django_unchained_1_coverIn this week’s episode, Amanda and I discuss:

  • DC Entertainment’s / Warner Bros.’s rumored slate of movie released, from Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice in 2016 to a rumored new Batman movie in 2019, whether DC is overextending, which ones we’re most looking forward to, how Sandman could work as a movie, and who should play Shazam,
  • The recently announced Quentin Tarantino / Matt Wagner crossover of Django Unchained and Zorro, why we’re not as excited as we might have been 15 years ago, and what Django crossovers we’d rather see,
  • Sex Criminals #6, written by Matt Fraction with art by Chip Zdarsky,
  • Thunderbolts #27, written by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, with art by Carlo Barberi, and:
  • How World Cup soccer is enough to put an American – even a baseball-loving American – right to sleep.

But some disclaimers:

  • This show is recorded live to tape, like a live radio show. While this might mean some dead air and dead ends, it also means that anything can happen.
  • This show contains spoilers. We try to drop a warning ahead of time, but tread lightly.
  • This show contains profanity and adult language, and is not safe for work. If it was translated into sign language, it would be only a middle finger. Wear headphones.

Enjoy the show, suckers!

tmp_sex_criminals_1_cover_2013-13026953There are times when I resign myself to the idea that digital comics are the future. Sure, I love my weekly visit to my local comic store, where they know me by name and ask me if I’m interested in any IDW Artist’s Editions or DC Absolute hardcovers because the kids need braces and they can’t show up at the orthodontist’s office in an American car like a common wino, but only a fool would think that, on an infinite timeline, comics can resist digital delivery where music, movies and print books couldn’t.

But every time I think that relying on digital comic companies wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, something happens to remind me that a dude in an actual place who knows his customers is still the way to go for me in a way that some mindless Web server will never be.

Most recent case in point? Apple has just informed Image Comics and Matt Fraction that they’ve rejected the second issue of Sex Criminals from the Apple version of the Comixology app due to “content that many audiences would find objectionable.”

Which is in start contrast to the policies at my local comic store, where they would not only sell me tentacle hentai if I could give him a Diamond code for it, but would sell me an octopus if the money was right.

tmp_sex_criminals_1_cover_2013-13026953Sex Criminals, the new limited series by writer Matt Fraction and artist Chip Zdarsky, is a book that asks a question about a circumstance that has never even occurred to me: what would happen if something happened to you after sex other than apologies, excuses and shame? You know: that terrible, terrible shame?

Okay, let me try this again. Sex Criminals is a comic book about two people with special superpowers that only manifest when they give each other orgasms. Hey, maybe I’m a superhero! I’m sure I’ll find out just as soon as I manage to give someone an orgasm! That must be why the ladies call me The Flash! I’m kidding, I’m kidding; they don’t think I’m a superhero. They think I’m a cop. That’s probably why they scream, “Help, police!” No? Okay.

Look, this is gonna be a weird book to review for me, because it’s a weird fucking book, okay? It’s a story about a little girl who learns that she comes unstuck in time when she comes, who tries to figure out if that’s normal through the minefield of junior high school, while dealing with her father’s murder and her mother’s alcoholism, combined with dirty jokes, dicks that glow in the dark, a list of sexual positions that look like a gymnastic routine if the Olympics Commissioner was Larry Flynt, and an armed bank robbery.

This book is all over the map. There is no “elevator pitch” for this comic, or at least not one that you could say on an elevator without being taken into custody within ten seconds of the doors opening. It’s a book with a lot of boning and jacking off, but one that isn’t about boning and jacking off. Instead, it’s about someone who grew up thinking everything they felt about sex was weird, dirty and odd, and who as an adult thinks that no one will ever really be compatible with her.

Which means that, for a comic book that includes glowing dicks and a sexual position known as “The Dutch Microwave,” it’s surprisingly relatable. Because my dick glows in the dark. Hey-yo!

Yeah, okay, I’ll stop. For now.

hawkeye_12_cover_20131541319931I normally try not to review the same title two months in a row unless it’s a big event comic – my reviews take a while to write thanks to my congenital case of diarrhea of the keyboard, and there are only so many hours in the day – but what the hell can I tell you? Hawkeye #12 is just that Goddamned good.

