Thursday, December 22, 2011

One Last Ride

Reading the Leviathan Strikes! one-shot was bittersweet. It has the distinction of being the very last book to be published under the old continuity. I found certain stories in the book to be quite entertaining, and there were others that (like a lot of Grant Morrison's stuff) I didn't understand at all.

But the book mostly reminded me how much I loved Stephanie Brown's Batgirl. And Barbara Gordon as Oracle. And as I was reading the book I realized that this would be the last new story about these characters. I would never get to read about them again.

And that makes me sad. By and large I've been a supporter of the "New 52." Some of the books have been hits and others misses. But on a whole I think it was a good idea. Plus, if they can keep sales up it may be a good thing for the comic industry as a whole.

I'll still miss those characters. I'll miss the history built up for them over the decades. Those stories are still there, but in some sense they don't mean quite as much now that they're disconnected from the present.

I suppose I'll have to hang on tight and hope that this new continuity can build a history that means as much as the old one did. It's not impossible. But it still won't be the same.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Permission to Die

A word of fair warning to you all: I'm going to talk about the recent trailer for The Dark Knight Rises. If you don't want to hear that or are worried about spoilers, now is the time to depart.

With that out of the way, let's start with the character that is (so far) arguably at the hear of the Dark Knight Rises stuff we've seen so far: Bane. I think it's safe to say that Bane is a controversial character. It's hard to say that he's popular, but there's no question that he's unpopular in a lot of ways. Having been created in the 1990's, Bane is lacking a lot of the pedigree you get from long term Batman villains like Two-Face or the Joker.

But being chosen as the main villain of Rises shows that despite his contemporary creation, Bane has cemented himself as an important part of the modern Batman mythos. Whether you like it or not, Bane has taken over a position that has been filled with numerous characters over the years in comics: the role of the anti-Batman.

It's easy to forget that that's what Bane was meant to be in the very beginning. Too often Bane has been employed as a simple, brutish thug (due in large part to his extreme musculature and luchadore look). But when Bane was first introduced he was more than simply a physical match for Batman: he was his intellectual equal as well.

Batman has had no shortage of intellectual adversaries. In fact, you can make the argument that most of Batman's villains are designed largely to test his mental and psychological strength. And there have been a few physical adversaries as well (Killer Croc being the most notable example).

But Bane was created as someone who could take on Batman in both the physical and mental arenas and succeed. In this sense, he's one in a long line of anti-Batmans. Even his origin is a dark, twisted mirror image of Batman's own. And Rises seems to be playing this up.

We get a glimpse of what is (presumably) the prison where Bane was raised (assuming, of course, that his origin hasn't been radically tweaked). But the most telling is the image of the camo tumbler: it's safe to assume that Bane has his own -- dare I say it? -- Banemobile.

In The Dark Knight we had a villain who "just wanted to see the world burn" in the form of the Joker. Bane unquestionably wants to see Gotham in ashes. But it seems that he doesn't want to do so purely to do so. Bane is driven. It's obvious that he has an agenda and perhaps even one that many people in this "Occupy Wall Street" world might find appealing.

This is all speculation, of course. And I'm admittedly running on speculation here. But I think we're going to see a Gotham City that on the surface is doing well: crime is down and people (at least the people at the top) are prospering.

But beneath the surface the city continues to rot. And if Bane is half the strategist he is in the comics he will exploit that for his own purposes.

I've wondered quite a bit why Nolan and co. decided to change Bane's look from his classic comic look. I think it's because of what I'd alluded to earlier. That look makes Bane seem like just another thug in a long line of thugs. And while it's effective for the pages of the comics, this current mask lets us see his eyes. And while his voice may be difficult to understand, his message is clear. I don't know yet what it means, but July 20 can't come soon enough.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011


Well, it looks like I got rebooted after all. It took a while to kick in, but here we are. I can't believe they bothered.

Not that a whole lot is different... I think I'm about five years younger. Which is nice, I guess. I'm still old enough to drink. But I'm a bit of a teetotaler anyway, so...

One that that's changed is my costume. It's got a lot of extra lines and seams for some reason. Wasn't my costume already busy enough? And you should see these new boots. They're pretty ridiculous.

