OMNIUM GATHERUM 80

Omnium Gatherum #80: Something’s Coming

By Vince Moore

Howdy, folks, and welcome once again to the Omnium Gatherum.

There is something in the air, I can feel it.

Can you folks feel it?

There is something coming.

Really, there are lots of things coming. Convention season is in full swing. For myself locally, Wonder Con 2015 is upcoming this Easter weekend, April 3-5. If you happen to be there, you may see me running around the show on Saturday and possibly Sunday. Just don’t bum rush me, I couldn’t handle meeting all two of you fans at the same time.

And Comic-Con International: San Diego 2015 is looming on the horizon this July. My plans for that show are still up in the air but I may join the masses for a day or two this year. Part of me is itching to do the Really Big Show once again for the full time. I have to see what I can do to make that happen for next year.

Maybe that is what I feel is coming for myself. New ideas, new plans, changes to my ways of doing things.

Or it could be nothing.

Nah, something’s coming. I can feel it.

And to continue stealing for the West Side Story song of the same title, something’s coming soon and it’ll be great.

Until next time, folks!

Namaste, y’all!

PRINCESS DECOMPOSIA AND COUNT SPATULA

PRINCESS DECOMPOSIA AND COUNT SPATULA

Written and Drawn by Andi Watson

Published by First Second

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Thing I said to a fellow comics fan just a few months ago:

“Where the hell did Andi Watson go?”

Watson, a top-notch creative talent, takes up quite a significant amount of space on my shelves. GLISTER. BREAKFAST AFTER NOON. LOVE FIGHTS. GEISHA. SLOW NEWS DAY. SKELETON KEY. Plus a bunch of stuff he only wrote. Dude’s had a prolific career. But it had been a bit since I recalled seeing anything new from him on the shelves. Now that wait is over.

PrincessCount-Cover

PRINCESS DECOMPOSIA AND COUNT SPATULA is another charming entry in Watson’s lengthy bibliography. The Princess is a likeable young woman, a bit harried and overworked because she takes care of the kingdom for her ailing father. Her father, King Wulfrun, mostly stays in bed and complains about the food the palace kitchen serves, eventually settling for the blandest, dullest foods possible. Enter: Count Spatula, a chef with flair and the ability to make magical foods. He also has the ability to talk to the Princess as though she is a person, not just a dignitary, and to listen to her.

This sits well with precisely no one except the Princess, setting in motion a chain of events that will turn the entire underworld upside down.

There is nothing here that isn’t adorably charming. The characters are wonderful, and Watson breathes life into them that makes them believable even in such a fantastical setting. The art is simple and clean, and the storytelling is efficient and carries the reader along at a brisk pace. The story is whimsical and gets you easily invested in the outcome.

What else do you want from a book?

In short, Andi Watson is just as terrific as ever. Highly recommended.

ROGUE ELEMENT 122

Rogue Element #122: The Conundrum of Controversy

By Avril Brown

The hot topic in the comic book world the last week has been a DC Batgirl variant cover which was revealed and then recalled, at the request of the artist, due to the veritable shit storm of agitation that burst forth from its appearance. I have read a dozen articles regarding this frenzy and the time has come to contribute my two cents. To clarify for those unaware, allow me to dictate the history tying into this latest squabble.

Alan Moore wrote a Batman story entitled ‘The Killing Joke’ in the late ‘80s which was met with critical acclaim and became an iconic Batman tale for multiple reasons, one of which was Barbara Gordon’s resulting paralysis. ‘Killing Joke’ is largely an origin story of the Joker, the most infamous Batman villain, formerly an ordinary and loving family man who suffered a series of unfortunate events, eventually leading him to fall in with some criminals before falling into a vast of toxic waste, altering his appearance and sanity, thus transforming him into the Joker. The story alternates between Joker’s flashbacks and his current mad scheme, which involves attempting to drive Commissioner Jim Gordon insane by shooting his daughter Barbara (hence the paralysis) and taunting a kidnapped Gordon with enormous photographs of his child naked, bleeding and suffering at the hands of his foe. In the end, the Joker loses: Gordon retains his mind and his morals, and asks Batman to take him in alive. Joker tells Batman a joke, and Batman laughs. The end.

