Face it, tiger: on Shailene Woodley, comics and fanboys

So while people were mourning the loss of Damian Wayne in DC-ville the internet (or as some call it: the real world) was exploding over something entirely different. On set photographs of the actress playing Mary Jane Watson were leaked. The actress in question, one Shailene Woodley, is seen here:

Good thing she’s wearing a coat because the forecast said it would be cloudy with a 100% chance of ish-storm.

I’m no expert – in like anything – but that looks like a human being walking around. As in: not someone in costume, with makeup on and certainly not someone drawn to look like an unattainable sex-goddess. Predictably, comment sections and forums were quickly filled with terrible comments regarding how unattractive Shailene is. One individual even proclaimed “Burn it with fire”. Yawn. Now that we know what to do with the spare fire we have sitting around, let’s take a step back and examine the reaction TO that reaction.

I think most of us can agree judging Woodley’s qualifications to play to role of MJ based on this one shot is fairly extreme but that’s what fanboys do. In the interests of full disclosure, I don’t like casting Woodley because she looks too young. Andrew Garfield has old man face and would naturally be attracted to Emma Stone who has old smoker voice. That’s just science. Science aside, I’m sure she can do a fine job. If all you care about is appearances – and lets not pretend they don’t matter at all – any quick google image search revealing a slew of shots like this:

“Do I look confused/sexy enough for you now?”

But fanboys don’t google (or admit they goolge since they know all things about all things) and it wouldn’t matter if Kate Upton were signed on to play MJ, SOMEONE would still complain. Look, none of this is to condone the level of venom directed at this one photograph (and an actual human being as opposed to the idea of Mary Jane) is inexcusable. I used Venom in the previous sentence without realizing it. That was awesome! Ok focus!

I’d like to focus on the response from the “adults” on the internet (those who write articles and don’t comment in fanboy filled forums) was an equally predictable chastising. One article self-righteously proclaimed in the headline fanboys who complain about Ms. Woodley’s appearance don’t deserve the film. Ok, that is just as dumb as these knee-jerk responses. The film could be terrible and then only terrible people would deserve it. More seriously, if you pay $12 then you deserve the movie as much as the next person. Here’s the thing that non-comic readers may never understand though: it is much more than $12; it is a lifetime investment of emotion and money. Since money is easier to rationalize than emotion (see what I did?) think of it this way: You ever get caught up in anything? Star Wars? Harry Potter? A wobbly ladder? Of course you have. But instead of a couple movies or books, imagine the thing you literally grew up with is Spider-Man. Marvel puts out several comics each week with Spider-Man in the title. If you were to ONLY get the main Spider-Man title you would still be spending roughly $12 a month to follow the imaginary lives of Peter Parker and, yes, Mary Jane Watson. Case in point: When Dan Slott (the writer of Amazing Spider-Man) killed off Peter Parker a few months ago he received death threats. Every single person that came through my shop talked about how stupefying that was. But every single one of them was also passionate about what happened to Peter Parker in their own ways. These are fans for life.

Now here’s the other thing, Mary Jane is so difficult to portray (by anyone regardless of appearance) because she is supposed to be the embodiment of the nerd dream. The good, girl next door…that you need to be talked into taking out…who turns out to be the jackpot. More importantly, SHE knows she is the jackpot and still falls for the boy/nerd next door when one of his three best qualities is not being in massive debt (just broke all the time). This. Is. Not. Real. Life.

“Be safe, honey. I’ll just stay here and knit myself a tighter shirt.”

MJ as wholesome dream girl eventually morphed into MJ as sexbot. This was largely due to portrayals such as the one on the left. While Mary Jane the accomplished businesswoman who owns New York’s hottest night clubs is far fetched, at least it isn’t this J Scott Campbell portrayal that reduces the character to sex appeal and subservience.

This next part may shock people but these portrayals don’t appeal to all nerds. For one, not all nerds read comics (ridiculous, but I’m biased) and even those that do have varying tastes. I have several customers who cite art like this as the reason they moved to more independent comics with more reasonable portrayals of human beings.

Bottom line is this: Almost everyone who has spoken out about this issue looks foolish. Obviously, hurling insults based on a photograph – any photograph – is juvenile but so is calling out an entire dedicated demographic based on a few anonymous internet comments.

