Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Flash Thompson: Nerd Revenge Fantasy

Some guys just can't win. In 1962, Peter Parker was one of those guys. Bullies bullied him and girls ignored him – with the exception of his elderly Aunt, and that really doesn't count. Puny, broke and lonely, young Peter was the kind of guy you could relate to. I assume this was either because the men writing him could relate to him too, or they just knew their audience really, really well.



"The 'T' stands for 'Talk to the HAND, Parker!' Haw Haw!"


Then, in an ironic twist of fate, young Peter is granted superpowers; He goes from zero to hero, starts hanging out with the FF and The Avengers, and marries a super model. Oh, and that bully who used to torment him in high school becomes his #1 fan. And people say superhero comics are just adolescent male power fantasies!

That bully had a name, and a pretty badass one at that: Flash Thompson. He is the subject of this blog.

The thing about Flash Thompson is, back in High School, he was kind of an asshole. Now, nevermind the fact that back in high school everyone was an asshole (this is to prepare you for the real world, where everyone is an asshole). No, Flash was more like THE asshole. Girls, cars, popularity, football, etc. – everything that guys like Peter Parker spend their tormented youths hating and envying. And poor Flash Thompson has been paying for it ever since.

What follows Flash Thompson's Big Man on Campus years is a comeuppance of ridiculously epic proportions. He goes to war and is haunted by mystic assassins. He suffers serious bouts of depression and becomes an alcoholic. In love, he can only manage to pick up Peter's sloppy seconds. He gets in a drunk-driving accident – two of them, in fact – and ends up brain damaged to the point where he forgets what few redeeming qualities he'd managed to muster up over the years. Oh, and as it turns out, his father was an abusive alcoholic, so high school probably wasn't all that great for Flash Thompson after all. At least Peter had a decent home life. As if all this wasn't enough, it turns out all this time his first name is actually Eugene. I mean, seriously.



Daaaaaaaamn, homie! In high school you was the maaaaaaaan, homie!
...What the fuck happened to you?


You know what, I get it. I really do. These are superhero stories, and the golden rule of superhero stories is good guys win, bad guys lose. Somewhere very early on in life Flash Thompson must have fallen into the 'bad guy' category, and has been awarded his just deserts time and time again, despite many desperate grasps for redemption. But there's a line between justice and torment; it's actually quite a broad one, I think. And I can't help but wonder if the Peter Parker types reading and writing Spider-Man comics throughout the years don't derive just a little bit of pleasure out of making a whipping boy out of Flash Thompson. It's kind of sick, when you think about it.

You know, there was a brief period in the early 90s or so where Flash and Peter were actually pretty good friends. I always liked that development. Beyond just being a cool twist on the status quo, I think it showed a real willingness for growth. Not only in the characters of Peter Parker and Flash Thompson, but in superhero comics in general. Finally, we were ready to let go of all of the adolescent anguish we'd been harboring in our hearts and move on. You know, forgiving those that trespassed against us and what not. It didn't last. The nerds were still angry, and somebody had to pay. So once again Flash Thompson was reverted to his adolescent state, dragging us all down with him. He is currently a recovering alcoholic/functioning retard teaching a gym class at his old high school.

Some guys just can't win.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

KRACKA-THOOOM!!!

CONNOR HAWKE: DRAGON'S BLOOD


Written by: CHUCK DIXON
Illustrated by: DEREC DONOVAN

I picked up this book on a whim yesterday, purchased solely because I was in a comic shop killing time while waiting for a prescription to be filled. I'm unfamiliar with the character and the character's history. I am assuming that Connor is Arsenal, right? Going on that assumption I purchased this time-filler so I could brush up a little on Arsenal, seeing as how he's a new JLAer. It's a breezy and enjoyable little book, basically the set up for the limited run which is supposedly a gathering of the greatest archers in the world to have a throw-down commemorating an ancient Chinese legend of a lone archer who blah blah blah...trust me, the whole reason behind the gathering of all of these archers is most definitely NOT going to be the reason they were all given. There will no doubt be some nefarious and diabolical goings on in Shanghai by issue 3 or so, and look for Connor Hawke to be the one taken most by surprise.


