Panelology - Casualty of the 90s: Warriors Of Plasm

by Brandon
We all probably fondly remember a comic book or company that went away in during the 90s due to one creative failure or business miscalculation. Though the company or title remains forever in our hearts, they have sadly passed on to the nether region known as the dollar bin, or even worse, the trash can. Some of these titles were exciting, refreshing, and new. Many of these titles were terrible beyond the imagination of anything these hokey events from the Big Two could slop at us. But yes, Virginia, there were some quality titles that went the way of the dodo, dinosaur, and southern liberal. Defiant’s Warriors of Plasm stands as one of those imaginative titles that were woefully destroyed by the ridiculous and spiteful underpinnings of the 1990s. Feel like getting mad at Marvel today? Of course you do! Read on.

Shooting the Shooter
Even before Rob Liefeld was a twinkle in a fanboy’s evil eye, Jim Shooter could get the fans all abuzz with hate, blood pressure rising in raging, foaming about the mouth with cheap plastic Halloween swords in hand ready to storm the Marvel Offices in New York. Shooter has never shied from controversy. Shooter has also never shied away from trying new things and shaking up the nuts and bolts of comic books, especially certain well established properties. I think Captain America fans still have bounties out for his scalp.

Whether you love or hate Jim Shooter, he entered the 90s with a great drive to bring new comics to the forefront, first with Valiant Comics and later with Defiant. The story of Valiant Comics is one for another Causalities of the 90s column, but it is impossible to talk about Defiant without looking at Valiant briefly. Valiant successfully published original and licensed properties and helped lead the charge for those cheesy chromium covers. I know, ugh. Valiant was wildly successful for an independent publisher, but despite the success, there was a question of selling the company, which Shooter disagreed with. Also, there was the question of Shooter being quite the dictator when it came to his editing practices. Shooter would eventually be forced to leave Valiant for a time, though he would later return, causing even more trouble once he returned. But that’s another story for another time.

Defiant to the Last
Not to be outdone by his Valiant partners, Shooter would Defiant, headhunting several of the creative talents populating some of Valiant’s best books. One of those creators was David Lapham. Shooter and Lapham created Warriors of Plasm together. Warriors of Plasm was a pretty funky title. How freaky was it? Freaky. Imagine David Bowie creating a strange space opera in the 1970s that involved aliens, the end of days, and decadence. Well, on second thought, scratch that.

Warriors of Plasm followed the story of a sentient planet, the Org of Plasm. Being a living world, it was constantly hungry. The Org had to be fed constantly, so those people who followed the Org had to conquer plants and offer up tasty, meaty morsels to the great Org. Mmm mmm, good. Lorca, the lead guy on the acquisition of munchies for the Org, had a change of heart when it came time to devour our humble planet, Earth. He genetically modified five humans to stand up and defend Earth against the impressive hunger of the Org.

Hilarity and problems ensue. Unfortunately for Defiant, they ensued both on and off panel.

Marvel at Marvel’s Legal Might

Do you remember the Marvel character Plasmer? Of course you don’t. And if you do? You’re a loser. Your guild in World of Warcraft needs you now to raid some mine or castle or whatever it is you do. On a scale of comic book coolness from 1 (Quasar) to 10 (Wolverine), Plasmer scores a whopping -15.2. Well, if anybody remembered Plasmer it was Marvel. And Marvel’s Legal Department.

Apparently, on the surface, Marvel believed that we fans were too incompetent to recognize the difference between Plasmer and Warriors of Plasm. Let me write those two names again for those of us Marvel considers to be too stupid; Plasmer and Warriors of Plasm. Right. And this was in the era before flawed Joe Quesada-like thinking at Marvel. Originally, the title of the comics was supposed to be just Plasm, but Marvel still sued after the name change. Excelsior!

It doesn’t take an insider to see that this was probably more a vendetta against Defiant and Shooter than it was about protecting their intellectual property. Full disclosure; I feel dirty using the term “intellectual property” for Plasmer. Marvel’s pursuit of the lawsuit would prove fail in court, but it was enough to topple Defiant as a company. The large legal fees used defending itself from such a frivolous lawsuit alone helped topple Shooter’s Defiant Comics. The lesson learned here for independent publishers; don’t mess with Marvel. Even in legal defeat, Marvel has a deeper wallet than you do.

A total of fifteen issues (#’s 0-13 and a holiday special) and one trade of Warriors of Plasm were published before the plasmatic axe came down on the title.

The Dust Settles
Defiant was brutally victimized by the Marvel juggernaut for daring to infringe on the much beloved Plasmer. But this story does have a bit of a silver lining. At my core, I’m an optimist, so I can’t leave these creators or my fine readers in the negative-Nancy lurch, right?

In 1995, David Lapham would move on to start his publishing company El Capitan. His title crime title Stray Bullets would wow critics right from the beginning. Lapham would gain so much attention that he would do books for both Marvel and DC, working on characters such as Batman, Punisher, and Daredevil. He’s currently rocking the socks off of his Vertigo title Young Liars. Lapham made it! That’s too bad in a way because as his mainstream workload has increased, his output on Stray Bullets has decreased. That’s too bad. Stray Bullets has consistently been one of the best independently published titles ever produced. It would entertain, get your juices going, and constantly provoke you to think about human nature.

And then there’s Jim Shooter. He would make a comeback to Valiant in 1999 with Unity 2000, but that wouldn’t last too long. He was brought back on to rejuvenate the now flaccid Valiant line. But Shooter had chips on his shoulder and axes to grind. Mental note for all readers; don’t try to piss off the people you pissed off before by bringing unfavorable facsimiles of them into your title. It is not likely to garner you any favors and someone may be tempted to use the word “asshole” when describing you. Shooter did this. It was funny for all of us readers, like Democrats watching Hillary Clinton forcing that malevolent smile this week at the DNC. It was an odd choice of venue for revenge, but nevertheless, it wouldn’t last. Like many companies at the time, there were payment disputes out of the yin-yang. Acclaim/Valiant filed for bankruptcy after three issues. Even though he was lost in the comic book void for a while, Shooter has recently found his way back to the title that put him on the map, DC’s Legion of Superheroes.

Warriors of Plasm may be gone now, but the creators are still out there enjoying their own brand of success. You can’t ask for much better than that, can you?

Next Week…
We must say goodbye to the Causalities of the 90s for the time being. But don’t fret! Casualties of the 90s will be a regular feature of Panelology during the last week of every month henceforth. Next week, I’ll be looking at the arduous subject of the even more arduous task of cataloging your comic collection. Ouch.

See you then!
Read more!


Unpopular Opinions: Dark Knight

by Devin

“Long as you keep them way off balance, how can they spot you got no talents?”

Yes, this is indeed a quote from the musical Chicago. However, it works splendidly for the movie The Dark Knight. As I watched, I could not help but think that the constant growl from Christian Bale or the twenty car crashes per frame were the only things that had kept the world at large from realizing what an unmitigated piece of crap this film was. Well, that and the fact that there are currently worms making a meal of Heath Ledger.

That’s right – I hold the unpopular opinion that The Dark Knight not only wasn’t one of the greatest comic book movies of all time, but that it sucked. Now, before I go on, let me say that I will be reviewing this movie, not as a Batman movie, but as a movie on its own. Don’t write me off as a comic fan complaining about how they dared to change the sacred text.

