Sunday, May 19, 2024

Martian Manhunter Annual #2 (October, 1999)

"In the early years of my residence on Earth, I traveled to Africa, took the form of a gorilla and lived as one of them among a tribe in the wild." Though he was treated as one of the lowest status, J'Onn J'Onzz was at least tolerated, and even embraced as a friend by some. When human researchers came to study the apes, the G'Orilla studied them back. Then the poachers came while the Martian was elsewhere, slaughtering scientist and gorilla alike in pursuit of valuable... novelties. Severed heads. Ashtrays fashioned out of paws. The Sleuth from Outer Space tracked the poachers, and used his telepathy to force them to turn themselves in to authorities. He mused that the savage beast assumptions regarding gorillas was more a projection of human's own aggression and avarice than what he had seen amongst the tribe.

Even the various assaults and forced conversions during JLApe: Gorilla Warfare could all be understood as repercussions of the assassination of King Solovar-- but by whom? Who stood to gain? After purging his recent gorilla hybrid-form from his "shape-memory matrix" and restoring his super-hero default, J'Onn J'Onzz traveled to the JLA Watchtower to collaborate with The Batman on this impenetrable mystery. Following Green Lantern Annual #8, "The Morphic Resonance Array was destroyed, but not before a significant portion of the world's population had been transformed into gorillas. Chaos currently reigns. In response to your earlier comments, I'd like to point out that Green Lantern's condition was the reason for my hasty departure from the U.N." [JLA Annual #3 (September, 1999)]

Despite The Dark Knight Detective's constant condescension and dimminishment of his abilities, The Sleuth from Outer Space had also deduced the identity of the mastermind behind this incident, but felt the need to build a case in order to understand where to locate and how to defeat the culprit. To this end, private investigator John Jones, and other alien alter egos, interviewed known associates like Bobo T. Chimpanzee, Monsieur Mallah, Sam Simeon, and William "Congo Bill" Glenmorgan for insights. Sam fanboyed over the Manhunter from Mars, asking him to pose for a sketch.

While John Jones was playing Simian Team-Up, the JLA were doing real stuff, like averting nuclear catastrophe and joining Grogamesh in evacuating Gorilla City as a precaution. It was here that the Sleuth solved Cluedo, explaining that it was Gorilla Grodd in the coup with the assassination. Envy was the motive, and thanks to having absorbed all the mental energy of the gathered gorillas and neo-simians globally, Grodd had the power of a god to blast Martian Manhunter, who reverted to his natural form. However, fully ascending to a deity seemingly meant Grodd being stripped of his identity, and when the Martian pointed this out while "worshiping" the Super-Gorilla for his sacrifice, Grodd recoiled and collapsed. This was done in a sequence of three double-page spreads, joining the many Image-style visuals for big annual storytelling that did thankfully help the pacing on these thickish books. A babbling, vegetative Grodd was locked away in an asylum, and Ulgo sought to normalize relations between Gorilla City and the human world.

"Fear and Loathing on the Planet of the Apes" was by Len Kaminski, Gus Vasquez, & Mark Propst. As I was suffering discontent about a year into the run of the 1998 ongoing series, I especially enjoyed this, the final ever Martian Manhunter/Magnificent 7 JLA solo annual. Which I largely lay at the feet of Ostrander/Mandrake, but that's an admittedly minority opinion. Kaminski was a writer that I always tended to enjoy, who should have had a better career, and who I thought had a really good handle on the Alien Atlas. He and fill-in writer John Arcudi were the guys I kept hoping would take over the series when Ostrander was done with it, only for the title itself to give out after three years. But it was so good, the DC Message Board lectured me. Here, I loved stuff like J'Onn inserting himself into non-human Earth populations, and I really appreciated the trend of pitting J'Onn against Grodd. He's best known as a Flash villain, but the mental powers and outsider perspective made their pairings natural. Obviously it would have been even better if these Silver Age revivalists had, y'know, revived actual Silver Age Martian Manhunter villains, but that's asking too much. Grodd's one of my favorite DC villains, going all the way back to Challenge of the Super Friends, so bring him on.

Vasquez has a rubbery quality that suits J'Onn in a way it wouldn't any other JLAer, and I felt it was more of a piece with the popular style of Howard Porter on JLA broadly and Don Hillsman III very specifically on the Martian Marvel in this time period. I especially liked his Natural Form Martian, which I digitally "cut out" in one of my first forays into Microsoft Paint, to post on my late '90s Web-TV site, so we go way back. For the artist, it was mostly just back-ups and one-offs going forward, though he was still kicking around as late at the 2010s. Kaminski did some more JLA work here and there, but was mostly out of comics after the turn of the century, and I understand is currently committed to a wheelchair in a nursing home against his will. That certainly puts things in perspective. But hey, sorry for the delay in wrapping up this coverage. It's been a lot of apes for a long time. Despite generally liking this storyline, I had misgivings about taking it on in the blogging medium, especially once I felt compelled to look at each book for my different venues. Well founded misgivings, hence the delay.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Green Lantern Annual #8 (October, 1999)

Like most of his fellow JLAers, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner briefly regressed to being controlled by Gorilla City while in his ape form, but took the problem further than most. Where the other heroes managed to shake both the influence and the form in relatively short order, the neophyte mostly gave in, becoming a proper gorilla soldier against mankind. As noted by the Sleuth from Outer Space in his own forthcoming, conclusive annual, "However, by this time, the orbital morphic resonator array is operational, defended by a force of space marines led by General Zolog-- aided by Green Lantern, who had been subverted to the gorilla cause." Building a close camaraderie with several of his fellow gorilla grunts, the Green Lantern would play an important role in General Zolog's bid to succeed as his contemporaries repeatedly failed. Essentially, as the last ape standing, all the future glory or blame fell on Zolog's fuzzy shoulders.

