Thursday, 31 May 2012

Victor Gischler’s run on X-Men Ends, Isn’t It

This week saw issue #29 of Adjectiveless X-Men, Victor Gischler’s last story with the series. Starting off as a team-up book in which the X-Men would randomly team up with a different hero every issue, the book quickly moved away from characters like Spider-Man to focus on unused detritus like Blade, Skrulls, and endless vampires. Halfway through the ‘Regenesis’ rebranding hit, at which point the core members of the team were almost solidified into being Colossus, Domino, Psylocke, Storm and Jubilee. Then Jubilee left, and this final issue arc replaces her with Pixie.

In short, the book has been extremely sloppy for the past two years, which has seen it drop from #1 in the sales charts to somewhere right near the bottom. Each arc was selected by editorial mandate, with random characters drafted in for whatever reasons. Not only that, but the storyline Gischler wanted and got to do between the mandates was also junk, some horrible stuff about vampires and Jubilee when the entire fanbase was desperately yelling JUST MAKE HER AN X-MAN AND GIVE HER THE STUPID JACKIET AND HAVE HER BE FUN OR SOMETHING FOR CHRISTSAKE

This last issue concludes the current arc, which has the X-Men teaming with the Fantastic Four, who barely do anything this arc, to stop an evil Skrull. And thank the lord that Pixie was randomly thrown onto the team for this issue, because she’s the saving grace of the book. The story is uninspired, the villain is rubbish, and the rest of the X-Men feel continually out of character in small ways. Would Storm really ask somebody “you okay?” or would she rather be more formal and say “Are you okay?” Yeah. Exactly. These are small problems, but when you take them in the context of a story which has absolutely nothing else going well, they grow to become a major annoyance.

Pixie was pretty great here though, although the crux of her plan appears to be ‘teleport a lot’. Fairly uninspired, although artist Will Conrad does some excellent work with her body language and expression throughout the issue. Conrad is a great artist, who can convey escalating panic very nicely, and hopefully will move on to better things now he’s free of this. The lettering and colouring also help make the story feel far more cinematic than it actually is.

So, X-Men #29. Fairly rubbish, but saved by the inherent quality of the X-Men characters. Everybody is pleased to see this book’s premise get junked in favour of Brian Wood’s upcoming spy story coming next month. Let’s hope it’s as good as it sounds!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012


I am really far behind with dealing with comic book releases - and apparently they’re releasing MORE of the ruddy things tomorrow. So okay, let’s me take a look at Takio, the only All-Ages book being released by Marvel’s Icon imprint, and only a few weeks late. Sitting next to The Secret Service and, one would assume, Powers; Takio is the story of two adoptive sisters who both gain super-powers and decide to become heroes. It’s a very simple origin, but it’s simple because it almost always works. Here, again, the background fits the characters and doesn’t detract from anything else either writer Brian Michael Bendis nor artist Michael Avon Oeming are creating here.

And the book is fine, it’s perfectly reasonable. It feels a little like Bendis wrote a first draft and then didn’t go back to redraft - but there’s a charm in that, as the dialogue is a little ramshackle. The jokes certainly need polishing, and the timing is off. That’s in part because Bendis has always subscribed to a “realist” writing style, in which characters interrupt each other, ask to hear things again, or change their train or thought partway through a the art is nice. Again, Oeming’s work feels functional rather than stylish, but he gets across the beats of the story just fine.

Have to be honest here though - from what I’ve read, the story feels very similar to the very first arc of Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man. Back in those days, Peter Parker was in high school with best friend Harry Osborn, and Harry’s dad was a manipulative evil scientist who wanted to use chemicals to create soldiers. In Takio, one of the two girls’ father is a scientist (not so evil, although he works for a crook) who is using chemicals to, uh, create soldiers. It’s just a small similarity to pick up on right now, and hopefully Bendis is looking to move away.

I did enjoy how the antivillain of the story was KellySue DeConnick, however.

Takio is a decent comic, but doesn’t feel like the strongest work of either creator. I laud them for the commitment to creating a book anyone can read and enjoy, and for doing a good job of it. But Takio currently meanders, and I really want to see it kick the spurs in and accelerate into something brilliant. Ultimate Spider-Man took a few arcs too, so I’m hopeful for the future of the title.

Monday, 28 May 2012

How to survive in the (alien run) wilderness (when jelly monsters want to eat you)

Prophet, one of the ‘Extreme’ books Image have brought back to relaunch over the past few months, comes from a concept originally created by Rob Liefeld. Essentially, a human wakes up from a deep sleep, on Earth, and finds himself in a rural dystopia, savaged by aliens and dominated by weird creatures. Humans have evolved past the point of superiority, and are now a race of backwards monkey-creatures who are used as cattle by the now-supreme alien lifeforms on Earth. Mr Prophet, apparently the last man standing, has to reawaken humanity somehow and try to get Earth back into the hand of good ol’ fashioned hoomans.

As offered by artist Simon Roy and writer Brandon Graham, however, Prophet isn’t anything like a gung-ho as you might expect. Rather, this relaunch of the series is essentially Ray Mears Vs Aliens, with a survival element to the series which makes every small act immediately fascinating and important. If Bishop steps in the wrong swamp or eats the wrong fruit, he will die, and everything will be doomed forever. He has to survive with essentially a knife, torch, and Red Bull, in an alien landscape where even the little rat creatures tend to have five mouths filled with evil teeth. The series is slow paced but glorious for it, not feeling decompressed but instead seeming measured and calm.

It’s a brilliant book, in short. Roy’s designs of the characters are brilliant, with a fur-coat wearing vagina monster being one of my favourites. Graham is content to let the story burn at a steady pace, making readers live through every step of Prophet’s journey across an uncertain terrain, attempting to sneak past unfriendly wildlife and semi-sentient settlers. The book really does feel like an instruction manual for how to survive if you ever get sent to the future and your planet has been taken over by jellyblob monsters.

There’s not much to say, really. It’s an excellent piece of work, and I have no idea where the creative team are going to take things next. Really good stuff.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Things I Picked up at Kapow, #1

There may be a few days now of me going through various bags, pulling out name badges, business cards, half-bent postcards and the odd comic, to see what exactly I ended up with by the end of Kapow Comic-Con last weekend. Here's a first roundup of bits and pieces I have!

