Spotlight on Gail Simone

The powers-that-be at MegaCon 2013 exercised vast wisdom and general awesomeness by having a panel dedicated to Gail Simone. For an hour, fans got to ask questions and listen to this excellent writer talk about her craft. V. was there taking notes for those of you who couldn’t be. Here are some of the takeaways. Continue reading

G3 Cosplay: Black Canary

So impressed over the years by the cosplayers who attend Dragon*Con, cosplaying became an item on my bucket list. Finally, after a false start or two, I cosplayed my beloved Black Canary at Dragon*Con 2012. Not the one from the Golden Age, not Dixon’s Dinah, but the reason I am a comic-obsessed fanigirl at all – I was Gail Simone’s Black Canary. Continue reading

Stream of Comicsness – Week of 03.21.2012

Greetings, lovelies. I had the distinct pleasure of being on vacation this week, so of course there were comics!

Snyder’s Detective
You can catch me almost anywhere complaining about how Batman is overrated and over exposed, so I tend to steer clear of most Batman books. Comixology had a stellar sale on Snyder’s Detective Comics, issues #871 thru #880. I bought them. I know, I am super late to the party, but wow. Snyder’s Detective is suspenseful and interesting. I love how Snyder shows that while Dick is a good Batman, he is no Bruce … and people notice the difference. Also, Snyder gave me a new appreciation for Commissioner Gordon. I think Jock’s art is great, but Francesco Francavilla is AMAZING. I know I am late to that party, too. It’s not that I am not familiar with Francavilla. I am. He has been killing it on cover art. But within the pages of Detective Comics, telling the story of Gordon’s son; he really strikes a superb aesthetic. This is good stuff people. You probably already knew that. Now I do, too.

My Stash This Week …
Wonder Woman #7, Birds of Prey #7, Fables #115, The Infinite Vacation #4, Strange Talent of Luther Strode #6 Continue reading

Stream of Comicsness – Week of 02.15.2012

Happy Friday, Lords and Ladies. It is with great pleasure that I announce my attendance this weekend at MegaCon. I am looking forward to having a splendid time! I promise to take lots of pictures and share my stories upon my return. Also, I read some comics this week.

My Pull List
Wonder Woman #6, Fables #114, Birds of Prey #6, and Peter Panzerfaust #1. Continue reading

Stream of Comicsness – Week of 01.18.2012

Not So Wonderful
Holy crow. Who has been singing the praises of Wonder Woman louder than me? Since issue #1, I have been going on about Cliff Chiang’s beautiful art, and how Brian Azzarello “gets” Diana. Maybe I was just blinded by the light (art). I stand by what I said about Chiang being damn near perfect on this book, but this month’s issue was not drawn by Chiang. So, Azzarello had to do the heavy lifting with the story, and that just did not happen. There is plenty of Greek Mythology. There is another half-breed offspring of Zeus unexpectedly popping in on Diana, Poseidon shows up and Hera is still pissed off. Quelle suprise! Azzarello is a good writer, but this issue falls flat without Chiang’s magic. Tony Akins is the fill in artist, and either DC chose him because he kind of sort of draws like Chiang, or he tried to draw like Chiang. Either way, it was not working for me. It wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t impressed. Akins draws a pretty mean sea monster splash page, but his Diana is all wonky in the face. The proportions seemed off with the other characters as well. Cliff Chiang is a tough act to follow. Continue reading

Friday Favorite: Starling

There was tons of skepticism about DC’s new books, and Birds of Prey was no exception. How could you take a perfect formula, Gail’s Dinah, Babs, and Zinda, and just change it? Well, even loaded with all the skepticism this fangirl could muster, I like the new Birds of Prey. I like it because of Starling.

I knew Starling was a pistol as soon as she burst onto the scene. And by burst I mean drove an antique car through the wall of a church. She’s a girl after my own heart. Continue reading

Friday Favorite: Spy Smasher

“They call me the Spy Smasher because I kill terrorists, and those who wish harm against our country. You will never, ever be in a room with anyone of a higher authority. Not if you live to be a hundred.”

