Yes, we’re a day late, and for that, we’re sorry. But it’s a jam-packed show this week, so we wanted to take the time to get it right. That, and we had weird audio issues it took a while to resolved, but let’s focus on the positive.

First, we discuss some long-awaited and welcome comics news: Matt Wagner’s announcement at ECCC that Mage: The Hero Denied, which has been promised since the conclusion of the first Mage series in 1986 and the end of the second in 1999, will begin this July. Mage is rarely mentioned in the same breath with other 80s classic series like Watchmen, but it’s one of the first examples of urban fantasy out there, and one of our personal favorites.

And then there’s Logan. Which was Rob’s choice for most-anticipated genre movie of 2017 (a choice for which he took some static), and for once, it’s almost like Rob knew what he was talking about. We discuss Logan, how it’s less a superhero movie than it is a western (and, as a western, the Unforgiven of comic book movies), and, even with all those qualifications, one of the best comic book movies ever made.

We also discuss:

  • Batman #18, written by Tom King with art by David Finch, and:
  • Savage Things #1, written by Justin Jordan with art by Ibrahim Moustafa!

And, the usual warnings:

  • This show contains spoilers. If you haven’t seen Logan yet and don’t want to know whether or not we’re making up the fact that Jubilee saves Logan’s soul from Mephisto, consider yourself warned.
  • This show contains adult, profane language, and is therefore not safe for work. Look at this episode’s title. Think about the discussion surrounding that title. Listen with headphones.

And, one last disclaimer: there is some unexplained static in the show’s recording, for about ten minutes, starting at about the one hour, five minute mark. We’ve run the audio through a couple of filters to minimize the crackling, but it’s still noticeable and the audio will sound somewhat processed during that time. A thousand apologies; we’ll send your refund to the usual address.

Thanks for listening, suckers!

avatar_panel_brooks_christensen_sdcc_20131113153242And here we are: our final article covering San Diego Comic-Con 2013 (except for a bunch of video that my high-toned, dedicated video camera seems to have mangled, unless my actual computer here at the Crisis On Infinite Midlives Home Office can do anything to salvage them), five days after the convention ended and more than a week after the actual panel occurred. But what the hell; given my crippling hangover and intestinal issues born from the fried chicken sandwich and fries I washed down with five black IPAs at a bar last night, it feels like I’m still at SDCC. So let’s just plow ahead, shall we?

The Avatar Press panel on Thursday morning, July 18th, with Avatar Founder and Editor-In-Chief William Christensen and World War Z and Extinction Parade writer Max Brooks, was the first panel we hit during SDCC 2013, and in some ways it set the tone for the whole convention. The room wasn’t full, but there was a healthy crowd for a comic book related panel on the most off day of the convention. Not that there are any off days at SDCC anymore, but if there is a day that qualifies, it’s this mid-week opening to the full-blown festivities. Unlike Preview Night, the whole convention center is open, and cosplayers are more plentiful, all of which draws people off the floor and makes it at least tolerable to move around; there’s nothing like a set of jugs in a spandex Power Girl suit to peel off the rubes so you can get where you’re going.

But where we were going was a panel, and we were going there later than we should. Which meant we could get a seat up front and to the side… right in front of the projector many panels use to put up new art for display. Which meant that, as a six foot tall gentleman, I spent the panel hunched over like Frankenstein’s delivery boy to stay out of the projector light, scribbling notes almost on my side as if trying to write “I am having a stroke” for the paramedics, just in case Christensen and Brooks put some new art up on the screen.

Which they did not. Every table at every panel at Comic-Con has a posted sign for presenters, reminding them that members of the crowd might be younger than 18. And every fan of Avatar comics knows that there is very little art that they could project that would be appropriate for children. There is very little Avatar art that would not make children long for the sweet release of death, or at least blindness, to tell you the truth. Avatar books are for adults, and that is on purpose.

“I just do books I want to read,” Christensen said. “It will always be intense work for adults.”

robert_kirkman_headshot_sdcc_2013-1337403105It is getting late in San Diego Comic-Con, and the true fatigue hysteria is beginning to set in. I personally have not slept longer than six hours in the past four nights, and considering my diet in that time has varied wildly from gourmet triple-creme brie to greasy patty melts to tater tots, washed down with everything from Starbucks iced coffee to Stone IPA to hotel room self-brewed coffee to Coors Light, I am beginning to break down physically. And considering I am writing this with only about two hours to spare before I have to haul my shattered carcass to the convention floor to attempt to obtain some Goddamned thing called a Plush Zerg for contributor Lance Manion (and knowing Lance, this “convention exclusive” can only be obtained in the third stall of the mezzanine men’s room), I am staring goggle-eyed at a notebook full of details from yesterday’s Skybound Comics panel.

