Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Super-Powered Comics: Young Avengers

I picked up the original two Young Avengers trade well after the book finished its original (and notoriously slow) run. I expected to hate it, quite honestly, as the concept seemed like a cheap knock on the original Teen Titans concept. What I got in its stead was a rather complex look at young super-heroes that owed as much to the New Warriors as it does to the Avengers.

Allan Heinberg, writer of such (loathed) shows as The OC and Grey’s Anatomy builds the initial arc of the book around an intriguing premise: What if you found out you were destined to become time’s greatest villain? A young Kang the Conqueror’s answer is simple: he travels back in time to gather the help of the Avengers, only to find the Avengers no longer exist. So he does the next best thing and gathers a team of young heroes mentioned in the Avengers files, all with ties to previous members. Kang takes the name Iron Lad, and alongside Patriot, Asgardian, and Hulkling they act as a new generation of Avengers.

The initial six issue arc brings them in to conflict with Iron Man and Captain America as well as the fully grown version of Kang. One large irk builds as the story progresses, as we break Marvel’s rules of time as the universe shifts again and again as history alters. (Mark Gruenwald establish the rules of time in the Marvel Universe along time ago, and ever since he died the company have stomped all over them.) The arc ends with one Young Avenger gone, three others arrived in his place, and the temporary disbanding of the team. It is all brought together beautifully by Jim Cheung, an artist I still remember from his sketchy styling on (ironically) the teenage incarnation of Iron Man a decade back. His style developed exponentially through his work on X-Force and especially on Crossgen’s Scion.

A two issue arc follows (with not quite as good art by Andrea DiVito) that starts to re-establish the team. We learn the origins of Patriot’s powers, get some tidbits on the home life of Stature, and establish Kate Bishop’s new heroic identity. The guest art filled Young Avengers Special features some of the biggest comic artists alive: Neal Adams, Gene Ha, Bill Sienkiewicz, Jae Lee, Pascual Ferry, and a framing sequence by Michael Gaydos. Jessica Jones (of Alias fame) delves in to the histories of the team, all as a lead in to the final four issue arc.

Jim Cheung returns to illustrate the best issues of the book, as the team reunites in an attempt to prevent a new Kress Skrull War, all revolving around team member Hulkling. They end up caught between the Kree, the Skrull, and the Avengers, but the new and improved Vision aids them in finding another new member: Speed. Apparently the lost soul-brother of Young Avenger Wiccan (formerly Asgardian), Speed is a temperamental speedster able to project explosive blasts.

The series ends with the team as a unit, but come Civil War and Heinberg’s inability to keep up with the series, the book came to an end.

All in all, Young Avengers gives us a good look at what could have been in the Marvel Universe. But with several team members popping up in the rosters of the new Avengers teams over the next few months, I doubt we will see them as a cohesive unit again. It’s a real shame, as this team has more potential than any other corporate produced title outside of Runaways.

Both books can be picked up now in one affordable trades (containing all 13 issues). I highly recommend any reader of great comics go out and pick them up.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Timeline 16 Story Notes

I wrote Claus vs. Kong a couple years ago where it was originally posted as part of the currently defunct Pulp Empire newsletter. I had lots of fun with it and have at least one planned sequel, so I thought I would bring it to a larger audience on MHP.

The story has been lengthened and cleaned up a bit, the lead character has went through a name change, and I freshened a few things up to set it in the modern day instead of the fifties. But otherwise, I think it remains a solid read. I actually conceived of it as a children’s book idea, and some day would like to see it take that form.

You will have to wait a year for the sequel, but let’s just say I plan to up the stakes.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Super-Powered Prose: Wake by Lisa McCann

Wake isn’t exactly regular superhero fare. No costumes, no even any really heroic actions. But I would still easily categorize it as super-powered fiction. Janie has the power (or is it a curse) to see the dreams of those around her. The only problem is she can barely control it.

This is typical young adult fiction, so while dealing with the constant dreams bombarding her, she also has to deal with boys, sex, and problems fitting in. But we get it from different angles, as she experiences the hidden secrets and closeted desires of those around her. Lisa McCann digs them up rather well, even as she builds a rather lackluster relationship between her and a young slacker at the school named Cabel.

By the end of the story, she learns she’s not the only one of her kind and starts to build towards at least a level of control. But the story derails with the sudden arrival of a police-related plot. I assume this is a build-up for the sequel Fade, but it feels just wrong with the structure of the novel’s first two-thirds.

Even with that brief complaint, Wake remains a good, quick read. I would recommend it, if only as something a little different than what you usually find out there.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Super-Powered Prose: The Web of Arachnos

The Web of Arachnos is the first of (at least) 2 City of Heroes novels produced in 2005-2006. I picked it up back when it first came out not because of its status as super-powered fiction, nor its pretty George Perez cover, but because it was by one of my favorite authors: Robert Weinberg. Weinberg produced both an excellent Vampire the Masquerade trilogy over a decade back and quite possible the best run of Cable ever, issues 79 through 96 (just prior to the Quesada/Morrison revamp). Both excellent works, both fine examples of the field they were written in.

I didn’t get anything quite as exciting with The Web of Arachnos, but I did get a solid work of fiction with a unique origin to a heroic universe. I don’t really know how much of this back story is from Cryptic Studios (the game’s creators) and how much is from Weinberg, but we get an interesting story that ties the roguish heroes of the pulps with the super-powered heroes of the first comics. He sets the story in the late twenties, where an American version of Arsene Lupin (a famous French thief/hero) named Marcus Cole finds his throat cancer cured when he and his friend Stefan Richter find what is basically a Fountain of Youth. It imbues them with great power, but the two also open Pandora’s Box, a kind of energy force that flashes across the world and instantly creates the conditions for super-powers. Cole and Richter are separated. Cole returns to their hometown of Paragon City and sets out to fight corruption. Richter works his way in to the criminal organization Arachnos and eventually takes control.

A lot more happens over the course of the novel. The three Furies/Fates/Kindly Ones make repeated appearances, half a dozen other superheroes appear, a steampunk-style pulp villain named Nemesis falls, all before the final confrontation between Marcus Cole, now the Statesman, with his monstrously transformed ex-friend. All in all it is an exciting action adventure saga that serves to introduce the original members of the Freedom Phalanx, City of Heroes’ greatest team. I would definitely recommend it, but maybe you should check out that run of Cable first. You won’t be disappointed.

I have the next book in the franchise: Robin D. Laws’ Freedom Phalanx sittting in my read pile, so expect a review of that soon. I am not sure the third novel listed in the inside front cover, The Rikti War by Paul S. Kemp was ever published. Anyone with any information on that one would be appreciated.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Super-Powered Television: Heroes Episode 13 Dual

Okay, I am going to say that the Sylar voiceover from the very get-go definitely made me happy with this episode. The voiceover is a good summation of the last few episodes... even does a good job of glossing over the weaker parts.

The show opens with Peter and Nathan talking about their father’s plan over Arthur’s corpse. It leads quickly to a gun pointed at Nathan’s head. But Peter can’t shoot him... so he decks him instead.

Claire, Meredith, Angela, and Noah prepare to head to Pinehearst, but instead get trapped in Primatech by Sylar who has mind games planned for them all.

Sixteen years in the past, Hiro is still hanging from a flagpole. Parkman, Daphne, and Ando go in search of Mohinder in an attempt to get Ando powers and somehow save Hiro. Back in the lab, Mohinder is still dying. Rather dully. Peter once again draws a gun on Mohinder (and I doubt he will do much shooting here either. Why do you even have a gun, Peter?) Daphne speeds through and steals the formula, but Jesse and Knox show up to destroy Mohinder’s lab.

Super-marine falls fast as Knox goes in to the hall and kills G.I.-Kyle (as my 4400 fans/coworkers like to call him).

Daphne returns, Ando injects himself and promptly collapses with a sickly thud. Back in the past, Hiro climbs to the top of the roof. He ends up recruiting his younger self in an attempt to alter the past (which can’t seem like a good idea to anyone, can it?)

Sylar’s mind game plays out simply: he will let everyone go if Claire shoots Angela. How can this mind game really be this dull? And why would be Claire stupid enough to waste a bullet on a phone? Smart, Claire, real smart. Noah frees the remaining villains as bait for Sylar. (Go Hobolossus!)

Mohinder tries to talk Jesse and Peter out of their destruction, but it fails miserably.

Ando wakes up and tries to use his time travel power... and it turns in to a moronic blinking exercise. He quickly learns he has some kind of explosive touch instead (just like on his future appearance from week’s back).

Boo, Hobolossus gets offed away from the screen! Meredith confronts Sylar, but the Puppetman actually comes to her rescue and stops Sylar. Sylar apparently gives him a brain aneurysm instead. He proceeds to inject Meredith with something that causes her to drop to the floor (I assume the adrenaline, as she suddenly can’t control her powers.) Sylar locks Noah in a cell with Meredith, with the assumption that either he will die in her flames or he will shoot her in the head. Oooh, go craaazy Sylar.

Knox and Jesse’s motivation in this is really stupid. Anyway Knox holds Nathan hostage, and confronts Nathan with his fear. Nathan in turn bashes Jesse in the face with some kind of globe. Tracy shows up just in time to freeze and shatter Knox and rescue him.