In case my sarcasm was too subtle, I didn’t care for ‘The Killing Joke,’ and I’m pretty much the only person I know who feels as such. Yes, it is a powerful story well-scripted and attractively told via Brian Bolland’s talented pencils. The colors are vibrant and add a tangible dimension to this dark tale. However, I find the story way too disturbing for a superhero comic. First off, the ending. The Joker attacks and violates two people whom are extremely important to Bruce Wayne, and his laughs at his joke? I work in an animal shelter where dead dogs and cats are a daily given so trust me, I get the need for gallows humor as an outlet for dealing with distressing shit, but if someone had fucked with people I cared about, there is no joke in the world that could break through my rage.

Secondly, and most importantly, it has long been inferred, though not explicitly stated, that Barbara Gordon was also sexually assaulted at the hands of the Joker. Taking pictures of her naked and bleeding out is a violation unto itself, but throw in the possibility of rape and I immediately shut down. I have an intense aversion to rape. Not in the sense where I bury my head in the sand and pretend it isn’t there, but that I am almost overcome with a blindingly and nauseating fury. Rapists and molesters are not human, they are fleshbags of concentrated evil who need to be punished. While I acknowledge this horrible and soulless act occurs, it is my preference to have it nowhere near my stories. The curse of being a hypersensitive individual is I cannot unsee the things that disturb me and they continue to plague my brain long after I close my eyes. Hell, I watched the trailer for ‘Max,’ the story of a military dog who bonds to his dead owner’s brother, and I couldn’t stop crying for ten minutes. Dead veteran + mourning canine and sibling = uncontrollable waterworks.

Back to the cover. Rafael Albuquerque illustrated this piece and meant it as an homage to ‘The Killing Joke,’ as a gun-wielding Joker has his arm draped around a clearly terrified Batgirl (Barbara Gordon became un-paralyzed when DC revamped its titles…don’t ask), her face smeared with red paint in a Joker smile, tears welling up in her eyes, the gun dangling in front of her chest. As far as artistic nods go, this one is pretty solid. However, it is also creepy as hell, and the internet has been blowing up ever since.

People complained, the complainers received death/assault threats, the artist, taken aback by critics of his art being threatened, asked for his work to not be released. Censor-sensitive individuals are in uproar and everyone has an opinion. Here’s mine. THIS is the best statement regarding this cover I have seen:

batgirls

Boom. A slight tweak of the facial features and it’s a whole other ballgame. Should the heroine be frightened at the hands of her assailant? Hell yeah, she’s human after all, and this man hurt her more deeply than any villain she has encountered. Should fear be her predominant emotion? Hell NO. ANGER should be her driving force. This man is crazier than a shithouse rat, he has damaged her, people she loves and hundreds more besides. As a warrior for the light, she should be pissed this scum has dared to lay hands on her again. She should be gearing up for a fight, not urinating in her Kevlar.

Everyone is entitled to their own emotions, and there have been quite a few vented over the ether the last few days, but for me it boils down to power. I like my heroes like I like my tea: strong, with a hint of sweetness. Fighters should feel fear, but what makes them strong enough to confront their enemy in battle is choosing to use that fear to fuel their fire. Batgirl deserves better. ALL women deserve better. Face your fear, OWN your fear, then go out and shove that fear down your opponent’s throat.

CHEW 47

CHEW #47

Written by John Layman and Illustrated by Rob Guillory

Published by Image Comics

By Avril Brown

Heads up, foodie fans, the latest CHEW issue is out and with it brings a breath of fresh air…kinda. Though still not exactly light-hearted this book offers a bit more hope for improvement in the lives of our beleaguered heroes…kinda.

chew47

Things are still a bit tense at the office, what with Colby having nightmares revolving over murdering one of his former partners and being persecuted by the other. D-Bear, a thug turned reserve FDA agent and Chu’s new partner, has taken to his new position with excessively rapid aplomb. While I don’t mind glossing over certain details for the sake of speeding up a story, the mysterious twelve hour transformation of D-Bear from amusing yet mostly inept wannabe G-man into an eloquent and efficient special agent who does most of the mental heavy lifting needs a bit more of an explanation than, well, none. A majority of the issue was dedicated to D-Bear narrating the food power villain of the month (a guy who can belch noxious gas if he eats old food), but the most interesting plot points involved the more familiar faces.

Chu is militantly watching over his people as they recover at the hospital, his loved ones, and his enemy. The palatable anger he expresses as he’s standing over Mason Savoy’s seemingly comatose bulk shows there may yet be hope for a Chu/Colby reunion. Chu threatens this man who took his ear, his partner and his daughter, leaving me with fingers crossed that love and friendship will win the day. The issue ends with a truly excellent woman power moment and one hell of a cliffy more dramatic than depressing, giving the distinct impression something big is about to go down. I’m truly looking forward to the next ride on this roller coaster.