In a show of (increasingly limited) power, Zolog ordered the ape-ification of Honolulu, but had to deactivate cloaking to do so, allowing their detection by the Sleuth from Outer Space at the JLA Watchtower. I'm not sure who put it together, but the Alien Atlas has an unconventional team ready to go, made up of Golden Age Green Lantern Alan Scott, Warrior, and the Metal Men. J'Onn once worked with Scott in the 1970s, and of course had associated with him via the JLA/JSA crossovers. Guy Gardner of Justice League International was well familiar, and I was well pleased that he was played as his usual crass self, rather than the Beau Smith glow-up. The Metal Men was the curve ball, though they did go back to JLA: Year One.

Just as Gorilla Lantern engaged this force, he was teleported to the Watchtower, where he was greeted by a gorilla claiming to be part of a force that now occupied the facility. However, this ape slipped up in calling the Lantern "Kyle," rather than his ape name, and his power ring set tentacles upon the disguised Martian. However, J'Onn continued using Kyle's name, and helping him to remember who he truly was. The ring did the rest. "Thanks to my rather duplicitous efforts, Green Lantern was restored to normal, as have been the rest of the JLA." Kyle had initially been concerned for his ape comrades, and now for all of his friends, and rushed back into combat. Unfortunately, General Zolog was something of a simian Kissinger, willing and able to sacrifice many of his own men in a last bid for overall victory. Green Lantern helped mitigate the fallout, but still lost some of his former men, wounding hearts on both sides of this gorilla warfare.

"Grunts" was by Keith Giffen, Octavio J. Cariello, Jr., John Nadeau, Marcelo Campos, & Jordi Ensign. J'Onn's synopsis was written by Len Kaminski. Obviously, my coverage of "JLApril" is late and entirely prompted by the podcasting event that I linked to last week, but I wish I'd run even later, so that I could take advantage of the sharp digital scans in the newly released collection of these comics. The 1999 version were printed on lousy paper that gave everything a gray tinge and made the colors a drab mess. I don't always love the glossy sheen of modern printing, but trust that it's an improvement. Anyway, this was a nice read, my favorite of the satellite solo annuals (obviously not counting the bookends with our favorite Martian.) Giffen on his own doesn't sing like he did with his better collaborators, but his weary, cranky voice suits this material. Unfortunately, there's several instances of the editor blowing it, allowing dialogue balloons intended for one character to come out of the "mouth" of another. Thankfully, the dialogue is distinct enough for the reader to tell where the fault lies. Despite often being thought of as a funny guy, Giffen plays this one fairly straight, lending an unexpected poignancy. But also, he brings in JLI favorite Guy, who naturally plays well with our boy. Star Wars artist Nadeau leans into the grit, so that it's jarring when the style switches to more clean cut super-heroics mid-sequence. Further, Cariello demonstrated his own moody chops on Deathstroke, so maybe there was a heavy-handed inker? It all looks good, just different. Oddly enough, both pencillers moved out of comics and into painting after this. Man, it was so nice to see J'Onn working with people with whom he had a history, instead of whichever team-up tickled Ostrander's fancy on a given month.

Monday, April 29, 2024

Podcast: Dial F for Flanger episode 26

DIAL F FOR FLANGER is a comic chat show.

Flanger is joined by Martian Manhunter super-fan Diabolu Frank to conclude #JLApril2024

The boys are looking at Martian Manhunter Annual 2 from 1999 which is part 8. the final chapter of JLAPE GORILLA WARFARE. The issue is by Len Kaminski, Gus Vasquez, Claude St Aubin, Mark Probst, Carla Feeny, Kurt Hathaway, edited by Dan Raspler and an epic cover by Arthur Adams.

Follow along with all the podcasts participating in the JLApril crossover by searching #JLApril2024 on social media
JLApril Podcasts

Monday, April 22, 2024

JLA Annual #3 (September, 1999)

After finally opening diplomatic relations with the U.N, and revealing the existence of Gorilla City to the world, King Solovar was assassinated. His nephew and successor, Prince Regent Ulgo, then blamed humanity and launched a counter-offensive. But also, Ulgo was secretly a member of the Inner Circle of the Simian Scarlet Cultural Purity Movement, an extremist faction of super intelligent gorillas. Other members included the mobster Grimm, General Zolog, Admiral Trafalgo, and the sorceress Abu-Gita, but they were all dancing on the strings of Gorilla Grodd.

Martian Manhunter received a request at the Watchtower from Gorilla City to send a diplomatic envoy of JLA members to help mitigate the damage. Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and Dark Flash were openly deployed, while an invisible Alien Atlas followed along in secret. Before reaching Gorilla City, the party was ambushed, and exposed to a gas that turned the lot into gorillas. Worse, some form of mind control was exerted over them, causing them to turn on the "hu-mans." However, the Martian Manhunter retained his wits, if not his form, and used his telepathy to mostly restore the JLA's more human instincts. Back at the Watchtower, Green Lantern Kyle Rayner thought that he was being hazed by the more veteran members of "JLApe." Batman and the Martian Hu-Manhunter worked together on a cure for the "Gorillabomb," but the Simian Sleuth from Outer Space had to pursue help from Animal Man, who was disoriented by troubling memories of a "Coyote Messiah" and the like. Recognizing "I'm important to the plot," Buddy Baker helps J'Onn J'Onzz understand how to use the morphogenetic field to restore the team.

In his absence, the male JLApes began posturing for dominance to court Wonder Woman as a mate, and the Manhunter had to reassert their identity matrices telepathically. Unfortunately, Ulgo then deployed gorillabombs at the United Nations, transforming the entire body while adding Green Lantern to the apes. The intended cure was used to restore the U.N., but the JLA were still trapped in gorilla form. The JLA divided their forces to address various fields in play in the conflict with Gorilla City, while Batman couldn't shake the nagging suspicion that J'Onn was hiding something.

