Saturday, 24 December 2011


You might remember that, when we listed the five comics we were most anticipating from the New 52, we put Supergirl as our second-most-anticipated title. So why ahve we been so quiet about the series since then? Well, because we have been busy READING IT. That all changes today! Apart from the bit about reading it, which we are going to continue to do. Because it is time for us to talk about Supergirl!!

The main thing about Michael Green, Mike Johnson, and artist Mahumd Asrar's reinvention of the character so far is that is is filled with PUNCHING. Supergirl no longer sits in a flat with her cat, painting and watching Oprah. When she sees a problem, she puts up her Marquess of Queensburys and starts making with the face smacking. It's refreshing beyond belief to see a character who has no qualms about making with the fighting, especially when that character is a girl. In issue #5, Supergirl's main priority is escaping a space station she's been trapped upon, and to do so she basically trashes the entire place and blows it up. It's awesome.

The comic isn't just smashy-smashy, though. Writers Green and Johnson have a lot of fun throwing in little tics and details to make this a quirkier fight issue than normal. For a start, Supergirl still doesn't speak any language other than her own, making it highly entertaining to see her decide what the humans here are saying to her. Her inability to speak English or understand human body language means that her escape is a little more difficult than would be expected, and gives the writers a clever way to keep her on the station longer than she really needs to be. She's strong enough that she could simply fly off - this wrinkle means she has to stick around, and interact with the various villains.

It also makes the issue rather visual, and puts a lot of onus on Asrar's pencils. Luckily he is more than more than up for the job, giving us solid body posture and expression throughout the issue. Some of the New 52 artists have faltered a little by the time they reach five issues pencilled in a row - not Asrar. His work remains solid as ever, and he knows how to pace out a fight scene like no other. More and more, his work seems to resemble that of Stuart Immonen. And while colourist Dave McCraig's decision to use a subdued colour pallet does make this issue distinct from Superman or Action Comics, it would be interesting to see how some brash colours might make Asrar's art 'pop'.

Let's get to the heart of what makes comics great, guys. The ending of this issue - spoilers ahoy - reveals that Supergirl's new villain is going to be a pragmatic torso. And please, we hope so dearly that he will remain a torso in all his future appearances, delivering grandstanding speeches without any arms or legs. That would be AMAZING. Only in comics can you get this kind of mad idea, and it's so so so much fun. It looks like this will remain a dangling plot thread for the moment, but we can't tell you how excited we are for the future return of TORSO-MAN.

Supergirl is a fun comic, and well worth picking up.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Dark Squirrel Girl's Rampage Continues

After last week's revelation from Axel Alonso that Squirrel Girl would be taking over powerful cosmic entity THE PHOENIX FORCE and turning into "Dark Squirrel Girl" during Avengers Vs X-Men.... comes another revelation from Axel Alonso about Dark Squirrel Girl. In this, the cover for issue #5 of the event, it appears that DSG claims her first victim!

But will Xavier be the first of many?

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Go Forth and Thrizzle

Michael Kupperman's 'Tales Designed to Thrizzle' series, published by Fantagraphics, has reached lucky issue seven. And what luckier joy than some attention from Comics Vanguard?

Kupperman's work is typically called absurdist and silly, and we're absolutely happy to go along with those terms. Responsible for both writing and art of each issue (and presumably a bit of photography), Kupperman doesn't go for complex storytelling or fancy narratives: his goal is mainly to make you laugh and perhaps to scratch your forehead and make confused faces. To that extent, Tales Designed to Thrizzle more or less gets the job done. Jumping around wildly, bringing fresh use to the idea of the non sequitur, the issue throws several things at the reader as it goes on. Firstly, that fictional detective Quincey is suffering from existential worries related to if he is dreaming or if he is awake. Secondly, that baths are terrifying. Thirdly, several in-jokes featuring long-running characters which don't make much sense for new readers.

The issue is perfectly fine. There are some great jokes in there, and some that crash onto their face. In terms of humour, Kupperman quickly creates a distinct idea of dialogue and story which gives the book a lot of charm. Much of the comedy comes from his determination to play the scenes as seriously as possible, even while they grow ever more silly. There's a particularly good Leonardo Di Caprio moment which we won't spoil for you. But that is one of the highlights. The opening sequence, discussing the perils of bathtubs and spotlighting the imminent danger they hold, is also strong. It leads to a page of shower heads which doesn't work, but it certainly makes the reader aware of what they're heading into.

Kupperman's absurdist streak serves him well, as the weaker jokes are covered with a veil of silliness which makes it very difficult for me to deliver CRITIQUE. His art is consistent, and his character likenesses are recognisable despite being slightly twisted. All in all, Tales Designed to Thrizzle is a decent, entertaining comic. But it's not as funny as Generation Hope.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Don't worry!! The Winter Guard *probably* aren't dead

There was blind panic in the streets today as fans clawed out their hair and went on bloody rampages. The cause? Amazing Spider-Man #676, in which the Red Ghost launched an attack on THE WINTER GUARD that left them stranded in outer space, seemingly dead. Global share prices dipped dramatically, there was a rise in cyanide sales, and Russia prepped itself to enter COLD WAR II.

But you guys! Reeeeeeeeelaxx. We had a word with Dan Slott and got him to confirm that the Winter Guard probably aren't ACTUALLY dead. There will be absolutely no follow-up to the scene, but rest assured that they escaped off panel and/or were actually a bunch of skrulls. We'll try to get a quote from David Gallaher about this almost-tragedy just as soon as we can.

UPDATE: We got a quote from David Gallaher. You.... probably don't want to hear it :(


Uncanny X-Force has been kept out of the Regenesis revamp for a few months due to it being in the middle of a very long story called “The Dark Angel Saga”. But, with that out the way, issue #19 sees writer Rick Remender place his team onto Wolverine’s side of the Schism, aided deftly by Robbi Rodriguez.

The issue is absolutely fantastic, and anybody reading it is bound to want to go back and pick up the rest of the series. I say that because it’s the situation I now find myself in, having ignored the start of the run because the entire cast were awful. Fantomex, Deadpool, Wolverine, Psylocke and Archangel make up the core of the team, and there’s not one of them who isn’t typically a dud. Wolverine can sometimes be made interesting, but Psylocke is a terrible concept for a character and Fantomex murdered our beloved Darkstar. But Remender doesn’t look to make them all heroic and praiseworthy - he instead makes sure to emphasise the anger and tension between all these characters, and to use it as a way to remove the lustre from them. Every single character here has in the past been used to personify ‘cool’, and Remender’s technique is to make the reader aware of how fleeting those moments of fame were.

The majority of the issue is dealing with fallout from The Dark Angel saga, as Wolverine and Fantomex have a sit-down chat - the best sequence in the issue - about the choices they’ve both made so far. And it’s always enjoyable to see somebody patronise Logan at every turn. Although I’m not entirely aware of everything they’re referring to in this conversation, I could pick up most of it with ease. Fantomex comes across as more reserved than he was in Grant Morrison’s hands, and that choice suits him.