I suppose the late Mr. Ledger would be the best place to start, as his role is the most-praised, the biggest cause of the hype and, naturally, the most over-rated. Compared to other Jokers, Heath Ledger’s Joker was not impressive at all. A good Joker should pose a challenge to a writer, extreme sadism with a genuinely funny (albeit extremely dark) sense of humor. In contrast, this Joker was a series of gruesome acts, followed by an occasional smile. He would have gotten along well with the guy from Saw.

As a character, Ledger’s Joker is awkward and one-dimensional. Worse, the basis of the character can’t seem to follow its own logic. The make-up designer has said that that they gave Joker gritty, messy make-up to show that he doesn’t care about his appearance. Would he really be wearing that whole get-up if he didn’t care about his appearance? The Dark Knight constantly wants to have its cake and eat it too. It wants to be uber-realistic and gritty and essentially above more comic-booky ideas like a villain with acid-spraying flowers or a sleek, phallic Batmobile, but it is in the end a comic book movie, and every attempt to get away from the comic book nature only makes everything else seem more unrealistic and silly.

This problem first occurred to me with Batman Begins, but came back with a roaring vengeance with Joker’s pencil scene. I could not help but wonder: why is this guy wearing a clown suit and make-up? Aside from the fact that he was Joker in a Batman movie, I could not really see any reason. He did not act like a clown; he acted like a normal crazy guy. The “pencil trick” and bomb joke only seemed like desperate token lines by the writers to justify his being the Joker. The scene played out as uncomfortably as if I were watching The Breakfast Club and Emilio Estivez was, for some unexplained reason, wearing Greek hoplite armor the entire time. While a more stylized, kookier character might have been unrealistic, he would have been more believable than this relatively lifelike character dressed up the way he was.

I could not help but think that Christopher Nolan decided what he wanted the Joker to act like, and then tried to shoehorn that idea into the role. That’s why the behavior does not fit the look. And that’s why the attempt at explaining the make-up (war paint?) seems half-hearted at best.

Why would the Joker then go out of make-up to disguise himself as a police officer? If disguise takes precedent over war-paint, why didn’t he do that as the nurse? Is he a master of disguise or a showman? Do the screenwriters even know their character? And, why oh why did the police not take off his make-up when they had him in custody? They clearly had him remove his clothes to inspect them (the line about them all being hand made, no labels). The obvious choice would be to wash off the make up, put him in a jumpsuit, and essentially neuter him. But they don’t. Why?

A. The Gotham police have the combined intellect of a busty blonde in a slasher flick.
B. The movie wants to keep Joker as an other-worldly figure despite already setting him up as a more grounded psychopath. And, really, who wants to see Batman interrogate a guy in a jumpsuit…even though, that would follow the rules set forth by the movie and the overall premise of this more-realistic, gritty Batman. Essentially, lazy writing.

Both of these reasons really. In fact, A is caused by B. A also comes up when the police leave Joker in an unlocked cell with one guard (yeah, leave a sole guard in the same room with someone who is known for playing mind games…great idea) and don’t even bother to clean up the shattered glass (erm…doesn’t this guy have a penchant for cutting?). And really now, could any police officer think that the Joker’s requested phone call was innocent?

Of course, if the police were competent, the Joker would have a harder time escaping. Either you would need to make him a bit more of a SUPER villain (hidden capsules of laughing gas perhaps) or, god forbid, put effort into your script and not just have events occur out of convenience to the writer.

Now, let’s look at the character itself. One moment I remember laughing was when Rachel Dawes yelled to Joker amidst his umpteenth scar speech, “Okay, stop!” That was because I was half-expecting her to follow that with “For the love of God, we’ve seen this scene five times already! This character is one-dimensional and boring!”

There, I said it. Joker was not a good villain. The emperor has no clothes. He was an averagely written psychopath who struck one note repetitively for the first half of the movie, and then in the second half turned into a pop-psychologist who has taken a course on ethics in night school.

As for Ledger’s acting, it was okay. I thought it was excessive instead of over-the-top (which would have been better). The lip-licking would have been a nice touch if done a few times every other scene instead of every line (I could not help but shake the image of 30 Rock’s Jack Donaghy telling Ledger, “That’s great! Do it nonstop! If it’s great with that line, it’ll make every line better!”). He was a decent psychopath in some scenes, especially considering the horrible dialogue and speeches he was given, but his performance just kind of seemed to be him shouting “LOOK! I’M ACTING!” at multiple points and I wonder if he’d be nominated for a Razzie were he still with us. To be honest, about halfway through the movie, I began to think that maybe Joker licked his lips so much to catch the bits of scenery that fell out during all the chewing.

There was one nice Joker moment in the movie: when he blew up the hospital. For a few seconds, he pretended to not know how to activate the explosives (while in drag, mind you, cause, well, drag’s always funnier), fiddled incompetently, then seemed surprised when he got the most excessive explosion I’ve seen in a while. On one hand, he blew up a hospital. On the other hand, the scene was hilarious. That dichotomy is not only hard to write, but brilliant, creepy, and captivating at the same time. I wish the rest of the film had been like that.

But enough about the Joker. Let’s look at Batman. As Bruce Wayne, Christian Bale seems to know what he’s doing. He’s arrogant, yet charismatic. That’d be great if this were Bruce Wayne: The Movie. Unfortunately, his Batman makes Toby Maguire’s awkward Spider-Man look like the best casting match known to man.

To start with the obvious: Someone please send Batman a note and let him know that he’s not Jack Bauer. And let Christian Bale know that imitating that voice might work for a line or two at best, but whenever he is giving a speech (oh the speeches…) or is in an extended dialogue, he ends up giving the best unintentional comedic performance since Faye Dunaway arched her eyebrows and became Mommie Dearest.

I also couldn’t buy this Batman not killing the Joker. This was yet another problem brought on by the combination of lazy writing and a more realistic, less stylized setting. This Batman breaks bones, levels city blocks, probably puts hundreds of lives in danger with his car chases and truck flipping…yet, he won’t kill the Joker on two separate occasions. Why? Because he doesn’t want to prove the Joker right? I can hardly believe that this character would allow hundreds of more lives to be endangered just so the Joker would not get those 5 seconds of satisfaction between the beginning and end of his death. The comic book Batman would…but we’re leaving the comics out of this, right? Just like Joker’s attire, the only reason this did not come off as asinine was because the public has in their consciousness that Batman does not kill.

Oh, and I’m just not going into the pointless Hong Kong excursion. For everyone’s sake, let’s pretend that never happened and move on to Harvey Dent, shall we?

I wanted to like Harvey/Two-Face. Honestly, I did. Aaron Eckhart did a great job in the first half and I could almost see myself championing him as the under-appreciated actor amidst the “ZOMG! Posthumous Oscar!” clamor. Unfortunately, his descent to Two-Face was rushed. Sure, he’d had a traumatic experience…but does that make everyone automatically give up all of the ideals they strived so hard for and try to kill their former allies?

I think someone in Gotham City had control of the trade-marked Anakin-Skywalker-Evil-Switch: “Sure to turn any good character evil with just one lame excuse!” Even when I forced myself to make that leap, I could not get over the fact that he hated Gordon more than Joker and spared Joker. If Dent’s change had been more gradual, maybe it would have made sense. If he’d killed Joker, maybe I could have forced myself to believe he so abruptly became evil. But again, in this fight between the Clown Prince of Crime and the Caped Crusader, the only true winner is plot convenience. Logic and coherence were the greatest casualties.

