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Tag Archive: Ed Brubaker


Review by C.J. Bunce

It helps to know upfront that Scottish comedian and personality Frankie Boyle always wanted to write comics.  His inspiration wasn’t from the decades of superhero comics, but Alan Moore, whose attitude, as Boyle sees it, was “that comics had sort of run their course.”  A fan of the writing of Ed Brubaker, David Lapham, and Jason Aaron, Boyle embarked on an ambitious project, asking “what sort of comics do you write after comics have been done already?”  The result was first published in serial format in Mark Millar’s short-lived CLiNT magazine, and with two new chapters to wrap up his story a complete, graphic novel-length story arrives next week from Titan Comics, called Frankie Boyle’s Rex Royd.

Ambitious is the key word to describe Rex Royd.  At its worst, Boyle has touched on Alan Moore’s outrageous depravity as seen in his Lost Girls.  At its best, Boyle has created a character that will appeal to fans of the disconnected and dispassionate Dr. Manhattan and the idiosyncratic and self-absorbed Ozymandias in Moore’s acclaimed Watchmen series.  With his protagonist, the Lex Luthor-esque supervillain scientist and CEO Rex Royd, Boyle has created a brash reflection of non-mainstream comics in the pre-Marvel Cinematic Universe era.  His “hero” is like Ian Fleming’s James Bond if you remove all the tropes that make us actually like Bond, all the fun things that keep us coming back for more and not just dismiss the character as a misogynistic, unexpurgated blunt instrument.  Boyle is fully in on this, as his lead female character Eve–as in the biblical partner of Adam–resembles Bond’s confidante Eve Moneypenny in the last two Bond movies.

And yet, Rex Roydthe book–is like a writing experiment.  What do we get if we take out all these good elements and swap in the dark outcomes?  So it sometimes reads like Neil Gaiman writing a 24-Hour Comic (I’ve read that, this is probably better), but then, as in the ninth and final chapter of the book, we’re surprised with a clever sort of play on Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, with some Harvey Pekar-inspired attempts at making some meaning of it all.  So there’s a lot going on.  If you find linearity and deep meaning in the book, well, the joke may be on you, as the author has said when the artists needed some of his script to be explained, his response was, “It’s supposed to be a joke.”

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The next noir crime drama may come as a surprise: It’s Dynamite Entertainment’s new throwback series Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys.  Inspired by recent noir comic book series like Ed Brubaker’s Fatale and Darwyn Cooke’s Parker series, writer Anthony Del Col (Assassin’s Creed, Kill Shakespeare) and artist Werther Dell’Edera (Detective Comics, House of Mystery) are bringing the classic books and 1970s team-up television series into the 21st century.  It looks to have the vibe of CW’s new Riverdale television series update to Archie Comics, including that show’s Twin Peaks aura.

The Hardy Boys stories and Nancy Drew Mystery Stories series were first published in 1927 and 1930 respectively and continued for 75 years.  Created by Edward Stratemeyer, but ghost written by Mildred Wirt Benson and hundreds of writers over the decades, the books followed teenaged brother sleuths, Frank and Joe Hardy, and a young heroine detective, Nancy Drew, whose strong character has been cited as a personal influence by Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Sonia Sotomayor, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

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In the new series, Frank and Joe Hardy are accused of murdering their father, a detective, and they enlist Nancy Drew to help prove their innocence–and find the real murderer.  The series promises a “twisting, hard-boiled tale, complete with double-crosses, deceit and dames,” keeping with the noir crime setting.

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velvet01_cover

The former Captain America creative team of Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting are back.  Tomorrow Image Comics is releasing their creator-owned spy series, Velvet.  This time, it’s not another spy book driven by a James Bond-inspired agent.  Velvet Templeton is just the secretary for the world’s greatest spy.  Or is she?  Think of Velvet as if Miss Moneypenny were a tough-as-nails secret agent in her own right.  When the world’s greatest secret agent is killed, Velvet can no longer keep her cover intact.