I have business cards from the lovely creators of Kill Shakespeare, an ongoing series from IDW which essentially does for Shakespeare characters what Fables does with fairytale figures. A group of various Shakespearian creations, such as Hamlet, Juliet and Iago, are banding together and banding apart in a quest to find their creator, and, uh, kill him. I've yet to read anything of the series, but from what I can tell the story has a shaky start, and then matures into consistency after maybe the first year of stories are complete.

No More Heroes #1, a decent black & white miniseries by Gordon McClean, has a great premise - the world's greatest superhero, Dark Justice, kills himself. Why does he do it? It may have something to do with a text that Sid, our protagonist, receives, which says "should I kill myself?" Egged on by his friends to respond to this anonymous message, he is peer-pressured into replying "yes". There is an exceptionally irritating character in this book who gets the absolute daylights smacked out of him halfway through, and I've never felt happier. The rest of the story plays out with a series of sight gags and unexpected splash pages. Caio Oliveira's art is a draw, although black&white never serves a splash page close-up on somebody's face.

Taroch by Clint Green and Luke Orrin is a visually fascinating piece of work. Published on A4 paper, each side is giant, expansive, and.... shiny! The pages are glossed, which seems a little strange until you start to see the black & white artwork take on elements of colour at random points. The composition is interesting to read through, and the art and storytelling are both fine. One thing which does stand out a little is the choice of lettering -- every capital letter, for some reason, slants just a little bit to the right. You notice is surprisingly quickly, and it becomes the one thing you start to pick up on as you keep going through the narrative. But the colouring makes up for this - the arrangement of colour, and splashes of light, create a unique visual effect which really helps springboard the fantastical elements of the story. The art, as well, features a spectacular full-colour splash page in which we see events of the past, present and future collide, in a Yanick Paquette-style page layout. It looks incredible.

I also have a comic called Mister Who, which features a CD you're meant to play along while you read. This is an urban vigilante story which sees the eponymous antihero (or hero, I guess) one-punching his way through the London underworld. There are some nice moments here, although I think the real standout may be the inking and colouring, which helps set the pulp tone extremely well. It's a promising piece of work, which - if you check the link - has been turned into a cartoon sequence as well.

Things to See and Do

Links abound!

Mikel Janin presents the trailer for the new Justice League Dark storyline

Hepzibah, the internet's most popular X-Men character, as drawn by Dean Beattie at Kapow 2012

My round-up of the week in X-Men, over at Comics Bulletin - THE X-WING!

And finally: Comics can still do good things!

Batman Incorpo--RATED

Returning after a reasonable absence from all our lives, Grant Morrison’s relaunch of his Batman & Robin/Batman Inc storyline struggles a little to make it through the backlog of New 52 storylines surrounding it.

Now, when I say that, what I mean is that Morrison started off as the sole leader of Batman’s world, dictating the line and forcing a little more quality into his surroundings. He gave Scott Snyder a different Batman to work with, and the push for Paul Cornell to write his Knight & Squire miniseries. With the New 52, however, we now have a Batman universe which is dictated by Snyder, and sees a number of Batman titles are squabbling between each other for centre-stage. One of them happens to be a direct continuation of Morrison’s work already, in the form of Peter Tomasi’s Batman & Robin relaunch.

So Morrison has to compete with all these books, and a diminished ‘impact’ in the eyes of readers. His stories are not going to affect Snyder’s work anymore, and he has to work alongside Tomasi. Luckily, he remains Grant Morrison, which greatly helps matters. Batman Inc #1 is a fantastic read, densely packed with contrasting and competing storylines, entertaining character work for everybody who appears, and fresh, silly ideas delivered in a contemporary fashion. This is a grown up modern-day version of the Batman TV show.

Chris Burnham’s artwork is going to be repeatedly compared to Frank Quitely over the next few months - deservedly so, because there is no higher compliment - but he stands out on his own merits. He continues Quitely’s idea of having sound effects appear organically in a story, as part of the scenery - look carefully when somebody falls to the ground and you’ll see the cracks form a sound effect. But there’s also more, with hidden bat-symbols appearing where you’d least expected, and daring panel layout which tries new things without detracting from the main storyline.

I particularly liked seeing a bullet crack through Batman’s cape as he dives to safety, and the appearance of a masked cow.

The story sees Batman and Robin attempting to find a first lead into the rise of ‘Leviathon’, the latest in a series of opulent villainous organisations which has designs on taking over Gotham. But Morrison is more interested in using this to examine the different tiers of society, and continuing the regular theme in Bat-titles of the clash between the super and the normal. Jeph Loeb focused extensively on this, but Morrison touches it with a much greater lightness.

His characters feel utterly fresh and vibrant on the page, helped by Burnham and in particular by the exquisite colouring work from Nathan Fairbairn. Fairnbairn in particular deserves credit for taking a Batman book and filling it with primary colours, instead of the typical dark, brooded, gothic overtones most go for. The book has a different tone to any other, and the artwork is the primary way for readers to see and enjoy the shift.

Batman Inc isn’t perfect - the final page cliffhanger is strangely set up, as the momentum brilliantly arranged by the layering storylines fizzles over the last three or four pages, and the jump in chronology confuses the story somewhat. I still enjoyed it, but the final page isn’t shocking, because Tomasi’s series still exists. Again, with Morrison not in complete charge nowadays, he has less power to shock - it’s with the storytelling and characterisation that he can cut readers.

Which he does, time and time again. This is a fun, high-energy title which effortlessly juggles everything and distils all the themes of Batman into a book which feels upbeat and invigorated. It’s a powerful statement of intent from the creative team, and bodes well for the future.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Electric Gronkaloo

Katie Cook has revealed the cover art for the sequel to her self-published comic GRONK, which totally has to be written down in all-caps whenever mentioned online. It looks like this!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Marvel Sacrifice Northstar

Finally announced today after months of everybody knowing, Marvel have at last made it official that issue #50 of Astonishing X-Men will see Northstar propose to his boyfriend Kyle, leading to Marvel's first gay wedding.

Hurray! Although on the other hand, this does indicate that Marvel learned nothing from that infamous time they roped Storm into a dubious, rushed marriage with another black character just because both of them were black, and nobody else had done a black/black marriage at that point.

