Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Adam Beechen, Teen Titans, and Cassandra Cain

First, a thanks to Ragnell for posting about, and drawing my attention to this. After commenting on her post I thought further about, and am expanding upon, my thoughts here.

I would also like to give a warning that this post is LONG. VERY LONG.

Newsarama broke the story that Geoff Johns will be leaving Teen Titans and replaced by Justice League Unlimited and Robin scribe Adam Beechen.

As I intend to discuss stories from Robin, Teen Titans, and things relating to Batgirl:

Here There Be Spoilers

The majority of Geoff Johns' run on Teen Titans was spectacular. While I haven't been crazy about the things going on in the book after the One Year Later jump, the first few story arcs were excellent. Bringing in the Young Justice characters and mixing them with the remaining members of The New Teen Titans was a great way to bring in new readers who hadn't picked up a Titans book before, but still keep fans of the Wolfman/Perez run happy. Johns then added some great villains like Deathstroke (this was four years ago, before he was completely over-exposed), an updated Brother Blood, and (in my favorite arc) future versions of the Titans themselves.

Due to delays, a truly unfortunate two-issue fill-in by He Who Must Not Be Named, a serious down step in the art after Mike McKone left for Marvel, and my overall disinterest in the line-up after One Year Later, I dropped the book.

Adam Beechen is a writer who first caught my attention with Justice League Unlimited #5.

I think for obvious reasons:

In which Blue Beetle is left alone in the satellite on Monitor Duty, and has to defeat The General. It's full of humor, a surprising amount of action, and due to legal reasons the only time we've seen the animated series style Blue Beetle. It's excellent. Based on the strength of this issue, I picked up the trades of the series, which at digest size are $6.99. They're worth every cent. Beechen tells amazing one-shot stories about the League, and not having to worry about the cost of a show is able to showcase characters like Stargirl, The Question, Adam Strange, and even VIBE. Yes, that's right... VIBE. So when he was announced to take over Robin, I put the book on my pull-list.

His first story arc on the book is now infamous for changing the character of Batgirl from a force for good into the leader of the League of Assassins.

While the given motives for Cassandra to change into this evil ninja criminal mastermind were questionable at best (Daddy didn't love her, she wanted Robin to be by her side), I'm not entirely against the idea of this change for three major reasons.

1 - At the end of her own book, immediately before the One Year Later jump, Cassandra had a life-changing quest to find her mother. She ended up fighting her mother to the death, discovering what it meant to be "the one who is all," and decided that Batman's way might not be the way for her. Immediately after, during Infinite Crisis, all of Cassandra's non-Bat friends and family were killed, as well as her new home of Bludhaven completely destroyed by Deathstroke.

If any thing's going to cause someone to snap, it's killing your mom, then coming home to find all you friends dead and your home a radioactive wasteland.

2 - Speaking specifically as this character affects Robin, he has absolutely NO rogues gallery. What makes Batman great is The Joker, Two-Face, The Riddler, etc. This is why no one cares when Batman fights villains like Doctor Phosphorus - Batman is usually only interesting when thrown into contrast with his villains. Robin has no such catalogue of criminals, which is why he's usually most effective in a group, like the Teen Titans. Cassandra Cain as the head of the League of Assassins is a GREAT villain for Robin!

3 - Robin stories should be a reflection of Batman stories. He's basically mini-Batman, and what makes a good Robin story in my mind is one in which we get to see how the character contrasts and compares to Batman. Cassandra Cain, head of the L. o. A., with her army of ninjas and grand designs is part Ra's Al Ghul, and by wanting Robin by her side she's part Talia Al Ghul. So we get to see how Robin would handle stories similar to the Dennis O'Neil 70's Batman stories, and Cassandra Cain could potentially be even more dangerous than Ra's Al Ghul to Robin, as she's closer to him than Ra's ever was to Batman.

This, however, was tossed out the window with this week's Teen Titans #43.
I'm tired of writing it, you're tired of reading it, but I feel the need:

For the love of god, SPOILERS.

So apparently Cassandra had not become evil of her own volition. I'm really opposed to this. To see why, let's run down the character's history one last time:

Cassandra was abused by her father, David Cain, who used her as a living weapon.

Then she found her way to Batman, who used her as a living weapon. That point might be in contention among fans, but I think that since Batman simply loosed her onto Gotham City's underworld based on her fighting skill, and never even taught the character HOW TO READ, then he gets the, "You used her!" treatment. If you want, you can chalk that up to another one of pre-Infinite Crisis Batman's blunders (see: Brother Eye).

