Monday, November 30, 2009

Awesome Aliens!

Some of the most powerful heroes in the comic book world didn't even come from our planet, but thankfully they decided to be friendly. Here are some really cool heroes who are a long way from home:

Captain Marvel

A Kree warrior who had a long, hard life before finally passing on to the other side, Mar-Vell was very powerful in the 70's. The Nega Bands allowed him to shoot energy beams from his hands. His cosmic awareness helped him to know what was going on everywhere at all times. He could fly in outer space with no ill effects, and faced down big baddies like Thanos and the Skrulls.

No mere villain could take him down (though Nitro had a big part to play in it). Instead, he died of cancer in Marvel's first graphic novel. He came back in a way during the Secret Invasion, though he was actually just another Skrull. The real deal remains one of Marvel's few "he's dead for real" characters.


It's hard to really classify this as an alien, though he is from Thanagar in a way.

He's been killed more often than most major heroes, and he remains in the game. Even though he's currently a Black Lantern, I have a feeling that's only a temporary setback. He always has a way of coming back into the game.

Hawkman will soon be making an appearance on TV's "Smallville", and from the pictures I've seen he looks incredibly true to the character. Now we'll see if he has the same problems with Green Arrow that he does in the comics.

Silver Surfer

Originally from Zenn-La, Silver Surfer now counts Earth among his allies. He's fought Galactus (and lost...but who hasn't?), and was instrumental in stopping Annihilus a few years back.

Fueled by Power Cosmic, there's not much this guy can't do. Ironically enough, one of the best stories to feature him in recent years is "Silver Surfer: Requiem". It's a great story about the death of the Silver Surfer. If you haven't read it, it's worth picking up.

Currently, he's back working for the big purple dude, but that probably won't stick for long.


Ok, how could I make a list like this and not include the Man of Steel?

The first inhabit from Krypton we met, he changed the face of comic book characters forever. His popularity has grown and waned over the years (and he hasn't had luck with movie appearances in recent years) but he still remains one of DC's most popular characters. Even people who don't read comic books recognize him instantly.

Near limitless power and tough as nails...yet he still gets his hienie handed to him every time he and Batman throw down. Go figure.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everybody! Enjoy the turkey and dressing and meet me back here Monday for more comic book fun!

Monday, November 16, 2009

More Cool Costumes!

It's been a while since I've looked at cool hero suits, so let's see how things have fared since last year! Here's my "Best Dressed" collection:

Union Jack

He wears the British flag...and a gun and a knife. He holds his own in a world full of super-soldiers, vampires, and mutants. What more do you need?

This costume has remained relatively unchanged since his introduction years ago in Invaders #8. The person behind the mask has changed 3 times though. There must be something right with the costume to have it last that long.

Yes, I know Marvel has played around recently with some major deviations from the original design, but here's hoping they realize some things just need to be left alone. This is simplicity, and it works.

Ultimate Hawkeye

You have to admit the obvious comparisons to Grifter, but the Ultimate version of Hawkeye really stands out. While keeping the purple color that seems forever linked to the original version, this suit takes the character in an entirely different direction.

He's also given up the bow and arrow for pistols (and basically anything else he can get his hands on). While I'm not too fond of the bullseye on his forehead, the rest of the suit looks good.

Moon Knight

Ok, so he may be Marvel's answer to Batman, but the dude looks cool. The complete opposite of Batman's dark colors, Moon Knight still has most of Batman's toys. He has crescent darts, a cool helicopter, flowing cape that can help him glide, and all the other nifty trappings of a hero.

Originally the suit had a glider type cape attached to his wrists, but thankfully that went to a full cape very early on and has stayed that way ever since. Otherwise, this is the suit that's been true to the character for 30 years.


The anti-hero who was once nothing more than a running joke in Batman comics has stepped into his own and become one of the only reasons to read "Secret Six" each month (Deadshot being the only other reason).

I don't know who at DC decided to reboot this character, but they did the job right. They also did a great job on his suit. He looks a lot like Batman in design, but the color scheme and weapon choices make him different enough. The earth tones rock in this one.