Funny thing is, Shailene Woodley is the only one that comes out of all this looking good.


EVC — Batman and Death of the Family’s ending

Eric: So we got the finale to the Death of the Family storyline, and I’m not going to lie, I was a bit disappointed. The build up to it was fantastic, and the methodology of how the Joker was able to separate himself (thematically) from the other members of Batman’s rogue gallery was great, but the end product seemed a bit lacking.

Michael: I can understand that reaction. It’s funny,  in the den of hatred that is 4chan (where the entire comic was scanned nearly two days before release) the sentiment that jumped out as somewhat reasonable was “this just restores the status quo”. I tend to disagree with that statement, however, and really enjoyed the issue. My perspective is that modern comics depend so much on the “ending” of an arc setting up future issues and Batman #17 did a fantastic job at that.

Eric: But for the most part, the only thing that changed was some hurt feelings on the side of Batman’s “family,” and we got to see how much Bruce really trusts his cohorts. While this is a nice sentiment, I don’t really feel like this is a message that needed the influence of a deformed villain, such as the Joker, to bring out in the group. The Joker’s methods seemed like they all hinged on this “gotcha!” moment with their fake faces in the serving dishes.

Michael: That’s where we differ again. I strongly believe Snyder used Joker to play the trick – or gotcha moment as you refer to it – on all of us. Just because there isn’t a death doesn’t mean nothing happened. In particular, the panel where Dick assures Bruce they will be fine without him is equal parts touching and as serious as it gets. After thinking their faces were cut off and Joker’s great monologue about how Batman must not love them if he can’t kill the man who keeps doing these awful things to them, the unspoken line was: “Prove the Joker wrong. We’ll understand if you kill him, Batman. Hell, some of us want you to.” Of course, this sets up Batman’s walk of shame…

Eric: How is this any different from anything we’ve seen before? Why Batman doesn’t kill the Joker has always been put into question, and has had some very interesting and well thought out answers as well. The Dark Knight Returns is probably my favorite event involving this, outside of one of the many “academic” books like Philosophy and Batman, or something else along those lines. If anything, I feel the end of this merely served to better point out the frustrations with Batman’s code.

Michael: I can see all of that but I just tend to think this is direction allows better stories for Batman and – perhaps more importantly – the rest of the Bat-family. We’ve seen tension between the “kill” and “no kill” camps but no one showing up to Batmans’ party at the end of issue #17 finally gives it some weight. After Night of the Owls and Death of the Family, I’m all for breaking up the band a bit and seeing what these characters (and don’t forget writers!) can do on their own.

Eric: Yes, but many are primarily Batman readers, and watching Batman have to reaffirm his code after an event where he kills Joker makes for a much more interesting story, in my opinion. Not only did we, the readers, want to possibly see Batman fail his own ethics, but it was encouraged with Jason and Barbara, who have their own obvious reasons, as well as through Damian, who probably has the most practical view on why the Joker should die. In many cases, I feel Damian is used to personify underlying criticisms with how Batman operates.

Michael: I want to pick up on what you said about Damian. He’s the most likely to take the direct solution of the bunch. Remember he was introduced in Batman and Son as the child not only capable of taking down then-Robin Tim Drake but straight up killing the bad guys. But its his excessive need for Batman’s approval that drives Batman further towards his paternal instincts – one of which is setting the example for Damian so the kid is less of a psychopath. So was it stereotypical or cliche of Batman to not want to literally show his son killing is fine but only when daddy does it?

Eric: Well, I wouldn’t count taking down Tim Drake as one of the hardest fights in the Batman Universe. It’s been shown that each of the Robins is a different aspect of Bruce’s abilities, and Drake has definitely proven himself the best Robin when it comes to detective work, but not combat; that lies with Jason.

Michael: Damian was ten years old.

Eric: Point aside, I do agree that it was probably best that Batman didn’t kill the Joker. However, I do think we should have seen him go beyond his usual stopping point. Also, if Batman was trying to set an example for Damian — SAY SO! I feel like that was a missed opportunity there. Yes, this underlined the importance of what holds them together, but if what the Joker said wasn’t strong enough to break up their relationship under his toxin, then what chance did his shared information have at driving them against each other when they have their wits about them?

