Thursday, February 26, 2009

Super-Powered Comics: X-Men Noir #2

The three surviving X-Men, clearly Iceman, Henry McCoy, and Scott Summers, let Angel live. We learn what is made suspect in the first issue: that Chief of Detectives Eric Magnus is the true killer of Jean Grey.

Angel reveals the true mastermind behind Magnus and the rest of the city, a crime boss named Sebastian Shaw. Shaw sends his Chief of Detectives after the city’s Italian crime boss, one Unus the Untouchable even as Peter Magnus realizes his father is a criminal.

Angel tracks down Anne Marie Rankin (Rogue, for the uninformed), a former member of the X Men who reveals there is more to Jean Grey. She had a second beau in the bad part of town. A certain person who carried around a three prong icepick...

All in all, the story is coming together nicely, but I am becoming more and more unsure of why this book exists. I thought the Noir line would combine super-heroes with Noir settings. Instead it seems we’re getting a noir story featuring character names and likenesses taken from Marvel heroes. It seems like a tenuous connection for me at best. Mildly Recommended.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Epsilon 24 Notes

The penultimate chapter of the Nephthys storyline gives us even more large scale battle action!

We start with a small exchange between Rubicon and Wave that I thought would be important. The original Rubicon and Wave have quite a history (which we will get in to with our next story arc) and I thought the new Wave needed a hint of that relationship.

Bagheera once again finds himself away from the core team! How many times does this guy leave anyway? In his defense, at least this time he got teleported there as an attack, rather than leaving by choice.

Set and Athena learn a little bit more about all these characters with god names running around this storyline. I am only touching the edge of the Avatar concept in Epsilon. I have bigger plans for it in the future!

And we close again with Rubicon and Wave. Things sure look grim don’t they?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Super-Powered Comics: X-Men Noir #1

I reviewed Spider-Man Noir a few weeks back, and I finally got a hold of a copy of X-Men Noir #1 to follow it up. Fred Van Lente, while often a strong writer, has the ambiance of the period down right, but he doesn’t quite have the strength of voice that the Spider-book’s David Hine possessed. Nonetheless we get an interesting saga that revolves around the murder of Jean Grey, washed up on the docks from a watery grave.

We get to see the body through the eyes of new cop Peter Magnus, son of a very Magneto-looking police chief. Before issue’s end he finds himself inducted in to the police Brotherhood as we build towards the lines of the mainstream Marvel Universe.

The book’s true star though is the Angel. In an interesting twist, this isn’t Warren Worthington at all, but Thomas Halloway, the golden age Angel from forties Timely comics. Tom wants to know why Jean is dead, and the only lead he has is an X tattoo... the mark of the gang known as the X Men.

A visit to their former headmaster, Charles Xavier, sends him on the right track. But when he finds them at issue’s end... his welcome is less than friendly.

The book closes with a scienti-fiction story by Bolivar Trask, a story of futuristic beings known as Sentinels and the mutants they hunt.

X-cameos abound with night club owner Remy LeBeau and his bodyguard Lucas Bishop, Sean Cassidy, Officer Fred Dukes, and a certain red-headed daughter of the chief of police. Nice to see lip service to the extended mutant characters, but we will have to see how far they go with some of thse characters.

My problem with this story (other than another annoying $3.99 price tag) is that the mystery seems to be the mainstream Marvel X-Men’s origin. I will have to wait and see, and hope Van Lente and Dennis Calero have somewhere else to take this book.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Super-Powered TV: Dollhouse 1.2: The Target

So yeah, still not caught up on Heroes quite yet. Apparently my family members like to spend time with me. Crazy, right? Anyway, hope to get the now two episodes I am behind up soon. In the mean time, here’s Dollhouse episode 2 which I am able to conveniently watch without going online.

In a flashback, we learn who Alpha is. He’s a composite, apparently a doll whose memories have recombined. And he is someone out there ... perhaps sending messages to a certain FBI agent?

Echo is purchase, apparently as a perfect personal companion for Richard O’Connell, a very rich man on his vacation.

Ballard pays a visit to the site of the kidnapping from last week. He gets in to a fight with a less than friendly fellow agent. But Ballard does manage to find Echo’s glasses...

Echo kills a deer (without any pretentious “killing animals is bad” message!) and we immediately fall in to bed with her new friend. Then things get weird... Richard sends Echo out of the camp, and prepares to hunt her down!

We return to a flashback to Boyd Langdon’s arrival at the Dollhouse. Langdon meets the injured Dr. Saunders and checks out the corpse of his predecessor (both events that happened during Alpha’s escape).