It’s the next hard-boiled mystery series by Fatale writer Ed Brubaker.  Steve Epting’s artwork in Issue #1 is striking and his heroine sultry and powerful.  His work is reminiscent of Mike Grell’s James Bond mini-series.  Bettie Breitweiser’s colors rounds out the triple threat behind this cool new series.

Here’s a preview of Velvet, Issue #1, for borg.com readers courtesy of Image Comics:

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Thrilling Adventure Hour

By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

Two weekends ago, I helped my good friend Rick move to Oakland.  Yes, I was sweaty.  Yes, I ached.  But, it was good sweat and good aches because I knew I was helping a friend.  Plus, I got to drive a truck, a big ol’ moving truck doing 70 down the highway in a bouncy seat.  The other bonus is that I got to listen to four hours of The Thrilling Adventure Hour as I drove over the Grapevine pass and out into the vast farmland of the Central Valley.  The air conditioning was on “arctic” as Rick described it when he stepped into the cab to talk at one point, and it was just me and Frank and Sadie Doyle, Sparks Nevada and Croach the Tracker, Gummy and Banjo Bindlestuff, Amelia Earhart fighting dirty krauts and Captain Laserbeam and the Adventurekateers. I couldn’t have asked for a better drive.  (Plus, Rick treated me to In N’ Out which is such a delicious meal after a bit of the lift and sweat, if you know what I mean.  Oh heck, moving is what I mean.)

This morning, another good friend, C.J., sent me a link to a preview of Thrilling Adventure Hour graphic novel from Archaia/BOOM! Studios, available in comic book stores today.  I jumped at the chance to read it and compare it to my time shared with the show on the road and at Largo at the Coronet.

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The first two things I encountered were the prefaces by Patton Oswalt and Ed Brubaker, two more artists that I enjoy immensely.  In Brubaker’s writing, he mentioned all of the distractions that are in the city of Los Angeles and how this show based on old-time radio scripts sells out every week. It got me to thinking of all the glorious things that can distract on a monthly or weekly basis here that interest me.  There’s Harmontown at Meltdown on a weekly basis.  There are movies at the Arclight.  There are shows at the UCB, including the Dead Authors hosted by H.G. Wells (Paul F. Tompkins, aka Frank Doyle).  There are concerts all over the place. There are hikes into the mountains and walks along the beach.  There are bike rides in Griffith Park.  There’s improv shows at the IO West.  There’s golf at the Los Feliz Par 3 and Penmar Golf Course.  There’s baseball at Dodger Stadium, Angels Stadium and many more Single-A stadiums in the California League South.  There are restaurants to try, board games to play, bars to have a whiskey or beer and books and graphic novels to read.  I may have only seen the Thrilling Adventure Hour live twice, but I have to give others a chance, don’t I?  I have to explore all that this great town has to offer.

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Uncanny Issue 1 Jock cover

Next Wednesday Dynamite Comics is releasing Issue #1 of a new crime series, called Uncanny.  Writer Andy Diggle and artist Aaron Campbell offer up a modern noir story about a flawed yet oddly powerful American named Weaver set in modern-day Singapore.  Uncanny is similar in many ways to many recent crime monthly comic book series.  It’s an edgy, action noir mixed with pulp spy novel crime story that will appeal to fans of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Fatale, Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s 100 Bullets, and Jason Aaron and RM Guera’s Scalped.

The update of 1930s-1940s film noir to the modern city is intriguing.  Diggle’s Weaver seems capable of being a variant on James Bond–rugged, overconfident–yet instead of running after the bad guy by all accounts Weaver seems to have created his own problems leaving him to be the man on the run.  Campbell’s art deftly balances the bright lights of the city with the night-time dark tone of a man somehow caught up in the city’s underbelly.  And Campbell’s first issue of the story is heavily influenced by both the recent Bond films Casino Royale and Skyfall.  In fact, his characters, the style and setting are similar to Mike Grell’s James Bond: Permission to Die mini-series.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Jason McClain is a big fan of Ed Brubaker’s writing.  He’s mentioned his appreciation for Brubaker’s Sleeper books here at borg.com more than once.  So when I saw the enticing noir cover art on the first issues of the new series Fatale, I figured this was a good place to start.  I picked up Issues 1 and 3-5 and it took me awhile to track down #2 so I only this week could read the first story arc straight through.  The new story arc starts with the next issue, coming out soon.

