outcast_cinemax_posterThis week, The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman had an interview published in Rolling Stone where he chided George R. R. Martin for revealing the ending to A Song of Ice And Fire to the producers of HBO’s Game of Thrones. And it caused the predictable Internet uproar, but it also got us to thinking: we had six out of seven Fear The Walking Dead episodes unwatched on our TiVo. We’d been complaining for years that The Walking Dead comic’s pacing had been untenably slow. We’d been getting Kirkman’s Outcast in our pulls since it started, but we actually hadn’t been reading it, so we had no intention of checking out the comic’s new adaptation on Cinemax.

So we asked ourselves: have we reached peak Robert Kirkman? Has his work lost its mojo, at least for us? And we decided to test the question by burning through the remainder of Fear The Walking Dead season 2, re-reading the first issue of Outcast, and checking out the first two episodes of the adaptation. And having spent the weekend binging on Kirkman (eww!), the answer might surprise you!

We also discuss:

  • Wonder Woman: Rebirth #1, written by Greg Rucka with art by Matthew Clark, Liam Sharp and Sean Parsons,
  • The Flash: Rebirth #1, written by Joshua Williamson with art by Carmine Di Giandomencio, and:
  • Daredevil #8, written by Charles Soule with art by Goran Sudzuka!

And, the disclaimers:

  • This show contains spoilers. If you listen, you will learn how many Fear The Walking Dead characters Rob wants to hit with a chair (Hint: It’s a non-zero value).
  • The show contains adult, profane language, and is therefore not safe for work. We talk about Superman’s dickie. 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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amc_preacher_jesse_posterIt’s the end of the week of May 25th, 2016: the Wednesday the Big Two drooled on themselves, shrieked “Excelsior!” into the Black Void, and keeled over. At least if you believe the Internet comments.

But before we talk about that, there was one major positive for comics fans this week: AMC debuted the pilot episode of their adaptation of Garth Ennis’s and Steve Dillon’s Preacher this past Sunday. We’re big fans of the comic, which really meant something to us… back when we were in our twenties, same as the characters back in the original 1990s comic. Both we and the comic are older now, with different lifestyles and priorities, so the question is not only whether or not Preacher is a worthy adaptation of the classic Vertigo comic, but can it have the same effect as it did when we were in our twenties?

That’s the good news. The bad news is that we also discuss:

  • Steve Rogers: Captain America #1, written by Nick Spencer with art by Jesus Saiz, and:
  • DC Universe: Rebirth #1, written by Geoff Johns with art by, well, many, many people!

And, as always, the disclaimers:

  • This show contains spoilers. So be aware: if you haven’t been spoiled on the events of either Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 or DC Universe: Rebirth #1, then you clearly haven’t had any access to the Internet and therefore can’t read this warning anyway. But rest assured: we’ll be spoiling them.
  • This show contains adult, profane language, and is therefore not safe for work. We recite Preacher’s recipe for making a homemade bazooka in this episode. You don’t want your boss to hear that any more than we want this episode entered into evidence in a Felony Menacing trial. So get some headphones.
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minutemen_6_cover“Such sad music. The saddest thing I can imagine…

Ironically, I’d spent the last week editing my book for the sake of my old friends…I gave everyone what they wanted: a sunny remembrance. I realized that carrying all that horror inside me was a small price to pay…

The book was a smash and because it was the only real accounting of our careers, it became the truth…

…’It’ll never be like it was when it was new, but there’s still plenty of life in this old baby.'”

-Hollis Mason, Minutemen #6

Sometimes I wonder what it must be like to work at DC Comics in 2013.

There you are, at one of the inarguable pinnacles of the comic book industry. You’re working for one of the Big Two, making the best page rates available in the American comics industry, working on some of the highest profile books there are. You never have to buy your own drinks at any comic convention in the civilized world, and thousands upon thousands of aspiring creators envy you your day-to-day existence… and yet it is, where the rubber hits the road, a job. You have a boss, and you call him and he or she tells you what you are going to be working on, and you have a choice: you either do it, regardless of how inane or Sisyphean your assigned task is… or you don’t, and hope that you can keep working in your little niche without being singled out and fired.

Put on top of that the particular an individual realities of DC Comics today: you work for a company that, less than 18 months ago, blew up the underpinnings of all their books in the interest of saving them, despite being only a year or so out of Blackest Night, which put more asses in DC Comics’s panels at San Diego Comic-Con than I’d ever seen before. And since that demolition, the company has busily spent its time examining every element of those new books under a microscope, reportedly making last-minute changes and nitpicks every step of the way, causing several high-profile creators to defect to Marvel. Management has mandated new directions and has then apparently fired people when the new directions are seemingly not the right new directions, with boss-favorite creators being given the assignments in the aftermath… and all of it under the daily direction of Bob Harras, the Editor In Chief who was Marvel’s Editor In Chief during the late 1990s. So you’re working under the sure and steady hand of a man committed to raising sales at any cost – and if that cost is cancelling a book, revamping any character, or demanding a crossover, character rape or supporting character murder, so be it… all while in the back of your head, you’re hearing things like, “Clooonnnneeeee Sagaaa…. Chrooooommmiummmm covvverrrrss…”

Now let’s imagine you are one of the creators assigned to the Before Watchmen project: a project that almost no one in comics fandom wanted, if they weren’t actively opposed to it. A project that, by its very existence, implied a comic publisher that was willing to actively and enthusiastically fuck over one of its (former) A-List creators in the interest of making a little money right fucking now, long term consequences be damned. And let’s say you are asked to work on one of these Before Watchmen books while employed by a company where you can see your fellow creators being fired by email, or having their books yanked to make an opening so that one of the Golden Boys can write a book starring fucking Vibe: what do you do?