Combine every relentless hardass you’ve ever known, add a dose of supreme confidence and combat training, provide scary federal credentials, and put it all in one intimidating package topped off with a severe ponytail. The result? Katrina Armstrong, aka Spy Smasher. Continue reading

2010 Memorable Moment: Iron Owl

I so intensely desired the relaunch of  Birds of Prey with Gail as the writer partly because I felt a need for the proper treatment of the character Sin. It is not news that I think Ollie and Dinah’s marriage is some Grade-A bullshit, and that stunt he pulled to hide Sin … yeah, that was the worst. I knew Gail would address that at some point. When Sin was mentioned in the first issue of Birds of Prey, it was clear that it would happen soon.

In Birds of Prey #6, not only did I get Sin, but I got Lady Shiva, too. GOOD GAWD, I love Shiva! The appearance of Shiva and Sin was, indeed, extremely satisfying. But, I was not prepared for just how moved I would be by Huntress.

Helena Bertinelli is the kind of girl you want as a best friend because she has got your back. Huntress decides to take Dinah’s place in a battle to the death against Lady Shiva, one of the deadliest people on the planet. THAT is one hell of a gesture. Not only did Helena hold Dinah down to the tenth power, but she stayed on her feet while taking that ass-kicking of a lifetime from Shiva.

Huntress has more moxie than any lady in the DCU. She is Iron Owl.

Pull List Assessment – Part Two

E. inspired me to take a crack at my pull list …

I’ll miss you Nimue

GREATNESS
These are the books I absolutely cannot live without. If I were broke and had to choose between lunch on Wednesday or these comics … I’d be a hungry fangirl.

Madame Xanadu – Often times, the art on the book is nothing shy of perfect. Amy Reeder does an amazing job. I’d also like to give mega-kudos to Shelly Bond over at Vertigo for this most recent arc, Extra-Sensory. Six books, six different female artists, all of them relatively new to the game with the exception of Reeder. What a wonderful way to shine some light on female comic art talent. Marley Zarcone and Chrissie Zullo are new favorites of mine because of it. But it has been the story all along that stole my heart. Matt Wagner’s Nimue is one whom I will love forever. He’s developed Madame Xanadu into a beautiful character of substance. I am truly sad that this book will be over in two issues. Continue reading

Pull List Assessment Time

Every now and then, it’s a good idea to evaluate the old pull list instead of running on autopilot. Though my queue tends to be DC-heavy, there are several indie titles that I read either in trade or via review copy that are plenty good. Since V. and I are asked what we recommend or books that rock/suck, here’s assessment of what I’m reading and where it falls on the Great-to-Dropped scale. Those listed under “Promising” have not yet been added to the file, but they’re well on their way.

GREAT
Morning Glories: Image is firing on all cylinders with this book about a scary private school that traps and traumatizes its adolescent charges. Comic shops can’t keep it in stock, and that’s no surprise given the roller coaster of a plot, snappy dialogue and pretty art. Morning Glories is further proof that there’s some stellar work being done outside of the big publishing houses and the capes genre.

Morning Glories

Fables: Since I get this in trade form, I’m not current. The last volume, “The Great Fables Crossover,” was only so-so, but this book has been otherwise excellent. It also continues to evolve and expertly mixes fantasy and comedy with flat-out horror. I can’t wait for the next trade, “Witches,” to drop in December.

Batman and Robin: I’ve written before about how much I dig this book, so I won’t bore you with another love letter. Grant Morrison is handing the reigns to Peter Tomasi soon, but I’m a fan of Tomasi’s work and eagerly anticipate his work on Batman and Robin — especially since he did such a good job during his all-too-brief Nightwing run.

