Saturday, May 29, 2010

Hero of the Week 2010 #21: Batman

BATMAN (DC) (2009)
Real Name: Bruce Wayne
First Appearance: Detective Comics #27 (May, 1939)
Group Affiliation: Justice League
Gaming Credentials: Batman (1986); Batman: The Caped Crusader (1988); Batman (1989)Batman (1990); Batman: Revenge of the Joker (1991); Batman Returns (1993); Batman: The Animated Series (1993); Adventures of Batman & Robin (1994); Justice League: Task Force (1995); Batman Forever (1996); Batman & Robin (1997); Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000); Batman: Gotham City Racer (2001); Batman: Vengeance (2001); Batman: Dark Tomorrow (2003); Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu (2004); Batman Begins (2005); Justice League Heroes (2006); Lego Batman (2008); Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe (2008); Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009); Batman: The Brave and the Bold (TBR/2010)DC Universe Online (TBR/2010); Batman: Arkham Asylum 2 (TBR/2011)
Infinite Wars Ranking: #1

It'll be a busy few years for the famed Dark Knight Detective, with a full slate of video game titles like the highly anticipated unnamed sequel to Arkham Asylum (2011), the cartoon-inspired Batman: Brave and the Bold in September (2010), and full MMO duty as a feature hero nestled in the story-driven interactive world of DC Universe Online, also scheduled for the end of 2010. The big announcement spurring the Bat-franchise onward as our Hero of the Week must be a third and final feature film from director Christopher Nolan, who will juggle his time between overseeing production of a new Superman film, while closing the saga of Christian Bale's Batman.

It's interesting that, in announcing the new film, director [Christopher] Nolan felt the need to stress the finite nature of his vision of The Batman. I think it's fair to say there was always a sense of a short term bond between the filmmaker and this new interpretation of The Dark Knight -- which he so successfully brought to life in the film sequel of the same name. It has obviously been a very fruitful collaboration for creator and character, but it's in that sense of controlled distance that the strengths of Batman Begins and it's sequel have lied. Nolan -- the first to admit his ignorance of the complexities of Batman canon -- outsourced perspective from writers like David Goyer, who helped corral references from some of the best Batman stories, such as Batman: Year OneThe Long Halloween, Dark Victory, and The Man Who Falls.

With his collaborators in tact and a growing familiarity with the Batman world he himself created, Nolan moves forward with a confidence no doubt gained from the unprecedented success of his Bat-filtered crime thriller inspired in part by the canon of the stories mentioned above, and film sources such as Heat. The question now begs -- where does the Batman's creative custodians look to in their third and final instalment? I'm beginning to think it might be the most obvious, but least likely of places!

The influence of Frank Miller on the Batman character can be seen readily in both comic book and film, his stories Year One and The Dark Knight Returns rating among the most revered texts in the seventy year history of the legend. The latter can be described as having the most influence on the demeanor of the Batman, whose meticulous detective mind and ultimate human physique was taken to gruff, grim, and gritty new extremes, emphasising the internal aspects of Batman, his perspective of a literal war on crime, and bastardly penchant for out-thinking even the great Superman to morally victorious ends.

The difficulty of adapting the layered text of The Dark Knight Returns for film lies not in the Reagan-era politics that runs throughout the story, it's references to a DC Universe that were elaborated upon in it's comic book sequel, or even the splashes of uncompromising violence that would push the boundaries of the bloodless PG rating The Dark Knight was able to achieve.

As a direct adaptation; the story of DKR requires casting Batman in an almost villainous outsider role. It is a tale set in the twilight of Batman's career, continued in 2001's long promised sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, but ultimately a story of the end of Batman, a Clint Eastwood inspired Dirty Harry-type in his golden years, fighting with very little to lose. For it's decidedly uncommercial and unfriendly perspective, it's the type of story that would rarely be accepted through the many tiers of red tape Hollywood films need to conquer to be written, produced, and advertised in the many franchised venues that inevitably follow. Nolan's Batman isn't just any franchise, however, and in stressing the next film as the end of his vision, I'm beginning to wonder if the sequel to The Dark Knight might not utilize it's financial and creative cache to bring the intent of The Dark Knight Returns to the film, if not the specifics of it's dressing.

The Dark Knight leaves us with a Batman wanted for the apparent death of Harvey Dent (a detail not quite set in stone by his literal and metaphoric fall from a great height) and willfully established as the outsider. In name and context, The Dark Knight readies audiences for a DKR-inspired film that might just achieve the impossible of realising this great story in a cinematic fashion. Superman is unlikely to appear. The Joker, established before his death by Heath Ledger, has been said to be omitted from any sequel plans, meaning that sub-plot of the comic might also have to be adapted in other ways, but the intent may remain the same. Which has me very excited about what might lie ahead, even if this is purely speculation. Whatever lies ahead almost certainly promises a big bang to close what has been the benchmark of these comic book adaptations.


The Dark Knight watches over Arkham Asylum with Gotham City looming ominously in the background.

Gamers no doubt look forward a very different sequel, one baring more in common with it's comic book counterparts, in the as yet unnamed follow-up to Arkham Asylum. The former game brought an even darker vision of Batman to home consoles, borrowing from a variety of sources, including another of the great Batman comic book tales unlikely to reach the big screen, Grant Morrison and Dave McKean's psychological thriller, Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth.

"Arkham 2" promises to bring Two-Face to the fore in a Gotham City bound dash for justice with the same hyper-stylized pseudo-realism of the first game. It's a steady contrast to stories unfolding in the comic books right now, where the afforementioned [Grant] Morrison takes Batman through the ages in Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne -- a follow-up to the apparent death of the character at the hands (or eyes) of New God of evil, Darkseid, in the end of DC's universe-spanning Final Crisis. In truth, Bruce Wayne was sent hurtling through time by the mysterious "Omega Sanction," the death that is many lives, each destined to end in ambiguous frivolity -- the ultimate punishment for a hero as controlling and obsessive as Batman!

These indulgent references, which typify Morrison's treatment of the character right through a run that features embellished tales inspired by the fifties bizarre of post-Comics Code Batman, are much more in keeping with the fantastical elements sure to be found in the Nintendo-exclusive adaptation of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. The game, based on the animated series of the same name, takes similar cues from the fifties, notably the garrish designs of many classic heroes and villains, sourced directly from the art style of early pencillers such as Dick Sprang -- who also influenced Frank Miller's burly visual take on the character in the Dark Knight Returns. Which brings us full circle, from film speculation, to comic book storylines, and the video games they have spawned!

If you're at all overwhelmed by this spiralling HOTW adventure, be sure to investigate the Batman's recent plight through DCcomics.com, where you'll find information about the Return of Bruce Wayne and the still running exploits of former-Robin, Dick Grayson, who has filled in as Batman for over a year's worth of stories now. Likewise, follow links throughout this article to find more information on 1UP about each of the games discussed.

<< Hero of the Week 06/06: Batman       [Home]       Hero of the Week 05/23: Thor >>

Originally updated: http://www.1up.com/do/blogEntry?bId=9032995

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

SHIPPING LIST: MAY 26, 2010
Disclaimer: You can probably find complete shipping list updates on most major comics sites. Consider this an opportunity to either do all your info-shopping in the one place, or get a speculative perspective on what might be worth checking out. These are untested reads. Secret Wars on Infinite Earths can offer no guarantee or endorsement of quality. These are simply titles that may be of potential interest. Some items may ship late.

