Archives for category: Comic Book

I have just read the Superman graphic novel “Grounded,” written by an author whose last name I can’t even spell much less pronounce, so let’s just call him JMS. You want to know who he is (and trust me, you do), then go wikipediate Babylon 5.

Anyway, the plot arc goes like this: Kryptonians are discovered under the thrall of supercomputer Brainiac, and are rescued. Said Kryptonians use Brainac’s technology to create a new planet hereonin dubbed New Krypton. In order to foster good relations and to reconnect with his heritage Superman voluntarily goes to New Krypton to ease the transition the thousand or so people who suddenly have superpowers.

Now remember, these Kryptonians did not get the strong moral compass that the Kents taught Clark. Some egos are bound to grow. Tempers get short. Invasion seems imminent. In the end New Krypton is destroyed, and Superman’s reputation is at an all-time low. Blaming himself, Superman believes that his failures with New Krypton result as becoming disconnected to the average person he supposedly protects. So, alone, in full Superman gear, he starts walking across America. In Austraila this journey is called “walkabout.”

A walkabout is a very simple concept. The idea is to walk until you face yourself (metaphorically speaking). It involves re-connecting to the simple things that one forgets while going through the motions. It requires facing your troubles and have a heart-to-heart talk with your inner demons. Sounds silly? Here’s an example.

What is fascinating to me is that this is not JMS’ first use of the walkabout idea. In his science-fiction show Babylon 5, he introduces a physician by the name of Dr. Stephen Biggs, Chief Medical Officer of Babylon 5. He is responsible for the welfare of millions of beings, and as such is under tremendous pressure. Eventually he becomes addicted to stimulants so he can continue to act full time in that role. The addiction gets the better of him, leading to his resignation and personal journey.

The walkabout has done it’s job. Biggs realizes that he doesn’t have to become more capable of workloads, just that he has to get things done smarter. It’s the same for Superman. By going on this walkabout Superman discovers the real-time consequences of his acts (brilliantly shown when a full-scale battle demolishes an entire town). Although he rebuilds all that he has destroyed, he realizes that while he can re-create a town, he can’t give the townspeople back their family heirlooms or sense of security.

He also comes to realize the more pedestrian possibilities of his powers. One mother complains that Superman’s use of heat and X-ray vision could have located and treated the cancer that killed her husband. It is clear that this notion was a complete surprise to Superman, and he didn’t respond with my obvious reaction: that he can’t save everyone.

Superman’s walkabout is far from over. He’s still on this journey to figure out his place as the planet’s champion and the effective use of his duty. There isn’t much challenges to a hero that can destroy an alien planet by sneezing, but JMS’ delivers the poignant, almost universal punch to the gut: getting free from the moral quagmires that haunt all of us. For that, JMS, I salute you.

As much as I’m loath to admit that the Ultimate Universe’s Peter Parker could actually be dead, I have to admit it was a daring move to make on the part of Brain Michael Bendis (forerunner of the Ultimate Spider Man comic), and that, for now, there’s a new Spider Man in town.

However, it just so happens that some new information has surfaced that disturbs me. And before I go any further I want to add that the next few paragraphs didn’t come from any source. These ideas are mine, derived from information I read from online documents. In no way am I defending or rejecting any political standpoint.

Parker’s successor Miles Morales is biracial.  With the current state of affairs between the US and foreign nations, detractors believe that Morales’ biracial nature is in some way a slander to white-skinned heroes. I don’t know the reasons for their outrage, but if I had to guess, I would say the outrage is that they see Miles’ creation is Marvel”s pathetic attempt to cover all the bases, and put a positive spin on international relations. In short, these detractors are angry because they believe that if the political state of affairs weren’t such a public part of our lives, that Miles Morales would never be created in the first place.