Based on the noir covers I was looking forward to what I have found in my favorite film noir–Otto Preminger’s Laura, Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, Rear Window, Dial “M” for Murder and Vertigo, Jimmy Stewart in Call Northside 777, also Sorry, Wrong Number, Elizabeth C. Bunce’s fantasy noir Liar’s Moon, and in a strange way, even the voiceover version of Blade Runner.  For the most part these are all crime noir stories.  A dangerous damsel–the Femme Fatale as in Double Indemnity–plus a Dana Andrews-looking character in a gray fedora who is usually a cop or newspaper reporter, and a dangerous city full of secrets and dark, wet streets–all of this is the stuff of noir.  But I was thinking about this all wrong.  I had no idea Ed Brubaker and artist partner Sean Phillips were creating a supernatural 1950s pulp horror/thriller, not a noir pulp crime novel.  None of my favorite film noir has anything supernatural so from only a few pages in I was thrown a bit.  Fatale is noir, but it is just as much supernatural horror.  So I read the story once and was confused a bit.  Then I figured out what genre I was reading and read it again.

If you like supernatural horror and you like the 1950s underworld as your setting, Fatale is a very interesting read–almost like revisiting a lost story type.  The supernatural bits remind me of the TV series Medium, which often contained surprisingly dark and gory crime moments juxtaposed with the lives of good, caring people.  Same goes here.  Like the movie Skeleton Key, where a man and woman use voodoo to switch bodies and live forever, and like Rosemary’s Baby and The OthersFatale’s characters are sucked into shocking and frightening situations and as readers we aren’t supposed to know all that is going on until the end.

Fatale has the requisite fascination of an otherwise boring man with an attractive, inaccessible, mysterious woman.  Nicolas Lash meets Josephine at the funeral of his godfather, Hank Raines.  Raines once knew Josephine back in the 1950s.  She’s blackmailed by a detective in the 1950s world of the story, Walt Booker, and both Josephine and Walt have this unnatural power over each other.  Is Josephine a “pusher” in the X-Files sense or does she just bring out something in others innocently?  What are these occult priestly fellows in red showing up dead everywhere and this fanged beast who kills Raines’ wife?  I’d need a few more re-reads to really catch the complexity of what happened here.  Each issue from #2 on has a lead-in paragraph at the beginning to explain what happened in the prior issue.  I found myself puzzled by these summaries, as in “oh, is that what happened last issue?”  Since I read these through in one sitting, I’d think I shouldn’t be surprised by a summary of what I just read, yet I was.  Usually if stories suffer it’s through too much “telling” and not enough “showing.”  Here I think this story has the reverse problem, but only a bit, and could stand to explain a little more plainly what the heck is going on with the mass suicide, magic dagger, old novel script and some pile of papers that need translating.  At times I felt I was totally in sync with the story–there was a 1960s James Bond aura at different points along the way that created a cool vibe.  Then with the symbology and strange beast who was also a leader that looked like Hitler, I was out of sync again.

Without question, the best part of Fatale is Sean Phillips’ 1950s style art.  If I wasn’t following a scene from the dialogue then I could usually get there with the visual storytelling.  Fatale looks like the noir I’d expect to see, for most of the scenes.  Dave Stewart’s coloring creates a world familiar to fans of Edward Hopper’s paintings.  I think the storytelling has some jarring moments, however.  Things like expletives that seem out-of-place and -time bothered me here.  It could be because, even if people used expletives in the real 1950s, 1950s movies never did, and so the aura of 1950s drama seems more accessible to me than what might have been real-life lingo (although I refuse to believe folks in 1950s swear as much as, and with the exact same colorful metaphors as, we have today as this work reflects).  So I love the look of Fatale, but am not sure of how much I like the story and whether I would recommend it to others not familiar with this genre.  The “voiceover” parts were quite good (the “it was a dark night in the city when I first met her” kind of thing).  Are Brubaker and Phillips’ other works supernatural horror like this?  I’d be willing to try more of their works to find out.