The Infinite Wars now has a gift shop!
Now you'll find Amazon purchase links to hardcovers, trade paperbacks, and other collections, not only on regular entries -- but also new releases at the bottom of the Shipping List, and now a whole catalogue of potential purchases via the Infinite Wars: Amazonian Gift Shop. [Men are also welcome!] By shopping with Amazon via our purchase links, you not only find yourself a great deal, but also sponsor future entries on the Infinite Wars.

The Independents...
MAR100781 7 PSYCHOPATHS #1 $3.99
MAR100707 ARCHIE #609 $2.99
MAR100712 BETTY & VERONICA DOUBLE DIGEST #181 $3.99
APR100893 BOYS HC LTD ED VOL 06 SELF-PRESERVATION SOCIETY (MR) $29.99
FEB100391 CHOKER #3 (OF 6) (MR) $3.99
FEB100353 COWBOY NINJA VIKING TP (MR) $17.99
MAR101028 DOCTOR WHO ONGOING #11 $3.99
MAR100794 INCORRUPTIBLE #6 $3.99
DEC090386 INVINCIBLE TP VOL 12 STILL STANDING $16.99
MAR101302 LOST OFFICIAL MAGAZINE #30 SPECIAL PX ED $9.99
DEC090954 PHANTOM CHRONICLES HC VOL 02 (SEP098062) $37.99
DEC090951 PHANTOM GENERATIONS #11 $3.99
JAN100873 PROJECT SUPERPOWERS CHAPTER TWO #9 $2.99
FEB100841 ROBOCOP #4 (MR) $3.50
MAR101066 TALES OF TMNT #70 $3.25
MAR100391 WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BARON VON SHOCK #1 (MR) $3.99

The Corporates...
MAR100255 ACTION COMICS #858 NEW PTG $1.00
MAR100505 AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #37 $3.99
MAR100258 AUTHORITY #1 NEW PTG $1.00
MAR100269 BILLY BATSON AND THE MAGIC OF SHAZAM #16 $2.50
MAR100479 DAZZLER #1 $3.99
MAR100186 DETECTIVE COMICS #865 $3.99
MAR100530 DOOMWAR #4 (OF 6) $3.99
MAR100188 GOTHAM CITY SIRENS #12 $2.99
MAR100164 GREEN LANTERN CORPS #48 (BRIGHTEST DAY) $2.99
MAR100549 IRON MAN EXTREMIS DIRECTORS CUT #1 (OF 6) (MR) $3.99
MAR100225 JUSTICE LEAGUE THE RISE OF ARSENAL #3 (OF 4) $3.99
MAR100557 MARVEL ZOMBIES 5 #3 (OF 5) $3.99
MAR100205 SUPERMAN WAR OF THE SUPERMEN #4 (OF 4) $2.99

The Spotlight...
- MAR100781 7 PSYCHOPATHS #1 $3.99
With a high concept hook sure to please, Sean Phillips gives us 7 Psychopaths -- all out to do what nobody could: assasinate Hitler! You don't need to know a lot about the book to know it's well worth a look. Nevermind the Civil War inspired cover treatment! Just investigate the damned book! There are previews and interviews out there, and I'm sure you'll be glad to find 'em.

- MAR100501 AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #632 $2.99
I'm still in such disbelief, I'm not entirely sure I read it right! Last issue's shock ending suggests Dr. Curt Connors -- consumed by his beastial alter-ego, The Lizard -- has brutally devoured his own son! Yes, that son! He who, in so many previous plots, seemed to be the only thing sacred to the primal adaptation of Connors state of mind! It's all part of the sinister manipulations of the clan Kravinoff, whose Gauntlet of classic foes appears to be drawing to a conclusion! It's all part of a wild ride that's brought back the best in Spider-man, all the while tweaking his greatest foes in the most subtle of ways. Great reading!

- MAR100181 BATMAN RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE #2 OF (6) $3.99
It wouldn't be a Grant Morrison opus if there wasn't some degree of misguided confusion within the readership. Embued with many of the great strengths and traditions of the superhero comic book; Return of Bruce Wayne takes Batman through time, continuing the epic that began with Son of Batman, and forked off into a DCU saga begun with Bruce Wayne's apparent death in Final Crisis. We the readers have known the true fate of a time displaced Batman forced to live fruitless lives through time via the Omega Sanction -- but now the truth behind the maneuver lies revealed. It's a race against time as Batman drifts from life to life, leaving clues to be discovered by Dick Grayson and Damien in Batman and Robin, while Superman, Green Lantern, and Booster Gold drift through time to stop Darkseid's ultimate revenge reaching it's eventuality, because if Batman returns to the present the world is doomed! In the tradition of DCU epics like JLA: Rock of Ages and Final Crisis -- Return of Bruce Wayne draws on the energy of once reviled times in Batman's history, to glean context from a catalogue of works that creates something very different, and very exciting! High concept action in the stand alone, revised greatness for the Bat-historian, intertwining mega-plot for those living with RIP and Final Crisis in mind. This is comics!

- MAR100163 GREEN LANTERN #54 (BRIGHTEST DAY) $2.99
The franchise expansion that gave us an entire spectrum of ring wielding Lanterns continues off the back of Blackest Night, with a new mystery lurking in the darkness. The "New Guardians" are sticking around on Earth, which, if the cover to this issue is any indication, should involve some pretty interesting culture clashes that include the Red Lantern of rage's encounter with a subway train! Larfleeze promises to feature as well as he becomes acquainted with Earth's penchant for greed and avarice. Drifting somewhat in a passive freefall, it remains to be seen whether or not Geoff Johns has enough in the tank to bounce back from his Blackest Night epic with a return to more measured serialized storytelling. The odds are pretty good he does!

- MAR100167 JUSTICE LEAGUE GENERATION LOST #2 (BRIGHTEST DAY) $2.99
Brightest Day readers curious about Maxwell Lord's disappearance from the pages of that series need look no further! Generation Lost looks a lot like an excuse to give Keith Giffen the chance to gather up the International era Justice Leaguers he made famous for a tale designed to respond to long-running conspiracy theories that DC has it out for the once proud collective. After an utterly brilliant first issue, I'm not sure I'd hold it against them, but there's still a while to go in this Brightest Day mini-series tie-in. If nothing else, the big finish that saw Max Lord erase his existence from the memories of all but the core JLI group whole heartedly justifies his departure from Brightest Day into a separate mini. Neophytes need not feel too intimidated by it's connection to the stories of the eighties and early nineties. Broad context is all you need as the rest of the DCU (even Superman) joins you in their ignorance. A mini sure to drift under some radars and into sleeper hit status!

- MAR100207 MIGHTY CRUSADERS SPECIAL #1 $4.99
I haven't made much of an effort to get involved with the recently resurrected and revamped Red Circle/Archie heroes who were previously featured in DC's defunct Impact line (in the early nineties). At $4.99, this special continues to be omitted from my reading stack for financial reasons, but there's an undeniable intrigue about collecting them together. It saddens me to see the day when we'd pay $4.99 for a comic book, but as a super-sized buy, this probably isn't such a bad way to get in on The Mighty Crusaders, if you've had any inclination to do so.