I ask again: what is the problem? Spider Man is not about skin color. It’s about using power responsibly. It’s about how the everyman suddenly thrust into a situation where he can make a difference. Parker struggles with debt, gets colds, fights with his wife, eats cheeseburgers just like anybody else. If anything  Parker’s greatest weakness is also his greatest strength: he takes his responsibility too seriously. Then again Spider Man wouldn’t be Spider Man if he picked and chose who was worth saving and who wasn’t.

So Miles Morale is half African-American and half Hispanic. So what? People see what they see. And if people think it’s some sort of political or racial violation having Miles Morales as biracial, then they don’t need to read the book, now do they?

Marvel Comics

The most important comic book story in the decade is the “Civil War.” A villian named Nitro met and battled a young band of heroes known as the New Warriors, in Stamford, Connecticut. The battle ended with both sides dead, along with a good chunk of civilian casualties.

The tragedy whipped up public fears of superhumans and their powers. The United States government decided that the best way to make sure Stamford event never happened again is to push forth the Superhuman Registration Act. This Act required superhumans to register with the federal government as a sign of loyalty and publicly reveal their identities. This idea brought much fear from the superhuman society at large, for if their identities became public knowledge, their enemies could track and kill their families.

Those metahumans siding with the government were the Pro-Registration, and those opposed to were dubbed The Anti-Restration; led by Iron Man and Captain America respectively. The conflict divided superhuman society in half. Pro-Registration heroes hunted down their former colleagues and initiate the group called Thunderbolts, a team compraised of villians such as Green Goblin and Venom. Their loyalty was supposively guaranteed by injecting nanites into their bloodstream, which would act as a GPS signal and neutralize their abilities instantly. The Green Goblin was given the deactivation process of the nanites by an as-of-yet-unknown figure.

As time passes the casualities mount up and new initivities are put into effect. Reed Richards and Tony Stark build the “42” prison, a place designated specifically to contain superhumans. Later on as things spiraled out of control, the 42 was dubbed insuffinct, and a prison was commissioned in the Negative Zone, a sub-dimension parallel to Earth’s. Eventually the rampant destruction takes it’s toll on Captain America, who freely gives himself up to the Pro-Registration forces. However, during his trial an assassin kills Captain America.

The Civil War’s battle accrued a high cost. Superhumans opposed to the government are forced into hiding or move out of the US. Hundreds more are dead, and unregistered superhumans are mobbed without mercy.  Tony Stark becomes the Director of SHIELD, a law-enforcement agency whose authority approaches global standards. Perhaps most damning of all is Norman Osborn’s leadership of the Thunderbolts, building the foundation for his ever-increasing authority.

DC Comics

Superman – Turns out alien computer Brainac has possession of the Kryptonian city of Kandor, whose population was released into the public after Brainac’s defeat. Relations between the Kandorians and the Earthlings soured quickly (the world was uneasy about 100,000 people with the powers of Superman) so the Kandorians “grew” a new planet called New Krypton. Superman agreed to live on New Krypton as a way to appease relations with the people and aid them to master their growing superpowers.

However, the new society is ripe with difficulties. Led by the freed General Zod, the Kryptonians are quick to use violence to solve the problems of criminals and assassination attempts. Superman faces an uphill battle by playing peacemaker to the various factions; his failures largely overshadow his victories. Just as the populace was calming down a Brainac robot appears. Thus is the end of the World of New Krypton story arc.

Batman – Bruce Wayne “died.” He was struck down by intergalatic ruler/conqueror Darkseid with his Omega Sanction (an energy beam that disintergrates it’s targets. However, DC was not going to let such a beloved character (and his franchise) die, so Bruce Wayne was instead catapulted to prehistoric times. From there is was thrown into Colonial America, the Wild West, the 1920s and the end of the universe, where he was rid of the Omega energy that Darkseid intended to destroy the Earth once Batman arrived in his own timeline. Batman had arrived once again to defend Gotham City.

This did not happen instantly. Wayne’s return occured in an indefinite time from his “death.” In the meantime Dick Grayson, the first Robin, wore the cowl of Batman and acted in Wayne’s stead. Grayson’s Robin was Daiman Wayne, Wayne’s love-child with Talia al Ghul, daughter of Ra’s al Ghul, most famously portraued by Liam Neeson in Batman Begins.

