batman_89_one_sheetIt’s the 25th anniversary of the release of Batman in theaters, so this week, Amanda and I talk about what it was like being a geek in the years and months leading up to the flick… and whether it holds up now (Hint: in 1989, Batman was a terrible, terrible pervert).

We also talk about:

  • The pilot for The Flash that leaked to the Internet this week,
  • Superman #32, written by Geoff Johns with art by John Romita Jr., and,
  • New Avengers #20, written by Jonathan Hickman with art by Valerio Schiti!

And, the usual disclaimers:

  • This show is recorded live to tape. It means some more pauses and repeated thoughts than you might be used to, but it also means that anything can happen.
  • This show contains spoilers. We try to warn ahead of time, but if you haven’t seen Batman yet, I’m not sure what you want us to tell you.
  • This show contains adult, explicit language, and is not safe for work. It’s 2014; check behind your couch cushions. You’ll find ear buds.
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Enjoy the show, suckers!

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infinity_1_cover_2013300439282For years, whenever Marvel kicked off a big event comic, they made a point of swearing before God and everybody that the story could be read on its own, without needing to track down a bunch of other comics to understand what’s going on. It was all bullshit, of course; be it Civil War or Secret Invasion or Avengers Vs. X-Men, the second the event kicked off, it crossed into every title Marvel published. Sure, you didn’t need to read those other comics to understand the whole story, provided you were okay with taking certain things you saw on faith. Things like just assuming that, somewhere in the gutters of the main title, D-Man obtained the Infinity Gauntlet while Batroc The Leaper’s big toes were turned to Mrs. Dash Onion Seasoning.

That, however, was the past. Welcome to Infinity, a book not only with a final page consisting of a diagram telling you what other comic books you should be following to get the whole story, but one which, if you haven’t been reading both Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers and New Avengers since launch day, will be difficult to follow from the first page. Which is fine for people like me who have been getting those books all along, but which isn’t exactly welcoming to any poor schmuck who wanders into a comic store after, say, seeing The Wolverine, and saying to himself, “Ooh! That comic has the dude from the credits of The Avengers movie!”

And that wouldn’t be a bad thing if Infinity #1 was character-driven, and gave you compelling people to follow through this unfamiliar scenario. Unfortunately, this book is all about plot and putting pieces into place to eventually blow some shit up. And the characters are simply pushed through this clockwork, normally almost indistinguishable from each other except for the colors of their costumes.

Hell, one of the main heroes of the story is featured in a four-page sequence where he is asleep, for Christ’s sake.

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new_avengers_3_cover_2013It’s hard to believe that it’s only been a month since Jonathan Hickman debuted his Marvel Now reboot of New Avengers, to generally good reviews, and, well, this one:

Christ, he thinks he’s making movies. That’s why I wasn’t completely satisfied by Avengers #1, and was actually kinda pissed off by New Avengers #1: they’re not really stories.

Yeah, it didn’t do a hell of a lot for me. Hickman started New Avengers in a way that felt like a movie trailer: a tease of a terrible, world-shattering apocalypse to occur at some point in the future, with a final assembly of heroes to combat this purely theoretical threat in heroic establishing shots with explanatory and expository slogans, followed by a team shot… all without a hell of a lot actually, you know, happening. All it was missing was some deep baritone growling, “In a world…” and an immediately-following commercial for Doritos. It was such a blatant setup for story versus actual story that it actually made me kind of angry.

That, however, was a month ago. This week, we have New Avengers #3, and the Illuminati is actually in a position to face the terrible, world-shattering apocalypse. So now that it’s here, how was it? Well, the downside is that the actual confrontation is, on the scale of action sequences, less the last ten minutes of the Avengers movie and closer to the last time I was shitfaced and tried to get the TV remote to jump to my hand using telekenisis. The good news is that, despite the somewhat anticlimactic action sequence, it features a hell of a lot of damn fine character work. And while there isn’t a lot of action, there is plenty of conflict. Some damned entertaining conflict, as a matter of fact.

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new_avengers_1_cover_2013Christ, he thinks he’s making movies. That’s why I wasn’t completely satisfied by Avengers #1, and was actually kinda pissed off by New Avengers #1: they’re not really stories. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself here.