Parkman touches Ando and finds that his powers amplify somehow. Daphne touches him a second later, and finds herself flashed back in time a few seconds.

Claire and Angela go to rescue Noah and Meredith, but Sylar takes Angela’s place and shoves Claire against a wall. More dull mind games (this is a really stupid deathtrap...). She runs away and tries to free her father, but finds the keypad gone. Noah has Meredith heat up the glass with her powers, Noah fires on it but it doesn't break, so Claire takes a flying leap through it. Meredith sends Noah and Claire away, and Meredith collapses.

Tracy tries to convince Nathan to leave, and Nathan quickly fires her.

Parkman figures out that Ando is some kind of power super-charger. Parkman uses some Einstein physics to convince them to travel back in time. Daphne and Ando work together to travel backward in time. In the past, Hiro and future Hiro try to steal the formula only to be stopped by Kaito. Kaito assaults Hiro, who tries to convince him to destroy the formula. He rips it in half, Kaito swings the blade, and Hiro is grabbed by Ando and Daphne. Back in the present, Daphne and Hiro run off to destroy the formula. They confront Tracy as she tries to steal the formula. After being called “Pikachu” Hiro decks Tracy and they run off with the formula.

Knox and Peter spill out the formula, which conveniently blankets Mohinder. Jesse prepares to blow everyone sky-high, but Nathan beans him with a metal pipe before he can. He proceeds to deck Peter and beat him down with the same pipe. Knox lights everything up and traps Nathan. Peter injects himself in a psychotic hope to help his brother, dives across the room, and flies them both away.

Sylar and Angela confront one another in Primatech. Angela congratulates him on saving the world by killing Arthur Petrelli. Angela tells the truth, that she is not Sylar’s mother either. But Angela tries to convince him that she had his best interest in heart. Sylar detects the lie and cuts her slightly. She admits that he would be useful to her as a monster that she could easily manipulate. She uses the truth about his parentage to keep herself alive, but as Sylar threatens her Claire embeds a piece of glass in to Sylar's cerebellum.

Claire tries to save her mom, but Noah pulls her away as her flames consume her. Meredith literally explodes and takes Primatech with her.

Peter and Nathan confront each other out in the woods. Nathan informs Peter that he wouldn’t have save him if the tables were turned before he flies away.

Mohinder voice over pops up again as he stares at himself in a car door and finds Tracy inside. He leaves with her.

Daphne, Parkman, Hiro, and Ando celebrate.

Mohinder’s voice over is all about love and shades of gray (Bleh.)

Three weeks later we get the beginning of Fugitives, where Nathan confronts an agent about the existence of other heroes. He gives his new goal: to round up the other heroes and contain them. Sorry, not an agent... a black President. (Considering this is either 2006 or 2007 still, I find it odd that George W. is black but whatever.)

The episode ends there and I take it in with mixed feelings. While the denouement of “Villains” did prove to bring things together far better than I would ever imagine, I fear that “Fugitives” may be more of the same. However, the clear focus on a few different players, specifically the return of Micah, could free up the new volume to shine. Let’s hope things can come together to keep Heroes on the air for some time to come.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Super-Powered Comics: The Contingent #1

It’s not often that I run across a new original superhero publication from a truly independent company. But that is exactly the case with the first issue of The Contingent by Mindstorm Comics.

Written by Zack Kruse with art by the eponymous Zeu, The Contingent reads much like the Nunzio DeFillipis and Christina Weir version of the New Mutants from a few years back. The story revolves around a young metahuman named Miguel who a mysterious organization (which I assume is called the Contingent) tracks down in his home in Bolivia. He has some kind of strange energy power, although the nature of it, isn’t made clear in this issue. In fact, very little is made clear in this issue, and that’s a bit of a shame. Miguel travels to his new school which is very much the X-Mansion campus right out of the film. He meets Richie, his telekinetic roommate, and that brings the issue to a close.

Now I am not a hater on decompression (not automatically anyway), but for a debuting independent publisher in an incredibly turbulent marketplace, this seems like an odd way to go with this book. It reminds me of J. Torres’ Sidekicks from a few years ago, but even that initial story gave a little more satisfaction than this work. Looking at the cover alone, we have four players who we haven’t even met yet! Nor do we have any real conflict of any kind.

I can only assume the creators assumed that do to the nature of the direct market, anyone who ordered issue one was automatically locked in to issue two (thanks Previews!) Even so for $3.50, I expect a little more than this. The Contingent may very well have a lot of potential, but we will have to wait another month to find it.

Let’s hope the market will allow it to get that far.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Super-Powered Television: Heroes Episode 12 Our Father

Hiro and Claire arrive in the past, and we learn that Hiro’s mother was the former catalyst. They quickly seperate. Claire goes to stop Kaito from injecting her with the catalyst. Hiro, upon learning his mother is another healer, sets out to find a way to get her to restore his memories. Hiro very badly tries to cook for his mother as he takes the place of th enew chef (where the new chef actually is is anyone’s guess). He proceeds to overhear a conversation between his mother and father about his lack of ability. He reveals everything, and his mom cures him, and the two talk about his life... his successes. She proceeds to pass on the catalyst, not to Claire, but to the adult Hiro. She passes away moments later.

Sylar answers his father’s (or is he?) phone call, and reveals his plans to go after a new list of heroes from Elle’s phone. He burns Elle’s body and wanders off of the beach Hiro left them. Sylar goes to confront someone with the ability to lie detect in an office, and makes short work of her... and apparently her office mates.

Claire has a rather bland heart to heart with her mother. Nathan returns and is immediately suspicious of the older Claire. He quickly sees through her story. Claire actually convinces her father to somehow not answer the phone when Kaito calls. Hiro tells Claire he has the catalyst, but he’s assaulted by a time traveling Arthur. Arthur takes his powers and the catalyst and throws Hiro from the roof. He sends Claire back to the present, and Arthur is trapped hanging from a flagpost in the past.

Parkman, Daphne, and Ando go to the delivery company that has the Isaac Mendez sketches, but the bike messenger tries to make a run for it. He doesn’t make it far before Daphne cuts him off. They get the book and learn that Hiro is trapped in the past. They set out to find a way to find the formula.

Peter and the Haitian are assigned to murder Arthur by Angela. But the Haitian tries to counsel Peter from making a rash decision. They confront Arthur in the hallway, after the formula is activated. The Haitian loses his control over Arthur’s powers. Sylar arrives to stop the bullet, learns he is not Arthur’s son, and proceeds to imbed the bullet in Arthur’s brain. With Arthur dead, the catalyst vanishes.

Nathan arrives back at Pinehearst, and learns Tracy is already on Arthur’s side. Nathan rather blandly meets with the G.I.’s who potentially will give them powers. Arthur returns to the present and proceeds to add the catalyst in to the formula as Mohinder, Nathan, and Tracy look on. Nathan prepares Mohinder to test the injection on the first Marine, the same person that Nathan talked to earlier. He gains massive superhuman strength as the episode ends.

Next week, Villains comes to an end, but how it will play out remains to be seen.

This episode fails on many levels, with it again having the heroes get all the answers just in time to have Arthur take it away again (seriously, this is an annoying plot convention that needs to be thrown away as soon as possible!) A few holes poke through the story... How did Arthur know that Hiro was in the past, let alone be able to take his abilities? Why does a young Noah so easily respond to future Claire’s request? I mean, why would a hard ass like him respond to a stranger’s request about a child he barely knows yet? It just doesn’t fit for me.

With Arthur already dead, I am definitely interested in how they will end this season. I hope and pray that this will end the way it should... with Nathan having to die in order to prevent the formula’s continued spread. Instead, I suspect he will see the error of his ways yet again. If that happens, I might just see the error of mine. After all, RTN has some pretty keen looking reruns of the A-Team every night at eight.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Super-Powered Television: Heroes the Eclipse pts. One and Two (season 3-10,11)

I honestly have put off watching both parts of “The Eclipse” on purpose. After two solid episodes, I feared that this would be more of the same from the first several weeks of the series.

Angela puts Claire in the hands of Noah for safe keeping. Claire is snarky and standoffish, so dad proceeds to train her... badly. They have a heart to heart momentarily before Elle shows up... and finds her powers don’t work. Noah proceeds to beat Gabriel and Elle senseless, but not before Elle can shoot Claire with Noah’s gun. After Noah takes her home and binds the wound, he leaves to go after Sylar, but Claire’s wound opens again.

Nathan and Peter head to Haiti... to find the Haitian, and fall out of the sky as the eclipse approaches. The two of them end up in an argument about their own world views. They end up meeting the Haitian, and Nathan gets captured by the men of Baron Samedi, who is apparently the Haitian’s brother.

Mohinder learns that he may soon die... especially if Claire does so. Mohinder starts to fall apart as the eclipse approaches, but I doubt this will be enough to actually kill him. Instead, he apparently cocoons himself. (Ugh.) He wakes up quickly, apparently cured.