Michael: Definitely. I could see it being a weaker toxin since the point was never to kill them. Still, that panel where they were all holding hands is too Superfriends for my taste. On the Damian/parenting point, I’m not sure Snyder will ever write that directly. He’s said in a couple interviews that much of Batman #17 is left open. Something else he’s said has really stuck with me too. Paraphrasing here but if he just killed someone in “Death of the Family”, then the entire story becomes the place that character died. Case in point: How many readers chalk up “Death in the Family” as the story where Jason Todd got voted off the living? On the other hand, Batman #17 is full of these little cleavages for us to work through and that’s why I think its a fantastic issue.

Eric: I would say most people view the original “Death in the Family” solely on Jason Todd’s death. That’s what made it so shocking, as people really hadn’t seen anything like that before, especially in the Bat-verse. This time around I feel like Snyder used the events from the previous version as a selling point to get people excited about another death; another major impact on Batman’s world like Jason’s death was. Todd’s death was something that haunted Bruce for a very, very long time. It’s even directly referenced in The Dark Knight Returns. I think myself, as well as others, wanted to see another major catalyst in the extensive maze that is Bruce’s psyche.

Michael: The name was misleading for sure but many people started to suspect this thing was going to end with no one dead – except the metaphorical family of course. If there is anyone to blame it is the DC hype machine. Hard to see how anything could live up to the buzz they created. The DC marketing machine has certainly kicked it into high gear again regarding this week’s Batman Incorporated #8. I’d stop reading here if I wanted to avoid spoilers.


Michael with spoilers: So DC encouraged retailers to order more of Batman Incorporated #8 a few weeks ago. (Funny story, I tripled my order and won’t get the increased quantities until next week…thanks all involved!) It didn’t take a Tim Drake to figure out someone was probably going to end up the deads. This morning, many comic sites spoiled a New York Post article revealing the death of Damian Wayne. So Snyder gets what he wants out of Death of the Family and Grant Morrison gets what he wants in killing off Damian Wayne. I have no problem with this since Damian is a Morrison creation and he had previously mentioned Damian was going out in one redemptive act. Fortunately, Morrison realized the character had a lot more potential than just his four issue miniseries.

Since “Batman and Son” we’ve seen Damian – and Bruce – grow up and it has been an amazing journey. For those that don’t know, Damian is the illegitimate child of Batman and Talia – the daughter of one of Batman’s greatest adversaries: Ra’s al Ghul. Damian is caught between two (literally) warring parents. Morrison reveals in the New York Post article on the issue “
It’s all about the family and the family going to hell,” said Morrison, who threw in elements of his own parents’ divorce. “The two adults in the story are both culpable. The kid’s the good guy.”

Wow. Look, I’m the first to criticize Morrison when his work becomes a mess of jumbled timelines and esoteric references, but this? This is great stuff. Letting us watch Damian’s attempts to win his father’s approval, witnessing Batman becoming the flawed if well intentioned father and seeing both of them battle it out against Talia and THEN dropping in commentary about the culpability of both parents as an allegory for divorce? I am officially intrigued about this issue and not just because of a death. Well done, Morrison.

Agree or disagree with either view? Post below!

Possible Future for Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3. It’s coming out. Here is my guess as to what’s going to happen; forget the introductory paragraph.

We are going to see a separation between Tony Stark and Iron Man:

Obviously, I mean this in the metaphorical sense. If you look at the trailer you can pinpoint a moment where the suit assaults Tony and Pepper while they are in bed. I’m going to go on a limb and say that this is a dream sequence for Tony, as he struggles with what it means to carry the responsibility of others on a long-term basis. What he wants to do, and what he feels responsible to do will come into conflict. Notice, if you will, that Iron Man’s suit is majority gold.