As for Rachel Dawes, I found her an enigma. Was Maggie Gyllenhaal trying to provide depth to a 2-dimensional character or was she flattening a more developed character? It was definitely one of the two, because in the end Rachel was about a 2.5 dimensional character.

But, aside from characters, what did I think? The dialogue was an encyclopedia of bad action movie clichés. A few of my favorites: “You’re the symbol of hope I could never be.” “You can’t give in!!!!!!” (yes, all those exclamation points were necessary) “People are dying. What would you have me do?” And of course:

Joker: I like you. There’s some fight in you.
Batman: Then you’re gonna love me.

I guess with an unfunny Joker, Batman has to be the one making the jokes.

Also, you gotta love all of the speeches explaining the character’s motivations and the point of the movie. Usually, just one of those speeches is a flashing light that someone spent about a week on this screenplay and was not willing to put in the time for subtlety. However, Dark Knight had the boldness to put at least five such speeches – from Joker, Batman, Harvey, and even Gordon.

"But, Devin," you might say, "you’re being unfair. This is a summer blockbuster. Lighten up."

I suppose you could have a point. I mean, this movie is almost the perfect homogenous summer blockbuster. At times, I forgot that I was watching Batman and not, for example, 2003’s SWAT. The difference is, this film took itself unbelievably seriously, as have fans and critics. The last scene (the confrontation between Two-Face, Gordon, and Batman) reeks of the film’s love for itself.
Despite being “realistic,” this movie falls back on tons of bad comic-book clichés. The policemen robbed of their uniforms (that all fit the Joker’s men?) and tied up in their skivvies? The comedic court scenes? The nonstop use of pseudo-scientific technology that does not exactly make sense? The criminals all meeting together and referring to themselves as criminals and reflecting on how much better the “criminals” were in the good ol’ days?

Stuff like this stood out in the realistic Gotham like the animated weasel gang stood out among the live-action setting in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? The criminals were cartoon characters, a lingering aspect from Batman’s comic book origins that just didn’t fit. Even Batman himself came off as a bit silly amidst all the realism. I remember another moment of unintentional comedy early in the film as Gordon and Dent argued as Batman just awkwardly stood there in the background. In this supposedly realistic setting, I could not get over the hilarity of the fact that IT’S A FREAKIN' GUY IN A RUBBER BAT-SUIT!

And what do we get in return for this realism? Chicago as Gotham, with its average skyline that Nolan insists on reminding us of with a long, sweeping establishing shot every five minutes. A Batman that can’t decide if he is Jack Bauer, James Bond, Bruce Willis, Rambo, or someone action star in between. No Batcave, but instead the White Room of Exposition! I know I said I was not going to bring in the comics, but I was DYING for something to look at (a dinosaur, a car, a giant penny, ANYTHING!). So what do we get? A non-stop cavalcade of the boring and mundane.

But not everyone was bored. Or found it stupid. Am I special? No. I can understand how amidst the hype and the dead celebrity and the constant explosions and the general roller-coaster ride of the plot, people could walk out and not think of the various problems. I must admit I went in not expecting the best. But dear god, even I was shocked by how bad it was.

I was convinced that Batman could not be done realistically. Batman is a stupid concept, built on absurdities. “An overgrown kid in a playsuit crying for mommy and daddy” says the Joker in one episode of the cartoon. A father who is both a surgeon and a billionaire owner of a multinational corporation? And why are they walking home from a movie playing at the worst neighborhood in town? Why is Batman waging a one man war on crime? That can’t be the most practical method. But, because the whole world is so stylized, because all the absurdities fit together so well, there’s no reason to question it. It’s not our world. Those aren’t our rules. Batman Begins tried to fit that world to our rules, only to make every part that couldn’t come off as ludicrous.

However, after seeing Dark Knight, I have to reassess my position. I realize that I would not be fair to judge the possibility of a realistic Batman on the sloppy Batman Begins or its sloppier successor. That would be like saying Batman cannot be a superhero because of the failure of Batman and Robin. Perhaps a more competent writer and director could do it…but judging from this movie’s grosses, that ain’t happening any time soon.
Read more!


Calling All Fanboys!

by The General

MTV, the station that used to be famous for it'\s innovative music videos, put out an APB today looking for fanboys willing to bare their souls to the world... or at least bare their souls to that special breed of bored high school student and stoned undergrad who has enough time on their hands to watch a show like I'm a True Life Fanboy.

If public humiliation is your calling, or if you believe in the redemptive power of Cable TV to better the global standing of fanboys every where, read on...

MTV's original notice.



Are you a young person who is obsessed with a certain book, comic, or video game? MTV’s True Life is looking for young people who are die-hard fans of certain brands, characters, or fantasy series.

Are you obsessed with comic books, anime, fantasy, or manga? Do you like to dress up as your favorite character and attend conventions with other fans? Have you ever waited in line overnight for a book, movie, or videogame release? Do you have tattoos depicting your favorite brand or characters? Have you ever missed work, school, or other important events to engage in role-playing or cosplay? Are you misunderstood by your family or significant other because of it? Do you aspire to author your own graphic novel or comic series despite your parents’ disapproval?

If you appear to be between the ages of 16 and 28, and want to share the story of your fantasy obsession, email us at fanboy@mtvn.com with all of the details. Be sure to include your name, location, phone number and a photo, if possible.

Tell MTV why you need to be seen and heard. This is your chance to let others see what your life is all about!

Probably my favorite part is "If you appear to be between the ages of 16 and 28..." Apparently, appearances are everything.

Sadly, the General is an Old Man™ and will be unable to apply. But, maybe my loss is your gain! Read more!

Patrick's Hat Trick: Don't You Know There's A Crisis Going On

by Patrick

Where have I been? Well, I've been off preparing my safe-house for the coming Skrull Invasion Final Crisis. And there are a lot of supplies you need for a safe-house. Bottled water. Canned Foods. And of course, reading materials. And by reading materials, I mean comics! Since I am getting ready for the Skrull Invasion Final Crisis, It might be good to read the comics leading into it. So this week we'll be digging into DC Universe: Last Will and Testament one shot, the first of the two part Superman Beyond 3D, and the second chapter of Geoff Johns' Final Crisis: Rogues' Revenge. Let's get started, shall we?

DC UNIVERSE: Last Will and Testament: Brad Meltzer finds himself slumming in the comics world again, this time teamed with Adam & Joe Kubert. Why give it a super long and slightly awkward title? I'm guessing it's because calling it "Geo-Force special" wouldn't sell as many copies. The main story-line follows the one time outsider as he plots killing Deathstroke while the world is coming to an end. And while I say a Geo-force comic wouldn't sell, the Geo-force vs. Deathstroke story was actually pretty good, with a good twist or two along the way. Where this book loses it is every time it goes away from the Geo-force story-line. I'm guessing they didn't let Brad Meltzer read any of Final Crisis, because just every big dog of the DCU is shown nowhere near where they were in Final Crisis. Wally West isn't with Barry. Green Lantern isn't imprisoned. Neither is Batman. Clark isn't keeping his wife alive with his heat vision. And that it so completely ignores what is happening with those those characters is annoying. The Geo-Force story gets a B+, while the rest of the book gets an F. So I guess it averages out to an unsatisfying GRADE Of :C-

Final Crisis: Superman Beyond 3D #1: If you are picking this up hoping to see the Grant Morrison who is writing ALL STAR SUPERMAN, you'll be disappointed. But if you are looking for Final Crisis issue 3.5, this might be the book you are looking for. Superman enters the fray and teams up with other Supermen from other realities to find something to fight the Crisis. And along the way we get some hints of answers beginning to form. Some of the mysteries of the Final Crisis start to unravel here, and we even get to see a place we havn't seen since Grant's run on Animal Man. GRADE: B-. It's nice to see this crisis stuff is all heading somewhere after all.