Skybound is, if you are not familiar, the personal publishing imprint at Image Comics for creator of The Walking Dead Robert Kirkman. Meaning that, if you have picked up one of Kirkman’s comics – The Walking Dead, Invincible, or Super Dinosaur, off the top of my head – it was a Skybound book. But it is not a vanity imprint by any stretch of the imagination; Kirkman has been bringing other creators into the fold to release books, including the recent Thief of Thieves. And based on what we were told in the panel yesterday, there are a variety of other books on the way, covering genres from westerns to horror to 70s grindhoue-style revenge flicks, indicating that if we wait long enough, we will eventually see the Skybound bullet on a romance comics, if not some form of furry yiff-tacular.

Jesus, I’m tired.

deathstroke_20_cover_2013-153518301Editor’s Note: And one last look at last week’s comics before the comic stores open late today… and it contains spoilers. But they are spoilers on a book that has been cancelled and lives no more. So do you really give a fuck? Thought not.

“So the final issue of Deathstroke was in this week’s take. You gonna review it?” I said.

“Fuck that,” my co-Editor Amanda said, “As far as I’m concerned, that book’s been over since Rob Leifeld took over from Kyle Higgins last year. DC editorial took a perfectly good book about a professional dealing with the perils of entering middle age and turned it into a book about some badly-proportioned, footless steroid head beating on space douchebags.”

“But Justin Jordan’s been writing the book for the past few months. Do you think it’s improved at all since then?”

“I haven’t been reading it.”

“Why not? Jordan writes Luther Strode, and you like that.”

“Yeah, but so what? It’s damaged goods. Taking over Deathstroke after Liefeld had his grubby mitts all over it is like watching a buddy get married to a whore. He might be totally in love and committed to making it work, but here ain’t a force on Earth that can make people look at her and not picture when she had three dicks in her mouth. Let Deathstroke go under and lie fallow for a while. I’ll try it again when it feels a little less… dirty. You review the last issue.”

Okay I will. Despite not having kept up on Deathstroke since Higgins left the book any more than Amanda did. Which means that I have no idea what the hell led into the events of this issue, which includes all the Usual Suspects you’d expect from a big Deathstroke story. We’ve got Terra, Rose (Slade’s daughter who became Ravager before the New 52), Grant (Slade’s son who became Ravager back in the 80s – c’mon, at least try to keep up), Jericho (Slade’s other son, who was a good guy in the 80s before becoming a bad guy in… ah, fuck it) and, well, Majestic (for some reason), locked in a epic battle to the death that requires some ugly choices, brutal methods, and one deus ex machina on Slade’s part.

Which is fine, but what matters is: is it any good? And more importantly: does it work as a final story? You know, with “final” in subtextual quotes, since ain’t no one really gonna kill a character that appears on The CW’s Arrow?

legend_of_luther_strode_3_cover_2013Editor’s Note: Did you know a young boy drowned the year before those two others were killed? The editors weren’t paying any attention… They were making spoilers while that young boy drowned.

Justin Jordan needs to stop, take a breath, and be very, very careful from here on out. Don’t worry, I will explain.

If 2011’s The Strange Talent of Luther Strode was inspired by a 1980 horror movie, then its sequel, The Legend of Luther Strode, is clearly shaping up to be at least somewhat inspired by a 1980s sequel to a horror movie: Aliens. I say this in the sense that, where Alien was a moody, claustrophobic story about an unstoppable monster picking people off one by one, Aliens instead was a big damn action movie that used the trappings of the original movie, like facehuggers, soldier aliens and acid blood, as a plot device to allow people to blow a bunch of shit the fuck up.

And for most of the first three issues of The Legend of Luther Strode, writer Justin Jordan has delivered a very similar experience. He has taken the details set up in the original series – superhuman strength and speed, the ability to see and foretell the physical effects of pending violence, and being pretty much all but bulletproof – and used them to set up not only big action setpieces of Luther stomping the crap out of gangs of criminals who are a motion tracker and a “Game over, man!” away from being Colonial Marine cannon fodder, but long battle sequences between Luther and similarly-powered Binder. Throw in Luther’s friend Petra – a regular woman with a surfeit of cojones running around this superpowered mayhem with just a gun – and Jordan even has his Ripley, albeit in a supporting role. All we’re missing is the damn ship’s cat and Lance Hendriksen… and based on his current filmography, he’d probably show up if Jordan asked nicely and offered a hot meal.

But if this latest Luther Strode series is, in fact, Aliens, then there must be an alien queen. And in The Legend of Luther Strode #3, we meet a contender – I say “contender” because halfway through the series is a little early to be really meeting the final Big Bad – and this contender is… shall we say, problematic. Problematic in the sense that his identity is such a bold move that it can really only elicit one of two responses.

Those responses being either, “Wow!”, or “…are you fucking kidding me?

dc_comics_logo_2013It has been 17 months since DC blew up their entire line of comics, shuffled all their creators around to different books, and blew up their entire history of continuity. You know, for everyone except Grant Morrison, who has been allowed to continue his Batman saga that started several years ago in Batman Incorporated like it’s still 2009… or sometimes, considering all the Silver Age characters Morrison’s shoveled into that storyline, like it’s still 1959.

