secret_empire_promoYes, we are late after a weird weekend, but we still have a good show for you! A show barely prepared for, fueled by caffeine and alcohol, but as far as shows go: this is one!

Anyway, for the past few years, DC Films seems to have gauged whether or not to proceed making live action films of some of their lesser-known comics properties by releasing direct-to-video animated versions of them to see if they’ll stick. They did it with Suicide Squad three years ago, and now they’re doing it with the cast of the proposed Dark Universe movie with Justice League Dark, which was released last week.

We are big John Constantine fans (and kinda fans of the New 52 Justice League Dark), so we watched the movie and discuss the return of Matt Ryan to the role, how Batman fits into a mostly magical cast, why Black Orchid is almost literally filler, and why seeing Green Lantern being lightly tazed is almost always worth nearly any price of admission.

In addition: this week gave us the first two issues of what will become Marvel’s next event, Secret Empire. We have been nothing if not vocal here about how much a bummer Civil War II was, and now that we’re staring down the barrel of a story about a literal Nazi taking over the United States, well, we have strong opinions. And we even try to have those strong opinions without talking too much about current American politics.

As a palate cleanser, we also discuss Deathstroke #11, written by Priest, with pencils by Denys Cowan and inks by Bill Sienkiewicz!

But here’s the disclosures:

  • This show contains spoilers. If you don’t want to know why spending a few months with Nazi Captain America might be a depressing idea, you have been warned.
  • This show contains adult, profane language, and is therefore not safe for work. If you don’t want to explain to your mom why “catharsis: isn’t the same as some form of “reaching around”, then listen in your car or something.

Thanks for listening, suckers!

justice_league_dark_23_cover_2013Comic crossover events are built on a tight timeline. Because of all the various comic titles that are involved in any big event, everything needs to go off like clockwork. Because when it doesn’t, it throws all the other titles involved into a scheduling nightmare, and that could really fuck up their ability to tell a coherent story… not to mention fuck up their ability to get their shit together in time for the next event story that is inevitably hammering down the pike.

So sometimes an issue needs to move a lot of plot and characters around quickly, to make sure everything is in place for the next issue in the story pipeline. And Justice League Dark #23, the penultimate chapter of DC’s Trinity War crossover, is one of those books. Writer Jeff Lemire and artist Mikel Janin have just 24 pages to get characters from the House of Mystery, Washington D. C., New York City and other parts unknown all together to deal with Pandora’s Box and face down whoever the dapper gentleman running the Secret Society happens to be, all so the players and pieces are in place for the finale in next week’s Justice League.

The good news is that they do it with a fair amount of action, pitting heavy hitters against lower-level heroes, with everyone in sight being affected by the corrupting influence of Pandora’s Box. The bad news is that they make a lot of these moves based on forced coincidences, characters popping up from out of nowhere at just the right time, and a serious over-reliance on Zatanna and her backwards Pig Latin magic.

The result is an exciting story, but as befitting a story with magic at its core, one where you can see The Man Behind The Curtain. Characters don’t move in this comic. They are pushed.

guillermo_del_toro_headshotWe appear to have our Internet and cable issues resolved here at Crisis On Infinite Midlives headquarters, after a long and exhausting weekend digging around in wiring… and we recovered our connectivity just in time for Wondercon to be over. Which means that there is a ton of news that even we need to catch up on, and, having quickly scanned our RSS feeds, it only proves that it would have been smarter and better for us to just catch a Goddamned plane to Wondercon, because not only would we have first-person news to report, but at least our hotel would have had fucking Wi-Fi.

But we couldn’t let the Wondercon weekend slip by without reporting on at least something from the convention, and this is the main item that caught our eyes once we had full Internet: Guillermo del Toro held a panel for his upcoming movie Pacific Rim during the convention, and, as one would expect at a comic convention panel where they hold a Q & A session, someone asked del Toro about his reports that he’s working on Dark Universe – a movie focusing on pretty much all the big Vertigo / DC Dark characters.

Now, what one wouldn’t expect is that a director would say anything at all about a roject in pre-production, particularly at a panel about his latest movie that isn’t even out yet. However, this is Guillermo del Toro we’re talking about, and as the director of Blade II and both Hellboy movies, it’s safe to say that he’s one of us, which means he’s probably as excited about the concept of a Justice League Dark movie as the rest of us are.

