Location: San Jose, California, United States

Raymond Miller solves usability problems for a living. From UI text and error messages to flows and stories, he protects the user experience for Symantec’s retail SSL certificate consumers. Raymond lives in San Jose, CA. When not staggering through half marathons, he writes crime fiction.


Infinity Crisis

As Shaun would say, "This s*** is off the hook."

Infinity Crisis wrapped up this month with a bang. This mini-series is basically DC's creative team going back to the well. Usually this means a retreading of previously seem situations, with stale characters, and the flavor of the month artist. Infinity Crisis came close to this, but DC took such a bold move to wrap up some loose ends that I will let the staleness pass.

The Good Stuff

Golden Age Superman: Few people really appreciate GA Superman and what he stood for. When many of us think of history of any kind we think of the questionable things: Slavery, Colonialism, Racism, Sexism, words with big meanings. GA Superman always stood for truth, justice, and the American Way.

I remember hearing about (I am younger than 40) debates whether GA Superman lied in issue such and such. Readers were debating lying. As if it was important for this Superman not to lie! HA!

Well people it was important that he was truthful. Racism, sexism, and colonialism aside, many of our "old fashioned" beliefs and better beliefs. Two parents raising children to be educated and contribute to a family unit. To be polite, to be fair, to expect better of yourself and your neighbors.

Sometime between Vietnam and the rise of Jerry Springer, those days died and it was time that Superman followed.

The Bad Stuff

As with all maxi-series, I hate having to buy every book made so I could get the story.

The One Thing That Really Sucked...

The question of who is more powerful has been around since the beginning of DC. Superman vs. Shazam vs. Martian Manhunter and recently Wonder Woman. This was the perfect oppurtunity to not only answer some questions, but get some ground breaking comic book stuff going.

But no, DC chickened out. Shazam is knocked our of action. Martian Manhunter is "elsewhere". It was cool to delay the battle of Supermen to the last issue, but Superboy vs Shazam would have been sweet.

Til next time.


03/15/2006 Comics reviewed by Shaun

Here's another review by Shaun

i know its been a while. you would think that a boy working in a comic
store would have no life, but i do!! first off im gonna start with v
for vendetta. i cant stand alan moore. what a bloody baby. but this
book was good. and to top it off, i got to see the movie on monday!
it was so good, i may have to go see it again.
now for comics.
if you can find it, green lantern #9 was excellent. batman is, well,
the man.
and im shamed to say it, this weeks ultimate extinction #3... warren,
i love you. im eating my shoe at the moment.
and now im gonna josh on a certain some one in the DCU who needs a
kryptonite ball gag. superboy prime. can i please pick up an infinite
crisis book/crossover with out him in it crying? i get he point. you
were supose to be the main superboy. get over it. and thank you for
ruining the whole jason todd thing you tool. THE FANS VOTED HIM OUT OF
CONTENUTIY!! and you just haaaaaaad to bring him back. maybe you didnt
know. but you still suck. oh and that armour you got at the end of
infintite crisis what was it, #5? sucks.
mad ups to the superboy clone. how i wish i was a comic.
now as much as im liking DC im all sorts of confused. this one year
later thing is just... meh. now i have to wait for 52 to find out what
the big deal is. weak. sauce.
and mad ups to toyfare for using the word 'jerk' a bunch of times.
till next time fanboys. stay dry out there!

hey ray, hope all goes well back home.



02/01/2006 Comics reviewed by Shaun

Here's another review by Shuan

whats up kids? dont worry, im as sober as an amish guy today.

anyways i want to start off with Robotica by alex sheikman. i know, wtf is
robotica? its not mainstream, its small press. its colour so dont get
your superman underoos in a bunch. ive had the pleasure of meeting him
where i work (ironically a comic store. maybe its not irony. who
cares) and he told me about it and i read issue one. which should be still
avalable if you bug your comic store. if they say they cant get it,
ask them to call diamond. if they ask who that is, laugh and walk out.
anyway, robotika was a relife from the norm. its futuristic,
beautifully drawn, and has bad@$ ninja like folk and samuri folk. im not
telling you to get it because i see alex every week. im telling you to get
it because its good. and im picky. horribly picky. besides ryan sook
drew the cover, and i think everyone needs a bit of a break from the
mainstream garbage every once in a while. i cant wait to see the rest
of this world unfold. alex has a great imagination, and he actually
knows how to draw a gun.

x-factor #3.
i never liked x-factor when it first came out. just
another xbook for me to waste my lunch money on. but this x-factor is hot.
two reasons. first layla miller. can this girl get any creepier? she
was creepy in house of m, now shes down right children of the corn
creepy. second, monet. i just really like monet. i liked her from
generation x. so get on the band wagon and hook yourself up with x-factor.

fury #1
garth ennis, darrick robertson. what more do i need to say?
how about WWII? before sheild, before the howling comandos. and just
in time to give sgt rock what for. sgt rock was good, but fury is 788913461209 times better. why? you should know why.
and last but not least,

30 days of night: dead space.
vampires in space. does anyone care? i really dont. if anyone knows steve niles
please tell him to give it a rest. the only good thing about the book was
the few pages of supermarket preveiw by brain wood and kristian. brain
wood has never steared me wrong.

shouts to big country, my girl whos back in skool getting her learn
onand you wonderful folk who love comics so much, it keeps me employed.
seriously, i feel like a crack dealer with some of these titles.
nani-yo?! nanka yo?! namen-ja neyo!!