Final Crisis: Rogues' Revenge #2: And over here we have the fun corner of the Final Crisis. After telling Libra last issue, "Thanks for the invite, but we are not joining," Libra does the predictable thing and goes after them. Who he sent after them is pretty clever. And even more surprising is the perfectly logical reason Libra thinks he needs the Rouges on his team. Grade: A- Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins are making a great villain book, and I'm sorry we only have one more issue to go.

Well, that's all we have this week. I'll be back in a week or two if I can avoid the Skrulls Parademons. Take care.
Read more!


X-Men: The Hunkies

by Sarah

Welcome to the new Bad Genious column, X-Men: The Hunkies. Each month, an X-Man will be picked for us to drool over. Oh, and maybe we'll say a few words as to why we're drooling so much over him.

To kickstart this droolworthy endeavor, the finest of the bunch has been chosen. Okay, so it was my choice and I'm biased, but I'm a gal in love. So without further ado, please ogle Gambit!

What is it that makes Gambit so popular? Is it those extremely manly and oh-so-hard pecs of his? His smooth, sexy, Cajun accent? His burning eyes? His humour? His charisma? His soulfulness and how he seems to be seeking redemption? The way he whispers "Mon Chere"? The way he handles a pack of cards? Or is it the bad boy attitude, the mischievousness, the flirtiness? Maybe it's all of these.

My love for Gambit first started when I watched the cartoon on tv. Unlike my fellow BGers, I wasn't a comic reader; that didn't happen until much later in my life. Apart from the hotness, I loved his character, the bit of bad-boy-trying-to-do-good. Oh, and the way he just said "Mon Chere" melted my heart. Years later when I met my husband, he took me to Forbidden Planet in London and there I found that I could read about my favourite character (yes, sure, I know that's sad how an early twenty-something was only just finding out about comics, but I made up for it).

The first comic I ever bought was the Rogue trade paperback. I loved the dynamics between Rogue and Gambit and, hey, I could imagine I was Rogue for a bit. After that, I hit every comic shop I could find to get as much Gambit action (and other comics) as I could. Apart from the last run of his own self-titled series, I think I pretty much have most of his stuff. I even have my own Marvel Legends Gambit...although he is currently in storage. Plus I have a pretty groovy piece of artwork.

Well that's enough rambling I think it's time we had some pictures and maybe we'll hear just why you love Gambit so much.

Read more!


Coming Attractions: Veeps

by Brandon

The wait is over for us Obama fans. It's Biden. Did you yawn a little too? Yeah. With all of the mystery surrounding Barack Obama's vice-presidential choice and the collective yawn expected coming from old man McCain's choice, it is only natural to want to look back at our Vice Presidents. Thankfully, Top Shelf Productions is there for us fans when we really need someone to give us background on one of the most useless, yawn-inspiring, but usually laughable jobs in the executive branch. Well, at least before we got a buffoon like Bush actually in the Oval Office.

Have you ever wondered about those individuals who are a stroke, bullet, or over-sized pretzel away from being President? It seems like the office of the Vice Presidency hasn't amounted to much until the recent administration. Hell, I even have an undergraduate degree in History and Geography and I must admit that I don't know too much about most Vice Presidents. Everyone knows the guy sitting in the big chair, but not the guy throwing wild drunken, parties just across the street from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In fact, there probably wasn't much of interest out there on our VP's for anyone to really care. That is until now.

Enter Bill Kelter and Wayne Shellabarger.

In October, their new illustrated novel Veeps hopes to set the record straight on the most peculiar office in Washington. If the previews available are any indication of the overall quality of the book, fans of politics and humor will be very pleased. The book promises to chronicle the Vice Presidential lives of our nation's most obscure statesman. The timing is just right, too. This election is proving to be a high-interest election by anyone's reasoning.

The authors approach their material from a historical vantage point that is dipped in irony and humor. Most comic book fans will appreciate the way the authors approach the material, as it is more akin to reading something from Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert than a history book. This book is set to prove that the truth really is funnier than anything you could make up.

To promote the book, the authors haver established a website, a blog, and Top Shelf is offering a preview as well. Based on the ample preview material, it is safe to say that this will be one of the funniest books to come out this year from any comic publisher. Illustrated novels like this don't seem to see the light of day often from modern comic companies, but Top Shelf has done a bang-up job by getting behind this book. At times, the preview selections available currently are hysterical as is the case with Franklin Pierce's VP William Rufus DeVane King, the nation's thirteenth.

King was a unique character, potentially the first homosexual to serve in VP capacity. The authors write of King's personal life that, "Besides the Vice Presidency, King shared with Thomas Jefferson a rumored habit of indulging in sexual relationships with his slaves. Unlike Jefferson, though, King’s trysts were believed to be with his male slaves. We can’t know precisely all that John Quincy Adams had in mind when he called King 'a gentle slavemonger', but in this light the imagination wanders." King, like many of our first Vice Presidents, also didn't live too long once in office. He lasted forty-five days before killing over from tuberculosis, leaving a sad postscript as "the least remembered man in American history.”

Politics can be so staunch and stiff that it is a rare and welcome surprise to have a book like this come along, no less from a comic book company. History can be very funny, especially when considering an office like that of the Vice President's. Sadly forgotten over the course of time, Veeps offers an insightful and funny look at what it means to be the number two man in America.

Veeps is an illustrated hardcover by Bill Kelter and Wayne Shellabarger set to be released on October 29, 2008 from Top Shelf Productions. Readers can preview the content of Veeps by visiting their web page or by visiting Top Shelf Productions. You can order the book via Top Shelf Productions or Amazon.
Read more!


Panelology - Casualty of the 90s: The X-Files

by Brandon

The 90s casualty report keeps on rolling today in Panelology. There were many spooky things going on in the 1990s comic book market, but nothing was as spooky as the eerie rise and fall of The X-Files title from Topps Comics. The X-Files managed to scare up more than just watchers during the second season boom; they managed to get a bunch of readers. The comic book exploded onto the scene in 1995, but will fizzle out by 1998 along with Topps Comics. What happened? How could a title that occupied space on the shelf with the other big league players of the day fold so quickly? This is truly a case for Special Agent Brandon and the 90s Casualty Files. The truth is out there, but it probably won't satisfy you one bit.

Secret Origins
The X-Files began humbly in September 1993. For those that somehow missed the show, The X-Files followed a pair of detectives, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, as they investigated the fringe, seemingly unexplainable elements of the FBI's massive caseload. This was a show that was steeped in so much lore that it is hard to just focus on one of the many great themes explored. There were aliens, monsters, unexplainable events, and memorable characters. As far out as it seemed, The X-Files always remained scary and relevant. The mix of horror, science fiction, and drama was just too perfect. By the second season, The X-Files had become a television darling of fans and many critics.

Topps Comics
Topps began producing comics in 1993. Most baseball card collectors will probably recognize them more for their sports cards than anything else, but they actually did get in on teh speculator boom of the 90s. Topps would focus primarily on licensed properties, including The X-files, but they would venture out into some original series. Topps landed some great creative talent (past, present, and future at the time) to work on some of these books including Tim Bradstreet, Mike Mignola, Charles Adlard, Kurt Busiek, Kieth Giffen, and Jack Kirby. the Kirby books were of interest because they basically raided his creative storehouse of untapped ideas. And though we all know Kirby was quite prolific, that is another tale for another day.

