantern who falls and controls a ring through will power. So what if he could make the Black Lantern rings do something similar to the Green Lantern rings but have some dark effect over them? This man has fought with all the Green Lanterns, so he'd know exactly how to put up the best fight to take them out. He wouldn't win, of course, but imagine how cool the fight scenes would be!

Aunt May

While not technically a hero, she still needs to go. Yes, years ago she had a purpose and place in comic lore as the protector of Peter Parker. Now though, she's outlived her usefulness. It's time to let the hero grow past her. The death of Jonathan Kent (when it wasn't retconned) was powerful because it was the moment the boy had to stand on his own and become a man.

Peter Parker, on the other hand, has been coddling over this woman for decades. Every time she "dies" in the comic books, she always finds a way back to life. She's like a female Doctor Who or something!

Just kill her off and let the death have some emotional impact on Peter. When "Back in Black" was happening, I thought it brought a really tough image to Spider-Man and loved the new direction of the comic. When "Brand New Day" happened, I dropped the title altogether.


He's been killed in the movies and in the Ultimate universe, but let's get rid of him in the standard titles as well. What has Cyclops ever done except constantly pull every reincarnated version of Jean Gray away from Wolverine? Have there been better leaders of the X-Men? Yep. Would his death throw the title forward as shaking the very foundations of the team? Well, yes, only because of his exaggerated importance in the Marvel Universe.

Imagine how powerful the moment would be if he were dead and the team had to move on? He would serve better as a martyr than the hero he currently is. He's not that big of a void to fill, as Beast, Kitty Pryde, or even Wolverine would do a better and tougher job than Scott.

Renee Montoya/The Question

Pretty much just a faceless Lara Croft, Montoya has brought nothing to the character that wasn't there already with Vic Sage. Rather than this conspiracy theory behind-the-scenes tough guy, we have this tough girl who shoots guns and does karate to the bad guys. In other words, "Generic Hero #122".

Look at it this way: kill her off and have the Spectre (her former partner in the police force) go in to pull her soul from eternal torment or something, but have him find Vic waiting to help. Vic and Spectre save her and then Vic is brought back to become the Question again. With all the weird stuff going on in the DC Universe right now, you can believe there's some sort of conspiracy he could unravel.

The Falcon

The real Captain America is coming back. What could be more powerful than Steve Roger's former partner giving his life to bring him back? We saw how Bucky's "death" drove Steve so much over the years and really tormented him over time. Well, Bucky's going nowhere now that he's back as Winter Soldier/Captain America, so why not take out Cap's second-longest running partner, Sam Wilson?

It makes sense because Sam's never faced death before and it would take readers by surprise. His death could make Steve's return this really iconic moment because now Steve has a new drive to succeed for Sam's memory.

What do you think? Which heroes do you feel would better serve their storylines by dying?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Black Lanterns We'd Like to See!

Ok, so if you haven't read Blackest Night #1 yet, you might not fully understand what this is about. If you have, you know DC's throwing down the gauntlet by bringing back some of their best dead characters for some creepy moments on the heroes. You never really realize how many dead heroes there were out there until DC decides to bring them all back at once as bad guys! There were some incredible reveals in the first issue, and you need to grab it as I'm sure this is the story DC will consider its flagship for 2009.

Still, even with great returns like Superman 2, Aquaman, Firestorm, Blue Beetle, Hawk, Dove, and Elongated Man, there are several characters who deserve a shot at the return--even if they aren't a part of the DC Universe. With the digitally-enhanced Photoshop magic of my son, Khristian, I'd like to present my wish list if there were no boundaries to the Black Lantern power:

1. Rorschach - The guy was psycho-town when he was alive. He had no limits on what he'd do to criminals ("I'm not trapped in here with're trapped in here with me!"). Now imagine what he'd be like with that whole "undead" thing going for him.

2. Captain America - I know "Reborn" is bringing him back, but wouldn't it be cool to see him coming back as a Black Lantern? He's fought with the best of the heroes, he knows their style, and I think he'd be next to impossible to beat. Take away his moral compunction against killing, and more than one hero would be joining the Black Lanterns before Cap was finished.

3. Gwen Stacy - Geoff Johns has said that the emotional impact of the Black Lanterns was what's important in the story. He didn't just want a "zombie book", and I can't think of very many folks who would fit that bill better for Spider-Man. Never mind the fact that she has no super-powers, just think about the emotional roller coaster it would be for Spider-Man as she tried to kill him!

4. The Question - I'm not sure if he's going to make it back or not in the series, but I would hope so. However, my only request is that he lives through it all and comes back as a regular hero to take Montoya's place. Vic was the much better version of the hero, and DC could really use that paranoid guy right now. There's so much going on behind the scenes, and he'd be the perfect one to bring it all to light.

5. Bill Foster/Giant Man - He died violently at the hands of a clone created by Tony Stark and Reed Richards. I think he'd have a good bit of anger to resolve if given the chance. Of course, he'd probably aim it all at Thor first off because he didn't know it was a clone who killed him, but after things were straightened out Mister Fantastic had better go on a quick vacation before Giant Man shows up at the Baxter Building.

6. Uncle Ben - Again, no powers here, but if you were looking to emotionally cripple Spider-Man you'd be hard-pressed to beat this choice--especially if you brought Gwen Stacy back too. Let Ben go after Aunt May (and kill her, please!) and you've got Pete in the middle of a madhouse.

7. Ultimate Wolverine - So Magneto completely reduces the guy to dust in Ultimatum #5, which is one thing he's not going to regenerate from. That means he's ripe for our wish list! We saw what a bad Wolverine could do in the "Enemy of the State" storyline. Now take that one step further and turn him into a killing machine that actually enjoys killing (as the Black Lanterns do) and you have the character who will have his black ring charged up faster than any other character out there.

And as for my prediction as to how it will all end...

What about you? If you could pick someone from any comic universe to come back, who would it be?
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