Introducing Shaun Our Weekly Reviewer

I want to welcome Shaun to our comic blog community. He works at Lee's Comics in Mountain View, CA and we encourage you to stop by for your comic book needs.

hey kids,

shaun here with out spell czech so dont laugh at me. oh joy
comics. ill tell you this, if youre not reading warren ellis you're not
reading comics. im not talking about his avitar stuff either. as i
sit here with rum and coke #3, just finnished reading nextwave #1, im
pretty happy. why? three words. fin. fang. foom. no i know two
things about fin fang foom. jack and s#!t. and jack my flatmate is off
doing MMA. i know of fing fang foom from series one marvel trading cards.
the thought of a huge dragon in purple shorts is amusing to me. under
the influence of rum its down right hysterical. now dont get me wrong,
i dont populate the warren ellis chatboard and never read anything on
it. i doubt i ever will. but warren seems to bring out the bad ass in
comics. jack cross just to name one. not to mention he reinventined a
lame stormwatch to be ultra ass whuppin. i remember storm watch #1.
like ALL image books it was an x-men knock off and poorly done at that.
no heres what i think warren should write, besides everything: cloak
and dagger, puck, and just for laughs, rom space knight. why? because
i think warren ellis is the only one who can make rom interesting. now
that ive wiped my nose on his bum i need to bring it down a notch.
ultimate extinction #1. wtf was that? im going to give warren (because
him and i are on a first name basis) the benifit of the doubt: quesada
put a gun to his head and told him to put wings on silver surfer.
plain and simple. and if thats not the case then its probrably a good
thing i dont go to conventions of my own free will. and galactus as a
bunch of insects? ill stop befor i drop f-bombs.
star wars has been really good too. if EEPS III left a bad taste in
your mouth have no ph34r. order 66 is far from done. so go hook
yourself up with a star wars book or 4. ESPECIALLY purge and whatever one
quinlian vos is whoopin arse in. youll thank me. if not ill be getting
hate mail.
and finally because i think my laundry is done, wolverine. now as
always marvel starts off wonderful the first few issues and drops the ball
before the game ends. wolvie is one of my favourite characters and
theyve done nothing but screw with him. well homeskillit got his memory
back. and fools is skurred. (translation: thats your @$$ b!&@#!!!) i
mean, he finally gave that punk silver samuri what for last issue
because his sister wasnt there to save his hide.
and befor i go, if you havent been hittin DC (not infinite crisis.
thats crap) you should czech out green lantern recharge and batman. and
supergirl if it ever comes out.
shout outs cuz im east coast like that: ray (big country) for hookin
up a review, lees for hookin up a (okay) job, and the girl that gives me
a reason to wake up every morning. peace in the middle east
-shaun, disgruntled as ever

nani-yo?! nanka yo?! namen-ja neyo!!


Marvel vs. DC: Marvel did it to me again.

DC created Crisis on Infinite Earths as a means of aligning their confusing histories into one timeline. It is arguably one of the best comic book series even written. It ushered in a permanent changes to the DC universe including killing off characters who have never come back (though some characters have).

Even though we are fans, we have to realize this is a business. Marvel had to do something or lose a lot of sales. So Marvel created: Secret Wars! At the time, I thought the Secret Wars was the best thing ever. It was the ultimate team up with everybody except Daredevil and a few reserve Avengers. I have since learned better.

Crisis had layers upon layers of history and deep meaning to the generations of readers and creators. I do not want to bash Marvel unfairly. Secret Wars is a good series one its own. It just doesn't compare to Crisis.

Here we are in the next century and somethings never change. Fall of the Muta...I mean, House of M was a good read. Solid characterization, art, and dialogue, but it doesn't compare to Infinity Crisis.

This is my official apology my readers. I really thought House of M compared better to Infinity Crisis. What threw me off was DC's shameless tie-ins to no less than three pre-series series including Identity Crisis. Then I realized that even though they were after my money, they were giving me a complete story that for the most part interlinked well.

My advice: Pick up Identity Crisis and Infinity Crisis as soon as possible.


The New Jonah Hex is out and it is sweet!

Last year, Marvel took a chance on the Western genre (and gay genre) with the Two Gun Kid. Not to be out done, DC countered with Jonah Hex.

In the first issue, Jonah is hired by a wealthy millionaire to find his missing son. The is a perfect introduction to Hex's world. This is not the Lone Ranger, Bonanza, or Wild, Wild West. The best description of Hex's world to view it as the Punisher set in pre-Civil War America. It is brutal and ugly where justice is scarce.

If you like the Punisher, you will like Jonah Hex. This is the first issue and a stand alone story, so give it a try. If you don't like violence, then you should steer clear of this book.

No More Weekly Trip to the Comic Book Store?

I love the weekly trip to the comic book store. As soon as I walk through the door, I am in full geek mode. DC, Marvel, Star Wars, Star Trek, and all things that make the average geek happy.

Then I realized how little I was getting for my $20-30 dollars a week. I found these guys and I am able to get almost twice the amount of books as before. I still go to the comic book store to pick up last minute items, but now I spend less, read more, and geek out just as much.

Click here to try it for a month: mail order comics


Lone Wolf and Cub by Kazuo Koike

I don't want to start a huge debate about American foreign relations, but I can say that it is a shame that some Asians do not get the attention they deserve.

Before there was Jackie Chan and Jet Li and Lucy Liu, there was Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee was a monster martial artist. He trained himself in several disciplines. This included disciplines that had little to do with Kung Fu like boxing and fencing. He wanted to create what he felt was the perfect fighting system. He trained extensively and taught others when it was frowned upon to do so.