This was a deliberate choice by the director of the film for, what I’m guessing, is a symbolic outer shell of Tony Stark. Since the happenings in The Avengers, he is viewed as the “golden boy,” the man who saved New York, and possibly the world. But this isn’t what Tony wants. Sure he likes the fame and the attention, but now he is getting more than he bargained for. As his life continues with Pepper, and he comes to realize what is really important in his life, he’ll discover that all this glory and deifying really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Tony accepts the suit and the moniker of Iron Man, but what he’ll have a hard time accepting is the way his identity is being taken away from him by the public, and is now being emulated by the U.S. Government to boost the national narrative and morale.

Pepper Potts is probably going to die:

Super heroes and girlfriends don’t mix very well. This is why Batman got a new girl every film through out the 90’s (including 89′), and why Marvel killed off Gwen Stacey, and then Mary Jane a million times over. When things appear too good for the super hero then fans become disinterested. It’s also dangerous for someone who fights on a level like Iron Man does to have someone that close to them. From what we can see in the trailers for 3, the Mandarin looks like a pretty unforgiving mother. He wants to teach people that there are no heroes, and what better way to bring down everyone’s favorite iron-clad knight than by killing the thing that means the most to him.

Why would this make for a more interesting film? Simple, it works in the same vein that the final fight between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader was so epic. Vader beat Luke in Empire, so when they meet up again, you, the viewer, are more invested into how the next fight will turn out. If Tony’s salvation (Pepper) is murdered by his new enemy, then the final time they fight will have that much more emotion and meaning behind it. It’s fairly obvious that Iron Man is going to be bested in this upcoming film; the trailer is blunt in showing a defeated and broken man. I think Tony will have to craft a new suit because of this, that we’ll only see at the climax of the movie. It will be a darker, and more focused version of the titular character.

The events in this film will chain reaction the rest of the hero films into the next Avenger’s movie:

This one might not be much of a surprise, but if you look at the above poster with the Mandarin in it you can see a wrecked Captain America helmet. There has been some speculation online as to what this means, and some people have suggested that he defeats Captain America prior to the events of this film. It is the Mandarin’s goal to eliminate the heroes of the New York events, and now that the Avengers have been assembled they have popped up on this mastermind’s radar. I don’t really believe that for one very obvious reason, and that is the helmet is from the WWII time period. Why does he have this? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that a super soldier serum Guy Pierce’s character (a scientist named Aldrich Killian) is creating, he will sell to a terrorist group. This will be how Mandarin comes into play.

What the Mandarin is going to accomplish in this film is going to set the tone for how Iron Man, and possibly the Avengers, organize and prepare themselves from this point forward. Tony is going to be extremely untrusting, bitter about Pepper’s death, and have a much more aggressive approach towards handling danger. He will also want to be able to spy on other major players in any field he deems as dangerous. I think this will be put in place to make a commentary on the current use of privacy rights in the U.S., and if you look at something like the Civil War series you can see that comics are no stranger to using Iron Man and Cappy to make social commentary.  I might be reaching a bit on that one, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it.

As always, just a thought.

Five Ways Hollywood can Screw up a Boba Fett Movie

Let’s be honest, there are a million ways that Hollywood can screw up a movie about the most famous Star Wars character who got such a small amount of screen time. They could make the reveal be he is actually a woman in some sort of weird Samus/Metroid moment. They could show him to be a Jedi spy whose goal was to actually help Luke Skywalker escape (which wouldn’t be too far off considering his embarrassing display of ability in Return of the Jedi). Or they could do anything along the lines of what was done with anyone and everything in Episodes I-III. Instead, I’ve decided to focus on things “Hollywood” often does to try and market a film to as many people as possible for the sake of money. The list is, as follows.

#5 — Make him out to be a really decent guy:

I’ll start with this one because this is probably the most realistic approach that the studio will take. Don’t get me wrong, when crafting a narrative you need a protagonist to have reach a goal, but what Boba Fett doesn’t need is a bleeding heart. He has been trained to do the bounty hunting work since he was “born.” You could even argue that he was created for that specific purpose in mind. This comes with a certain mentality that will be absent from the rest of the traditional heroes in the Star Wars universe. He is not there to help his fellow man/whatever race of alien; he is not meant to be a savior of anyone; Boba Fett is a hunter. He is one of the best hunters in the universe, and that means being cold. If we had to have someone to compare that to, it would have to be the character of “Blondie” from the Sergio Leonne spaghetti westerns.

