Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Farewell to 2011... and Blogspot.

As we close out 2010, Take the Helm fades to black. Yes, I am closing down this blog (though it will remain as an archive). Don’t worry though, because...

the Super-Powered Fiction Files are far from over! All the articles you know and love will continue along with new content on our new full-fledged website:!

So please follow us over to the new, fully functional site, and thanks for following Take the Helm for all these years!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Super-Powered Prose: Virals by Kathy Reichs

Super-powered fiction in prose form has come along way from Weird Heroes and Wild Cards first made the idea work in the seventies and eighties. Many writers have tried their hands at characters with super powers since, but it took even me by surprise when one of those names was Kathy Reichs.

If you do not recognize the name, you’ve probably not read too many forensic mysteries. Ms. Reichs has a successful series of books focused around the character of Temperance Brennan. Tempe sometimes goes by the nickname of Bones, or in the case of the successful television show based on the series, always goes by the name Bones. I have never really been a fan of the series in either form, but when I heard the concept for her new young adult book I knew I needed to give it a read.

Virals is the story of Brennan’s grand niece (she’s older in the books by a bit) Tory, a young girl living on a small island off the coast of Reichs’s home city of Charlotte. Tory only recently moved to the city following her mother’s death, but quickly finds herself embroiled in a mystery.

The story takes two interconnected paths as she finds a dog tag on the island where her father works for a scientific facility. It is while she investigates the tags that she discovers and rescues a captured dog in a remote lab of the facility. That rescue will alter Tory and her three friends Hi, Shelton, and Ben forever.

The dog has been infected with a lab-created parvovirus, designed to infect not just dogs but humans as well. The virus has unintended consquences for the four teenagers, as they all suddenly end up with powers closely linked to the animal they rescued.

While they all suffer through the transformation their new power brings to them, the dog tags lead them in to a murder mystery with huge ramifications for them and their city. In the end, only their powers will allow them the freedom and skill needed to uncover the secrets of the crime.

Ms. Reichs uses her background in forensic science to help shape the continuing story, but unlike the Bones novels never lets it overwhelm the tale. While I could nitpick about a few sudden (if minor) leaps in logic or the skills of the four teenagers being just a bit much to believe, none of that really matters in the end. Ms. Reichs crafts a quick, easy to read story that just flashes by page after page. The tale flows extremely well and makes the entire book hard to put down. I actually read the last two hundred pages in one sitting, an odd occurence for someone so used to reading different things at once. But Tory and friends’ tale is just compelling enough to keep you turning that page.

This book seems clearly set to be the beginning of a series (and maybe a set up for another TV pilot as I could definitely see it easily turned in to a overly-pretty-cast mix of Gossip Girl and Veronica Mars. Still on its own, Virals is an enjoyable read and that’s why it is Recommended.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pulp Empire closes out 2010 with a special Christmas story!

Over at Pulp Empire, Libby Cudmore has written a wonderful little Christmas noir short called “Merry Christmas, Mr. Taylor” just in time for the holidays! PE will be taking next week off so this is your last chance to get some holiday pulp cheer in before the end of the year!

And remember that all three Pulp Empire books are still available at our Lulu Store. Ms. Cudmore's tale is featured in our most recent edition. If you're interested in doing some Christmas shopping a little late or just want a good deal on great books, also remember that Lulu is running all kinds of great holiday sales with their Daily Deals. So feel free to pick up a copy, won't you?

Thor's Day 10: The Wild Hunt

Mighty Thor 346 opens with Roger, the old man (the son of Malekith’s victim last issue) as he contemplates his given task. He’s attacked by Malekith’s servants but escapes.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New at Metahuman Press!

This may be the most story heavy week in Metahuman Press history, and it’s just in time for Christmas.

David Kachel’s five part weekly story reaches its penultimate chapter with “Saints and Sinners”!

The bi-weekly tale of our other David, a.k.a. Mister Perlmutter, continues as well with its fifth chapter.

Finally, Mark Oldfield’s Invasion continues with “Rescuer”.

As always, the previous chapters are available for new readers! So give yourself a (free) Christmas present and go read some superhero stories!

Wrestling Wednesday: WWE Year End Review

These guys were kinda important.
I may have missed last week’s installment, but I am back with this week’s, as I take a look at the year in WWE, how it played out, and what it means going in to 2011.

Head over to the Examiner and give it a read.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tyler Marsh's tale continues in a new installment of Arc!

Tyler Marsh's prose adventure continues this week over at Arc! Be sure to come check it and the previous forty-five pages of web comics from little ol' me and the amazing Jay Rainford-Nash!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Buy This Right Now #2: Lady Mechanika #1 and Black Panther: Man Without Fear #513

So I have posted my latest columns on the joys of recent comicdom over on the Examiner, but forgot to link one of them to this blog last week! So everyone gets two for the price of one this week as I bring you two links to two great comics!

Yes, she is a steampunk bad girl!
First is Joe Benitez’s excellent first issue to Lady Mechanika! Gorgeous art and a great story make this a great debut from the folks at Aspen. Check out the full review (with art) here.

Black Panther never looks happy.
Next-up is Black Panther: Man Without Fear by David Liss and Francesco Francavilla. I am a long time fan of Francavilla’s art (though not of his name that’s almost as hard to spell as mine!), and Liss comes off well on his second comic scripting assignment. While I am not a huge fan of the regular Simone Bianchi cover (the one above is Francavilla’s variant), the insides of this issue are everything a superhero fan can want from a comic. Check out the full review (with a four page preview) here.

A slight apology

Sorry about the sudden disappearance, blogospherions. It seems that when you’re on the slow progression of carpal tunnel you should be careful about how you chip ice off your windshield. My right wrist has been less than game for most of this week. The pain is finally starting to fade now and with a wrist brace on I can type with most of my regular skill (if not quite my regular speed).

And now you know why I really think I need to get a headstart on my upcoming columns! Hopefully, Wrestling Wednesdays and Thor’s Day will be back on track next week.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The trailer for Thor has hit the web

Hey, look what came to the web just yesterday! It’s none other than the trailer for Marvel’s next big film: Thor.

Chris Hemsworth plays Thor

First things first: go check out the trailer at the Examiner.

Now... that looks pretty cool, right? Thor, Loki, Odin, Sif, Heimdall, and the Warriors Three... not to mention the Destroyer! It looks like Marvel plans to continue what they started with Iron Man and create an interesting movie universe while still trying hard to play fan service to their fans.

The movies not out until May 6th, but I am already excited. What did everyone out in blog-land think?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thor's Day 9: That Was No Lady!

Thor vs the world's creepiest mime!
We open Mighty Thor 345 in the office of Doctor Willis. The good doctor ties up his assistant Sheila Ordway and forces a burger down her throat. When the police arrive, Sheila’s vanished and Willis is the prime suspect.

Another woman approached him at the police station and it becomes quickly apparent that neither Doctor Willis or the two women are what they appear to be. And in the world of Thor, that means they could be anyone or anything.

Meanwhile, Thor continues to play second fiddle in his own title as Melodi/Lorelei continues to seduce him in to her plans.

Willis’s disappearance leads to packages being sent out, one to a mystery man on Long Island. We learn the older man is named Roger but still somehow Willis’s son.