So let me start with a personal note to Jonathan Hickman: Hi, Jon? There is a difference between an action movie and a comic book. An action flick costs ten bucks and usually lasts between 100 and 140 minutes. A comic book costs just about half as much as a movie, but is 20 to 24 pages, and lasts about 15 minutes, or maybe 20 if you’ve eaten a lot of cheese and let yourself become dehydrated.

A full-screen title card in a movie usually takes maybe 10 seconds, or fifteen if the director is a bombastic prick – about 0.002 percent of a movie, or about 2 cents worth of screen time in a best-case scenario. In a comic? it’s two pages out of 22 – about nine percent of a comic, or about 36 cents worth of the book. And yes: I sat down with a calculator and did the math.

My point is: the big, movie-style title cards you insist on chucking into the first issue of each Avengers book you’ve taken over? Save that shit for the movies. Reading comics is more expensive than going the movies. If you want to write a movie? Call Avi Arad. If you’re writing comics? We’re paying by the page, champ. Don’t waste those pages on your James Cameron fantasies.

Okay, now that my pet peeve is out of the way, we can talk about New Avengers #1.

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Editor’s Note: Those spoilers are some bad mother – shut your mouth! I’m just talking about spoilers…

Well, that’s it. With New Avengers #34, Brian Michael Bendis is (for now) finished with the Avengers books. And, as he did in the core Avengers book, he uses this issue as an opportunity to repair all the toys he played with and damaged during his time on the floor, and clears the decks for Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting to give New Avengers its third first issue in less than ten years, making New Avengers only one comeback short of Lindsey Lohan in that same time period.

With multiple comic series, crossover events, and an Avengers movie under our belts since Bendis started on Avengers, it’s easy to forget that this all really started about a decade ago, when I walked into my local comic store where they know me by name and ask me to stop yanking at my belt and screeching, “Avengers Disassemble!”, and saw a book named Alias that I bought for Amanda, thinking it was a comic adaptation of the new Jennifer Garner ABC TV series. It most certainly was not. It was a crime story taking places on the dirty fringes of the Marvel Universe, involving B-Lister Scott Lang and the first real rehabilitation of Luke Cage since his introduction (we’re gonna claim convenient amnesia about Brian Azzarello’s attempt to turn Cage into a mix of 50 Cent and Leone’s Man With No Name).

Bendis brought Jessica Jones and Luke Cage with him into The New Avengers, and it is somewhat fitting that he closes out his run with them here… with a pretty exciting and well-drawn mystical battle thrown in to boot.

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Editor’s Note: With great spoilers, comes great douchebaggery. I learned that lesson from my Uncle James. Yup. Good old Uncle James Beam. Died sticking up some old fart at gunpoint.

The final four pages of New Avengers #27 are amongst the most affecting and most emotional of the entirety of the Avengers Vs. X-Men event to date. It humanizes Hope in a way that has been missing in the event in favor of showing her alternate between a willful little whining brat and a cocky willful little whining brat, and it gives Spider-Man not only a logical and effective (if small) role in a cosmic apocalypse that should be completely out of his league, but it distills, in just a few short panels, the essence of the character and what he’s about better than six hours of Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies did. And it is Goddamned gorgeous to look at, besides.

Unfortunately, this is a 20-page story. Which further unfortunately means that what we got here is sixteen pages of decompressed life support for those spectacular closing four pages, that spins out a story conceit based purely on what was probably a simple lack of costume and coloring design communication between John Byrne and Gil Kane back in the mid-70s. On the fortunate end of the equation, those are sixteen pages of decompressed life support written by Brian Michael Bendis, meaning that they are filled with entertaining dialogue and some decent character beats… even while the best part of the book could have been presented as an interlude in the main event’s title.

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UPDATE, 3/3/2012, 9 a.m.: Via Twitter exchange with Mike Deodato on the division of art labor between him and Will Conrad:

@mikedeodato – FYI: @willconrad didn’t ink me on NA#22. He drew these awesome pages: 5,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17 and I did the rest. Thanks, buddy!:)

@InfiniteMidlife – Thanks, @mikedeodato. I’m curious: did @willconrad pencil those pages with a common inker for the book? I couldn’t see a difference in style

@mikedeodato@InfiniteMidlife We ink our own stuff.