BIG RED CHRONONAUTS

NEW IMAGES

Written and Drawn by Various

Published by Image Comics

Reviewed by Marc Mason

Three intriguing new releases from comics’ best publisher…

red-one-1

I was surprised in numerous ways by RED ONE #1, and that’s a rarity in comics these days. Written by Xavier Dorison with art by Terry & Rachel Dodson, the story follows a young Russian spy in 1977 as she is assigned to the U.S. in a secret plan to turn her in to a popular propaganda piece. Fairly straight-forward concept. Yet the execution is off-beat. Her first assignment is to make sure she gets hired as the driver for a porn director. Her contact in the State is, shall we say, going to be familiar to anyone who goes to comics shops. And the zest and joy that the character displays as she goes about doing what she does is delightful. This is a comic that isn’t afraid to smile.

But more than that, it is kind of a throwback in its look. The Dodsons are some of the States’ most popular artists, specializing in wide, expansive storytelling. But this book does not engage on that level. Most pages have 7-10 panels on them! Depending on your experience, it is either very Euro (where Dorison made his name) or very 1970s American. Either way, you don’t see books out of mainstream publishers that look like this in 2015. Not anymore. It’s actually visually jarring for a while before your brain begins to process it. Fortunately, it’s done extremely well, and I admired the way the artists executed it. Indeed, all the pieces here work together quite nicely. This one is a definite winner.

chrononauts-01

To say that I run hot-and-cold on Mark Millar’s work would be an understatement. I think that, at times, his characters exude too much smugness to be enjoyed, and that comes dangerously close to happening in CHRONONAUTS #1. Corbin Quinn is a scientist specializing in time theory and he invents a way to send objects back in time, starting with a satellite that he sends back to the 1800s to film the Battle of Gettysburg. From there, it’s only a short leap of logic to realize that sending a human comes next, which is where his friend and colleague Danny Reilly comes in.

It’s Reilly who comes close to derailing the book. Smug, overconfident, and cocksure, he’s every annoying character trait Millar seems to enjoy writing, dating back to when he took over THE AUTHORITY. Every bit of his dialogue might as well be translated into “Look how kewl I am!” His every utterance is a test of the reader’s patience.

So what saves this book and sends it teetering back into the camp of “must-read”? Artist Sean Murphy. Holy. Damn. This is a gorgeous comic. Pages that are rich in detail. Storytelling that is confident and clear. Every single page is worth spending extra time on just to absorb the care that went into drawing them. Put that kind of art together with a plot that is rather fun (lost in time and in need of rescue is always a winner), and you can get past an a bothersome character.

Big-Man-Plans-1

A violent, angry dwarf recounts the shitty life he’s led in BIG MAN PLANS #1, and while that doesn’t sound overly enticing, it’s actually a wonderfully dark and absorbing story. Written by Eric Powell and Tim Wiesch, with art by Powell, we meet our protagonist as he’s sitting in a bar waiting for a whiskey. Unfortunately, local assholes decide to mock him and give him chocolate milk… unfortunately for them, I should say. Because Big Man is all too happy to leave a hand grenade for a tip and assault a guy on the sidewalk on the way out. Impulse control is not exactly his specialty.

Really, the whole book is completely over the top, the kind of stuff you’d get in a great 1970s exploitation flick. A horrible childhood. A tour in the ‘Nam as a tunnel rat. A stint in the joint. It’s all here as Powell and Wiesch throw everything but the kitchen sink into the mix, and the results are a hoot. I love comics that have no fear of pushing the envelope, and this one does it superbly well. Looking forward to more.




OMNIUM GATHERUM 79

Omnium Gatherum #79: There’s More Than One Born Every Minute These Days

By Vince Moore

Howdy, folks, and welcome once again to the Omnium Gatherum.

It doesn’t matter who said it but as the saying goes, There’s a sucker born every minute. Nowadays it seems like there are more than one sucker every minute, a whole lot more.

For example, all the flap and kerfuffle over the new costumes DC announced for Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman last week. All kinds of gnashing of the teeth and ripping of clothes occurred on Facebook and Twitter over this.

Not to mention the dustup over the upcoming Batgirl cover that harkens back to The Killing Joke.

It seems to me that people’s feathers and dander get kicked up an awful lot each and every week.