This character ends up doing good deeds not because he wants to, but because it’s what’s required to achieve his goal. He is a man of few words (like Boba) but has a sense of honor about him. If you are unsure as to whether or not Boba Fett has an honor code, then I suggest you pick up the paperback of Tales of the Bounty Hunters. In this collection of short stories about each of the hunters we are presented with in Empire, we get a moment inside Boba Fett’s head. One moment specifically where Jabba the Hutt offers him a night with Princess Leia, which he refuses, and converses with her instead. He may not be a Jedi, but he is certainly no Sith.
#4 — Have him save a community of people:

Nothing bothers me more than to see a character that is supposed to be a hard ass become super concerned with the well-being of an impoverished people. This might sound harsh, but it is such a tired and cliche way of trying to get the audience to identify with the main character that the hero might as well save a woman from an oncoming train at some point. One thing I can see happening is him taking a shine to a small girl or boy while he’s trying to hunt someone down, and ends up saving them and letting his bounty go, only to kill the man who hired him instead. 
Aww the hunter with the heart of gold. No one wants to see this. Boba Fett was cool because he captured one of the slipperiest smugglers in the galaxy (with the help of a Sith lord) and didn’t feel a thing about it. He watched Han say goodbye to the woman who loved him, his group of friends, and didn’t even bat a dark visor-lash. This man is absolute in what he does, and what he does is absolutely awesome. 
#3 — Make him an angsty emo-child like Anakin:

If it hasn’t been obvious with previous posts, I have some major issues with newer of the six Star Wars films. One major issue, was how they turned a young Darth Vader into that kid who tried to shove a remote control up his ass on youtube when his parents canceled his WoW account. It’s been stated before that Anakin should have been a much quieter, and much darker child than the happy-go-lucky little firecracker we saw in Episode I.  He was a child slave, whose mother was constantly depressed because she was apparently knocked up by no one. He later finds his mother kidnapped and beaten to death by a band of “evil” sand people, and murders the entire lot. Fan theories aside, this is not the ideal upbringing to ensure a well-adjusted adolescent. 
Boba’s upbringing isn’t much different. He was born motherless, and watched his father get his head chopped off after being raised by the same bounty hunter who was so badass that a galactic empire molded an entire army after his DNA. The man who was essentially his father, and also himself (see the additional Christian symbolism?) was killed in an arena surrounded by applause. If Dexter has showed us anything it’s that this pretty much sets the kid up to be a life-long sociopath. However, Boba has a personality already imprinted on him from his father-self, and instead of becoming a sociopath, he would just end up becoming callus and untrusting of anyone; the perfect hunter personae.

#2 — Make him a space version of Jason Bourne:

There is a trend in the action movie business these days to make the titular characters able to deflect every punch and kick with a mix of grappling and Krav Maga styles. The Daniel Craig Bonds emulated this, and so have the newer of the Die Hard series, along with a host of other wannabe action franchises that have popped up over the years. Yes, these are fun to watch, and the choreography (although strikingly unrealistic of an actual fight) is complex and fluid. This type of fighting and combat might work well for two Jedi with lightsabers, but it has no place for someone who must constantly out-think and trap his prey.

I have no doubt that the Fett has some talent when it comes to close-quarters-combat, but that would not be his preferred method of ascertaining a mark. When he captures Han Solo he doesn’t jump into a fist fight with Luke and Chewie before landing a knockout roundhouse kick to his smuggling adversary. He uses his cunning and tracking abilities to locate them, then uses the Empire’s interest in Luke and the rebellion to serve his own monetary purposes.

#1 — Give him too much of a personality:

To be clear, I think the film should definitely give us more insight into the man, but it should do it via his actions, and not through his personality. This is one of the flaws that happened with Wolverine in the third installment of the X-Men series (amongst, literally, billions of others). They tried to make him too emotional, but not in the way we’re used to seeing Wolverine be emotional. Wolverine has three setting; angry, irritated, and cocky. All other emotions in the spectrum of his existence can be subverted into one of these three outward responses. Boba Fett also has three settings; tranquil, irritated, and proactive. Think of Ryan Gosling in Drive. He was a quiet guy who stuck to his abilities and skillsets, but didn’t stretch himself too far beyond his expertise. Other things in life didn’t concern him as much. Fett is very much the same way,  but instead of having a fanbase whose majority demographic is female, Fett’s is primarily male nerds (not used in a negative fashion).