While that brief summation may sound glib, please don't think I am in any way disappointed in the story progression so far. Its quite the contrary, actually. Mr. Dixon once again shows he ha s a mastery of the comic book format in setting the stage succinctly and with clever devices in this issue. The whole re-telling of the Chinese legend smoke screen was a great excuse for the artist, who we'll talk more of later, to let loose with a great splash page of ancient Chinese warriors getting their full-tilt sword swangin boogie on. There are magics both black and white; there are dragons a blazin; and it is a great little story within a story that serves up a good 5 pages of candy for the eyes.


And speaking of those eye sweets, the illustrator Derec Donovan, a name I was previously unfamiliar with, has an obvious talent that is on display on some pages, and still on other pages implies the underdeveloped hand of a novice. While the previously mentioned battle scenes were lush and fully developed, there are instances in which his draftsmanship is faulty and his ceilings and floors vanish into horizon lines that are strikingly mismatched. I assume he is of a younger age because he has not mastered the correct drawing of a business suit, usually a clear indicator of age range. Most notable, however, is that Connor Hawke is shown as being markedly Asian. As I stated when starting off, I am unfamiliar with this character so I may be int he wrong but...he's not Asian is he?


Anyway, the books a fun little kick in the po-po. If you got 3 bones to waste ga'head.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Missteps of the Week

Prep Time Posse


ETERNALS # 5 OF 7
I have been following this book from the very first title just because of how neat it looked. I am a fan of the polarizing John Romita Jr. and his blocky characters, and I think his style is really well suited to the design of this book. It's just this book isn't really doing it for me. Even though this month's effort was better than the last 3, I can't really say its moving anything forward because we're now 5 issues in on a 7 issue release and Makari, the main character of the first 2 releases, has been stuck in stasis for the last issue and a half. Once Sprite was revealed as a the bad guy heavy, he is now suddenly the foil for the real bad guys, the Deviants, who had been played as fools before this. Grotesque fools, but fools nonetheless.

I'm torn on whether or not to stop collecting this title because I'm $20 in now and it'll only cost me $8 to ultimately decide on how I feel about this run. Or...I could wait 6 months and then it'll cost me $0.50 to find out if I liked the last two issues.


DAMNED # 2
This book fell off farther, and harder, than anything I've seen in a while. I cannot express just how much appreciation I have for a mind that comes up with a demonic organized crime story. Some ideas just speak to you, and that is one that just hollerates at my ass in loud clear tones. However enamored I am with the idea cooked up therein, poor execution between the first two books will demand that I thoroughly noodle through any purchase of a third.



CROSS BRONX # 3 OF 4
I feel bad for how much I pumped up this book now. Not that I think the first two are any less than I originally said, but this recent release failed to incorporate any of what I liked so much in them. Which is odd because I am of the understanding that all the books are pretty much done right now. I don't understand why the first 2 books of a 4 part series to look so entirely different than the 3rd, and why the 3rd doesn't contain the overwhelming positives of those previous 2. To be completely honest, I was just lost with this issue. What happened with the spooky cliffhanger at the end of 2 with Det. Aponte and all the moths? What's with the Aponte's partner jackin scumbags for dope? Some of the best moments in the first 2 issues was the banter with these guys and now we get an issue where they don't even share a panel. Neither the storytelling devices nor the action sequences used in this issue did much to advance the story along. We've seen the avenging angel of justice kill people locked up and freaking out in squad cars. We've seen Det. Aponte struggle with his faith and his cultural identity as he's attacked on both fronts. The talk-radio arguments, while being a clever way of dealing with exposition and revealing that what's going on the neighborhood is being noticed by the residents, didn't offer up any viewpoints that weren't illustrated previously by the cops, crooks, victims, and family members. I highly anticipate this release after being knocked out by the first 2 books, and I was woefully underwhelmed.