Seriously, I don’t know how Matt Fraction ever got this series greenlit without having photos of Axel Alonso in a compromising position with some form of beast of burden or something. Hawkeye barely appears in this book. There are exactly four panels of bow and arrow action. The closest thing to a supervillain is a Russian cocksucker in a tracksuit. The closest thing to a superhero battle and strategy is when a guy decides that he’s earned that money the Russians offered him in exchange for letting them kick the shit out of him. And this is in a Marvel superhero comic; for contrast, imagine a Superman comic that was about Jimmy Olsen getting ripped to the tits on laudanum while bemoaning his childhood by letting strange women pay him to take a dump on his chest.

This kind of superhero comic simply shouldn’t work; describing it on paper makes it sound like an inventory fill-in issue by a writer who was instructed to turn in something that doesn’t directly fuck around with the main character’s status quo. But it’s not like that at all; instead, we get a solid show-don’t-tell character study of Clint’s brother Barney, a snapshot of Clint and Barney’s childhood that uses artist Francesco Francavilla’s skills to show us a lot of information without having to waste a lot of time with unnecessary exposition, and for me, the first time I’ve ever seen a reason I can believe why Clint wouldn’t just write his brother – a Dark Avenger who stole Clint’s Hawkeye identity only weeks ago – completely off. All without seeing Hawkeye for more than a single page.

It shouldn’t work. But it does. Because it’s a superhero story about people, with some of the best pulpy art you can find anywhere.

hawkeye_11_cover_2013781017586Hawkeye #11 is turning out to be one hell of a hard book to review in the way that I normally do it. Oh, I can hear you: “But Rob,” you’re saying, “You normally review comic books drunk, and you’re looking a little weavy right now. Plus, you smell an awful lot like a fraternity carpet.”

Well… yeah, Fair enough. But most of the time, the comics I review are about guys and women in tights, smacking the crap out of each other when they’re not trying to accomplish normal, human-type things. And Hawkeye #11 isn’t like that.

Because Hawkeye #11 is about a dog. Specifically, Hawkeye’s dog Lucky. Formerly known as Arrow, when he was owned by Russian mobsters. And known by Twitter as Pizzadog. And while I have seen comic books about dogs ever since I was a kid – Krypto and Rex The Wonder Dog from Steve Englehart’s old Justice League of America books leap to mind – those dogs were always presented as having human thoughts and motivations. Human thoughts and motivations that somehow elevated above, “I can lick my own sack! I will be busy for the immediate future!” but human thoughts nonetheless.

Hawkeye #11 writer Matt Fraction and artist David Aja try something very different. These guys are trying like hell to put us readers into the head of Pizzadog, and they do it with the full recognition that dogs don’t think in complete sentences, and they don’t think in terms like “conspiracy,” or “treachery,” or, “long-term goals.” They think in smells and in immediate motivations and in sounds and in vague memories, and their loyalties are based on a combination of simple and complex motivations that come from current need and prior treatment.

And the end result is a comic book that you don’t read so much as decode and experience. And while I don’t think the result is completely successful – show me, for example, a dog that can salute out of nothing but pride, and the next time you’ll see my fat ass will be on Letterman – what it is is one of the most interesting single issues of a comic book you’ll find, and one of the best books I’ve read all damn year.

fantastic_four_9_cover_2013-1513315151Editor’s Note: Stretch, I’m tellin’ ya… I messed with spoilers I didn’t understand, and it all blew up in that jerk’s face. Literally.

Considering he’s one of the premier villains of the Marvel Universe, Doctor Doom’s origin has always been kinda crap.

I mean, think about it: the dude is a brilliant scientist and a master magician who, upon having an experiment blow up in his face, uses that wealth of head-earned knowledge to alleviate his condition by covering it with an iron mask that looks like it was forged and riveted by a seventh grade industrial arts student. And on a basic level, we’ve spent years being told that, if it weren’t for the one, single incident of his horrible disfigurement, Doctor Doom would never have become a tyrannical despot with a lust for immortality and ultimate power despite being born the heir to the throne of a third world Eastern European toilet (an area historically known for its great record on human rights) and having the positive family name of “Von Doom.” Which is, of course, the Germanic term for fucking “of doom.”