Ballard receives the package from the end of last week with the picture of Echo... marked Caroline (her previous name). Not mailed in anyway, whoever left it had to have broke in to the FBI facility to do so.

As the hunt for Echo continues, Boyd and his fellow agent attract the attention of a local police officer. He checks out their credentials before pulling out a silenced weapon and killing the other agent. Boyd fights in attempt to free himself inside the van, but his attacker is at least a match for him. They destroy the inside of the vehicle in their struggle before Boyd gets him in a headlock. Boyd chokes the man out.

Echo runs for what appears to be a ranger station but finds no one around. She does hear the sound of a radio somewhere. Instead of finding the radio she finds the corpse of the park ranger killed by Boyd’s close new friend. She steals the radio and calls for help. The only answer comes from Richard.

We flashback yet again to view the handler imprint that makes Echo automatically trustworthy of Boyd.

Richard drugs Echo who in turn has visions of her pre-Echo life. She falls in to the water though and washes away. Meanwhile, Boyd takes a violent interrogation technique on his would-be killer.

Echo wakes up in the midst of the killings by Alpha, only to actually wake-up beside the river. Boyd finds her, but gets struck by an arrow from Richard. He helps Echo through a freak out over her hallucinations.

Best line of the show, when handed a gun, Echo gives us: “Four brothers, none of them Democrats.”

Echo starts to play mind games with Richard in return, grazing him with a bullet. Echo runs again and stops head long in her own face. She turns to find herself face to face with Richard the hunter. After a little bit of pointless CGI, Echo and Richard duke it out. Again Echo sees visions of her past lives as Richard chokes her. The visions lead her eyes to an arrow on the ground which she stabs in to Richard’s throat.

We learn in the aftermath that Richard’s entire identity and background was a lie. Langdon’s attacker turns up dead, and his wounds match those of the attacks by Alpha. And we end with Echo striking her own shoulder, the same sign for “Shoulder to the wheel” taught to her by Richard....

So, yeah, episode two and we have already entered hard in to the meta-plot of the series. Whoever Alpha is, he seems to be a mean bastard, and he seems to want to play games with everyone involved in our little storyline. That coupled with the fact that we seem to be on the way to Echo “compositing” much as he did leads me to believe that this show will only get bloodier...

and hopefully continue to be as good as what we’ve seen so far.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Super-Powered Web: Josh & Imp

Josh & Imp is a webcomic by Jon Bernhardt & Diana Nock that takes a simple concept and creates something almost magical about it.

The plot is very simple and easily understandable within the first few panels. Josh is your average Joe teenager. Imp is the teenage sidekick of the brooding, dark vigilante known as Guardian Devil. And they are dating.

From the attempt to use a grappling hook to a hang glider flight to the simple viewing of a play from the distance, Josh and Imp discuss a little bit of everything, just like on a real date. We get a flashback on to how they met, where they want to go, and a little bit of bright hope for the future. All this and a few good supery flashbacks.

Guardian Devil and Imp carry the obvious Batman and Robin paradigm, but it is used to the advantage of the story. It allows us to know Imp even though we don’t really, and it works perfectly to help us understand the vagaries of the newly forming relationship.

Josh & Imp is complete on Diana Nock’s website Jinxville alongside several other long and short works. But even in its short length, Josh & Imp remains one of the most clever superhero stories on the web today. Bravo to all involved!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Super Powered TV: Heroes 3-15: Trust and Blood

The entire episode seems to be in flashback form, as Nathan talks on the phone to a mystery party.

Mohinder, Parkman, and Hiro form one contingent of escapees. Meanwhile, Peter & Claire run head long in to Noah, gun drawn. Peter is allowed to run, Claire stays with her father, and the US military destroys the wreckage utterly to cover up the crash.

Parkman follows a vision of the African to an abandoned trailer. He retrieves the materials he needs to draw the future again. Mohinder tries to convince Hiro to leave in the mean time, but Hiro refuses.

Daphne finds Ando in Japan, and the two of them realize that they need to find their lost friends. They arrive quickly at the crash and start to worry. Daphne speeds in to camp and steals an already angry (at both her fathers) Claire from their midst.

Daphne is shot down by the enemy, and so is Claire... but Parkman takes control of a shooter and lays waste to the other gunmen before Danko, head of the attackers, shoots down his own man. Parkman is pulled away by Hiro, Ando, and Mohinder.