A phone call to Jarvis brings Sigurd Jarlsen’s level of concern up as he learns that something has happened to the Casket of Ancient Winters. He runs out on Melodi again before she can give him her enchanted mead. (Where’s Michael Scott, when you need someone to say, “That’s what she said.”)

The people after him nearly corner him, but a raven-haired beauty named Angel drives up to his rescue at the last moment. She seduces and enchants him. Willis passes out, but first...

We didn’t forget this guy!

Seriously, Dr. Doom should sue.
Anyway, Angle gets out of the car and transforms in to his true form that of Malekith the Accursed! He leaves Willis dead and goes in search of the Casket of Ancient Winters, but as mentioned many times in this issue another threat looms.

A threat known as ...

The problem with an issue like this and a run like Simonson’s on Thor 20+ years ago, is you can never be sure what you are supposed to know. Had Willis and the Casket appeared in previous issues? It is never mentioned in the editorially star comments, but that isn’t necessarily a mark that it didn’t happen. Still, the mystery adds a bit to the tale, only we are left unaware of whether or not the mystery will be explained to us.

Wrestling Wed... Dang it! Thursdays: CHIKARA and the Rise of the Bruderschaft

In a follow-up to my Wrestling Wednesday column from September, I finally start my look at the Bruderschaft Des Kreuzes and their origins in CHIKARA. Over the next few weeks, I will review a few shows at my time as the Bruderschaft storyline builds up and take a look at how it will effect the promotion and wrestling as a whole.

For now though, take a look at their origin tale at the Examiner.

And comments are always welcome either here or at the Examiner page! Thanks!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Diamond Destinations: December for comics shipping in February 2011

I haven’t written a Diamond Destinations column since June, but as part of my new online status quo I will be regularly covering each and every issue of Previews, with more detail than I ever did in the past.

So much detail that it actually takes two articles to cover it all.

Right now you can head over to the Examiner to see them both.

Part one focuses on Marvel, DC, Image, IDW, and Dark Horse.

Part two focuses on the rest of the comics available in February.

So check out the articles, let me know what you think, and tell me if you would like to see me cover that last couple hundred pages of merchandise, toys, and whatnot.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Wrestling Wed... er... Saturdays: IWA Mid-South "A Taste of Hardcore Sweetness"

Well, with this blog just coming back on the first, I may have sort of forgot that I should have posted a Wrestling Wednesday column up on that fine day. But rest assured, I haven’t forgotten for you wrestling and comic fans that read this blog. I made sure to review some (surprisingly) quality independent wrestling from Chicago area based IWA Mid-South. (Yeah, I know Chicago isn’t the Mid-South. Talk to Ian Rotten about that.)

The card had one really big highlight and that was the rematch between then-ROH champion Tyler Black and Jonathan Gresham, in a real mat classic.

Anyway, you can check out the full review at the Examiner.

Space-sharing with the Examiner

Here’s the dealio, blogosphere fans. In order for this blogging thing to actually be meaningful for me, I need to be able to occasionally work towards making a few pennies off of it. Everyone that clicks on a google link on here or MHP or anyone of my sites helps, but in order to make a real go of it, I need to also be able to pull in a few cents for posting as well. Otherwise, Metahuman Press, Pulp Empire, Arc, and The Dead Walk Again may eventually disappear in to the netherverse of the internet.

With that in mind, I have recently signed up to try my hand at being an Examiner. For those unfamiliar with it, Examiner is basically an attempt to make a massive multi-national internet newspaper. It’s success is somewhat limited on the local level, but it is a sure-fire way to make a bit of money. So while you will see some regular columns and reviews continue here (such as Thor’s Day, some of my blog posts will just be short introductions that lead over to Examiner pages. Please, please, please follow those links and enjoy all the quality commentary you love at this site plus a little extra (like more wrestling content) over at the Examiner.

And thanks for reading!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Buy This Right Now #1: Thunderstrike #1

Welcome to a new (mostly) weekly column here at Take the Helm with a simple concept: to tell you something cool out there that is worth buying. We open with something this week from a company I rarely recommend in these pages, but will do so today. Yes, it’s Marvel and it’s awesome.

This scene does not happen in the comic.

Here’s the gist of the story: Eric Masterson a.k.a. Thunderstrike died many years ago at the end of his own title. But now the character is returning in the form of his son, now teenager Kevin Masterson. Kevin has been a troubled kid since his father’s death and, well, is more Flash Thompson than Peter Parker. In other words, he’s a bully.

Steve Rogers knows that the world still needs heroes (a play on a tagline from the old book, “the world needs heroes”) so he gives Kevin his father’s old mace, also named Thunderstrike. It has been unusable since Eric died, but when Kevin stumbles upon an attack by Rhino it invariably comes back to life and transforms him in to... Thunderstrike. The exact same (in appearance) Thunderstrike last seen over a decade ago.

And that’s awesome.

Thunderstrike was one of the most underrated titles in the entire history of comics. While many of the Marvel spin-off books of the early to mid-nineties were produced by bland talent (and I use that term loosely), Thunderstrike took the team that was on Thor and moved them to the spin-off. Together, DeFalco and Frenz grafted a very strong 24 issues of story that unfortunately remain uncollected to this day.

That same creative team, Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz, are back for the new book and they haven’t missed a step. Plus if you never read the last book, DeFalco and Todd Nauck even get together for a nifty 8 page back-up recapping the original Thunderstrike’s life.

So yeah, if you haven’t got your issue, go to your local comic shop and shell out the $3.99. Then prepare to enjoy superhero goodness.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thor's Day 8: Whatever Happened to Balder the Brave?

Mighty Thor 344 opens with a massive wolf, a creature of Odin, sent to the Nornkeep to find Balder. But for what purpose still remains unknown.

We return to Asgard and Odin. The king of the god reveals that his ravens’s quest in to the burning galaxy went poorly, though he fails to reveal how this relates to his recall of Balder from the land of the Norns.

Odin’s mission is simple: Balder must deliver a message to Loki, the god that only recently tried to kill him (in the issues proceeding Walt Simonson’s run). He agrees to the mission but only if he is allowed to continue his vow of pacifism.

Oh, and this guy is still at it:

(Can you imagine anybody doing this kind of thing nowadays for eight issues? Just a one page subplot over and over again with no link whatsoever to the current narrative?)

Anyway, Balder fights some trolls and invariably gets captured by Loki. There he meets an important figure in the coming issues of Mighty Thor, but let’s let Loki give the introductions (with a little commentary by Balder):

As Balder tries to reason with Loki, Thor plays comic relief back on Midgard as he makes his foreman think he might be a superhero of somekind:

Makes sense to me.

Balder battles it out with the troll minions of Loki, and in the process compromises himself, with consquences most dire for the Shining Realm.

Next time, Thor is back to center stage in “Dinner For Two or That Was No Lady!”

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

...and we're back!

Oh yes we are.

And we should be back to semi-regular updates starting tomorrow. I am still working on monetizing this site more to keep it functional as a whole, but for the time being I will be running it like it has been running. For the time being, if you’re reading this, please go down a bit and click on one of those Google links. Every button press makes us a few extra bucks. It’s those impressions that are currently paying to keep the Metahuman Press family of sites alive so they are kind of important.

Now for the news from around the MHP family.