But Bruce Lee never really go this due. American television executives felt that we were not ready for Asian television stars. "They had Sulu [Star Trek: TOS], wasn't that enough?" When Bruce Lee created the television show Kung Fu, the title role was given to David Carradine, a white American. Bruce Lee was passed over for the role he was born to play and wrote for himself

I am in no way defending the television executives. Maybe they felt Pearl Harbor was too recent. Then again, Bruce Lee is not Japanese and... Well, there is just no excuse for that. David Carradine of all people?

I have to admit that television is a business and as frustrating as it may have been, I bet Bruce Lee understood that also. But if you make a decision like that, you have better be right. They were not. After 3 seasons, Carradine quit because the role was too physically taxing. Can you imagine the kind of stories and Kung Fu we would have gotten out of that show?

Because of attitudes like this we miss a lot of really good people and projects out of China, Japan, and other Asian countries.

If you have never heard of it, it is my pleasure to be the first to introduce you to Lone Wolf and Cub. Lone Wolf and Cub was created by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima. These gentlemen are the grandfathers of modern Japanese comics.

But do not get me wrong, Lone Wolf and Cub is quality through and through.

The Story
A Ronin (a masterless samurai) wanders through ancient Japan with his small child in a rigged babycart. He has as sign that says "son for hire, sword for hire". He offers his unique services those who need it. Once hired, he will do anything necessary to acheive his goal. The very idea of Ogami Itto and his son Daigoro gives hope to the desperate and vengeance for the disenfranchised.

They walk the path of meifumado. A path to Buddhist hell that will lead them to achieving their personal vendetta. The first book, "The Assassin's Road" sets the tone of the series. This volume contains nine stories.
1) Son for Hire, Sword for Hire.
2) A Father knows his Child's Heart, as only a Child can know his Father's
3) From North to South, from West to East
4) Baby Cart on the River Styx
5) Suio School Zanbato
6) Waiting for the Rains
7) Eight Gates of Deceit
8) Wings to the Bird, Fangs to the Beast
9) The Assassin's Road

Why is it so good?
At 28 volumes (5-10 vignettes per volume), this story is epic. Though is sounds expensive, a reader could collect Spider-Man for a whole year, spend as much money, but never get any closure. The year starts with Mary Jane held hostage, the year ends with Aunt May held hostage. Lone Wolf and Cub as a beginning, a middle, and an ending. And what as ending it is!

One of the strengths of this series is the attention to the minor detail of ancient Japanese life and culture. Each volume contains a glossary and several asides to explain certain differences between both modern vs ancient and Eastern vs Western attitudes.

These books are not for children. They contain many adult situations and graphic sword play.

Start with the first volume and you will be hooked!


The Punisher: Born by Garth Ennis

Born is another comic from Marvel's Max Line. It tells the story of Frank Castle's last days in Vietnam. The twist at the end will stick with you. Read this book.

Marvel's Max line of comics contains nudity, adult situation and adult language, reader discretion is advised.


Supreme Power by J. Michael Stracyznski

Squadron Supreme was Marvel's attempt to play with DC's characters. There was a "Superman", a "Wonder Woman", a "Batman", and even an "Atom". The comic was canceled and hasn't been seen in over a decade.

Recently Marvel relaunched this concept in it's Max line. Warning: the Max line is for mature readers only. This line includes nudity, adult language, and adult situations.

J. Michael Stracyznski's (Babylon 5 and The Amazing Spider-man) scribes Marvel's Squadron Supreme characters in Supreme Power. The US government finds in infant in a spacecraft and raises him to be completely loyal to the Red, White and Blue. As an adult, the child takes the name Mark Milton and becomes the super hero Hyperion. As the layers of deception begin to peel away, Mark must confront his superiors in the US government and find the truth of his existence.

He is not alone. There is a young man who can run at incredible speeds, a soldier who possesses a crystal from Hyperion's ship, the wealthy vigilante who only helps his own, a mermaid, and a mysterious warrior who has powers similar to Hyperion.

What makes this comic different is the realism. For Superman, things are not easy, but they have been done before. There were super-heroes in WWII and several mentors for Superman to work with. The same goes for the rest of DC's finest. Hyperion and company have nothing like that. They are young, sometimes stupid, ready to get paid, and most of the time they have only their best guesses to rely on.

J. Michael Stracyznski and penciler, Gary Frank create something special here. It's a page turner. Start with the first two graphic novels, they are the best stories. Later this year, Marvel will release a Hyperion and Nighthawk series. I recommend you take a look at these. Do not purchase the "Doc Spectrum" mini-series. It is not as good.


X-Men vs. Alpha Flight

If you have read comic books for any amount of time, you must have read a "who's the better" story.
  • Who's faster? Superman or the Flash?
  • Who's stronger? The Thing or the Hulk?
  • Who's would win a fight between Superman and the Fantastic Four?
The problem with these types of stories is the weak setup. Superman and the Flash must race because some mobsters are holding their love one's hostage. Or, a group of heroes fall into a dimensional warp and fight another group because of a misunderstanding. A misunderstanding? Bah!

I like a good slug fest as much as the next fan, but without a solid reason, slugfests are a wastes of time.

X-Men vs. Alpha Flight was one of the first books to bring characters together in realistic manner. And baby, it is sweet....

