Saturday, March 01, 2008

FBW’s Harmonic Convergence Of Action Comics, The Big Easy & Real Estate Finance

FanBoyWonder has just returned from our week-long business trip from New Orleans and it was an eye opening experience.

It was our first time in the Big Easy but it was clear to see from the moment we left the airport that this city is still reeling from the gut-shot inflicted by Hurricane Katrina followed by the inept, inexcusable lack of response from the federal government.

We didn’t make it anywhere near the Ninth Ward but the we did spy the Superdome on the cab ride in and even the cleaned up hotel/casino and tourist districts still looked run down to us.

Our cab driver whose name we never got but his quiet, serene dignity reminded us of Morgan Freeman. Morgan told on the drive from the airport how he lost everything following Katrina.

The hurricane itself never touched his house but the broken levees filled his home with eight feet of water destroying a lifetime of possessions and memories. After nine months in a FEMA trailer, he rebuilt and he considers himself one of the lucky ones

It’s a disgrace this was allowed to happen in the United States of America.

So FanBoyWonder did our best to support the New Orleans’ economy by dining out and enjoying some Cajun cuisine.

Our thanks go to our colleague Jenn who made us escape the confines of our hotel to the Garden District to enjoy some “Real Nawlins Food” at Jacques-Imo’s

Other thanks go out to our friends Elizabeth, Joy, Jennifer-Robyn and new friends Kerry and Borda as we all enjoyed dinner at Grand Isle The next night, FBW’s boss Janet and our friend Kathleen enjoyed dinner near the French Quarter at a fine restaurant whose name we can’t recall as Kathleen picked the eatery.

Meanwhile, our special thanks go out to Wendi at Pittsburg, PA-based National Real Estate Information Services for her generous donation of eight issues of Action Comics to FanBoyWonder’s missing collection of Superman comics.

By way of explanation, it’s quite rare indeed that FBW’s day job as a reporter of the real estate mortgage finance market and our off-duty fanboy ways crossover.

Yet it was during the mortgage conference that we attended while walking the trade show floor that we literally did a double take at the sight of a pile of Superman comic books on the trade booth table.

We would say there were about 20 issues of Action Comics from the 1980s—some we had and some we used to have but lost. We asked if these were for sale and for how much, Wendi said we could take them.

This occurred the day before Superman’s traditional birthday of Feb. 29 (as portrayed in the comics). We don’t’ know if this was by accident or by design but NERIS’ Action Comics strategy is a surefire way to appeal to the fanboy businessman.

So we selected the issues we wanted—eight in all—we thanked her, took her business card, gave her our card and made off with our surprise loot. Reunited and it feels so good.
Wendi—you have our profound thanks.

The issues we picked up: Action Comics #540, 541, 542, 543, 544, 546, 551 and 552.

Action #544 was the special 45th Anniversary issue where Lex Luthor and Brainiac were re-vamped to become new and improved bad guys, while #546 featured guest stars Justice League of America and the New Teen Titans.

These books, circa 1983, were sentimental favorites—partially issue 546—and we enjoyed once again viewing of the artwork of the late, great Gil Kane and late, great Curt Swan—comic book legends both.

There is little about these books to attract us other than sentimental value. As we re-read these stories 25 years later we marvel at how goofy they were. This was the last gasp of the Silver Age and this version of Superman that worked so well during the 1950s and 60s and 70s really wasn’t holding up during the comic book character renaissance that was occurring during the early 1980s.

Two years later the CRISIS on Infinite Earths would re-write the entire DC Universe and a year later, writer/artist John Byrne would revamp the Last Son of Krypton in The Man of Steel and Superman would be a fully formed, three-dimensional character.

While post-CRISIS corporate gangster Lex Luthor worked so much better than the goofy mad-scientist of the Silver Age, the re-envisioned Brainiac by Marv Wolfman in a new body with the scary appearance of a skeleton of living metal with a grey, honeycomb patterned skull made Superman’s old foe pretty damn scary and he was nothing but pure, cold logic.

FanBoyWonder considers this the best version of Brainiac but it only lived a couple of years until the CRISIS and then was retro-coned into a telepathic villain during the post-Byrne Superman era.

It just goes to show you that you never know what you’ll find when you go to a real estate finance conference in The Big Easy.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Batman’s Wrath, The Brave, The Bored & Short-Time Writers

FanBoyWonder has had our hands full with extenuating circumstances—much of it way beyond our control for the moment—s so even as we pack our bags to fly out to New Orleans for the dayjob, we’re enjoying a momentary distraction from the chaos to blog for you our faithful readers.

A special note of thanks to our best pal Kemosabe for thinking good thoughts for us as the BLEEP has been hitting the fan. We may not have much time to e-mail back, but it’s appreciated as we ride out the storm. Thanks pal.

Without further ado, we again will snap our reviews of books for the week of February 20 from the shotgun formation.

Batman Confidential #13

The Upshot From DC Comics: Beginning the 4-part arc "Wrath Child," with art by Rags Morales! Batman and Nightwing become embroiled in the return of a major nemesis who was thought to be dead long ago: The Wrath has returned!

As we noted a couple weeks ago, this four-part story arc is a sequel of sorts to a sleeper classic by Mike W. Barr and Michael Golden in Batman Special #1 (1984).

We were cautiously skeptical going into this story arc but as we are not big fans of the “untold Batman tales” in Confidential and during Legends of the Dark Knight before it.