"Gorilla Warfare" was by Len Kaminski, Jason Orfalas, and Jordi Ensign. Aside from poor work-life-podcasting balance this month, my ambivalence toward covering this event (and its scale/page count) contributed to my low productivity this month. I needn't have hesitated, because this was a fun and relatively brisk read with a bunch of puns and two-page spreads (one of which was interrupted by a fold-out ad for a video game about monkeys and bananas, appropriately enough. I'm not wild for the artist's Semeiks-influenced humans, but his apes strongly reflect the Arthur Adams covers, which is surely a welcome sight. If you're interested, the recent podcast Dial F for Flanger - Episode 24 covers the issue in greater detail.

Monday, April 8, 2024

2024 New 52-ish Martian Manhuter art by Dee Kilroy

I have a project in mind for this month that I'm ambivalent towards, and coupled with recent overall delays and a painfully unweildy podcast edit to tame about six hours of recordings into two, at best that's deferred by another week. At least April has three more Mondays, and my lapse gives me another chance to feature a cool Dee Kilroy piece. I couldn't find the exact reference, but the artist had expressed an interest in seeing what the New 52 Martian Manhunter design would look like with the Bronze/Chromium Age high folded collar. This version is really high-- almost the "vampire" collar of Howard Porter JLA. I have a longing for the "detective" collar that is surely at least partially fueled by my introduction to the character in the Super Powers Collection from 1985 (remind me to fix those pics sometime), but I'm not sure if it mixes with the Jim Lee aesthetic. Still, fun to see it manifested, and I dig the extra alienness in the piece.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Nubia: Coronation Special #1 (July, 2022)

Years ago, in Denver, CO, the Amazon Nu'Bia was arrested by local authorities. Nu'Bia was the guard over Doom's Doorway, under the island paradise of Themyscira, through which Tartarus can be reached. I suppose she vacationed on occasion, while fully armored, and might have cause to break the arm of an attempted rapist* if one crossed her path. The cops were, well, cops, so they cuffed her instead of the creep and talked about putting her in her place (for women? Blacks? Resistors? Check all that apply.) It didn't help that the actual perpetrator was the deputy mayor's son.

Nu'Bia was taken to an interrogation room, where she was more cordially greeted by a plainclothes African-American detective. He explained that this was a he said /she said situation, presumably because the woman with her child who the assailed man had attempted to "take" had left the scene before police arrived, so the deputy mayor's son now claimed he'd turned down the woman's solicitation, and was beaten and robbed for his virtue. Nu'Bia was increasingly incensed-- by the assault, the disrespect, the lies. The detective repeatedly told her to calm down, eventually explaining "I know your sister, Diana. We work together sometimes." J'Onn let a bit of his green skin show, but it was the black skin he was otherwise wearing that he referenced when he continued, "... you and I have more in common here in man's world than the two of you. The color of our skin-- yours, my chosen form, and even the woman who was the real victim here? It has us viewed as not just less than others, but actively seen as dangerous. It makes us targets and scapegoats." Despite his own expressed contempt for the badged bigots that had brought Nu'Bia in, J'Onn acknowledged that even outranking them, he was still at least partially beholden to the white supremacist structures they upheld. The Martian observed that while African-Americans are no longer technically property, "they are still seen as objects. And if we are not acting as grateful mules, we are a liability to their way of life.

Nu'Bia rejected any accommodations for white frailty, and wondered if the people in this place were worth saving. J'Onn explained that he believed in being subtle in his aid to the oppressed of this land, but the Amazon questioned if that was just complacency. Essentially, his experiences with the race war on Mars meant that he was unwilling to use his powers to create an autocracy, so gently, quietly nudging humanity toward justice was the best option as he saw it. For instance, using his powers to essentially erase Nu'Bia's involvement in the assault, from both the physical and mental record, then removing the handcuffs she herself didn't break loose out of respect. J'Onn gave Nu'Bia a card that would provide her with help if it was needed again. "Just because they aren't ready yet, it doesn't mean you're not needed. You just need to be more careful, for your own sake.

This story segment was written by Stephanie Williams & Vita Ayala, with art by Darryl Banks. I was reading the event Trial of the Amazons for a podcast, not enjoying it, and this was part of a two book coda. I was kind of checked out, so I thought it was cute that the artist was using David Harewood as reference for this cop, and missed the "Denver" part entirely. D'oh! We're probably past the point of needing coded Blackness from a Martian, but as a fan, I do appreciate noted police officer John Jones expressing views that better align with my own than, say, David Clarke. Sorry for the lapse in posts, but I had a medical thing, then a crush of podcasting and life stuff.

* Apparently, just using this word will put the post in some sort of Google jail. I'm not changing $#!+. Euphemisms protect the guilty, not the innocent. Say it plain to speak the truth.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Green Lantern Corps #4-5 (February-March, 2012)

The planet Xabas. A team of Green Lanterns with depleted power rings led by John Stewart were surrounded by robot ninja dudes possessed of emerald energy weapons of their own. Said weapons were demonstrated as useless against the ninja dudes, thanks to DNA signatures. The head ninja dude saw the fire in Stewart's eyes, even in surrender. "We spit on all treaties, and surrender's abhorrent to you as it is to us... That's why I feel you still need... the proper motivation." Head ninja dude stabbed a bald Caucasian Green Lantern in the head, spilling conveniently purple blood.

On Oa, Guy Gardner was torturing a captured ninja dude for information. Without the standard issue black armor, he looked like Chemo on Slimfast with a skeleton floating inside. Six pages in, I learned the ninja dudes are called Keepers, but I still don't know the name of the executed GL. Gardner tried to play good cop/bad cop with Salaak, but the old alien was too much of a fuddy-duddy to go full Patriot Act on the Keeper. The Keepers were slaughtering whole planets full of people, but to Green Lanterns, that sounds like Tuesday.

Elsewhere, some big rocky Lantern named Kannu was beating up actual rocks and himself over leaving a fellow corpsman behind. Elsewhere elsewhere, the reptilian Isamot Kol was trying to work a power ring with his tongue in a training session, since his arms and legs were still regrowing. Sheriff Mardin recommended he switch to his tail, since the ring apparently tasted terrible. I think these guys had all escaped Xabas, unlike poor Unnamed Cannon Fodder, who shall long be mourned. After all, John Stewart needed something else to feel guilty about.