Cyclops and his wife (yes, she was a clone of some sort, but we will ignore that) are lost during a snowstorm north of Canada. The X-men and Alpha Flight team up for the search. They find Cyclops alive and in complete control of his powers. In fact, all the humans in the group have super powers, too.

On the surface, it seems a gift from God (the gods, smirk). If everyone has superpowers, there is no need to fear or hate mutants? Why be afraid of your next door neighbor who can lift 20 tons, if you can run a 30 second mile. Instant equality.

But there is a price and the price may be too high.


Icon: A Hero's Welcome by Dewayne McDuffie

In 1839, an alien, intergalactic passenger liner explodes. One life boat crash lands in a cotton field in the Southern United States. The life boat technology recreates the alien's genetic structure to resemble the dominate lifeform. He is found by a black slave named, Miriam.

The alien is still with us today working as a lawyer and waiting for Earth's technology to catch up enough for him to go home. His secret is discovered by a young woman who convinces him to be a more active part of his "community"; to become the super hero Icon; and to take her as his sidekick Rocket.

Do not make assumptions about this book. Though there are similarities, this is not the Black Superman or some heavyhanded commentary on race relations. First and foremost, this is a good read. Ok, there is some social commentary, but it does not hinder with the story.

The Watchmen by Alan Moore

Alan Moore's Watchmen is a true masterpiece and every comic book collector must read this book. Like the Dark Knight Returns, The Watchmen helped redefined comic books for more mature, sophisticated readership.

Unlike The Dark Knight Returns, The Watchman doesn't use characters that readers are familiar with. No one has ever heard of Dr. Manhattan, Ozymandias, Rorschach, Nite Owl, Silk Spectre and the Comedian. After reading The Watchmen you will never forget them.

Someone is killing the former Crimebusters. The remaining members come out of retirement to find the killer or killers. The original publishing was very, very well paced 12 issue series, each installment made the reader hunger for more. Many say that The Watchmen deals with the fear ordinary people have of superheroes. You might agree, but mostly, I see a very thick mystery. You will not be able to guess the end.

In addition to the main plot, Moore added a section that fills in the back story using excerpts from biographies, interviews, and reports. In addition, The Watchmen includes sections of "Tales of the Black Freighter," a comic-book read by a child in the issue.

The Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect by Peter David

Future Imperfect is the quintessential Hulk story. In the future, someone has defeated all the heroes, conquered the world, and placed all the humans into slavery. Rick Jones gets his hands on Reed Richard’s time machine and sends his daughter to the present to enlist the help of the Incredible Hulk.

Why is this so good?
Some of the best Hulk stories are not about his rampages or the U.S. Army chasing him. It’s guilt. Each time Bruce Banner awakens from a rampage, he wonders how many homes he has destroyed and how many people have died…this time.

Here is Bruce Banner’s chance to save the world and maybe make up for the horrible things he as done. At least, that is what he hopes.

Peter David has written for the Hulk for several years. He also writes a series of Star Trek novels, New Frontiers.


Justice League of America: The Nail

There is a legend in which a kingdom was lost because of one battle, because one knight was absent, because that knight was thrown by his horse, because of a nail left in the road. Justice League of America: The Nail applies this legend with the question, "What if there were no Superman to provide the back bone of the Justice League?"

Why is this so good?
It wasn't until I read this book that I realized how important Superman is to the DC Universe. He provides more than a strong punch and x-ray vision. Superman is a symbol that people can look up to. Without him, people are just as scared of the heroes as the villains.

No one else can provide this symbol.

Though this is one of the better graphic novels available, it does have a few flaws. It is just too short. The ending seems rushed and a bit too contrived. But, this book has plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader occupied and wanting more.

There is a sequel to this book, but it is not as good.


Green Arrow: Quiver By Kevin Smith

Comic Book deaths are a joke.

I don't mind that comic book heaven has a revolving door. My problem is that characters come back with the silliest explanations. Something like: "Oh, that wasn't super-dude in that explosion, it was a clone," or "spider-guy was whisked away at the last moment by a passing wizard."


If I hate comic book resurrections so much, why would I recommend Green Arrow: Quiver?

Because, Kevin Smith writes such a good story. Green Arrow returns from the dead and... Well, I won't give away the plot. This is the kind of story that can be ruined by a well meaning review. I can say that by the first issue you will be dying to see what happens next and why it happens.

Phil Hester is the other half of the creative team. His art work is perfect for this book. Not too stylized or too simple. He is very good with both action and scenery, which is sometimes rare in comics today.

If you haven't collected comics in awhile, this is a great book for you. It has guest appearances by Superman, Batman, The Spectre, and Etrigan the Demon. If you are a long time collector and you haven't read this book, again, I say, shame on you.

Kevin Smith is the writer behind such movies as Chasing Amy, Clerks, Mallrats, and The Jay and Silent Bob series.


Spiderman: The Death of Gwen Stacy

Ok, true believers, I am sure you've seen the recent Spiderman movies with Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson. Everyone likes Mary Jane. She is smart, talented, and beautiful. She is good for Peter Parker.

But before there was Mary Jane, there was Gwen Stacy. Gwen was Peter's first love. She was literally the girl next door. The one he had a crush on for years until finally, they got together.

If you know anything about Spiderman, you know how Gwen died. If you have only seen the movies, you have a pretty good idea. But none of that matters really.

All you need to know is this: Uncle Ben's death was the defining moment for Peter Parker. The guilt of that death created the motivation that would stick with Peter Parker for years. After that Peter Parker lost Gwen too. For the Peter Parker, it was like a nightmare that would not stop. This is her story.

