doctor_strange_movie_posterSorry this week’s episode is late, but we had this thing, and we are late because of it. However! This past weekend, Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange opened in theaters, marking not only the latest film in Phase Three, but the first to have an opening credit production logo featuring almost no comic books.

So we discuss the movie, its similarities to Iron Man, how Benedict Cumberbatch’s American accent is the enemy of suspension of disbelief, whether Doctor Strange is actually history’s greatest villain, how to pronounce The Ancient One’s last name, whitewashing and cultural appropriation, and, of course, spotted dick.

We also discuss:

  • Avengers #1, written by Mark Waid with art by Mike Del Mundo, and:
  • Superman #1, written by Peter Tomasi with art by Patrick Gleason!

And, as always, the disclaimers:

  • Due to strange circumstances, this episode was recorded live to tape with no editing. So while it might mean a looser show from us than you are used to, it also means that it should suffice as a legal request for political asylum (Happy Election Day, everyone!).
  • This show contains spoilers. So if you don’t want to know how to pronounce “Chiwetel Ejiofor,” well… actually, you won’t learn how to pronounce that here.
  • This show contains adult, profane language, and is therefore not safe for work. Trust me: you don’t want your mom to hear the way Rob tries to pronounce “Chiwetel Ejiofor.” Get some headphones.
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clone_conspiracy_promo_poster_1This week, Marvel and Spider-Man writer Dan Slott announced that this fall’s Spider-Man event will be called The Clone Conspiracy, and will feature The Jackal and the clone of Gwen Stacy, possibly bringing a bunch of long dead Spider-Man characters back from the grave. We initially had a very negative reaction to this news, because any Spider-Man title that includes the word “clone” brings back memories of the 1990s Clone Saga… but then we realized that neither of us had actually read all that much of the original Gerry Conway clone stories from the 1970s, or the Clone Saga stories from the mid 90s.

So we ran out and purchased the trade of the original clone stories from 1975 through 1990, and one of the trades of the 90s Clone Saga, to see how we really felt about the clone stories in the face of the actual works. And we discussed, in the face of actual exposure to the clone stories, whether we wanted to see any more clone stories… and whether we did or not, if they could possibly overcome the reputation of the 90s Clone Saga.

We also discuss:

  • Civil War II #2, written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by David Marquez,
  • Superman #1, written by Peter Tomasi with art by Patrick Gleason, and:
  • Batman #1, written by Tom King with art by David FInch!

And, the usual disclaimers:

  • This show contains spoilers. If you don’t want to learn the ending of who wound up with the mantle of Spider-Man at the end of The Clone Saga 21 years ago, you are a wise person with good taste in serialized graphic storytelling! But we’ll still ruin it for you.
  • This show contains adult, profane language, and is therefore not safe for work. If you don’t think your mom wants to hear how there’s a big bit of Hal Jordan in Carol Danvers, then get some headphones.
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dc_rebirth_charactersIt’s the first full week of DC Comics: Rebirth, and not a single Watchmen character appears in those issues, so we decided it would be a good opportunity to complain again about Watchmen characters appearing in the DC Universe.

Specifically, it was revealed this week that DC Comics didn’t contact Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons to ask him his opinion about adding Watchmen characters to Dc Universe: Rebirth. So we talk about whether that was a bush league move (protip: yeah), some of the history around DC leaving Watchmen alone, and whether DC Editorial really had any choice in asking for Gibbons or writer Alan Moore for even a half-hearted blessing in using their characters in Rebirth.

Then, since we were on a Rebirth roll, we discussed all this week’s titles from that event:

  • Superman: Rebirth #1, written by Peter Tomasi with art by Doug Mahnke,
  • Green Arrow: Rebirth #1, written by Benjamin Percy with art by Otto Schmidt,
  • Green Lanterns: Rebirth #1, written by Geoff Johns and Sam Humphries with art by Ethan Van Sciver and Ed Benes, and:
  • Batman: Rebirth #1, written by Scott Snyder and Tom King with art by Miken Janin.

And, just so Marvel doesn’t feel neglected, we close the show by talking about:

  • Civil War II #1, written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by David Marquez!

And, as always, the disclaimers:

  • This show contains spoilers. If you want to avoid knowing how the DC: Rebirth books end (spoiler alert: no matter what happens, it probably won’t matter next month), then consider yourself warned.
  • This show contains adult, profane language, and is therefore not safe for work. You want your mom to know what “giddy bottom” means? Get some ear buds.
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batman_and_red_hood_20_cover_2013Batman And Red Hood (previously named Batman & Robin but recently renamed due to Robin being occupied by a previous engagement with a dirtnap) #20 is finally proof – to me, at least – that when Grant Morrison killed Robin in Batman Incorporated, he really didn’t tell anyone what he was planning to do ahead of time. Because the only possible explanation I can think of for a comic like Batman And Red Hood #20 to exist is that the creative team had to come up something – any damn thing – to fill the pages that was at least somewhat on point with this dead kid they suddenly found themselves saddled with.