So much so that I keep wondering when some of y’all folks out there will get the hint that you are being played for fools.

I mean, this is the TMZ, Kim Kardashian age. This is a time of shock and awe and shamelessness. This is the Age of Opinion as Truthdig pointed out recently, opinions which can deny the finds and facts of science. This is the Age of Nerd Outrage Each And Every Week! Arggh!!! Rrrrr!!!!

This is also the age where there is no such thing as bad press. That as long as hoi polloi are talking about you, your company, your brand(s), all is right with the world. This is true especially when that talking is taking place across the various platforms of social media. When your fans and/or haters (who is to say if they are separate categories nowadays) are talking your company or characters or storylines or costume changes up or down, that is digital word of mouth worth its weight in gold and cheaper than paying your own marketing and promotions department.

This is especially true when the news or non event presses the Nerd Outrage button.

Let something like the new costumes for the DC trinity hit the internets and that button gets pushing immediately, sending fans (mostly old ones) into rages in the privacy of their own homes that storm and stress all across the internets wide and far.

Or let a superheroine be threatened with an act of violence or with a change of costume that will show more skin and there are whole websites devoted to raging, raging against the dying of the light of empowered superheroines and fangirls everywhere.

And the companies, especially Marvel and DC, can sit back and watch all of this happen with smiles on their collective faces, smiling as their websites get more traffic and their names get mentioned over and over and over again, with links back to news items spreading like wildfire or the plague.

My perspective is a bit different these days. My last tour of duty in comics retail allowed me to glimpse another side of all of this hoopla. The side that a retailer who has to place orders sees. The side that sees the hype as hype, done to drive up orders on his or her end, in the hopes of driving up sales when the books come out.

Because it just is too difficult to tell good, compelling stories with superheroes these days, I guess.

Because the Big Two, Marvel and DC, are stuck in the bind of having to manage intellectual properties that are resources for current or potential movies and television shows, I reckon. They are also stuck with a model that causes every story to be collected into trades for future sales. This is very different from when the comics had to sell each and every month on their own merit. As I mentioned a few columns back, I am rereading some old favorites that have been collected. Paul Levitz even mentions in his introduction to the Great Darkness Saga hardcover that those comics were never meant to be read as a collection or as a single story; they were designed to be read in the month the books originally hit the newsstands or comics shops. So every issue feels complete unto itself. But, as a collection, that makes the reading a more satisfying experience because of that completeness and because the subplots are really the continuous elements to pay attention to. In the Great Darkness Saga, the return of Darkseid in the 30th Century is the main thrust but watching the relationship between Timber Wolf and Light Lass go through its ups and downs or seeing Lightning Lad fall apart over several issues are amazing to see unfold, each at their own pace.

Superhero comics used to do that, to tell the never ending stories of our heroes, the adventures and the soap opera, every month. Those writers and artists had to hook readers with compelling stories and subplots, interesting characters, dynamic art. And hype was used but used sparingly. It’s not like Phoenix is getting killed every few months or Thor is losing the hammer to every Tom, Dick, or Harry (oops, bad example but you know what I mean!) or the Punisher is being turned black every week. Stan “The Man” Let spent most of his time hyping Marvel as a brand and still cranking out kick ass, fun yarns by the pound.

Now it’s event upon event upon event, hype after hype after hype. Do the stories themselves matter anymore? Do the superheroes have adventures and fight the good fight anymore or just suffer through endless crises in secret?

I guess not, not in any real sense. We are in the Age of Sensation, when hype matters far more than style, let alone substance.

So go ahead, Nerd Rage all you want, folks. Because there are a lot of suckers being born during those minutes. All of which makes the Big Two and other companies happy.

Because as that great philosopher of the 20th Century W.C. Fields said “Never give a sucker an even break!”

Until next time, folks.

Namaste, y’all.

ROGUE ELEMENT 121

Rogue Element #121: 14 Seconds or Less

By Avril Brown

On Saturday February 28, 2015, Ultimate Fighting Championship fans geared up for the latest bantamweight title fight between the undefeated defending champion and all-around beast Ronda ‘Rowdy’ Rousey and (at the time) also undefeated challenger Cat Zingano. The bell rang, the fighters came out, and in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment Rowdy had her opponent submitting to her infamous deadly armbar. Fourteen seconds into the first round and Rowdy continues to reign supreme.