We also get to see the remaining characters from the Age of Apocalypse universe wave goodbye to the team, as most of them return to their dimension or parallel earth or whatever. And their version of Nightcrawler joins the team, at least for the short-term. These sequences benefit from delightful colouring from Dean White and James Campbell, whose use of tone is ultimately what defines the book. Rodriguez’s art is superb, bringing to mind a combination of Humberto Ramos and Chris Bachalo - combining carefully put together character models with artful use of perspective and sequencing.

And Remender’s script is fantastic. He jumps from the stupidity of Deadpool to the love-lost melodrama of Psylocke and Angel with consummate ease. The dialogue is spot-on, and the pacing is measured and interesting. With Remender, editors Jody Leheup and Nick Lowe have rejuvenated an ailing side of the X-Men franchise. Uncanny X-Force #19 is a great comic.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Beano Annual 2012

Two things you need to know before we launch into this discussion of The Beano’s 2012 Annual: firstly, that the Dennis The Menace artist has shifted to a new guy, whose art looks a little like Cameron Stewart’s work. Secondly, that The Beano have drastically overestimated the entertainment value of a new strip called “Ratz”.

Actually, here’s a third thing. The Beano is a British comic first published in 1951. Aimed at kids, the comic is anarchic and madcap, showcasing the riotous qualities of any good British kid. Featuring characters like Ivy the Terrible, Minnie The Minx, Billy Whizz and Roger The Dodger, the Beano tells kids important moral lessons about the importance of not doing your homework, not having baths, getting out of going to school and eating lots and lots of chips. From the gross adventures of Calamity James to the chaos of The Bash Street Kids, The Beano sets a bad example for Britain to be proud of.

Every year, at Christmas, the publishers release an annual. An easy stocking filler, purchase of the annual is tradition and/or law in Britain, and keeps kids entertained while they wait for Granddad to wake up and put his dressing gown on.

So, does this year’s annual continue the tradition of hi-jinks and mayhem? Yes! It sure does. The Beano is exactly what you should be buying for yourself this Christmas. While there are only two Dennis stories in the issue (scandalous!) there are more than enough other distractions here. Ivy the Terrible makes a few brief appearances, but her stories come to excellent payoffs, while The Bash Street Kids and Minnie the Minx provide more highlights. I’d forgotten how often the adults team-up with the kids at Christmas, and its tremendous fun to see Minnie build a snow-mobile and cause chaos with her dad and teacher laughing in the back seat. The art seems to have changed since last I picked up an issue, but retains the vintage charm that made the stories more than just a Dennis the Menace spinoff.

The Numskulls turn up a few times - but Les Pretend and Roger the Dodger only show up once each. However, that's made up by several welcome comics from Tom Paterson, a writer/artist who has been the undisputed star of the Beano for decades. When Paterson is allowed to draw in the Calamity James style – as he does here twice, for CJ and for ‘Fred’s Bed’, each panel becomes a race to cram as many throwaway gags as possible into the space. Paterson usually chucks at least three into each panel, making his strips the most re-readable of the lot, here. He also tends to go for a lot of gross sight-gags, which is massively enjoyable. His four or five strips in the Annual are the undisputed highlights here, and keep things racing along merrily.

Billy Whizz reappears for a simple story, while the food loving 3 Bears also show up memorably. Every page switches the art style around considerably, but offers some great gags which throw back to the good ol’ days whilst keeping a sense of the contemporary about them. The Beano has always offered the reader a chance to go back to their childhood, be vulgar, and lob about some anarchy. The 2012 issue shows no signs of that ending anytime soon. What a joy.


The Thrilling Adventure is a fantastic podcast/stage show from Los Angeles, written by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, and performed every month at Largo. Featuring comedians and actors like Marc Gagliardi, Nathan Fillion, Linda Cardinelli and James Urbaniak, each show is broken down into four or fix 'segments'. Each segment tells a different story for the audience, performed in the style of old-time radio. So things are a little campy to begin with, but then the scripts offer such glorious nonsense that you begin to completely lose track of yourself. While some segments tackle alien cowboys or nazi ghosts, one of the most popular ones (because it's typically the final one, performed when the audience are hammered) is called 'Beyond Belief', starring Paget Brewster and Paul F. Tompkins as a pair of drunk ghost hunters called Frank and Sadie Doyle.

What brings this to your attention? Why, because artist Tom Fowler (soon to be seen drawing Hulk: Series One) has today put out a fan poster for Beyond Belief, and it is DIVINE. Enjoy it below, why don't you!

You can find more over at his blog!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Three New "Series One" Titles Announced

The second wave of Series/Season One graphic novels have been revealed, retelling the origin stories of some of Marvel's most popular characters. Who also, we should point out, are characters who have either had movies or are rumoured to be having movies in production soon.

And hey, we're all over that Dr Strange book, for a start. Emma Rios drawing a hundred pages of magic and mystery? Nothing could be finer! The Ant Man and Hulk books also have some great creative teams on them, and look to be a welcome addition to the Daredevil, Spider-Man, X-Men and Fantastic Four books already announced. Emma Rios, you guys! How flipping exciting is that.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Toy Story Comics!

Marvel have announced that they will be publishing a four-issue Toy Story miniseries next March! Written by Tea Orsi and drawn by Antonello Dalena and Teresa Quezada-Geer (which suggests there will be two stories in each issue), the central story will be set between the first two films. The first film ends with the toys' owner Andy getting a puppy for Christmas, and the comic will focus on Woody and Buzz Lightyear's attempt to train the dog to, y'know... not eat them.

This is the latest Disney/Marvel collaboration, and once again shows that Marvel will continue to publish all-ages comics alongside their more established superhero titles. Hopefully this story won't feature near-death incineration sequences, and focuses more on the joyful, funny side of the franchise..

Piggin’ Out #4

There may be a special edition of ‘Piggin’ Out’ - the World’s least beloved title for the World’s most beloved series of articles - coming soon. But you’ll hear more about that only when the time is ready. For now, let’s race into issue #4 of the Image series by Ben McCool, Nate Cosby, and Breno Tamura. And, joining up for a few pages, artist Will Siney.

So we’ve already gathered that there are about three groups involved in the story - the team of assassins, their handlers, and the handlers’ handlers. The assassins are led by Felix, our main protagonist, and are made up of five people. This team are all Russian sleeper agents left in Cuba after the Cold War, just activated again for some unknown purpose. Of the five, it appears that only Felix and his childhood friend Alexsandr have any reservations about taking up the cause again. Felix clearly seems to be the one who’ll cause problems as the book continues, but his dissent feels realistic and natural. His character is delved into in a little more depth this issue, showing him to be the most moral of the five.

This issue focuses mainly on the assassins, although we do get another flashback to their childhood - which sheds a little more light on their handlers Oleg and Yuri. Again we see that Oleg is the more aggressive of the handlers, and Yuri is meekly following orders. We’ve yet to see any sign of either character outside of the flashbacks, which makes it seem like they may not be getting out alive. Or they’re in hiding somewhere. It’s hard to tell where Cosby and McCool are planning to take this.