Madame Xanadu: After the most recent (and brilliant) issue about a deadened supermodel named Neon Blue at the height of late ’60s-fame, I was even more depressed that this comic is coming to an end. I have V. to thank for educating me about Madame X just in the nick of time. At least I’ll always have the back issues.

 

GOOD
G-Man: I initially started getting this Image comic for my children, but like Tiny Titans, it’s a smart, kid-skewing book that’s better than much of the fare for grownups. The most recent arc, “Cape Crisis” centers on young hero G-Man, who gets powers via a magic cape. The problem is that all of his peers (and his kid brother) want a piece of the action, and the results are darn funny. The news that Chris Giarrusso’s book is returning made me very happy, and the kids will have to pry it from my hands.

 

Red Robin: I didn’t like this comic at all when it debuted, but it has found a consistently good groove and done right by one of my favorite characters. Fabian Nicieza writes Tim Drake and the extended Bat-family well, and Marcus To sure can draw.

G-Man = good times

Birds of Prey: The Gail Simone incarnation of BoP was instrumental in getting me back into the comic book habit, and it’s been a fine reunion. While I’m not as mesmerized as I was the first time around, BoP is one of the books I look forward to most each month, along with …

Secret Six: This comic vacillates between “great” and “good,” so I have been spoiled. I love the characters and their bloody misadventures, and there is some real tenderness and heart underneath piles of bodies. My expectations for a Secret Six issue are probably unfairly high, but if it came down to cash flow, there are a whole lot of books I’d drop before this one.

Love and Capes: This book about a superhero married to a non-superpowered bookstore owner is light, bright and utterly adorable. I’m also reading this in trade, and there’s a longer overview here.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man: As with Red Robin, I’ve already heaped lots of praise on the latest incarnation of Brian Michael Bendis’ long-running, consistently winning comic. The love-triangle drama between Peter, Mary Jane and Gwen is heating up again, and if enjoying juicy teen drama is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Hawkeye and Mockingbird: When I started reading this title after the “Read This, Too!” challenge, I immediately thought that this is the book Green Arrow & Black Canary should have been. The vibe between the title characters — formerly married, now dating — is sexy and fun, and the book is full of action.

 

 

 

Welcome to Tranquility: Another Gail Simone gem about retired superheroes and supervillains, and a whole lot of secrets and lies. See a recent review here.

Mystery Society: I was late to the party on this five-issue series about a wealthy, urbane husband and wife who uncover government conspiracies and recruit odball characters along the way to join their adventures. The story is a kick, but it’s worth reading for Fiona Staples’ artwork alone.

 

PROMISING

 

 

 

 

 

Haweye and Mockingbird

 

Thunderbolts: I read my first issue a few weeks ago and thoroughly dug it. Luke Cage is leading a group of formerly bad guys trying to go legit, and Jeff Parker spins a good narrative (with ninjas!). Declan Shalvey’s art is impressive, and as a Thunderbolts newbie, I found issue #148 easy to jump into. And no, I’m not reading Shadowland.

Freedom Fighters: I bought this comic based on Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray’s Power Girl work, and I liked the first two issues quite a bit. It’s always a joy to see Nazis getting beaten up, and chances are good that this will be a dynamic team comic. Stay tuned.

Lady Mechanika: I’ve never been a Steampunk gal, but the artwork in this Aspen Comics title by Joe Benitez blew me away. The story focuses on a rifle-toting character named Mechanika, who is part human, part machine. It’s set in late 1800s London, and based on issue #0, it’s going to be a wild ride. My Newsarama review is here, but suffice to say that it’s worth checking out. If my stomach were sufficiently flat, this would SO be my con costume.

MEH
Wonder Woman: I think I got all the Haterade out of my system in this post, but I’m buying this book purely out of loyalty. I don’t want to give DC another reason to treat Diana like a stepchild, so I can’t bring myself to drop it.