Seriously: sudden, blinding panic is the only explanation for some of the things we’re seeing in this issue. Trying to introduce some version of Carrie Kelley that we’ve never seen before is a bad enough flailing grasp from a creative team realizing that they’re buying groceries with the money made from a book with the name “Robin” in the title. But it also is the only explanation for, hell, almost the remainder of the book. There are so many problems with this issue, from off character moments to weird methods of attack that make no sense to a couple of legitimate “what the fuck?” panels that I have to believe the issue was whipped together at the last minute in a pants-shitting panic.

Because otherwise, I need to believe that a writer of a Batman comic book would think that Batman would engage in a drive-by shooting in the interest of resurrecting the dead.

Yeah, you heard me.

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batman_and_robin_18_cover_2013When DC leaked the news last month that Grant Morrison would be killing Damian Wayne in Batman Incorporated #8, the company claimed that the character’s death would resonate across the main Batman Family titles, despite Batman Incorporated existing, since the New 52 reboot, in some strange continuity bubble that seems to lie outside of the New 52, and based on some weird editorial philosophy where all major decisions are tagged with the phrase, “…but keep Grant Morrison happy.” In that spirit, one would think that, compared to the maintenance of continuity spreadsheets, last-minute story changes and line editorial late nights and headaches, it would be cheaper and simpler to just dump a truckload of peyote on Morrison’s driveway, but whatever.

My big question at the time of the reveal was: how exactly were the other Batman Family creators going to handle this event? After all, Batman and Robin’s battle against Leviathan from Batman Incorporated wasn’t exactly something that had been addressed in the other books, and it seemed like those other writers already had plans for upcoming story lines. Hell, before Robin’s death, Scott Snyder had announced he was embarking on a Riddler story in Batman before more recently announcing that instead he was gonna do a long-form Batman: Zero Year story focusing on Batman’s early years, and while Riddler might be a part of it, it at least seems like a change of plans.

But my biggest question, that I couldn’t address at the time without riddling the story with spoilers, was how this would affect Peter Tomasi’s Batman & Robin, what with the tiny detail that Robin’s name appears in the fucking title. And while other Batman Family titles have clearly just shoehorned Robin’s death into previously-planned storylines as an afterthought (last week’s Detective Comics simply mentioned it in a panel or two while Batman then went on his merry way attacking Penguin and Emperor Penguin as previously planned, and in this week’s Batgirl the death gets a page and a half before going back to Barbara’s fight with James Gordon, Jr), it’s gotta be hard to move forward with any previously-existing plans when one of the title characters is taking a dirtnap. You know, until someone kicks his carcass into a Lazarus Pit (and you know this will happen).

So given the early efforts of the Batman Family titles to apparently simply slot the fact that Robin is dead into existing story plans (Please note that I don’t know that this is the case. For all I know, Grant Morrison called a staff meeting with the Batman editors and creators a year ago and announced his plans over absinthe and some form of ritually sacrificed beast of burden, and it’s just the half-assed executions that make it look shoehorned in), I was half-expecting for Batman & Robin #18 to be a standard Batman story with maybe some weird-looking camouflage art to cover where Robin was supposed to be, and a headset quickly pencilled onto Batman’s head so it wouldn’t look like he was talking to himself like an insane person.

I was wrong about that. Instead, Batman & Robin #18 takes Damian’s death head-on, with the focus solely on Batman and how he is handling the event (short answer: badly), and makes use of a bold storytelling choice to make the reader empathize with Batman by almost forcing us to try to think about what we’re seeing in his reactions. Suffice it to say that, if Robin’s death in Morrison’s playground was a forced afterthought in some of Batman’s titles, it most definitely was not here.

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green_lantern_20_promo_cover_2013DC’s been releasing their May solicits over the past few days… with one exception: they’ve been holding back their Green Lantern solicitations. Which has led to a certain amount of anticipation, at least here at the Crisis On Infinite Midlives Home Office, because some of the best crossovers and events in DC Comics over the past several years have come from Green Lantern writer Geoff Johns in those books.

So we’ve been waiting for what Johns had planned starting in May with bated breath, with images and memories of classics like The Sinestro Corps War, Blackest Night and Brightest Day dancing in our heads. What would it be? Another big crossover? Rainbow Lanterns? A new Lantern oath involving the prominent use of the word “sack”?

Turns out, not so much. It seems that Geoff John’s next big plan for Green Lantern is to, well, quit the book.

And apparently it was such a good idea that every other writer on the Green Lantern books has made the same plan. That’s right: everyone is leaving the Green Lantern books.

Um… what the hell, Geoff?

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Vowing upon their parents’ death to rid Gotham City of the forewarning element, Crisis On Infinite Midlives has, over the years, fought spoilers in their many macabre forms. This time they lost. You are warned.