Yet writer Tony Bedard was respectful of Barr’s original story even as he seeks to fill in some of the blanks and builds upon the original story. The appearance of Nightwing was welcome—always welcome as he is among our favorite characters—even if in this “flashback” story Nightwing his wearing his original disco collar costume.

We hope that Nightwing’s presence in the story has him as a potential equalizer as the Dark Knight gets ready to face his “opposite number” again and not relegated to “boy hostage” mode to the Wrath as he did so many times during his “short pants” days.

The art by Rags Morales with Mark Farmer on inks was top notch as always but Rags hits a grand slam home run on the page where he replicates the Bat-silhouette scene as originally drawn by Michael Golden in 1984—with a twist.

Like the original story in Batman Special #1, it remains to be seen if this story arc is or is not within story canon but we are enjoying it so far regardless.

Birds of Prey #115

The Upshot From DC Comics: Black Alice flies alongside the Birds of Prey, much to the frustration of Misfit, who's still not been allowed to operate as an official member of the team. Oracle has her hands full with these two volatile teens, and things are about to get worse!

It’s a crying shame that Sean Mckeever’s first story arc on Birds of Prey will be his last because he really has a feel for this book and these characters—the perfect mix of preserving the last writer’s (Gail Simone) work while making substantial additions of his won.

Here we have Oracle and Misfit going at it and oddly enough it reminded us of the way Batman and Guy Gardner would bicker during the Justice League International days (minus the “one punch”).

Misfit is acting much like the kid she is by being insecure and crazy jealous of new arrival Black Alice and Oracle does little to calm Misfit’s fears.

Meanwhile, we are really enjoying the long-overdue spotlight on Lady Blackhawk and we are liking seeing she and Huntress grope their way along as combat comrades who really don’t know each other and are starting to bond. So far so good.

The Brave and The Bold #10

The Upshot From DC Comics: The Book of Destiny has cracked open wide...and wild team-ups spill out! Featuring Superman! The Shining Knight! Aquaman! And the Teen Titans!

We have to admit we think this book went off the rails a bit during the ill-executed Flash/Doom Patrol team up from a couple issues back and it hasn’t recovered.

While this issue is a better read by the third time through, Mark Waid’s tip-toe through the tulips of DC’s Silver Age is starting to seem a tad self-indulgent, even as it is a bit of an education—Silent Knight. Who knew?

The good news about this issue was that George Perez can still carry even the weakest of stories with his as usual stunning visuals. The bad news is that that this is his last issue.

Luckily, in the wings Perez’s CRISIS on Infinite Earths wing-man Jerry Ordway will take over next issue.

We’ll miss you George but thanks for the ride.

Checkmate #23

The Upshot From DC Comics: "Castling" begins here! It's been over a year since Pawn 502 went deep undercover inside the cult of Kobra. Now he's resurfaced, warning of a plot that will cost hundreds of thousands of lives and ignite a holy war across the planet, a plot that the Royals may not be able to stop in time. But can Pawn 502 still be trusted? This 3-part epic lays bare the workings of the DC intelligence community worldwide — and threatens to destroy it altogether!

Is there something about being a short-timer at DC Comics that finally brings out the best work in the writers? Soon to be departed writer Greg Rucka, with co-writer Erick Trautmann, finally seems to be getting his mojo back and he picks up his long abandoned Kobra sleeper agent story line from the start of the series.

The inclusion of Superman here was a nice touch. Sometimes, even the world of spooks, things get so big that it becomes a job for Superman.

As entertaining as the book has become again, the truth is Checkmate under Rucka never reached its full potential. We had been bored for the book for a while and news that Bruce Jones—fresh from his clusterf**k run on Nightwing will take over as Checkmate’s new scribe is enough for us to drop the book at the conclusion of Rucka’s run.

The Flash #237

The Upshot From DC Comics: Wally West is at a crossroads — now that he's got a family, how does he provide for them when he's never wanted to be anything else but The Flash? The question dogs him throughout an adventure high above Metropolis in this moving stand-alone tale by guest team Keith Champagne and Koi Turnbull.

This fill-in issue following Mark Waid’s departure is so bad that it makes the pre-Infinite Crisis five-issue time-killing run of Joey Cavaleri look like an Eagle-award winning event.

New writer Tom Peyer has an even steeper hill to climb come next issue. While the concept of how a super-hero can and should make an honest living without exploiting his powers is worthy of explanation, the big question to be answered is why can’t Wally go back to the job/career that Geoff Johns created for him as mechanic for the Central City Police?

A word to the wise, next time you see “guest team” in a solicitation for an upcoming issue, best just to mail DC Comics a check for $2.99 and save yourself the hassle of reading it.

Justice League of America #18

The Upshot From DC Comics: The Justice League Vs. the Suicide Squad for the salvation of the Earth's villains! Plus, more on Vixen's power flux.

Speaking of mailing DC a check—here we have two lame stories for the price of one. Poor Dwayne McDuffie. He is an able writer with a powerful storytelling imagination where the Justice League is concerned—as we saw during his run on Cartoon Network’s Justice League Unlimited.

Yet he really hasn’t been allowed to write so much as script someone else’s bad plotting. However, we see touches of Dwayne such as the confrontation between former Suicide Squad members and estranged lovers Bronze Tiger and Vixen.

This is quite possibly the worst book in the DC Comics’ line up right now…and that’ saying something.

Meanwhile, Ed “Ass-Man” Benes has kept his gratuitous ass-cheek shots to a minimum this issue—although he only had half an issue. Better luck next time Ass-Man.
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