Parkman and Daphne are sent out to find Hiro, unaware that Hiro has the mind of a ten year old. Daphne starts to come in to her own, as her paranoia about betrayal gets teh better of them. Hiro and Ando find them instead, in the hopes that Parkman can cure Hiro. The first irk comes here as Parkman isn’t clever enough to mind-link with Hiro AND Ando to reset his mind. Anyway, they follow Daphne after she runs to Lawrence, Kansas. After Hiro leaves, Matt goes inside and learns that without her powers, Daphne apparently suffers from some kind of muscular dystrophy.

Hiro’s story breaks off from Matt’s as he goes to a local comic shop... ran by guest stars Seth Green & Breckin Meyer. And I have to admit, framing the Robot Chicken creative team as comic shop owners is great fan service. On the other hand, I wonder how much fan service is really necessary in a show that is already so blatantly dredging up old comic storylines.

Tracy plays double agent, ratting on Nathan. Arthur sends her on a mission of her own.. to Paris Island, and almost gets caught by Angela.

As the first chapter starts, Arthur sends Sylar and Elle on a mission to capture Claire as our show opens. Elle proceeds to become the problem child again, as she sets up Sylar to battle with a rental car worker (who for some reason has a rifle). After the debacle of their attack, Sylar and Elle have a Bonnie and Clyde style chat as they become human once more, even as Noah has Sylar in the sites of a sniper rifle...

Oh, and I am kind of annoyed that Lawrence, Kansas, equates to a farm house. It’s a town of nearly 90,000 for goodness sakes! Althought it is big enough to have a comic shop... well done, California writers! Well done!

Okay, so the first part was decidely better than expected... on to part two.

Part two opens with Peter and the Haitian plotting to recover Nathan, and attack Baron Samedi. The Haitian and Peter blindside Baron Samedi, and beat him down.

claire is rushed to the hospital, where we learn her lack of abilities has left her immune system basically non-existent. She is stabilized by the doctors (I am not really sure how...), and her mom finds herself answering questions from the police. But Claire goes in to cardiac arrest... (Sigh... really?), no wait it’s apparently septic shock. The doctors can do nothing to save her. (Powers should be coming back anytime now...) Oh wait, the eclipse clears, lighting up the corpse (as this morgue apparently has windows) and Claire wakes up.

Nathan is tied and chained by Baron Samedi, a character in full super villain mode. He begins to realize that he’s not the hero he thought he might be, but he does help to free the other would-be prostitute. His story reconnects with Peter and the Haitian, and Peter stays behind to let the others escape. After the powers return, Peter comes under fire from Samedi’s forces, and with his gun empty has no choice but to surrender. The Haitian and Nathan return to save him. But Samedi’s powers have returned also, and with his invulnerability, only the Haitian can bring him to his knees. The Haitian helps the prostitute escape, and Nathan and Peter have a heart to heart. Nathan begins to move to his father’s worldview... and proceeds to abandon Peter in Haiti.

Arthur threatens Mohinder to keep him working, even though now powerless, Mohinder (selfish, spoiled brat that he is) wants out. Mohinder beats Jesse senseless in order to escape captivity, and immediately goes running for Maya (Damn you, Heroes!) Mohinder arrives at Maya’s doorstep, but his powers arrive before they can speak. Mohinder returns to Pinehearst, ready to return to his work as his body begins to degrade again.

We learn Daphne actually has cerebral palsy, a condition her powers cured. Now she continues to punish herself again and again for her past mistakes. After a brief stop at the comic shop to find Hiro, he returns to the house and finds his and Daphne’s powers have returned. Parkman helps Daphne come to terms with herself and her past mistakes... hopefully for good this time.

Seth Green & Breckin Meyer continue to have a fight over whether or not the newest issue of 9th Wonders featuring both themselves and the visiting Hiro and Ando. Breckin figures out that the eclipse is what blocks their powers, and quickly become fanboys for the real life heroes. But Hiro runs away as he learns of the perils he faced as an adult. Seth Green proceeds to help talk Hiro out of the comic shop bathroom. Meanwhile, Breckin Meyer finds a secret in an old issue of 9th Wonders that gives him the answer to retrieving his powers. He flashes away from Ando and the comic shop to find Claire Bennet. Parkman & Daphne come back to learn that Hiro is gone, and Seth tells them of a legendary lost issue of 9th Wonders that may hold answers for their future.

Gabriel and Elle “make love” (as much as two sociopaths can do so) on the floor of the safehouse, only to come under attack by Noah. Elle gets hit by a bullet, but Sylar pulls her away (after the two of them magically put some clothes on). Noah’s own sadism begins to shine through again as he starts the hunt for them. Noah pursues them to a supermarket, where Gabriel bandages Elle’s wound then sends her away. Noah beats down Gabriel, and then slits his throat. (Powers should be coming back any time now...) Nathan comes back to learn Claire died, but is alright now. Gabriel and Elle arrive a moment later and assault Noah’s family. Gabriel tortures Noah, but Noah reveals that Gabriel is not Arthur or Angela’s son at all. Noah works mind games to try and save himself, but Gabriel starts to cut him down anyway. Hiro arrives, teleports Gabriel and Elle elsewhere. Then he runs off with Claire. Claire and Hiro watch as Kaito Nakamura hands over baby Claire to a younger Noah as the show comes to an end.

Gabriel begins to doubt Elle after Noah’s words, and Elle seems to still be slightly afraid of him. Gabriel comes to the understanding that he hasn’t changed at all, and proceeds to cut open Elle’s skull.

Well, these episodes were decidedly better than I expected, and I go in to tonight’s episode with less trepidation than I expected. But the Petrelli family storyline seems to me to already be past due to end. The quality of the Sylar, Hiro/Ando, and Parkman/Daphne storylines really show that the show is at its weakest when its treading out the Petrellis again and again. I have no interest in Nathan and Peter’s storyline at all... Honestly, are there any comic fans out there that are tired of the whole Havok trying to come out of Cyclops’s shadow storyline. It feels like a lot of retread, and bad retread at that. Jeph Loeb especially should be ashamed of his hand in this, but then, anyone reading his Ultimate Universe work knows that Loeb has little or no shame.

Here’s hoping that in a couple months, when Heroes returns with volume four, the series will learn to refocus. Give us an actual ensemble for the first time since season one, and push the Petrelli family to the wayside. Here’s hoping... but I’m still not holding my breath.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Super-Powered Prose: Witchblade A Terrible Beauty

So I finally got around to reading Witchblade: A Terrible Beauty, the second half of the Witchblade Combo book. I reviewed the lackluster Talons, the book’s first half a few months back.

While Talons seemed to be about a sort-of-werewolf, John J. Miller’s A Terrible Beauty takes us in to the underbelly of New York City’s voodoo culture. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away as I actually recommend this half of the book, but it revolves around a string of murders affecting the Haitian community. Sara and Jake go to investigate, which gives them a lot of insites in to the culture while they also begin to fall deeper and deeper in to the dark happenings of the culture.

The Witchblade almost becomes a character of its own in this story, as it constantly whispers to Sara. But she only rarely acts on its suggestions. The weapon barely gets used in the course of the novel, almost as if Miller grafted it in to his already half-prepared script. Even so, A Terrible Beauty is a good book. Super-powered fiction and Witchblade fans should check it out when they get the chance.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Super-Powered Prose: X-Men The Legacy Quest Trilogy

So I picked up X-Men the Legacy Quest Trilogy by Steve Lyons at my local Half Price Books (the best store ever!) for three whole bucks. Three novel omnibus for three bucks, not a bad deal. Too bad the tale inside is disappointing on so many levels.

The three books are loosely connected stories revolving around Hank McCoy’s quest to find a cure for the Legacy Virus. (The original edition of this book came out in 2002, which was well after the cure of the Legacy Virus in the comic book, but apparently nobody told the folks at ibooks this.) Hank ends up making a deal with the devil, Sebastian Shaw, who is looking for the cure for his own ends. This leads to a battle between the X-Men and the Hong Kong branch of the Hellfire Club (populated by such luminaries as Fitzroy, Goblin Queen, and a thoroughly erroneous version of Tessa). Hank, weakened by injecting himself by his own virus, finds his cure, only to be kidnapped by Selene to set up book two.

Book two takes the plot to even more preposterous places in a dark future New York where everyone in the world seems to have started to suffer from the virus. The threat proves insanely dull at best, which leads in to book three... where Magneto turns out to be the true villain. While the portrayal of Genosha infected by the virus does bring pathos to the book, it still serves to only very poorly bring the quest to an end.

While his portrayal of the X-Men characters usually stay true to form (with the possible exception of the insanely whiny Beast), Lyons fails to do anything remotely original with them. They all seem to have taken a step back in their progression as a team before this book. Nobody involved seems to have a clue how to act as a member of a team, nor do their personalities seem to have developed past their original Claremont/Cockrum days. And the villains... well, only Magneto really seems to be anywhere close to on track. And his plan to destroy all the humans on the planet seems to fly in the face of everything established about the character in the nineties.

While X-Men novels are a hard feat to accomplish in my opinion, X-Men The Legacy Quest fails on pretty much every level. Instead everyone should consider grabbing a copy of Marjorie M. Liu’s superior Dark Mirror instead.