- MAR100566 SECRET AVENGERS #1 HA $3.99
It's been a long time since I was thoroughly impressed by an Ed Brubaker comic book, so it's with extreme tredpidation that I look ahead to Secret Avengers. Apparently borrowing even more heavily from the Secret Defenders model hinted at by the last group to take that name [aka; the New Avengers]; Secret Avengers promises to bring together unlikely characters many fans have been anticipating for the modern Avengers line-ups for quite some time. Beast, Moon Knight, War Machine, Valkyrie, Nova, and others set to appear in Steve Rogers' newly appointed secret team, all evoke the tradition of the late nineties Secret Defenders, which saw Dr. Strange creating team-ups for appropriate situations. With a variety of Avengers titles launching out of the Heroic Age, there'll be a lot of competition for business within the Marvel line-up and this will prove a true test of Brubaker's energy levels and attention span be this a long, or short term gathering. Here's hoping he rises to the challenge and does so beyond the first half-dozen issues!

- MAR100584 THANOS IMPERATIVE IGNITION #1 $3.99
Marvel's cosmic corner of the universe continues to bubble away with excitement, quietly ushering in the return of one of it's significant big bads in Guardians of the Galaxy. Thanos is back and about to become the subject of the next big event to spin the various relevant titles together with The Thanos Imperative. It all allegdly starts right here, so consider yourself warned, true believer! It's always an interesting prospect to have the Mad Titan in the mix, even if I'm a little bit surly about the speed with which he was brought back, despite the cosmic quarters leniency toward such events.

- MAR100579 THUNDERBOLTS #144 HA $2.99
As a stalwart of New Avengers through it's fifty-plus issue run; it seems like a demotion to see Luke Cage shunted into Thunderbolts. The former Hero for Hire will inherit responsibility over the latest crop of villains-turned-hero in the Heroic Age's answer to Norman Osborns recently expunged private task force. As always, the series boots up with an intriguing line-up including alumnists, Ghost and Moonstone, as well as unlikely arrivals; Crossbones, Juggernaut, and Man-Thing. The team promises a lot of potential to pick-up on plotlines from Civil War, Dark Reign, and the "death" of Captain America, but the prestige of the series is fresh in the minds of anyone who's been reading over the past few years. It feels like a demotion for Luke Cage, but I'm not sure it is. As the lynchpin of the new team, it should be a long sought opportunity to have the character return to a starring spot, above and beyond the influence of his unofficial leadership of the Secret Avengers in Brian Bendis' now ended series -- assuming, of course, his role is more significant than a liason from the recently revealed Avengers. Either way -- a high concept comic well worth a look!

READ THE PREVIEW - VISIT THE SITE - BUY THE COMIC

Know Your Trade...
DEC090607 AVENGERS WEST COAST AVENGERS ASSEMBLE PREM HC $29.99
APR100893 BOYS HC LTD ED VOL 06 SELF-PRESERVATION SOCIETY (MR) $29.99
FEB100353 COWBOY NINJA VIKING TP (MR) $17.99
FEB100183 DCS GREATEST IMAGINARY STORIES TP VOL 02 $19.99
FEB100184 DOC SAVAGE THE MAN OF BRONZE TP $17.99
MAR100667 ESSENTIAL FANTASTIC FOUR TP VOL 08 $19.99
DEC090386 INVINCIBLE TP VOL 12 STILL STANDING $16.99
MAR100652 IRON MAN CAPTAIN AMERICA TP $24.99
MAR100623 MMW AMAZING SPIDER-MAN TP VOL 04 $24.99
DEC090588 MMW AVENGERS HC VOL 10 $54.99
DEC090586 MMW GOLDEN AGE CAPTAIN AMERICA HC VOL 04 $59.99
DEC090954 PHANTOM CHRONICLES HC VOL 02 (SEP098062) $37.99
FEB100240 ROBOTECH PRELUDE TO THE SHADOW CHRONICLES TP $17.99
MAR100655 SPIDER-MAN COMPLETE CLONE SAGA EPIC TP BOOK 02 $34.99
MAR100627 SPIDER-MAN REAL CLONE SAGA HC $29.99
DEC090221 WEDNESDAY COMICS HC $49.99




Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hero of the Week 2010 #20: Thor

THOR (Marvel)
Real Name: Thor, "Odinson" (aka; Dr. Donald Blake)
First Appearance: Journey into Mystery #83 (August, 1962)
Group Affiliation: Avengers, Asgard
Gaming Credentials: Marvel vs Capcom (1998); Marvel Ultimate Alliance (2006); Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 (2009); Marvel Super Hero Squad (2009); Marvel vs Capcom 3 (TBA/2011); Marvel Super Hero Squad Online (TBR/2010); Thor (TBA/2011); The First Avenger: Captain America (TBA/2011)
Infinite Wars Ranking: #28

If you accept the theory that superheroes are part of modern mythology, then it stands to reason you might mix some of the classics in with your newbies. When it comes to Marvels "mightiest heroes", The Avengers, that's exactly the philosophy employed! For five decades Thor has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Iron Man and Captain America as the very best of the best -- the iconic big three Avengers ever since they discovered the Captain frozen in the sea and thawed him out!

Despite the seemingly unbreakable bond these franchise players have formed, the modern era hasn't been especially accepting of Norse Gods within the ranks of a premiere superhero team. Working against Thor is a conspiracy of factors including the inherent fantasy-genre tropes of the purest Thor source material, which don't gel as naturally with the average contemporary superhero story, and the widespread misconception that superheroes who aren't boring brown haired boys, or alcoholics, are too "unrelatable" to be interesting. As you can see from the above list, it certainly didn't do him any favours when video games were out scouting!

Those who've remained in the dark of cinemas long enough to see Iron Man 2's post-credits teaser -- and the crater inhabiting Mjolnir (Thor's hammer) featured within -- might already be beginning to change their thinking. Fans of the Marvel Ultimate Alliance games will have a similar perspective for the way the familiar aspects of a covert intelligence agency (SHIELD) can bridge the gap between the mysticism and fantasy of Thor, and the established contemporary precedent for the Marvel movie universe, which came with the high-tech plausibility of Iron Man.

Indeed, it was the Iron Man films that first tackled this obstacle of men versus magic, when Jon Favreau and his team opted to drop the title characters most iconic nemesis, The Mandarin, from the final script. What fans found instead was a playful reference to the master villain and his objects of power, alluded to in the naming of the film's terrorist antagonists, The Ten Rings.

In May of next year, audiences will get their first taste of the fantasy to come, when Thor the movie hits cinemas. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, it features relative unknown Chris Hemsworth in the lead role, an actor Australians will recognise from his five nights a week role in primetime soap, Home and Away. It'll be a long way from the beach-bound dramas of his fresh faced role, with early snaps promising a mature, bearded Hemsworth who looks as much the part as mere mortals can.