Mary and Luke Campbell receive an unfortunate visit from Sylar just a few doors down from the taxidermist. Sylar threatens to torture them in front of the injured agent he has captured. Sylar tortures Mary and Luke uses his heat powers (surprise, surprise) in an attempt to rescue her. Luke then uses his powers in front of his mother and kills the soldier. His mother is horrified, but Sylar leaves without killing anyone. Luke tries to follow Sylar, and Sylar takes him along when Luke admits that he knows the father's whereabouts. Sylar takes him in his mother’s car with a shade of Magneto and Pyro following in their midst.

Peter meets with Tracy in the woods. They waylay two different soldiers to steal their clothes. We learn the nature of Peter’s new ability: he can only hold one power at a time. Much more convenient for storytelling purposes. Tracy steals a phone and immediately sets out to try to be a deal maker: she offers to trade Peter to Nathan in charge for her freedom. Tracy’s double play plan goes back towards Nathan, but Peter gets in the way. Soldiers target both Peter and Tracy, but Peter steals Nathan’s power and flies away, while Tracy is dragged off by government goons.

Peter joins the other four and they begin to lay a plan: a plan of attack. Peter places himself as a leader: a leader in a war none of them (except Parkman) want to fight.

Back home, Claire receives a text message from someone named Rebel. Who Rebel is... we don’t know although Hana Gitelman could be a good guess.

We learn the phone call is to Angela Petrelli. Angela washes her hands of the situation and leaves Nathan in the able hands of his own government even as Nathan sacrifices Tracy to internment in the name of the “greater good”.

All in all, a very good episode. Even though I clearly see the X-Men vs the Brotherhood vs the government parallels in this storyline, for the first time it feels like Heroes isn’t just trying to be X-Men. The characters all act true to established form, even as Nathan pushes himself farther and farther in to the dark side.

One more episode to go to catch up. Stay tuned for that one soon.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Living Legends 13 Notes

I labeled this chapter “World’s Finest” in my original draft. The Atoman/Black Owl team has certain parallels to the more famous team from the comics publisher, although I think they have both went in far different directions than the original World’s Finest. With the revelation of Zhu«é zi, the Claw, as one of the series’ main antagonists, the first of the triumvirate of evil I have planned for the Legends stands revealed.

American Crusader is the first character I have used to be featured in the series to also have made an appearance in Terra Obscura by Alan Moore, Steve Moore, and Yanick Paquette. I came up with the concept behind Living Legends well before that work, but changed a couple cast members after my original reading of the first volume. But a few of the characters have origins just far too good to overlook... so you will see them pop up in these pages. (Besides, if I tried to avoid using any character not appearing in comic revivals, The Next Issue Project and Project: Superpowers would make that nearly impossible.)

As for Amazing Man, he will actually will play a part in Timeline in the near future as well. Keep your eye out for that sometime this year.

It took me awhile to come up with Isabella’s name sadly enough. I wracked my brain trying to come up with a good variation on Fear or Fearless with little or no luck. Most of the names either didn’t seem to work for the character or were already taken by another character somewhere else. Luckily, my Legion of Super-Heroes fandom kicked in, and I came up with the wondefully alliterative Fear Lass. We will see a lot more of her in upcoming months.

Keep your eyes on Robert/Lash. Just like Dominique, there is far more to him than meets the eye...

American Crusader image courtesy of International Superheros website. A really great site... check it out!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Super-Powered TV: Dollhouse 1.1: Ghost

I will get to each show in turn, but I promised I would get Dollhouse watched for a fellow Joss fan by tonight, so its review comes first. Expect some looks at the two missing episodes of Heroes later this week. On with the show...

So Joss Whedon returns to television with Dollhouse which reunites him with Eliza (Faith) Dushku. The show is a bit high concept: a private organization erases the memories of dozens of individuals and turns them in to programmable agents able to be assigned to missions from the highest bidder. Dushku plays Echo, one of these agents of the Dollhouse.

We open with an interview from before her time as a doll (for lack of a better term). She has done something not right, although what it is remains vague, and she is in trouble. The Dollhouse offers her a way out. We flash to the present, where Echo meets a boy, has a wild weekend, and is promptly made to forget it by her handlers. She returns to the Dollhouse as little more than a slightly confused, docile automaton while the Dollhouse awaits her next assignment.

Meanwhile an FBI agent named Paul Ballard (Tahmoh Penikett) has a meeting with his less than happy superiors about the lines he has crossed in search of the elusive Dollhouse. But he knows as well as his superiors that his case won’t be closed... someone higher up wants it solved. He goes after a human trafficker named Victor and sets him up as a potential contact in his hunt for the Dollhouse.