Upon returning to the living, Batman decided to go global and create Batman, Inc, a foundation dedicated to training one person to be the Batman of that country.

Green Lantern – The “Blackest Day” story arc reveals several other Lantern Corps, all distingushed by the color of the rainbow: Red is Rage, Orange is Greed, Yellow is Fear, Blue is Hope, Indigo is Love, Violet is Compassion.

A long-hidden prophecy reveals the existence of the Black Lantern Corps, who resurrects dead heroes as their members. The whole of DC Universe had to battle their long dead allies. It wasn’t until Sinistro, leader of the Yellow Lantern Corps, assumed the power of a cosmic entity and became the first White Lantern. After recruiting several DC heroes, the White Lanterns were able to defeat the Black Lanterns and their leader Nekron.

Part Two coming soon.

The site IGN.com just announced WB’s interest in a Green Lantern sequel, which makes me cringe. There are always difficulties in translating a medium inspired by imagination to caters to all fan factions. Going in bold new directions in a franchise — live-action, who has the strangest dialogue or choosing the exact point in the comic’s lifetime to begin the movies — is always risky. That being said, I think that the decision to cast Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan is a mistake.

Ryan Reynolds is a comedian. A very good comedian, but still a comedian. His Hal Jordan portrayed a history of fear that kept him running away from the opportunties in his life. The Comic Hal Jordan saw his father die and came out of the siutation stronger. If he got through the worst moment in his life, then nothing else could make him afraid.

I understand that portraying heroes as ordinary people connects to fans on a personal level. However, with everything about comic book movies it’s a balancing of the scales kind of thing. Just enough of fanservice, just enough creativity to keep the spark going. Reynolds’ Jordan was a boy. Hal Jordan is a man and should be portrayed as such. Hopefully WB producers will see that and cast a more mature actor to the role (Cough-Nathan Fillion-Cough)

In the world of comic books, death is very, very cheap. It seems that a requirement for any superhero to have close friends die, or even to die themselves and return to the living. Superman died. Batman died. Now it seems that Spider-Man has joined the ranks of those lofty quiasi-immortal characters. Or at least, one variation of Spider-Man.

Confused? Okay. Time for a little history.

The term “retcon” simply means adapting a character to modern times. Significant events have to be updated and re-invented to “modernize” the character. This includes anything from adding or subtracting characters to gaining new powers. In the 2005 Spider-Man story “The Other,” Spider-Man gains night-vision, the ability to carry objects on his back the same way he can cling to walls, an instinctive working knowledge of spiders, among others.

Marvel Comics has released an “Ultimate” variation of classic characters in an attempt to bring in new readers without burdening them with decades of past tales. Ultimate Spider-Man is portrayed as a teenager. Enemies are updated, friends are changed, fates are altered.

Now, apparently, Ultimate Peter Parker is going to die.

I know what you’re thinking. “He’s the main character! He can’t die!” Well, yes and no. Like I said before, death is very cheap in the comic book world. It’s almost a requirement of the comic book superhero to die and mysteriously come back to life. The original Spider-Man went through this particular plot twist in the aforementioned “Other” story arc, and even earlier in the Clone Saga, when a Parker clone named Ben Reilly was introduced as the “real” Parker. He assumed the Spider-Man identity and even partook in the DC Vs Marvel crossover series in 1996. When Ben Reilly died (and in the same moment revealed to be the clone) Peter Parker was essentially saved without really being in danger.

Unfortunately, it seems that Ultimate Spider-Man writer Brian Michael Bendis has other plans. He believes that Peter Parker’s death will inspire someone else to take on the Spider-Man mantle, just as Peter is inspired by the death of his Uncle Ben. However, given the above-mentioned history of clones, the possibility of identity-switching is not out of the question. We’ll just have to see what happens next.