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Archive for April, 2008

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[SPOILERS FOR DC Universe #0 Ahead…]

According to The Daily News, in the very last panel of DC Universe #0 (in stores today) we witness the return of none other than…

…Barry Allen!

“Introduced in 1956 as The Flash in the DC comic Showcase, he lasted until 1985, when he was vaporized after preserving the cosmos. But in DC Universe 0, comic book folks have put Barry’s pieces back together. For a superhero who can run faster than the speed of light, it sure took him long enough to return. DC Comics is reviving Barry Allen – aka The Flash – the popular superhero killed off by the publisher 23 years ago, the Daily News has learned.”

Given the magnitude of the announcement I’ve already been witness to fan response ranging anywhere from genuine appreciation, to outright venom over the possibility that Barry is indeed returning to the DCU. But, I reckon that’s all part of the deal (ask Hal!) and I can only hope that those given the charge of bringing him back have a plan and that they’re going to give the character the respect he deserves along the way. Never mind trying to quiet the naysayers, the majority of them will either never be happy or reluctantly come around only after kicking and screaming, I’m just hoping that with some care and good stories that a wide range of fans will jump on board in the same way that we’ve seen with Hal Jordan. Particularly if this additional snippet has any teeth:

“Without Barry Allen, we’d still be reading comic books about cowboys,” Geoff Johns, co-writer of the new Flash comics, told the Daily News.” If anyone can hit the ground running with Barry, it’s Johns, one of the biggest Flash fans around, and already a Scarlet Speester fan-favorite.

I couldn’t be happier about the news.

That is, if it turns out to be true.

I sure hope so.

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Scrooge I’m not! Well, kinda…

Like the famous Duckburg tycoon, I’m becoming more of a penny pincher. With gas prices rocketing I’ve had to make some cuts elsewhere, and sadly, that means a few comics have had to go until things start to simmer down a little. So here’s what I’m down to in April’s pre-orders:

– CAPTAIN AMERICA #39
– CLANDESTINE #5
– GREEN LANTERN #32
– JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #17
– MOUSE GUARD WINTER 1152 #4
– TRINITY #1
– UNCLE SCROOGE #379
– WALT DISNEYS COMICS & STORIES #694

Now, I’ll be picking up a few TPB’s when they’re released so it’s not quite as few as it may seem but at a grand total of $30.99 that’s a significant change from months past. I’m also still contemplating that switch to collected editions exclusively here in the next few months, save for back issues and stories that’ll never see that treatment.

As I mentioned previously, when I was younger, collecting the single issues was part of the excitement — I had to wait from month to month to find out the outcome of a cliffhanger and was then able to joyfully add those single issues to my collection after enjoying them — but a good 18+ years later and I’m finding that time really is at a premium and I’d much rather have the whole story in front of me (or at least a hefty portion of issues) to digest and mull over as there seems to be a little more impact in the immediacy. I’m not advocating decompressed storytelling by any means, I hate the stuff, but I do want to read a good, hefty, story in one sitting more often than not these days; which may be a part of my book reading self spilling over into the comics hobby. I also have to admit that I like the convenient and attractive collected formats (both HC & TPB) that look nice on my bookshelves as well as the fact that the collected editions are simply more affordable. In the current economic climate, that’s mighty attractive.

I do understand the argument that a lot of creative teams need the sales of the single issues to thrive so as to insure future issues of the title — particularly newer titles and Indy publishers — and I respect the validity of the argument but that’s something I’m just going to have to tackle on a case by case basis depending on how much I enjoy a book and if it’s necessary to support it in the pamphlet format to ensure its survival. But I’m certainly not going to feel guilty for being unable and unwilling to pay upwards of $3-3.50 for dozens of books. Something simply has to give and the collected editions simply help a lot in that regard.

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While “Chad Vader” is nothing new to Star Wars fans, or the internet, I didn’t know until recently that the voice of Vader, Matt Sloan, is no stranger to the Star Wars universe and that he was hired not only to play Jedi Plo Koon in Star Wars Episodes II – III, but that he voiced Darth Vader in the Star Wars video game, Empire at War: Forces of Corruption as well as the upcoming, and even higher profile title Star Wars: The Force Unleashed based on the strength of his performance as Darth’s less-successful, but slightly more sympathetic, brother Chad.

As the Isthmus Daily Page quotes Sloan as saying: “Apparently it’s a hard voice to do.”