She was young, beautify and innocent. And She will pay for it all...with her life.


Batman: Year One (the inspiration for Batman Begins) by Frank Miller

Batman: Year One tells the story of Bruce Wayne's first year after returning from training to be a crimefighter. He does not have much experience and it shows. Readers get to see Bruce Wayne grow into the skilled hero we see today.

Frank Miller (writer) and David Mazzucchelli (art) make a great team. The art is perfect for this story. Mazzucchelli takes advantage of the kind of shadow and darkness that makes Gotham different from Metropolis or Star City.

The story is well paced with great characterization. No one handles Batman the way Frank Miller does. He has an understanding of the core elements of the Batman and his supporting cast. Commissioner Gordon, Alfred, and Catwoman are fleshed out better than many other stories out there.

Many readers balk at Catwoman's role in this book. Once you read it, please let me know what you think.

Interestingly enough, there is no Joker, Penguin, Scarecrow, and Killer Croc. There are none of the villains readers are used to. On the face value, it sounds boring, but this creative team handles everything brilliantly. Instead of super villains, Batman faces thugs and corrupt politicians. Villains in a real world setting.

If you enjoyed the movie Batman Begins at all you will love Batman: Year One.

In addition to this book, Frank Miller wrote The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Returns


The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman

Any one who knows me can tell you that I am a zombie fan. Don't get me wrong--I am not a fan of gore or meaningless violence. I am the other type of zombie fan. The kind of fan who loves well rounded characters thrust into the nightmare of zombie infestation.

Zombies. (Always watch for zombies.) They are the worst creatures that can show up to ruin your picnic.

Think about it. With a serial killer, werewolf, vampire, or mummy, you can be safe at some point in time. A serial killer is only human and can only be in one place at a time. Werewolves and vampires only come out at night. And there is only one mummy or even if there are 1,000 mummies, there is still a limit to where each mummy can be. Plus, there is safety in numbers. 1,000 mummies are not going to attack 10,000 of us! We'll kick there half dead a**es back to where ever mummies come from. And then, and only then, we will get nasty.

What about Freddy? Who cares about stupid Freddy! There is one of Freddy and thousands of us. Even if we have to sleep together, we could put some hurt on Freddy. Safety in numbers.

Zombies are different. Safety in numbers doesn't apply to zombies, neither does being safe at some point in time. Zombies come at you at all hours of the day or night and in ever increasing numbers. They are slow and dumb, but relentless. They just keep coming and coming and coming. Zombies are the only creature that can turn our safe world into Armageddon in less than a month.

That's right. 30 days from now your world could come to an end.

In the perfect zombie movie, the characters fight and struggle to survive. They become closer to perfect strangers than they have ever been with their own parents, spouses and children. They must etch out a living with nothing more than their wits and backs and fingernails. They are hungry, scared, and angry, but they survive. They have no choice but to survive.

The Walking Dead is so far the perfect zombie book. I just finished reading Vol:1 Days Gone Bye and I am hooked. The main character Rick Grimes is a cop... well, he was a cop. The story starts much like the movie, 28 Days Later, with the main character awakening from a long coma. His thoughts are only of finding his wife and son. And the ride begins from there.

The author, Robert Kirkman, writes in the introduction (I am paraphrasing here) that the worst part of a zombie movie is the end. Just as things are getting good the credits start rolling and you never find out what happens next. The writer promises that this book will follow Grimes as he navigates through this world gone undead.

I recommend this book because it is an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of something very, very special.

JLA: A League of One

There is an argument among comic readers: who's the number #2 heavy hitter in the DC universe. Number one is easy: Superman. Mr. Push-the-Moon back into place himself.

Number #2? Not so simple. The list includes, but is not limited to: Shazam, Supergirl and Superboy (the Kryptonian ones), Powergirl, the Martian Manhunter, and Wonder Woman.

Personally, I vote for Wonder Woman. If you read JLA: League of One, you might agree with me.

What's it about?
When a dragon surfaces in Europe, the Oracle at Delphi predicts that the JLA will defeat the dragon, but perish in the attempt. Believing this, Wonder Woman unilaterally decides that she must face this threat...alone.

To save the lives of her closest allies, she must defeat them. Wonder Woman takes out each member of the Justice League one by one, including Superman, Batman, Flash, and Green Lantern.

If you are a Wonder Woman fan, I guarantee that you will enjoy this book. If you are not a Wonder Woman fan, this book will make you one.

Diane is strong and cunning. A peaceful person, but a formidable warrior when the cause is just...or when the cause is just enough.

Don't be fooled by the JLA in the title. This is a Wonder Woman book and its one of the best Wonder Woman books you will read.

Crisis on Infinite Earths

The very first Superman comic book was publish in 1938. By the 1950's, there were so many inconsistencies that the editors decided to create an Earth 1 and Earth 2 to explain the differences. It was a great idea.

Over time however, DC had to add more worlds to explain away the inconsistences: an Earth for Shazam and his family; an Earth where Lois Lane married Lex Luther and together, they fight an evil version of the Justice League; and an Earth in which World War II never ended.

The different groups met in various Crisis on Multiple Earths specials until finally DC decided to relauch in one universe.

Crisis on Infinite Earths is the only time in comics that a company has had to clean up so much history. By the time DC took on this task, they had about 50 years to work with. To their credit, the staff at DC was able to decently represent almost every character with special attention to Superman, The Flash, Batman, Wonder Woman, Shazam, and their respective families.