If you all remember, that particular marriage left Storm languishing in a series of terrible storylines, trapped and unable to join in as the rest of the X-Men were written by Grant Morrison, drawn by cool artists, didn't have stupid regressive dialogue, and were generally interesting. Now it's Northstar's turn to get lashed to a dead-end character for the sake of sensationalism.

I am so pro-gay marriage you wouldn't even believe it, which is something I wish I didn't have to disclaim as I write this piece. But aside from the fact that he is black and gay, is there a single feature about Kyle which anybody can remember? I can't even remember if he has long or short hair. He was a throwaway idea from Matt Fraction, which let Northstar finally have some free sex without the comic-book censors blocking it. All very well and good. But then came a series of boring stories which retained the character, who quickly proved to have absolutely no personality whatsoever, and in turn dampened Northstar considerably.

Northstar is one of the absolute last characters who should be falling in love in the Marvel universe. He's meant to be cynical, sarcastic, and driven, not soppy and romantic. Putting him into a monogamous relationship has been nothing but terrible for the character's development, and pushed him closer and closer into being 'the gay' X-Man. Why this storyline is happening is no surprise, and on a preachy level I appreciate the message. But Kyle is an absolutely abysmal wet blanket, with nothing going on behind those shiny eyes of his. And Northstar is now stuck with him for the rest of his comic-book life! No longer will he be outgoing, aggressive, fun Northstar. Now he's going to be homemaker Northstar.
Karma was right there, Marvel! She's impulsive and homosexual, and she could do with a shotgun wedding in her life! And yet you chose to sacrifice Northstar instead. Disappointing! At least this time you gave the PR stunt wedding to a capable writer - Marjorie Liu - which suggests you at least learned a few things from the disasterous Storm marriage.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Thus begins the Campaign for SHE-HULK & KITTY PRYDE

John Allison, who is a thoroughly lovely artist, writer, and all-round person called John, had a fever dream last night. And as twas the case with John Coleridge and countless other greats, a fever dream has led to something wonderful. Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for us all to gather and petition Marvel to publish a book called SHE-HULK & KITTY PRYDE:

You don't even want to read a pitch, do you? This is absolutely everything you could ever need.

The best ways to contact Marvel are to email them, show up at their offices unannounced, and find out what supermarket Axel Alonso goes to and pop up from behind a stack of cereal when he isn't expecting it. Make this happen! Fly!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

ComVan Tie-Up

I am in London! A town where, when I walk down the street, I pass by broken bottles of Courvoisier. Swanky, so it is. 

I'm wandering about Kapow at the moment, so sorry for no updates recently. Here are a few things!

Hepzibah DID NOT DIE in Uncanny X-Men #12! Hurray!

You can read an interview I did with Chris Roberson over on Comics Bulletin!

And may I recommend some perfume?

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Red Hood: Nicely Drawn Dicks

As part of my vague ambition to pick up every Batman title which ties into Night of Owls, with the exception of books I don't care about, today saw me pick up my very first issue of 'Red Hood & The Outlaws'. This is the series which got everybody annoyed with how Starfire - whose name is Korian'dr or something, and that's ridiculously great fun - was portrayed. She came across as a vapid sexaholic, and that was bad. But on the basis of this most recent issue, she's not alone in being a vapid dick.

The main three characters in the book - Red Hood, Starfire, and some bloke who I presume would be called 'Red Arrow' if that weren't the name of a flight team - are all annoying, shallow, vapid idiots. It's not just Starfire. Red Arrow in particular comes across as a horribly annoying little man, boasting about how he's had sex, and doing it in the most convoluted ways possible. Meanwhile Starfire goes on and on about nobility and being good to people, while Red Hood himself is self-obsessed to the point of sheer obnoxious bewilderment. All three of the characters are absolutely painful people.

That's not to say they're badly-written. On the basis of this one issue, I have no idea whether writer Scott Lobdell is aware of how awful his trio are. He might be doing this deliberately, or it may be accident. I'm choosing to believe he's doing it deliberately, but there are scenes - such as the fight here with Mr Freeze, in which readers must surely be rooting for Freeze even while Lobdell humiliates the poor scientist - which seem like we're meant to like the protagonists. Regardless, the main thing to note about this book is the artwork, by Kenneth Rocafort, whose work is absolutely stunning and a real surprise.

The best comparison would be to describe his art as a spiky, angular version of the smooth work Francis Manapul is doing over on The Flash right now. Not only does he create inventive, intricate panel layouts which change the focus of the fight scenes and throw an unusual energy and pace into how they play out, but he also has a knack for body language and expression. These characters feel realistic, even when swinging around a city covered in large jagged cliffs of ice. The work he puts into the issue is simply staggering, and reason enough to buy it. Lobdell's script seems to be playing into the fact that Focafort will transform any sequence into something fascinating and clever, and wisely knows when to hold back and let him shine.

Red Hood is an interesting book. It'll need an investment of time before the characters start to click for me, but Focafort's work is a severe temptation to give the series as much time as Lobdell wants.


Not every story deserves an all-caps celebration title, but Mike Allred drawing Daredevil isn't the sort of thing you see every day! Well, until now... because Mike Allred will be drawing Daredevil #17 and it's the sort of you can see RIGHT NOW!

While this is just a one-off story, it sees one of the best artists of all time join up with Mark Waid, whose writing has been inspired on the series, to work together for the first time. Could you be any more excited? NO YOU COULDN'T! The idea to bring Allred onto the book came the artist - a life-long Daredevi fan - sent a fan-letter to editor Steve Wacker praising the title. After publishing the piece in the Daredevil letters page, Wacker couldn't help but ask Allred if he'd be interested in drawing an issue - can you blame him? Mike Allred is one of the greatest.

So yes, everybody. Mike Allred, Mark Waid, and Daredevil: uniting!!

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The First X-Men is the Before Watchmen of Marvel Comics

Announced yesterday was a new miniseries from Marvel, drawn by a Neal Adams fresh from his, uh, groundbreaking 'Batman Odyssey' series, called The First X-Man. The series, which will be written by Christos Gage based on ideas Adams put forward, is set in the past, during a time when Wolverine was less honourable and grumpier. Despite that, the series will see Wolverine set up his own team of X-Men, years before Xavier even dreamt about them.