Metahuman Press

The old warhorse has debuted two new stories in the last few weeks with David Perlmutter’s offbeat The Pups and ShoaKi Girl by Charlie Thrun. Today we debuted David Kachel’s follow-up to Legacy, entitled Diary of a Genius. And the best news is that it will be running weakly. Five chapters over the five weeks of December!

Pulp Empire

Pulp Empire continues to chug along nicely. New stories have went up every Thursday. Right now we are running a 15% off sale on the first two books at the Pulp Empire store, so be sure to go pick those up. The sale will continue for the next few days, so get them while they’re hot. And need I mention they make a great gift?


Arc will update throughout December with the continuation of Tyler Marsh’s prose adventures. Stay tuned as things start to get a little crazy next week.

The Dead Walk Again

We need submissions! If you like zombies, please, please, please! send us your zombie stories for our little online journal. I would like to have an inventory before it launches in a few months.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

National Novel Writing Month is underway!

I am nearly 12,000 words deep in this year's Nanowrimo entry with more words to come later today after a nap. I've quite enjoyed my work on my Nano novels over the past two years, though I still haven't quite finished either work. My first work, working title Neo-Tokyo, was an adventure story that basically took my ideas of what a manga-inspired superhero world would actually look like. I plan to revisit it in the near future, finish it up, and possibly release it as the first MHP original novel not featured on the site.

Last year I wrote American F.O.R.C.E., which recently spun out of the end of Long Hot Summer. That will run for the next year or so before branching out in to an even bigger story.

This year, I'm working on my other planned spin-off of Long Hot Summer, the continuing tales of Susan Benjamin under her new heroic identity as Suicide Blonde. I just started the third chapter today and I'm enjoying it more than anything I've written in months. It's also one of my first attempts to really try a first person narrative and so far I think it's going pretty well. MHP readers can expect it to appear much quicker than F.O.R.C.E., probably in January 2011.

I have at least one more update planned for this month at Take the Helm, and I am hoping to have another update with big news about more regular updates from my sphere of writing. Stay tuned for that.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Few Tweaks....

I am going to come out of blogular silence for a bit with a few updates.

The Metahuman Press site has been updated with a few new visual tweaks, mostly thanks to updates on both WordPress and the ArrasTheme. It may need a few more before I'm fully appreciative of the new look, but everything should be accessible as of now.

No new Arc this week, folks. I've been a bit under the weather as has the family, so I just didn't have time to layout and edit the Tyler Marsh chapter I had planned. Tyler will be back next week, I promise.

Pulp Empire volume three should be available to purchase near the beginning of the month. Right now the first stories, "An Incident in a Small Town" by Travis Heermann and "The Other Fellow's Shoes" by G. Lloyd Helm have gone up, so you can check them out at the site.

A new partner site, The Dead Walk Again is now accepting story submissions. We are looking to launch it full time beginning next Spring, but we really need to get some content up and running. So if you like zombies, please be sure to check it out, and maybe even submit something!

This blog will remain mostly quiet for the next few weeks as I participate once again in Nanowrimo. Once November has passed, I will be back to blogging (semi-)full time, so stay tuned for more updates. For more regular updates, you can also follow me on Twitter.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wrestling Wednesday: The Rise of CHIKARA!

Independent wrestling offers many great things to the common wrestling fan. Accessibility, talent, and often a much higher workrate than you see from top WWE or TNA stars. But it often fails on other levels. Monthly or semi-monthly booking means less storytelling potential. Workers that set their own gimmick as they work a half dozen different promotions (or more) a month often end up rather generic as well. Ninety percent of indy wrestlers have a character best described as “edgy athlete dedicated to beat the best opponents” or “shady weirdo willing to take the win at any expense”. Some wrestlers have excelled at the first (Bryan Danielson, Low-Ki), others have excelled at the second (Jimmy Jacobs, Austin Aries), and a few do both with amazing credibility (Chris Hero, Nigel McGuiness).

It often leads to great wrestling, but it doesn’t offer much in the way of solid storytelling pre- and post-match outside of the “I don’t like you” and “I want my revenge”. Both key features to wrestling storytelling, but not the only features to wrestling storytelling.

Which brings me in a roundabout way to the promotion I want to talk about today: CHIKARA.

Founded in 2002 by independent wrestling stand-out Mike Quackenbush (a good example of the “edgy athlete” gimmick back in the day) and the soon-to-step-aside “Reckless Youth” Tom Carter, the promotion slowly built a fan following around the Pennsylvania area. Eight years later it has expanded operations to much of the northeast, from Michigan to New York.

Built around the talents coming out of the CHIKARA Wrestling Factory as well as Quackenbush’s friends, the promotion brought elements of Lucha Libre in to the United States full-time for the first time. With the Mexican element of pro wrestling came a lot of high-flying maneuvers, innovative rules changes, and masks, a lot of them.

And with those masks came characters and comedy. Some of the earliest masked wrestlers were comedy gimmicks at best, but over the years the company proved to be able to make its fans take even silly gimmicks seriously.

Some of the top technicos (faces) in the promotion include the team of the Osirian Portal (the serpentine Ophidian and the dancing “Funky Pharoah ” Amasis), old school baseball player Dasher Hatfield, and the ever-growing ant team of the Colony.

Tag teams and trios also play a major part of CHIKARA wrestling which adds another layer of action to an already solid format.

The levels of storytelling have varied over the promotion’s history but over the last two or so years a lot of effor has went in to forming a coherent ongoing narrative for the program.

The driving force behind this narrative, a new group known as Der Bruderschaft Des Kreuzes. More on them in a future column.

CHIKARA DVDs (over 145 of them) are available from their distributor Smartmark Video, including several best of DVDs. But the fine folks at CHIKARA won’t make you buy a DVD without ever seeing anything about their promotion. Every week they bring an episode of their Podcast-A-Go-Go, a ten minute show focused on what’s happening in CHIKARA today. It is available free through ITunes, on Youtube, or through the CHIKARA Podcast-A-Go-Go website.

If you are a wrestling or comic fan, I highly recommend you check them out.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Super-Powered Comics: Batwoman Elegy

I wanted to like Batwoman: Elegy. I really did. I loved 52 and thought, conceptually, that the new Kate Kane Batwoman could be a star in her own title. Years later, it finally happened, and I am left feeling less than impressed.

Don’t get me wrong. J.H. Williams III’s art is every bit as spectacular as the hype its given. He received Eisners for both interior and cover work for this book and it’s plain to see why. He pours his heart and soul in to every page, jumping from style to style, page design to page design, all with a fluid ease that never leaves the reader feeling lost. Dave Stewart’s colors ooze off the page and help to bring it all together in a near perfect package.

It’s the story and the characterization of Kate Kane and the people around her that really irk me. Her relationship with her father is fine, her initial arc with the villain Alice successfully sets up the character as her own woman apart from the rest of Bat-continuity. But when we go in to the flashback issues, I feel all believability and credibility of the story is lost.

First, her father is an army colonel, but one whose daughter was kidnapped and never found years before. Yet we are still supposed to believe that the United States Army would trust a military base responsible for holding destructive chemicals to a man whose security clearance could be so easily compromised. The Army is many things, but it isn’t blatantly stupid.

