G3 Review: Phantom Stranger #42

Phantom Stranger #42
Script: Peter Tomasi
Pencils: Ardian Syaf
Inks: Vincente Cifuentes
Colors: Ulises Arreola
DC Comics
January 20, 2010

*Spoiler Alert*

We open with the Stranger and Blue Devil in a confrontation with the Black Lantern Spectre. Their goal: to draw the real Spectre out, and to prevent the BL Spectre from going after Hal Jordan. Why? Who knows? Our stoic Stranger does, but it seems all will be revealed in due time. The Stranger’s esoteric clue-dropping drew me in, but I was highly irritated by Blue Devil’s rude one-liners. I mean, the Stranger doesn’t show up all the time, so can you just shut your pie hole and do what he says?! Please, and thank you.

The art in the first section of the book is detailed — sometimes too detailed. In certain panels, the Spectre’s muscles are so overly defined that it looks like he doesn’t even have skin, let alone clothes. I know the characters are ripped, but this was a bit much. In the panel where BL Spectre has a “Squirrel!” moment and abruptly leaves to find Hal, the proportions are all off. He looks like a giant with midget arms who’s burying himself — backward.

From there, our odd duo goes looking for Deadman. Where? Nanda Parbat. “How perfectly obvious,” muses the Stranger. Since I love me some Nanda Parbat and think it’s a super-cool concept, it was exciting to see it incorporated into the story. The Phantom Stranger tells Deadman he has a great destiny to be fulfilled, but he must reconcile his spirit with his body and get his remains safely inside the city walls. With the help of the Stranger, Deadman battles to possess his corpse. Here we get to see some interesting panels, especially when BL Boston Brand tries to invade the body of The Phantom Stranger. It really gives you a feeling for how vast the Stranger is as a character. Deadman finally manages to get that nasty black ring off his corpse and safely stores his body. Then he flies off to warn Hal of what he learned from the Black Lanterns while fighting for his body.

The art in the second half of the book really worked in each scene, perhaps because Syaf didn’t have a giant Black Lantern to draw. It seems like he does better with fine detail than grander images. The color palette — a lot of blues and grays with extra shadowing — worked great for the characters and the mood of the story.

Apparently, Deadman was featured in Phantom Stranger #41 back in 1976. Being that Deadman has played his part in Blackest Night up to this point, his being in this issue was rather perfect. DC’s concept of raising certain titles from the dead is a good one, and it meshes well with who the Phantom Stranger is. “The Stranger comes when the Stranger is needed.” I get the impression that the Stranger has done what he felt he needed to do, as did this issue.

This wasn’t a typical read for me, but I’m a fan of Tomasi’s writing and have always been intrigued by the Phantom Stranger. The story was interesting and succinct, and it piqued my curiosity about all the things the Stranger alluded to.

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.

G3 Review: Secret Six #16

Secret Six #16
Writer: Gail Simone
Penciller: Peter Nguyen
Inkers: Doug Hazelwood & Mark McKenna
DC Comics
December 9, 2009

The Story

*Spoiler Alert*

We’ve all watched movies with serial killers where you wished nothing more than for Justice to assail them squarely in the nuts.  Well, our favorite amoral anti-heroes of Secret Six do much, much worse. Leave it to Gail to make demented so delicious.

The issue opens up with Catman and Deadshot abducting a serial-killing child molester from police custody, only to turn him over to the father of 9-year-old Katie Sanchez, one of his victims.  Mr. Sanchez wants revenge.  Before parting ways, Catman gives the bereft father a few tips.  “When you flense him, don’t think of him as human. It’s just tissue.”  Catman and Deadshot exit scene  to talk about … dinner!  Gail perfectly articulates the fine line these lovable psychopaths teeter on.  The diabolical duo don’t get very far before the one and only Black Alice makes her presence known.

Now, I am beyond thrilled that Alice is back in Gail’s hands.  I loved her at inception, and have been champing at the bit for more of the character ever since.

Having witnessed the tutorial on torture, Alice is unaffected and wants to join the Six.  In her bratty, teenager fresh-from-hell kind of way, she refuses to take no for an answer.  Throw in some strip club shenanigans, Black Alice’s magical mojo, some sentiment from the teddy bear that is Bane, the always welcome witticism of Ragdoll, and you got yourself a Dionysian good time.

The Art

I pretty much jizzed on myself when I got a look at LuVisi’s cover back in August.  I LOVE HIS ART.

But I have to admit; I really missed Nicola, who is about as good as a comic artist can get.  Having said that, I think Peter Nguyen did a excellent job.  The facial closeups were awesome. I absolutely loved what he did with Alice’s costumes as she moved between magics.  The Alice Banshee was some rock star shit, fa sho.  I also dig the ink, which is appropriately ominous. My only criticism is that the faces seemed elongated in certain panels. All in all, enjoyable.

I had a great deal of anticipation for this issue, and I was not disappointed.  I look forward to whatever fuckery the Six can get themselves into next and … and what happens if (OK, when) they make Alice angry.  Cowabunkle!

Naughty Boots

It’s just another day for a girl in a comic shop.

Yesterday was unusually warm for this time of year, but also rainy.  So I decided to wear a dress — one of my more flattering dresses, if I do say so.  But since it was wet outside and late in the year (id est fall fashion time), I threw on my favorite sparkly hat and my knee-high black boots.  The males in our geek posse informed me that they are indeed “naughty” boots, and that I happened to look pretty hot. Moving on.

I headed out to my local comic shop to pick up a couple of trades for my daughter. She is a fan of The Runaways series, and she has been bugging me to get her more.  I grabbed the two I thought she didn’t have, but when I got home – it turned out I got the wrong ones. So back I went to the comic shop to swap them out. Continue reading “Naughty Boots”

If It Pleases and Sparkles …

There are few things I love more than comics. They are rich with iconic characters that I’ve always loved, from Wonder Woman to the more obscure but fascinating anti-hero Lady Shiva. And oh, how I love the art; so many ways to draw a character, an emotion, an action. Add to that the stories and the ingenious writers who bring them to life every month. Comic books opened up a whole new world to me; Wednesdays at my LCS, lunches with my fellow aficionados, and blogging are my joys. If you visited my home and viewed my bookshelf, you would find, first & foremost, comics so good I had to get the trades (the issues are of course bagged, boarded and stored safely in their long boxes), some modern and contemporary philosophy, and some classic prose. But the most ostentatious thing on my shelf (drumroll): All four books in the Twilight saga.

Blasphemy you say?  Well, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been deemed a heretic. Why should this be any different?

I get a lot of flack for being a Twihard (that is the “official” term) from my fellow geeks. So do the millions of other fans of the series. I read blog after blog, article after article and hear endless podcasts about how much the geek world loathes the series and how it (and fans) didn’t belong at the cons. Frankly, I am over it. Continue reading “If It Pleases and Sparkles …”