Now this is obviously a heap of steaming garbage. While it's fair enough to have a series about Wolverine set in the past, making him into the creator of the X-Men doesn't work on a character level or on a practical level. Or on a sensible level. It effectively writes Xavier out of mutant history within the comics, pushing Stan Lee's original creation of the team to one side in order to say that Neal Adams is now the most important creator in X-Men history.

Wolverine during this period of time has always been depicted as a loner, grumpy and unhappy after everything goes wrong for him year after year after year. He certainly wouldn't pick up much empathy until later, during the Chris Claremont/Paul Smith years when he met the X-Men, learnt from them, and found a reason to live. That was a fine way for the character to evolve, and subsequent stories built in on his backstory without ever attempting to take away the basic principles. This mini, however, now suggests that not only is Wolverine NOT on a quest of purpose and redemption, but that he already found both, then forgot about it, then remembered it again once Xavier repurposed his idea. It's so weird.

These are deliberately wonky, as far as arguments go. Stories get altered all the time, and my only motivation for writing them is that I find it annoying that, in a time when Marvel should be attempting to create a simple timeline for new readers to jump in on, their book called 'THE FIRST X-MEN" is actually a backstory which moves through several jumps in time as it goes along, deals with unrecognisable versions of classic characters, and won't make a damned lick of sense to anyone but hardcore X-Men fans. Who won't want to pick up the series anyway, because it snubs Xavier and the basic premise of the X-Men.

The most terrifying part of this premise is a quote from X-Men editor Nick Lowe, which appears to dismiss the central metaphor of the X-Men in order to keep Adams' story premise looking somewhat credible. In it, he says:

"One of the things that attracted me to jump at this project is that in those early X-Men, everyone hates and fears mutants, but nobody really knows why"

Obviously, readers, Lowe is side-stepping the whole idea that THE X-MEN ARE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE STRUGGLES FACED BY MINORITIES IN SOCIETY. The X-Men are all races, nationalities, religions, genders, sexualities. They represent a small society in their own right. But because they are branded 'different' by society, they struggle to even cohabit with the humans around them. For no reason other than the arbitrary 'mutant' label, they are abused, hated, and feared. In the same way women, homosexuals, african-americans and differently-abled (amongst others) people have all suffered because of things they could not help. The X-Men were hated and feared irrationally. THAT WAS THE POINT OF THE X-MEN.

Lowe's willingness to bystep this seems calculated in the extreme, and a way to hit X-Men fans right in the gut. There are countless other issues with this series, such as the fact that Magneto will appear, apparently in his Michael Fassbender persona from the X-Men: First Class film because Adams has just seen the film. Okay, yeah, that's an unfair assumption on my part.

This does all feel like Marvel's attempt to step into the same well of controversy that DC's publicity department gleefully walked into last year, when Before Watchmen -- the prequel to Alan Moore's vastly overrated Watchmen series -- was announced. Again, we have a new creative team coming in to rearrange the story, claiming that they wouldn't affect the original even while planning to recontextualise the characters to match their own plans. Whereas Before Watchmen genuinely acts to deny Alan Moore the rights to his original series -- he signed the contract, but DC have patently been finding every way they can to keep that loophole open, and keep the rights to the series -- this is nothing like as bad. It's simply a story which rubs me up the wrong way.

I'm going to buy the series, sure. But only because it promises to be a hot mess like Batman Odyssey -- only this time, as a predominant fan of the X-Men, I'll have the upper-hand over that Chris Sims feller when it comes to analysing what the hell just happened. I have no expectations of liking the series, which seems mandated to appease Adams and get him working for Marvel, regardless of how terrible of inadvertently egotistical his plans for the story might be. Unlike Before Watchmen, which will likely be well-told stories which many internet journalists will shun on principle, The First X-Men seems unlikely to be anything but hot, steaming garbage.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Weak as I am: A Superhero Mini-Movie

Written and drawn by Nigel Auchterlounie, one of the current creatives working on The Dandy (British Institution! All stand to attention as we play the National Anthem!), Weak As I Am is a strange, involving webcomic which has quickly grown over the past few weeks from a series of interconnected sketches into a reinvention of sorts for the superhero genre. It’s fascinating stuff, drawn in absurdist style by Auchterlounie and can be found at

The initial set-up is as-standard, and has been seen done in several different comics -- recently, Jonathan Ross and Brian Hitch’s ‘America’s Got Powers’ series briefly handled it -- and sees people all around the World, ordinary people, suddenly developing super powers. In some cases this happens and they immediately decide to use their powers to fight evil or, quite often, each other; some of the characters are rather more dense and don’t realise what’s happening even when it’s put in front of them. Auchterlounie seems especially fond of his dumb characters, which certainly helps with the abstract, crosscut format of his story.

Instead of coming across as a single narrative, Auchterlounie elects to have the story form as a series of quick vignettes, often building to a single punchline before jumping over to the other storyline and hammering a joke there, before over to another story, and so on. The format works really well as a webcomic, although each section of the story goes on for a ruddy long time. It’s wonderful to have so much content, but it can be a little overwhelming. Whereas this would make for a disorientating experience in any other structural format, the sharp cuts between parallel stories -- which tend to build to crossovers, although not always -- gives readers an option to dip in and out at will.

As the series goes on, things grow in confidence. The story begins to build into itself and Auchterlounie’s artwork improves in composition and layout. You can see an improvement in the use of perspective in particular, as the fight scenes become more carefully laid out and choreographed as the story continues. There’s more inking and colouring at work, and the violence also grows. Auchterlounie doesn’t seem afraid to kill off anyone in the series, and that - coupled with, gasp horror, the swears -- makes the story that much tenser. The adult content of the series, which mostly comes across as organic, rather than filthy, makes the story feel looser, less predictable, more open for surprises.

And you’ll get them. Characters get their hearts ripped out at an accelerated pace, although there’s always a sense of humour crossing over everything. You can see a very simple sense of humour unfolding across the story -- not in a bad sense. I mean that the humour here is rather universal, and hits on the sort of joke-telling which tends to show up in comics like The Beano, Dandy, or Archie. But Weak As I Am mixes it with bloody violence and petty superpowered people getting jealous at each other and going on reality TV or stabbing people with deus ex machine knives.

It’s a surprisingly fun story, which grows into a surprisingly involving story. There are plenty of webcomics available online, but you should hah, ‘make plans’ for Nigel!