Monday, December 1, 2008

NaNoWriMo Comes to an End

I have finally brought my first NaNoWriMo experience to an end with a (barely) successful first 50,000 words of Neo-Tokyo. Although the story isn’t quite finished (I would estimate another 20,000 words at least), it does feel good to get that much on to the screen in one month’s time. I am going to try to maintain a continued writing discipline of around 800 to 1000 words a day at least 5 days a week. Wish me luck on that one.

I have been dreadfully negligent on pretty much everything else super-hero related in the mean time. I still haven’t watched last week’s Heroes and I am about a week behind on all my comics and graphic novels. With the stress of nearly 2,000 words a day off my back I should be getting back up to speed though. I have a couple archived articles I will get posted in the next few days and we will go from there.

I may have a new comic property in the works over the next few days. I will let everyone know on that soon as more news pops up. Metahuman Press will be back to updating at a regular pace as well.

Thanks for everyone’s patience while I worked myself to the bone. I have plans to participate in NaNoWriMo again next year, but now that I know what it entails, I will probably change a few of my plans to more readily update. In the mean time, thanks for reading.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Heroes Episodes Eight and Nine

My apologies for the lateness in the first half of the post, but with NaNoWriMo going on, I used most of my days for sleep. Last week’s Heroes fell by the way side to just before I watched tonight’s show. Sad, considering it’s easily the best episode this season.

We seem to get the season back on track as we go in to flashback mode with “Villains”. Hiro (apparently) goes on a viewing spree as he watches the events of one year ago. Eric Roberts returns as Thompson to bring Meredith in to the folds of the Company, while Noah and Elle work together as we see their pre-season one investigation of Gabriel Gray, even as he transforms himself in to Sylar.

We learn bits and pieces of the history of Arthur and Linderman, and the investigation by Nathan as a DA on Linderman. How it was not Linderman that ordered the attack on Nathan’s car at all... We finally learn what turns Angela against her husband as she learns what her husband has planned for Nathan. But even as Arthur acts, Linderman plots behind his back. He shows Angela the true nature of her husbands actions, and how he manipulated her mind again and again. Angela recruits the Haitian and several ounces of poison to eliminate her husband, but Nathan’s untimely arrival leads to Arthur’s chance at survival.

Meredith’s short career as an agent does give us one bright spot, as she encounters Danny Pine, a man the internet already nicknamed Hobolossus. Let’s hope we can see more of him soon. Anyway, things devolve when Flint, apparently Meredith’s brother, is also captured, and Meredith goes to free him. Thompson shows an amazing depth of character as he lets Meredith suddenly go free after she betrays the company.

Elle’s appearance in his life seems to be a saving grace for Gabriel, but Noah’s manipulation only causes more of Sylar's moral decay. We learn that Sylar may not have the loose moral standards we once thought.

The episode ends with Hiro wakening, and the sudden death of the African seer at Arthur’s hand. Arthur grabs Hiro....

Which is where we open on episode 9, “It’s Coming”. Arthur wipes Hiro’s mind down to that of a ten year old, but Ando saves him from death and helps him escape back to Japan. Ando begins a slow quest to reteach his friend how to use his powers, but Hiro has some problems taking things seriously.

Arthur returns to Sylar... and in an attempt to cure his bloodlust locks him in a room with Elle. Elle’s reaction is less than friendly, as she rips him apart with an electrical attack... He accepts the attack and encourages her to make more. Their confrontation cures Elle’s overpower, while somehow unlocking Sylar’s power mimicry as he finds he can now use her powers. They seem to be on the return to their romantic inclinations shown last episode.

Claire helps Peter escape an attack by Knox and her uncle Flint. But when she goes back to confront them, she learns it isn’t Peter they’re after at all. Peter uses his mind instead of his powers to save the day and help Claire get away.

Parkman and Daphne go looking for help at Primatech, but he only finds an unconscious Angela. Nathan makes the decision to free her mind, but may be just putting himself in the sites of fellow psychic Arthur. Parkman can’t find a way out of Angela’s mental crisis and finds himself stabbed by a psychic projection of Daphne. Daphne enters the dreamworld, and Parkman learns of her double dealing when Arthur arrives. Parkman confronts Arthur, but Angela forces Arthur to free them.

Nathan confronts his father. Arthur makes the same offer Linderman did back in season one, but this time Nathan isn’t as ready to make a deal with the devil for “the good of mankind”. Nathan leaves, but Jessica returns to speak with Arthur and make a deal for her future...

Mohinder’s experimentation proves a failure, as they are missing a third component, a human based catalyst, but his actions remain shady at best. Maybe something will actually come of this storyline soon...

Ando takes Hiro to a comic shop where 9th Wonders opens his eyes for the first time. They learn of the coming eclipse in its pages.

The episode ends with the villains coming together, but the heroes do so as well. Surrounded by Parkman, Peter, Nathan, Claire, and Daphne, Angela reveals the existence of the human catalyst and lays out the plans for their new mission: to stop Arthur from finding the catalyst. And Claire realizes exactly what Syler meant by how “special” she was...

Robert Fresco wrote Villains, his first episode of the show, and while it ties together stories from over two seasons in a way that could only be planned, the fresh look on the characters actually makes the show shine more than it has since season one. Series creator (and clearly best writer) Tim Kring returns for It’s Coming to continue the streak of quality episodes. Finally, this season’s first story arc is coming together despite the worst attentions of the season’s first several episodes. With their continued participation, and the recent removal of the overly influential (and not in a good way) Jeph Loeb, Heroes might just survive yet.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Worst Stories Ever

The fine folks over at Topless Robot have been nice enough to post the 12 Dumbest Spider-Man Stories Ever (Besides the Clone Saga).

Well worth a perusal.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Quick Nanowrimo Update

Just a reminder that I will be participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) throughout November, so my updates will be infrequent at best. I do have a back log of super-powered fiction reviews to cover that I will intersperse through out the month, as well as my weekly Heroes blog.

Thanks all for reading!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Heroes Season 3 Episode 7

Wow, so this week’s episode of Heroes...

First, I’m coming at it a few days late, as I was really sick on Monday night and had to catch it on But all in all I thought it succeeded well in some ways and derailed horribly in others.

Nathan and Tracy do little to save themselves, and otherwise seem useless. Powerless Peter fails to be useful in any way; without his powers he seems even more clueless. Mohinder finally does something: he joins Arther Petrelli and the villains. Hiro and Ando do very little other than set up what looks like another future episode next week. None of these stories inspired me to care in any way for these characters, and at this point, I really want about half of them to die by the end of Villains. Nathan, Mohinder, and even Peter are really wearing out their welcome this season.

The episode did have a few bright spots. Claire and Elle proved to be an interesting pairing as we once again explore the dichotomy of the two characters. I hope Elle is back for a few episodes, but my gut says she will disappear in to Pinehearst for several weeks at least (or just lose her powers and disappear from the show forever). Parkman finally gets to use his powers in an interesting way to “rescue” Daphne, but we will have to wait and see where their story goes in the next few weeks. I am a little off put by effect his father’s death has on him this episode. I would think after the torture Maury put Matt’s adoptive daughter through last season, he would be less affected by the news. Anyway...

I am also happy that we continued to cull the cast a little. Maya seems to have walked out of the series forever, and I am only upset that it didn’t happen weeks ago. Her character wore out her welcome within a week of her first appearance, and her powers were virtually useless if the show continued. And the aforementioned death of Maury Parkman seemed pointless, but it does serve to continue the establishment of just how ruthless Arthur Petrelli is.

And the one bright shining hope for this volume? Sylar. Gabriel Gray has went from a character I was utterly uninterested in last season; a character I wouldn’t have minded putting on that farewell list, to being the best character on the show. Let’s just hope the writers can keep from screwing up that story arc like they have so many other characters this season.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Heroes Episodes One through Six

Yes, this is a day light, but I figured it was for a good cause as it allows me to include episode six in this list. So let’s get to it!

Heroes started out with a bang, literally, as we find out Nathan’s would-be killer, send Parkman on a whole new quest, Sylar gets to Claire, Mohinder furthers his experiments, and we meet (briefly) Ali Larter’s new character. On top of this the rest of the cast all get new storylines in one form or another. I thoroughly enjoyed the focus on everyone, and the established goal of actually getting everyone involved with this season’s saga. The holes (like Maya’s sudden near perfect English) are not readily noticeable and every character seems to be allowed to come in to his own. I kept this section relatively spoiler free for anyone who has not read it, but everything following is SPOILER WARNING! You have been warned!

Episode Two moves Sylar in to an attack on Level 5 which starts with the death of Bob. He unleashes all the criminals on the floor but in the process comes in to conflict with Elle. A massive power surge allows Elle to level Sylar, but the arrival of Angela Petrelli as her father’s replacement spells the end for Kristen Bell on the show (at least for now). Future Peter laments her actions and Claire questions the change in her abilities. Hiro and Ando’s pursuit of new character Daphne takes them to Paris and is played mostly for laughs. And finally, Mohinder and Maya’s relationship deepens even as he realizes the transformation he put himself may be going wrong. Already Mohinder and Maya start to wear out their welcome, just as they did with the previous two seasons. Hiro and Ando are already falling back in to their zany adventure stereotype, while future Peter is even more angsty than his younger self. The only real breathe of fresh air in this episode is the arrival of the mysterious African guide for Parkman, a character that may finally get the respect he deserves this season.