Boba Fett’s personality should be kept to his actions. He is a stoic killer, a cold calculator, and a hardened hunter.

Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing a story that goes back and forth between his time after Jango dies and how that parallels his painful  journey out of the Sarlaac pit and into another suit of Mandalorian armor.   Or how his physical rehabilitation from being in the digestive acids of the sand-beast is similar to the mental rehabilitation he had to endure after seeing his father-self murdered, and still trying to survive as a small child in a big universe. Just my opinion.

Any other ways come to mind of how the ball could be not just dropped, but deflated from the Fett? List them below!

Read This! With Michael Chen

I really thought we would be over the zombie craze by now. I don’t know why in particular I thought this phase would have passed but I definitely recall thinking to myself “I really thought we would be over the zombie craze by now.” If that sounded a bit repetitive then I’m going to let you in on a little secret: so is the zombie craze! There’s a reason lots of people come into my store craving Walking Dead comics and resist other zombie related items: because we’ve reached the point where we intuitively realize most zombie “stuff” is just a poor imitation. After all, how hard could it be to write a great story with zombies in it?

Do you have a popular video game license, hot former model, big budget and no talent? Then you have a bright future making garbage…in 3-D


Telling an original zombie story is tough. Yet people unaffiliated with Resident Evil still manage to do it otherwise this whole zombie craze would have gone quietly into the night already. One of those enterprising writers is Tim Seeley – and good thing too! Seeley’s Revival is one of the industry’s most refreshing new titles. Described as “rural noir”, Seeley’s work focuses on a small Midwestern town where the dead come back to life. But these “revivers” aren’t your traditional mindless zombies. They are just the recently departed who have undeparted (can Jack Nicholson do that? Because he should do that. I promise to rewatch that movie if he does that) so you have a town full of confused folks who thought their time had passed. The United States government has not watched ANY movies lately and refuses to nuke the entire town. Instead, the town is quarantined and allowed to police itself. Good thing too, because this let’s Seeley dive headfirst into small town politics, sexual tension and tension that is sexual.

You probably hear this all the time but your scythe really brings out the crazy in your eyes.
Seeley depicts the ongoing confusion and chaos through protagonist Dana Cypress. She’s what you would expect from a modern title: unassuming, single mother with serious family issues. One of those family issues is that her father runs the local police department and she’s only a cop because of her daddy issues and everyone knows it and she has just been named the head of a task force dealing with the revivers because giving your daughter a high profile job is sure to make her friends. So yeah all of that happens early in Revival. But that doesn’t mean this is a cluttered or fast paced title. Seeley’s strength is his meandering style. It seems as if you are really peeking into a (strange) day in the life of small town America. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Seeley and his co-conspirator/artist Mike Norton are both from small towns.
So that was me segueing into talking about the art. Smooth as a hairless cat, right? Don’t answer that.

Norton’s art is pretty awesome. You would think spending so much time drawing a dreary, Midwestern landscape wouldn’t get my stamp of “pretty awesome” but it does. It sets the tone perfectly and the pages of Revival just feel like a small town. Everyone looks different and yet the same and Norton somehow makes you feel the repression jumping off some of these pages. Before anyone reading this from the Midwest gets upset – I did my time in Ohio and Illinois. There is angst and snow and corn and Norton captures these things. My only gripe is the depiction of Dana. She comes across as lively as a dour woe-is-me personality can but she’s just not dumpy enough. I’m serious about this and it has nothing to do with fat-shaming. This is just a matter of art not matching up with details provided by the author: Cop eating donuts. Overworked mom with no time to cook healthy. Cop commenting on eating too many donuts. Midwestern diet. Dana’s complains about her weight. It’s as if Seeley and Norton were afraid to depict their protagonist as anything but a young-ish female with a nice body. This is a disservice to the audience, their own writing and anyone who cares (or perhaps wants to stop caring?) about body image. 