Because of the XTC song is why I said that.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Kate Beaton's Mother's Day Comic

True, it's only Mother's Day in crazy ol-mixed up North America, and yes, the internet doesn't need yet another website telling you that Kate Beaton is a brilliant writer and artist. BUT LISTEN EVERYBODY.

It's Mother's Day in America, Kate Beaton is a brilliant writer and artist, so why don't you quit picking holes in everything I say and head on over to see what Kate Beaton has created for Mother's Day?

New Mutants Vs Hellions (again)

Coming in August!

Saturday, 12 May 2012


Currently running through New Mutants (which desperately needs something interesting to happen in it) and Journey Into Mystery (which is desperately interesting), this crossover kicked off last week and continues now. Written by Kieron Gillen, Andy Lanning and Dan Abnett, the story has the tremendous benefit of being drawn by one of the best artists working today: Carmine Di Giandomenico. With a daring sense of storytelling which creates some unexpected page layouts, Di Giandomenico goes for broke on every page here, and creates an interesting tone of his own for the storyline. He’s helped by the work of Andy Troy, the colourist, and especially by the lettering of Clayton Cowles – who has to find space for dialogue in some extremely difficult circumstances.

The book pays off a short-lived subplot in New Mutants, in which the team move into a house, try to be normal people, and find their neighbour is somebody with a secret. At the same time, Kid Loki gets pulled into the storyline – bringing the rest of Asgard with him – and suddenly a spell is spoken. Paff! The Asgardians vanish. What happened? That’s the storyline.

Exiled feels like an event which was plotted by Abnett & Lanning, but scripted by Gillen. The general premise plays out nicely, but also leaves the story open for some extremely fun dialogue – which is Gillen’s forte. There’s a feeling in this crossover story that Gillen wanted to hit five or six ideas, and Abnett/Lanning created a plot specially to allow him to do that. And so we get to see Gillen’s Disir characters return, alongside Mephisto and cute puppies (from Hell). There’s also that talking raven still knocking around. These are all very Gillen-esque ideas, and enabled nicely by the storyline, slightly stretched though it is.

Gillen’s influence finally gives the writers of New Mutants something to latch onto, and they finally write their characters as though they’re meant to be interesting, after months of poor characterisation, dull plotting, and irritating dialogue tics. Doug Ramsey remains awful, while Warlock is poorly served once more. Sunspot, however, is finally settling into character once more, while Magma and Dani Moonstar have a purpose again. The idea of mutants settling in a house, living together, and bickering…. is stolen from X-Factor. But at least it shows Abnett and Lanning trying something with their cast, which is long overdue.

It certainly hurt New Mutants that two of the stronger characters – Karma and Cannonball – were jettisoned in favour of white-streaked dead wood X-Man and the irritating-beyond-belief Blink. Throwing some interesting characters into the mix certainly helps things, although the Journey Into Mystery sections still massively overshadow everything else. The series has long been in contention as one of Marvel’s finest, with a deft, funny sense of storytelling stringing each issue together into a smart, layered whole. Gillen gets the idea of mythology and plays with it whilst giving it a layer of respectability. Abnett and Lanning are still struggling to find a tone for New Mutants. Push the two books together, and it’s a relief to see that JIM pulls up New Mutants, instead of being dragged down by it.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Batwoman still looks good, at least

J.H. Williams has revealed the cover for August's issue of Batwoman, a series which remains terribly written but looks pretty and stuff. This cover, for issue #12, promises an appearance from Wonder Woman, who - considering this is the New 52 - will probably try to either lop Batwoman's arm off, or have sex with her. Here is the cover, which is brilliant.

Is Night of the Owls Failing?

Night of the Owls is the name of the first arc of Scott Snyder’s run on Batman, and every issue has been utterly professional, and enjoyable. The art, from Greg Capullo, is first-rate, UNINTERRUPTED, and a joy to see. Each page has been solidly written, with only a small amount of melodrama to be found and Snyder managing to keep a rather tight leash on his protagonist. We’ve seen a strong character-driven story about Batman and Bruce Wayne (who I’ve always seen as separate characters) and a run of consistency which is only to be matched by books like Animal Man, Flash, and Wonder Woman.

With two issues left of the storyline, which has now enveloped the other Batman titles in a mass crossover month, things are a little disappointing. What started out as a conspiracy story in which ‘The Court of Owls’ were built up as smart, experienced characters who had secretly been running Gotham City for centuries has now become a story where they send generic assassins out to randomly kill people in the city they’re meant to own. Instead of seeing them running things, they seem to be a fringe group with no power other than a well-run cryogenic freezing laboratory. Instead of Batman being caught by surprise as he finds that the Owls have him under control, we’ve got a bog-standard story where the villains try to seize power through violence.

There’s no art or subtlety to their plan, and the revelations don’t work within the continuity Snyder has set for himself. Simply put: the writing is superb, but the plotting is collapsing on itself. Why do the owls need to make this grand gesture if they already own Gotham? What is their goal or plan, here? After centuries of being secret and mysterious, they’re now blazing an Owl Symbol across the sky, making public threats against Bruce Wayne’s life, and revealing themselves to everybody – for no discernible reason.

The crossover element of the story is a little bit of a trouble, too. The premise for each crossover title – which is generally only one issue long – is that the owls are on the hunt for all the most powerful people in Gotham. The various Batman allies in Gotham are thus told to protect whoever is closest. While that works great for several titles, Batgirl being the most obvious example because Barbara’s dad is the Police Commissioner, it feels forced when the character is unconnected to anybody. The Nightwing book sees Dick Grayson saving a Mayor we’ve never seen before, while this week’s Batman & Robin sees Damian Wayne rescuing a random military leader. Kyle Higgins is friends with Snyder and helped lay the groundwork for this story, so has a story of his own to tell here. But Peter Tomasi seems totally lost.

Damian is unconnected to almost everybody in Gotham. He’s been spending most of his time with Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne, neither of whom he interact with here. So Tomasi has to find a story somewhere and make it tie in to the crossover – he struggles. The resulting issue features a generic rescue of a generic character who won’t ever be seen again outside this single issue, and the story itself is bizarrely told. There’s a single page of the Talon assassin killing some hikers, which seems like filler. There is also a two-page sequence detailing the backstory of the Talon, which also seems extremely unnecessary indeed. Now this is probably the hardest series to tie into the crossover, as Damian is so disconnected from the rest of continuity. The other books don’t have it quite so difficult.