The Story
Two god-like creatures, the Monitor and Anti-Monitor, fight a war in which they are equally matched. The Anti-Monitor finds out that he can increase his powers by destroying whole universes and begins to systematically wipe out all existence. The heroes must find a way to stop him.

Why is it so important? Warning: Spoilers Ahead!
DC decided to do their relaunch in a big way. Characters die and for the most part, stayed dead. I don't want to give too much away, but the death of Supergirl is one of the most heartful scenes you will read and though they tease us with it, the Barry Allen Flash is not coming back.

Before this, Supergirl was a joke. DC created her to be almost as fast and as strong as Superman, but when it was time to fight the good fight, she was off saving treed cats or dating the cute boy in school. And this was when Superman was Mr. Push Planets. So, she should have been at least number 3 or 4 in power and strength over everyone else. For once, just one time, in this series, she lives up to her full potential.

Speaking of Mr. Superman/Push Planets...

After this series, DC relaunched their titles from the beginning. Among other things, Superman is no longer able to push moons and travel through time. His powers are manageable. He is vulnerable to magic and kryptonite. Superman becomes less super and more man. And that is just Superman. This series touches almost every DC character in one way or another.

This is great book for long time fans and those new to comics.


Y: The Last Man

Y: The Last Man is one of those books that is just different. The story revolves around a man named Y. (His sister is named Hero--their father was a Shakespeare fanatic.)

Y is the last man on Earth. All other men were killed in a plague that lasted about five minutes. Y is now left with about 2.5 billion women. On the surface, this may sound like the plot for some bad B-movie with an extraordinary amount of frontal nudity. It is not.

The writer, Brian K. Vaughan is too smart, too respectful to the reader to mess around like that. This book is about the last man on Earth dealing with the best and worst women have to offer.

Why is this so good?
The characters are everything. Not only is Y interesting (he is an exceptional escape artist and owns a monkey), all the other characters are very well drawn.

The women must deal with a huge hole in modern society. Kind of like when your grandfather dies and your grandmother realizes that there are hundreds of things she needs to educate herself to do. Sometimes the women do a great job, sometimes not, but it is always entertaining.

Check out Y: The Last Man.


This week's comics: August 3, 2005

Justice #1

Alex Ross is the artist/writer who brought us Kingdom Come and a about six mega-sized graphic novels based upon DC characters. His books are literally painted by hand, a process that makes his work above and beyond most others in the industry.

The story so far is interesting. There is a threat on the horizon that our heroes will not be able to defeat. What could possibly be more powerful than the combined might of Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, and Shazam? We don't know yet.

Both heroes and villains are having nightmares of the Justice League failing to save the Earth and dooming us all! The villains are ready to do something about it.

I recommend this not only based on the Alex Ross art, but the story seems interesting, especially the way they handle Aquaman. Check it out!

1602: New World #1 (minor spoiler)

1602 is a follow up to 1601. This is one of those "What if" type of series that when done well is as good as a Twilight Zone episode. What if the heroes were born in the 1600's instead of today. Having the Avengers, Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Spider-man set in near Shakespeare times was a lot more entertaining than I thought it would be.

Where we have science to rely on to explain the things we see, these people only have superstition and their best guesses. For example, in the 1601 series, there is a funny exchange between Mr. Fantastic and Dr. Doom in which doom in which Doom refuses to believe that light has speed.

New Avengers #8

Personally, I believe New Avengers is the best book on the market. Taking a page from DC's Justice League, Marvel changed the Avenger's roster to include the most popular characters instead of the most powerful. Actually, except for Shazam, all of DC's most powerful characters are in the Justice League. Ok, forget all that, let's just say that the most popular Marvel characters are now in the New Avengers.

Spider-man is written almost perfectly. His science background is downplayed, as is some of his experience, but his wise cracking awkwardness and inexperience as part of a team is done to perfection. Every time he opens his mouth, I end up on the floor laughing.

Wolverine has been done and re-done by so many writers it takes some effort to get him wrong. Except for Spider-man, he is the most popular character in the Marvel Universe. His hasn't worked with this group much so there is an incredible amount of tension and miscommunication.

Captain America and Iron Man are the veterans of team. Iron Man provides the money and day to day needs. Captain America is...well, he's Captain America.

Spider-woman and Powerman. Ok, I will say it. You have to have at least one woman and one minority in the Avengers.

Or do you? I mean, the problem with quotas is that sometimes the woman or minority IS the best person for the job. Think about it. Marvel obviously wanted a fresh team. None of these individuals have been as Avenger and with the exception of Wolverine, none of them has been on a team for any length of time.

Of all the loner characters in the Marvel universe who is more popular than Powerman and Spider-woman? Better yet, who has been around since the 1970's and retained the same kind of following? Exactly. Yes, there is the Punisher and Ghost Rider, but um... for some reason, I don't think they would fit in the Avengers.

At any rate, this issue deepens the mystery surrounding the "Superman like" character of Sentinel.

Ultimate Iron Man #3
Orson Scott Card writes a comic book. That is all I need to say.

What! You don't know who Orson Scott Card is! Pick up a copy of Ender's Game at your local used book store.


This week's comics: July 20, 2005

The best stuff for the week of July 20, 2005

Daredevil #75

Brian Michael Bendis wraps up the story line "Decalogue" with Part 5 of 5.

Tired of fighting the never ending battle, Matt Murdock set himself up as the Kingpin of crime. His only decree: "Clean up your act or get out of Hell's Kitchen!" That was a year ago.