Well, I spent the last three months basically reliving the whole Sword of Azrael miniseries, because every time they give some a new origin they have to retell it again and again. I just wish they'd left the apes out this time...


Wednesday, December 14, 2011


I, Doctor Polaris, have returned. You may be wondering, loyal readers, where I have been all this time. Listen well and perhaps you may even learn something.

Not long after the coming of the "New 52" I felt a sense of unease. I had not been rebooted, that much was true. But the coming of a self-described momentous event such as the relaunch should have brought with it real change.

And what did we find? Hal Jordan is still around and still an idiot. The only difference is his new, unflattering costume. And what of me, Doctor Polaris? I didn't feel that I had changed. Perhaps, I thought, I needed to change myself.

It was then and there that I made a decision: I would walk across America and reacquaint myself with its good, simple people. And so I began what I expected would be a journey from Coast City to Metropolis. I made my way through Arizona, Colorado, and Kansas, interacting with ordinary Americans.

Then I got to Saint Louis and realized that it's a terrible city and that I hate good, simple Americans. So I destroyed the Gateway Arch and flew back to to sunny Southern California.

And what about the adventures I had over these past few months? I will tell you this: there is not a whole lot to tell. For as Geoff Johns' Justice League has shown, three months can pass with absolutely nothing happening.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Grand Reopening

No, your eyes do not deceive you. Of course, by saying that I make the dangerous assumption that there are any eyes to see. I have been gone a long time.

And before I go any further let me say: I am sorry. It was not right of me to up and leave the blog for three months without saying so much as a word or giving an explanation. But to make up for it I'm going to give you an explanation right now. Even if it means coming dangerously close to revealing my secret identity.

As some of you already know, I've been a graduate student for these past few years. You know I study Japan and some of you may even know that I'm in Japan right now. These things are all puzzle pieces in the reasons why I haven't been blogging. Here are the specifics, in bullet points:
  • First of all, when I moved to Japan at the end of August my apartment didn't have the Internet. The building is really old (which is why the doorways are all too low and I keep hitting my head) so it wasn't easy to get it set up. Finally it happened, but the damage was already done: I got used to not blogging.
  • Secondly, I am currently attending an extremely intensive Japanese language program. This is the kind of thing that barely gives you any free time. Hell, if I didn't find the time to sleep I wouldn't get any of that. Still, I would've had time for blogging if it hadn't been for...
  • The third problem. See, I'm currently between my MA and PhD degree. Originally I'd planned on staying at my current institution. But a few weeks before I left Japan my academic adviser dropped a bombshell on me: he was retiring. Which meant I had to apply to other schools. While in a super-intensive Japanese language program. In Japan.

So you can probably see why I haven't been around at all. But here's the thing: the applications are due on December 15, but I finished them today. Which means aside from the crippling homework I am free! Gloriously free!

You may also be interested to know that today, December 13, is this blog's Sixth Anniversary. All things considered, I'll hope you'll forgive me for a three month recess out of pretty continuous posting for six years.

What I'm saying is: I'm back. I probably won't be able to post every day, and maybe not more than twice or three times a week while the program is on. But I will post. Again, thanks to everyone who has stuck with me over the past six years. You can't imagine how much it means to have people read my writing and sometimes even comment on it. I hope to keep this up for a long time to come.

Oh, and as for my co-bloggers? I don't really have any idea what they've been up to over the past three months. Though I wouldn't be surprised if they show up soon...

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The New 14-26

Since I can actually post on the week of a batch of new number ones coming out I thought it might be fun to rundown all the new comics and give my general expectations for them (and yes, I am at least trying all the new comics). While it may be Wednesday here, that doesn't mean I can read my comics early. You all will probably see them long before I will.

Batman and Robin #1: Since the Batman world wasn't much upset by the relaunch, I don't anticipate seeing much of a change in the quality of Batman and Robin. Tomasi can still write, and we all know Patrick Gleason can draw. The big question is whether or not father and son will work well as Batman and Robin.

Batwoman #1: Many people have been waiting for this book for a long time. Assuming it keeps up with the pretty art and brings along a decent story to go with it, Batwoman should do fine.