The handlers of the handlers may have popped up in Cuba, but it’s still hard to tell who goes where in the hierarchy, thanks to the fragmented timeline. At any rate, out favourite character of 2011 returns at the end of this issue to dispense some more icy one-liners. Irisa appears to be the main woman behind the operation, and it appears that the operation is still meant to involve the abduction of the US President. But that still leaves the Cubans walking around, untouched. What is their role in all this?

Issue #4 of the series features a cover from Becky Coonan, who helped McCool and Cosby put together the basic premise for the story. As mentioned before, Will Sliney contributes artwork for the flashbacks, offering an Michael Oeming-esque sense of structure to his sequences. Tamura’s artwork, in comparison, slides a little this issue. Whether this is the intention is up for debate, as his off-kilter perspectives and sense of anatomy bring to mind Larry Stroman’s artwork. His use of expression and timing are still spot-on, but there are a few pages where the characters look a little off.

Luckily, the story is picking up from last issue’s slower pace, with more time spent jumping around timelines and throwing the readers off-balance. The dialogue has a snap to it, and the pacing is brilliantly set out. Most readers have probably been waiting anxiously for three months to see the return of Irisa - who made such a startling first impression - and finally we see more of her story. But the writers catch her out almost immediately, with a last-page which casts every other issue so far into a new light. Pigs remains the comic-world equivalent of 24, offering snappy dialogue and smart action sequences interspersed with a dazzling central conceit and a fascinating cast of characters. Look out for issue #5 next month.

ComVan’s Artists of the Year:

Again, we’re not listing them in any order. These are the artists whose work really broke out in 2011, and pushed them into the spotlight.

Francesco Francavilla

Almost certainly the most prolific artist of 2011, Francavilla’s distinctive artwork was everywhere you looked. From his covers and interiors for Black Panther through to his role in Detective Comics, he dominated the year. And let’s not forget that every week that Doctor Who was on the air, Francavilla drew a poster on his blog which related to the episode. In a year for idiosyncratic artists, Francavilla’s unique take on perspective and layout made for some of the most striking art either Marvel or DC put out in 2011.

Nick Bradshaw

I believe he started the year off with an issue of ‘Escape From the Negative Zone’, written by James Asmus, and then moved on to become one of Marvel’s most sought-after cover artists. His art, a wonderfully cartoonish take on Marvel’s characters which have caused many to compare him to Art Adams, was everywhere. He did covers, he did interiors - and he’ll be wrapping up the year as one of the two artists for ‘Wolverine & The X-Men’ - paired up with CHRIS BACHALO. You know you’ve made it when they pair you off with Bachalo.

Humberto Ramos

Speaking of, here’s the man who used to be paired with Bachalo on Mike Carey’s X-Men run. Some bloggers were rather critical of Ramos’ appointment as one of the main Spider-Man artists for Dan Slott’s run, but were quickly left scooping up their spiel and ramming it back down their throats. Not only did Ramos deliver a vibrant, energetic take on the main character and his cast of friends, but he also delivered the artwork for an entire event storyline - on time, to schedule, and to rave reviews. Spider-Island was a demanding story to have to draw, and there was simply nobody other than Ramos who could’ve done it.

Phil Noto

Have you seen his Tumblr blog yet? Go now! Rush over! Do this now!

Mikel Janin

Coming out of nowhere with a Flashpoint tie-in, Janin’s artowkr immediately seized attention with its photo-realistic (but not creepy ((unless it needed to be))) use of expression and character. This led into a run with Peter Milligan on Justice League Dark which has been excellent thus far, giving us a wide range of characters who all look distinctive and stylish. His redesign on Zatanna was a dangerous job to take on, but was met with applause from fans, and his obvious love for the characters and story makes every page irresistible.

Travel Foreman

Known by fans for his work on Immortal Iron Fist, there was a wave of excitement when it was announced that Foreman would be partnering up with Jeff Lemire for DC’s new ‘Animal Man’ title. And that wave grew into something larger than a wave, such a omega wave, when the first issue came out. Lemire asks for a lot from Foreman over the course of the series, but each time Foreman has managed to surpass expectations. He can mangle anatomy like no other artist, and his designs for the main cast - maybe leaving aside Cliff’s unfortunate mullet - are absolutely bananas. Villains The Hunters Three are a mess of guts, leg bits, fly heads and other vague fleshy ideas, and look incredibly creepy as a result. No other DC book has an artist so perfectly in-tune with the tone of the stiry.

Cliff Chiang

The most difficult job in comics is drawing Wonder Woman, because every single fan is waiting for you to slip up and deliver something less-than-perfection. Well, the fans are still waiting for Chiang to put one foot wrong in his reinvention of the character, as every page of the book looks sumptuous. Giving us a strong but human version of Wonder Woman is just the tip on a perfectly-drawn iceberg, as the rest of the cast look fantastic too. The locations are gorgeous - helped in no part by the work of colourist Matthew Wilson - and the storytelling is top-notch.

Paolo Rivera/Marcos Martin

It’s difficult to say anything that hasn’t already been said, by us, every single week since these two took over as the artists for Daredevil. Every month readers get a flawless book, paced and told beautifully. If you don’t read Daredevil, just take a look at some preview pages - inked, coloured, lettered, any state. You’re guaranteed to be floored by how intricate they are. Steve Wacker is a very lucky editor indeed to have such talent on his books.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Jason Aaron Prepares to Conclude his Wolverine Run

Marvel's fourth 'mystery call' of the week has brought us the news that, with Wolverine #300, Jason Aaron will begin to wrap up his lengthy run with the character. The issue will kick off a new storyline featuring Wolverine against the Yakusa, and will tie together msot, if not all, of the plot threads that the writer has been dangling over the past four or so years.

Wolverine was arguably the launchpad for Aaron's career, so this was a tough decision for him to make. After winning a talent competition years and years ago, Aaron was invited to submit a short Wolverine story for an anthology. That led to work with Vertigo on 'Scalped', and ultimately to a full Wolverine storyline called 'Get Mystique'. A fan-favourite, that storyline lined him up for a long run with Wolverine, seeing the character go to hell, fight time-travellers, and carry out Nightcrawler's final wishes.

Although this is Aaron's last solo story with Wolverine for the time being, he stressed that he'd still be writing "Wolverine and the X-Men" for Marvel.

We literally can't show you ANY of the preview pages for "Saga" #1

Coming to a comic store near you on the 14th March 2012, Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples' new comic 'Saga' is a science fiction tale about two parents and their newborn space baby. The book - Vaughan's first major comic-book story since he concluded his long running books "Y: The Last Man" and "Ex Machina" - sees the two characters try to keep their child alive as they flee through space, trying to escape a war. Presumably space lizards are involved somewhere, but we've yet to ask Vaughan for the details. But just as soon as we get a reply RE: space lizards, you'll be the first to know.

Excitingly, Image have already released a lettered preview of the issue. It's not out for another three months! And we're already getting preview pages? Sensational.