Sir Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman will lend their marquee reputations to the film, while seasoned thespia, Tom HIddleston, inhabits the role of Thor's mischief making nemesis and half-brother, Loki. The film promises to bridge the gap of Asgard and the Norse Gods with characteristic interest in "Midgard" -- the world of humanity, which Thor has classically inhabited as both the mighty Avenger, and in his human alter-ego, Dr. Donald Blake.

When Iron Man and Thor converge with yet another Marvel movie license hitting screens in 2011, The First Avenger: Captain America, the stage will be set for one of the most ambitious undertakings in any of the library of superhero films that have hit screens since 2000! Avengers, if nothing else, will fulfill the imaginative wishes of comic book fanboys worldwide, who've envisioned this type of team-up for as long as there have been superheroes on film. It is arguably the ultimate legacy of the movies that started it all, namely X-Men (2000), which was the first real attempt to create a superhero team on the big screen.


Thor brings the pain verily in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, with the smiting assist from Deadpool!

Over in the comics, Thor's integration into the Avengers has been as natural as you would expect.
Thor broke from the group when Asgard entered Ragnarok during 2004's Avengers Disassembled, while Iron Man and Captain America became bitter philosophical enemies in Civil War. They were brought together just recently in Marvel's mediocre four-issue event, Siege, which gave us the new marquee approach of the Heroic Age, which features a world reshaped by Captain America, who has accepted the role of the world's "top cop" -- previously inhabited by Iron Man during Civil War, and Norman Osborn in the just concluded Dark Reign.

You'll find Thor tossing his hammer indescriminately at time travelling fiends, alongside Iron Man, Spider-man, Wolverine, and some of Marvel's other premiere heroes, in the pages of the recently relaunched Avengers. Issue #1 should still be on shelves! For more information on Avengers and the Heroic Age, check out Marvel.com! Thor will also join the recent of the super-deformed Marvel Universe when they go online in the recently announced MMO, Marvel Super Hero Squad Online. It remains to be seen if this renewed presence will extend to Marvel vs Capcom 3, upgrading the hero from support character to playable hammer tosser, and if Sega's initial claim to the Thor film license will eventuate in a solo game in 2011 after their recent cutbacks.

<< Hero of the Week 05/29: Batman       [Home]       Hero of the Week 05/16: Sentry >>

Originally posted: http://www.1up.com/do/blogEntry?bId=9031387

BRAVE & BOLD: WRATH OF THE SPECTRE!
Look only at the surface of TV's Batman: Brave and the Bold and you might be discouraged from giving the kid-friendly cartoon the chance it deserves. In these modern times it's become tough to sell Batman beyond his grim and gritty street adventures, which were animated expertly in the nineties by the almost definitive works of Batman: The Animated Series, and popularized by films like The Dark Knight. Alas; to overlook this show is to overlook greatness and know only one face of the multi-facetted Caped Crusader!

Seventy years of history has given us a library of comic book versions of the Dark Knight, along with equally mixed results in other media forms, ranging from the lasting influence of the 1930s serials, to the cringe-worthy camp of Adam West and the live-action 1960s series.
Against all odds, Batman: Brave and the Bold draws upon all of these influences, and more, to create a hybrid concept sourcing the strengths of the best and worst of Batman of all forms. On the surface, the design is clearly heavily influenced by the Adam West era and it's 1950s post-Comics Code inspirations, but beneath that is a Batman with all the grit and determination you know and love from his comic adventures.

The great lure of Brave and the Bold goes well beyond that of just another Batman series, using to great strength the entire DC Universe! It goes farther than the awkwardly insular Justice League series' that spun out of the Bruce Timm cartoons, moving freely by not taking itself too seriously, or demanding strict consistency in it's material. Indulgent beyond anything you've seen before, Brave and the Bold is arguably the smartest DC cartoon ever created! It was in the recent second series episode, Gorillas In Our Midst, that this cool went one step further!


First appearing in More Fun Comics #52 in early 1940; The Spectre is one of the all-time great heroes of the classic Golden Age. Better known to current readers as a lofty omnipotent being tied to either Hal Jordan or Crispus Allen; The Spectre was originally the personified spirit of God's vengeance bound to a deceased police detective named Jim Corrigan! Throught the years he dealt bitter justice to those whose hearts knew evil, compelled to punish with limitless power and a penchant for tortures of irony.

Unfortunately, the above preview clip doesn't give you the entire taste of this episode's opening sequence. As you can see, Batman takes on fifties villain, Professor Milo, with The Spectre watching on. Batman doesn't agree with Spectre's unwavering lethality, believing in the judicial system. As young viewers would've seen first-hand, The Spectre doesn't care much for the Batman's opinions, returning post-battle to deliver one of his trademark fates -- death by test rats, unleashed on a helpless Milo transformed into cheese!

Granted, it isn't quite as gruesome as some of The Spectre's comic book punishments, but for a Saturday morning cartoon, this sequence impressed me for it's creepy factor! It comes off the heels of The Spectre's appearance on home video in a "Showcase" short film released as bonus material on the Justice League: Crisis of Two Earths DVD -- a project conceived because of the appearant unlikelihood of The Spectre's appearance in other projects. Which is exactly the kind of defiance that Brave and the Bold shows routinely, making first-class TV heroes out of the likes of cult favourites including; Kamandi, Wildcat, B'wana Beast, and Vixen! Even Aquaman gets a main event boost from the loving comedic bravado of the show's interpretation!

Fans digging deep into the DCU over the past few years will find a lot to like about the show, especially if you're the kind of Bat-fan who loves when Grant Morrison gets his hands dirty with the same kind of enthusiastic manipulation of quirky Bat-history. A lot of the same high concept energy is expelled here, with a wholely unique brand of animated Bat-results!

The second series hasn't quite had the freshness of the first, but I'm still thoroughly enjoying it, and in the recent appearances of The Spectre, I'm pleased with just how spooky it can be. I was inspired to tell you about the show because of that factor, which is all too often bumped out of kids cartoons these days. This is the kind of scary I enjoyed as a kid! Such fun! Even better -- it might breed the annoying fear of the unknown out of "new" readers, too!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

SHIPPING LIST: MAY 19, 2010
Disclaimer: You can probably find complete shipping list updates on most major comics sites. Consider this an opportunity to either do all your info-shopping in the one place, or get a speculative perspective on what might be worth checking out. These are untested reads. Secret Wars on Infinite Earths can offer no guarantee or endorsement of quality. These are simply titles that may be of potential interest. Some items may ship late.

The Infinite Wars now has a gift shop!
Now you'll find Amazon purchase links to hardcovers, trade paperbacks, and other collections, not only on regular entries -- but also new releases at the bottom of the Shipping List, and now a whole catalogue of potential purchases via the Infinite Wars: Amazonian Gift Shop. [Men are also welcome!] By shopping with Amazon via our purchase links, you not only find yourself a great deal, but also sponsor future entries on the Infinite Wars.