In 1995, the first issue of The X-Files hit the stands, and would immediately become their biggest success, remain so until the company folded. The creative team of writer Stefan Petrucha and artist Charles Adlard started the series. The book was selling like hotcakes. I remember seeing several copies in shops floating around $50-$100 each. Things haven't changed too much nowadays, as I saw a copy last week in a local shop still going for $45!

Problems in the X-Files...
Almost from the beginning, The X-Files was in mysterious danger. Though many fans (including this one) thought the series was excellent, apparently Fox and Chris Carter did not. Chris Carter and the other bigwigs involved with the approval process took a heavy hand in the creative process. Tony Isabella once was quoted as saying, "The main reason the comics fell behind schedule was because it took so long to satisfy the X-Files people. They went over *everything* with a fine-tooth comb, including the letters columns." Stefan Petrucha would also lament these heavy-handed editorial woes by stating that, "As the success of the series grew, I felt more and more boxed in."

Despite having some solid stories, Petrucha was sacked as of issue 16, with John Rozum becoming the permanent writer for the remain issues. In a, interview from 1998, Petrucha stated that, "I decided to leave right after they fired me. To be honest, knowing the extent of their objections, it was getting harder and harder to drag myself over to the word processor and produce what I thought was a good script.." Adlard would stay on until issue 29, to be replaced by Alex Saviuk for the remainder of the run. The editorial revisions and second-guessing would soon take their toll causing late shipments and headaches in an already rough market. Despite having several successful miniseries, a graphic novel, and some one-shots the X-Files was canceled with issue #41 in 1998. With their best selling titles now gone and feeling the universal strain of the 90s comic industry, Topps decided to fold their comic book line in 1998 as well.

The Truth is Out There Again
The X-Files would finish its 9-season long run in 2002, the series having weathered many damaging changes of its own including Duchovny's semi-retirement from the show and waning viewership. While most fans hoped for another movie soon thereafter, legal disputes and creative issues kept fans from seeing a new movie until the summer of 2008. An unfortunate critical and commercial disappointment, The X-Files: I Want to Believe was more of a putter than a bang in a summer box office that saw Batman beating up all of the competition.

Sounds like a definite casualty of the 90s, right? Well, maybe.

Along with the movie has come a new comic book from DC/Wildstorm. Issue #0 hits stands with the movie this summer and the remaining six issues are due out this fall. Maybe the final chapter to The X-Files comic hasn't been written yet? The zero-issue was quite good and I definitely recommend it to anyone interesting a good one-shot comic that doesn't involve Skrulls, Crisis, or Quasar.
Read more!


BG Roundtable: Cult of Personality

by Liana

Recently, your Friendly Neighborhood Editor came across some comments by a comic book writer that really rubbed her the wrong way. Basically, he indicated that being nominated for an Eisner Award in a particular category wasn’t a great distinction because everything in that category was crap. This lack of respect really cheesed off your FNE and if she wasn’t already turned off his work, she certainly was now. This in turn sparked a discussion amongst the BG about creators’ personalities in general, which inevitably lead to your FNE asking the questions: Does a creator’s personality affect your ability to enjoy his or her book? Has a creator’s personality ever lead to you picking up, dropping or completely avoiding his or her work?

Rory - For me, it depends on the type of book. For an independent, creator-owned book, I think it is only natural that the creator's personality affects my feelings of the book. These types of books usually feature more of the creator's viewpoints and personality anyway, so if the writer/artist is personable, nice, funny etc., I'll probably end up enjoying the book more than one I would potentially buy from an asshole. With Big 2 books, it doesn't affect it so much. Amazing Spider-Man is, for the most part, still Amazing Spider-Man. Plus, there are enough chefs in the kitchen to make sure that the end product is palatable to most people, so one bad personality doesn't ruin the whole book.

The distinction between creator-owned work and big company work is significant, because it's a lot easier to look past the creators when the characters they're working on belong as much, if not more, to the fans than to the creators of the moment.

Doug - If the politics don't bleed into the work, I don't care. Chuck Dixon working on Robin or Batman? Fine. Chuck Dixon doing a creator-owned "kill the liberals" book? That I wouldn't buy.

Yassir - Chuck Dixon has said some pretty ignorant comments about Islam that make me not particularly keen to try his stuff out. It helps that I've never really been a fan.

Doug - If I know a particular work is going to be used to advance a viewpoint I don't agree with, I'll probably avoid the work.

Mister - Then on the other end of the spectrum you have really nice creators, and because they are "nice", decent people I will pick up their work, even if I'm not overly interested in what they are doing, just to help support them. Kurt Busiek is a prime example of this: a great writer, but on top of that he is a lovely person, and if I see something with his name on it, I'll pick it up in a heartbeat.

Dan - Back in the heyday of Newsarama I got a couple PM’s from creators that got me not only to pick up their work at the time, but to continue getting their stuff. The first was from Kaare Andrews when I made a comment about being completely unimpressed with the solicitations for Spider-Man: Legend of the Spider-Clan. I remember the solicit and talk-up being excessively ‘kewl’ and that was a big turn off, which was a bummer cause I liked Skottie Young's art and Andrews' cover work on Incredible Hulk. Kaare basically said to give the first issue a try and if I didn't like it let him know why. Turns out I loved it. The second was from Todd Nauck when I praised his very first issue of WildGuard in a review on Newsarama. He was very grateful for the positive feedback and just incredibly kind and gracious. The little bit of time both these creators put in to contact me directly was very cool and an incredibly effective way of making me a fan. Of course, my direct interactions with Bendis weren't quite the same.

Mark -I thought it was great talking to Bendis. When Ultimate Spider-Man was still in its first year, he was at an Atlanta Con next to David Mack and Mark Bagley. He was super friendly and excited about his work at Marvel and on Powers. I've always thought of him as a nice guy since then. What happened when you talked to him?

Dan - Well, mine was more of a back and forth via e-mail and message board after I lambasted his Daredevil month after month on Comicon. Nothing was rude or anything from him. Just that awkwardness of a back and forth with a creator who took a non-fan's negative comments about their work WAY too personally.

Matt - Same with Igor Kordey. After he lashed out at fans for not respecting and understanding his work, my respect for him as an artist fell and now I go out of my way to avoid his work. (BUT, if he drew a Banshee miniseries….)

If there’s one thing your FNE hates more than a sensitive creator who gets totally bent out of shape just because the occasional, random person with a blogger account doesn’t like his work, it’s overzealous fans who derive a false sense of importance by defending their favorite creators against said criticism.

Dan - The overzealous fans become a bigger turn-off than a creator with an online personality I don't care for. "Look what I did for you, Mr. Creator!" or "Look what I did to help promote the book!" become an obsessive fan’s awkward way to make themselves feel like part of the creative process.

Doug - I know there are a few creators out there that have such vocal online fans, that if you express a negative opinion of their work, you have them trying to engage you in an argument and prove you "wrong" or tell you that you “don’t get it". Look, maybe I just don't like Writer X's work, OK? I don't want to engage in a 17-page message board thread about why I don't like it.

Peter David’s fans turned your FNE off to his work LONG before Peter David came and finished the job himself.

The General - Honestly, I usually think Peter David’s comics are at least solid. But, at the same time, he's usually wrapped up in some little bit of online melodrama that just makes me think he’s acting infantile, and that distracts from my ability to not only get behind his comics, but also talk positively about them online.