After a brief encounter with a new doll named Sierra (Dichen Lachman), Echo gets her new imprint, that of kidnapping expert Eleanor Penn. Her mission is to help secure the release of a kidnapped girl. But the mission goes bad at the meet, when one of Eleanor’s programmed memories recognizes the face of the man who kidnapped and abused her. Her handler, former cop Boyd Langdon (Harry Lennix), helps her plot the kidnappers means of escape. He also convinces the head of the dollhouse, Adelle DeWitt (Olivia Williams) to refrain from wiping Eleanor’s personality too quickly.

Eleanor tracks down the lost child, convinces the two non-child molesters to let the girl go, and moves to escape with her. The newly minted Sierra arrives to lay waste to all the kidnappers and recover the money.

The show ends with two ominous looks at the future: a folder named Project Alpha handed by DeWitt to her aide Laurence Dominic (Reed Diamond) and a mysterious killer with knowledge about Echo’s past and information for Agent Ballard.

All in all an interesting idea with a weird mix of comic-style super agents and Matrix-like mind programming. I detect a similarity in spirit to Jay Faerber’s comic Gemini and the far more lackluster My Own Worst Enemy but Joss has made sure to design Dollhouse as its own beast. We will have to see if the conspiracy mixed with the hints of something wrong in Echo’s programming (shown tonight as a flash to the view of Sierra’s programming while talking to her client as Eleanor Penn) and the various players can come together to form something memorable or just lackluster. And hope that if the series does carry the same quality as previous Joss shows, that it doesn’t fall in to the same fate as the similary time-slotted Firefly.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Complete Clone Saga Part 2: Back From the Edge

Yes, I know I owe everyone a review of both last week’s Heroes as well as the current one, but I am behind on my television. Expect reviews of both and the first episode of Dollhouse in the near future. In the mean time, enjoy a look back at a not-so-fondly remembered piece of comics history.

Back From the Edge takes the classic Spidey back in to the lead as he must deal with Nocturne and Puma. With May in the hospital, Peter is dealing with the grief and rage that her sickness causes. This puts him in to a rather annoying Wolverine-style bouts of berserker rage. It sets up the fight between the bestial Puma and the enraged Spidey which goes pretty much nowhere. Thankfully this only takes up the first half of the storyline...

And then we get in to a fight with Daredevil. He questions Daredevil about the “death” of Matt Murdock (part of the Fall From Grace storyline that I will get around to reviewing sooner or later). He wants to end his own secret identity behind, leave his family and friends, and fall in to his current rage. But a battle with Vulture and the Owl leaves him poisoned and quite possibly on the way to death... but that of course doesn’t happen. Daredevil and Spidey team up to go after Vulture and the Owl, get the antidote, and cure Peter. In the process, he realizes his rage is a mistake and heads home to find Mary Jane.

Pretty run of the mill Spider-stuff, with nothing clone-oriented going on... but wait until next time as The Exile Returns...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Shared Disappointment

Sorry about the lack of posts for the last week and a half! It’s been new baby time in the Ahlhelm household, and much time has been spent welcoming Vanessa Renae in to our living space! But I’m back with some more lovely postings starting today!

While I don’t always agree with our new President (give me a break on the stimulus package), I do have to agree with him on this news from The Onion:

WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama expressed frustration Wednesday after members of his cabinet failed to recognize his allusion to the 24th issue of the comic series Savage Sword Of Conan during their first major meeting together.

Obama, whose upcoming challenges include organizing a massive effort to rebuild the nation's infrastructure, was reportedly unprepared for the confused silence he received upon suggesting that his cabinet "team up with Taurus of Nemedia" to secure the necessary funding from Congress.

"If my inner circle of advisers can't even communicate about the most basic issues, how are we going to tackle the massive problems our nation faces?" Obama said during a press conference. "When I tell my cabinet that getting bipartisan support is exactly like the time Conan got Taurus to help him steal Yara's jewel, they need to understand what I mean."

Read the rest of the article here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Heroes Season 3 Episode 14: A Clear and Present Danger

Heroes returns with “Fugitives” which begins with a bland, rather generic start. As Jessica watches an incredibly pointless TV interview about Nathan Petrelli and his poistion with Homeland Security, she is attacked and captured by a pair of G.I.’s who then call Nathan and tell them they have the “first”. Three minutes in and everything I feared from the commercials seem to be coming true.

Claire refuses to acknowledge Sylar’s death (at least, she’s regenerating a brain) and vows to hunt him down despite Angela’s protests. Claire learns that her mother and Nathan aren’t after Sylar... they want to round up heroes! Oh Noes!!! She learns that Parkman appears to be the first target.