Well, if you’re Darwyn Cooke, you write a final issue of Minutemen where the narrator makes a terrible mistake, writes the truth about it as best he can while allowing himself to be bullied into severely editing himself for the good of the people around him, and makes the decision to walk away from the whole mess, so that the people foolish enough to follow him can have their chance at things.

I might be – hell, I probably am – reading too much into Minutemen #6, but as a comic book? It could make one hell of a resignation letter.

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We here at Crisis On Infinite Midlives didn’t attend MorrisonCon in Las Vegas this weekend, partly because we’re still paying off our trip to the San Diego Comic-Con, and partly because no trip to a town featuring easy access to gambling and free liquor is likely to end well for us. However, that meant we missed out on some breaking news that is trickling from the convention, such as the fact that Morrison’s Multiversity series, that was initially announced for a 2009 release date, just after Infinite Crisis, is now scheduled for sometime late next year. To which I can only say: yeah, I’ll believe it when I fucking see it.

The miniseries will reportedly be eight issues, with six one-shots each focusing on a different parallel universe, with a two-part conclusion crossing over the various Earths’ heroes. And each issue looks to be packed with story, containing a 38-page primary story and an eight-page backup. And considering this thing will have been in the works for nearly half a decade by the time it hits comic stores, that seems like a fair per-book length; anything shorter might imply that Morrison had spent all this time fucking around, which seems unlikely… or even less likely, that someone at DC had actually edited the damn things.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: All the atoms in the test chamber are screaming at once. The spoilers… the spoilers are taking me to pieces.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I think it bears repeating: Adam Hughes’s Dr. Manhattan #1 cover looks like the Good Doctor is blasting Silk Spectre right in the shitter.

Now that we have the pleasantries out of the way, we can talk about the issue itself. And a big part of me expected to not like this book. Writer J. Michael’ Straczynski’s work on fellow Before Watchmen title Nite Owl has been disappointing on a good day, and an irritating retcon of various elements of Watchmen continuity as a whole, on a bad one. Further, this book lives and dies based on Manhattan’s preoccupation on quantum theory, which is something that I can’t remember the character ever obsessing over in Watchmen, but which makes sense since Wikipedia’s article on quantum mechanics shows that not only was quantum theory viable in the mid 20th century, but that even in the early 21st century I am still too stupid to understand quantum theory.

With that said, this is an engaging book that captures the ADD nature of Dr. Manhattan’s inner dialogue in a manner that Watchmen fans will find familiar, fills out some of the backstory to the character that makes some sense, and closes on an intriguing mystery that makes me want to come back to see how it plays out. At the same time, it also somewhat overplays those character traits in ways that don’t make sense for a character who can see the totality of time, instills motivations on Manhattan that have never been mentioned before, and uses the word “box” more than an 1974 porno loop.

That’s the hell of quantum mechanics – all possibilities are real, and influenced by the observer.

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Considering how I felt about Brian Azzarello’s take on my favorite Watchmen character, The Comedian, I opened Rorschach #1 with my knife already out and sharpened. Considering how many plot and character liberties Azzarello has been taking with The Comedian, I opened this comic book fully expecting to see something like Rorschach battling Blofeld from SPECTRE in Munich while jockeying a rocketpack and firing his laser watch at the angry flying sharks. All while Rorschach weeps moronically while reciting Nietzsche to lolcats.

Turns out it’s not like that. Instead, Azzarello has made the connection that the Keene Act that stopped costumed adventuring in the Watchmen universe was passed in 1977, and New York City, where Rorschach was operating as a street-level crimefighter, was a terrible, terrible place in 1977. It was the New York of Taxi Driver and Son of Sam and a Times Square where a tourist could get fistfucked by a transvestite hooker instead of the retail markup at the Disney Store. It was a New York of grindhouse theaters, and Azzarello has given Rorschach a grindhouse story in which he can star. And God help me, it’s really pretty damn good.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Whatever happened to The American Dream? Spoiler alert!

So The Comedian started the Vietnam War. Must be Tuesday.

The Comedian #2 is better than the first issue, but then again, it almost had to be. Seeing writer Brian Azzarello having Eddie Blake simpering around the Kennedys and doing things that blithely and utterly flew in the face of some of Alan Moore’s existing story canon were almost more than this old school Comedian fan could bear. This issue improves on the ruins of the first, by getting The Comedian the fuck away from politicians and into the jungle of pre-Gulf of Tonkin Vietnam, allowing the character to show a little more of the savagery and moral ambiguity that we’d come to expect from the original Watchmen.

Of course, it also include’s Azzarello’s apparent burning compulsion to put The Comedian at the center of every major event in American history that has occurred since 1939.  In the first issue, it was the death of Marilyn Monroe, and here it’s the Ali-Liston fight and the literal beginning of the Vietnam War. If The Comedian hadn’t been killed in the original Watchmen, I’d be afraid that Azzarello would end issue 6 with Blake at the discovery of the Higgs Boson snarling, “You’re turning into a flake, Doc.” Actually, that’s probably a hasty argument; after that first issue, I’m not yet convinced that Azzarello won’t decide that the murder of The Comedian isn’t really Watchmen canon. But I digress.

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Simply put, and without question: Silk Spectre #2 is the best issue of Before Watchmen so far.

It does everything you’d expect from a Watchmen prequel book, particularly one that isn’t endorsed by the original creators: it follows the original book’s visual, nine-panel format, it pays homage to Moore’s original writing style of having the words directly reflect the visuals in the panel, and it expands the Watchmen universe by exploring niche, side subjects that it would never occur to me to wonder about until I saw those explorations here. By mining the original work’s edges while paying tribute to its written and drawn style, it does what a prequel should do: build upon the original without superceding it. It is the first Before Watchmen book that I plainly and simply liked.

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