That being the case, Sloan does a fantastic job of it and if you’ve never had the chance to enjoy the adventures of Chad Vader in Season One (Episodes 1-8 ) of the series then I highly recommend you set aside ~ 45 minutes to do so! A hearty congratulations to both Matt Sloan, Aaron Yonda and the rest of the talented cast for their fantastic work and it paying off so well for them!

You can visit their official site for each of the episodes at Blame Society Productions.

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Hard Contact_s

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…”

It’s been a heck of a long time since I first read those words…and I’ve been captivated by Star Wars, in one form or another, ever since.  Star Wars was just one of those experiences that ingrained itself into so many facets of my childhood that I’ll forever have the fondest memories of the characters, the music, the ships, the games…everything. It was just about perfect to my young eyes, and that same excitement still wells up inside me as an adult when I stumble upon some new SW announcement that resonates with me (granted, not all of them do).

The latest trilogy, comprising Episodes I-III, has certainly seen its fair share of “cheers and jeers” since its release and I can’t say that a lot of the negative criticisms of those SW films aren’t warranted, but I also found an awful lot to like in them and find them to be highly enjoyable films if you can get past the…Jar Jar’s, Christensen pouting, etc. For me, one of the most interesting concepts to come out of Lucas’ more recent efforts has been the Clones. Be it their “never say die” devotion, strong historic connections to Boba Fett, his father Jango, the Mandalorians, the “cool” armor or sheer scope and possibility of their contributions to the Star Wars universe – the Clones have become a favorite of mine and I sat up with interest when I found out that there were [3] books by Karen Traviss (with a [4th] coming) tying into the Xbox title Republic Commando, though chronicling the adventures of another elite group of Clone Commandos, the Omega Squad. Their mission, to take out a dangerous nanovirus facility on the planet Qiilura. A mission put in jeopardy when they crash land on the planet and are separated as a squad.

I’ve never read a Star Wars novel, and I know that they’re probably not all for me, but having enjoyed what I’ve read so far in Karen Traviss’ novella Boba Fett — A Practical Man (reading from a computer screen makes this one a little slower going for my eyes unfortunately) and hearing the rave reviews about Traviss skill with technical jargon, battle scenes, military themes — and most importantly — character building, I thought that I’d give the first installment a try as well, and boy am I glad I did!

“These are the guys who die anonymously and unmourned, and that troubled me, ” Traviss explains. “All I could think when I saw the clone trooper fall from the gunship with Padmé in Attack of the Clones was, ‘Is he okay?'”

“As a clone commando, I’ve never been in the outside world,” Traviss describes. “Every moment of my life has been spent training, being force-fed information, carrying out exercises in artificial environments; but however thoroughly I’m trained, however genetically superior I am, I’m still human. I have the same basic wants and needs and fears as anyone else. But I’m ten years old in a man’s body — and I’ve seen less of life than a ten-year-old kid has. When I finally leave Tipoca, I’m going to be hit hard right in the face by real worlds that are chaotic and dangerous. I’m over-prepared in some areas and completely ignorant in others. I’m going to be under more stress than I could ever imagine. And all I have is the kit I’m carrying and my mates to rely on. You know what? I’m scared.”

“They’re not droids, yet too many people around them see them as just that: expendable units,” Traviss explains. “They’re real human beings and just like us in most ways. I introduced training sergeants like Kal Skirata in the novel because it was clear the Kaminoans wouldn’t have the range of military skills to train special forces and that Jango Fett would see the need to secretly recruit the toughest specialist fighters to train them. But the instructors have seen the real world, and Skirata feels enormous pity for his commandos because they haven’t. The commandos have trained for every eventuality under lethally realistic conditions, and they’re walking encyclopedias, but they’ve never been in the outside world. Life experience in the real world teaches you even more. He’s afraid for them. So he tries to prepare them as best he can. The three in the squad who are trained by him draw heavily on his wisdom: he’s the nearest they have to a father.”

With perspective and thoughtfulness such as this, Traviss has already taken my interest in the Clones and ratcheted it up at least 10-fold, and I’m only about half-way through the first book! The primary Clone Ccommando’s: Darman, Niner, Fi & Atin are a case study in just how much more the Clones are than just an army of accelerated soldiers for the Republic and each of them have become extremely rich, complicated characters. Throw in a young Jedi Padowan girl named Etain and a ruthless Mandalorian, among others, set on a thriving landscape in the middle of a galactic war and you’ve got one heck of a good book so far. I’ve since ordered books 2 & 3, and will certainly get the final installment, “Order 66”, given the interest I have in that whole mystery from Star Wars: Episode III of the films. If what I’ve read so far is any indication, I’ve no doubt that she will deliver in spades.