So I have never completely bought into the simplistic background of Doctor Doom… and clearly neither has Fantastic Four writer Matt Fraction. Because in Fantastic Four #9, he gives us a firsthand view of Doom’s originating accident, but from a completely different angle then we’ve seen before. And while it doesn’t make Doom’s motivations any more complicated – it actually simplifies them by a pretty significant level – it does make Doom and his personality a lot more believable, if not any more relatable. He doesn’t make Doom, who has always felt a little like a guy who only wears an iron mask to stop himself from twirling his moustache and cackling, “Moo-hah-ha-ha!”, any more complex… but he does make him a two-and-a-half dimensional megalomaniac that I find more believable.

And it is very, very good.

hawkeye_9_cover_2013Hawkeye is one of the best superhero comic books that you can currently buy, and it is because it isn’t about superheroes. Oh sure: it has all the trappings of a standard superhero comic book: it stars an Avenger, it features The Black Widow and Spider-Woman, it has fistfights and a motorcycle chase and international crime and women of mystery, but those aren’t the things that Hawkeye, and in particular Hawkeye #9, is about. For all the action and the trappings, Hawkeye #9 is about a guy who has made some bad decisions  – some for good reasons and some not – and is dealing with the consequences of how those decisions have affected the women in his life, and by extension how those women’s reactions are affecting him.

So Hawkeye #9 is a story about some superheroes, but it is not a superhero story. It is, instead, a very human story that anyone with any regrets over how they have treated someone close to them, or anyone who has felt let down by someone close to them, can relate to. And it includes Russian mobsters getting the living shit kicked out of them on more than one occasion. Which means that this is an extraordinary issue of an extraordinary comic book, and one of the best books in the past several weeks.

Seriously: considering there’s another issue this week where Hawkeye fights Ultrons, it says a lot that Hawkeye’s most compelling conflict this week is with Spider-Woman over an old girlfriend. This is a good one, kids.

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!

The biggest problem I have with FF #1 isn’t the characterizations or the ideas behind the story or the dialogue, all of which are, frankly, realistic enough to engage and sometimes even delightful (although I have no idea who Darla Deering – Ms. Thing – is, and I really thought that Scott Lang was dead). No, the biggest problem here is the invisible hand of Marvel Editorial. Because they are the reason that, all while reading this issue, I kept thinking, “Yeah, but Spider-Man really should be here.”

But let’s forget about that right now and talk about what is here. And what is here is pretty damned entertaining, if little but a giant wad of exposition wrapped up in fun dialogue and pretty pop art.

FF #1, written by Matt Fraction with pencils by Mike Allred, spins directly out of Fraction’s recent Fantastic Four #1, where the team decided to go on an exploration mission for a year that, in relativistic terms, should keep them away from Earth for four minutes. So this issue involves each member of the Fantastic Four picking a surrogate to lead the Future Foundation in their stead. For four minutes. Because of course they’ll only be gone for four minutes! This is, after all, a mission planned by Reed Richards! You know, the genius who once said, “Hey, why don’t we just steal the rocket? What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen?”

From one point of view, Matt Fraction’s and David Aja’s Hawkeye #1 is a truly crappy Hawkeye comic book. Hawkeye doesn’t appear in costume for more than five panels, and he is getting the shit kicked out of him for each and every one of those panels. Other than those five illustrations, Hawkeye never holds a bow, we never see an arrow, there are no other Avengers, and there is a cab ride instead of a bitchin’ skycycle run.

So yeah: as a traditional Hawkeye comic book, one could make the argument that this is a pile of shit, an experience akin to buying a porno with certain expectations in your mind (and pants), and finding you’ve taken home a 90-minute video of a fully-clothed woman repeating, “Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.” The elements are there, but it’s not what one necessarily wants from an item of that type.

However, some dingbat could also make the argument that it would be a colossal disappointment to open a box of Cracker Jacks and finding a giant wad of gold bullion – just because it’s not what you expected based on your prior experiences doesn’t make it bad. Rather, Hawkeye #1 is a pulpy, character-driven, street-level crime story that not only made me care about the purple-headed warrior (get it?) for the first time almost ever, but which is arguably the best comic book you’ll read this week.