Peter has problems at his new job as a paramedic when he realizes he can’t save everyone. This sadly makes him quite angry. Wow, Pete... time to get in touch with reality. You did a piss poor job saving anyone when you did have all your powers. Remember that girlfriend you erased from existence? Anyway Claire calls Peter. Peter goes to meet Angela and is picked up in a cab and has a brief chat with Mohinder (the driver). Mohinder’s next passenger draws a gun and tells him to drive. The gunman takes him to an ambush, but Mohinder uses his spider-powers to escape. Noah shows up to save Mohinder, starts to question him, but when they are cornered, Noah tases Mohinder and turns him over to the gunman.

Peter meanwhile meets with his brother. Nathan asks him to stay out of the way, Peter refuses, and Noah takes down Peter.

Hiro tries to make Ando in to a superhero, but Ando uses his new Ando-cycle to pick up chicks instead. He is on his headset talking to Hiro when Hiro is attacked (in Japan! Way to go American soldiers!) and captured. Ando uses the tracking chip that Hiro also has implanted to track him back to America.

The deceased African painter appears in Parkman’s apartment and names Parkman the next prophet. Parkman commences to use his new ability. Claire arrives at Parkman's house to warn him... only to both be downed by the government goons.

Sylar, alive and well of course, is in Baltimore, where he has finally hunted down his father. Only this guy isn’t actually his father. His unknown uncle is actually his father. (This is getting a little too soapy for me...) He arrives at the home of taxidermist Samson Gray, possibly his real father (unless his real father is actually his cousin’s father’s masseuse’s uncle’s roommate from college), but Samson isn’t there. He has walked in to another ambush, but despite four taser strikes, Sylar destroys his attackers quite easily. Bullets people, use bullets on Sylar!

Dad tries to free Claire at the shipping facility for the detainees, but she escapes the car, stows away on the departing plane, and frees Peter. Peter steals Mohinder’s powers (which he apparently has to do by touch now), and fights the soldiers. Claire frees the others from the juice that keeps them docile, then heads to the cockpit to take control. She finds her father as co-pilot. Not much comes of this, as Peter accidentally steals Jessica&8217;s power and uses it on the side of the plane. Depressurization occurs with an impending crash landing, and Peter only survives being thrown from the plane by a helping hand from Suresh. (No, I don’t know why he needs a helping hand. He can fly, he should have Claire’s healing abilities now... nothing about flying from a crashing airplane should do him much damage.)

The show ends with Mohinder holding Peter as the plane careens towards the earth.

Despite the dull opening and terrible ad campaign, I was actually impressed by the new direction. If the writers can avoid cliches (and hopefully with Jeph Loeb’s input limited, they can), Heroes actually has the potential to be good again. Hopefully, the fugitive angle we are heading towards doesn’t throw it all under the bus.

We can only wait to next week to find out...

Monday, February 2, 2009

Evolution Comics is Live!

The first comic serial from Evolution Comics is now available! Click the above link to go straight to the story!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Clone Saga I: Power & Responsibility

Although it’s been covered in more detail elsewhere, The Clone Saga is one of those storylines in comics history that is renowned for showing everything wrong with the era of comics from which it originated. But the mid-90’s are where I came in to comics, and I for one had a fond memory for some of the stories told back in those days. So, for better or worse, I have taken it upon myself to look back at the Clone Saga, one story arc at a time, and remember it for its good and bad. Expect this looks to pop up sporadically on the blog, as I check back in with all the back issues of the story.

The saga opened with “Power & Responsibility”, a our part crossover between all the Spider-books at the time. Aunt May is in the hospital again, Peter is on edge, Mary Jane is getting sick an awful lot, and Ravencroft Sanitarium is under attack by Judas Traveller and his minions. I remember being drawn in to the story of the Clone Saga less because of the clone than to Mr. Traveller himself. Judas seemed like a truly unique character in the Spider-Man stories; a character who carried the potential to be Spidey’s personal Dr. Doom. He was knowledgeable, cunning, manipulative, and absorbed with his own mysterious goals. What a great character that Marvel would eventually throw under the bus as the Clone Saga continued.

Behind its shiny foil covers “Power & Responsibility” really gave us little more than a standard superhero fight of the time period, albeit with the new twist of a second Spidey running around. But it was clear that the clone wasn’t just going to walk away again... and he would have a whole lot more story in the next couple years.

The back-ups by J.M. DeMatteis and Lima Sharp give us a bit of insight in to the mind of the clone (or is he the clone at all...) as we look at the events of Amazing Spider-Man 149 from his perspective. This serves as the real set-up for a lot of the upcoming storylines of the next six to eight months.

All in all, nothing to cry about so far. Good superhero fare with a whole heck of a lot of potential to open Spider-Man to go in interesting new directions. Too bad it would all just fall apart....