But the insanity of the book’s storytelling gets worse as we move forward to Kate’s time at West Point. He’s name checked both in the issue and the introduction by Rachel Maddow, so the story of Lt. Daniel Choi clearly has a play in this story. His coming out was a calculated move to challenge the wisdom of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Kate’s coming out is either an act of sheer idiocy or self-destructiveness.

Here’s the setup: while studying at West Point, Kate has a liaison with another female student. A report is filed to the school’s commander and she admits to him she’s gay (and apparently gets immediately discharged). It might come off as a powerful piece of story-telling to some, but in reality it makes very little sense. She repeats in the issue more than once that her only dream is to graduate from West Point and serve the country like her father does. It’s her only desire in life (to the point that she becomes reckless and verifiably self-destructive in the aftermath). Now anyone familiar with the military and the terms of joining the service will be very aware of how Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell works. It’s been in place for well over a decade and is explained to any potential recruit multiple times. It’s made quite clear that the military has no problem with you being gay as long as you keep it away from the base and don’t talk about it. How are we supposed to believe that a lesbian woman, daughter of an army colonel, could enlist in the military without knowing straight up that she would have to lie should she ever be brought up on disciplinary action for such behavior? She clearly made that compromise with herself just to be at West Point, so why when confronted with the situation would she do anything but continue the fiction? The only viable explanation in my mind (and a rather preposterous one) is that she didn’t realize she was gay until West Point, despite her homosexuality being hinted at in just the previous chapter.

I know the immediate argument could be, “but how could she live with the lie?” And in response, I will again reiterate that if her repeated professions that being a soldier were her life’s only ambitions, she would have already placed that need to lie in her mind. And a few years later, she certainly doesn’t seem to have a problem lying to friends and family. Or does she just tell anyone that she meets that she’s Batwoman?

I am by no means a perfect writer. I wouldn’t even count myself as anyone near the league of Greg Rucka’s eraser shavings. But how can any writer let such an obvious gap in story logic make it on to the page? How can any editor just ignore the fatal flaw? How can so many readers just ignore it?

As it stands, I think this initial run has inadvertently set up one defining characteristic of the new Batwoman: her own need for self-destruction. Any writer really honest about this character (I’m looking at you, Haden Blackman and J.H.) will embrace that feature in upcoming story arcs. If not, you have successfully created a rather broken character, DC.

Still, for J.H. Williams’ art at its absolute finest, I will give the book a Mildly Recommended. I suggest everyone check it out and share their feelings with me in the comments section.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Super-Powered Pulp Prose: Resurrecting Midnight by Eric Jerome Dickey

This is the fourth in a series of novels by Dickey featuring his character Gideon, an international assassin whose mind has been utterly messed up by years of killing, sex, and living on the wrong side of the law. I have long considered reviewing the previous books in this series as I read the, but never did. I think its time to remedy that.

Eric Jerome Dickey has been writing fiction for fifteen years now, but perhaps more people in superhero circles would know him as the writer of the 2006 retcon miniseries Storm that established a larger back story between Storm and Black Panther leading up to their soon to be totally perfect marriage. I was by no means a fan of that storyline, though I am unsure how much of the mess that was the Black Panther plot can really be put on Dickey. He did what he could with the project he was given, and did an all right job with it.

I bring up Storm simply as a way of pointing out the clear comic book inspiration that Gideon clearly originates from. Though still human, Gideon has become almost a superman over the four books he has appeared. Though beaten, he always perseveres, does what it takes to survive and win the day. Dickey actually acknowledges his comic book influences in the bakc of Resurrecting Midnight, mention crime and superhero writers like Ed Brubaker, Brian Azzarello, Frank Miller, and Garth Ennis. He also shows it in the casual mentions of characters and locations from many of his other novels. The Gideon novels actually extends out of a previous set of character’s from his novel Thieves Paradise so I guess you can say this brings it altogether.

I could also argue Resurrecting Midnight’s pulp influences. Gideon is clearly a descendant of morally ambiguous characters from Arsene Lupin to The Avenger. He seems to want to do the right thing, even when his profession constantly forces him in to a path of murder and destruction. There essentially lies the conflict deep in Gideon’s soul that Dickey has played out over four novels.

This novel takes the character and his extended supporting cast farther down the path tread by the previous three books, even as Gideon is drawn by his old friend and lover Arizona in to a bloodbath in Argentina. In the process, he meets Medianoche, the resurrected Midnight of the title, and learns that the enemy assassin has far closer ties to him than Gideon could ever believe. Gideon ends up once again embroiled in a world of sex and violence, two things Dickey can write better than many other authors.

My praise heaped on already, I will get at the flaws of the novel. I have to limit the plot synopsis to one paragraph for a very important reason: without reading Sleeping With Strangers, Waking With Enemies, and Dying For Revenge any reader would be utterly lost by Resurrecting Midnight. Any details of the plot are just building on previous established character interactions but for the added new enemies in Medianoche and the Four Horsemen. While Dickey created a great character with Gideon, his continuing adventures are anything but new reader friendly. Much like Sleeping With Strangers (a novel designed as a beginning of a duology), Resurrecting Midnight also ends on a far two open ended note, especially when its been a year without a sequel (and his newest book Tempted By Trouble a new standalone). It would be one thing if we were left with a solid place to stop, but instead the reader is pretty much hanging along with all of Gideon’s life.

Still none of that takes away from how good Eric Jerome Dickey is at what he brings to the page here. Very few modern authors can combine sex, violence, action, and dialogue as beautifully as Dickey puts it on the page. Much like Stephen King, I find a lot to study in just the formation of the words he puts on the page.

In case you don’t know it yet, Resurrecting Midnight (and the three novels that come before it) comes Highly Recommended,. Whether a fan of the pulps or the supers, you will find something to love in these pages.

Buy Pulp Empire Volume Two!

It’s been available for a few weeks now and I just wanted to throw out a reminder that you can now buy Pulp Empire Volume Two through our Lulu store! We have thirteen all new stories, and you can preview several of them over at the Pulp Empire website! Go read a couple and be sure to pick up your copy!

Support independent publishing: Buy Pulp Empire Volume Two on Lulu.

Thor's Day 7: If I Should Die Before I Wake

Mighty Thor 343 opens with Fafnir once again attacking the city of New York. He quickly calls out Thor, unaware that the god of thunder is nowhere near the city.
Apparently dragons can talk with their mouth full.
Still with the last viking Eilif, Thor promises the old man that he will help him reach Valhalla. His chariot and Valkyrie’s flying steed come to take the two warriors forward on their quest. In an interesting bit of style change, we follow the mind of Eilif as he follows Thor on their quest.

Some amusement comes when after all these issues the mighty forged blade is finally finished and given a cool name at the time that now carries a bit more baggage:

And look how it sparkles!
The battle Thor leads Eilif in to, is quite conveniently the fight with the dragon Fafnir. The fight is not unlike something that could be found in Marvel’s Godzilla series of the previous decade as the heroes try to fight off the seemingly unstoppable monster.

Eilif uses the last of his strength to pierce Fafnir’s back with his spear, the first wound the great dragon has suffered in the battle. With his hammer, Thor drives the spear deep in to Fafnir’s body. He eliminates the threat of the dragon with a few more mighty blows.