This is Dana’s dad talking to Dana who likes donuts. You can tell because she has freckles.
That gripe aside, Revival is a lot of eerie fun. There are enough shocking moments to satisfy fans of the zombie (Walking Dead?) genre and more than enough moments grounded in reality. It’s as if Seeley and Norton decided to take their old fashioned friend Americana and set her up with the most unexplainably creepy dude they could find. Then those two hit it off and made a baby that is both familiar and unsettling at the same time.

This is Baby Revival. I’m not even sorry I used an actual baby’s photograph because this baby stabbed all of its relatives to death with scissors so there is no one to be mad at me. Google it.
So we’re approaching the home stretch of this edition of Read This. You should jump on board this comic right now. Issue #7 just came out and trade paperback’s collecting issue’s #1-5 is reasonably priced at $12.99. And if you’re the type that needs to be the first in your group on the next big thing then you really need to pick this title up. NBC is rumored to have optioned the comic for development into a (terrible) television show. If a comic that is only up to issue #7 has already been picked up then it must be doing something right. To be clear, the thing doing the right stuff is Revival. NBC is terrible at everything except canceling good comedies and churning out Law and Order episodes. Here’s hoping they don’t ruin Law and Order: Revival.

Shameless plug: If you happen to be in the area, mention the blog post for a discount on whatever title is discussed. If you’re not in the area be sure to purchase your comics at a local comic shop. The interwebs doesn’t need your money but local shops – the lifeblood of this hobby – do. As always, thanks for reading my column, to Eric for letting me ramble on, to Baby Jesus for not being as awkward as Baby Revival and to you again…for liking Manifest Comics and Cards on facebook.

Read This! With Michael Chen

Whew! What a week it has been already. Uncanny X-Men #1 was a lot of fun although I have some qualms with the 90s-esque feel to the last couple pages. Batman #17 was good but not great the first time I read it but then I read it again…and again…and again. I’ve been telling people it’s the most re-readable issue Snyder has done on Detective/Batman. Whether that makes it the instant classic many sites are calling it remains to be seen (I know you shouldn’t have to wait for instant things but have you had instant coffee? You have to heat the water first then spoon in the right amount of ground up devil THEN stir and THEN turn off your gag reflex…not very instant). You also had the surprisingly enjoyable Secret Avengers #1 and the great standalone issue Fatale #12.

“But Michael, I know it was a good week. I found five dollars in my pocket and it wasn’t even that crinkled.” Fair. I can almost top that. For those that just love comic speculation (story, value or otherwise) there is a doozy making the rounds on the internetwork. This is your official SPOILER ALERT!

Are you imagining a really annoying siren going off?

Something so annoying it could be called the SPOILER ALERT?! Because you should be, this is your last warning.

Ok…here goes!

Long time Bat-fans (cool people but not as awesome as Bat-mans) may recall this iconic Alex Ross cover for Batman #676.

Well some store owner dude who spoiled AND sold copies of Amazing #700 TWELVE AMERICAN DAYS EARLY has done it again. Check out these spoiled covers for Batman Inc. #8 which were spoiled TWELVE AMERICAN DAYS EARLY! Dude has something about the number twelve.

When asked to comment DC responded “Well poop” 

Here are my brief thoughts:
1. Morrison has gone on file saying Damian was originally going to die at the end of his miniseries.
2. Events in Batman Inc (#6 and #7) have been pointing towards Batman having to choose between his son and Gotham. In Batman #666 we see a potential future where Gotham is a mess and Damian is the paper towel trying to soak up a two liter of coke. Oh valiant towel, you were doomed from the start.
3. Everyone hated Damian because he could beat up Tim (and took his job) but he has grown on us.  We complain all the time about things that go on too long and I personally feel it would be fantastic if Damian had to sacrifice himself for his father’s city.
4. The symbol COULD mean the role of “Robin” dies while Damian lives. Events in Death of the Family and now Batman Inc could prove to Batman that he should stop throwing boys in the way of bullets/knives/psychopaths from now on.

So what do you think? Does Damian die? Is that good or bad for Batman’s character development? Where did that five dollar bill come from? Do you even care?