Some people were pissed at how quickly it was all over. This was supposed to be a drag out fight between two of the most famous female names in the mixed martial arts world, and fans were hoping for a least one solid round. Not to mention, Pay Per View is expensive, and even if you caught the game at a bar (which one waitress informed us costs the establishment at least $800 to air the fights) drinks are expensive. Who doesn’t want a little more for their money?

On the other side, if one is truly badass, the fight shouldn’t take long. To be fair, Cat came out hot and made a rookie mistake trying to knee Rowdy and take her to the floor. This woman is known throughout the community for her grappling skills and has won most of her fights via armbar submission, even once breaking an opponent’s arm. Once they were on the floor Rowdy was all business, flipping Cat and herself over until she maneuvered herself into position for a behind the arm lock. Done and done.

Love her or hate her, there’s no denying Rowdy’s got skills. So in honor of her quickest kill to date, here are some of my favorite fast finish fights in fantasy.

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

This already amazing movie boasts a fan favorite scene which also happens to be one of the most famous unscripted moments in an iconic movie. While Indy is racing through the streets of Cairo in search of his kidnapped love, he is confronted by an enormous man wielding a curved blade the size of an Ark. The set up screams ‘epic showdown,’ as did the script, but star Harrison Ford was suffering from food poisoning that day of filming and could barely stand, let alone engage in a mock battle. So instead of fighting the man-golem, Indy pulls out his revolver and shoots him once in the chest. The move is so Indy people can scarce believe it’s not butter, but really, why fight a man with a big ass sword when you don’t have to?

Angel Season 5 Series Finale

As with its ‘parent’ show ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ there are way too many fight scenes to count, and most of them rock. In this particular series, none rock harder in the ‘fourteen seconds or less’ division than Illyria’s final on-screen punch. Winifred Burkle, an adorable pixie genius and the heart of the show, was killed when an Old One, an ancient god-like creature, infected and took over her body, thus becoming Illyria but maintaining a semblance of Fred’s looks. One of Illyria’s many powers (in addition to her immense strength) is the ability to mask her demonic physical aspects (ice-blue eyes and partial skin tone, blue hair highlights) and look just like Fred. When she discovered Wesley, Fred’s love, dying after an encounter with another warlock, she ‘becomes’ Fred to ease his passing. After he’s gone his foe walks up to her, mocks her for mourning his loss and tells her, “C’mon girlie, give me your best shot.” And so she does. As Fred swivels around to give him what he asked for, she morphs back into Illyria on the fly and delivers a punch to the face worthy of an Old One who is really, REALLY pissed off. Now every time I hear Pat Benatar’s catchy hook I think of Illyria’s right one, and the face of a wizened old evil shit crumbling into dust under her fist.

Exiles

Pulled from different realities, mutant heroes from different worlds are banded together to form the Exiles, whom travel to alternate Earths to fix whatever went wrong. For the first couple years run this book was one of the best on the Marvel market; any hero, dead or alive, was fair game, as was any environment or scenario the creative team could come up with, making for some very intriguing and heart-wrenching story arcs. In one world the Exiles found themselves in an alien-occupied, world-dominating boxing ring where superhumans were pitted against each other in televised fights to please the masses. One of the Exiles team members, Calvin Rankin aka Mimic, had been caught early on and forced into the games. He fought for his survival, and the chance to escape, but he always tried to go easy on his opponents…save one. In this dog-eat-dog world, Steve Rogers never had the chance to truly become Captain America, and instead evolved into a cold-hearted bully, and the champion of the games. During what was to be the ‘championship’ bout between the Cap and Cal, everyone was expecting a bloody brawl, but Cal swiftly put an end to that. His mutant power was to mimic the powers of those he was near, and he had permanently absorbed the original five X-Men’s powers was he was younger, if to a lesser degree. He’d showcased almost all of these powers during his fights, but saved the best for last. While the crowd worked themselves up into a bloodthirsty lather as the Cap and Cal faced off, Cal simply blasted the bastardized American hero into the wall with his borrowed optic blasts, flipped the crowd the bird, and walked right back into his cell. He was their prisoner, but damn it all if Calvin refused to be their bitch.

Nowadays especially we tend to remember things that are loud, violent and brief, so the shorter the fight the more details we can commit to memory, but the truth is all fights leave a scar, be it physically, mentally or emotionally. Short fights do not mean shallow cuts; one painful word from a loved one can leave lasting consequences. However, fights that get right to the meat of the matter, the ones that aim a sharp jab right to the core, are the ones more quickly over with and resolved. Don’t drag out the fight; revel in the healing.