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Comic of the Week: Annihilation #4


What are you holding behind your back?
Noooooothing.

I was already to give Grant Morrison's Batman my vote for comic of the week but then I read this bad boy.

This is how you create tension in a comic book.

The first three issues have been hit or miss for me. You definitely get a sense of all the destruction going on and, unlike Seven Soliders, you can see how the mini-series tied into the main series (Seriously, how did Morrison think he could tie 7 miniseries into one 40 page comic book?).

But Giffen gave me the one thing I wanted more than anything this series.

Thanos.

It's no secret that he is my favorite Marvel villain of all-time., especially post-Infinity Gauntlet. When he's written correctly, like he is here, he comes across as a cool character who has done it all and now is just bored. He knows (or at least believes) he's the smartest person in the galaxy and that his only Achilles heel is his love for Death. Everyone is beneath him.

This issue we find out what Thanos' motivation for following Annihilus down this path of destruction while simultaneously Drax makes his way through countless armies to achieve his one goal: Kill Thanos.

Remember when Drax The Destroyer was a complete buffoon?

That moment has passed.

He is a unstoppable killing machine. To watch him make his way through the Annihilus Wave is nothing short of amazing.

This was a well-written and well-drawn affair and now it will be interesting to see how the rest of the mini-series works out.

Besides, tell me that is not one of the best covers of 2006.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Prep Time Posse

Prep Time Posse


I finally figured this batch out!

Alright, I've decided to write at least weekly about all things comic-bookish. I've got a couple of things ready and they kinda run the gamut: reviews (spoiler and non), editorials, one essay so far, and even an original story I'd like to turn into a book. I'm still unfamiliar enough with blogging to not be aware if I'm going to get feedback on any of this, but I assure the entirety of the Prep-Timers: If you check back in every week, there will be something new here for you. I have decided to title my weekly offering "KRAKA-THOOM!!" because no other word, not "SHAZAM" nor the repetition of "SNIKT SNIKT", embodies everything I appreciate so much about comics as the wonderful display of those large letters jostly displayed across a stormy sky. I must have seen that word used in books a couple of dozen times before I realized that I had found a book that actually used it correctly. Eric Powell, the creator of the brilliant THE GOON series, did a small, yet beautifully evocative, story I found in a MARVEL Strange Western Tales book a year or two ago. The opening panel was of a torrential downpour on a wide open prairie, completely dark and damp. The next panel featured the same shot yet there was a blisteringly bright whitish-yellow steak of lightning stretching through this gargantuan sky, no lettering at all. The next panel was the original panel again, the lightning bolt had since disappeared, but there was this huge block lettered KRACKA-THOOOOOM rumbling the sky. And it hit me like a thousand Wildcat gut punches...thunder follows lightning. It was such a small simple thing, as so many epiphanies are, but it was just the greatest example of just what comics can do that other media can't. I took what might be thought of as a limit of the sequential art medium and absolutely used it to an advantage in the pacing and manipulation of the panels. Fantastic.


So anyways...on with the show.


You need to be reading REVERE.


I'll stress the urgency because the book's publisher, ALIAS COMICS, has decided its going to solely do Christian books from here until the second coming and this book might not sit well with the more pious amongst their reading audience. However, those readers might very well enjoy the book immensely as all the main characters, both the good and the morally bankrupt alike, seem to be devoutly religious. At least on outward appearances. Indeed, this is a small example of what I find most redeeming about the book. I've long been a fan of books that are set in various locales and in various eras dealing with any number of circumstances, with the one unifying theme in all of those varied books being the adherence to authenticity the creators displayed. This book drips with that adherence. The verbiage and the wardrobe of its time period and locale, the Northeastern American Colonies just before the Revolutionary War, is alive and well represented in this title.