However, we can't show you a single one of the pages. We're talking swearing, poop jokes, babies getting born, and people with horns in their heads, right there on every page. And that's just not what this family-friendly site is about, you guys. We just can't support that kind of maturity over here.

If you want to see the preview, and admire Staples' fantastic artwork, you'll just have to head elsewhere.

It's tough to be so all-ages all the time, you guys. But you'll thank us in the long run.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Regeneration X: X-Sanction

X-Sanction is a four-issue miniseries which now serves as a prelude to next years ‘X-Men Vs Avengers’ storyline, in which Cable returns to try and protect his adopted daughter, Hope Summers, from an Avengers attack. The only problem is that the attack hasn’t happened yet, the Avengers don’t realise that they’re going to start this attack, and that nobody realised Cable was still alive. That’s where Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness come in.

Starting with an off-handed gesture to explain why Cable is still alive, issue #1 of the miniseries is an extended fight scene between Captain America and Cable, two characters whose thought processes and motivations are very similar. We know this because Cable outright states it. This fight, which could’ve been avoided if only Cable didn’t want to give a grandstanding speech, consists of several glossy pages where the characters pose at each other, gleam, and throw punches spectacularly. The process of the fight doesn’t really make much sense, but this is a big and brash take on Cable, harkening back to his original purpose as a Rob Liefeld gun-thug.

The Cable we’re presented with here has an ostensibly heroic purpose: protect his daughter from an imminent attack from the Avengers. Yet he acts like a villain throughout, taking cheap shots and gloating endlessly. This Cable comes across as an idiot, which is strange because Loeb also presents him as the hardened soldier we know him to be. He seems to have made a complex plan for stopping the Avengers – a plan which works – but it could hardly be a simpler plan. He kidnaps Falcon, then waits in ambush for Captain America. Why does Cap go on his own to find Falcon, when the rest of the Avengers were JUST next to him? Maybe they wanted a pizza.

The story is simplistic to a fault – I am literally telling you that the storytelling is faulty. While competent, the entire story feels childish and empty. It’s painfully obvious where every single part of this story is going to go, and it feels like a waste of a good story. Duane Swierczynski gave us a version of Cable who was smart and aggressive, but not a robot. Jeph Loeb boils down Cable to a simplistic essence and bores the reader.

Although here’s the thing – if you’re a young reader, wanting to get into comics? This actually works really well as an introduction to Marvel. It sets up who the Avengers currently are, and looks set to introduce the X-Men before too long. The story is simple, the art is spiffy, and while it has a lot of punching, there’s no grim violence. People hit each other, they shout things for no reason, and it’s all very flashy. A six year old will probably love this issue.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Is Squirrel Girl going to become Phoenix?

In an interview with Comic Book Resources last week, Axel Alonso shared this piece of teaser art, showing Squirrel Girl in full control of the Phoenix Force. What could it mean??

Monday, 12 December 2011

Marjorie Liu takes over Astonishing X-Men!!

In fantastic news which has only just been broken, Marvel have announced that writer Marjorie Liu and artist Mike Perkins will be the new creative team on Astonishing X-Men, beginning with issue #48! Liu's story will tell a story featuring Wolverine's side of the X-Men's Schism, with Northstar, Karma and Gambit joining the roster.

The first arc will see the team fight The Marauders - although in a tweak of their lineup, Vanisher and Chimera will be among the classic villain team this time round.

I, Vampire and Justice League Dark Crossover Announced

Here's something that's slipped under the radar: with everybody focused on the crossovers between Frankenstein/OMAC, Animal Man/Swamp Thing, and Scott Snyder's big "court of owls" storyline crossing over into Batgirl, Nightwing, and Batwing.... DC had another crossover in the works.

Peter Milligan and Mikel Janin's Justice League Dark looks set to jump straight from the first arc into a story about a vampire invasion, beginning with March's issue #7. That storyline will then move across into Joshua Hale Fialkov and Andrew Sorrentino's I, Vampire title, as the central character attempts to deal with the situation.

Nothing else has been revealed about the storyline yet. We don't even have official covers for the books, which were announced today as part of DC's March solicitations. No idea how long the story will run for, or what the format of the crossover will be. But as soon as we find out, we'll let you know

That solicit for Mr Terrific #7 in full

Cover by J.G. JONES
On sale MARCH 14 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T
When a mysterious ghost ship appears in Los Angeles harbor, Mister Terrific must investigate his strangest case yet! Supernatural horror quickly gives way to a nuclear nightmare as L.A.’s protector uncovers a terrorist plot to destroy the city. But while Mister Terrific fights for the City of Angels, a shocking new villain rises from the ashes of betrayal. Get ready to meet Digitus, the unstoppable monstrosity who can outthink Mister Terrific!

Okay, so let's break that down just a little. First up, Mr Terrific wil be fighting a ghost ship. If we remember our film history correctly, that means he should keep an eye out for topless ghosts and precarious steel cabling. Also, that nobody should ever rent the film "Ghost Ship" from Netflix. Not worth it, guys!

So not only is this going to be a ghost ship attacking LA, but the ghost ship also appears to have nuclear capability. These ghosts are more technologically advanced than most Asian countries! These are terrorist ghosts, looking to launch a spectral barrage upon the West Coast of America. They have ghost machine guns. This is crazy.

While that's going on, this guy called "Digitus" is ALSO going to attack Mr Terrific. He sounds like he is made from computer code, and is either going to play a blinding round of chess OR try to kill our hero. One of the two.

This has been your quick roundup of the March solicitation for Mr Terrific #7.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

ComVan's Writers of the Year

We’re not doing a top ten, and there are so many writers who we’ve probably left out that you’re going to want to pelt the computer screen with hot bricks once you finish. But 2011 was an interesting year for comics, with a number of writers making a breakthrough into the mainstream, delivering top-notch creator-owned works, or continuing to do whatever it is they do. Writing is the easiest thing to talk about, so let us do so through the very medium of writing itself. Here are Comics Vanguard’s WRITERS OF THE YEAR

Rick Remender

Here is how you get more people to read your series about black ops agents working to take down evil corporations: get Rick Remender to write it. 2011 saw the writer make a series about Deadpool, Fantomex, Psylocke and Deathlok into something readable, and reinvented the concept of Venom. He also wrote the definitive Punisher storyline, but I can never remember whenabouts that happened. Frankencastle was just the greatest, you guys. I miss it terribly. Remender didn’t stop with his Marvel work, though! His creator-owned series Fear Agent, published by Dark Horse, concluded this year. Didn’t it? Or did it conclude last year. Oh dear, this article simply couldn’t be less researched than it is right now. Rick Remender has established himself as one of the top new writers at Marvel, at any rate. So that’s a good thing.