The GL POWs were teleported to a barren world pocked by power battery impressions. "Be prepared to lose your will and maybe your lives... as you cross the Emerald Plains."

Guy Gardner continued his brutal interrogation, but not drugs nor violence nor threats could break the Keeper. From out of nowhere came the Martian Manhunter, with whom the Green Lantern apparently has no prior history in the New 52. J'Onn J'Onzz informed Gardner of his identity and position with Stormwatch, fully intending to wipe the Lantern's memory after extracting all relevant information from the Keeper's mind. As it turned out, what they kept were GL power batteries, on the plain where Lanterns could send their power sources to keep them from being left otherwise unattended. That situation turned sour, and now the Keepers were headed for Oa to claim the Central Power Battery...

"Prisoners of War" & "Mean Machine" was by Peter J. Tomasi, Fernando Pasarin and Scott Hanna. Remember that old Stan Lee saying about how every comic is somebody's first? Tomasi doesn't. See, this was my first issue of GLC since the Mongul arc from volume one. I don't think many of the corpsmen here who were in that story. I don't know these guys, and I don't feel like I got much of an introduction. Guy Gardner playing Jack Bauer was in character, but Martian Manhunter came right out of Tomasi's poop chute to get all mindrapey. You know what kind of comics I don't need to read? Vague ones with nothing new or interesting to say except to tell me that all my funny JLI issues don't count anymore. I've got a few longboxes of that good stuff, and they're the only reason I bought this book... once.

Here's a fun fact-- if the previous text came off as coarse or flippant, there's a reason for that. It was written in the time period of the comic. The draft was last updated in late January of 2012, over a dozen years ago, art and all. I never got around to buying the second part of the story, and this was also in a period where I was overburdening myself trying to do New 52 posts across all my DC blogs at the same time. No wonder I burnt out. I do not missing scanning comics, either. So yes, I was in a much different head space in the moment, rather than looking back on the ambiguities of a then-new continuity that has become increasingly irrelevant. I mean, this was so early on that they were still coloring the New 52 costume dark blue, and honestly, I miss that. Also, I used Pasarin's art for my April Fool's 2012 New 52 Wave 3 Martian Manhunter #1!, which got a lot of views at the time, so maybe I didn't want to step on that action. Man, I really liked his art, and still wonder why he didn't have a better career. Where's his Ghost Machine title? As much as I enjoy Eddy Barrows, I wish they'd gone with "my" book instead of the Rob Williams' series that I didn't finish reading.

Anyway, I never bothered completing my coverage before because J'Onn is barely in the next issue, and absent entirely from the finale. After giving Guy the information outright torture wasn't yielding, the Manhunter also inspired Gardner to pull together a group of rebel Lanterns to help save their comrades. Also, John Stewart snapped the neck of one of his own men to prevent his weakness from giving Oa over to the bad guys, because Tomasi can too grimdark as hard as Geoff. Oh, and the Alien Atlas did all this because it was out of Stormwatch's scope, and he apparently mindwiped all the Lanterns so they wouldn't remember his involvement. No wonder I was such a pill back then.

Monday, March 11, 2024

Legion Lost #6 (April, 2012)

This is, like, a dozen years late, so I'll keep it short. Timber Wolf and Chameleon Girl had been captured and held at "The Clinic," a secret government stronghold to study alien life forms and technology for defensive applications. Martian Manhunter had been tasked by Stormwatch with following unique energy signatures detected when the time-tossed Legionnaires arrived in the 21st Century. J'Onn J'Onzz was shocked to find that Brin Londo could "see" through his invisibility and altering the perceptions of the Clinic's staff. The Sleuth from Outer Space struggled to read the evolved 30th Century minds, and also was surprised that Timber Wolf knew who he was (the New 52 still hadn't firmly decided if he was a publicly known hero, but he's a legend in the future.) The other Legionnaires worked to release their comrades, which led to a confrontation between Manhunter and Wildfire. The cooler head of Tyroc prevailed, as he negotiated with and fully opened his mind to the Manhunter from Mars. The Alien Atlas then helped Chameleon Girl regain her natural form and eventually consciousness by helping her to absorb needed biomass from a Durlan corpse held in the facility. Having gotten his answers, he then left the Legion to their own devices. After all, "Time-travel is a strictly one way trip. You cannot return home. You're all going to die here."

"Inevitable" was by Fabian Nicieza & Tom DeFalco and Pete Woods & Matt Camp. Although I don't know if we needed such a sinister Manhunter, those edges got knocked off as the New 52 progressed. I enjoyed the visuals for the Martian Marvel in this issue, giving him giant cartoon hands to carry Yera Allon or shapeshift into a dragon like in the opening credits of the Justice League cartoon. There's a reason why Jim Lee's redesign has survived to the present, when so little else from nü-DC's terrible teens can still be seen.

Monday, March 4, 2024

2023 Natural Martian art by Dee Kilroy

I've been wording a lot lately, and am taking advantage of the opportunity to week off on a picturing. Hopefully not divulging too much via the following quote from the artist...
Stumbled across the Rolled Spine 'casts last year, seeing as nobody else out there has much, if any, active interest in niche nonsense like Continuity Comics, or long-forgotten Image books. It's been a wild ride, catching up. Been a boon, too. I've been recovering from a skull fracture and having my drawing hand stitched back together, so every moment of laughter helps.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

DC Power 2024 (March, 2024)

If you haven't been following the story so far, Raphael Arce gained empathic powers during the Lazarus Planet event, which led him to a confrontation between Martian Manhunter and the psychic ghost of Doomsday that caused his corpse to be pressurized into a blood gem of sorts. Later, around the same time Supergirl and the Alien Atlas were dragged to the metaphysical Hell to again deal with Doomsday, we learned the infernal realm also hosted the lost soul of Raphael Arce. However, in the afterlife Arce had taken on the identity of Bloodwynd, with a new array of abilities. He was at this point in the Fifth Circle of Hell, and had to use a demon in each circle as a "passport" into the next. He was apparently working his way through the circles in pursuit of The Devil himself, and had randomly been assigned the role of "A Superman for Hell," whatever that means. Bloodwynd was sidetracked by an adventure outside Hell alongside the actual Superman and Etrigan the Demon. He then returned to Hell, where we rejoin him in the Eighth Circle: Fraud.