Deathstroke #1: I can already tell you that I probably won't stick with this one for every long. I've never been a big fan of Deathstroke, even as an "anti-hero." I understand why they're giving the book a shot, and I applaud them for continuing to try and diversify their offerings. If nothing else, Joe Bennett can also draw.

Demon Knights #1: This is one of the new books I've been most excited about. I love the idea of exploring the DCU in different times and places, and when better than Medieval Europe? If Paul Cornell brings his a-game this will be a fantastic book.

Frankenstein #1: I love Lemire's Flashpoint Frankenstein mini, but the preview for Agent of S. H. A. D. E. makes me wary. We're not being given the same characters and the art isn't half as good. But Lemire usually seems to know what he's doing, and I'll still give it a try.

Green Lantern #1: See Batman and Robin above. DC does seem to be operating on a "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" philosophy. (and what does that tell us about everything outside of the Batman and GL books?) Geoff Johns' Green Lantern saga continues, for better or worse.

Grifter #1: This book is one of the biggest wild cards for me. I don't know anything about the character or the writer. So all I know is that the book will be beautiful. Funnily enough, this sense of not knowing makes me pretty excited to read this book. As well as I know the DCU, that's a rare experience.

Legion Lost #1: I'm actually really looking forward to this book. I'm very much intrigued to see how the members of the Legion deal with living in the present. They clearly won't fit in, even among the super-hero contingent. A good fish out of water story can be a lot of fun.

Mister Terrific #1: Here's another book that's a bit of a cipher. We know who Michael Holt was, but we don't really know who this Michael Holt is. Still, I think it's a great idea to get him out of the JSA's shadow and let the man shine on his own. The character has a lot of potential.

Red Lanterns #1: Peter Milligan writes some weird stuff. The Red Lanterns are kind of weird. I don't know what else to say about this book.

Resurrection Man #1: I never thought I'd see another Resurrection Man #1. As my affection for Resurrection Man is well known, I'm very much looking forward to this comic. If the team can capture at least a fraction of what made the original comic so good it will be a winner.

Suicide Squad #1: I'm not really expecting much from this book, honestly. It could turn out to be a nice surprise or it could end up being one of the first books cancelled. It's anyone's guess.

Superboy #1: Superboy is apparently being completely rebooted with a new history and everything. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I've never ready anything by Scott Lobdell so I have no idea what to expect. I did like the preview, though.

Whew, that's a lot of books! DC really is cranking them out. I wonder how many will survive past the six month mark?


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New is Old Again

Yesterday I talked about my favorite book of the relaunch. But what was my least favorite? That might be too easy... While there were certainly going to be good books there was no question that there would be some bad comics in the relaunch. It's a bit more fair if I discuss the comics that were the most disappointing.

I think that answer to that is, sadly, Batgirl. Now, you know I love Gail Simone deeply, and it pains me terribly to say that. I don't thing it's a bad book by any stretch of the imagination. But I just don't think it's what I wanted from a Batgirl book.

The first Batgirl comic starred Cassandra Cain, and it was about her trying to figure out how she could fit into a world that she wasn't trained for while at the same time trying to create a family out of the misfits that inhabit Batman's world.

The second Batgirl comic starred Stephanie Brown, and it was about putting a girl in a batsuit and letting her have as much fun as you possible can while dressed like that. And boy, if we didn't get that. I still think the most recent run of Batgirl was one of the best (and most overlooked) books DC was publishing prior to the New 52, and it's a real shame that Bryan Q. Miller isn't writing anything for DC now.

So what is this third Batgirl comic about? I'm not entirely sure yet, and I think that's some of the problem. This version of Barbara Gordon doesn't really seem to be having any fun yet, though she is certainly dealing with a number of issues. Indeed, right now The Killing Joke is looming large over everything that happens in the book.

That may simply be because this is the first issue. But honestly, we didn't see this much of a focus on The Killing Joke in Barbara's entire stint as Oracle in Birds of Prey. It was made clear that it happened and then everybody moved on.

I have enough faith in Gail Simone to expect that the book will improve. She's undoubtedly got to get some of this stuff out of the way so she can move forward with the story. But if this comic becomes a lot of looking backward at bad Alan Moore stories, then I may have to drop a Gail Simone comic for the first time ever.

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