Outside of David Uzumeri, who spent a good portion of last week learning about Spiral Dynamics just so he could talk about Pax Americana in excruciating detail, I'm as big a fan of Grant Morrison as you're likely to find. For me, JLA, New X-Men, his seven year run on Batman and even the 11 issues of Aztek that he co-wrote with Mark Millar are easily on my list of the all-time greats. That said, if we're being completely honest with each other, I'm not that keen on his work outside of mainstream superheroes. I can take or leave The Invisibles and The Filth didn't do much for me, and while I like Joe the Barbarian a lot, that book basically has Snake-Eyes from G.I. Joe in it, so it barely even counts.
As a result, I wasn't really paying attention to Annihilator, the book Morrison and Frazer Irving are doing through Legendary, until the aforementioned Uzumeri was singing its praises. Curiosity got the better of me, so today I sat down with the first four issues to see if it was worth all the hubbub, and the result was that I liked it a lot. It's a bizarre and compelling sci-fi epic where Irving is doing some of the best work of his considerably impressive career -- and on top of that, it is quite possibly the most Grant Morrison comic of all time.
On Monday I reported on the controversy surrounding the most recent issue of Batgirl, issue #37, and the hurt it caused readers with the presentation of a character who played into transphobic tropes. On Tuesday we ran a piece by activist J. Skyler that further placed the story in the broader cultural context of transphobic media. In both cases, our hope was to showcase and respect the opinions of the critics and put their voices ahead of those of the authors or any defensive fans. These are critics who are often marginalized and shouted down; what they had to say about this controversy is important and must be recognized and listened to.
As I also mentioned on Monday, Batgirl is a book at the vanguard of a movement towards genre stories for young, progressive, predominantly female readers -- a more modern and diverse readership than the one traditionally associated with the superhero genre. Because of this, and because the creators apologized for their mistakes, I think Batgirl still deserves support. Issue #37 damaged the book's image and reputation, but it remains one of the best and most important superhero books being published today.
In Letter 44, new President Stephen Blades steps into office after America has suffered eight years of a substandard Presidency. Picking up a letter left by his predecessor, however, he learns that much of what went wrong in America – money being pumped into the military rather than in services at home, pointless wars which killed thousands of troops – were actually part of a longer-term plan to deal with a far bigger problem.
Specifically: aliens are out there, and they may or may not be planning to invade Earth in the near future.
Writer Charles Soule and artist Alberto Alburquerque handle the fallout of that letter across a bulky first trade, collecting the first six issues together. What becomes apparent pretty quickly, though, is that this is a series which isn’t particularly interested in telling contained arcs, or telling stories for a trade. Instead, this is a proper ongoing series, in which the last issue of this trade feels like just another step towards a bigger picture, rather than a wrap up of everything that’s come before.
Of all the comics that could indulge in one of my beloved Holiday Specials, Flash Gordon seems like a pretty unlikely candidate. I mean, now that I think of it, if comics can give us that story where Superboy gets caught up in the Christmas Spirit and decides to get the Legion of Super-Heroes to hunt down the star that the Magi followed to the manger and ends up rescuing a race of alien bird-people from a flood in what can only very charitably be called a miracle, I guess you can wring a little holiday cheer out of just about anything. Still, the adventures of three humans trapped in an alien empire full of tree monsters and beast-men doesn't quite seem like it would easily lend itself to the spirit of the season.
And yet, that's exactly what the folks at Dynamite have done with the new Flash Gordon Holiday Special one-shot, and while I could not possibly be more in the target audience for this thing -- my interest in space adventure is only outstripped by my love of Christmas -- it's well worth picking up.
Though 'Batman: The Animated Series' had its share of action figures back when it was on the air, the collectibles could hardly be considered more than children's toys. This year, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Batman, DC Collectibles went back to the animated well for a new series of figures based on the now classic Bruce Timm designs.
Incorporating characters from the original 'Batman: The Animated Series' as well as the under-appreciated 'The New Batman Adventures', the figure line's aesthetic (more articulation and accessories, as well as a higher price point) is geared towards the adult collector. This series is aimed directly at those who spent their afternoons after school patiently waiting to see the latest episode, and who are now old enough to have disposable income.
In my online discussions of transgender representation in media, I’ve mentioned that I expect a degree of transphobia is every medium I read, watch or listen to. That’s simply how pervasive the problem is -- and it may take the form of a joke, an off-the-cuff remark, or a non-essential character created intentionally or unintentionally to perpetuate stereotypes about gender variance or utilizing gender variance to underline said character’s psychosis.
It’s with a heavy heart I’m forced to discuss this long-standing media trope within the context of Batgirl, the one area of geek life I considered to be a safe-zone. Within the pages of Batgirl #37 we come across an impostor posing as Batgirl who ultimately plans to kill her in order to assume her identity. As you might imagine, my eyes nearly rolled into the back of my head, accompanied by an aggravated sigh, when the would-be murderer was revealed to be an individual assigned male at birth.
Back when it first started up, I wrote a review of Archie's Mega Man comic where I called it "the smartest superhero comic on the stands," mostly because of the way that it took on some pretty serious ideas without detracting from the accessible, all-ages adventure that made it such a fun read. That bit in the first arc where Mega Man starts to withdraw from his family, becoming cold and, well, robotic because of the psychological toll of destroying other robots like himself is still one of my favorite scenes in comics from the past few years.
Forty issues later, I can still stand by that statement. Mega Man hasn't just continued building one of the most enjoyably action-packed stories around the bare-bones plot of "go right, shoot robots" that it got from the video games, it's also having conversations about ethics, forgiveness and what it means to love someone that nobody else in comics is coming close to. And it's great.
We already praised DC's movie-themed variant covers last week, and it feels safe to say there's plenty of great work on show here from Dave Johnson, Bill Sienkiewicz, Marco D'Alphonso et al; this is a variant month that justifies its existence through excellence.
But I want to draw particular attention to just one cover, which I think deserves special recognition for oustanding achievement in its field. I refer, of course, to Emanuela Lupacchino's cover for Justice League #40 in the style of a poster for the 2010 Steven Soderbergh movie Magic Mike, which re-imagines the Justice League boys as oiled-up strippers.
Forgive me Gloria Steinem, for I have sinned: I love sexy anime. Panty and Stocking. Kill la Kill. The Woman Called Fujiko Mine. If it has booty shorts and the slightest patina of satire, I’m not just on board—I’m conducting the train. So of course I loved Sidera, a newly released short created by French team Catfish Deluxe and Japanese studio Yapiko Animation for the movie Lou! Journal Infime.
Agents of SHIELD hit the mid-season mark (and the beginning of a long winter hiatus) with an actual possible game-changer this week, leaving several characters in a severely altered state, and not all of them because of the secrets of the disco doorstop. Mysteries were resolved, shots were fired, and things will never be the same again (because change is the nature of existence, duh).
'What They Become' was directed by Michael Zinberg and written by Jeffrey Bell. As is tradition, I will subject it to my usual 'S.H.L.E.I.D.' recap process, and somewhere in there I'll offer you the shortest mea culpa you'll ever see about a nasty thing the show did last week that it sort of undoes this week, in the most dickish way imaginable!
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