Raphael was meant to be tormented by "his" personal Hell, invoking the Arce surname and images from the career of the original Bloodwynd. But also, Raphael learned the history of the actual Blood Gem, crafted by antebellum slaves to slay their cruel master and gain infernal power from the act. The Blood Gem had been handed down through the ages, and passed through the hands of Raphael's mother. Returning to Bloodwynd, even Raphael was surprised to learn that he was a distinct entity from J'Onn J'Onzz, rather than an assumed identity of the Martian. Felix Faust eventually consigned Bloodwynd to the pit, which I wasn't aware of, and may be an invention of this story.

The demon assigned to torture Bloodwynd confirmed that he was a blood relative of Raphael, and that any who die while wearing the family's Blood Gem are immediately damned to Hell. Raphael claimed Bloodwynd was a hero who saved lives and served with the Justice League, and so fought the demon to liberate his soul. Bloodwynd finally declared himself Quintus Arce, the brother of Raphael's mother, who together faked his death so that her son might be spared the curse of the Blood Gem. Instead, they were both temporarily incarnations of Bloodwynd, until Raphael drained all vestiges of the mantle to allow Quintus access to Paradise. Quintus made Raphael promise to be a better Bloodwynd than he had managed, and to tell his sister that he loved her before vanishing. Finally, the new, sole Bloodwynd grabbed his uncle's demonic tormentor to grant him access to the Ninth Circle, to confront The Devil...

"Pit Stop" was by Lamar Giles, Sean Damien Hill, & Anthony Fowler Jr. I think the 8-pager is the best of the new Bloodwynd stories, which admittedly isn't saying much, but it did make sense, engaged me, and sorted out necessary details. It doesn't make it any less misguided, though. In the early days of the internet, Bloodwynd got picked up by African-American comics catalogers and touted as a high level powerhouse deserving of more exposure. However, in all my years of following the character as peripheral to Martian Manhunter and as a Black super-hero, I never heard of anybody who had a legitimate affection for him. It was all utility-- the abilities, the visibility, not being a "street-level" stereotype. But fans? Not really.

The main reason Bloodwynd is still a recognized quantity is that he was high profile during the Death of Superman, and strong enough to be one of the only Leaguers still standing after trading blows with Doomsday. Bloodwynd was created by Dan Jurgens, for his League book that was a key tie-in to the Doomsday arc, who got a splash page with Ice in Superman #75. It was by design, but Jurgens never actually put the character over, and abandoned him in the rushed wrap-up of said Justice League America run. Sure, he's on the big funeral for Superman poster, with the foul play red herring of J'Onn J'Onzz also appearing separately, but he's sort of like Dan Ackroyd at the "We Are The World" recording session. Bloodwynd is a Where's Waldo-- a "who is that and what was he doing there" geek drink night trivial pursuit answer. No matter what else you try to do with him, the very name of Bloodwynd in disqualifying. Bloodwynd isn't an heroic identity, but a gastrointestinal disorder. What do you call two Bloodwynds? A pair of Arces. A Bloodynd is when you fart so hard that you explosively rupture a hemorrhoid. A Bloodwynd is like racing stripes in your underwear, but it gets up the crack and looks like spray paint splatter from being kissed directly by the pucker. Bloodwynd is when you queef while on the rag. No good comes from a Bloodwynd.

And despite all this lip service, if DC cared so much, why have they passed Raphael Arce around from book to book and across multiple creative teams? Why saddle him with such a lame sub-New Bloods/gene bomb/"so you just got powers from an event book" origin story? Now that DC barely publishes anything not directly related to their Trinity, do they really have room to explore a multi-hero Bloodwynd dynasty, especially when the mysterious and slightly sinister old Bloodwynd has given way to a plain Jane goody-two-shoes model? There are ten stories in this book, most spotlighting a single hero or villain of African descent. There are three different variant covers spotlighting different groupings of these characters. The main cover offers eight characters, a variant has seven, and then there's a Far Sector one with about a dozen. Bloodwynd made none of these covers. He's not one of the five who got a Who's Who bio page, either. Nobody actual cares. This is trademark management personified, that will get killed off in a different crossover event down the line, until we get a third case of Bloodwynd... like Montezuma's Revenge.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Action Comics 2023 Annual #1 (February, 2024)

Thy foes sought slaves, to scrape and kneel.
Not fighting men of hell and steel.
I swear, you bring The Demon Etrigan into a story arc to spout a couple lines of doggerel and then get taken out by a super-kid with a sword? What are you even doing? And I have to cop to not knowing, because I only grazed the first three chapters of this serial to make sure that I wasn't missing any other Bloodwynd content. Like for instance, I though Blue Earth were just domestic super powered xenophobes, but are they from an actual Earth-Blue in the multiverse? I mean, this book starts on "Earth Al Ghul," a quasi-medievel fantasy setting and the base from which the "Empire of Shadows" conquered countless worlds in the "Dark Multiverse." I put quotations not because these aren't real things in the current DC continuity, but to speak of them mockingly from a place of ignorance, as elders do. All you nerds to brayed about how you weren't confused by multiple Earths before the Crisis? I hope you're lapping at this like a pig in slop. Then as now, you can have at it. I have always, will always, side with the Anti-Monitor on this anti-matter. That's a pun, son. Y'see, stories should matter, but when there's infinite variations on the same old crud, it's the opposite of mattering. Get it? You're a lost cause, boy.