Eilif is dead, and Thor summons the lightning to light the remains left by Fafnir’s rampage. A true viking funeral for the last viking, even as the image of the fully healthy Eilif appears briefly to fly over the battlefield.

As Sigurd Jarlson, Thor contemplates Eilif’s death. But his ponderings are interrupted by a visit by the young woman he saved a few issues before, Melodi. Of course, Melody is secretly Lorelei. Where this new relationship leads will be a question for future issues.

This is easily Walt Simonson’s best issue so far. All his plot points come together perfectly while still setting up future conflicts. This may be his best issue artwise as well. For the first time, we have went from just a good solid comic to something that feels like it could be big and wondrous.

Next: “What Happened to Balder the Brave?”

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wrestling Wednesday: Kaval

Wrestling Wednesdays is going to be a little brief today as I am still working on some more looks in to the dichotomy of the hero/villain relationship as it pertains to wrestling and super-powered fiction.

Today, I just wanted to briefly mention a member of the current WWE NXT roster, Kaval.

I have been a huge fan of the wrestler formerly known as Low-Ki and Senshi for almost a decade now, ever since I first discovered him working many a Jakked and Metal match in around 2000. I really realized how awesome his in ring prowess could be when I started ordering Ring of Honor tapes in 2002.This guy could go like no one else in the business. he presented an amazing, no nonsense face in a way that I never quite saw in wrestling up until that point. (At the time, I had to yet to discover Taz’s somewhat similar persona as a face in ECW.)

My point is that Kaval is one of the best wrestlers in the world today. While I understand everyone’s love for Bryan Danielson (he’s great, don’t get me wrong), I will always be more of a fan of the awesome martial arts style of Kaval. His talent shines through in every match I have seen.

But what’s most amazing to me is that as a result of a rather terrible segment on last night’s NXT, Kaval is now the face of, at least for a day. A decade ago, he was jobbing to Crash Holly on Jakked. Now he’s the face of That, my friends, is pretty cool.

Click for full size
Youtube is filled with highlights and videos featuring him in all three of his personas, so be sure to do a search for him sometime. I am sure his past will come up at some point in future columns.

Until then, go search for some Best of disks and see just how great this man can be.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Super-Powered Comics: More on DC's THUNDER Agents

I mentioned my excitement about DC’s upcoming THUNDER Agents a few weeks back. I think the creative team of Nick Spencer and CAFU are potentially a very, very good combination. I do fear for an early death for the untested product, but I am hoping that continued coverage can maybe help the title grow a decent fanbase before it hits its debut in November. I am a huge fan of the Agents as a concept and a comic. I believe they have sat for far too long. I can think of few characters from the sixties that could play as well as they could in modern comics.

Despite only being a few weeks away, DC has remained surprisingly quiet about the project, but this week they gave us a first look at CAFU’s full design for the new THUNDER Agents. I personally think they come off great. Take a look (click on them to see larger versions):
The scruffy Dynamo is a little removed from the original clean cut Len Brown version, but with the one last chance premise that accompanies the new version of the characters I think he could work out very well. I think the more modern pants design with the classic top and slightly modified belt really do a great job of updating the classic Wally Wood design.

Lightning and Menthor both get more serious updates in the new version.

Menthor drops a rather generic red and blue costume. Instead he now sports a very simple man in a suit look, but with the addition of a helmet. Though metal instead of cloth, it looks very similar to the original Menthor mask, though it now covers the user’s full head. It actually reminds me more of the Justice Machine member Talisman who ironically met the THUNDER Agents in their first annual. Still I think it is a solid remake of the classic character costume that really seems to fit a telepath character.

Lightning is easily the most radical redesign as he went from a very simple yellow and orange design (heavily influenced if not out-and-out created by the character’s regular artist Steve Ditko) to a more modern running suit look. The orange is gone completely, replaced by black molded elements. I refuse to comment on the fact that the team’s African American member comes from a heavy sports background. I will just say of all the new characters he seems to be the weakest overall and the poorest of the four redesigns. I will withhold judgment for now as we see how Guy Gilbert’s replacement grows over the first several issues. Lightning was the most tragic character of the original team without a shadow of a doubt. The new book seems to expand the whole “my powers are killing me” back story of Lightning, so we will see how much the new Lightning plays to that bit with this new incarnation.

Finally we come to NoMan. DC played his redesign off best of all, by simply not redesigning him. Well, his cloak is a little heavier now as is the soiled clothing. Otherwise his costume and look are almost perfect clones of the original designs. The human scientist living in an android body will apparently continue to struggle with his lost humanity, a fate made worse by the decades past since his original transformation. The original NoMan seemed to be a clear inspiration for Marvel’s Vision, a character I always very much liked. When I learned of the existence of NoMan a few years later, I realized how much cooler Vision could really be. If Spencer and CAFU can play NoMan right, he will come off as the enigmatic, almost ninja-like figure Wally Wood and company originally created.

So there you have it, DC’s new THUNDER Agents. For more on these designs, check out the original DC Source blog post. And I hope you will join me in ordering the first issue of THUNDER Agents coming this November!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Super-Powered Prose: Nobody Gets the Girl by James Maxey

I am wholly unfamiliar with the works of James Maxey. Apparently, he’s the official Dragon Age novelist, but I would never know he existed if it wasn’t for the recommended reading page on Amazon. It’s from there that I discovered his first novel Nobody Gets the Girl. Behind a lackluster cover penciled by famed inker Bob Wiacek, we get a decidedly super-powered novel.

Jim Shooter, strangely called James here for one of the few times I remember, provides a highly unnecessary introduction to talk about Maxey’s work here before we get to the meat of the story.

The alliteratively named Richard Rogers is just a normal guy albeit one with dreams of being a stand up comic. He’s in an unhappy marriage, doesn’t like where his life is going, and seems to be sinking in to a wave of depression.

And that’s before everyone in the world suddenly stops being able to see him.

That basic premise pulls him in to a world altered by a handful of superheroes and supervillains, all with their own plans for making the world a better place. Doctor Knowbokov, super genius, explains the nature of Richard’s new powers. He is superhuman in his own right, as are his two daughters Amelia (Rail Blade) and Sarah (The Thrill). They are on a quest to fufill Knowbokov’s vision of a better future. Their ability to see Richard is enough to quickly draw him in to their super-powered world.

Richard’s own actions bring the mess of violence between Knowbokov and his archrival Rex Monday to a head, and ultimately lead to plenty of death. More than that would drop far too many spoilers along the way.

At points, the author seems far too obsessed with explaining the nature of super powers in his world as if thsi work needs to be taken seriously as a work of hard science fiction. It doesn’t always work, but he does use his own ideas to bring the story full circle. Still the most important part of a novel is basic character interactions and in this Maxey both excels and fails. He does an excellent job of giving us a normal man’s view of a super-powered world. He sets up exactly how uncomfortable it would be for a normal jabroni to suddenly fall in to a world of heroes. He also gets in to the head of the heroes quite well and looks hard at a mixed up world of justice and fame.

When the action comes though, Maxey sometimes falls apart. I can detect that he visualizes action scenes quite well, but often it feels like he is so focused on getting the action on the page that he forgets to lay it out in a way that remains gripping for the reader. His superhero battles come off like sex scenes written by Tom WOlfe. They don’t keep you engaged and just make you feel uncomfortable by scenes end. Okay, they aren’t as bad as Wolfe’s sex scenes, because very little in fiction can be that painful.