The Independents...
FEB101068 2000 AD PACK APR 2010 $18.00
MAR100785 ANCHOR #8 $3.99
MAR100708 ARCHIE AMERICANA SER TP VOL 10 BEST OF 70S BOOK 2 $11.95
MAR100706 ARCHIE DIGEST #264 $2.69
JAN100456 ASTOUNDING WOLF-MAN #23 $2.99
FEB101071 ATOMIC ROBO REVENGE O/T VAMPIRE DIMENSION #3 (OF 4) $3.50
SEP090280 COMPLETE INVINCIBLE LIBRARY HC VOL 02 $125.00
FEB100018 END LEAGUE TP VOL 02 WEATHERED STATUES $16.99
MAR100882 EXPENDABLES #1 (OF 4) $3.99
JAN100463 JERSEY GODS #12 $4.99
MAR100713 JUGHEAD #201 (NOTE PRICE) $2.99
MAR101032 KILL SHAKESPEARE #2 $3.99
NOV090360 SHADOWHAWK CHRONICLES TP VOL 01 $19.99
MAR100375 SPAWN ORIGINS TP VOL 05 $14.99
MAR101045 TANK GIRL ROYAL ESCAPE #3 (OF 4) $3.99
FEB100403 WALKING DEAD #72 (MR) $2.99
MAR101134 WWE HEROES #3 $3.99

The Corporates...
MAR100508 AMAZING SPIDER-MAN PRESENTS AMERICAN SON #1 (OF 4) $3.99
MAR100187 BATMAN STREETS OF GOTHAM #12 $3.99
MAR100536 ENTER THE HEROIC AGE #1 HA $3.99
JAN100330 EX MACHINA #49 (MR) $2.99
FEB100451 GIRL COMICS #2 (OF 3) $4.99
MAR100546 INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #26 HA $2.99
MAR100173 JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #45 (BRIGHTEST DAY) $3.99
MAR100478 RESCUE #1 $3.99
MAR100214 SPIRIT #2 $3.99
MAR100203 SUPERMAN WAR OF THE SUPERMEN #3 (OF 4) $2.99

The Spotlight...
- MAR100534 AGE OF HEROES #1 (OF 4) HA $3.99
As Marvel exits the heroic depression of their Dark Reign concept, I find myself drawing vague comparisons to DC's direction of the past few years. I don't know that it's entirely fair, but with the arrival of this four-issue anthology series compiling heroes of various tiers of relevance, the comparisons get more specific. Marvel's recent history with anthology titles has been pretty grim, inflecting little actual material via their inadvertent house style of writing. With interesting choices like MI:13 and Brother Voodoo putting in a showing next to the Avengers et al, here's hoping they can make the best of it. Brightest Day has really defied the expectations of it's vignette style, so the competition is certainly tough!

- MAR100516 AVENGERS #1 HA $3.99
- MAR100520 AVENGERS ASSEMBLE #1 HA $3.99

All roads lead here as the Heroic Age begins!
If nothing else, Siege has definitely painted a sunburst picture of the new period Marvel Comics are about to enter. My greatest hope is that the new Avengers series, and Marvel in general, can avoid event comics all together, returning to the tradition of fly by the seat superhero comics. Heroic Age really projects an attitude of hope, not just for the superheroes in the fiction, but also readers who might've grown tired with the approach of the company. Of course, I cynically reserve judgment about Brian Bendis' ability to deliver a satisfying first issue, especially with the Avengers, noting in particular that the change in guard that's placed Steve Rogers in charge of whatever SHIELD-type organization will be created, almost feels like it should apply to the people directing Marvel Comics. It feels as if their time should be passed and a bright new voice should be heard. We'll see if Bendis and Co are up to fulfilling that type of self-aware juxtaposition, or if they merely steer themselves toward the already accused DC-lite.

- MAR100161 BRIGHTEST DAY #2 $2.99
Brightest Day definitely has me -- but keeping me will be another challenge all together. Last issue confirmed that the Blackest Night isn't completely passed, with Aquaman and Mera baring witness to some undead sea life. Mystery hangs over all twelve key plotlines of the resurrected heroes (and villains) -- hopefully this second issue starts to at least infer some answers. Black Manta's return is a nice surprise, feeling like Brightest Day will serve as a Rebirth style mini-series for Aquaman, if not the other key players in this series. Not a bad way to revise the method that brought Hal Jordan (Green Lantern: Rebirth) and Barry Allen (Flash: Rebirth) back to us, if that proves to be the case!

- MAR100176 DC UNIVERSE LEGACIES #1 (OF 10) $3.99
Right or wrong, modern readers like to feel nurtured by the big two comics universes, so historic revisions aren't entirely misplaced. For the initiated, it takes a special approach to keep the material feeling fresh and worth the money. The Marvels Project showed how not to do this, but will DC Universe: Legacies be any more likely to succeed? That's the million dollar question! Thanks to their steady maintenance of properties, DC's Golden Age material feels much more alive and endearing than Marvel's, so the opening JSA-centric issue of Legacies will have that much going for it. I'll be looking for a lively, natural comic book classic feel to really appreciate it. DC have been progressive in this department, but it's also fair to say that this simply might not be the book for me. TV's Smallville certainly showed how versions of the classics can have significant appeal to a wider and younger audience than I.

- MAR100882 EXPENDABLES #1 (OF 4) $3.99
Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Arnold Schwarzenegger, "The Natural" Randy Couture, Eric Roberts, Stone Cold Steve Austin. These are the banner stars of the Stallone penned film of the same name coming in 2010. If you have a shred of appreciation for the action movies these men starred in throughout the eighties and nineties, then you must see this film. Whether or not you must read the comic book published by Dynamite Entertainment, remains to be seen. At four $3.99 issues it's a mid-range investment, but as is wont of these sorts of projects, buyers should probably exercise Van Damme-style caution. Don't turn the project down outright like you're some kinda Belgian hotsot, too good for these guys after an award-winning film titled after your initials. Just do the splits across your kitchen counter and make sure the water isn't electrified before you commit to buying up.

- MAR100210 LEGION OF SUPER HEROES #1 $3.99
Traditionally I'm just not a fan of the Legion, but you know how this story goes. With arcs presented in Action Comics and Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds; Geoff Johns honed the army of characters to their finest, indulging in the best of their complexities without painting a picture spread too thin, or too thick. The balance got wobbly with co-features in Adventure Comics that felt like Johns was just rushing through. It remains to be seen if this will effect the continued enjoyment of their presentation, especially under the potentially rusty pen of recently resigned DC President, Paul Levitz. At the very least, it doesn't look as if the board has been completely cleared as Levitz promises to pick-up on threads built up by Johns' Final Crisis story, beginning with the induction of a reborn 30th Century Green Lantern Corps! Not a bad way to start things off!

- MAR100234 ZATANNA #1 $2.99
I hate to do it, but I'm going to continue what is becoming a routine critical opinion of Marvel, versus their DC counterparts. If you've been with the Comic Book Fight Club since 2005, you know I'm an old Marvel man at heart. They've lost my well informed support over the last half-decade for a multitude of reasons, and in the wake of Her-Oes, Girl Comics, and various other releases this week, you get a look at the disingenuous side of Marvel's marketting and creative that I don't like.