Read This! With Michael Chen

Good news for the four of you who have enjoyed these posts! I will be making more regular contributions (maybe) aimed not just at recommendations (still likely) but sparking discussion (depends on your participation). After all, why is it that comics (and comic shops) have seen steady increases in sales while magazines, books and newspapers are all being mutilated by the crushing presence of the internet? Seriously, Borders is gone. Just gone. While the healthy business model of selling everything in print and specialty drinks with whipped cream provided by your favorite bookworm that has seen You’ve Got Mail one too many times still lives on in the shining mecca of Barnes and Noble, comic shops have survived (thrived) by offering a community for like-minded nerds to meet, talk and reminisce over soy lattes.

Awesome! Now, you and five of your best friends can fight over who gets the free drink.

Of course you’ve got superstores that are not only physical but online monstrosities, but even they recognize the need for a healthy community with book clubs and release events. Comic shops and comics in general thrive because of you. Don’t look behind you. No one is reading this over your shoulder…unless they are…in that case we will switch the pronouns.  The appreciation of the written word coupled with fantastic art and the need to hold it in your hands is one thing. But mail order comics could easily satisfy that hunger like a comic flavored snickers bar (needs more caramel and a little less…this is embarrassing…paper). No, comics and comic shops survive because you enjoy talking about comics with other comic people. While the internet can offer a forum for this it isn’t quite like the real thing. Have no fear, because we’re aiming at providing a forum for discussions that isn’t as good as the real thing but sometimes faking it is good enough.

Sometimes fake is good enough.

So what to discuss? Honestly, the biggest comic related question is what the Joker has planned in this week’s finale to Death of the Family. Joker’s return has been an absolute roller coaster ride and all that remains is to see what Scott Snyder has in store for Batman and the entire Bat-family in Batman #17. Those who don’t want spoilers should stop reading.
whatr u doin

Still deciding how you feel about spoilers? Don’t care! Here we go. Joker’s face was cut off by the Dollmaker super early on in Detective Comics and Joker has been missing since. Batman #13 saw him return for his face which was locked up by GCPD so Harvey Dent could play pretend. That last part isn’t true. So Joker comes back, slaughters a bunch of cops, traumatizes Commissioner Gordon by revealing he’s been hiding under his bed (actually said that) and gets his face back. Since then Joker has made Batman and the entire family paranoid that he knows their identities by attacking them in very personal ways. The end of each issue #16 sees Joker capturing each member of the family and revealing a platter. The big question is most definitely “What is under the platter?” Imagine if you’re watching the movie Seven and they made you wait a month until revealing what was in the freaking box.

What’s in the box?!

The most common speculation is focused on Alfred’s head. I’m a huge proponent of this theory. It isn’t so much that I believe Snyder will do something so obvious but I think it would get rid of Alfred as a “crutch” for writers. Alfred has served as confidant, father figure, skilled surgeon, research assistant, therapist, drawer of baths and more. This is a writing crutch if I ever saw one! Removing him from the bat-universe would have serious ramifications and could easily result in the family being torn apart. Of course, if that is the most obvious theory there have to be obscure ones no one has yet to voice. Before you dive in with your own theories, there are a couple of additional factoids for those who may not read every bat-title.

1. Gordon has been missing since the start of Death of the Family but shows up in last week’s Detective #17 so he’s likely fine (or as fine as you can be knowing the Joker was just chillin under your bed for a while).
2. Teen Titans #16 saw both Jason Todd and Tim Drake captured with Joker revealing TWO platters. One can assume he has a platter for each member of the family.

Has he carved up one horrific item (Alfred) to serve up to the bat-family or are each of these platters personalized? Does everyone make it out of the dinner alive? Can John Kerry fill the immense and fashionable shoes of Hillary as Secretary of State? All these questions and more will be answered on Wednesday but we can speculate until then so discuss away!

Shameless plug: After receiving feedback from our book club we are going to start making our meetings more focused on current comic events. We will also try to work in some more traditional “book” (graphic novel/trade paperback) selections. The first discussion group will be talking about Death of the Family on February 20th at 6:30 pm. This should give everyone enough time to read the final chapter and mull it over before enjoying what makes comic shops great: great stories and even greater discussions!