While is a long way to go to say that: yeah, del Toro let a couple of things about Dark Universe slip.

justice_league_dark_15_cover_2013Editor’s Note: What is it with you people? Do I have some kind of sign on me back, “Walking Spoiler Bank – Withdrawals Welcome”? Is that it?

What with the news about Guillermo del Toro having a movie in early pre-production about basically every character from DC’s Dark line, it seems like as good a time as any to check back in with Justice League Dark, which features just about all the characters del Toro want to work with.

Frankly, my enthusiasm for the title has waned in the face of Vertigo’s cancellation of Hellblazer (sure, John Constantine’s in Justice League Dark, but that ain’t Hellblazer), despite the title being taken over by Jeff Lemire, who is a damn good writer of weird shit, and who seemed to understand that if you’re going to see people a team book, it’s probably a good idea to have them be a fucking team. But the fact of the matter is that there’s nothing like knowing a movie is coming out about a comic to ramp up your excitement about a book. And God knows, Justice League Dark #15 will remind you that, yup, there’s a comic book movie coming out.

Unfortunately, that movie is X-Men: Days of Future Past.

justice_league_dark_9_coverUpdate, 6:40 a.m.: The video after the jump is fixed. What can I say? That Benzedrine’s a hell of a drug.

Guillermo del Toro is finishing up work on Pacific Rim, which will be in theaters in July. And since between movies and books and comics, he seems like a guy who likes to keep busy… you know, in the sense that a methamphetamine addict like to occupy the day by disassembling the television in an attempt to find parts to improve the AK-47 they use to keep the Goddamned bugs away.

Which, as analogies go, certainly is one, but my point is, del Toro probably has another project in mind. And it seems that he does. Is it the adaptation of H. P. Lovecraft’s At The Mountains of Madness that del Toro was working on before the project went tits up? Well, apparently maybe; supposedly he thinks he can get one more bite at that apple, hard R rating and ridiculous budget or no:

“I’m going to try it one more time. Once more into the dark abyss,” he laughed. “We’re gonna do a big presentation of the project again at the start of the year and see if any [studio’s] interested.” And yes, Tom Cruise is still game to be on board if they can find a home for it. “Yeah, Tom is still attached. I think it would be so fantastic to make it with him. He’s been such a great ally of the project.”

Okay, that’s pretty good news… certainly better than the news about the Hulk TV show that del Toro was supposedly working on a few months ago:

“After ‘The Avengers’ there’s been complete radio silence,” he said. “I had one more meeting after ‘Avengers’ with Jeph Loeb from Marvel and he said, ‘We’re working on it, we’re waiting for a writer,’ he gave me the name of the writer and their resume and I said, ‘That sounds great, let’s wait for him’ because we had delivered a teleplay and I haven’t heard since then.”

So yeah, those sound pretty good… but that’s not the good shit. The good shit is that del Toro is apparently working on a project with Warner Bros. A movie including Swamp Thing, John Constantine, Zatanna, Etrigan… pretty much all of the cast of Justice League Dark. And it’s actually in preproduction, with a writer attached and everything.

First of all people of San Diego: it’s a fucking e-cigarette. It emits water vapor. So please stop passive-aggressively giving me shit when I’m using it on a public sidewalk, out of doors and approaching the convention center, by muttering, “Nothing I like better than a faceful of cigarette smoke blowing into my baby’s face…” Let’s clear the air here (ha!): my e-cigarette emits no odor and bothers no one, unlike your little bundle of squalling fecal production. And since my e-cig doesn’t even burn, the San Diego Fire Marshall even considers it less of a fucking fire hazard.

Okay, I feel better now. Now that we’ve got my personal news out of the way, let’s talk about what’s been happening at SDCC 2012 that doesn’t involve self-righteous self-absorbsion.

The actual programming at SDCC started in earnest yesterday, featuring panels on everything from homosexuality in genre fiction to Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part II. (Rob: This may be redundant. Consider editing. -Amanda)

Editor’s Note: won nigeb sreliops!

Before I say anything else about Justice League Dark #9, the first issue written by Jeff Lemire, I feel I must protest and state, with the authority of a seventeen-year two pack a day smoker who quit two years ago, that the only way John Constantine would be able to make it up the steps of the ziggurat we see mid-issue – a ziggurat in Peru, meaning a minimum of 5,000 feet above sea level – would be if Superman miracled his ass up there.