Doug - There are definitely some creators who have online personas I don't care for, but I won't refuse to buy their work for JUST that reason.

Dan - Erik Larsen is a particularly rough around the edges and in your face personality online, but that doesn't keep me from reading Savage Dragon.

The General - Which is doubly odd because the one time I met him in person, he was all smiles, politeness and handshakes. Which helps go to show that some people just don't translate well to an online environment.

Mark - I'm more likely to pick up work by creators that I've had the chance to meet at a convention, as most of them come off pretty well in real life. I've picked up more books by guys like David Mack, Kyle Baker, Paul Jenkins and Arvid Nelson than I would have if I hadn't enjoyed talking to them so much. In David Mack's case, it didn't hurt that he kept giving me free books while I was at his table either.

Rory - David Mack is like the Tom Hanks of comic conventions. I haven't heard one bad story about the guy.

Dan - No kidding. In Philly I was at his table for a half hour talking it up and going on about being on joequesada.com and I ended up leaving with all six Kabuki trades, four Kabuki Reflections and a bunch of posters. All for the ridiculously low price of $60. Now I always give stuff he's working on a second look.

Doug - David Mack stole my signed copy of NFL Superpro #1.


Doug - Well, I can’t prove it.


Joe - Luckily, many of the asshole creators out there I don't find to be very talented. I know after reading some of what Orson Scott Card's had to say online, it reduced my enjoyment of his Ultimate Iron Man stuff & I have zero intention of reading the Ender's Game comics coming out. On the other hand, Ethan Van Sciver's politics make me want to stab my head, but I am very excited about Flash: Rebirth, though I would be even if he wasn't involved. I probably won't pick up anything new by John Byrne, but that doesn't stop me from feeling that his work on Iron Fist in the ‘70s was ahead of its time.

Matt - Rarely do creators say or do something that offends me enough that I would ban reading their books, but there have been a few creators that I am hesitant in supporting for various reasons. Take Micah Wright for instance. After he was exposed as lying about his military experience, I didn't want to pick up anything he wrote. There would be no way I would pick up his stuff if it was creator-owned, but if he was in more of a controlled environment and was on a project that interested me (like a Banshee miniseries) then I would probably pick it up.

Mark - Micah Wright is the only creator I think I would never buy anything from. I'm just not very patient with someone who makes up lies to give their political diatribes more weight, regardless of what their point of view happens to be. So, I guess I can be pushed away from buying work of some creators based on their behavior, but not usually.

Doug - Sometimes, I think a negative perception of a creator may have a subconscious effect on my enjoyment of his (or her) work, but I'll keep buying it if I'm enjoying it. I'm much more likely to buy something if I LIKE a creator. Mister mentioned Kurt Busiek, that's a great example. Pros I've met at cons who were really nice include Phil Hester, Adam Hughes, David Mack, Jim Krueger, and that's something I always remember when deciding whether or not to try out another one of their books. Sean McKeever is another one, online or in person, he has a way of getting fans to rally behind him. So, when it comes to personality, I choose to focus on the positive.

Patrick - Back in the ‘80s, I was at the Chicago Comic-Con (before it became Wizard World), talking to Paul Kuppenburg. Doom Patrol #1 had just come out that week. People were bringing him stacks of books as we were talking and I commented something along the lines of "I'm going to be the only person in Chicago without an autographed copy.” He told me to go get one and he would sign it. Well, it was Sunday and this high school kid had already spent his wad. So Paul reached into his pocket, grabbed a buck, and told me to go buy a copy. From that day on I bought every book he bought.

We’ll close with that story and these words of wisdom to all creators, be they cuddly or prickly: You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
Read more!


From Top to Bottom #17: Gimmick Covers

by Matt

Welcome to the 17th edition of the long running and Grammy winning "From Top to Bottom" column! Every week I will look at something within the comics industry and give you my opinion on what I think is the best and what I think ranks amongst the bottom-feeders.

Last week, in celebration of Star Wars week, I looked at the Top and Bottom of Marvel's Star Wars comics. This week, after reading Brandon's fantastic Casualties of the 90's columns I decided it would be fun to look back at a trend that was so prevalent of the 90's. I do admit that I got sucked into the madness of gimmick covers. There was a time where I picked up almost every gimmick cover there was. In the 90's EVERY comic had a gimmick cover at some point, even Quasar. I brought out my longboxes and dug through them to unearth my Top and the Bottom Gimmick covers that I admit I picked up because of the covers.

I am a little embarrassed to find that I own a lot of gimmick covers. Well, kinda embarrassed. Some gimmick covers I thought were pretty cool and I guess they did make me try new books. I absolutely loved the Avengers series of gimmick covers that celebrates their anniversary and it also made some sense as well. They had foil-embossed covers of bronze, silver, gold and platinum. The glow-in-the-dark Ghost Rider cover (Ghost Rider #15) was also cool. My son and I tested it and it still glows in the dark. Some gimmick covers were not as imaginative and were quite boring. All of these books I owned because of the covers, Darkhawk #25, Dr. Strange #25, Secret Defenders #1 and the list goes on and on. It seemed for a time in the 90's that stories were made just so they can plaster a gimmick cover on them. We'll see an example of a cool gimmick cover that came out with no importance at all, it was just an excuse to slap a gimmick cover on it. And yes, I bought it anyway even though I don't collect the series.

3) X-O Manowar #0
Sometimes a good gimmick cover will make me pick up a book. I was never into the Valiant universe and this was my first book into that universe. Joe Quesada's art really helped and the gimmick enhanced the art. The vibrant colors of the foil really made this book stand out. Luckily for me, the story inside was pretty good as well.

2) Silver Surfer #50 and #75
These gimmicks made sense and were cool looking. The foil-embossed gimmick is one of my favorite gimmicks and seeing the Silver Surfer all shiny and silver was cool. I also liked that it was only the Silver Surfer that was enhanced and not the whole cover. It made it stand out a little more. I prefer Silver Surfer #50 but I couldn't find a good scan of it.

1) Uncanny X-Men #304
When Marvel first tried the hologram gimmick covers with Spider-Man I was not impressed. The hologram was weak and grainy but I liked the idea. When the X-Men Fatal Attractions crossover came out celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the X-Men, they tried the holograms out again but this time they were successful. The holograms were smaller and much more detailed. All of the holograms were cool, but I especially liked the Magneto hologram on this issue.

MIDDLE PICK: Fantastic Four #317 In the 90's, any excuse was good enough to get a comic to have a gimmick cover and Marvel's Fantastic Four was one of the worst offenders. Fantastic Four #371 is a perfect example. It was a cool gimmick cover but it was not an anniversary issue and it was not an important issue or anything. The Human Torch accidentally burns down Empire Start University and that's it. The gimmick cover was so popular that they had a 2nd printing complete with the same gimmick cover, only is was all red instead of all white. While the gimmick cover was neat, the reasoning was not. But I bought it anyway. And they had another gimmick cover (shown below) just a few issues later.

3) Punisher War Zone #1
Die-cut covers can be cool if they are used right. Wolverine #50 was kinda neat with the claw marks which made sense and it was a special issue as it revealed a little of his origin. This Punisher die-cut cover made little sense. The bullet holes I get and it would have been cool if that is all they did but they had this large piece cut out to show the skull in the background. They didn't need that, the logo had a skull and the Punisher himself had a skull. They only needed bullet holes and the Punisher with guns blazing. Again, I was lucky that the insides were so good.