Episode Three forces the new Petrelli brother, one Gabriel Gray, in to a partnership with the man who hates him more than any other: Noah Bennett. (An aside here, the continued use of HRG to refer to him in both the fan community and by the show itself annoys the heck out of me. He has a name for a reason, folks!) They take up the main part of the story as they chase down several of the villains, including Jesse (where future Peter somehow stowed present Peter). Hiro and Daphne have a powerless battle in German movie theater, but Daphne escapes with the second half of the formula. Tracy Strauss travels to New Orleans where we learn she isn’ Niki Sanders. Niki is dead, and Micah makes what may be his final appearance on the show. Disappointing, as I really thought Monica had the most potential of any character introduced last season. A sub-plot with Claire and her biological mom Meredith proves pretty much fruitless.

Episode Four already brings us to the future that will never happen episode. I honestly dislike these as they prove to be more waste of times than anything else. The dual narrative of present Peter in the future and Parkman’s dream vision interacts for an interesting narrative. Molly makes a brief appearance as her future self as we get more details on Parkman and Daphne’s relationship. Peter meets future Sylar, and as always, it ends in great tragedy. Angela sends Hiro and Ando to track down Daphne. They let Adam Monroe free in the process. Mohinder falls deeper in to his dark side (yawn) and we finally begin to understand the origins of Linderman.

Episode Five brings Claire back to the forefront as she takes a taser and goes after a Level 5 escapee, Stephen Canfield, a man able to create miniature black holes (and interestingly enough played by Bubbles of The Wire. This brings her directly in to conflict with Noah and Sylar, and serves to change her relationship with both. Peter learns that his power to understand things brings with it the same hunger Sylar possesses, but Angela sedates him before he can kill. Suresh binds up Maya (saving us from her acting at least, if not his), Monroe escapes only to run afould of the villains, and Linderman is revealed to be only an illusion projected by the senior Parkman. Mr. Parkman also pays a visit to Angela Petrelli, who locks Angela in a trance even as we catch the first glimpse of Mr. Petrelli. Hiro apparently kills Ando to get in with the Villians.

Episode Six from last night revolves around Daphne’s quest to recruit members to Pinehearst, the company the Villains exist under. Mr. Petrelli reveals himself as a power leech of some kind as he steals Adam Monroe’s powers. Without his healing factor, the ancient Monroe crumbles to a dusty, dissolving skeleton. Mr. Petrelli stands up, fully healed again. Claire and Sandra go after Doyle, a mad Villain that can control people as if they were puppets. Doyle eventually fails after assuming a shot Claire was dead. Meanwhile Nathan and Tracy fall in to the clutches of Suresh, but Tracy uses her new powers to free them as the show ends. Peter confronts Sylar, captures him, and heads out to find the secret of Pinehearst, only to run in to his father... and lose his powers.

All in all, season three is shaping up well. It doesn’t quite offer the depth of character as season one, but it avoids all the pitfalls of the lackluster second season. The sudden reversal of the roles of Sylar and Peter offers an interesting dynamic for the writers to work with, and the developments in the life of Parkman, Nathan, Tracy, and Daphne. Meanwhile the original characters come off as flat at times, especially in the case of Maya (who really seems to be just worthless as a character) and Mohinder (who has thoroughly outlived his usefulness). Even Claire seems to be floundering this season. I still cannot help but think that the show would have been better handled with Monica and Micah retained instead of some of its current cast. Nonetheless, Mr. Petrelli promises a few new intrigues over the next couple weeks. We will have to see as things develop.

Hopefully, my plans to update within a couple hours of each new show will come to fruition after this post. Stay tuned for that.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Timeline, Epsilon, NaNoWriMo, and more

My apologies to my regular readers. Sometimes life and family get in the way of honest pursuits like writing and updating this blog. But hopefully I am back to stay as I get to work on several new updates over the next couple of weeks.

I will start with a couple updates on the site. I am slowly working towards getting pictures for all the contributing authors. I am also working towards reformatting the main site and possibly getting the first few books based on MHP works. More on that later.

Also, I am working on a new Timeline story for the week of Halloween. It will be the first to feature a setting that will interlink with other stories down the line.

Epsilon will probably go on hiatus following the conclusion of the Nephthys arc. I have more plans for the next arc, but I really need to take a break from one of my current works in order to get my current stories (as well as a few new ones) off the ground.

Finally, I have plans to participate in NaNoWriMo again this year. I am currently working up a plot for another Quadrant Universe tale with the working title Neo-Tokyo. It will be a fun litte piece of super-powered fiction with quite an anime influence to it. I am currently working on a few pieces of research to get the idea flowing a little harder. I am also taking suggestions on anime/manga with a super-powered flavor. I am currently rewatching Yu Yu Hakusho and rereading Akira and Getbackers. Your suggestions on any other quality manga/anime with a superhero flavor set in either modern or a near-future setting would be appreciated.

I am going to try to get a post up today or tomorrow with my thoughts on the first three weeks of Heroes soon as well. Fingers crossed, I will be back here soon!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Captain America: The Chosen

Originally titled Captain America: The End, David Morrell’s decidely different take on Cap proves incisive and entertaining if terribly decompressed.

The story is less about our title character than it is Marine Corporal James Newman. Newman is a soldier active in the fighting of Iraq, and he finds himself in a war situation that’s way over his head. But the sudden appearance of Captain America inspires him to single handedly pull his comrades out of enemy fire while cutting his way through their ranks. He proves successful, only to have Cap suddenly disappear.

We are then left with the mystery of the phantom Captain America as Newman, now a hero among his comrades, finds himself and his unit trapped in a cave-in. The phantom Cap again appears to him and we begin to gain answers as to just what’s going on.

The Chosen goes far afield from the typical huge explosion, high action final battles of most of Marvel’s The End series. This book is more of a character piece. A study of what a hero like Captain America would feel like in a real world, and how people feel about him in the same. It proves fascinating at times as Morrell studies his characters far more deeply than one might usually expect. Cap dies a truly heroic death in The Chosen but his legacy proves far larger than it did even in the regular Marvel Universe.

In his first comic work, David Morrell (the creator of Rambo in his nover First Blood) brings more to his comic work than many writers could ever hope to have. Nonetheless the series can feel a little padded at times with big, albeit pretty panels from Mitch Breitweiser and a story that could easily have filled a book half the size otherwise. I know if I would have purchased this issue by issue at four bucks a pop I would have been annoyed. But as a package the story proves both intriguing and engrossing if short.

This book gets a high recommendation for any fan of Morrell, Cap, or the American spirit in general. I'll give it a solid 8.5 out of 10, well high enough for me to recommend to everyone. But you may want to wait for the trade paperback out in the next few months.

(Quick Note: Heroes Season 3 Episode 1 review will be coming up soon. Illness has slowed it a bit, but I will get it posted.)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Heroes Going Postal

Three webisodes off the official Heroes site. One last look at the online content before the big debut in less than an hour.

Chapter One

Mailman Echo DeMille comes in to contact with two agents of the Company, one normal and one a constrictor, basically a human boa (complete with no hair). They try to abduct him and it ends badly, as Echo uses his sonic projection powers to blow out the eardrums of the human agent. Echo seems well played and an interesting character, even in the brief three minutes of the video.

Chapter Two

we meet Gina, Echo’s girlfriend, in this chapter, as Echo returns home. He runs afoul of the constrictor again, but Echo uses his powers to make short work of the Company man.

Chapter Three

Echo sends Gina away as a knock comes at the front door... (Which involves quite a lot of knocking.) Two more agents come to “talk”. Echo once again attacks with his powers, but...

Weeks later we see Echo in a Company facility, on Level 5, where a certain Mrs. Petrelli comes to pay him a visit in his cell.

All in all the webisodes are short and to the point, but they accomplish what they need to do. They introduce a new player in to the Heroes storyline, one obviously planned to play a role in the new season.

The Going Postal comic strip sadly proves more useful in giving us insight in to the character of Echo, but even so both serve to expand the Heroes-verse quite well.

Heroes the Graphic Novels Part the Third

All right here is the final set of Heroes graphic novels as I finish my reviews on them. These are all new to me, as I was a good several months behind on these myself.

Issue 80: Moonlight Serenade, again drawn by Jason Badower, takes us even farther back in to the life of Linda Tavara as she murders her first victim.

Issues 81-82: Chuck Kim and Peter Steigerwald bring the story of super-sighted Donna Dunlap as she runs afoul of the Company and makes an agreement with the mysterious Evs Dropper to bring them down.

Issue 83: Donna’s story continues as she goes undercover in the company, only to see a vision of her future from Isaac Mendez. Nice continuing saga we have going here.

Issues 84-85: Agent Thompson’s point of view of the events of issue 83 and slightly before. In issue 85, The events of 83 and 84 bring Donna doubt in her mission, but she finds a way to continue onward.