But look at what else is coming up, and who is next to join in. We’ve still got stories for Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Catwoman, Batwing and several others. It looks like Batwing is being set up to have Lucius Fox as his mentor, so that might be where Judd Winick is taking that story. Where should we expect the Catwoman crossover to come into play, though? Is Slam Bradley still around, or something? Birds of Prey is also going to struggle a bit to find a solid grip for crossing into the storyline.

This all comes back to the plan for the villains. It simply isn’t there. While Night of the Owls is being well-scripted and drawn, it’s not telling a full, layered story. The villains don’t have a reason to escalate the war against Batman, and they certainly don’t feel like they’re long-standing, powerful characters. In fact, it looks like Batman is probably going to walk into their layer next issue, beat them all up, and have that be the end of it. Maybe with a Talon walking off on the last page, and a “to be continued….?” Banner underneath. I certainly hope that the next arc fleshes out the story a little more – it’s meant to be a seven-issue arc, and that slow-burn approach isn't going to hide holes if it happens a second time. We'll have to see.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Atomic Robo Wins Free Comic Book Day 2012

My favourite of the Free Comic Book Day stories was, with a bullet (fired by a talking dinosaur), Atomic Robo by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener. Published by the lovely Red 5 Comics, who kinda need to start putting the names of creators on the front cover of the comics they publish, Atomic Robo has long had a reputation as delivering the best FCBD stories year-in, year-out, for the past five years or so. The book is about the Atomic Robo of the title, a jumper-wearing robot scientist who saves the world through science and also sometimes through punching. But, brilliantly, he mostly does it through science.

And not just any science, either. This is real science theory at work here, so when Robo gives a speech about the concept of time travel, we’re actually reading currently-proposed theories from top scientists. Clevinger manages not only to fill the comic with real science information – he makes it damn entertaining to read about. It doesn’t feel like there’s any exposition anywhere in the issue, because everything flows so seamlessly from one scene to another.

The jokes are good. That’s the most important thing to say about the book. The jokes land with a startling frequency, and when they do they’re solid, laugh-out-loud moments. Things are aided considerably by the work of the artistic team. Wegener knows how to block out a comedic scene for maximum impact. A lot of the humour is visual, and although many artists know how to draw a scene to make it work, Wegener knows how to draw it to make it absolutely sparkle. His use of proportion and perspective are wonderous things, taking funny scenes and elevating them tenfold. Look at the sequence in this issue where Dr Dinosaur (yes, this is the name of a character) releases a military T-Rex into the laboratories next to the Large Hadron Collider (yes, that is where this issue is set) and wonders why the creature isn’t following his instructions. The reveal as to why Dr D can’t control the beast is hilariously written, but it’s Wegener’s previous work establishing the size difference between the two dinosaurs, and short, sharp panel layout, which paces the joke so perfectly.

You may be a little concerned, because it sounds like the internet school of comedy where simply writing something like “pirate lawyer” or “robot ninja dolphin” equals jokes for some reason. That’s absolutely not what Atomic Robo is like. This is a book which throws stupid ideas into a sharp plotline, with distinctive characterisation, and mixes smart and dumb humour together to create contrast and coherence. Anything goes, basically.

While there are some moments where the plot has to cramp in order to fit the page allocation of the issue, Clevinger and Wegener once again deliver a brilliantly fun, COMIC-BOOK COMIC. This is something that belongs in a comic-book. The ideas, execution, sense of humour and tone feel like a celebration of everything that comic-books should be. Imagine that Dan Slott was writing everything. That’s the world Atomic Robo offers. I couldn’t recommend it enough (especially as it was free – we’ll have to try buying the graphic novels sometime, you guys, and see what they’re like too).

DC Announce Some Annuals

Detective Comics Annual #1 will be written by Tony Daniel, drawn by Romano Molenaar and Sandu Florea. This'll be picking up on a story Daniel's been trying to get running for a few years now - the return of Black Mask as a threatening villain.

Action Comics Annual #1 is by, I think, Keith Giffen and Tyler Kirkham. A cosmic story which sees Superman targeted by a number of intergalactic bounty hunters, Superman will have to rely on some help from the Green Lantern Corps.

Finally, and most excitingly - The Flash Annual #1, which pays off on the recent issues introducing Flash's various rogues back into the DC Universe. And then some! Written and drawn by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato as ever, the annual - along with the other two - will be released at the end of August.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

KITTENS! Also, Spider-Man, She-Hulk

Avenging Spider-Man is the loosest premise for a series ever seen. Started off to showcase Joe Mad’s artwork in a story written by Zeb Wells, the series has now gone on to become Spider-Man team-up, Punisher/Daredevil crossover, and upcoming ‘Ends of the Earth’ finale. We’re firmly in Spider-Man team-up mode this week though, as webslinger boy joins forces with She-Hulk to fight kittens.

There are kittens on almost every page of this comic, you guys. Marvel have arrived at this trend late, but they’ve made damn sure here to fully embrace and support the kitty movement. Writer Kathryn Immonen does fit a quick, fun story around the kittens, but that’s really not the focus here. There are fun bits of dialogue for both Spider-Man and She-Hulk, but that’s not important. Stuart Immonen’s art is lovely, but it’s hard to focus on anything.


You see, after the heroes stop two robbers from stealing an Egyptian artefact, the statue has a strange effect on Jen and turns her into a magnet for kitties. They burst through the ceiling, they charge through the doors. They sit on heads and drink wine. They cause a bus crash. The kittens take over. One of them giggles!

It’s one of the most fun Spider-Man stories ever, and Black Cat doesn’t even turn up once! Spider-Man gets to be smart-heroic instead of punch-heroic, which is my favourite kind of Spider-Man, while She-Hulk reveals herself to be a Fabled Protector Of Kittens. Just as soon as I get my hands on scans, I'll show you the kittens!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Marvel and ComiXology Become BFFs

After the announcement earlier this week that Comixology had signed an exclusive digital publishing contract with the relaunched Valiant Comics comes yet another exclusive announcement deal. According to a press release issued today, they now have the exclusive contract to publish Marvel Comics digitally.