Superman, Bloodwynd, and Etrigan saved a family from execution for defying the bad guys, hence the pull quote. Then Bloodwynd and Superman ran interference against the evil forces while The Demon advanced to the castle to save The Man of Steel's adopted daughter from being corrupted/possessed by the alternate universe granddaughter of Ra's al Ghul. *sharp inhale* But see, Etrigan stabbed in the back with Cloud Strife's ridiculously outsized sword (that's a Final Fantasy VII reference, dear child. This dumb visual had a clear cultural origin point.) by *checks Wiki* Otho-Ra. It's a lousy name, but don't worry, they recite the same Kryptonian fable twice here after having done it last issue and I saw at least once before with full visuals in a prior issue to let us all know her handle will be Starchild and her twin brother's Red Son by the time this is all over with. Nothing like completely exhausting a trademark. Just ask Strange Visitor.

There's a bit in here where Otho-Ra's arms are wrapped in chains that are said to be formed of links derived from each fallen foe, which I guess is where the new Bloodwynd also gets it from, since he's vaguely tied to Janan al Ghul's access of Earth-Zero via Hell. I didn't realize Earth-Zero was the new Earth-One, or Earth-Prime? I can't even keep track of something as basic as which Earth the name brand heroes are supposed to be on anymore. Thanks DC. It's like how I don't know if Blue Earth is an actual Earth, because those guys were also in the first three issues of the new Power Girl series starring a Gen-Z author-insert with no personality traits in common with the character I used to know, and I'm not checking for Bloodwynd there. What I do know, is that the chains hurt the minimalist Space Ghost indebted design that is arguably the best thing about the Bloodwynd concept. Kind of like how being a brash feminist with over the shoulder boulder holders was Power Girl's trademark, rather than crippling insecurity. These clouds aren't going to shout for themselves.

Giant energy portal in the sky unleashed massive space vessel flanked by faceless invaders and Man-Bats, in case things weren't already Marvel Phase Four enough around here. Blue Earth saw their two-faced leader Laura Ingraham "Norah Stone" was really Sister Shadow, and rather than doubling down by buying merch under the new branding, were convinced to repel the actual invaders alongside the Superman Family. Least realistic story element, based on our current political hellscape? After contributing little more than poor rhymes, Etrigan and Bloodwynd-- like-- gestured at the portal and made everything incoming on our side of it burst into flames? Maybe lead with that, guys. Also, The Demon claimed Janan al Ghul's soul for Hell, because something something her portal had left her indebted something infernal. Also, Bloodwynd and Etrigan stopped appearing at this point. I don't know what their deal was in this story, overall and specifically at this point.

Again, I skimmed most of the story line, so I don't know if I'm supposed to know who the construction worker who used to be a super-villain and his son are supposed to be, except the guys who tell us how awesome the Superman Family is as a capstone to the lauded recent run of the title. Which based on what I just read, was either well past the point of ending on a high note, or the kind of people willing to pay $4.99 for a monthly comic are so beaten down that this junk rates. You guys, am I just too old for corporate super-hero comics? Am I the one who needs to leave?

"New Worlds: Part Five: The Conclusion" was written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson with art by Max Raynor. It's funny how for decades artists lusted after paper quality that would allow for true blacks, and today they happily turn them back into limp grays with lame digital effects meant to make up for their inability to properly ink their own work. The visuals are otherwise fine, though necessarily a comedown from a relatively name talent like Eddy Barrows, big enough to rate actual embellishment by other hands. One thing I do find deeply annoying about both creators' work though is a tendency toward double page spreads... of narrative. Double splash pin-ups were a nuisance in the '90s, but this is horizontal multi-panel narratives throughout the books. Since it bridges writers and artists, I have to assume this comes down to editorial, or maybe a trend in the mainstream comics I don't read anymore. There's a lot of this in Rogue Sun, an Image title I was following, so maybe the latter. I hate it, because it leaves everything on a flat, narrow plane like a newspaper Sunday strip. I think they're shooting for Hitch-style "widescreen," but it has the exact opposite effect. Nothing pops, there's no surprises, plus I have to read into the staples. It's anti-comics, seemingly made for a sideways slung tablet, and even then that shrinks the image. I want nothing to do with any of this. Too much exposition and running snark this time, so no room to discuss Bloodwynd II's vague red energy zapping abilities and general pointlessness. Next week, then...

Monday, February 12, 2024

Action Comics #1060 (February, 2024)

A drunken, belching John Constantine was hanging out at a bar during a punk show when Superman walked in to plead for him to help find his daughter.

Wait. Stop. What? If this was a '90s comedy, there'd be a record scratch and voice over explainer, now a meme.

I gave up on DC in the first year of the New 52, although my connection had been on life support for years to that point. I never finished reading the 2015 "DCYou" Martian Manhunter series drawn by the swell Eddy Barrows, and barely bought any of the following volume in 2019. I was so divorced post-Rebirth that I don't even know if that maxi-series was part of a greater publishing initiative. G5? But one of the few DC things that I have bought in recent years was the Warworld mega-arc that ran for over a year and across some spin-offs. I have it in trade paperback. I haven't actually read them, but I've heard good things. While Kal-El was off in space, his rapid-aged late teens son Jon took over as the Superman of Earth. At the time, it felt like DC had finally given up on the original Man of Steel, and were transitioning to a younger model whose bisexuality made him hipper and less Übermensch-y. Except, again, everyone seemed to be loving the Warworld stuff, and Jon occasionally kissing another boy was somehow the less sexy product of the two for readers. So now the Man of Tomorrow is still your grandpa's, but he's the lead in a Superman Family title. The Kryptonian Supergirl, the Son of Superman, the Superboy from the '90s/Young Justice, the Chinese New Superman, and the armor-clad Steel with surname "Irons" offered with or without y-chromosome, as you choose. They even have matching uniforms liked an X-team. No need for a trial run, because I hate it on premise. Isn't the biggest complaint about Superman that he's overpowered, and now there's nine of them working together out of one Metropolis?