When she finally broke away and sought out her own identity, she became completely evil and arguably insane to get back at David Cain and to win the alliance, and sub-textually love, of Robin.

Now with this new issue of Teen Titans, we discover that Cassandra has been brainwashed by Deathstroke, who is using her as a living weapon. And not only is he taking away her free will, but the motivation for doing this have nothing to do with who she is, or what her character traits are, but instead because brainwashing and using her would distress Robin.

So arguably one of the strongest female characters, one who has BESTED the greatest martial artist in the DCU, has never been used outside of her own book as anything other than a tool for male characters.

Could this change? I'm sure she could, at the end of the arc, snap out of things. But looking at the pattern of events, and the way the character's been handled, I'm not sure it will.

What do you guys think?
Will this end well for Cass?
Will she still be Batgirl by the end of the arc?
And does such continual abuse of a character solely for the benefit of other male characters grant her a spot on the Women In Refrigerators list?

Let me know what you think.


Read More Comics - Vol 1

Sorry for the delay in updates, intrepid readers.

For the past day or so I've been strucken with an illness that's kept me from getting a good night's sleep for a few days now. I hear there's a bit of it going around, but luckily for us both, I've shaken it* for a quick update about two comics you should read! Yes, YOU!

Read More Comics

This is the first post in this new, hopefully weekly, feature. I'll list off two reccomendations about books you should give a chance. Read 'em or not, here they come.

- The Pirates of Coney Island -

One part The Warriors, one part Oliver Twist, and a healthy dash of street-urchin punk-rock sensibility. Mix until fucking awesome and you've got The Pirates of Coney Island.

Written by Rick Spears, author of one of my favorite trades Teenagers From Mars, he brings an attitude of rebellion and destruction with a story of a runaway that joins a street gang of modern day pirates. They board, steal, and sell cars off the streets of New York.

They've even got a harpoon.

The art is note perfect for the story, too. Vasilis Lolos brings his style of Paul Pope organic grimeiness mixed with a Gorillaz inspired stylization to the table, and makes every bruise and cut look infected, every smile slightly crooked - yet still everything exists in a hyper-real cartoon world, where characters are just that - precisely designed and simplified like your favorite saturday morning cartoon characters. Adding to that overall surreal feeling is Nick Filardi's outstanding colors. I usually don't notice coloring in a book unless it's really bad (What's up, first several years of Nightwing?), so for something good to pop out at me, it's got to be really good.

If that's not enough for you, how about a black vampire car called Caddilacula?

I thought so.

Newsarama's got a 10-page preview of the first issue, so read it! It's free!
Also check out Rick Spears' and Lolos' respective websites to see more of their work.

- Fleep -

Cartoonist and author Jason Shiga describes Fleep as, "ambitous, mysterious and utterly masturbatory." He leaves out, however, the fact that it's genius.

The story is at once simple (a man goes into a phonebooth and is suddenly trapped) and incredibly interesting and complex (what happened to him and how the hell is he going to get out?).

The genius lies in the way that Shiga makes the story compelling to us, the reader. It's two-fold.

First, the character in the story is a blank slate. In the first three strips all we see are him entering a phonebooth, then darkness, then his slightly confused thought. By bringing us into the story immediately before the conflict begins we're instantly hooked, before we can wait to see what happens, the protagonist of our story is already trapped in the phonebooth.

The second is the art style. The main character is the best kind of cartoon design - simple, yet incredibly expressive. At times he's not more than two eyes and a nose, but though body language and subtle changes in those eyes we're instantly in his head. In fact, the lack of detail makes the character even MORE relatable, as a, "hey, that could be me!" feeling sinks in. So when you put a blank slate and simple design together, we end up trapped in that phonebooth with this character.

Fleep is original, honest, suspensefull, and in the end more than a little heartbreaking.

Like Pirates, you can read it online for free! Unlike Pirates, you get the WHOLE THING on Shiga's website.

Do yourself a favor and read it now.

So that's it for me tonight. Tomorrow sees the return of one of my childhood favorite characters to comics. Unfortunately, he's being written by one of, in my opinion, Marvel's hackiest hacks to ever hack a hack. What character, you ask? Well, here's a hint:

It's not Goose Rider.
But it's close.


*The batteries in my Wii-mote ran out.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

52 Words On 52 - Week 38

This is my now weekly feature on DC Comics' 52. 52 words giving my impressions on whatever went down last issue. As a warning to those who don't read it or are waiting for the 300 trades that this will be collected in, I'm going to get specific.

So, I'm totally serious here: SPOILERS.