Issues 86-87: Mark Sable, Alitha Martinez, and Micah Gunnel take us away from Donna’s story to tell the story of normal Penny Logan, an unattractive Company employee who happens to be the daughter of a hero with skin-shaping powers. Her mom plays with her love life and we find out just how shallow Anderson really is.

Issues 88-90: Oliver Grigsby and Jason Badower give us a tale of Sabine Hazel and her partner, the duplicating Julien Dumont, as Sabine learns that everything she thought about Julien was wrong and she sets out on a quest to free both of them from the Company once and for all. Very good stuff. One of the few good things about the disappearance on television of Heroes for so long is the improved quality that has came to the weekly graphic novels.

Issues 93-95: We get an insight in to some of the Company support team members as Thompson and Dunlap lead them in to a fight with a plant controlling hero. We meet Fallon, a man in love with both Eden and Candice, and with an immense hatred for one Gabriel Gray. Great Gaydos art on this one as well. His ruthlessness goes on display in chapter 3 (where Micah Gunnell takes over the art) as he ruthlessly executes two heroes in a South American rainforest. Great character, hopefully we will see him on the show.

Issue 96: Tie in to the Going Postal webisodes. More commentary on this after I watch those!

Issues 97-98: Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration introduces us to Daphne Milbrook, the speedster who will be one of the “Villains” of season 3. She’s hired to break in to a Yamagato Industries’ safe, a mission that will bring her in to contact with Hiro...

Issue 99: Things get heated in Hindsight at the Company as Donna Dunlap’s secret mission is discovered after it ended 14 chapters earlier. Communication breakdowns, accusations are made, and suddenly everyone is at everyone else’s throats.

Issue 100: Thompson frees Donna in Foresight and the quest to discover the identity of Evs Dropper closes in...

Issue 101: Jason Badower arrives back on art duties for Into the Wild part one, as Sabine learns Evs’ secret identity. I will avoid spoiling it here, but it is a doozy.

Issue 102: The story continues as we cover the true duel identity of one Evs Dropper and their history, even as the Company closes in...

Issue 103: Double-sized goodness as Into the Wild concludes and prepares us for season three. Things go to hell, a lot of people die, and the comics storyline of the last few months comes to a very bloody end.

Next Heroes preview coming up soon: The Webisodes!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Heroes the Graphic Novels Part 2

My apologies for people expecting this yesterday. My dumb self forgot to bring all the old Heroes novels with me to work the last couple nights which meant I had to do this in my normal sleep time.

Issue 52: The introduction of a certain flying boy, featuring beautiful Tom Grummett art shot straight from his pencils.

Issue 53: The Rogue ad debuts... how much does Nissan pay for these? Joe Kelly returns to Haiti to tell a story of the dying Haitian.

Issue 55: We get an entertaining “manga-cized version of Hiro and Kensei’s quest for the scroll, complete with cute furry Hiro. Another amazing piece of Grummett work.

Issue 58: Another tale of a soon-to-be erased future. These are probably the most annoying Heroes features. This one is doubly aggravating as it doesn’t feature any characters from the show.

Issue 60-61: Kensei appears as Adam Monroe in this flashback to the Revolutionary War. As the leader of a group of British soldiers (naturally), Monroe comes in to contact with another Hero by the name of Evan. Evan is a one man army (possessing powers similar to Madrox) and over several months they battle one another again and again, until Monroe is overcome. Monroe eventually comes to a decision important to him and his plot for the next several hundred years. And we have more gorgeous Grummett art on both chapters.

Issue 62: Michael Gaydos returns to give us the tale of West’s abduction. An important though somewhat bland flashback.

Issue 63-64: Another two parter revealing Elle’s secret history with Claire. Nothing spectacular again, but it is an important piece of back story as well as Elle’s first comic appearance.

Issue 66: First post-season two story. We visit with Adam Monroe, locked in a coffin, and receive an intriguing look both at the future character and at the hardships of immortality. Awesome art from Peter Steigerwald, a man known more as a colorist.

Issue 67: Another chapter in the internet-based mystery of Richard Drucker. I haven’t followed the Heroes Evolutions story close enough to know more of the clues to this, but good Gaydos art on this one.

Issue 68-70: The evolutions storyline continues as a new character named Matt infiltrates the Company and a plot by Hana & Drucker comes to fruition. Matt (another learner in the style of Charlie) ends up downloading Drucker & Hana in to his head in a rather convoluted storyline.

Issue 71: We meet telekinetic Abu Aswan and get an insight in to his interest in Egyptian history.

Issue 72: Kimiko returns alongside artist Jason Badower in a story by Aspen MLT’s J.T. Krul. Kimiko finds herself connected to yet another Evolutions concept, the Yamagato Fellowship.

Issue 73: War Buddies continues with part seven. Post-Viet Nam, Linderman meets another power leech named Linda Tavara.

Issue 75: Another flashback to the dawn of the country... and the question of whether or not Benjamin Franklin was a hero. Aspen MLT take over fully with this chapter.

Issue 76: Nanci Quesada takes over as editor as Aspen’s J.T. Krul and upcoming G.I.Joe artist Robert Atkins as Sanjog Iyer (the weird boy that Suresh met) continues to harass new heroes.

Issue 78: A flashback to the origins of the original Hero Killer Linda Tavara.

That finishes up the at home portion for today. 25 more chapters to come early tomorrow.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Heroes the Graphic Novels

In preparation for Heroes season three come Monday, I decided to sit down and read the 103 (and counting) graphic novels over the weekend and relive some of the “hidden” moments of seasons 1 (yeah!) and 2 (meh). Spoiler warning for anyone who hasn’t read these yet!

Issue 1: Michael Turner art. Not his biggest fan, but his unique art style will be missed. And Mohinder is creepy pretty under his pencil. Otherwise not much from this one, but we are only on week one.

Issue 4: Again not much for easter eggs here, but we do get to see that Claire is inherently good. She pulls the football rapist out of the burning car that she crashed on episode four.

Issue 5: After only a brief cameo on the episode, D.L. makes his appearance for the first time here. We find out he’s not as mean a criminal as we might have thought. Oh, and the synopsis front page debuts with this one.

Issue 6: A bit of an important flashback left out of the show in this one. We get a view of Jessica’s crimes in action.

Issue 7: An unimportant issue, but the debut of one of my favorite Heroes in the comic. We get to see Matt Parkman take down a criminal post-punch.

Issue 8: This is a bit of a cop-out for me, as we use it to get the Isaac vs a giant monster painting out of the way. Heroes’ first big mistake with the graphic novels IMO.

Issue 9: We learn Eden’s name isn’t really Eden as we see her origins and the accidental death of her mother. Also the prologue may feature the first appearance of the term HRG for Noah Bennett.

Issue 11: The debut of the Nissan Versa ad. Sorry but that is one ugly vehicle, guys. An interesting insite in to Noah with this issue as he meets Eden’s father after her death.

Issue 12: The first hiatus issue features Peter in a Superman-inspired dream. Arts decent, but a rather pointless story.

Issue 13: The debut of the first multi-part story as well as the first appearance of Hana Gitelman, a major player in the comics who would only briefly appear on the show.

Issue 16: Hana goes rogue from the company in the final chapter of Wireless, a story that would have definitely benefitted from higher page counts.

Issue 17: We get a few more details on poor doomed Ted Sprague as well as his first meeting with Hana.

Issue 19: Micah finally makes his comic debut as he uses his powers to harass his bullies.

Issue 20: We get a view of Sylar in action for the second time with an emphasis on how brutal a madman he actually is.

Issue 21: A weak Hana story, but notable for being the first issue not drawn by Aspen MLT. Staz Johnson (Robin) handles this one.

Issue 22: A flashback to the rescue of Claire and the first appearance of the always excellent Michael Gaydos’ (Alias) art.

Issue 24: The second hiatus on season one gets filled with the 6-part War Buddies which starts here. More Hana doing what she needs to do to win.

Issue 25: A flashback to Viet Nam and the first meeting of Mr. Petrelli and Linderman (using nicknames). One of the first key points about the interweaving histories of the Heroes characters’ families.

Issue 28: The codenames are finally dropped in War Buddies part five.

Issue 31: A story from a future that should now be erased. Meh. But this chapter does feature the first appearance of the always excellent Tom Grummett (New Exiles, Superboy) on a Heroes chapter.

Issue 33-34: Season 1 is over and the continuing comic feature celebrates by killing off their main player in “The Death of Hana Gitelman”. Two double length issues bring Hana in to outerspace while Ted & Parkman go to meet their fate in the season one finale. Hana dies on reentry... or does she?

Issues 35-38: The second summer multi-parter is also the first story not to be written by a show writer as Joe Kelly of Man of Action Studios (creators of Ben 10 and a lot of awesome comics) takes over. This is the rather weak origin of the Haitian, complete with bad voodoo bad guys.

Issues 39-42: Joe Casey (of Man of Action and the always excellent Gødland) brings us the tale of Betty. A large, obnoxious teenager hated by her classmates she uses her illusions first to terrify them, and then become a whole new person. Unlike the Haitian’s origins, Casey gives us a compelling back story that actually makes the one dimensional character on the show far more exciting.