2) Fantastic Four #375
The Fantastic Four had a ton of ugly gimmick covers. They have a name for these covers, prism-something I think but I just don't see the appeal. The gimmick does not enhance the art, it does the opposite. It makes the art muddled and ugly.

1) Guardians of the Galaxy #25
I love Valentino's run on Guardians of the Galaxy, probably one of my favorite runs of all-time. But this cover was hideous. I cannot tell what Marvel was trying to get with this cover. The people looked flat and pasted on and the Galactus was too dark and grainy. The gimmick looks dirty and not as clean and crisp as the other gimmick covers. I think I have seen this gimmick only on this cover.

Do gimmick covers still have a place in our industry? I still like gimmick covers but feel they should be used sparingly and only for real special occasions. I also liked the option that Marvel had where you had a choice of getting the gimmick cover or just the regular cover. I am glad that they are not all over like they were in the 90's but I wouldn't mind seeing one or two pop up on occasion.
Read more!

Star Wars: The Clone Wars - A BG Review

by Betsy

My three-and-a-half year old son, Jack, is a huge Star Wars fan. This weekend, he was able to experience the joy that many of us remember from our childhoods - that is, seeing a brand new movie from our favorite francise for the very first time on a big screen.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I felt much of the same excitement. As a long-time Star Wars fan myself, I love the moment when that John Williams score first kicks in. But unlike Jack, I was feeling some trepidation about this movie. I have felt that initial geeky excitement, only to be burned three times by disappointing prequels.

So, what would two fans - one three and a half, one thirty-tree and a half - think of Star Wars: The Clone Wars? Click on the link, genious.

The movie takes place between Episode II and Episode III of the non-animated movies. Anakin is introduced to a new apprentice, a young girl named Ahsoka. The two of them are charged with rescuing the kidnapped son of Jabba the Hutt, in the hope of improving relations between the Jedi and the Hutts as an advantage in the ongoing Clone Wars.

Where the prequels spent an enormous amount of time explaining the politics behind the Clone Wars, this movie pretty much goes from one battle scene to the next, which is a vast improvement. Jack was really into it, cheering, "Get him, Anakin! Go, Ahsoka!" I was less impressed by it - although the action scenes were a lot of fun, there was no real feeling of innovation. Episode II had its faults, but it did allow us to see a huge group of Jedi, lightsabers drawn, in the midst of a gigantic fight. The Cartoon Network's Clone Wars shorts were even better, particularly a battle between Anakin and Ventress that could have come from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The action scenes in Clone Wars lacked that creative spark.

I really didn't like the style of animation that was used in the movie. Considering the technology available today, in which Finding Nemo looks practically real, having such artifical looking characters was a strange choice. I felt like I was watching a video game the entire time.

Only a few of the cast of the live movies were used in this one, to mixed effect. James Arnold Taylor played Obi-Wan like an imitation of Ewan McGreggor, but Matt Lanter was a vast improvement over Hayden Christensen as Anakin. His chemistry with apprentice Ahsoka (voiced by Ashley Drane) was a million times more believable than that between Christensen and Natalie Portman in any scenes the two of them had together. I also liked the fact that female characters played a larger role in this movie, and that one of the clone troopers, Captain Rex, actually had a bit of a personality. Jack obviously agreed, as he told me that he wanted action figures of Captain Rex and Ventress.

Clone Wars was written by Henry Gilroy, Steven Melching, and Scott Murphy - in other words, not by George Lucas. As a result, the dialogue - while not exactly Shakespeare - was considerably better. Attempts to break the tension with humor, particularly with the hapless droid army, were considerably more effective than C-3PO being dragged behind R2-D2 and saying, "what a drag."

Critics are slamming this new movie, and I can honestly say that Jack and I enjoyed it a lot more than they did. Jack declared that it was a "nice, nice movie," and "really cool, Mommy," and "We should buy this when it comes out on DVD." He actually got out of his seat and danced to the music that played over the credits. I am less enthusiastic. It's a far cry from the original trilogy, better than the prequels, but not nearly as good as the Cartoon Network cartoons. Jack would give it an A, but I'll settle for a C+
Read more!

Secret Invasion #5: Now with 500% More Tie-Ins

by Liana

Marvel thought it would be a good idea to release Secret Invasion #5 at the same time as FOUR of its tie-ins. Apparently, the powers that be at Marvel believe their fans have an abundance of cash burning holes in their pockets and are doing everything they can to save the pants! A noble campaign, for sure. Well, I only got two of their tie-ins (Inhumans and X-Men), but I added three back-issues (Fantastic Four) to the pile. As we’re keeping score, that’s six skrullicious comics in one week. I have a feeling Marvel’s pockets are in better shape than mine right now.

Secret Invasion #5 was much better than last month’s borefest. Lots happens and most of it makes sense, despite Leinil Yu’s muddled artwork (seriously, has this guy always been so….not great?). Apparently, the ship that landed in the Savage Land really was full of Skrulls, though it seems the Skrulls themselves didn’t realize they were actually Skrulls. There’s some kind of secret agent/hypnotism angle working here (see the X-Men tie-in review below). In fact, it’s starting to look like some of these Skrulls aren’t really on board with what they’re doing. Take the case of Captain Marvel. He was definitely identified as a Skrull last issue, right? Because he’s not too happy about that now and it looks like he’s going to do something about it. Also not very happy about how things are going down? HawkeyeRonin. He thought he wife was back from the dead, but it turned out she was just another damn dirty Skrull. But, if one man has cornered the market on pissed-off retribution, it’s Reed Richards. Agent Brand (turns out she totally kicks ass) rescued his strecthiness, and now he’s shooting some fantastic gizmo to determine the pink from the green. This is how we find out Tony Stark isn’t a Skrull after all. Bummer. Not a bummer? Agent Hill (turns out she also kicks ass) teaching SkrullJarvis a lesson, despite his best efforts to not learn it. There were a few problems with this issue, but they’re hardly worth focusing on. Secret Invasion is back to being fun, so I’m just going to enjoy it. B+

Secret Invasion: Fantastic Four #1-3 was sitting on the shelf, the “compleat” run, when I went to the comic shop. I decided I wasn’t really interested, but then Dan pointed out it was drawn by Barry Kitson. I swooned for a moment as I flashed back to the happiness that was Kitson and Waid’s Legion of Super-Heroes, then had Dan grab all three issues, despite having not loved Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s writing in the past. So, what have Johnny and Ben (and the kids) been up to while Reed’s been stretched to capacity (I forget where Sue’s been)? They’ve been hanging out in the Negative Zone, thanks to Johnny’s ex-skrullover, Lyja. Giant bugs yadda yadda yadda lover’s spat blah blah blah Lyja is going to stay in the Negative Zone ho hum. Franklin has the son-of-a-genius idea to raid his dad’s prison to find someone to fix the transporter back to the real world, so they end up forming an alliance with the Tinkerer, who is now apparently a harmless old grandpa. Okay, sure. This mini-series was okay, but nothing special unless you’ve been screaming inside wondering where in the green hell Lyja has been all this time. I haven’t. B-