And the New 52 reboot was an unqualified success. It put DC over Marvel, in both sales numbers and dollar earnings, for the first time. It refreshed the classic characters of the DC Universe for a new generation. Truly, those 52 books signalled the start of a thousand-year uncontested reign. Nothing could stop them. They would march to victory on a road of bones. They would drive their enemies before them, see them broken, and hear the lamentations of…

What’s that? DC’s cancelling six more books?


new_years_ballIt is New Year’s Eve of the first complete year of the existence of Crisis On Infinite Midlives. We have all the comics we’re going to get in 2012, so it is time to publish my list of the best comics of the year… mostly because with no new comics, there isn’t much to review, and the biggest comics news we’re likely to get between now and Wednesday is likely to be “Frank Miller Publicly Intoxicated, Yells At ‘Hippies.’ Must Be Tuesday.”

So here’s my list; Amanda’s will appear later today. It is in no particular order, it encompasses everything from single issues to multi-issue story arcs to series that started in 2011 and ended this year. And I know what you’re thinking: “Rob,” you’re thinking, “Why don’t you organize things a little more? And use some consistent criteria for your list?” Well, because fuck you, that’s why. Look: it’s New Year’s Eve, and I intend to be recklessly intoxicated within about 90 minutes from the time I press the “publish” button.

So without further (or any) ado: here’s my list!

If The Strange Talent of Luther Strode was the origin tale of an 80s slasher film-style killing machine wrapped up in a superhero story, then it would stand to reason that the sequel would have to be the actual horror movie. This is a somewhat tricky proposition, because despite the similarities between a superhero and a slasher flick villain – on a mission, with a distinctive outfit and / or mask, and apparently indestructible – a horror movie is not a superhero story.

In a slasher film, the killer is “other,” appearing from out of nowhere and picking off the people who are the primary protagonists and the focus of the story. Further, while many if not most of the victims might, for whatever reason, “need killing” (for having sex or smoking pot or drinking underage – hey Mom! You were right! I do need killing!), there needs to be one character for whom the audience is invested and pulling for to escape, if not defeat, the unstoppable force in the shadows. And it is one hell of a proposition to try to tell a story about a superhero in a story format where you have to not only stick him in the background, but find someone you like enough to hope that she (because it’s always a “she” who winds up facing down the killer in slasher films, isn’t it?) kills your hero.

If I were Luther Strode writer Justin Jordan, I would look at these challenges, smile, cut my losses and walk away. However, in the first issue of The Legend of Luther Strode, he instead embraces the story structure of a slasher film, taking the risk of pulling focus away from Luther and putting it on his “victims,” and gives us an antagonist for Luther who, at this point anyway, I wouldn’t mind seeing maybe win.

But again, the question is: does the slasher story format work in what is ostensibly a superhero comic?

Editor’s Note: My name is Spoiler, for we are many.

I’ve said a few times recently that the number of comic titles I was buying back in the early to mid-90s totalled about three or four, with most of them being Vertigo books. There was some reasons for that, one of them being that I was stone broke, and where the rubber hits the road, you can’t go out, drink a comic book and try to get laid.

But the primary reason was that, in the immediate post-Image Comics era, a lot of comics were simply and truly hammered shit. And they were crap for a lot of reasons, but most of them boiled down to the simultaneous rises of the Age of The Artist-Driven Comic, and the Swelling of The Speculator Who Didn’t Give A Shit About Comics Beyond Using Them To Pay For Little Austin’s College Education. So as far as I was concerned, I was seeing a fuckton of books with heavily-stylized covers, new publisher names I’d never heard of, a big ol’ “First Issue! Collector’s Item!” splashed in chromium… and, having read a bunch of these books before tuning out, no story inside whatsoever.

The point is that, when Shadowman debuted back in 1992, I had already begun my early 20s snobbish migration away from stylized superhero comics, and probably turned up my nose at it. Throw on top of that that I didn’t ever have the money for a videogame console until the first XBox came out, it means that I never played the Shadowman videogames by Acclaim, the company that bought Valiant to mine their intellectual properties for games and promptly ran the comics division into the ground. So I have no background whatsoever in the character of Shadowman.

This is kind of a problem when it comes to reading Shadowman #1

During the mid-90s, when Wildstorm was an independent publisher run by Jim Lee and before it because a launching-off point for Warren Ellis’s groundbreaking writing on Stormwatch and then The Authority, I knew it less as an imprint known for publishing creator-owned comics, and more as “one of those X-TREEM Image-type publishers that’s fucking up comics,” while I spent three or four years in mostly Vertigo-fueled superhero comics exile. Oh sure, I’ve read some of the old Wildstorm stuff in reprints, and have become familiar with some of the “classic” characters via the more recent Ellis and Ed Brubaker-written stories, but when it comes to a lot of the stuff from, say, 1994 through 1998, I’m what you’d call tabula rasa.

And having read Team 7 #0, by writer Justin Jordan and artist Jesus Merino, that is going to simultaneously bite me in the ass and make me wish I hadn’t spend my mid-20s sneering so hard at books that weren’t named PreacherTransmetropolitan or Jonah Hex.