Jeff Lemire

Jeff Lemire’s series Sweet Tooth continued on this year, garnering plaudits and odd antler cosplay wherever it went. On top of that, the writer managed to sneak into DC’s New 52 and take control of writing two solo books featuring characters made famous by Grant Morrison. And while Animal Man is an obviously brilliant take on the character, updating and renovating him whilst staying somewhat true to Morrison’s style, Frankenstein is just as crazy as anything that Grant could ever put out. It has Ray Palmer in it, for goodness’ sake! And it’s still entertaining! With three critically acclaimed titles under his arm as he walks out of 2011 and into 2012, it looks like the next twelve months are his to claim.

Kate Beaton

Kate Beaton’s webseries ‘Hark, A Vagrant’ continued apace, with frequent new updates over the course of the year. From the return of her Wonder Woman comics to her time-travelling re-contextualising of notable historic figures, the series continues to be one of the most entertaining things you can get for free over the internet. Not only that, but Beaton this year released a print version of her work, offering readers hundreds of strips packaged into one book. Not only that, but each strip comes with commentary from Beaton herself, explaining the creative process. Not only that, but this entry seems to be some kind of promotion for her book instead of an explanation for why she is one of our writers of the year. Beaton’s other work this year included the creation of the Strong Female Characters alongside Carly Monardo and Meredith Gran; a prescient move which seemed to guess the direction that 2011 would ultimately head into, as discussion of female characters became one of the main topics for online fan debate.

Scott Snyder

What do you do after writing one of the most critically-acclaimed Batman stories in recent history? You take over the main title, putting yourself squarely in the crosshairs of disgruntled fans, and make Batman #1 a great comic. And simultaneously take Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and make Swamp Thing #1 into a great comic. Which is what Scott Snyder managed to do this year. The Black Mirror alone – his arc on Detective Comics with artists Francesco Francavilla and Jock – would probably alone be a good enough reason to put Snyder into the list. But when you take two difficult titles and make them into must-reads, there’s something more than good writing going on. Scott Snyder is probably using pixie dust on his laptop. That’s our guess. ComVan’s writing staff are drunk again you guys.

Kieron Gillen

No surprise that Gillen makes the list, because we pretty routinely namecheck him on this site. There are those who believe the site should be renamed Kieron Vanguard, but that seems like fairly blatant pandering. Gillen’s run on Uncanny X-Men has started off well, and for a title that is routinely a poisoned chalice, you have to applaud him for that. But he’s also been busy elsewhere, writing this book – you might have heard of it – called “Journey Into Mystery”. It’s all about this talking magpie and his adventures with a hopeless demi-god sidekick called Loki. Thor shows up in it sometimes, and there’s all this magic involved and stuff. It’s great. People say Marvel don’t take many risks, but it doesn’t get more risky than making a talking crow your protagonist.

Jonathan Hickman

He wrote that Red Wing comic, but really this is all about FANTASTIC FOUR #600. What a fantastic piece of writing that was. Yep.

Mark Waid

One of two writers to leap away from DC comics in order to work alongside editor Steve Wacker (the other being Greg Rucka), Mark Waid’s 2011 can be summed up with one word: Daredevil. The relaunch of Matt Murdock’s series has been an utter success thus far, with Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin making sure the book looked absolutely fantastic. But Waid’s contribution to the book shouldn’t be overlooked – although it has, a little – as his stories have been tight, fun adventures which throw all kinds of strange villains at the hero. Starting off with the Spot and moving on to a new character, called Bruiser (who wants to build up a reputation as a hero-beater so he will become famous enough that Hulk will want to fight him), Waid’s procession of villains were matched only by his happy-go-lucky characterisation of Murdock himself. Daredevil is one of the best books of the year, and most of that lies in Waid’s writing.

Dan Slott

I know we said that we wouldn’t be doing this as a top ten, but Dan Slott was the best this year. Rampaging out of his comfort zone to write an epic summer event, Slott succeeded where basically everybody else failed, and made Spider-Island an entertaining, smart, silly read. While other crossovers and events fell apart this year, Slott’s Spidey remained one of Marvel’s best titles. In the face of crushing odds, he’s managed to keep this book engaging, faithful to its central character, and progressive.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Aviv Or Brings Community to the X-Men

If you head over to Aviv Or's website today.... you'll find some spot-on Community/X-Men mashups. And possibly a teddy-bears' picnic, but no promises about that. Each week Or's been casting one character from the NBC comedy Community as a different member of the X-Men, to inspired effect. Annie becomes Kitty, Jeff becomes Cyclops, and Troy becomes TROYVERINE. So far he's only revealed four of them (five if you include Annie's Boobs, the monkey, who plays the role of Lockheed the dragon); which leaves five more shrouded in mystery. Who will Abed be? Any guesses? Shirley? Chang?

Gateways into Comics

Written whilst somewhat drunk.

With the industry suffering through a quiet crisis right now, and several creators start to talk about the fact that they’re struggling to make a living from comics, how can we fans do something to help out the industry? Well, as Comics Vanguard is a British website and none of the major companies ever release info about sales here, it looks like very little indeed. But instead of ending the post right there – which’d be a major anti-climax for you all – we’re instead going to look at ways in which British (French, Russian, Philippine, Brazilian; insert your nationality here) fans can push their Yankee friends into shops, and help the industry.

The way I first got into comics was through a ‘name’ writer, and so I’m going to assume that many other people were the same. A Joss Whedon fan, I decided to try his X-Men stories to see if they were as good as Buffy – this was around the time of season 4, I believe, so that’s not too far-fetched a thing for someone to do. I doubt anyone watching season 6 would behave in the same way. Marvel in particular have spent a lot of time trying out famous writers – next year they’ll be getting the writer of Dexter, Jeff Lindsay, to write a Dexter series, as a matter of fact. But the single problem which comes up time and time again is that these writers are not focused on the comics. Kevin Smith, Jon Favreau, Damon Lindelof – all ‘name’ writers whose comics have been plagued by chronic delays because they couldn’t get the scripts in on time. If you hire them, then non-comic fans will be more inclined to try out some books – but at the same time, don’t expect anything like professionalism from them. They may write clever stories, and know their obscure history, but it’s a difficult thing for the artist and company when their writer isn’t submitting anything.

So that’s perhaps a dead-end. On a different front -- Wikipedia is unanimously the way in which people get their obscure information online. After grabbing Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, I found myself confronted with Cassandra Nova – a Grant Morrison character. Now, there is absolutely no way that a new fan is going to understand any Morrison character unless they’re being written by Morrison, so Wikipedia became my source of info. Written by fans with an admirable lack of bias, Wikipedia crucially features hyperlinks which allow you to indulge a side-interest whilst sticking to the central narrative. If I want to work out what happened during 52, and happen across a link to Tawky Tawny? I can do that, then go back to the main storyline at whim. Wikipedia is an incredibly useful tool for understanding comics continuity, and it seems mad that Marvel, DC, Image and other companies haven’t yet built their own effective databases for fans to get into comics. They’d be able to moderate the wikis themselves, keeping spoilers out of the equation if they want. This would also be rather useful for the writers, and save them from having to buy a stack of Exiles back-titles if they manage to score a miniseries with Blink in it.