On right, the math. Yeah, there's two more. Otho-Ra and Osul-Ra are fraternal twins with powers comparable to Superman's, whom he saved from Warwold and has now adopted. If you're saying to yourself "didn't they do that with the new Flamebird and Nightwing during the 'New Krypton' period," I'll note that ended fifteen years ago. Like Chris Reeve, that thought makes me feel like catching a bullet in my teeth. I did reference the Superman Family title from the '70s, and closer to my peak fandom, the "Team Superman" that included versions of many of these properties in the '90s. Nothing ever ends or is ever truly new in mainstream comics, so instead of starting a pressure campaign against "thet queer Super@#$" like a Comicsgater, I just read more satisfying comic books elsewhere now. It's less work and stress, but you can't pretend your homophobia, racism, and misogyny are about "reverence for continuity," so it's a trade-off. And psst-- don't tell EVS, but I quietly like some of those indie comics with the non-white, non-binary, non-male characters, because they're just stories about people. Nobody's broken down my door to peg me yet. Having signaled my virtue, I can now comfortably restate that I hate most of these Super-people and they can all die painfully. But hey, I did pre-order Steelworks. I'm not a complete CIS-het monster!

Now that we're mostly caught up, I can move along to other things I hate. Like a mainstream DCU Constantine that is written as a cartoonish chav. That an adult-oriented character from a Vertigo title is in a Superman book. That of all the world class mages Superman knows, he goes to lower-tier dirty dealing gutter trash like John Constantine. That Superman spends most of the issue so distraught over a daughter that I just learned he had that he sounds like the woman screaming "my baby" at a fire and it turns out to be her cat. That the antagonists of the arc are a bunch of super-xenophobes given temporary powers, like the Everyman Program in 52 or the White Triangle Daxamites from Archie Legion, and are able to swiftly turn the populace against well-established heroes, as did the Hyperclan and G. Gordon Godfrey (but with metahuman powers of provocation.) That the big bad leading them is the parallel universe daughter of Batman and Talia al Ghul seeking revenge for a plot that was foiled in an earlier spin-off special involving a version of The Authority that is no one's favorite. Hystericalman with super-speed and hearing fails to heed a warning from Constantine, accidentally smashes the McGuffin that allowed the bad guys to travel to Earth via Hell, and releases the new team of Bloodynd and The Demon Etrigan back to our world... only to continue in a wrap-up annual. All that, just to explain how Bloodwynd's wynding arc leads to this nonsense.

"New Worlds, Part Four" was written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson. I was today years old when I realized that he and Daniel Warren Johnson are not the same guy, plus he's the new hotness giving me "next Tom King" vibes. Not a compliment, if there was any doubt. It was drawn by Eddy Barrows, who was once to Ivan Reis as Bryan Hitch was to Alan Davis, but also like Hitch, is adopting a more "realistic" looser illustrative style that I'm not as into. I thought he was just doing this for one horror story, but I guess it's for keeps. There's a bunch of other artists listed that may be drawing other pages, or just a squad of inkers, but I don't care enough to write or parse it out. I still have to read a whole ass annual of this tripe.

Monday, February 5, 2024

Action Comics Presents: Doomsday Special #1 (October, 2023)

There's a bunch of equivocating mumbo-jumbo about how in the multiverse, the collective subconscious, through the power of belief, can create a metaphysical simulacrum of yadda-yadda... but the simple truth is that the Biblical Hell exists in DC Comics, and thanks to the breakdown of the Vertigo partition, The First of Fallen from mature readers Hellblazer comics still runs it.

At the end of Dark Crisis, Doomsday was physically destroyed. In Lazarus Planet: We Once Were Gods (March, 2023), it was able to manifest from the collective memory of the city of Metropolis mumbo-jumbo yadda-yadda. Martian Manhunter confronted Doomsday, but it ultimately took the mortal sacrifice of a young man named Raphael Arce to stop the revival. However, Doomsday continued to exist in Hell, where it was building back the power necessary to break down a door to return to physical reality. This power was partly derived from the belief of the denizens of Hell that Doomsday was capable of the feat, and this faith challenged the reign of The First. So, a vision of Doomsday in Hell was sent to Martian Manhunter based on their recent interaction, J'Onn sent the vision to Supergirl so that she could interpret Kryptonian elements, and they were both suck(er)ed into Hell to serve The Fallen. With reservations, Supergirl ultimately suited up in a special armor that recalled her old foe Satan Girl, while the Sleuth from Outer Space (sorta) rallied the denizens of Hell to strengthen the barrier from Hell with their own distorted and traumatized bodies. This was all done to spare their mutual loved one Superman from having to deal with Doomsday yet again, but back in Hell, it just kept pounding away at that barrier.

"Doomsday in Hell" was by Dan Watters, Eddy Barrows, & Eber Ferreira. While Barrows had worked on the 2015 volume of the Alien Atlas' solo (maxi?) series, this version was much gawkier and vulnerable looking, suiting the Gene Colan/Tom Mandrake-inspired sketchy linework of this Halloween tale. It was nice to see J'Onn connected to Kara Zor-El again, as I tend to like their pairing more than either's with Superman (especially now that it means Supergirl has to wear a lame "team book" uniform with pants.) It still bothers me to mingle DC and Vertigo material though, especially on a darned Super-book. Feels too much like spiking the Kool-Aid at a children's birthday party. But hey, these weren't the only characters with a tale spinning out of that Lazarus Planet one-shot...

The spirit of Raphael Arce wandered the Fifth Circle of Hell, wrath, when he was discovered by a demon and attacked. Punishment was sought for the one who had brought Doomsday to Hell, and made it even worse than before. However, the demon didn't know that Arce had brought pieces of other beings to Hell with him, namely the Martian Manhunter and... Bloodwynd! Arce knew that he didn't belong in Hell, but also he felt that no one else did, either. So he had been moving from one circle of Hell to another and liberating the lost souls there with his new Bloodwynd powers. Even with them, he still needed to trick a demon in each circle to allow him passage to the next, as he Bloodwynd couldn't make the trip unescorted. See, besides the freedom trail, Bloodwynd also sought to have a word with the devil himself...