Fatale did make me think a lot about characterization, mood, and what makes something a crime novel vs a horror novel vs a supernatural thriller.  In a different kind of way, it made me think about complexity of story much as I did reading and watching the Watchmen graphic novel and film adaptation.  Anything that makes you think like that is probably a good thing.

Fatale is available at Amazon.com for pre-order in a trade edition titled Death Chases Me.

It’s only four days until Free Comic Book Day is here again, and comic book publishers have several interesting issues planned for this year.  Free Comic Book Day is always about getting new people into the local stores to check out all that comics have to offer.  So plan to grab someone and take them in to check it all out.  Use it as your excuse to buy Issue #1 of several new DC Comics “New 52” titles scheduled to be released this week.  Or make a day of it and drag your friends to see The Avengers at your local theater after you pick up your free comics.

Tons of comic book writers and artists–creators we have been talking about all year at borg.com–will be on hand across the country (and beyond) to sign autographs.  Just check out this partial list, including many of this year’s Eisner Award nominees:

Ed Brubaker (Sleeper, Captain America) in Canoga Park, California; actor Burt Ward (Robin from the 1960s series) in Los Angeles; Philip Tan (Savage Hawkman) in Rancho Cucamonga, California; Gail Simone (Batgirl), Amanda Connor (Green Arrow) and Chuck Dixon (Batman, Green Arrow) in Port Richey, Florida; George Perez (Crisis on Infinite Earths) and Greg Horn (Ms. Marvel) in Sanford, Florida; Mike Norton (Battlepug, Green Arrow) in Chicago; Mark Waid (Kingdom Come, Irredeemable) in Muncie, Indiana; David Petersen (MouseGuard) in Lowell, Massachusetts, and Rochester, New Hampshire; David Wenzel (The Hobbit graphic novel artist) in Worcester, Massachusetts; Jason Aaron (Wolverine, Avengers vs X-Men) in St. Louis, Missouri; actor Adam Baldwin (Chuck, Firefly) in Omaha, Nebraska; Francesco Francavilla (The Lone Ranger) in Charlotte, North Carolina; actor Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters, Psych, Law and Order), in Hilliard, Ohio; Jeffrey Moy (Star Trek/Legion of Superheroes) in Madison, Wisconsin; and Nicola Scott (Earth 2) and Ardian Syaf (Batgirl) in Singapore.

And there are plenty of interesting free comic book issues offered exclusively Saturday.  Check out these titles:

   

   

   

   

Definitely something for everyone, and for all ages.

Comic book stores typically have other things planned, too, like giveaways, and specials on back issues, even cake.  More details and a store locator can be found at the official Free Comic Book Day website.  Don’t forget to check it out–it’s just four days away!

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

When the idea first came around to write the top five adaptations of comic books, video games, books or characters that I’d like to see, I thought, “Great, what a great idea.”  Then, it slowly dawned on me.  I hate adaptations in most every case.  Seabiscuit?  Hated it.  The Lorax?  That looks so despicable, I refuse to give it my money.  Harry Potter?  I will never trust anyone that says, “No really, the next one is when they start getting good.”

The next thing I realized is that in some, possibly misguided, corner of my mind, there are still some things that I’d like to adapt.  Stories that captured my attention and that are on my list of things to write after I finish my current project.  I may never get to them, especially since a couple have been on my list for a while, but hope spring eternal, especially at this time of year.

So, how would I approach this?  First, I have to assume that I trust the filmmaker, like I trust Peter Jackson after the The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  I know that’s not a rational assumption.  For every Fellowship of the Rings that Jackson did, there’s a filmmaker who does Batman and Robin, Iron Man 2 or any Harry Potter movie.  For every V for Vendetta that takes Alan Moore material and makes it great, there’s a From Hell or Watchmen and I go back to hating adaptations.