Undoubtedly, the female comics reading audience has become an important and vocal part of the readership. Their dedication online is evidenced by sister sites I read, like When Fangirls Attack and Girls Gone Geek. Without wanting to speak for them, or be too critical of their opinions, I think they're smarter than the recent Marvel female-pitched line of comics gives them credit, and that's why there remains a huge discrepency between the volume of the female readership's enthusiasm, and the sales figures. All too often it's a shallow, big grinning comic book with boobs on the cover that's pitched to the girls by Marvel (and DC), delivered more like a high school boy pretending to be sensitive so as to reach third base. That's not how you make a good book, if you ask me. I don't go out of my way to buy a comic because I know it panders to the superficial aspects of my gender. I'm looking for stories that take for granted the sex of the character and are driven by well written creative direction. Maybe I need to look deeper into the titles I'm accusing, but certainly, from a light rummage through previews and solicitations, it seems as if they're insulting my intelligence. The titles certainly do!

Zatanna makes the overdue leap to a much touted on-going series, bringing with her the well qualified Paul Dini. He's written Zatanna to great results in Detective Comics and Gotham City Sirens, and should be well equipped to write not a great series starring a woman and pitched at a female demographic, but rather, a great comic series. One aware of it's character, it's medium, and the universal necessity of a good story. Oh yeah, he married a magician too. That's gotta be useful for research!

READ THE PREVIEW - VISIT THE SITE - BUY THE COMIC

Know Your Trade...
JAN100295 ATOMIC KNIGHTS HC $39.99
JAN100294 BATMAN STREETS OF GOTHAM HC VOL 01 HUSH MONEY $19.99
SEP090280 COMPLETE INVINCIBLE LIBRARY HC VOL 02 $125.00
MAR100665 DESTROYER TP (MR) $19.99
FEB100018 END LEAGUE TP VOL 02 WEATHERED STATUES $16.99
JAN100331 EX MACHINA DELUXE EDITION HC VOL 03 (MR) $29.99
FEB100190 LEGION OF SUPER HEROES ENEMY MANIFEST TP $14.99
NOV090360 SHADOWHAWK CHRONICLES TP VOL 01 $19.99
MAR100375 SPAWN ORIGINS TP VOL 05 $14.99
MAR100629 SPIDER-MAN GAUNTLET PREM HC VOL 03 VULTURE MORBIUS $19.99



Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hero of the Week 2010 #19: The Sentry

THE SENTRY (Marvel)
Real Name: Bob Reynolds
First Appearance: The Sentry #1 (September, 2000)
Group Affiliation: Dark Avengers, Avengers (former)
Gaming Credentials: Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 (2008); Marvel vs Capcom 3 (TBA); Marvel Super Hero Squad Online (TBA)
Infinite Wars Ranking: #93


Big news in the gaming-comics world this week was official confirmation of Captain America and Deadpool as playable characters in Marvel vs Capcom 3. Even bigger than that was developments in Marvel's Siege -- a series undoing the power trip of Norman Osborn, aka; Iron Patriot aka; Green Goblin, who rose to power in the Marvel Universe when an alien shape-shifter invasion created doubt about, and made a scapegoat of, former dominant power, Tony Stark. Siege is the culmination of five years worth of rolling plotlines that disassembled the classic Avengers, pit the heroes against each other in a civil war, led to Osborn's dark reign of wolves in sheeps clothing, and now comes back around to a "Heroic Age" that reinstates the classic trio of Cap, Iron Man, and Thor as heads of the Marvel superhero fraternity and Avengers franchise.

Siege will also be remembered for pulling the pin on one of Marvel's most loaded characters, both in the sense of bringing about his (un)timely demise, but also in revealing the long suspected nature of his ability to be evil.

The Sentry came from not-so humble beginnings.
In fact, in 2000, the character was launched as one of the unsung creations of the Marvel Era, supposedly forgotten on the scrapheap of ideas that led Stan Lee to co-create the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Spider-man, Hulk, and the various other superheroes that have made him a legend.

In truth, The Sentry was created by Paul Jenkins, Jae Lee, and Rick Veitch; the result of a metamorphasis that began with a simple pitch about a flawed tired everyman hero, which turned into the hoax of the new millenium.

To embellish their fantastic claim of an undiscovered pre-FF Stan Lee hero, Jenkins and Lee, who had garnered attention for their Marvel Knights Inhumans mini-series, were granted the opportunity to create a false history for the character. Through various one-shots and mini-seres, the saga of Robert Reynolds, aka; The Sentry, was laid to bare, connecting him to all of Stan Lee's greatest Marvel creations, with unforseen results. He became a great friend to the X-Men's Angel, Mr. Fantastic, and Hulk -- even exhibiting a calming effect on the latter that made he and the green goliath an unstoppable crime-fighting duo!

The Sentry experiment was completed with a conclusion that justified it all as Marvel canon -- an end that revealed the Sentry's penchant for creating a dark mirror of his impossibly powerful and heroic self -- The Void! In a final moment of self-sacrifice, the Sentry completed the meta-hoax of his fictional creation, erasing himself and all references to him from the Marvel canon with the aid of Dr. Strange and Reed Richards. With the true nature of the project revealed and the story concluded, it would seem that was the end of The Sentry's saga, but when Brian Michael Bendis relaunched the Avengers in 2005, he set about to bring the character back to the forefront of a Marvel Universe he had dominated in a history that never was.

It might sound like a pretty reasonable idea to bring a character of such fanciful fiction into the Marvel Universe, but for a new generation of readers that had been recruited through the launch of millenial projects like the Ultimate comics, and longer serving readers too, it would prove a tough sell.

The Sentry was uncovered during the first arc of New Avengers, which started with a breakout at the super human prison, The Vault. Here, the Sentry made his shocking return to the Marvel universe, bearded and tired, bursting with the power of a thousand exploding suns. The exact nature of his unfathomable powers had never quite been defined in the quaint adventures explored by Jenkins and Lee, so it was to be a memorable demonstration for fans when, on 'return', the Sentry demonstrated his abilities by flying long reviled nineties creation (by Bendis and a vocal majority of jaded comics readers), Carnage, into space, where he tore him asunder.

This single event not only introduced the hero as a penfing prospect of the newly reassembled Avengers, but also confirmed that everything we'd been told by Jenkins had happened, and that the Marvel Universe was now a world of mixed histories. A fact that came to the fore in Siege: Fallen Son, which revelled in the hollow sentiments of a universe more aware of The Sentry's heroic triumphs than a good many readers.

The character and his secret history was explored through mini-series and continued adventures in various Avengers titles, but the more the Sentry was exposed to the readership, the less liked he seemed to become. By 2010, many prominent comics commentary sources were [humorously] offering a bounty to any Marvel writer who'd finally return The Sentry to the nothingness from whence he came -- such was the struggle to sell this concept to a readership under the illusion that their most familiar heroes were defined by weakness.

The Sentry, clad in primary colours and large S insignia, was a none-too-subtle analogue to DC's Superman -- a character many credit as the start of dominant superhero culture. Borrowing from the Superman archetype is nothing new in comics [I've done it myself], but for Marvel Comics, this was, in many ways, their first longterm mainstream attempt to enfuse the classical superhero with their own brand of flaws and foibles. The result -- an emotionally disturbed individual whose fragile psyche was as dangerous to the success of a mission as kryptonite and magic.