First Wave

First Wave: At this point, only Rags Morales’ awesome illustrations are keeping this in my LCS file. This pulpy, character-heavy comic involving The Spirit, young Batman, Doc Savage and an alternative Black Canary got off to a nice start, but the long stretches between issues killed some of its momentum for me. There are only two issues to go, so I’m not sure it can deliver on its early promise or do justice to all the players.

DROPPED
Brightest Day: Pretty, but too draggy, convoluted and crowded. I might read it in deeply discounted trade form.

Power Girl: Judd Winick’s first few issues were better than I expected, but they just weren’t good enough to justify my $2.99. Part of the problem is that the previous creative team was so good that any successors would have a challenge on their hands. I don’t care enough about PG to read her adventures if the comic is just middling, so I cut it loose with no regrets.

 

Justice Society of America: I stuck with this book after Bill Willingham finished his “Fatherland” arc, but James Robinson’s follow-up just didn’t do it for me. I almost kept buying it just for Jesus Merino’s illustrations, even though story quality fell off in a major. The book is getting a new creative team, so I might give it another shot. Maybe.

 

Friday Favorite: Creote & Savant

Whether it is intended or not, comic books are often a socio-political commentary. The art and stories are a reflection of culture and current events. While much ado has been made about the treatment and portrayal of female characters in comics, there is much to be said about LGBT characters or rather, the lack thereof.

More recently, mainstream comic books have seen plenty of lesbian love, and perhaps that provides extended shower time for the “target demographic.” But, we all know that people who read comics are a much more diverse and intellectual bunch than the stereotype of your middle-aged, straight white guy.

Based on the human population at large, there is a disproportionately low number of gay characters in comics, particularly gay male characters. Continue reading

Birds of Prey #2: White Witch, Crazy Bitch

The million dollar question: Who is White Canary!? Well, we still don’t know. It’s okay though, this issue was excellent.

Jumping right back into the action from issue #1, Black Canary and Huntress face off with White Canary who is serving the Birds some serious whoop ass. Black Canary manages to get a few licks in. Maybe a few licks too many as she responds emotionally to what seems to be some major hater vibes coming off of this new enemy. Continue reading

Birds of Prey #1: Fishnets, Fisticuffs and Fabulousness

Variant cover art by Cliff Chiang

The best friendships are the ones where, even after long stretches of little communication, everyone picks up right where they left off. There are no awkward pauses or, worse, internal monologues about how it’s just not the same.

For fans of Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey run, reading issue #1 of the revived series is like that great reunion with an old friend. Simone stepped away from the book three years ago, and it was canceled in 2009. However, she and original collaborator Ed Benes have wasted no time in returning the Birds to classic, crime-busting form — and we missed them terribly. (Spoilers await.)

The four-part “Endgame” story opens in Iceland, where Black Canary has arrived to rescue a diplomat’s 5-year-old daughter from a terrorist/kidnapper. The beauty of this sequence is that it firmly re-establishes Dinah Lance as one of the world’s most skilled combatants, obliterating the sad-sack wife nonsense other writers saddled her with. Let’s just say there’s a lot of blood on the snow in Reykjavik, and it’s not Dinah’s. Or the 5-year-old’s.

"Where my girls at?"

Shortly, Oracle begins reassembling the team to deal with an anonymous mofo who has a frightening amount of information about the Birds and all their friends/associates. Zinda is dispatched to recruit Hawk and Dove, one of whom has some serious anger management issues. (I wouldn’t have held it against Hawk if he’d tossed that silly, bank-robbing cheerleader off the roof, but that’s just me.) The addition of these newbies to a well-established group is potentially rich with drama, and I’m looking forward to seeing how everyone adjusts, or doesn’t.

This is the REAL DC Trinity

Simone’s affection for these characters comes through on every page, especially in the funny, familiar banter that flies between Canary, Zinda, Huntress and Oracle. The Birds also look fabulous, thanks to Benes’ gourmet cheesecake illustrations and colorist Nei Ruffino’s glowing, moody palette, which really suits poured-on leather under moonlight. Those panels of Huntress cracking skulls while talking to Oracle via cell phone could launch 1,000 gym memberships alone.