"Bloodwynd: A Superman for Hell" was by Dan Watters & Max Raynor. While implied in the first story, it's even more clear here that we now have a second confirmed member of a Bloodwynd legacy. Actually, that was even hinted at in the '90s origin story, and given that the premise is barely over thirty years old, I do find it a bit odd that a relatively new and underdeveloped property had to be put out to pasture for a new model who still bears the misfortune of being called "Bloodwynd." Heck, it would have been worth it if it meant that he would be called "Blood Gem" instead. Anyway, along with the strength and flight of O.G. Bloodwynd, the new model has chains wrapped around his wrists that he can animate Spawn-style, and he manages to take control of some Doomsday-infused giant hellhound besides. Also, all his teeth are canines? I'm not sure any of this adds to the design, and if there was one thing Bloodwynd had in his favor, it was that Space Ghost fashion.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Brightest Day #24 (Late June, 2011)

The ultimate purpose of the events involving our heroes post-resurrection is revealed to be making a new Swamp Thing out of the reanimated corpse of Alec Holland. The elementals are absorbed into the new giant Swamp Thing so that they could… make it breathe fire once and then swiftly kill the new giant Black Lantern Swamp Thing? Which was made out of… whichever version of Swamp Thing had been in continuity since 1972? There were obscure continuity barriers between the stories published by mainstream DC and the mature readers Vertigo imprint, but seemingly whichever Swamp Thing fans had supported across hundreds of solo comic issues and forty-odd years was hand-waved away in a handful of underwhelming panels? Plus, the multiple-artist approach that worked for an anthology series buckles when forced to illustrate one continuous narrative and they can't even keep the Swamp Things straight. Immediately after reintroducing the 80s/90s comic model Swamp Things, they revert to the '70s/first movie design. It could have been interesting (and meta) to have the two versions fight, but this is simply editorial incompetence and cognitive dissonance. And if you don't agree-- didn't we just have a mega event by much of this same production team that introduced and established Black Lanterns as unkillable outside of exposure to energies from the emotional spectrum? And Black Lantern Swamp Thing had a climactic… stabbing with a sharp stick? Yeah, yeah, preceded by fire and White Lantern energy, but the splash page finale is all about being stabbity.

With the primary threat resolved in something like 15 story pages, with about 5 devoted to the actual fight (depending on how you count splashes,) this extra-sized conclusion has Lord of the Rings-level coda action. The re-deadened Deadman's undying romance with Dove. Hawk's being the sole failure among all the resurrected with vague unresolved consequences. A missing Hawkwoman with a raging, inconsolable Hawkman. Nods to all the lame, tenuous tie-in comics. The weak Aquaman thread that the same creative team won't bother with during his relaunch. Swamp Thing executing the board of an oil company. The longest surviving Vertigo mature readers series put down so a neutered John Constantine can team-up with Batman and join a freakin' Justice League. A ticking time clock toward the Firestorm Matrix detonating to destroy the entire universe.

One of the defining aspects of this era of DC Comics was reverting the status quo of its heroes to a modernized version of the Silver Age. Swamp Thing didn't exist until the Bronze Age, but this appears to be the same approach. Telling though that Geoff Johns, whose major successes at DC were often dependent on expanding upon concepts originated by Alan Moore, was not involved in a relaunch of Swamp Thing that would seem to reset the character to a point before Moore's influence. There's also the whole "mass murderer of corporate polluters" angle, which had been done at times in Swamp Thing comics, but never took as a sustainable method. The Eco-Punisher take didn't survive the follow-up mini-series, what with the immediate reboot for the New 52 ongoing series. Actually, that may be one of Johns' greatest legacies in comics-- year+ long maxi-series spanning a dozen or more issues involving top shelf talent intended to guide the future of the DC Universe that are immediately cut off at the knees in some form of line-wide reboot that negates the intended effects.

This isn't a problem for J'Onn J'Onzz. The entire purpose of his arc was to permanently sever the connection of the Manhunter from Mars from… um… Mars. His whole thing in comics. So the Alien Earthen Atlas (everyone's elemental powers of five minutes went away) has fully committed to his adopted world, and uses his intangibility to remove the inoperable splinter from Melissa Erdel's brain. Sure she's lost nearly sixty years of her life and is still a badly scarred elderly woman with mental issues near the end of her life who was left in that state until now by an incurious Sleuth from Outer Space Colorado's negligence, but I guess it's never too late to make amends? Like how Melissa apologized for kidnapping J'Onn, and he just smiled and said, "You didn't steal my life. You and your father gave me one." Sure. Melissa was part of this one story that was mostly about creating and building up a new villainess that doesn't survive the story, and The Denver Manhunter is the one lead who has no set-up for a follow-up, essentially acknowledging that it had the least creative and audience support. But now J'Onn can hang out at Mount Hope Senior Home with an old lady mentally stunted in at most her twenties with a decades old frame of reference going into her twilight. What a life.

This untitled thing was by writers Peter J. Tomasi & Geoff Johns, with art by Patrick Gleason and Ivan Reis on the Mile High Marvel, and a bunch of other dudes on the rest.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Brightest Day #23 (Early June, 2011)

Having accepted a new role as Earth's elemental heroes in service to the Life Entity, Martian Manhunter bonds with... er... earth, Firestorm fire (doesn't have fire powers, but see also J'Onn J'Onzz), Aquaman water, and the Hawks wind. They are meant to combat the corrupted Avatar of the Green, Swamp Thing, who has been possessed by the Black Lantern power battery, or something. No way are you convincing me that this story was planned out from the beginning. The final stand will take place around the Star City forest, and also the reanimated corpse of Alec Holland will be on hand to negate one of the best loved Alan Moore stories of all time. Hell of a way to say thanks for providing the foundation for most of your career, Johns.

"Rise and Fall" was by writers Peter J. Tomasi & Geoff Johns, with art by Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, & company. I tried to get back to this over the holidays, but every time I went to log into the blog or read the last chapters, I heard a cracking sound in my soul. Sorry folks, but I'm feeling better now (despite actually being sick in bed for much of this weekend.)