The Spectre

Probably the most basic costume you'd see (and definitely the most basic on this list), but still it has a way of being cool. No logo, emblem, or design of any kind. Just basic green and white, but when you see that glow coming off the suit in Alex Ross drawings, or the way Jim Aparo gave him the vengeance look as he took down criminal after criminal in some cold-hearted fashion, you just realized how cool the guy really was.

His look changed briefly when Hal Jordan was the Spectre, giving him sort of a Green Lantern touch to the outfit. Recently he's grown a beard thanks to his current host, but I still think his simple, original look remains the best. The term "actions speak louder than words" could be applied to this hero more than any other on this list. You mess up with him, it's over.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Plot Twists That Didn't Work - Invaders 8 & 9

Sometimes comic book writers create an incredible moment in a comic book story that catches us all by surprise and makes the reader race to the store next month to find out what happens next. Then there are times when it doesn't work as planned. Here is one that immediately comes to mind when I think of "We Sort of Saw That Coming" moments:

The End of an Invader (Invaders 8 & 9)

During the mid-70's the Invaders were a mildly popular title for Marvel comics. Issue #8 gave us the "return" of an old WW1 superhero named "Union Jack". This was the first incarnation of the character still around in Marvel comics today (as a different person). Lord James Falsworth was a superhero during World War 1 who retired. Apparently he was part of a supergroup called "Freedom's Five", a series of heroes who were later pretty much retconned into Marvel continuity. Phantom Eagle was the only one we ever really saw again though.

A visit from the Invaders makes UJ long to put on the blue-and-red suit again (one of the coolest costumes in comics ever), so he does to help them.

On the final page of the story, Union Jack agrees to join the Invaders as a regular member. Everyone is in awe and excited about having this "legend" among them...even though he's pretty old and fragile by then.

At the bottom of the page, just below the panel of Union Jack joining the team, the build-up for the next issue says "The End of An Invader!" Who could it be???

Was there ever any doubt in any reader's mind when they bought the issue next month they'd see Union Jack going down? Even though they said "It's not who you think!" in that panel? Actually, it was exactly who we thought.

Sure enough, the next month said it would be "The End of an Invader!"

So let's run a quick roll call here: Captain America...still around so it can't be him. Namor...same. Bucky...dies in an explosion later. The Human Torch...death later on as established in comic history. The only people it could have been was Union Jack or Toro.

True, Toro was sort of redundant to the team. They had Torch for flame powers, and Bucky for the teen audience, so Toro didn't have much use. But what use did they have for a 60 year old man with no super powers either?

Sure enough, Baron Blood and UJ got into a big fight toward the end of the book and Blood crushed the hero's legs. Even though Blood dies later in the book (only to come back again a dozen times over the years), the title does indeed live up to they hype. Union Jack never walks again.

Issue 20 sees the new Union Jack come into the game. This time it's Brian Falsworth taking up the family mantle and he fared a little better. Brian was the son of the original UJ and did well until his death a few years later in a car crash. Joey Chapman picked up the suit and title then (thanks to the return of Baron Blood) and wears it today.

The lesson for Marvel? If you're going to kill off a character--or end their career--you can get a little more mileage out of it if you let them be on the team for at least one full issue before you get rid of them. And whatever you do, don't let them join the team and end the book with "Next issue: Somebody dies! Wanna guess who?" That's like watching a horror movie and seeing some boy open the door and say, "I'll be right back" when the killer's outside. Yeah, we know he isn't going to be in the sequel.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Blackest Night -- The Winners and Losers So Far

We are now officially at the halfway point of the "Blackest Night" storyline for DC. While the main story has been pretty amazing up until now, it's easy to see how this could be scaring some folks away. DC has a long history of having one running series and a dozen offshoot stories that you must purchase to properly follow along, and this one isn't really an exception.