Just wanted y’all to know how good this was and if you’re interested in more on the series, feel free to hollar! I’m sure I’d be more than willing to yack about it futher.

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“As the Clone Wars rage, victory or defeat lies in the hands of elite squads that take on the toughest assignments in the galaxy — stone-cold soldiers who go where no one else would, to do what no one else could…”

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With all the great breakout artists of the last couple of years I hesitate to say that any one of them stands head and shoulders above the crowd, but Paul Pelletier’s art is so dang good that he really does deserve recognition as one of the modern greats and I wanted to take a minute to mention how impressed I’ve been with his work on GLA, GLX, Exiles, Fantastic Four, Nova, and now Guardians of the Galaxy. With a style that seems to be a unique blend of Alan Davis & John Byrne, Pelletier’s art — which unapologetically lends itself to “old school” comic action — is exactly what the doctor ordered among so many static, uninteresting, comic artists. If this guy could illustrate 75% of Marvel’s comics, I reckon that I’d be reading 75% more of them. Ah, and it doesn’t hurt that Marvel’s “Cosmic” saviors Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning are writing the book either. I plan on picking this one up in TPB form, but seeing what’s in store, that’s going to be tough to wait for…

Here’s a look at a few preview panels from Guardians of the Galaxy #1:

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Paul Pelletier_GotG p2

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[Ultraman painting by Alex Ross]

Like most boys growing up in the 80’s, I was fascinated with ninjas and the martial arts. These sleek warriors wrapped in black from head to toe were one of the “coolest” things I had ever stumbled upon and I spent countless hours outside trying to become on of them through my own strict regiment of tree climbing, jumping, rolling, kicking and plastic sword…ahem…kata (and yes, Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow are my two favorite G.I. Joe characters so we’ll get that out of the way right quick). Neighborhood evildoers beware! Anyway, it was about this time that I found out that these ancient warriors hailed from Japan, and thus my life-long fascination with the “land of the rising sun” was born.

Now, in setting this up you’ve likely already figured out that I love the American super-hero as well, so imagine what it must have been like for a 6-7 year old boy to stumble upon the closest thing Japan has to a Superman and a ninja combined, the man known as ウルトラマン or “Ultraman.” Hoo-boy — what a fantastic world in which I lived! When trouble reared it’s head, Shin Hayata of the Science Patrol would call forth Ultraman to fight, wherein he’d transform into a 40 meter high goliath donned in red & silver armor and combat the threat (which was usually a monster or “kaiju” ~ 40-50 meters tall themselves) until he had won the day. Sadly, I only had a few years to really enjoy the show before it was gone, but the character carved a fond place in my memory where he’s been ever since.

Now, when I stumble upon something related to good ‘ol Ultraman, I smile fondly, and remember that kid inside. And funny enough, it appears that both of my older nieces have a little of their uncle inside and are huge Power Ranger fans (admittedly, I’ve never been much of a fan myself) so you can reckon I’ve taken the occasion to tell them about The Power Rangers granddaddy, Ultraman. And now that the original series is available in America on DVD, and I have their attention, I think its probably high time to introduce them to the original.

That, and It’ll be great to see an old friend again!

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To be honest, I haven’t read a Hulk title in years. After Peter David left the book there in the 90’s it just never quite felt the same to me and I was content to just enjoy the character as I remembered him best from the great runs.

But, lo and behold, it appears that my favorite comics writer is returning to the character in May and I’ll have no excuse not to revisit the good ‘ol Green Goliath again! From Newsarama:

With artwork provided by Zach Howard and Cory Hamscher, Stern’s story in the 64 page standalone also reunites longtime fans of the Marvel’s Jade Behemoth with the character Fred Sloan—a supporting cast member of the Incredible Hulk during Stern’s tenure on the book. Sloan hasn’t been seen in any Hulk-related projects since John Byrne’s short run with the character after a series reboot nearly ten years ago. In addition to this new material in Giant-Size Incredible Hulk #1, Marvel is also reprinting the now-classic (and rare) Incredible Hulk Annual #7—a story written by Stern with artwork by John Byrne and Bob Layton.

That’s pretty much all I needed to hear. A new Hulk story scripted by Stern, with the reprint of Incredible Hulk #7 by the ‘dream-team’ of Stern/Byrne that I’ve never had the chance to read. Sold!

Ah, and glad to see Gary Frank’s rendition of the character again!

Hulkart101

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