A group of people huddle together in the basement of a church to discuss how Daredevil has touched their lives in the past year. As they compare notes a horrible mystery begins unravel. Issues one and two are a bit slow. By issue three this story is one of the best issues of the week.

So I should get #70 - 74 too?
Hell, yes!

House of M #4

House of M is a strange title. Basically, the Scarlet Witch's mutant powers allow her to change reality. She goes insane (see the latest issues of the Avengers, not New Avengers). Before the Avengers and X-men can decide what to do with her, she recreates all reality to suite her and her father, Magneto. Hence the "M" in House of M. Everyone wakes up in a world where mutants are the next stage of evolution and humans are the minority.

Why should you care?
House of M will make some serious changes to the Marvel universe. Not the usual someone dies and comes back, but well, I don't want to give anything away. Let's just say that X-men, Spider-man, Avengers, and Fantastic Four fans should read House of M and there corresponding House of M spinoff titles.

Issue 1 of the series is good for new readers because most history is covered.

Here's the second cover for the same issue, don't make the mistake of buying two copies of the same thing.


Kingdom Come

Remember the movie 50 First Dates with Drew Barrymore. (Dear Lord, she just gets hotter with age, doesn’t she?) At any rate... In the movie, every night as she sleeps her mind reboots and she forgets everything she experienced the day before.. So every morning she wakes up thinking it June 8, 2004, or something like that.

If you read Kingdom Come, you’ll wish you had that condition so you would read it again for the first time.

What’s it about?
There is no longer room for heroes with outdated ideas. Stuff like responsibility, duty, compassion, and honor are too “old school”. The public wants heroes that will take an Eye for an Eye! Unwilling to compromise their morals (y’know, the thing that makes them special), our heroes retire and a new generation takes the mantle to fight the good fight.

Have you seen that next generation? They are a buncha illiterates, I tell ya! With their Mtv and cellphones. Needless, to say our heroes return from retirement to show us what being a hero is all about.

Why is this special?
The art is painted by Alex Ross and he gives some of the best visuals you will ever see.
This books features almost every DC character of the modern and golden age.
Oh, and it has a heavy dose of the Specter.

Superman vs. Shazam. nuff said.


Warren Ellis' Planetary

Do you remember how good the X-files used to be? I mean, when it was at the top of its game?

Remember how as the characters developed, the mystery moved forward and there was always some good science fiction to go along with it.

That is Planetary.

So, what's it about?
Elijah Snow was born January 1, 1900, but he doesn't look. He is recruited by a mysterious organization to be an "Archeologist of the Unknown." He works with Jakita Wagner, the teams powerhouse (super fast and super strong) and an idiot genius known as the Drummer. Together they explore such mysteries of this and the last century.

So why should you care?
What if the X-Files didn't have to worry about copyright law and could do the stories you really wanted to see. Like Mulder tracking down Steve Austin to get the story on Big Foot. Or, maybe Scully trying to piece together why no one remembers anything for a single day in 1932. Supposedly a giant monkey was supposed to have rampaged through New York City. For some reason beef became really cheap as if there was an influx of giant monkey meat flooded the market.

Yeah, it's like that.

Start with Planetary Volume 1: All Over the World and Other Stories. You won't regret it.


The Real Fantastic Four (or Here’s something to read that will be better than the movie they are going to screw up)

The Fantastic Four are not the most popular heroes on the planet. Superman, Batman, Wolverine, and Spiderman get more press but the Fantastic Four are some of the best characters ever.

Mr. Fantastic :– Reed Richards
The brains of the family. In fact, he is the most intelligent scientist in the world. The problem: every two bit megalomaniac attacks the FF in hopes of proving themselves against Mr. Fantastic. He is a loving husband and devoted father, but very absent minded.

Mr. Fantastic can stretch his body like very pliable rubber. Under the best of conditions he can change his body to nearly consistency of liquid.

The Invisible Girl/Woman : Susan Richards
The Invisible Woman has gone through the most changes in the group. Historically, she has been the one most likely to be taken hostage, but has evolved into the most powerful member of the group. She is a devoted wife and mother to her children: Franklin and Valeria.

The Invisible Woman can warp light to make anything invisible and create force fields.

The Human Torch : Johnny Storm

The Human Torch can both create and control flame (Important: some characters can only do one). He can use his powers to fly, create walls of fire, and even lower temperature by absorbing the heat from an object. Johnny is Susan’s younger brother and the youngest member of the group.

The Thing : Benjamin J. Grimm

The ever loving blued Thing is the group's powerhouse. His body and muscles are super dense and can withstand great pressure. His body is covered in scales (like dinosaurs) giving him a rocky appearance. The Thing is the only member not related by blood or marriage. He is super strong.

Now that I know the characters, how are they going to screw up the movie?

There are main character points in the Fantastic Four. They don'’t have to use every one, but they will either try to squeeze all of them in or worse, use none of them.

1. Reed's guilt: The FF have great powers, but because of Reed's arrogance Ben is trapped the body of a monster.
2. Ben's pain: In a world where all the other super strong heroes are pretty (Thor, the Submariner, She-Hulk, Colossus, and in some ways the Hulk), this means a lot. The Thing's hide is so thick, he can't feel anything or any one toughing him. He has a blind girlfriend, but he feels she deserves better than him.
3. Sue's having to mother them all: breaking up fights, reminding Reed of appointments, etc.
4. Reed's intelligence: Seriously, whenever anyone needs help: Spiderman's turning into a spider, Captain America breaking his unbreakable shield, a big alien showing up to eat the planet, they call Reed. His whole existence as a character is to fix our problems with science.
5. Reed versus Doctor Doom: They were friends. Reed attempted to warn Doom of a miscalculation in an experiment. And of course Doom did not listen. The experiment blows up in Doom's face. Doom blames Reed for the failure.
6. Johnny and Ben's constant squabbling.
7. Johnny's practical jokes, especially on Spiderman.