Despite its rough patches, Nobody Gets the Girl remains a rather engaging novel though at times just feels like it has been overly trimmed at only 242 pages. Still it shows his love of the superhero genre, if not quite the ability required to translate it perfectly to the printed page. I know from experience it isn’t always an easy translation. Superheroes often scream for a visual medium. Sometimes you can’t express your super-story quite the right way with just words. (My own Mean Streets, which died an early death, comes to mind.) Even with its few flaws, Nobody Gets the Girl remains an entertaining read for any lover of superheroes. And that’s why it comes Recommended.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Thor's Day 6: Mighty Thor 342

As this title-less issue begins, Odin fears for the future of Asgard, as Thor questions the viking’s voice he heard last month.

The blacksmith finally lays down his last DOOM! and he is ready to lay waste to Asgard.

Thor goes to investigate the strange viking voice. He finds a valley of grass amongst the ice flows of Antarctica. He finds homes and viking graves, but no sign of life. He continues his investigation only to be attacked by flying spears!

Karnilla pays a visit to Balder, but seems only to deepen his depression.

Thor battles a series of traps inside the strange structure. His safety is short lived as he runs in to a massive, heavily armored viking warrior. The battle is quick and Thor is the winner, but when he unmasks his foe he is shocked.

Fafnir rises again in New York, even as Lorelei’s own plans grow.

Thor learns that the warrior actually is an ancient viking. He sought a death in battle and chose Thor to be his killer. The chapter ends with Thor swearing to help the viking achieve his final greatness.

The art takes a different complexion with this issue, as Simonson is joined for the first time by an inker: the legendary Terry Austin. His line work gives the title a cleaner look than Simonson’s sketchier lines. This issue very much comes off as filler, a clear stumble as Simonson worked to build a bigger story over the next several issues. Still with art this amazing it is easy to overlook some of the shortcomings as the tale continues to build to something clearly very big.

Next: “If I Should Die Before I Wake...”

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wrestling Wednesday: The Nexus and Kane: Summer Slam Follow Up

So, Summer Slam has came and went, RAW has came and went, and WWE still clearly doesn’t quite seem to know what they are doing with the Nexus. The big surprise of the night at Summer Slam came with the return of the (still horribly named) Daniel Bryan. As the seventh member of Team WWE, he finally got to shine on WWE television as a capable wrestler and helped beat multiple members of the Nexus. But the surprise came in the end when the final two members of Nexus (Justin Gabriel and Wade Barrett) fell to John Cena, only moments after Cena’s head was spiked on the concrete. It seems fitting that the regular focus of this blog is on superheroes, as John Cena clearly came off as one last night.

The follow-up made even more of a mess of the storyline as the Nexus’ membership dropped to six. Darren Young left the group after a defeat by John Cena in a match that amused me mostly for the fact that the two men look disturbingly similar (albeit with different skin tones). This did little to revive the Nexus from their loss the night before. It remains to be seen if the story can rise from this debacle in to something solid leading in to the next couple pay-per-views. I still expect this storyline to come to its end in November at Survivor Series and we will continue to monitor it going forward.

Kane’s big storyline comes with the not unexpected return of Undertaker at the pay-per-view. Surprisngly, Kane proved to be the winner out of the storyline so far. Even after his match with Rey Mysterio, he was able to stop his brother with little problem.

While I pretty much knew this entire storyline was a set up for Kane turning heel and feuding with his brother, I hoped that WWE would have waited to pull the trigger on this for awhile. We have all seen Kane vs Undertaker before as detailed in my first post about the superhero style feud between the two. I hoped that WWE would provide us with a few more twists in this plot line before the inevitable confrontation. Instead it seems Kane and Taker are on a one-way collission course sooner, not later.

All in all, despite the great feeling of seeing Daniel Bryan both back and allowed to shine, Summer Slam came off as rather weak to me. I think a lot more could have been done to make both these storylines fresh. Instead it seems WWE wants to shovel more of the same.

That’s okay. We have far more than WWE to check out in this column. We will take a look in that direction next week.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thor's Day 5: The Past Is a Bucket of Ashes

We return to Midgard (Earth to mere mortals) as we kick off the second story arc with Mighty Thor 341. He is happy to be back to his second home, but laments the loss of the magic that transforms him in to Donald Blake (now passed on to Beta Ray Bill). Without it, he feels out of place in the modern world of man.

At the same time as Thor’s return, Lorelei has also made her way to New York. She quickly sets up a meeting with the dragon Fafnir.

Thor takes his troubles to Nick Fury, who helps set up the mighty one with a new secret identity, but someone of Thor’s build tends to be a little conspicous:

Thankfully, Nick has the perfect disguise:

And just in case you didn’t get the joke:

Meanwhile, Odin suspects the secrets fo the demon hordes from our previous story, contain a greater threat. He sends his ravens to discover the demon world’s hidden secrets.

The bespectacled Sigurd Jarlson visits a local construction site in search of a day job. His interview is cut short by a woman hanging high over the construction site. He quickly rescues her, only to be threatened by the dread presence of Fafnir, a beast he thought vanquished ages ago.

The DOOM continues, growing ever closer to a reveal of some kind (or so I suspect).

The battle rages between the now costumed Thor and Fafnir. Fafnir beats Thor around a bit before the son of Odin fights his way back.

On Asgard, Balder continues to lament his very existence, while the villianous Karnilla makes plans around the hero once known as The Brave.

In the aftermath of their battle, Fafnir escapes in to the ocean. Thor returns to his identity as Sigurd and rescues the young lady (Lorelei). He comforts her and receives a job offer from the construction foreman. But as the issue closes, he hears a whispered voice from a bygone era, speaking the language of the vikings. What it means, Thor doesn’t know, but he plans to soon find out.

Another good solid done in one story here that continues to build plot structures for future issues on the side. After destroying Thor’s status quo over the last several issues, Walt works hard to put together a new life in this issue and couples it with a few bits of humor. All that and we get an epic battle with a dragon-like beast (whose Kirby-designed origins are very clear in Simonson’s art). The mixture of several great elements in to one cohesive whole is an example of just how much energy Walt Simonson put in to each issue of Thor. This issue stands as a great example of how to do a really good comic with a compelling storyline without driving the reader to the point of depression like so many modern tales.

Next: “The Last Viking”.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Wrestling Wednesdays: A Few Words on Hardcore Justice

TNA put on “The Last Stand” last Sunday, a pay-per-view designed to be the final ECW-oriented pay-per-view ever. And unlike all the ECW inspired events of a few years back, I personally feel like they succeeded.

Both WWE and Shane Douglas tried their own versions of these events in past years with One Night Stand and Hardcore Homecoming respectively. While both had a step up in location, neither captured the feel of the previous era in the way TNA’s Hardcore Justice did. I attribute the show’s success to two factors the previous shows just could not match: the availability of many of ECW’s biggest names and the booking of former ECW co-booker Tommy Dreamer.