Issues 43-46: The other two members of Man of Action, Steven T. Seagle (American Virgin) & Duncan Rouleau (Metal Men) give us an untold story of Claude and his partner before Noah, Haram, as they hunt down a rogue power named Fusor. Not much else to say on this one as it is again a rather flat story that doesn’t in any way tie in to the events of the show.

Issue 49-50: The buildup for season 2 is on as Mohinder begins his research in to the virus in a story by Mark Sable (Grounded) and excellent computer painter Jason Badower (who also provided the art for 33-34). Instead he encounters an electri-absorbing hero. A solid look in to Suresh’s progression between seasons.

Issue 51: In (I think) the final pre-season two chapter of the novels, we meet Maya y Alejandro. Though the characters turned out to be thoroughly pointless during the season, this is actually a well put together quick piece to introduce their storyline.

Overall a shaky but entertaining build for the show. Cool little Easter eggs and the origins of our supporting players really show that the graphic novels can do more than just serve as support. We will see more of that with the next set of comics.

On to Season Two’s related stories tomorrow and after that, I have some Webisodes to cover!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Quick Arc Update

We’re still progressing slowly on issue one of Arc. Jay’s finishing up pencils and inks now, and from there I will start lettering (hopefully). We want to be able to have a finished product ready to go to various publishers in the hopes of selling the title to the likes of Boom, Shadowline, Arcana, or one of the other small press houses.

Thanks again to all those who have taken an interest in the project. I hope to be able to post more on it soon. And maybe another Evolution Comics project as well...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Wrestling (F*** Sports Entertainment)

Back a few years ago I was an avid wrestling fan. I’m talking hardcore. I started watching in 2000, but quickly started to travel back through video tapes of the previous few years of WWE and WCW. The hero vs villain aspect of the shows definitely appealed to the superhero fan in me, and the characters and storylines definitely served to inspire my writing over the next few year, even through today. Mean Streets especially owes a lot to ECW from ’97 to about 2000.

I watched WWE with an almost religious fervor for the next few years, even tuning in for the B-shows like Heat and Velocity. My RAW fandom ended in late 2002, with Heat and Velocity to soon follow. I continued watching Smackdown regularly for a year or so past that, but after that my wrestling entertainment turned more to DVD collections and indy show DVDs.

Why did I stop? A lack of faith in wrestling in general, I suppose. I still followed the storylines through message boards and the like, but I stopped watching. The obsession with Shawn Michaels and Triple H on RAW and the general lack of push by WWE of Smackdown burned me out pretty quickly. Wrestling just didn’t hold interest for me when the storylines failed to end properly. When heel (bad guy) champions won cleanly week after week after week. Especially when one of those heel champions was clearly married to one of the controlling families.

Meanwhile another promotion finally started to come together, with the terrible name of TNA Wrestling. (It stands for Total Nonstop Action, but that is obviously not what most viewers would think without seeing the show.) Their rise can be directly attributed to WWE’s mismanagement of some of their midcard to top talents. The likes of first Rhino and Christian Cage, both of which were hugely over with fans but underused by WWE, and then later the arrival of main event talents either hurt by issues with the WWE’s new drug policy or by inproper usage as well. The arrival of Kurt Angle and later Booker T brought TNA to a whole other level. Meanwhile, Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Christopher Daniels, and other Ring of Honor alumni electrified the TNA ring with moves unseen in WWE.

But that still didn’t draw my attention to TNA.

One of my favorite promotions of the last few years has been Shimmer Women Athletes. A talented indy female named Allison Danger teamed up with ROH talent/booker Dave Prazak teamed up to bring together a promotion that featured true women’s wrestling for the first time ever. No bikinis, no evening gowns, no mud, no T & A oriented crap. Just pure wrestling between incredibly talented women. WWE didn’t seem to notice. (They hired a trio of Shimmer talents, only to fire all but one before they debuted on television. Only Beth Phoenix survived the culling.)

It took a few months, but as TNA formed its Knockout division, they quite obviously took Shimmer as their model. With Gail Kim as their lead talent they pulled in Shimmer Athletes Cheerleader Melissa, Talia, Nikki Roxx, Shantelle Taylor, Angel Williams, ODB, Rain, and most importantly the 270+ pound monster known as Awesome Kong. Most gained new identities, but it didn’t matter. These ladies knew how to fight.

Instantly mainstream wrestling regained my interest. And through those Knockouts I began to appreciate the TNA product more and more. It has its flaws in some places, but considering Vince Russo’s hand in the show, it is a thoroughly amazing two hours of television.

Meanwhile a WWE struck again and again by violations of is wellness policy has realized that their focus on over-steroided freaks would continue to lead to negative media attention. Suddenly we had a push for younger, smaller stars. The sudden rise in the last couple months of CM PUnk, Kofi Kingston, Evan Bourne, and The Brian Kendrick drew me back to WWE as well.

Suddenly it feels like 1997 again. Wrestling is becoming something amazing again with a push of talent that actually can bring it week in and week out in the ring. So I’m going to be the first to call it. We are on the advent of a true wrestling renaissance. Get watching or you might just miss it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

7 Years Later

Seven years today.

I worked at the south grand McDonalds in Springfield, Illinois, on that day. I remember everyone being stunned as we wandered again and again to the break room to watch the devastation.

To this day, I find it hard to think about what 9-11 has done to this country. It brought us together, and in the aftermath, it tore us even farther apart.

Especially in an election year, I think it is thoroughly important for all of us to remember the aftermath of that fateful day. Remember what it was like to be one, even if it was for only a few hours.

God bless the USA.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Super-Powered Comics: Secret Six #1

Yesterday, I covered El Diablo #1 in this pretty little blog of mine. Today I focus on DC’s other big release of last week: Secret Six #1. For someone unfamiliar with this group, I highly recommend you quickly click on the links provided on this page. The new Secret Six are probably the best creation DC has given us in the past five years. I bolded that last statement on purpose. That is just how strongly I feel about this property. Trust me when I say I do not buy many DC/Marvel books, and trust me again when I say that I never by monthlies by the big two. But I am making an exception for this title, because in the able hands of Gail Simone, these five characters are easily the strongest characters in the entire DCU.

I have already been a sucker for Deadshot, as he was developed by John Ostrander, Kim Yale, and Luke McDonnell in to an incredibly deep character in the pages of his first miniseries and the late 80’s Suicide Squad (which really should have a collection by now). Christos Gage wrote another Deadshot miniseries a few years back which further fleshed him out. All seemed designed to prepare him for this book.

Gail Simone has taken Catman and given him all the depth Deadshot possessed before hand. He has made the two characters in to a strange sort of buddy team, kind of an evil Blue Beetle/Booster Gold team.

The two characters created for the team, Scandal Savage and Ragdoll are equally as deep. Scandal is a lesbian living in the shadow of an ancient evil father (sort of a twisted Talia) who is working on overcoming the death of her lover (and ex-Kesel era Superboy villain) Knockout. Ragdoll is the son of the classic JSA villain and is pretty much just bat$#!& insane.

In to all of this we throw in new member Bane, the man who broke Batman, and you have a fascinating dynamic of villains-as-heroes.

Plus you have a truly insane villain who lives in a box. Seriously.

My only real complaint with this one is the same complaint I have for pretty much every DC book right now. The language and the violence both skew to a decidedly teenage and over crowd. It bothers me that a lot of their books go on newstands, unlabeled, with this kind of content in it. I really fear a repeat of the pre-Comic Code burnings if DC does not do something to label these titles.

It sounds messy, but in the hands of Gail Simone and her amazing artistic compatriot Nicola Scott, Secret Six lives up to the hype of its previous two forms. I highly recommend everyone go out and pick up a copy today!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Super-Powered Comics: El Diablo #1

One of two debut comics I picked up this last Wednesday was an interesting revival of a classic DC character. I actually learned of El Diablo through a short lived (and excellent) series in the late 80’s by Gerard Jones and the late, great Mike Parobeck. Only later did I learn of the classic western character of Lazarus Lane through various appearances in reprints, obscure appearances in other titles, and later, through a Vertigo series by Brian Azzarello and Danijel Zezelj. The second Jones/Parobeck El Diablo met his demise in the Villains United Special a few years back so the world was ripe for a new version of the character.

Enter relatively unknown writer Jai Nitz and the well known and highly talented art team of Phil Hester and Ande Parks. They have taken the classic legend of Lazarus Lane and brought it in to the modern day. The new El Diablo is a Latin gang leader and slimeball named Chato Santana. Outside of sounded like a second generation pro wrestler, Chato is an all around nasty fellow. He gets hsi just deserts for his transgressions as he is left paraplegic and imprisoned.

While the feds are trying to get him to roll over on his fellow gang members, he meets the seemingly comatose (and 170 years old) Lazarus Lane. The two end up forming a connection, and a new El Diablo is born. They escape the facility and our series gets underway.

All in all, El Diablo #1 is a solid debut for the new character. It holds a little more depth than most number ones these days and serves to introduce us to the pre-super Chato quite well. Nonetheless this book has a lot of ground to cover in the next five issues if it hopes to succeed.