Secret Invasion: X-Men #1 is here to remind you that Nightcrawler can be rendered semi-retarded by simply questioning his faith. The Skrulls invade San Francisco and are shocked to be confronted by our merry mutants. Somebody did some bad recon, but don’t worry, he got shot in the head for his shoddy work. It’s in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge that we learn of a mysterious purple orb that is here to save our souls (and may be controlling the Skrulls; perhaps it is how He of “He loves you” fame is pushing his agenda?). And, when it comes to souls, no one is more tortured and confused than Nightcrawler, whose IQ drops to seventeen as soon as he comes in contact with the clearly evil ball of trickery. I hate the way Cary Nord draws the X-Men, but I love the way he draws the Skrulls, so the art’s a toss up. I like how Mike Carey writes Cyclops (totally badass), but everyone else is kind of just there, doing exactly what you expect of them. I can’t believe this is going to be four issues, or that I’ll actually get them all. C+

Secret Invasion: Inhumans #1 is the best thing to come out of this event so far. Tom Raney’s boobtacular handling of Crystal aside, the art is really good and the writing by Joe Pokaski (what’s this guy done that I would know?) is spot on. The Inhumans are as wonderfully inbred and angry as you expect. Maximus makes a scary and bored king and Medusa is coming into her own as one of my favorite women in all of comics. The Skrulls are planning to use Black Bolt as the “greatest weapon the Empire has ever unleashed.” I’m thinking this desire to use all of Earth’s heroes as weapons against Earth’s forces isn’t going to work out in the end. Just a hunch. I don’t want to tell you too much about this issue because, if you’re going to read anything Secret Invasion related, I want it to be this. A-
Read more!


Farewell, Star Wars Week

I don't think I could recreate this if I tried. Read more!


From Top to Bottom #16: Marvel's Star Wars Greatest Hits

by Matt

Welcome to the 16th edition of the long running and Emmy winning "From Top to Bottom" column! Every week I will look at something within the comics industry and give you my opinion on what I think is the best and what I think ranks amongst the bottom-feeders.

Last week, I looked at the Top and Bottom of Comic Book Comforts. Comics that acted like they were comfort foods. These were comic books (mini-series in particular) that do the same thing. They make me feel happy every time I read them and I can read them anytime. Which is why I named that column the way I did. This week's column, in celebration of Star Wars week (and to give Brandon a break from all the writing!) I decided to take a peek back to the past when I was a kid and I collected Star Wars comics from Marvel. For this column I am going to do something a little different. I am going to revisit my Top 3 Marvel Star Wars comics that I remember loving and then my Bottom 3 and we'll see how they held up.

I love Star Wars. I grew up with Star Wars, I was lucky enough to see all the films in the theatre and I was hooked. I collected the toys and would play Star Wars with my friends all the time. I remember when my dad came home from work and brought me a slurpee and a Star Wars comic! It was Star Wars #23 and this helped pave the way to my addiction to comic books in general. I collected the Star Wars religiously until Return of the Jedi and quit shortly after. I was so happy when Dark Horse collected the entire Marvel run in a series of trades. Some of the stories hold up, some others do not and some others are always going to be cheesy. Here are my Top 3 Marvel Star Wars stories along with what I consider to be Jar Jar Binks-like. Again, these picks were based on my favorites when I was a kid, we'll see after re-reading them if they still hold up. And those stories I hated as a kid? We'll see if I still hate them.

3) Star Wars #38
Riders in the Void
This issue was supposed to be the first part of the Empire Strikes Back adaptation but it was delayed and we got a dreaded fill-in issue only this became one of my favorites. Luke and Leia were on a mission when they were attacked by an Imperial Star Destroyer. They barely escaped after being attacked and wound up beyond the galaxy and into the starless void. They were snagged by a strange, living ship and subjected to being tested. The ship then decides to help them go home but the Empire has found them. Michael Golden provided some terrific art on this, his rendition of the Star Destroyers blasting the alien ship was awesome. And I still find this story awesome, the art holds up and now I understand what is going on more. Still a great fill-in.

2) Star Wars #33-37
Saber Clash/Dark Lord's Gambit
Baron Tagge wanted to be more favored to the Emperor than Darth Vader and this story showed how cunning and evil Darth Vader is and how heroic Luke was. Tagge and Luke dueled in the first part of this story and Luke showed mercy and how good at dueling he was by destroying his cybervision and rendering him helpless. Like Darth Vader had done before him. The story leads to both the Empire and the Alliance courting the Tagge family for assistance, only this is just a trap to get Luke. Luke and Vader duel in a fantastic fight and in the end, Luke kills Vader but we find that it wasn't Vader, it was a Sith illusion, it was really Baron Tagge. I cannot explain it all, you just have to track down this story. It certainly holds up, in fact I get this story more now that I am older and I can understand it.

1) Star Wars #60-63
Screams in the Void/Pariah
Ah, Shira Brie. I loved this character when she was introduced. She made a perfect rival to Leia for the affections of Luke and she was tough as nails. In this storyline, the Rebels capture a bunch of TIE Fighters and Luke leads a team (including Shira Brie) in the TIE Fighters to destroy special Teezl, which was a communication beacon that allowed the Empire to communicate instantaneously. They attack the Imperial Fleet and during the battle the communication between the Rebels goes dead. Luke finds the Teezl but there is a TIE fighter there, he uses the Force to determine if it is friendly and it is not so he shoots down the TIE Fighter and destroys the Teezl. Luke then discovers that pilot of the TIE that Luke destroyed was Shira Brie. So he goes on a quest to find out who Shira Brie is and the answer shocked me! I loved this run because the art from Walt Simonson and Tom Palmer was absolutely fantastic and the stories were absolutely fun. I remember these Star Wars comics the most!

I liked those Star Wars stories as much as I remembered I enjoyed them. In fact, I enjoyed re-reading my #2 selection a lot more than I thought I would. They were as good as I remember. And now for the Bottom 3, the Star Wars comics that I really disliked when I was a kid. They were not as horrible as I remember but I still don't care for these stories.

3) Star Wars #46
The Dreams of Cody Sunn-Childe
Lando and Chewbacca are searching for Han when they traveled to another dimension that was home to the legendary Rebel warrior Cody Sunn-Childe. Sunn-Childe no longer wants to fight when he finds out that he has this mystical ability to create this dimension. The Empire finds them and Cody unleashes his powers and destroys Star Destroyers, he realizes that this is not the way and decides to be true to his beliefs and lets him and his followers and city be destroyed. Lando and Chewbacca escape and the Imperials are stuck in that dimension. Did I still dislike it? It was better than I remember but I still am not a fan of magic or mystical stuff like the monster that could destroy a Star Destroyer. I can tolerate the Force and some magical, mystic forces in Star Wars but as a kid I thought this was over the top.

2) Star Wars #67
The Darker
On the planet Arbram, R2-D2 gets lost and C3-P0, Plif and Chewbacca follow to see where he is. They find the Darker, an evil being. They fight the creature and Chewbacca lays a smackdown on the Darker and kills him. I still don't like this story. When I was a kid, I would play Star Wars and it was always the Rebellion versus the Empire. I never came up with stories like this and I couldn't tolerate this type of story. Just seemed stupid to me.

1) Star Wars Annual #2
Luke, C3-P0 and Lando are escaping from Stormtroopers when they find a gold statue of Han Solo. I didn't get too far when I read this because I came across a panel that freaked me out and to this day I cannot look at it. Go ahead and call me chicken but I didn't re-read this annual because I was creeped out. Check out the panels below: BRRRRRR!

The Dark Horse series of trade paperbacks was well worth getting this nostalgic gems back in my hands and now I can read the full collection. Surprisingly, they all do hold up pretty well. I enjoy pulling these books off my bookshelf and reliving my childhood. What ones were your favorites?
Read more!