I personally regard the assumption that Marvel is somehow unique in their application of character flaws as a massive misconception. In the internet age, ideas like these have been propagated to be an interesting discussion piece embraced as fact by the uninitiated and unconfident, alike. In some ways, I think The Sentry is a karmic reflection of this widespread illusion of the Stan Lee superhero model, which gave these fans the logical realization of what they were claiming. Ironically, while I frown upon spreading this myth of Marvel's uber-humanity versus DC's capes, I actually find the Sentry an interesting concept -- one that never got time to be explored to it's fullest extent.

The Superman model raises so many questions, it's supported series from every major publisher, and a good many independent obscurities as well. Alan Moore tackled the subject with Rob Liefeld and Supreme; Marvel's had a crack with various analogues, including various incarnations of Hyperion and the Squadron Supreme; Mark Waid and BOOM! Studios have exploded with their dark take, Irredeemable; and DC themselves have even explored the adaptive relevance of the character with popular stories like The Dark Knight Returns, Kingdom Come, and Superman: Red Son. Each story tackled elements of Superman's relevance to ultimate power, alien perspectives, paranoia, nature vs nurture, judicial systems and law enforcement, government responsibility, legacy, and iconography. The Sentry, unfortunately, struggled to reach these lofty topics, bogged down in the assumption that the summary of his character was his emotional flaw and penchant for bursting into tears and explosive panic attacks mid-battle -- an interesting idea, but one that blew up in Marvel's face, to a large extent.


The Sentry is the US Government's Deus Ex Machina when Hulk lays waste to New York City in World War Hulk.

The Sentry had his highlights. Like the many fantasy fight debates about whether or not a certain hero could combat Superman; The Sentry's battles in the Marvel Universe satisfied the basic lust for competition that exists in many readers. If nothing else, The Sentry succeeded in delivering some exciting action moments that will be remembered by many fans fondly, including his last-issue showdown with Hulk in World War Hulk, and even last minute bouts with Thor and Ares in Siege.

It seems entirely likely that The Sentry might return at some point in the future, reprising his out-of-control role as The Void. For the time being, it seems there'll be very little love lost for many readers, who've viewed the past five years cynically with few reasons to think otherwise. This was potentially a very interesting subject -- the existence of a Marvel Superman -- but in the end, the character is one that remains waiting to be redeemed, without the burden of similarities to other Superman analogues like Mr. Majestic, or Miracleman (aka; Marvelman). It remains to be seen whether or not The Sentry might get a second shot at life through games like Marvel vs Capcom 3, or the just announced MMO, Super Hero Squad Online. I'd call those odds a longshot, at best.

The death of Sentry and end of Norman Osborn's Dark Reign has brought about a Heroic Age in Marvel Comics, but before sunbursts takeover the lay of the land, you can check out Siege #1-#4 for all the important action. Further details lie in final issues of Dark Avengers and Avengers: The Initiative, and for those that appreciated the character, an elaborative farewell lies in Siege: Fallen Son. You can find more information on all of that at Marvel.com and good comics retailers.

<< Hero of the Week 05/23: Thor       [Home]       Hero of the Week 05/09: Nick Fury >>

Originally posted: http://www.1up.com/do/blogEntry?bId=9030579

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

SHIPPING LIST: MAY 12, 2010
Disclaimer: You can probably find complete shipping list updates on most major comics sites. Consider this an opportunity to either do all your info-shopping in the one place, or get a speculative perspective on what might be worth checking out. These are untested reads. Secret Wars on Infinite Earths can offer no guarantee or endorsement of quality. These are simply titles that may be of potential interest. Some items may ship late.

The Infinite Wars now has a gift shop!
Now you'll find Amazon purchase links to hardcovers, trade paperbacks, and other collections, not only on regular entries -- but also new releases at the bottom of the Shipping List, and now a whole catalogue of potential purchases via the Infinite Wars: Amazonian Gift Shop. [Men are also welcome!] By shopping with Amazon via our purchase links, you not only find yourself a great deal, but also sponsor future entries on the Infinite Wars.

The Independents...
MAR100711 BETTY & VERONICA DIGEST #204 $2.69
FEB100823 BLACK TERROR #10 $3.50
MAR100044 BPRD KING OF FEAR #5 (OF 5) $2.99
JAN100209 JOURNAL BETTIE PAGE HORIZON $9.99
FEB101070 JUDGE DREDD COMPLETE CASE FILES TP VOL 15 $36.99
MAR100714 JUGHEADS DOUBLE DIGEST #160 $3.99
AUG090320 LIBERTY MEADOWS TP VOL 01 EDEN (NEW PTG) $14.99
SEP090292 LIBERTY MEADOWS VOL 02 CREATURE COMFORTS TP (NEW PTG) $14.99
MAR100436 SAVAGE DRAGON #160 $3.50
JAN100494 WITCHBLADE #136 $2.99

The Corporates...
MAR100473 ASTONISHING X-MEN XENOGENESIS #1 (OF 5) $3.99
FEB100432 AVENGERS INITIATIVE #35 SIEGE $2.99
MAR100185 BATMAN #699 $2.99
MAR100169 BIRDS OF PREY #1 (BRIGHTEST DAY) $2.99
MAR100526 BLACK WIDOW #2 HA $2.99
MAR100493 DEADPOOL TEAM-UP #893 $2.99
MAR100212 DOC SAVAGE #2 $3.99
FEB100436 FALLEN SIEGE $3.99
FEB100158 FIRST WAVE #2 (OF 6) $3.99
MAR100257 HELLBLAZER #1 NEW PTG $1.00
MAR100615 PUNISHERMAX #7 (MR) $3.99
MAR100201 SUPERMAN WAR OF THE SUPERMEN #2 (OF 4) $2.99
MAR100603 WOLVERINE #900 $4.99
MAR100610 X-FACTOR FOREVER #3 $3.99

The Spotlight...
- MAR100499 AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #631 $2.99
A slow start to the Lizard component of "Shed" was disappointing after last month's opening to the Juggernaut/Captain Universe story was similarly over stretched. I'm not sure if The Gauntlet is still officially in effect, but at the very least, #630 promised big things for this issue. Zeb Wells and Chris Bachalo inject a youthful vibrance to the story without stripping gravitas from the simmering beast beneath Dr. Curt Connors. I'm not entirely convinced Lizard will remain the same come the conclusion of this arc, but I'm loving any glimpse of the classic villains. Black Cat appearances felt like stuffed-in cameo filler, as the saga of Peter Parker's love life continues, but at least offered some editorial consistency to the hum of the series. One finds it difficult to not want to bash Joe Quesada over the head for that relationship-oriented lull, but the hate might be better earned by the upcoming O.M.I.T arc. It becomes presiently apparent that The Gauntlet concept was the real joy of this series. I'm hoping future projects will prove there's more at work here than that, though.

- MAR100178 BATMAN RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE #1 (OF 6) $3.99
If a few years ago you told me I would love a Batman and Robin book, I would've laughed in your face. If you told me I'd be even more excited about a time travelling tale that introduced action figure styled "Caveman" and "Colonial" Batman variants, I might've punched you in the face. Such is the mysticism of Grant Morrison's ability to invest in a concept and creatively rationalize a balance between the absurd and sublime. Everything about The Return of Bruce Wayne seems to be wrong, but if Morrison's last few years of unlikely Batman topics have been any indication, then it will all work out for the intriguing best.