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Here’s the ugly and sad truth that DC Comics will not want to hear and will ignore even if they do: when it comes to superhero team books, The New Avengers is, bar none, the most consistently good one you can currently put your hands on. From the plot to the characters to the dialogue to the art, this book blows Justice League out of the water… and I say this despite the fact that New Avengers #22 continues the Dark Avengers 2 storyline, which just by existing makes me so crazy with rage that I want to catch a flight so I can chloroform writer Brian Michael Bendis and draw a misshapen Norman Osborn wavy haircut on his lumpy bald noggin.

This issue continues the aftermath of Osborn’s and his Dark Avengers’ public relations assault on our heroes, which has led to a bunch of very expensive power-armored New York SWAT cops (Hey, it’s New York in the 616; let’s assume Mayor Jameson’s reduction of the Moustache Tax hit the sweet spot on the Laffer Curve) waiting outside Avengers Mansion to arrest the crew. Luke Cage, however, has some obvious and understandable issues with police authority, so fisticuffs ensue. Meanwhile, various members of the Dark Avengers are engaged in a race to see who can sneakfuck Osborn the fastest, and some members of the New Avengers have realized that S.H.I.E.L.D. liason Victoria Hand – former right-hand woman for Osborn in the Dark Reign days – might have been giving the team a Victoria Job. Wait, that’s not right…

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I had a moment reading The New Avengers #19 where I just about completely and totally checked out. I just suddenly had had enough of Norman Osborn and the Dark Avengers and different made up villains in Avengers costumes and doing the mental clean and jerk required to buy into a story where a man who is known to have killed a woman in cold blood in broad daylight follows a master plan of winning over public opinion to prove he leadership material when in reality we demonize leaders for taking pictures of their junk.

That moment was at the end of the book, when Norman and his Dark Avengers are standing in front of a crowd and announcing that they were here to make the world a better place, and I realized it was the same Goddamned moment as when he introduced the Dark Avengers back in Dark Reign. And my enthusiasm for this story, as precarious as it was to begin with, just vanished.

Seriously, I know what I said last month, but I don’t think I have it in me to climb back on board the Norman Osborn PR gladhanding and the Dick Avengers train again. I stuck with it for what felt like forever in Dark Reign and I just don’t care anymore. This doesn’t feel like anything interesting or new or that I didn’t read a dozen times over in the earlier story, which I didn’t like the first time around. The whole thing was like watching your uncle use his AA chip to crack open a Bud before Thanksgiving dinner: you know what’s coming, you’ve seen it before, and you know it’s not gonna be fun.

Assuming you don’t have an innate and visceral weariness and mistrust of Dark Reign and it’s ilk, on an individual issue level, there’s nothing wrong with this comic book. Bendis continues to write excellent dialogue and character moments. Seeing Daredevil wandering by Avengers Mansion and being hit on by Squirrel Girl – while being overwhelmed by the stench of baby shit and squirrel funk – is a nice little moment showing that sometimes superpowers aren’t all they’re all cracked up to be… while knowing all the while that yeah: he’s gonna hit that. Daredevil’s already fucked every woman that’s walked, moved or crawled; why wouldn’t he add “skittered up a tree?”

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Man, what a busy week. It’s the end of the busiest season for Amanda and me at our respective day jobs, which sadly are not in the comics industry… but then again, that should be obvious considering that we still have jobs.

But as kicked as our respective asses are, we can finally relax for a single evening, because it is Wednesday, which means that this…

…is the end of our (admittedly meager) broadcast day.

But it’s only an evening of rest, because there’s just too much good shit in there to try to review this week: check out that new story about the unkillable, walking dead: Carnage USA! We also have a zombie story to read!

There’s also a new Battle Scars, a J. H. Williams’ Batwoman, the latest New Avengers, and Palmiotti’s and Gray’s The Ray #1!

All of which means that this is gonna be a busy week trying to review it all… but first we need to read some of it. So see you tomorrow, suckers!

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Last week, DC Comics announced their solicitations for their upcoming releases for February, and there was a… disturbing trend of books with covers that made the heroes’ thighs look like something that would make Johnny Wadd Holmes weep with bitter, envious frustration.

But surely the repeating nature of DC’s offerings was just a coincidence. One would think that Marvel, who just released their own February solicitations, would never fall into the trap of repeating themselves in the space of a single month!

So let’s take a look at what is sure to be the widely varied and diverse offerings that Marvel has for us in February! (Rob: Tone down the pissy sarcasm and show the nice people the books. -Amanda)

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