The book does a fine job of showing us that what we now know hold dear official US History was very much up in danger of turning out drastically different. We're given slices of various different lives to view. Rag-tag rebel guerrilla inhabitants were scattered and discouraged. They were facing an uphill battle against an overwhelming and polished enemy who was at the time, the one and only Superpower the world knew. But just as the people of the country these days possess differing opinions on the state of affairs, so it was then. Not all the characters depicted in the book are of the revolutionary ilk. There are the loyalists, those comfortable in their station and not eager to see their way of life be threatened or obliterated by the ouster of England from the colonies. They are protected by, and subservient to, the British soldiers arriving on the American shore in large numbers by orders of the Monarchy back home. Amidst all of this there is a delightful adherence to that authenticity I spoke of and its refreshing to enjoy a book that doesn't dumb itself down for mass consumption. This is a niche book and it knows it and it celebrates it.
People speak to each other in the vernacular and syntax of the time and I am not embarrassed to say I often found myself reading balloons a few times over to fully set myself into the pace of the story. This was not always due to ignorance on my part, however and it is another fine feature of the richness of this book. There are several instances in the book in which characters speak in a code or utter an accepted an understood phrase, which would be greeted by a specifically prepared response allowing both parties to know that they are in the company of friends and can speak freely their revolutionary mind. I wondered if any of these were actual codes or messages used by the Revolutionary generation as they gathered in hidden cellars and bootlegger basements and plotted treason over 200 years ago.


This book conveys all the pomp and pageantry of the British soldiers as well the stoic bravery and ragged stubbornness of the Revolutionary forefathers with the beautiful artwork of Grant Bond. His hyper-realized style looks as if it jumped right off the screen of a Disney film, but with a freer looser line. It serves the book expertly throughout, but best in the fast-paced chase scenes with characters scared out of their wits and running around willy-nilly. The close and impending doom is felt on the page. the battle scenes are jarring and contain just enough gruesome gore to be effective. The coloring is unabashedly computerized and while this style is not really my favorite, it is used extremely well here as the colors they employ are broad and not commonly used. The eerie mood is set with the purply and brownish tones they employ. The creepy night skies are darkened and rainy, illuminated by occasional lightning streaks and wickedly full moons ready to burst. All of it works wonderfully with the creepy horror vibe of the monsters and the carnage they leave in their wake. What's that? Oh yeah...didn't I mention it? Well then, I guess I should get to it. The main focus of the book is the threat to the colonist posed by the Monsters. Yeah, that's right...MONSTERS.


It seems strange things are afoot in colonial New England and I'm not referring only to soldiers of the British Commonwealth. Creatures of the night are on the hunt and the hero named in the book's title, PAUL REVERE for those of you who were reading X-FORCE during US History, is just the man to fight them. He's also apparently the only one aware o the danger and just how, well, dangerous it all really is. So not only do the Sons of Liberty have to worry about Redcoats, they have to worry about their own coats turning red as Were-wolves and Zombified Human Crows of prehistoric size make meals of their vitals. Now, I know I made a strong point of how much I enjoyed this book because of its adherence to realism in its tone and language, and I really do admire that part of the book the most. But dammit it is awesome to see a man from the pages of history, a figure who was nothing ever more than a name, ride high in the saddle wielding his paper-load revolver and solid steel sabre and take down devils and demons with righteous revolutionary zealousness.


I love what the creators have done here. They have set us so firmly in a long-lost time and place and tweaked it on its ear by giving a timeless threat to it. They've done it in a beautiful and intelligently creative way. I am saddened to see that we only have one issue remaining but then that just means that all of you can enjoy a completely original and extremely well told story for $15 measly bucks. I can't express enough to you how much I have dug these 3 issues, and all I can really say is: KRACKA-THOOOOM!!!

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Spider-Man 3 trailer

It's on!

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