Following up on Wayne's being stranded in time by Darkseid via the effects of his Final Crisis delivered Omega Sanction; Return ironically rests on the premise of being an event undoing the effects of a previous event. This might have some muckrakers feeling discontent, but it would be an unsubtle analysis of the construction of this story that has apparently been in play throughout the entirety of Morrison's run, pre-Batman and Robin included. Chris Sprouse should add a little sugar to the medicine with previews showing off a very attractive start to the super-sized six issue series.

- MAR100529 DAREDEVIL CAGE MATCH #1 $2.99
Ed Brubaker's DD had meandered somewhere distinctly toward irrelevance by the time he placed The Hand in the control of the man without fear. Sadly, Andy Diggle hasn't set the world on fire with deliberate references to the goings on of the Marvel Universe and it's Dark Reign, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't interested in the upcoming DD-centric event connecting loosely to the Heroic Age. Tough to know how much material in Cage Match will feel like the main meal, and how much will be referencial backstory acting as a primer to the Shadowland event (DD vs Avengers), but chances are it'll be a fun read for anyone not overly familiar with Daredevil and Luke Cage's history as Power Man. Worth investigating.

- MAR100171 FLASH #2 (BRIGHTEST DAY) $2.99
Time travel is probably a given when it comes to The Flash, but I thought we might start with something a bit more Earthbound than murdered Rogues from a distant future. My first reaction is that it might be too impersonal a way to indoctrinate readers into the life of a resurrected Barry Allen who got good integration out of Rebirth and early Blackest Night appearances, but was somewhat absorbed by the enormity of the Blue Lantern/Blackest Night concepts. More pedestrian fare might've been nice, but I quickly realise that Geoff Johns rarely leads us astray in matters such as the construction of a character and his world. He brings back the end-page teaser, this time for what appears to be a future filled with references to the contemporary heroes of the DC Universe, Superman and Batman in feature. Too early to tell where it's all going, but I'm definitely keen enough to find out!

- MAR100165 JUSTICE LEAGUE GENERATION LOST #1 (BRIGHTEST DAY) $2.99
Beginning with 2004's Identity Crisis and continuing right up to the present; the cast of characters affectionately known as the Justice League International (or, Formerly Known as the Justice League) have pretty much been fair game in the DC Universe deathpools. Fans of the now legendary Keith Giffen/JM DeMatteis run have been calling out for a reprieve for quite some time now, and while fan favourites like Blue Beetle and Elongated Man remain among the deceased, Captain Atom is back to join the rest of the team in a hunt for the Beetle's resurrected killer -- Maxwell Lord! Lord was among the the twelve heroes (and villains) resurrected by the White Lantern's light at the end of Blackest Night, and will presumably have a greater role to play when the nature of those resurrections is revealed later in the year. For the time being, it looks like his portion of the Brightest Day tale will at least appease fans of the JLI as they reunite to hunt their former ally. It'd be a treat if the Captain's resurrection since flipping out as Monarch and getting killed in Countdown could be explained here, but I won't be holding my breath.

- FEB100546 MARVELS PROJECT #8 (OF 8) $3.99
I hate to say it, but another plodding Ed Brubaker special comes to it's conclusion. I really wanted to get on board with Marvels Project, but this was the kind of series that really required patience for the writer's monotoned style, it's snail's pace, and the fact that it was elaborating on material that's basically familiar to a lot of readers, myself included. At some point this revised version of Marvel's history might be nice to have on a shelf in collected format, but I can't help but feel this was an exciting concept that just never reached it's full potential. In the early goings, at least, this was far from a marvel.

- FEB100435 NEW AVENGERS FINALE #1 SIEGE $4.99
After just sixty-four issues over a handful of years, I can't help but feel this is an abrupt end to a series that took a very long time to get on it's feet, and never quite had any time to be itself. Brian Bendis walks away having written the entirety of the run, concluding in the same fashion as the first volume Avengers with a special. I'm not convinced it warrants an epilogue, but I'll certainly miss what only recently became one of Marvel's best bets in the monthly stakes. At $4.99, this is a tough sell, especially if there's any validity to the suspicion that it might be an overwrought nostalgia dump with little or no connection to the next few years. Bendis has a nasty habit of spinning his wheels on the "character driven" non-space without any of the really significant emotive justifications that would make that acceptable. Further investigation required!

- FEB100421 SIEGE #4 (OF 4) $3.99
[Brian] Bendis features again with the wrap-up to Siege -- a series that promised to be all meat, but was almost nothing but chewy fat. While DC have shown an intelligent design to their shared universe events, Marvel feel like pretenders as scenes from Siege play out to greater significance in tie-ins, leaving only a string of story to carry the core book. Four-issues seemed like a great way for the team to live up to the promise of nothing but action and meaning, but with rare exception, it's just meant there's less of that. If nothing else, Siege will finally resolve the dangling question of The Sentry's role in the Marvel Universe, while also giving the basic detail of how Norman Osborn's Dark Reign will be dethroned and the classic Avengers [Captain America, Iron Man, Thor] will be reunited. It just lacks the punch and gravitas that a series like this should've had. Like Secret Invasion before it, Siege feels like a clunker of summer blockbuster proportions. Maybe the meat's in the final issue?

- MAR100174 TITANS VILLAINS FOR HIRE SPECIAL #1 $4.99
We saw Deathstroke acting as a villain for hire in last week's issue of Batman and Robin, but I'm not sure that's any kind of sales pitch for an unknown quantity of $4.99 proportions. Tattooed Man on the cover jumps from the cover, reminding me of the potential that character had when he played an honorary role with the Justice League during the post-apocalyptic barney of Final Crisis. It's a shame nothing ever came of that, but I digress. Traditionally I'm not much of a fan of (Teen) Titans-related paraphernalia, but the high concept pitch of villains hunting heroes is a great one! I really dislike the popular theory that villains cannot star in a comic book. This pandering notion that villains are unrelatable or unlikeable is absolute nonsense. Granted, in corporate comics, it's unlikely to be a sustainable model when the team's targets are the likes of The Atom, but as far as tangents go, it could be fun!

READ THE PREVIEW - VISIT THE SITE - BUY THE COMIC

Know Your Trade...
MAR100666 DOCTOR VOODOO AVENGER OF SUPERNATURAL TP $16.99
MAR100668 ESSENTIAL X-MEN TP VOL 03 NEW PTG $19.99
FEB100231 EX MACHINA TP VOL 09 RING OUT THE OLD (MR) $14.99
MAR100638 INCREDIBLE HERCULES PREM HC ASSAULT ON NEW OLYMPUS $19.99
JAN100209 JOURNAL BETTIE PAGE HORIZON $9.99
FEB101070 JUDGE DREDD COMPLETE CASE FILES TP VOL 15 $36.99
AUG090320 LIBERTY MEADOWS TP VOL 01 EDEN (NEW PTG) $14.99
SEP090292 LIBERTY MEADOWS VOL 02 CREATURE COMFORTS TP (NEW PTG) $14.99
FEB100193 QUESTION TP VOL 06 THE PEACEMAKER $19.99
FEB100267 SWEET TOOTH TP VOL 01 OUT OF THE WOODS (MR) $9.99
FEB100200 WONDER WOMAN WARKILLER TP $14.99