To make a great adaptation, the filmmaker has to respect the source (don’t get me started on Michael Bay and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), understand the vibe of the source and still be willing to go off script and put their own voice into it.  I wonder if instead of a shot for shot remake, if Gus Van Sant had done something new with Psycho, it would have worked.  The cynic in me doubts it very much, but the optimist wonders mostly to himself that it could have been interesting if nothing else.  A shot for shot remake with Anne Heche instead of Janet Leigh?  Why not just watch the original?

So, what does that leave to adapt?  I think it leaves things that I don’t consider sacred and fortunately that still leaves plenty.  I’m not saying these aren’t favorites, but I think they could work nicely as adaptations.  Just to make it more interesting, not only will I choose the five things to adapt, but make them in five different genres.  First the honorable mentions: American Gods (tough to make, but in the hands of someone like Tarsem Singh who did the underrated The Fall there would be some cool, trippy otherworld sequences) and Geek Love (come on, aren’t we due for a great carnie movie?).  Now, let’s do the countdown.

5.  Red Dead Redemption – Genre: Western

I don’t know if there has been a good video game movie.  However, if they follow the story of Red Dead Redemption they’ve already got a pretty cool cinematic western.  John Marston plays the typical western hero of a former rogue looking for redemption and trying to save his wife and child.  It’s been done many different times, but if you have good actors, good scenery and good dialogue to go with this story, it could work.  I can’t tell you much more about this particular story;  I just know that I’m still surprised that a video game actually moved me.

   

4.  Captain Carrot and his Amazing Zoo Crew – Genre: Animated Feature

Originally, this spot was for The Invaders as I love a good WWII movie and there’s nothing better than fighting Nazis.  Then, as I wrote it, I mentioned some other favorite comic book characters: The Powerpuff Girls and Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew and how they would look cool fighting Nazis as well.  Then, I kept reading it over and over, and since Captain America: The First Avenger already went back to World War II, there’s not much space for The Invaders.  There won’t be more Bucky.  There won’t be the original Human Torch, Toro, Union Jack or Namor, the Sub-Mariner.  The Powerpuff Girls already have a TV show and a movie.  However, if you’re looking for a silly parody of super groups as an alternative to The Avengers or I have to assume an eventual Justice League movie, then look no further than Captain Carrot, Yankee Poodle, Fastback, Pig Iron, Alley-Kat-Abra and Rubberduck.  If they can fight the Nazis, that might be the perfect movie.

3.  Doomsday Book by Connie Willis – Genre: Medieval England Period Piece and Sci-Fi

C.J. Bunce introduced me to Connie Willis at his first San Diego Comic-Con when we went to a panel she did, and I read a few of her novels and found them charming, interesting and fun.  I think the appeal to adapting Doomsday Book comes from glimpsing a true epidemic in the form of the black plague in the eyes of someone from the future.  I didn’t like Contagion much, so maybe the book adaptation of Doomsday Book could effectively show the terror of an incurable disease spreading and the feeling of helplessness that follows.  For the protagonist Kivrin, trying to not reveal you’re from the future adds a great layer to that tension, having to remain disconnected while not being sure if she’ll ever leave this doomed time.

2.  Sleeper by Ed Brubaker – Genre: Noir

I’ve written about Sleeper in two previous Borg.com posts, so you know how much I like it.  I also think that it would make a fantastic film noir.  You have the femme fatale in Miss Misery, you have a guy that doesn’t know what’s good or bad anymore and you have crime galore.  If that’s not a great film noir, with bonus super powers, I don’t know what is.