However, by far the most common way for people to start picking up comics is through films, TV shows, and video games. Type in the name of any A-List character into google, and watch as it autocompletes in the name of their film. “Wolverine” becomes “Wolverine: Origins” or “Wolverine and the X-Men”, while Batman becomes “Batman Arkham City” or “Batman Dark Knight Rises”. Without being massively sexist for a second, every single female X-Men fan got that way through watching the animated series, ignoring Jean Grey’s tepid characterisation, and leaping straight into the world of Gambit/Rogue shipping. Every single female fan. People catch hold of a TV show on the fly, or have a crush on Andrew Garfield, or pick up a Batman game, and find themselves wrapped up inside the World of comic-books. After playing through Arkham Asylum or City, it’s incredibly tempting to want to find out more about these characters and locations, and the only place to do that is in comics. Throw a used DVD of Howard the Duck at one of your friends, wait a month, then check their bookcases. You’re practically guaranteed to find a complete Howard omnibus up on there, wedged between the Family Guy annuals.

The fact that the films, shows and games barely ever touch on anything remotely resembling comic-book continuity is the only sticking point here. A Michael Fassbender fan (and we’re all Michael Fassbender fans, correct?) can’t go into their store and pick up a comic with a young, attractive Magneto punching Kevin Bacon in the face. The film cites Beast, Angel, Darwin, Havok and Banshee as the first X-Men team: in the comics, that goes to Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Angel and Iceman. And Sage, if you’re a real continuity stickler. Arkham City does not exist in the New 52 – or in the old 52. Spider-Man comics don’t feature an extended arc in which Madame Webb goes completely insane and starts telling riddles and—oh wait, no, they do.

If you can get your American friends interested in the continuity of these other media, then it’s a surely-simple next step to get them interested in the comics. This is, above all, the best thing that can be done to help comics. Not only buy them yourself, but share them with your friends. Don’t be embarrassed about liking comics – at least you’re a fan of a quality product created by talented people. That’s more than anyone who likes football can say. The top companies can wait around all day for one of their titles to be turned into a successful show like Walking Dead, and then tie-in like crazy. But if fans share and encourage their fans to like the obscure books – spreading the fandom in a zombie-esque manner – then any book can become the next breakout title.

Harvey Tolibao joins Green Arrow

Sorry for being gone for forty-eight whole hours, you guys! ComVan was busy trying to find out who the next writer of the Avengers will be. More on that investigation soon! But now, let's get to talking about Green Arrow. Look! For there is preview art!

It's time to talk about the exciting next development in Ann Nocenti's already-triumphant return to the world of comics, as writer of DC's Green Arrow series. On top of Nocenti's prose, the comic will also benefit from the manic angles of Harvey Tolibao, who comes fresh from runs on X-Men Legacy and Chris Yost's Psylocke miniseries for Marvel. Tolibao's artwork is distinctive in the extreme, and putting him on the comic is the equivalent of hiring Sam Raimi to direct a film for you. Green Arrow is already one of the most anticipated titles of 2012, but things just got even more exciting.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Wolverine and Beast to Betray Mutantkind during AvX

AvX being the official shortening for Avengers Vs X-Men, Marvel's big 2012 event storyline.

During a liveblog held RIGHT NOW, writer Jason Aaron has revealed that former X-Men members Beast and Wolverine will side with The Avengers during this event.

* Storm, meanwhile, will be uncertain of which side to choose - which might be interesting, because her husband Black Panther has been confirmed to side with The Avengers during the storyline.

* Tom Brevoort noted that the only titles to tie-in to the storyline will be Avengers or X-Men titles - everything else will run along with their current stories.

* The Young Avengers and Avengers Academy characters will be drawn into the series as it progresses, as Cap calls on everybody to help back him up.

* The story will begin next April with an issue called "AvX 0", which acts as a prologue for the rest of the story

Swamp Thing Vs Animal Man - ROUND 4

Animal Man and Swamp Thing, two of DC's best titles, are carefully interconnected. Not only are their storyline slowly interweaving, but they will ultimately lead into a thirteen (ish) issue long crossover "DeadWorld" next year. And they're both released during the same week, putting them in direct competition with each other.

In week one! Animal Man just about edged victory.
Week two! Again, Animal Man took the crown.
Week three! Swamp Thing jumped into the lead, and claimed success.

How will week four fare?

Swamp Thing #4 sees artist Marco Rudy step in to cover for Yanick Paquette, and managed to last an entire issue without me realising that this was a different artist. His layouts and style are uncannily similar to those used by Paquette, and his range of expression is just as impressive. Aided by colourist David Baron, Rudy offers some gorgeous full-page splash sequences, and also draws a parrot into one of the scenes (cementing him as a new ComVan favourite). Scott Snyder continues to offer us some of the most entertaining exposition sequences in recent memory, with almost every page giving us some kind of look back to the past, and explanation of the future. Now, we've told you that this is entertaining, so forgive us for also saying that the plot is starting to wear a little thin. Essentially nothing has actually happened for four issues now, and whilst we appreciate Snyder's ability to draw out the tension - please have something happen next issue! The spot-on characterisation and development will sustain us for the time being, but it'd be really nice to see the plot move along.

Jeff Lemire offers a similar exposition-heavy story over in Animal Man #4, as Buddy Baker learns more about his origin and the fate of his daughter. But Lemire also progresses the plot, with things heating up for both Buddy and for the rest of his family. Maxine looks set to be the standout character of the issue for a long time, until suddenly... SOCKS jumps in. Socks is an avatar of The Red, and one of the powers-that-be who control Animal Man's powers. He is also a giant cat, and can talk. WHAT MORE COULD ANYONE WANT FROM A COMIC?

Swamp Thing looks wonderful this issue. Snyder has a great ability to evoke horror in the readers, and the opening sequence displays that ability to sensational effect. The little boy, William, who can manipulate dead matter - causing humans to perish in the most disgusting ways imaginable - is a decent idea for a villain used masterfully.

Animal Man 4 has a talking cat in it.

Snyder's pacing of Swamp Thing #4 may well be a little slow, but he still manages to keep the reader's attention despite scores of exposition-heavy dialogue, shared between Alec Holland and Abigail Arcane (amazing surname). And despite the fact we still haven't seen the actual Swamp Thing appear yet, the comic doesn't feel at all like it's short-changing the readers. Holland is fascinating as a character -- realistic and yet otherworldly.

But he's not a talking cat, is he?

Week 4's winner --- ANIMAL MAN!

The Mystery of The Defenders' Footnotes

Skipping past the story for the time being - what was going on with Marvel's bizarre advertising footnotes scrawled along the bottom of every page of The Defenders #1? When the comic wasn't patronisingly telling you to skip past an advert in order to read the next page, it was hurling taglines like "The impossible isn't coming.... the impossible is already here"

And that's without the adverts for Secret Avengers, Journey Into Mystery, and several other comics released this month.