I would mildly recommend picking this one up. Good creative team, interesting character... this one definitely has the potential to shine.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Super-Powered Prose: Witchblade Talons

I picked this one up at my local Half Price Books (to which I suggest anyone in the area of one immediately go check out for their awesome selection of old goodies). It came in a two book “combo” with another Witchblade novel, which I will cover sometime when I finish it.

Talons is written by John DeChancie whose name sounds familiar, but I really couldn’t remember from where. (A quick Amazon search makes me realize I remember him from a so-so Castle Falkenstein novel from years back. Not exactly the best pedigree for good super-powered fiction.)

The novel is a strange blend of the below average Witchblade TNT series from a few years back and the above average Paul Jenkins-era comic series. It works in some ways, but in others not so much.

Sara Pezzini, bearer of the Witchblade, finds herself embroiled in a mess of a story involving the Triads, the Russian mob, a hitman, an interdimensional cult, a dragon, a techno-sorceror named Merlin, and semi-regular villians/allies Ian Nottingham and Kenneth Irons. All this is slammed in to a two hundred fifty page story that sees Sarah framed for crimes she didn’t commit. It isn’t a bad story, but it falls flat on its face as too many disparate elements try to connect but never really manage it.

The witchblade itself barely plays a role in most of the story, only popping up for the big battle at the end with a surprise legendary villain. She ends up using the weapon in one of the worst thought out ideas I think I have ever seen: to (somehow) fly. I know the witchblade is impressive in its power, but that definitely isn’t anything I have ever seen it due outside this book. And let’s all be honest with yourselves, if the magical artifact grafted to your arm could make you fly, you would almost certainly use it more often.

Talons isn’t a bad book, and considering I got it and A Terrible Beauty in one collection for three and a half bucks, it was a pretty good deal. But I think ibooks, who in their day made some far better licensed super-powered fiction in their time, could have made a far better first effort than this one.

Here’s hoping Wild Cards veteran John J. Miller can give us a little more to work with for the next book.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hectic Week

My apologies for any of my regular readers. Last week proved hellish with Hannah beginning the third grade, a terrible bout of allergies, and my wife sick from her pregnancy. My little free time went to reading and playing Fate in anticipation of the sequel I just got for it. My wife has already ran through the game, and it looks like another fun Diablo-Lite.

Or if I wasn’t doing that, I was wasting far too much time reading Michael Reaves’ Star Wars Coruscant Nights I Jedi Twilight. While I have enjoyed both his novels and the Star Wars novel franchise in general, in the last year I have just found most of these novels to range from weak to down right terrible. I am not sure if I will continue to even look for more Star Wars in the future. And that just kind of makes me sad.

I have a few reviews planned for this week, the first of which you should be able to check out in an hour or two. In the mean time, you can do what I do every Sunday and review the joy which is... CATURDAY!!!.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Collected Edition Review: Noble Causes Archives volume 1

I just finished reading through the collected edition of Jay Faerber’s Noble Causes and I got to say I am even more impressed than I thought I would be. This book collected the initial one-shot, the first three mini-series, and the first twelve issues of the regular series. That is twenty-five issues for those counting at home. And that many issues for twenty bucks is nothing to scoff at, even if it is in black and white.

The story, for those who have never followed the book, is about the Noble family, a mix of the Fantastic Four and one of any multi-generational soup operas you can find on daytime TV. The family consists of father Doc (a gadgeteer) and his wife Gaia(a sorceress), their children Rusty (super-strong and now encased in a metal body), Race (a speedster), and Zephyr (who controls wind). In addition we have Rusty’s wife Celeste, Race’s best friend Krennick, Gaia’s illegitimate son Frost, and Race’s new wife Liz Donnelly. Liz is a normal everyday human and it is she we follow through much of the early part of the trade.

The story opens with a murder and things just get more convoluted from there. Mr. Faerber does an excellent job of building suspense from miniseries to miniseries, which servers to basically create a thirteen issue epic. Things restart (but not reboot) for the regular series, of which the first twelve issues also form an ongoing saga.

I have been following the monthly issues of Noble Causes since the mid-twenties and have thoroughly enjoyed the series. It truly is a great read, but alas, it does not have as many readers as it needed to survive and will be ending with issue forty in October. This is good news for archives fans though, as the eventual release of Archives volume two will contain the remaining twenty-eight issues of the series.

All in all, Noble Causes Archives comes highly recommended. Go out and get your copy today!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Coolest Thing Ever!

So the fine folks over at my new favorite geek-related site Topless Robot have posted their list of The Ten Most Awesomely Insane Nerd Crafts. The entire list is pretty cool and well worth checking out for the video game freaks of the world. But number two is by far the coolest of the cool.

A fellow blogspot user by the name of Kyle Downes has produced a coffee table that is also a functional NES controller. He spent about a month on the thing, and the results are thoroughly awesome. I mean how much easier would all those terrible track & field games for the NES be now that you have a giant B and A button to hit over and over again. And code entry could go from somewhat hard to more challenging than Street Fighter 2010 and Batman combined! More pictures on the link above, but here is a video of it in action.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Not Quite Super-Powered Fiction: Zero Cool

Just finished Zero Cool, one of the many truly awesome novels by the fine folks over at Hard Case Crime. Originally written in the sixties by an excellent writer (who I never heard of before this) by the name of John Lange, it has been updated with a modern day prologue and epilogue in the new edition.

Lange tells the story of Peter Ross (Didn’t he used to hang out with Superman?), a young doctor who travels to Europe for a conference and decides to take an extended vacation on a Spanish beach. He meets a beautiful woman named Angela Locke on the beach, but it is when a strange gangster comes to him to perform an autopsy that Peter finds his life thrown for a loop. He is soon embroiled in a conspiracy involving multiple enemies and motives which has multiple bodies falling in its wake.

I don’t want to give everything away now, but Peter finds himself in the midst of a conspiracy straight out of a comic story. With preposterous Bond-style villains and shocking turn after shocking turn, Zero Cool proves to be an exciting ride all the way through. For seven bucks this one is hard to top, and another great Hard Case Crime cover, this one by Gregory Manchess thoroughly seals the deal.

Go out and pick this one up today.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Epsilon gets a New Look! Plus links!

Well my new look initiative continues with the newest chapter of Epsilon making the switch over to the new page format. I will slowly be working my way through the archives to change everything over, although expect it to take several more weeks to complete.

I found two headlines, both from Asia, that scream for mentions on a super-powered blog. I just see story elements in both of these somewhere.

Mugger Arrested Despite Cunning Disguise

Giant 3,300 Lbs Stingray Caught by Local Fisherman

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Metahuman Press Update

Two more pages have been revised with the new look: first, I have reedited and reformatted the Submission page to make it more up to date.

Then, I have completely revised our Links page to make it more friendly for everyone to use. On it, one can also find some banners I made for MHP as well.

I am working my way through a couple trades and a fairly new piece of super-powered prose right now, so stay tuned for more reviews shortly.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Super-Powered Prose: Helltown by Dennis O’Neil

I picked this one up a few months ago on the cheap at my local Half Price Books. Being a fan of Richard Dragon and, to a lesser degree, the Question I decided to pick it up. Even with the mixed bag of Dennis O’Neil’s recent career, I figured he couldn’t go wrong with a story that mixed them with Lady Shiva and Batman for an all out rumble.

What I got was a retelling of the Question’s origin. The problem I have with this is the problem I have always had with Denny’s Question. I know when he wrote The Question and Question Quarterly in the late 80’s and early 90’s he was much loved and critically acclaimed. People loved his take on the character, though not enough to actually buy the book in numbers enough to keep it alive.

But I am not really a fan. Having since read Steve Ditko’s original Question stories from his later day issues of Blue Beetle I can easily see why so many original Question fans were so mad. Ditko’s Question was a hard-line Randian, obsessed with the destruction of evil for good’s sake. I don’t pretend to know all the philosophy of it; I probably do not want to. But he worked as an enigmatic vigilante with a decidedly crazed, right-wing bent. Which Denny turned in to a liberal propaganda piece. Now I can’t blame Denny for espousing his own views by any means, but it does a disservice to the traditions of the character just to throw them away like that. It is wrong for the character and the general reading public.

While Helltown does not succumb to the hard political and sociological viewpoints of its forebear, it still makes Vic Sage in to a far more wishy-washy character than he should be. The Question’s only power should be his ability to tell right from wrong; to know inherently that someone must be punished for their transactions. This Question shows very little of that vibe. To make matters worse, the story spends little time at all away from Question. Batman, Richard Dragon, and Shiva seem to be here only to help drive up the value of the story itself for casual fans. They play a part only as plot points to continue the Question’s narrative onwards.

The story itself is fairly typical crime fair: kidnapped children, a crime ring pumped to take over the city, and a poor abused woman caught in it all that only our hero can save. It’s by no means bad, just not right for the Question.

Personally I think the Question has been reinvented numerous times, always with his original tradition as a sort of weird know-it-all stuck in place. Rick Veitch’s Question limited, Justice League Unlimited’s version of the character, or even Alan Moore’s Rorshach in Watchmen are all far superior looks at a great Silver Age character. Denny’s version... not so much for me.

Anyway, decent piece of superhero prose crime fiction. I give it a thumbs in the middle, but if you are a fan of Denny’s question you should rush out and buy this immediately!