Both of the previous shows seriously suffered from a lack of available talent. Hardcore Homecoming missed out on any talent contracted to WWE (which included tons of stars, but most notably Tommy Dreamer and Rob Van Dam) while One Night Stand missed out on talents signed to TNA, most specifically Raven. An ECW show without Raven misses out on one of the key players that helped really innovate the promotion, while Tommy Dreamer was the heart and soul of the promotion with Rob Van Dam probably being its biggest star ever. The first time in a decade, Hardcore Justice gives us a match between Raven and Tommy Dreamer, a match that is key to any show truly interested in bringing back the old ECW. With almost everyone involved with the original ECW now gone from WWE (only Joey Styles and Joey Mercury are left), the roster pool was far stronger for this show than it was for any previous attempts at recreating the old school feel of ECW. Dreamer clearly knew this, and embraced it wholeheartedly in his booking decisions.

At the same time, booker Tommy Dreamer made every effort to channel old storylines straight through to the pay-per-view over nine years after ECW’s collapse. The opening bout ties in to Simon Diamond & Johnny Swinger’s hatred of the FBI for a lost tag shot a decade before. Stevie Richards came in with the goal of proving he could stand on his own away from Raven and did so against PJ “Justin Creible” Polaco. The Sandman made an appearance just to make sure Polaco knew he wasn’t a fan of his gimmick being stolen. Al Snow, Rhino, and Brother Runt were thrown together, but they did it in a traditional ECW elimination three way dance. Team 3D (with classic pitchman Joel Gertner) battled Axl Rotten and Balls Mahoney (renamed Kahoneys because of the loss of his name to WWE) in a street fight, followed by an attack by the reteamed Gangstas, all of which celebrated the crazy over-weaponed matches that all three teams were known for. Tommy Dreamer and Raven reignited a classic feud and put on the match of the night in a brutal bloody battle. And even without Jerry Lynn’s presence, Sabu and Rob Van Dam put on an epic encounter in the main event.

The stars were definitely older (and balder, at least in the case of Sabu), and some were definitely worse for wear. Arguably, it seemed only Too Cold Scorpio (who faced C.W. Anderson early on the card) hadn’t lost a step. If anything he seemed faster and more innovative then in his classic days. He really surprised me in his match, reminding me of classic battles with the likes of Chris Jericho and Taz. Just to digress, his performance at Hardcore Justice just made me question his quick hiring and firing from WWE a few years back.

Sure, it wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t classic ECW, and it never could hope to be. Too many classic ECW stars have passed on (way too many some might argue), and a few still alive were noticeably absent, most notably Shane Douglas and Terry Funk. (I know a few people might also include Lance Storm and Mikey Whipwreck in that list, but I do not see them as essential figures the way Douglas and Funk were.) And “The Blue Tilly” and fake “Lupus” were a just plain bad idea. (Thankfully, the fans made sure that TNA knew how bad an idea it reallyw as.) Overall, these proved to be minor problems, as unlike previous attempts, Tommy Dreamer put together a card that was entertaining from top to bottom. It succeeded in one key feature: it made me want more from the likes of the FBI, Richards, Scorpio, Raven, and even PJ Polaco. Now it is a waiting game to see how TNA plays out any continued presence of EV2.0 in upcoming program.

If this truly was “The Last Stand”, then TNA succeeded at giving the world one last great farewell to ECW. And can any ECW fan ask for any more than that?

Next week, we will have an update on my first two wrestling Wednesdays, and look how the events of WWE’s second biggest pay-per-view Summer Slam affect Kane and the Nexus.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Thor's Day 4: Though Hel Should Block the Way

This is coming on Saturday instead of Thursday and for that you can blame my current writing project Long Hot Summer. I am still working on finishing the saga ASAP, and my other writing is falling by the wayside, such as last week’s edition of this column. I will try to get back on track over the next few weeks.

We open where we left off last issue, with Thor, Bill, and Sif flying through space on Thor’s magic chariot. The demons they seek to stop have already ravaged the fleet. Sif stays to defend the fleet as Bill and Thor move onward to find the demons’ source, only to nearly be sucked in to that portal.

Meanwhile, the DOOM! hammering continues for the fourth month running. That’s a lot of DOOM! Volstagg finishes his tale and leaves the young would-be assassin in the care of Hogun the Grim.

Sif teams with Bill’s semi-sentient ship Skuttlebutt to try to lead the demons away from theh fleet. The two hammer-wielders eventually destroy the portal and banish the demons.

They return to Asgard and a celebration, but Bill is there with a heavy heart. Sif tells Odin about Bill’s secrets. Odin creates a solution to Bill’s loss of his own identity. He leaves the land alongside Lady Sif, ready to continue the search for a new home for his people.

In the end, Thor has leaned a lesson in humility, and has started on a new path he has never traveled before. And the first story-arc of Walter Simonson’s run comes to an end.

But the action has not, as a familiar dragon-like creature rises from the waters of the Atlantic Ocean...

This was probably the weakest of Walt’s run so far with the development limited to a few bits at the end of the story. Sif’s characterization seems the most rushed, as though Walt (still early in his writing career here) didn’t quite know how to get her to the point he wanted her at the end of the story. The art remained solid throughout, even through epic battle scenes. The synergy of his work is growing even here and will surely strengthen as the saga continues.

Next: “The Past is a Bucket of Ashes!”

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Wrestling Wednesdays: The Nexus

Before I digress from WWE television for awhile (something I do quite frequently as the company often fails to hold my attention for long periods of time), I thought I would share a few thoughts on what will almost certainly be the storyline of 2010: the rise of the Nexus.

Made up of seven of the eight original rookies from the WWE show NXT, the Nexus consists of leader Wade Barrett, high-flyer Justin Gabriel, celebrity-turned-wrestler David Otunga, boxing-oriented Michael Tarver, “Cornfed Meathead” Skip Sheffield, party boy Darren Young, and West Virginia-born Heath Slater. An eighth member, Daniel Bryan, made only one appearance with the group, but more on that later.

None of the stars have much in common except for their shared origins on NXT. A few of them seem like natural babyfaces (Gabriel and Young in particular) despite their role as Nexus members. Several still have had little or no time to display much personality at all. The storyline seems to be framed around the advent of Wade Barrett winning the first NXT competition, and where that should force both him and the other characters from the show going forward.

That being said, they debuted in explosive fashion. On the end of a special three hour “Viewer’s Choice” episode of Raw, the group interrupted a match between John Cena and CM Punk. They surrounded the ring and brutally beat down Cena, the face of Raw. In the process, they went from those guys on the third show to being major players in WWE, and in the case of Wade Barrett, a potential main eventer.

The problem is that WWE clearly didn’t really know what direction to take the storyline in. The Nexus reappeared over the next several weeks and brutalized several WWE stars, though John Cena remained their constant focus, even after he dropped the WWE title to Sheamus. The reason for their attacks: well, your guess is as good as anyone’s. The Nexus want to make a name for themselves, but beyond that they seem to possess no reason for their constant attacks.

The attacks have flooded Raw, pay-per-view, and even house shows for weeks. It is a rare main event that isn’t interrupted by an attack by the Nexus. It has reached almost NWO levels of insanity, except for the fact that we knew why the NWO did what they did. Not so much with the Nexus.