As I said in my review of Batman & Robin #4, I am enjoying this book one hell of a lot more than I thought I was going to when I finished the first issue. A book that started out looking like the worst of the Batman TV show was starting to look more like the Christopher Nolan movies. And #6 continues that trend, but there’s a funny thing about movies: I’ve always said (Because I lifted it from Stephen King in Danse Macabre) that I can tell if a movie’s any good, or if it’s too long, if I start wishing for a cigarette in the middle of it. At six issues into this battle against new villain Nobody? Yeah, I could use a smoke.

It’s not that this is a bad story by any stretch of the imagination. This issue gives us Robin under the clandestine tutelage of Nobody, who is actually Morgan Ducard, son of Henri Ducard, who trained Bruce Wayne before he put on the Batman suit. You remember, Liam Neeson from Batman Begins? You know, that Batman movie just before The Dark Knight? The one with the chick who’s banging Tom Cruise? Just go to any Best Buy dollar DVD bin and you’ll find it. But I digress.

Nobody is slowly massaging Robin into becoming a killer, starting to ease Robin toward a willingness to kill by doing the old “give him an empty gun and tell him to shoot a guy to get him used to pulling the trigger” trick, followed a couple of pages later with the subtle mindfuckery of the “Now dump the guy into a vat of acid while he’s awake and screaming like a pig in a chute” ruse. In the meantime, we flash back to Bruce’s first mission with Nobody’s father, where he tried a similar method of attenuating Bruce toward lethal means with the time-tested classic, “Shoot a dude in the face in front of the guy who has repeatedly stated that he will never kill, then say, ‘U mad bro?'” The two stories are interesting and effective in drawing parallels between Batman’s early training and Robin’s current work, but the abrupt nature of each Ducard suddenly chucking in lethal force is jarring, and forced me to say, “Oh well; he only had about about 20 pages to get it done,” and just like when you realize you’ve started looking for the wires in a space opera movie, boom! Just like that, you’re out of the story and wishing for a cigarette.

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We’re now five issues into the New 52 reboot of Green Lantern Corps, and the one thing that has become undeniably apparent is that this book has a distinct identity. Unfortunately, that identity is that it’s the book that swipes from – or to be charitable, is inspired by – other forms of entertainment. Issue 3 was lifted from a video game in hoard mode. Issue 4 looked a lot like an episode of 24. This issue’s a knockoff on Sylvester Stallone’s flick The Expendables. At this rate, issue 6 will be about a Green Lantern whose ring is positioned in the back of her throat and can only be activated by Harry Reems.

Seriously: this issue is about The Expendables of the Green Lanterns Corps: The Mean Machine. As Guy Gardner calls them, “…the toughest sons of bitches in the Corps.” They’re old soldiers, so old that after more than forty years of modern Green Lantern stories, this is the first time we’ve ever heard of them. So old they wear the traditional Green Lantern uniform of jeans, muscle shirts and leather jackets. So old they have code names like, “Lee” and “Flint” and “Bronchuk”. So old they drink heavily, and probably occasionally tip a forty for their dead homies Norrisum, Schwarzeneggerzil, and Van Damme (Van Damme being Oan for “Michael Keaton.”).

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Call this post “The Good, The Bad, and WTF”. Here are some books we’ve talked about before. Let’s check in to see how they’re doing now.

The Good

Wolverine And The X-Men written by Jason Aaron with pencils by Chris Bachalo, Duncan Rouleau and Matteo Scalera wraps up the opening story arc of Wolverine’s first day trying to run a school for young mutants. I enjoyed the first issue. Aaron continues to bring humor to this tale, now up to issue #3. He pens an engaging story that reminds the reader that your typical teen can be an obnoxious handful who believes deeply that they are the hero of not only their own story but everyone else’s. Still, all the kids want to do is fit in somehow, in his or her own way.

More goodness, badness and wtf-ness after the jump…and spoilers.

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Batman & Robin is a textbook case of the dangers inherent in telling a decompressed comics story. The first issue read to me as a wretched Goddamned mishmash of elements from Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies and the old 60s TV show: big, silly action – including riding Batpoles, and not in that good superhero porno parody way – combined with the introduction of some darker elements, like a new villain who dissolves his enemies in acid. It was a frustrating experience in cognitive dissonance, like watching Cesar Romero tie Adam West to a giant roman candle and then chop Burt Ward’s foot off with a rusty machete.

The first issue was so dissatisfying that I was prepared to drop the book from my pulls, except I didn’t want to risk accidentally losing Scott Snyder’s Batman by accident. And I am glad that I didn’t, because the subsequent three issues, which tie up the opening story arc, have proven that Batman & Robin deserves to stand with Snyder’s Batman and Tony Daniel’s Detective Comics as some of the most rock-solid, entertaining Batman comics in years. Sometimes I’m glad to be wrong.

Let’s get some of the prejudicial facts out of the way up front: I have never particularly liked Damian Wayne. Since his introduction he has often been written as a bitchy little brat, to the point where Amanda has sometimes gotten the both of us laughing by reading Damian’s dialogue in the voice of Stewie from Family Guy. Try it yourself, it’s fun: “Now look here, Pennyworth…”

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