Defenders has already started off with a series of cryptic subliminal messages crammed into their teaser advertisements - so is there something else going on here? Why the constant attention-breaking comments and adverts at the bottom of each page? COMICS VANGUARD are going to get to the bottom of this!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Brian Michael Bendis to leave Avengers next year

In an interview with CBR (who seem to have all the exclusives nowadays), Brian Michael Bendis has announced that he will be stepping down from all three of his Avengers titles for Marvel. That means he'll be off Avengers, New Avengers, and the movie tie-in Avengers Assemble. Until that time, he still has a good year or so of stories, and is looking to wrap up as many of his slow-burning stories as possible. Among stories he wants specifically to deal with are Norman Osborn & Protector's grudge with each other, and Red Hulk's membership - but with eight years of stories to draw from, he'll have no shortage of characters to deal with next year. Bendis has been writing Avengers since 2004, you guys! That's one heck of a long time.

The Avengers/X-Men crossover will also be coming next year, and it sounds like Bendis will be collaborating with artist Brandon Peterson for Avengers 24.1 around that time - which may well be connected to the event. But it might not be! The details are being kept under wraps for the moment.

Dropping these three titles will presumably give Bendis more time to concentrate on his other projects - Ultimate Spider-Man, Powers, and Moon Knight, amongst others.

The question is - who could possibly follow on from Bendis' legacy? The only person we can think of is Mark Waid...

The Comic Book History of Comics Blog Post

Brian Cronin over at Comics Should Be Good has been celebrating Fred Van Lente day every December 6th for several years now, and 2011 is no exception. The writer of Action Philosophers, Alpha Flight, Herc and more will be online for an exclusive chat later on tonight, but the first big news of FVLD11 is the announcement of “The Comic Book History of Comics”.

This will be a collection of Ven Lente and artist Ryan Dunlavey’s ‘Comic Book Comics’ miniseries, which chronicles the history of comics – including the backstage troubles surrounding Batman royalties, Alan Moore’s rants, Stan Lee’s attitude towards his co-workers, and the life and times of Will Eisner, amongst other topics – in comic-book form. The series has been widely praised by both critics and Ven Lente’s contemporaries, noting that the history revealed was accurate, therefore depressing, and therefore utterly fascinating. Each page sees Van Lente explain the process behind some of the most famous comic-book companies, whilst Dunlavey provides a silly illustrated twist to the narrative. Here, look, this is the sort of thing they do:

The Comic Book History of Comics will be published by IDW, and released next year.

Marvel Mash Avengers Vs X-Men

It all becomes clear. After Jeph Loeb's miniseries about Cable fighting the Avenegrs (called X-Sanction, starting later this month), Marvel have announced that the rest of the X-Men will join in the fight next year. Avengers Vs X-Men will be written by all five of the Marvel Architects - that's Jason Aaron, Brian Michael Bendis, Matt Fraction, Jonathan Hickman and Ed Brubaker, fact-fans - and drawn by a rotating art team of Oliver Coipel, John Romita Jr, and Adam Kubert. Here's an image for the event, drawn by Jim Cheung:

A twelve-issue storyline released fortnightly, the series basically take this approach: THE PHOENIX IS COMING! IT WANTS HOPE SUMMERS! DOES IT? EVERYBODY FIGHT!

We're not going to be fans of this storyline, you guys. We're sorry to immediately come up with a bias, but only one of the five writers has proven himself cable of actually writing the X-Men well. Fraction and Brubaker have already tried Uncanny X-Men to little success and dull stories, whilst Bendis' infrequent attempts to bring the X-Men into his stories (including his introduction of Wolverine and Storm into the Avengers) have gone down badly. The three artists aren't going to gel very well, either.

The main news from this story, really, is that Cable's future now looks increasingly ominous. The focus of X-Sanction is his attempt to keep the Avengers from finding out about the Phoenix Force. Now we know that they're going to find out about the Phoenix Force - and that Cable is missing from all the teasers - Cable's return appears to be short-lived.

Ryan Stegman's 'Scarlet Spider' interior artwork revealed

Last night saw Marvel put out one of their "everybody pay attention" phonecalls to all the major comic-book websites (minus the still-shunned Comics Vanguard, natch), this time pertaining to Chris Yost and Ryan Stegman's 'Scarlet Spider' series. The book, which features Peter Parker's clone 'Kaine' as the central character, trying to work out if he's a hero or not, spins off from the recent 'Spider-Island' storyline by Dan Slott.

But look, we know what you guys really want to see. You want to see a page from inside the comic, as drawn by ComVan favourite Ryan Stegman! Without you even having to say a word, let us deliver upon that for you:

The interview, by the way, can be found on all major comic-book websites (minus Comics Vanguard, double-natch). But the main detail which we found interesting was that Yost plans to bring The Assassins Guild into the story - which means possible returns for favourites like Black Mamba and Belladonna! Time to get excited!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Kate Beaton gets to the heart of Wonder Woman

There's been quite a lot of debate about Brian Azzarello's reinterpretation of Wonder Woman for the New 52, as well as debate about Wondy in general. Does she deserve the iconic status that she has, when nobody can remember anything about her origin or personality? Kate Beaton, writer of everybody's favourite webcomic Hark, A Vagrant!, offers a look into what's really going on here.

And while it's a jokey look at the character, it does raise a few worthy points about her. With nothing to define her in the of the general public (other than her costume and invisible jet), is Azzarello's decision to make her into what is essentially Xena Warrior Princess a clever step towards building up a repuation for the character? At any rate, we always welcome the chance to post Kate Beaton's work up on ComVan. Go buy her book! It'll make everybody a great Christmas present.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

THE Top Ten Marvel Movies

As Christmas 2011 approaches, you may be wondering which Marvel movies might be worth putting on your wishlist for the 25th. Do not fret! Comics Vanguard have got this all sorted out for you. Here are some classic comic films for you to find in your festive stocking.

10: X-Men First Class

Don't let our review from earlier this year cloud your judgement: the X-Men are our favourites, and we're always going to be extra-critical of anything they appear in. X-Men First Class may have suffered from a few problems - especially in the way it handled the central idea of what the X-Men stand for - but was great fun to watch. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender put together a superb double-act in their roles as Xavier and Magneto, which anchored the rest of the film. Their powers require them to, respectively, put a finger to their forehead and frown; and move their hands while grimacing. And they made it work!

9: Thor

Another recent film, which saw the relatively unknown Chris Hemsworth take on the iconic role in a movie which threw in a surprisingly large amount of Walt Simonson's mythology and ideas into the mix. Crafting a brilliantly-structured movie around the idea that Anthony Hopkins is a warrior-king whose sons wear silly helmets and yell a lot, Thor was also notable for being yet another film stolen by Stellan Skarsgard, as a grumpy father-figure to Natalie Portman's... science woman. What job was she meant to have, again?

8: Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD

7: Spiderman

The first of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films proved to be a fine showcase for the director's off-kilter filming style, disorientating viewers and delivering a great plot which underlined everything which makes Spider-Man so beloved as a comic-book character. Tobey Maguire may not have been the greatest Peter Parker, but he was given a terrific supporting cast to do the heavy lifting for him - including a full-on crazy Willem Defoe as Green Goblin.