Which seems to be the Nexus’ major problem. What could be a major heel group seems mired in pointless attacks and predicatable storytelling. They rarely have wrestled matches so far and they rarely do anything beyound brutalizing John Cena, his allies, and his enemies.

This leads of course to the upcoming Summerslam where the first PPV match to come out of the storyline finally comes after months of build-up. John Cena will lead a 7 on 7 team of WWE superstars against the Nexus in a tag match. The predictions are already well underway. Everyone suspects one of Cena’s team to turn on the WWE stars, with most suspecting it will be Cena himself.

If that’s the case, it shows the narrow vision of WWE storytelling. Why would Cena be the center of all these attacks, even lose the WWE title because of them, if he is the secret mastermind behind the Nexus. It makes no sense, but WWE in recent times has fallen away from common sense quite frequently. No matter what the outcome of the Summerslam story however, it does little to salvage an invasion angle that WWE has let fester past the point of sense.

Strangely the wrestler that might come out looking best from this story is the aforementioned Daniel Bryan. After choking out ring announcer Justin Roberts, Bryan Danielson found his WWE career cut short do to “excessive violence” on television. He has made a massive splash upon his return to the indys even going so far as to mock the reason for his release with a new t-shirt:

He has kept his dignity while escaping a storyline that would do him no good in his career. He is in a good place to return to one of the two big companies with more focus behind his push and more drive than the Nexus would ever give him.

Even TNA has gotten a lot of mileage out of the firing. Multiple chokeholds in TNA have been coupled with Taz commenting: “You can get fired in some companies for that move.&8221;.

Strangely, Bryan Danielson has found his way in to another promotion that has its own invasion storyline going, but more on CHIKARA in a future installment.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wrestling Wednesdays: Kane

This is the first in a semi-regular series of columns focusing on great wrestling ideas and storylines, often with a touch of super-powered storytelling in the process. I actually scrapped my original plans for my first post (though it should appear in the next couple weeks) to focus on a character that I have loved for years and has really came out in to his own in the last few weeks: the Big Red Machine known as Kane.

I very willingly admit I am what they call a “smart” mark, a wrestling fan that knows just a little too much about the wrestling world for his own good. It often makes me finicky as a wrestling fan, though never quite at the level of some of the craziest “smarks” I have met on the net. I still appreciate a good gimmick, a good storyline, and good charisma along with a good wrestler. I just wanted to include this preference to clear up any confusion when I talk about the subject for the first week of this column: Kane.

Now Kane was a great gimmick early on, much as Undertaker was, simply because both characters may be the closest thing WWF/WWE ever came to having true superhero crossovers. Wrestling has had a superhuman quality to it since the days of Hulk Hogan, but the two supernatural forces, brothers and enemies, personified why great gimmicks can truly take a wrestler to the next plateau in their career.

After years of going in and out of wrestling with some of the worst gimmicks imaginable: Unabomb, the Dark Knight (an actual knight, not Batman), the New Diesel, and Dr. Isaac Yankem DDS (the evil wrestling dentist...with bad teeth!), Glen Jacobs finally got the wrestlign gimmick that would change his life. Paul Bearer and Undertaker split up several months before after years of working together. Alongside Mankind, Bearer had a long feud with Taker, but never could pick up a win. So he decided to bring in his ace in the hole: Undertaker’s long lost brother.

They teased the coming of Kane for several weeks until October 1997 during the Badd Blood pay-per-view. During the first ever Hell in a Cell match between Shawn Michaels and Undertaker, Kane arrived to attack his brother.

It would be months still before the feud finally lit up, despite all the fire in Kane’s entrance. He would feud with his brother for most of the next year. This would lead him to his first WWE title shot in mid-1998. He would quickly beat Stone Cold Steve Austin to win the title. he would hold it for only a day, as he dropped it back to Austin on the very next night.

Over the next several years, Kane would continue to alternately switch from face to heel as he alternately fought and teamed with his brother. The two characters would have their own stories, but it never seemed to be more than a few months before they met again. During the Invasion, they officially became a tag team, the Brothers of Destruction, and dominated for several months against all foes. His costume reversed during this title reign, as his old red and black outfit suddenly turned primarily black with red flames all around it. The new attire proved slightly more sensible (what is a black flame anyway?) while the slightly smaller mask seemed to give Kane a greater ability to both breath and to speak, a trait he picked up only months before (through a brief team with X-Pac.)Their feats at the time bordered on superhuman, as it often seemed that no matter how great the force lined against them, they were unbeatable.

As the invasion ended, the brand extension began. And with it came the first chance for the two brothers to be completely separated. Taker was on show while Kane was on the other (though they both switched shows early on.) Kane returned after injury with his first major revamp in appearance since his debut. With his new look and his first long term run as a hero, Kane’s focus seemed to be on putting together multiple title reigns. He would be the final Intercontinental champion (or at least until the title was brought back nine months later) and hold the tag titles twice, once with Raw’s comedic superhero The Hurricane, the other with the high-flying Rob Van Dam.

After the tag title run with RVD ran its course, he would enter his last big main event push in mid-1994. He would feud briefly with Triple H for the World title, only to lose by interference to Triple H in a mask vs title match. After seven years, Kane would have to unmask.

Without his mask he would become a more human foe, but a man fueled by an unending rage as well as a desperate need not just to beat, but also to torture his foes. He turned on first Rob Van Dam and later on Shane McMahon. He would tear both apart over subsuquent months on his way back to the World title picture. He would eventually fail in his quest to get the title, falling to Triple H and Goldberg, but he did run head long in to an old enemy: Undertaker.

At Vince McMahon’s bidding, he helped beat Undertaker in a buried alive match and the Deadman disappeared for several months. But as Wrestlemania XX, the classic Undertaker would return and defeat Kane once and for all (or for now at least.)

He would end up involved in an extended story for the next year involving Lita, which would take him through a feud with Matt Hardy before he turned face and battled Gene Snitsky and Edge (with Lita turning against him). From here he would flounder in the midcard with only a short lived tag reign with the Big Show. Kane would continue to grow crazier over the next few weeks until he left Raw to return to SmackDown. Kane became a long term midcarder as of 2006, often doing little more than helping midcard stars look better by beating the crazed monster. He would go on to a brief run as the (midcard) ECW champion. This run would quickly end a sell, and he quickly returned to midcard status.

But that ended just a few weeks ago. With his brother Undertaker suddenly attacked and left in a vegetative state, Kane started on a path of destruction. He destroyed every top star on Smackdown over the next several weeks until just a few weeks ago, at Money in the Bank. He would win a Smackdown title shot and almost immediately cash it in to win the World title from Rey Mysterio.

After twelve years, Kane was World champion again.

It’s all a bit crazed, as any long term history of a pro wrestler tends to be. But Kane has proven again and again that he is by far one of the best and most versatile characters in professional wrestling. He is an insane sociopath, whether good or evil, with powers granted him by dark forces.

This is almost certainly Kane’s last hurrah as champion. His dark presence continues to be felt strongly over WWE, but at 43 Glen Jacobs, the man that plays Kane, only has a few more years left in his career. Still it’s great to see such a super-heroic (or super-villainous) presence rise in modern wrestling. The great gimmicks are few and far between in wrestling these days, and to see someone as powerful and entertaining as the Big Red Machine holding the title, does my super-powered heart proud.