Signed a few days ago, the deal means that ComiXology can now publish the entirety of Marvel's English-language back catalogue, as well as forthcoming titles from the company. Add that to the exclusive rights they already own to publish DC comics, and it appears ComiXology are now developing quite the digital monopoly. If you want a single-issue comic from either of the Big Two companies, readers will now have to go through ComiXology to download.

Although Marvel have been holding back on revealing the results of their recent 'Infinite Comics' digital venture, Peter Phillips - General Manager for Marvel Digital Media and possible future alliterative Stan Lee superhero - has suggested that almost 10% of AvX buyers going on to also download a digital version of the same comic. So if you combine this with the increase in growth sales both ComiXology and Marvel have been enjoying over the past year, it's starting to become very clear that Digital comics are no longer an idea for the future: they're here, now, and growing.

Questions must also be asked about Mark Waid, and his forewarnings about all this coming to pass. Is he a time traveller? Psychic visionary?

Matt Fraction Murders Immortals

Every new comic-book has to be important and meaningful, you guys. Lives have to hang in the balance and stakes have to be raised high and kept high. To do that, writers have to dredge through sewers filled with back-issues of ‘The Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe’ and find C-list driftwood to murder. Which is why Matt Fraction’s decided to take a different approach to his second arc of Defenders, and kill off some of his own creations. Not only does this mean he won’t have to watch other writers do the same in five years’ time, it means he can deliver a kick to fans of his work, and push his stakes higher – say, to the approximate height of a house, rather than a bungalow.

And so, within three pages of the latest issue of Defenders, Fraction has brutally disposed of three characters from his run on Immortal Iron Fist. Who’re among the dead? I’ll tick them off for you:

1: Dog Brother #1, a samurai-type character who wears a suit of armour that, crucially, doesn’t protect his neck.

2: Tiger’s Beautiful Daughter, who gets murdered via a lovely bath.

3: Bride of Nine Spiders, a very popular character who shouted JE JE JE JE as she murdered people and whom – cleverly – Fraction leaves an escape route if he ever decides he wants her back.

Ed Brubaker is going to shed real tears when he hears about this. The other three members who form a team with these poor departed souls are The Prince of Orphans (who shows up later), Fat Cobra (who shows up earlier) and Davos, who doesn’t show up at all on account of living in a different plane of existence to ours. But then, you already knew that, didn’t you?

Because the death of these three ‘Immortal Weapons’ is something which is really only going to hit home for people who were already fans of Immortal Iron Fist. It’s Matt Fraction writing to his own audience, and writing something shocking for them only. The other weapons aren’t particularly well-known on their own, and only Fat Cobra has shown up with any real regularity outside the area governed by Fraction’s fingertips. Despite appearing in one of the most critically-acclaimed mainstream comic books of the past few years, these characters aren’t famous themselves. So they are ripe for slaughter.

It’s interesting to see Fraction killing off his own characters. It certainly brings attention to a book which was much-hyped and praised during the first arc, but has since gone onto the back-burner over the past month or so. Now that the book is any less praised, but the hype is certainly dying down as attention moves over to AvX. It’s a shame to see such interesting characters leave, but it works as a way for Fraction to grab the reader right at the start of the story, and invest them. Fans of his previous work, who have continued along to this book, are now going to be utterly unable to tear away until this story arc is over. Apart from the people who’re annoyed and will probably quit the book as a result.

But anyway, it’s an interesting twist for Defenders, and I’ve certainly got a renewed interest in where this story is now headed. Let us mourn the Immortal Weapons, but not too hard, because it had already been established anyway that they legacy characters and new versions of the dead ones will probably show up any day now.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Sweet Tooth Ends with Issue #40

sweet tooth 36

In a post made to Vertigo’s blog today, writer/artist Jeff Lemire has announced that his Vertigo series Sweet Tooth will be ending in December. In the entry, he stresses that "Sweet Tooth is not being cancelled. The decision to end it at #40 is entirely my choice" and that the finale, shipping in December, will be double-sized and over forty pages long.

Lemire’s work with the series, which focuses on the antlered Gus and his road-trip through a somewhat post-apocalyptic world, swiftly became a fan favourite due to Lemire's unique, quirky artwork, and offbeat writing. The book has remained one of Vertigo's most critically-acclaimed series ever since it started in 2009, and helped spotlight Lemire as a creator, leading him into work on books like Animal Man and Frankenstein: Agent of Shade for DC's New 52 relaunch. The final arc of the series, 'The Wild Kingdom', starts in a few weeks, and Lemire promises to wrap up many of the mysteries and dangling plot points of the series as the story heads towards the finale.

Take heart: this may be the end of Sweet Tooth, but it certainly won't be the end of people wearing antlers at conventions.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

So Did Peter Milligan Save Stormwatch?

Every different ‘branch’ of DC’s New 52 Universe has a central book which acts as the cornerstone to everything else. Scott Snyder’s Batman dictates Gotham for the rest of the Batman books, Justice League Dark oversees The Dark section, and Stormwatch was meant to be the flagship title for The Edge.

The only problem was that the book started off on the wrong foot, and swiftly fell apart under a mixture of reader apathy and bland storylines. The Edge books were meant to be where the various DC imprints finally lined up together and characters like Voodoo, Grifter and Resurrection Man could have a second chance at leaving a mark. Stormwatch would be in charge, slowly rebanding the characters from beloved DC series The Authority and setting them up as an authority whose work would touch in from time to time on problems encountered by The Edge’s solo books. Paul Cornell never fit for that kind of role, and left after only a few issues. Paul Jenkins followed him, and that didn’t work either, because again – Jenkins just isn’t suited for that sort of story.

So DC, in a panic, tore Peter Milligan from his job writing Justice League Dark, gave that title to Jeff Lemire, and told Milligan to please make Stormwatch a worthwhile book. While all the other flagships were doing well, either critically or commercially, Stormwatch wasn’t selling, and if it collapsed it would take the rest of The Edge with it. This week saw Milligan step in with issue #9 of the series.