52 on 52: Week 38

Will Magnus eating cold beans and building radioactive men is fairly hilarious and disturbing. The Bible of Crime: Book of Apokolips! Does that make Grant Morrison a prophet?

This is really the end of The Question.
How many deaths does one hero get?

I wonder: Was he the man or the butterfly?

So that's this week. As someone who's read most of the published Question stories, and has a great love for the character kicked off by Greg Rucka's Huntress: Cry For Blood story, I'm kind of bummed. Look for something about him to come.


Friday, January 26, 2007

DC Teaser Image

NEWSARAMA broke this teaser image for an upcoming DC Comics event tonight.

For those of you who are click-lazy and link-poor, here's the image in question:

(click for larger version)

So there are some things I notice about this image:
  1. Poor, dead The Question. Combined with Blue Beetle they've got a good start at a graveyard for Steve Ditko characters going.
  2. Also down among the dead is what looks to be the Phantom Zone projector?
  3. All the ex-characters except for The Question died during Infinite Crisis. That kind of puts the timing of this event into Question (so to speak). Does this take place immediately after 52?
  4. If so, Superman wouldn't be around yet.
  5. Costumes, costumes, costumes - Donna Troy is in her old Wonder Girl outfit, Batman is wearing a really bizarre Arabian Bat-Suit, and...
  6. that Red Robin? With Kingdom Come Starman showing up in JSA last month, it's looking more and more like Kingdom Come is some kind of canon, be it multi-verse or alternate future.
  7. Speaking of alternate futures and the multi-verse, holy CRAP, is that Flash really Barry Allen?
  8. It's a very couple-y image... Ion and Donna Troy used to be a thing, and Mr. Miracle and Barda are married. This draws odd attention to Canary and Green Arrow being distanced from one another.
  9. Is there any other reason for Barda and Mister Miracle to be there? Do they seem out of place to anyone else?
  10. Mary Marvel looking off to the sky seems like she's only there to draw attention to Captain Marvel's absence.

At the end of 52, Skeetz is destroyed, and as he "ate" the Phantom Zone last issue, this releases Kryptonian Super Criminals to menace the Earth. Hence the destroyed Phantom Zone projector, and the destroyed Statue of Liberty (what's up, Zod?).
This is the big "World War 3" event DC has been pushing.
Batman returns from the desert because of this. His costume is not, actually, an Elseworlds thing. It's meant to evoke the old school Neal Adams Batman stories, which is what Grant Morrison tried to return the character to after the 1-Year Later jump.
Red Robin is actually Jason Todd, who's given up his Red-Hood persona and has nothing to actually do with Kingdom Come.

And finally, I have one COMPLAINT/RANT:

For the love of god, DC, please stop only showing us Wonder Woman as she affects Batman and Superman. She's in this picture, as far as I can tell, only to be there for Superman to cry to. In Infinite Crisis, her only real role seemed to be to convince Batman not to kill Luthor, and to be there for Superman of Earth 2. Can we get some REAL character development, or at least the acknowledgement that Wonder Woman is a character worthy of her own story? A character worthy of her own, MONTHLY comic book?

Since Infinite Crisis she's been making 75 cents to Batman and Superman's dollar.

So if there's anyone still reading after that, please comment with your thoughts of what all this could mean, what you speculate lies in the future for the characters in this image... DISCUSS!


Monday, January 22, 2007

Music: Yes, Music

So, I've decided that I'm going to start posting here about music I like. There will be tags at the bottom for comics or music. I hope that, beyond my taste in music expanding and improving my writing about it, this new turn in the blog-o-machine will cause me to update more.

Holy crap! Has anyone else seen the release list of CDs this week? My wallet is hiding in fear with my debit card, holding each other tightly and weeping, promising each other that everything will be okay, like extras in Independence Day or Deep Impact.

Here is the run-down:

Piebald - Accidental Gentleman

I've only recently gotten into Piebald - the last three months or so - but after being shoved into them as if they were a sliced open taun-taun by my sister and friends, I'm completely in love with their non-hardcore, happy indie-pop-punk mix. Their songs for the most part, are adolescent, but not in a bad way. Singing about road trips with girls, their old tour bus and The Catcher In The Rye, the music colors your glasses rosy with youth no matter what you're looking upon.

I haven't heard anything off of the new album yet, I'm wondering what maturity has done to the band - members are now married, and one is a schoolteacher - but the reviews I've heard are overwhelmingly positive. I'm going to see them the day of the release, so I'll get to hear some tracks live before I hear them on CD.

The Shins - Wincing The Night Away

Does Zach Braff get a check every time someone new loves The Shins?