As if that weren’t enough, the Big Villain Reveal on the final page is a total surprise, and still a bit of a mystery. I figured it would be Lady Shiva, or even a tween Sin, but the ending suggests that our heroines are in for even bigger trouble. It is totally on — and I couldn’t be happier.

The Question: Will Lady Shiva Be Redeemed?

I’ve made no secret of my admiration for Gail Simone. Her writing is smart, interesting and fun, and she can write the hell out of a kick-ass chick. Many of my favorite characters are so because of her capable hand in their development. At the top of that list is Lady Shiva. I’ll keep it real. I didn’t know much about Sandra Wu-San until she showed up in Birds of Prey. OK, I didn’t know much of anything before I read BoP, but there was a long list of supporting characters throughout Simone’s arc. Shiva was my favorite by far.

As we’ve seen in Secret Six, no one does amoral with Gail’s flair. Amoral characters are intriguing because they do the things our conscience and social mores prevent us from doing. We get to live our fantasies through them, and their writers aren’t limited by pesky issues like virtue. Plus, Shiva is a straight-up beast. She’s kicked more asses than you’ve read comics. She’s fast, ingenious, wicked, and not at all afraid to die. That final fact alone makes her a force to be reckoned with. I firmly believe that she could defeat Deathstroke (See previous poll). All Shiva needs is a two-second window, and he’s done for — genetic engineering be damned. Shiva would engineer a beatdown. Continue reading

The Birds are Back in Town

I’ve enjoyed comic books and the characters since I was young, but for a long time, it was more from a distance. I’d admire them in a bookstore, peruse a boyfriend’s long box or, on occasion, borrow a trade. But I didn’t collect and follow comics myself — that is, until I met the Birds: Babs, Dinah, Helena and Zinda, as written by Gail Simone and drawn by Ed Benes, hold a sacred place in my heart.

I had just started a new job a few years ago when the topic of comic books somehow came up with the IT guy who was setting up my computer. He asked if I was into them, and I was all, “Sure. Kinda.”  I told him I was really into Wonder Woman and chicks who kick ass. He said he had something for me, and the next day, there was a stack of Birds of Prey trade paperbacks on my desk.

I opened the first one that following Saturday morning, and I couldn’t put them down. I was so enthralled that I read until my eyes couldn’t focus, and I developed a monumental headache. I kept on reading.

It is because of those very books that I go to my LCS every Wednesday; spend countless hours reading comics; search the Internet for comic book news and art; display a Black Canary Ame Comi figurine on my office shelf; spend lunches with other comic book fiends, talking for hours on our favorite stories; and now have a blog to talk about it all. Birds of Prey was the catalyst.

Honestly, no other book or set of characters has done for me what BoP did. I’d liken it to the first hit from a crack pipe. Gail’s writing and Ed’s art made me itch. From then on, I was hooked, searching desperately for that same high that I got from the Birds. Some series have come close: Identity Crisis, Secret Six, Rucka’s run on Wonder Woman, Fables, and Detective Comics with my darling Kate. While they all gave me a great fangirl buzz, they didn’t satisfy me quite as much as Dinah kicking ass in her fishnets, Babs taking down a group of men from her wheelchair, Lady Shiva struggling with morality as Jade Canary, and Lady Blackhawk punctuating the action with her hilarious one-liners.

When Gail moved on to other projects, I was terribly disappointed. Especially when DC married off Dinah to Ollie, and essentially ruined what Gail had done with her character. (And can someone please tell me what happened to Sin? Anyone?) In new hands, the book floundered, then got canned. Many, many times I’ve wished for DC to bring the Birds back, with Gail driving. It seems my wish has been granted: The dream team of Simone/Benes is back! And I am so fucking happy I want to cry.