Other than that misstep, this re-reboot of Justice League Dark is generally effective, given that Lemire has the unenviable task of having to introduce a new status quo, including a new cast of characters, team raison d’etre, and mission, all in 20 pages. That is a lot of expositionally heavy work to have to do, and it does show in several places; for example, you can clearly see the man behind the curtain saying, at one point, “Oh shit; Andrew Bennett could wrap this conflict up in ten seconds. I have, let’s see… 20 words in which I can resolve that.” However, it is a generally promising beginning… with a few obvious problems.

The most major one being that, intentionally or not, the guts of the plot to this story is so close to that of the Avengers movie that one of them has to be getting an unintentional boner.

Guess who found their microphones?

That’s right, after five months, and literally no waiting with bated – or any – breath, it’s time for another exciting episode of the Crisis On Infinite Midlives Podcast!

In this week’s episode, we drunkenly rant about:

  • Digital Comics. Specifically, it was a big week encompassing the closing of the Web storefront and the release of the first of Marvel’s Infinite Comics via ComiXology, so we talk about how faithful customers of digital comics get to be in the vanguard of comics publishing while eventually being doomed to wind up with fuckall for their money!
  • Marvel’s Augmented Reality application, which forces you to read your printed comics through your cell phone like Commander Data or some other robotic autistic person!
  • Fanboys Vs. Zombies, and how it is an awesome book if you have been to SDCC, want to go to SDCC, or want to see Joe Quesada eaten by a grue!
  • The Avengers movie: can it possibly be as good as the trailers and the TV spots make it look?
  • Agent Coulson: Xander of the Marvel Movie Universe?
  • Hawkeye: Like a Boss? Or Like a Miss?
  • SDCC Hotel Sales: big mess or biggest mess?
  • Plus: Justice League Dark and The Boys!

As always, if you listen to this show at work, wear headphones unless you want to explain to your boss why you’re listening to someone bemoan the lack of glory holes in San Diego hotel rooms! And if you can listen to the whole thing, see if you can tell the moment when the booze gets on top of us!

As always: thanks for listening, suckers!

EDITOR’S NOTE: This review contains spoilers, and saying that backwards won’t make them go away.

We’re six issues into Justice League Dark now, and Peter Milligan is finally putting the actual team (mostly) together after an interminable rampup of what seemed like dozens of tiny solo adventures of the DC Universe’s most Vertigo-like heroes… just in time for a forced crossover with I, Vampire and Milligan leaving the book. Thanks a lot, Pete. Your timing sucks.

At the end of the last issue, we finally had Constantine, Deadman, Shade, Zatanna et al in one place… just in time for each of them to say, “Fuck you, Charlie” (Or in Zatanna’s case, “Eilrahc, uoy kcuf”) and disperse to the four winds. And now they’re all having nightmares; Constantine dreams of London on fire and it being his fault. Zatanna dreams of monsters putting fingers in her mouth (Meaning that, based on finger placement, her definition of nightmare has a lower threshold than mine). Deadman dreams that Dove is dead, unlike most comic fans who have been praying that Hawk would also take the dirtnap.

We’re in an age of 90s nostalgia in comics, what with more spider-clones, someone thinking Todd McFarlane is worth suing, and Rob Liefeld finding steady work that doesn’t involve a riding mower or medically required applications of Zovirax. And for those of us who had their 80s comics habit survive through that somewhat empty decade only because of Vertigo comics, this is a development that in many ways feels like flashing back to being a Boston altar boy in 1972.

But for those of us who did survive 90s comics and their excesses thanks to Vertigo, a bright spot of DC’s New 52 has been Justice League Dark, which, while not perfect, gave us Peter Milligan writing both John Constantine and Milligan’s old favorite of mine: Shade The Changing Man. And God knows that the book was in no way perfect, including the end of the first arc where the team finally got together… and said, “Fuck all y’all, mates” and immediately disbanded.

Well, I’ve got some bad news: Peter Milligan is leaving Justice League Dark. But I also have some good news: Jeff Lemire, writer of Animal Man and Sweet Tooth, is taking it over as of issue 9. And Milligan is shifting over to Stormwatch to take over from Paul Cornell.