While the band was great 3 albums ago, they got a lot of success from being the keystone in the mix-tape for everyone that was the Garden State soundtrack. And even though most of the key tracks from that soundtrack were off of Oh, Inverted World (can anyone think of a non-Elliot Smith song more tear inducing than New Slang?), it definitely gave Chutes Too Narrow, their recent release at the time of the film, a push.

Now we're two years later, the expectations for their new release is even higher, and I can't wait to get my ears around it. Reviewed as a more somber piece than Chutes Too Narrow, I hope Wincing The Night Away proves the Shins are still the best at breaking indie rock hearts.

Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?

Sugar cereal powered alt-pop, Of Montreal has proven to be some of the weirdest, happiest music I've gotten on mix CDs in the past. Springtime Is The Season features some of my favorite lyrics:

The winter's good for penguins,
Though brown bears must object.
When talk comes to the joys of winter,
They must interject,
"Hibernating in the snow just isn't where it's at,
because sleeping makes you skinny,
and we bears like to be fat."

More of their songs keep this whimsy, their warbling vocals on Jaques Lamuer (the volunteer fireman) or Everything Disappears When You Come Around (in the song, things litterally disappear) cause your smile to widen with each track. It's with these tracks in mind that I'll be picking up the new CD as soon as possible.

The Good, The Bad, And the Queen

Logic: Brit-Pop geniuses Blur haven't had a new album in 4 years. This is bad.

Reality: Blur frontman Damon Albarn keeps teaming up with people like Dan the Automator, Dj Danger Mouse for new Gorillaz albums and this new project The Good, The Bad, And the Queen. I kind of don't care?

I mean, what more does a CD have to have for me to buy it? It's produced by the "I can't lose even if I tried!" Dj Danger Mouse, who's put out pretty much nothing but gold as far as I'm concerned. The Grey Album mashing up Jay-Z and the Beatles spawned a sea of imitators, and on many tacks Danger Mouse out-produced and out classed the actual producers from Jay's original.

Follow that up with Alban's first Danger Mouse collaboration the Gorillaz cd Demon Days which sits atop a mountain of critical acclaim, then move onto the slightly underrated but personal favorite Danger Doom with MF Doom - a CD completely about Cartoon Network's [Adult Swim] line up. Where then next? Why, the gospel techno hip-hop mash up of Gnarles Barkley, with partner Cee-Lo. This is a disc hot with pretty much everyone. I actually helped a fifty year old woman find it at work the other day, and when I asked if it was a gift, she looked at me sideways and said "Uh, it's for me."

So we've got the frontman from Blur and Gorillaz, producer of Danger Doom and Gnarles Barkley, and that's not enough for you still? STILL? How about Paul Simonon, the bassist from The (mother fucking) Clash? How about Simon Tong, of The Verve fame?

God damn, I wish I had this disc NOW.

Interested in Brit-Pop? Check out the amazing Phonogram ( which blends music and magic into this amazing modern fantasy tale of music snobbery gone horrible wrong.

So four CDs in one week is not a lot for some people. But for me, looking at this list, I honestly don't know what to do I'm so excited.

I'll be broke for a long time, but it'll be oh, oh, OH so worth it...


Friday, January 19, 2007

Stan Lee Fights The Marvel Universe

In the course of my day, today, I came across not one, not two, but all three of the following pictures of Stan "The Man" Lee.

Since he could not be reached, I will be providing the "Picture To Stan" translations.

Let us begin.

"So, True Believers, by demonstrating my dastardly kung-fu on Steve Ditko's sanctimonious ass, I inadvertently created Spidey's now legendary Web-Spinning pose!"

"Marvelites and Marvelettes, these are my secret decoder rings! Take a look at Joe Quesada sometime, you'll decode their imprints on his face from me slapping him around.


"Ha-Ha! Fuck you, Jack Kirby!"

I love you, Stan.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

52 Words On 52 - Week 37

Ok, this is a new feature. Let's give it a go, shall we?

Also, this is a WEEKLY comic book, so these posts are going to be SPOILER heavy. Also, if you don't have $2.50 every week to spend on this series, why do you care about having it spoiled?

52 on 52: Week 37 -

Supernova’s really Booster Gold! I thought Ray Palmer, back to atone for his nutty ex-wife. Buddy’s back, too? By god, this issue’s heartening. It’s nice that DC might not kill all the characters I like. Question, Booster, Buddy: Any more fake deaths before the end of this? I guess that’s The Question...

I should post one of these every week for the next 15 weeks, until the series is done. Look for more updates soon!