Let us just suffice to say that this movie will take extremely rich characters and flatten them into cookie cutter heroes with no purpose.

If you want to read a tale that does this group justice, click the link below.

The Dark Knight

Batman is not for little kids.

Even as a kid, I knew it. Any Batman for kids is not Batman. It's Batman Lite or Batman Free. It doesn’t matter if it is the 1960’s television show or the Superfriends. In fact, any non-comic book portrayal of Batman is wrong expect for: The Batman the animated series, the JLA cartoon, Batman Begins, and Batman (1989). I can assure you everything else misses what is an easy mark to hit.

Think about it. If your loving parents were killed in a useless mugging and you vowed as an adult to avenge not only their deaths but you will avenge the crime and corruption that goes on in your city, would you smile? Would you dress in tights or would you wear bullet proof armor? Would you wear purple or would you wear black? Would you laugh and giggle as you patrol rooftops or would you use a voice that sounds like something from a nightmare.

As I said not for kids.

Basically, this book is the event that made Batman into the cold hard bastard his is today and put a grave stone on the Adam West “golly gee” era.

What is it about?
Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent and all your favorite super friends have retired from public service. People no longer want heroes, even though they need them. Much time has passed, yet Bruce Wayne can not let go of his demons. He returns as Batman to face a street gang, Two Face, the Joker and square off against Superman.

The other heroes have super powers and super weapons, bodies that can level mountains, rings that can move planets, flight, super speed, and wings. Batman only has his aged human body…that and an iron will.

Why should I buy this?
This book redefined Batman. He is gritty, focus and driven. A bit psychotic for my tastes, but the perfect version of an imperfect character.

Get this book. Read it and enjoy. I promise you will not regret it.

Who wrote it?
Frank Miller both wrote and drew the Dark Knight Returns. He has also created such critically acclaimed works as The 300 and The Dark Knight Strikes Again.


Midnight Nation by J. Michael Straczynski

So what's it about?
Detective David Gray is an Los Angeles cop. On a routine drug bust, he is attacked by creatures that steal his soul.

He slips into a world beneath the one we know: a world of the homeless and disenfranchised. He becomes a ghost of a person. He is there, but not really there.

He finds out that he has one year to get his soul back and our story begins...

What's so good about it?

At 288 pages, this book is a bargain at almost any price. J. Michael Straczynski creates a well constructed world with believable characters (including one hot angel), and great plot twists.

Imagine the best mystery/adventure you've read. Now, make some very pretty pictures to help tell tell the story. Now you have this book.

Ok tough guy, tell me something that will make me really want to read this book.

Remember in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back when that silly green annoying little creature throws off his deception and said, "I cannot teach him. He has no patience." And exactly 3 seconds later you realize, "What the? My God. That's Yoda the Jedi Master!"

This book is full of those moments.

Who wrote it?

J. Michael Straczynski has written both comic books and television. He created the Babylon 5 television series. In addition, he as written for Amazing Spiderman.


Sin City

If you haven't read Sin City, you should. This series has no capes, no aliens, and no super powered, testoterone enhanced super heroes. Still, it is some of the best crime/mystery/noir that you will ever read.

So why should you care?

Though some installments are stronger than others, Frank Miller (both writer and artist) has created a series of books is rich with its own history, but each book can stand alone. In other words, you can start where ever (or is it whenever?) you want to.

So what is it about?
Sin City Vol 1. The Hard Goodbye Marv is an over-muscled ex-con with nothing to show for his life but one night with a stranger. Her name was Goldie. But when someone murders Goldie and frames Marv for it.... Well, let's just say things really pickup from there.

Sin City Vol 2. A Dame to Kill For Dwight McCarthy has a past. But he put that all behind him now. You guess it. A woman from his past comes knocking on his door needing a favor. A damsel in distress story with a little more fire than usual.

Sin City Vol 3. The Big Fat Kill Crooked cops, the mob, unionized prostitutes, an uneasy truce that's about to collapse, and our hero in the middle of it all. Add Miho both the hottest and coldest little number on the planet and you have a decent tale in Sin City's Old Town section.

Sin City Vol 4. That Yellow Bastard I know that a cop's last day on the job is a cliche, but this is by far my favorite Sin City tale. If you spent your life protecting the innocent, would you give up everything to protect that last person, an 11 year old girl?

Sin City Vol 5. Family Values Frank Miller returns to Old Town. A mob war threatens the prostitutes. Blood soaked mayhem ensues.

Sin City Vol 6. Booze, Broads, and Bullets This issue features several shorts that link various characters and fills the gaps between stories. Includes a Marv story (The Hard Goodbye), tales starring Delia, and a very satisfying Dwight story (The Babe Wore Red). This is a good point for new readers.

Who's it for?

Men in general and geeks in particular. Women may tire of the over the top ultra-violence and "dames ain't nothing but trouble" theme. Children should steer clear of this series. This is definately NC-17.

About the creator: Frank Miller is best known for his work on Marvel's DareDevil and a DC's The Dark Knight Returns. Both books will be reviewed here.