The exception this time through is how good the main story is, how easy it is to keep following even if you miss some of the offshoot series, and how it appears to be building. Geoff Johns has done an incredible job of salvaging DC after the "Final Crisis" fiasco last year.

Here's how things stand up to this point:

Blackest Night (the main series) -- Winner!

From the opening pages of the story, it's been an intense ride that hasn't stopped. Having Elongated Man and Sue Dibny kill Hawkman and Hawkgirl right off the bat showed us how serious this story was. Since then, heroes have been dropping like flies and some have been returning with a really mean streak to them.

This is the first book I open when the new batch of comics come in. Definitely worth every penny. While I usually wait and collect the trade paperbacks of most series now, this is one I collect every month and enjoy. And even though we know Nekron is behind it all, now we get to see what part Batman plays in all this (remember, Black Hand is holding Bruce Wayne's skull in most images and in the story)!

And now with Hal Jordan off to the other side of the galaxy, it's nice to see Barry Allen stepping up as leader of the heroes. He's showing strong leadership that Wally West wouldn't have been able to give us in this role.

Blackest Night: Teen Titans -- Winner!

If you missed this three-issue miniseries, you have got to get out there and find it. It's no secret I love the old Hawk & Dove team, and I knew they were coming back as baddies so I ordered this. Instead, Don Hall (Dove) can't be affected or touched by the rings so he couldn't be resurrected (guess who that means can't be touched either)! And while the dead Titans have come in with a vengeance to do their nasty work, the one person I thought would pretty much be useless has turned out to be the most important player in the story!

I won't give anything away, but issue 3 closed the miniseries out by showing us the one person who can singlehandedly defeat the dead heroes. My guess? This person will also become the first White Lantern when the time comes. Get this series!

Blackest Night: Batman -- Neutral

While it was a real thrill to see Deadman in action again, and the idea of him being both dead as a hero, and alive as a Black Lantern, was cool, I can't say the story was central to the plot.

The pieces were all there: Both Dick Grayson and Tim Drake had lost their parents at some point, and their parents were now back as the undead. Yeah, that was cool. Watching the Tim's undead dad relive those final moments against an undead fat Captain Boomerang as they did in "Identity Crisis" was cool. Even Deadman possessing Etragan was cool! But somehow they didn't add up to a "must read" story.

This one felt more like an independent story that just gave you a taste of what Batman had to face. Unlike the "Titans" storyline (which will obviously play a huge part in the main story), this one didn't seem like it was necessary. It's still a good story though, so I'll keep the verdict neutral.

Blackest Night: Superman -- Loser!

Krypto ripped dead Lois's arm off to get rid of her ring. That was pretty much the best moment of this three-issue bust.

This one had probably the most potential of all of them, as Superman from Earth 2 and even Jonathan Kent were at DC's disposal to come and wreck havoc in Clark's life. Unfortunately, this Superman vs. Superman fight seemed almost just like any other.

I can't see where the actions that terrorized Smallville will hold any real implications to the final "Blackest Night" storyline. This is one you could easily skip and it not affect your understanding of the story. It's a real shame too. This could have been the strongest of the bunch.

Blackest Night: Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps -- Winners!

What can you say about these? Hal Jordan is doing all he can to fight dead heroes coming back and even faces the return of his predessessor Abin Sur. Kyle faces the return of the love of his life, Jade! And topping all this off is the revelation that Guy Gardner will soon become a Red Lantern (thanks to the death of Ice and her subsequent return as a Black Lantern)!

While some of the story seems to be filler right now, there's no doubt this is where the main action will be taking place in just a little bit. The introduction of the Indigo Lanterns and what they can do with a Green Lantern present is huge.

The thing I like about "Green Lantern Corps" is the fact that every GL that dies comes back as a Black Lantern. The tide is turning against the good guys with every death and I love the story!

And now DC has announced several "one shot" comics coming in January that will carry things along. We'll even see the return of The Question, and if you'll remember that's something I've been hoping we'd see! I have no idea how DC is going to collect all these into TPBs later on, but you definitely need to pick them up if you aren't following them now.
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