I don’t know too much about The Authority, but as far as I’m aware only a few characters from the series have thus far shown up in Stormwatch. These also happen to be the two most interesting characters, and the ones Milligan focuses on most. Midnighter and Apollo are two fairly standard ‘dark and gritty’ heroes, who this issue fight one of Milligan’s pet Red Lanterns in a fight which is designed to get new readers up to speed with a few of the central concepts of the series. The first is that Stormwatch is an untrustworthy organisation, which has existed for centuries of deliberately vague, misreported dark activity. Another is that Midnighter is struggling to accept his role as ‘team killer’, and is also – if this book is going to sit alongside the old Authority continuity – going to date Apollo. If he isn’t gay in this book, then the LGBT fanbase will be angry, and continuity buffs will be dismayed. So, Milligan has them flirting wildly during the fight scene in this issue, and entertaining it is too.

The other half of the book deals with the unmemorable characters finding an insane guy in Italy causing trouble, and bringing him back to the station for analysis. Apollo and Midnighter do the same once they capture the Red Lanterns, and the two plots intertwine in a rather lovely, simple fashion. The issue doesn’t go into complications and the characterisation isn’t as strong as it was with Justice League Dark. And that’s to be expected, when Milligan is coming into the book new. But he manages to convey a single tone which works for every character, and that helps set up the ongoing mysteries of the book (which, also Milligan seems eager to quickly get over and done with, thankfully) and line up the characters. The artwork, by Miguel Sepulveda, is superb, but special attention has to be given to the sterling work done by colourist Alex Sinclair, which is fantastic. The creative team seem surprisingly stable and coherent already, in fact, with letterer Dave Sharpe keeping up with all the weird stuff Milligan throws at him, and the whole of the team creating a solid, smart world for these characters to inherit.

There’s a little bit of the ‘widescreen’ style of art which made The Authority famous, but also several moments where the pencils rein things back, and keep readers from a big picture. Stormwatch #9 is an interesting book, and a simply enjoyable one, which could well be back on track now, and ready to take its place as the flagship for The Edge. Here’s hoping.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Free Comic Book Day brought to you by...

Travelling Man in Leeds! It seemed appropriate to give them a mention, considering how many comics I walked out with today. It was absolutely packed in there today, wonderfully, with people queuing in ORGANISED BRITISH FASHION to pick up comics.

Also, Loki, Riddler, Harley Quinn and Venom all showed up looking to cause trouble, which was thankfully averted when Batman stormed in to shut them down.

Thank you, Batman.

Ask A Question

It's Free Comic Book Day! Go out and celebrate, people! Go celebrate by picking up free comics which are designed to get new readers excited in the idea of becoming regular comic-book readers! Or you could pick up DC's big FCBD issue, which seems to only exist to satiate deeply-entrenched fans of their New 52, and confuse everybody else.

While the issue is fairly terrible in terms of generating new-reader interest, it does stoke up a question many people were asking in the initial wake of the First New 52 Wave: what happened to Renee Montoya? As overseen by Greg Rucka, Montoya became one of the more popular, complex characters in the DC Universe, moving from alcoholic wreck to faintly-professional detective over the course of a long, hard-fought year. She assumed the identity of 'The Question' from the dying Vic Sage and started dispensing faceless justice.

Then the New 52 came and she vanished. The only sign of her was a single panel of Batwoman (an ex-girlfriend of Montoya) staring mournfully at a monochrome photo of the detective. What happened? Was Montoya killed as part of this new universe? Was she still The Question?

The FCBD issue gives us yet another tease as to Renee Montoya's status. In the first few pages, the Gods who live in the Rock of All Ages sentence three people to punishments. One becomes The Phantom Stranger, while another becomes the purple-robed Pandora. The first, however, becomes a Question. Who is this Question? Good question. But it does at least confirm that the identity of The Question does still exist within the DC Universe, and suggests that Renee may in fact still be alive. But as to her whereabouts? Still unknown. Ho-hum.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Hipster Namor

As drawn by Steven Sanders. This is the great thing about writing about comics. Even when weeks and sodding weeks pass without any news whatsoever in sight (WHAT ARE YOU DOING, DC? ANNOUNCE SOMETHING, MARVEL! FIRE A WRITER OR SOMETHING), you can always rest back and post somebody else's hard work, credit them for it, and then go for pizza.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Why Yes, I Did Read X-O Manowar #1

Valiant Comics have spent the past few months quitely positioning themselves inside the internet. While Marvel and DC content themselves with giving me NOTHING TO WRITE ABOUT aside from reviews (can't you at least cancel a book or two for me, guys?) and Image have their photos-of-creatives promo campaign going on; Valiant have been building up hype for their relaunch and new books. And while some of these ideas have been a little silly - talking comics? - the campaign has undoubtedly worked. Because here I am, writing about their first title, right now. Congratulations to everybody involved in the Valiant Comics marketing push!

X-O Manowar #1 features a cover with a man fighting an alien. Now, while this is a little hint of what happens inside the comic, it is a little bit of a stretch. While there are scenes of people fighting aliens in the first issue, they come from a totally different place to the one you might assume, oh assumers of space lasers. The series is actually set during the Roman conquests, with a small group of pagans valiantly attempting to protect themselves from being overrun and overruled by a bunch of fussy Italians in turtle formation. Among these humans is our hero, a tall blonde guy whose name escapes me just one second let me go see AH yes he's called Aric. A courageous and overly-proud warrior, Aric demands that his men march straight into the heart of the Roman army and rip out their hearts.

Which, if you know anything about history, you'll recognise as a huge mistake. Writer Robert Venditti handles this rather well, giving us an interesting lead character who is at the same time not particularly likeable. Aric comes from the He-Man/Conan school of heroes, and while that has a certain appeal for certain fans, I far prefer seeing Venditti lead his lead into trouble and mistakes. The book certainly picks up halfway through, after a necessarily standard opening battle sequence, and the high concepts start to kick in. I won't spoil what happens, but it's certainly fun to see Venditti introduce a new genre into proceedings, and use it to wreck the lives of all the main members of the cast.

Cary Nord is the artist for the book, and his art looks recognisable! I've only previously seen his work in the X-Men: Secret Invasion miniseries, where the colourist went crazy over the pencils and misted them out. Here, we get a better idea of what's going on, and while it's a shame to lose the stylistic quirk of the X-Men period, it's a relief to see facial expression and character behind the postures. Nord does a good job with slowly introducing weirdness into the plot without it seeming out-of-place and strange. Everything seems to fit together, and that's high praise for a book with such a high concept.

So not only did I read X-O Manowar, you guys... I really enjoyed it. Good work, Valiant!