6: Iron Man

Robert Downey Jr was the draw, playing essentially himself from four years ago, only with added robot suits. His take on Tony Stark was note-perfect, helped by a clever script and light directing from Jon Favreau. The sequel was filled with too much dead-weight, but this first look into the world of Iron Man was great fun.

5: X-Men 2

The best X-Men film, despite what some people say, Brian Singer's movie added more weight to the mythos at the same time as introducing beloved characters like Nightcrawler and dumping uninteresting characters like Sabretooth. Brian Cox made for an interesting villain, but the main fun was seeing Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart trying to out-act each other.

4: Howard the Duck

George Lucas crafts an epic which stands alongside Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Howard the Duck is a subtly-drawn masterpiece, underpinned by sterling work from actress Lea Thompson as his love interest, Beverley.

3: Blade II

The first Blade film was stylish and entertaining, but the sequel cranks everything up by at least four notches. Wesley Snipes remains a fairly blank-faced protagonist, but that works well when he's surrounded by all manner of day-glo vampires, gruff mentors, and Luke Goss as a villain whose mouth expands in size whenever he wants to eat someone's face.

2: Spiderman 2

A better role for Bruce Campbell, Alfred Molina as Dr Octopus, even snazzier camerawork and spellbinding special effects are coupled with a scene in which Peter Parker gets repeatedly hit round the head while "Raindrops keep fallin' on my head" plays in the background. A step up in every respect, Spider-Man 2 was the film which cemented the idea that comics were the next new direction for Hollywood to pursue.

1: Punisher Warzone

Absolutely the most underrated film of the last twenty years, Punisher Warzone delivers everything that a Punisher film should - cannibalism, facial mutilation, gangsters, fight scenes where the combatants are handcuffed to each other, dolls getting shot, freerunners getting blown up, and some of the more memorable scenes to ever be brought to screen. Lukewarm at the box-office, the film has gone on to develop a cult following over the past few months. And it doesn't have John Travolta in it ANYWHERE.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Hey look it's another guy on the internet writing about DC's female characters

DC have come in for a complete slating over the past few months, daring to mix their 'chaste' female solo titles with 'sexy' female solo titles, so Supergirl and Wonder Woman sit right next to Catwoman and Red Hood on the shelves. Comics Alliance were the heart of the complaints, which were levelled in particular at four different titles: Red Hood & The Outlaws, Catwoman, Suicide Squad and Voodoo. The accusation was that DC used their female characters as eye-candy for their predominantly male audience, which in turn meant the characters turned off the female demographic and leaves young girls with no role-models to read about and enjoy. If a child wants to read about strong female characters, they're going to find it difficult to find them anywhere at DC.

Well, three months later, let's take a quick look at how three of these four titles (nothing will compel us to willingly read about Jason Todd - NO.THING. - are handling themselves now, two months on. Remember that, because of the time it takes to write and draw a comic, most of these issues were likely already set-in-stone by the time the complaints came in about their first issues. So we have yet to reach the point where the comics can comment and react against any criticism that they may have received. This is always how the stories were meant to go on.

The most complaints were made about Catwoman #1, which focused extensively on showcasing Selina Kyle's breasts, and ended with a panel of Batman and Catwoman having sex. Comics Alliance said that this was an example of the unfair difference between how comics portray men and women: Catwoman is not a strong female character, but an example of male fantasy acted out on the page.

Catwoman #3 still features bits of Batman, but for the most part now seems to be moving away from him, in order to establish why there's a place for Catwoman in Gotham City. While not an origin story, this initial arc does seem to be about setting the character up, giving her motivation, and putting her alongside the rest of Gotham's A-List characters. We're essentially getting a rebooted purpose for the character. And what's interesting here is how Catwoman effectively undermines the entire Batman sequence from issue #1. Here we have Catwoman out for revenge on the criminals who killed her friend, only for Batman to step in and stop her from going too far. This is when she then distracts him with a kiss so she can kick the villain off a roof, and make her escape. Batman, being Batman, jumps off the roof to save the man from certain death.

That's an interesting sequence because it showcases the point of the Batman/Catwoman sequences from previous issues. There they were shown as being ultimately very similar - same modus operandi, same interest in black animal costumes, same antihero vibe to them. But here we see writer Judd Winick splitting them apart on idealogical grounds: Selina was going to kill this villain before Batman stepped in. Before we had a character who was a female reflection of Batman - which is why it seemed so unfair that she was characterised as a woman who uses her sexuality to get by. When you're comparing Batman and Catwoman, Catwoman comes off worse because she uses her body against men. But now we see the two characters separated and defined independently, it becomes clear that Catwoman's sexuality is meant to be out in the open. She is willing to put herself in morally ambiguous positions in order to get justice done. Batman is not. Catwoman #3, therefore, breaks the comparison between the depiction of male and female characters, and in doing so defines Selina Kyle as her own woman.

Voodoo was also mentioned in the article on Comics Alliance, and treated with disdain. This continued when the first issue actually came out, with most members of the site awarding it very low scores indeed. The premise, that the title character was a stripper, was so off-putting for the writers that they couldn't allow the title any praise whatsoever.

Cut to issue #3, which sees her fight Kyle Rayner for the typical comic-book reasons: it looks good on the cover. Now, we never saw any validity in the complaints made about Voodoo #1 - the stripping scenes were designed to TRICK the readers, and not to sell out the female lead. She performs a strip over the course of that issue before suddenly revealing her true motives and killing the recipient of the dance. Issue #3 continues to show Voodoo doing whatever she wants, defining the world on her own terms. And, it continues to be a good, solid title. It may not be amongst DC's best titles, but it's certainly not the mess that some people have made it out to be. And it certainly isn't a sexist comic.

And that leads us to Suicide Squad #3. There were complaints that the series was offering a completely unnatural, oversexualised, bland version of Harley Quinn. And they're more or less right. Her sexual interest in Deadshot only seems to exist because she's the single female character in the title, and thus needs to be attached to one of the male leads. We awkwardly see her in provocative poses over the course of this issue, and it's decidedly unattractive. As created by Paul Dini, this woman is meant to be insane, and obsessive. Well here she appears to be insanely horny and obsessive about sex. I suppose it remains vaguely in-character for her, but it doesn't make for an interesting read whatsoever. And it's also interesting to see the trend where morally-ambiguous female characters are all sexualised. Catwoman, Starfire, Harley - there's a disconnect between sex and morality, which showcases the conservative ideals of comics right now.

Would you ever see Wonder Woman have a one-night-stand? No, because apparently that would devalue her character. And therein lies one of the real cases of sexism within the DC reboot - sex is still treated as dirty, and suspicious, and vain. While female characters at DC continue to be defined as "good" or "evil" depending on whether they like sex or not and what they wear, comics will always struggle to appeal to a female audience.

...At any rate, the moral to all this is: buy Birds of Prey. It's one of DC's best books, and it isn't afraid to depict actual women instead of porcelain goddesses or sexed-up criminals.