1.  The Great American Novel by Philip Roth – Genre: Baseball Comedy

The Great American Novel might be one of my favorite baseball books of all time.  I took it in the third round of a baseball book draft.  (I knew it would last until then, so I grabbed The Boys of Summer and The Glory of Their Times with my first two picks).  The story of the Ruppert Mundys and the forgotten Patriot League as told by “Word” Smith (thanks, Wikipedia) would run circles around Moneyball the movie.  I think the fictional 14-year-old manager (I think that’s the age – goodness, I need to buy a copy of this book to read again and so I can look up such queries) would make a better representative of sabermetrics than the “fictional” Peter Brand.

Moneyball the book was my fifth round choice in the baseball draft – and just another perfect example of how I dislike movie adaptations of books that I enjoy.  As much as I would like to see this list made into movies now that I’ve written this post, my gut tells me it’s probably better if they’re not.

Come back tomorrow and C.J. Bunce searches out some choices he think would be difficult to adapt but fun to watch.

Review by C.J. Bunce

Last week we reported on the early release of eagerly awaited new series Avengers vs. X-Men.  With the first issue upon us of Avengers vs X-Men we get to see Round One of the twelve rounds to be featured over 24 weeks in the main series, with 19 main issues, and 20 other Marvel Comics titles tying in to this AvX event.  Here are two checklists to help you keep track (click to enlarge):

        

Spoilers ahead!

Issue #1 starts out with a bang, a big bang, as the Phoenix Force is launched from far away on a trajectory toward Earth.  In front of that force hurtling toward our planet is Nova, a character long-feared dead who ends up causing the destruction of the Empire State Building in New York City as he plunges to the Earth’s surface, taking an airliner down with him.  The status of any lives taken is unknown, but the Avengers, including Ms. Marvel, Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Hawkeye, Protector, Black Widow, Beast, Captain Britain, Valkyrie and a few others, do their best to quickly mitigate the losses.

Meanwhile we learn that Cyclops is busy training Hope, who was the focus of the prologue for Avengers vs. X-Men in Issue #0.  Hope is understandably frustrated, believing that the Phoenix Force is somehow targeting her, and the X-Men will not help her adequately with answers.  Hope carries an energy signature similar to that of the Phoenix Force, and when she gets angry she sets this off, and the blast that is caused tips off the Avengers that they need to take some kind of action.

Captain America and Iron Man meet with the President and the joint chiefs in Washington, DC and explain the nature of the threat.

Captain America enlists the support of Wolverine and heads to the island of Utopia to take Hope into protective custody, but Cyclops has other plans.  Cyclops was once in love with Jean Grey, who became part of Phoenix and killed herself trying to contain the immense power of the Phoenix Force years ago.  So Cyclops thinks there is some special meaning in the arrival of the Phoenix Force, like it might be a good thing.  And there is no way he will release Hope to the Avengers.

The X-Men, including Emma Frost, Magneto, Colossus, and Namor, stand behind Cyclops’s effort to keep Captain America from taking Hope away.  Captain America is thrown back by Cyclops’s rays, but he has brought with him a ship full of the Avengers, and as this first issue concludes the first battle is upon us–a fight between the Avengers and the X-Men, over Hope.

This first chapter scripted by Brian Michael Bendis, but created by all the “Marvel Architects”–Jason Aaron, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman, and Matt Fraction–is well-paced.  The steps that occur are not complicated so there is no confusion and the story is easy to follow.  Despite the volume of characters, they, too, are easy to keep track of.  I wasn’t dazzled by John Romita, Jr.’s artwork in this issue–everything seems to “just happen” visually with little stylization, and there are no memorable single images that stand out.  But neither does the art stand in the way of the story, which has a lot to cram into the single issue page count.  All-in-all, so far, so good.  I’m reminded of the Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars limited series from decades ago, where readers get the pleasure of seeing the whole cast of characters in the Marvel Universe all as part of a common cause.

The crazy stand-out of this first issue are the several versions printed, including all these variants, some selling for $175 and up for the 1 in 200 exclusives.  Hopefully the hype settles and the coming issues simply take readers on a good ride.

Here is a checklist of the Avengers vs X-Men Issue #1 cover variations for all you completists out there:

Regular cover by Jim Cheung - Price $3.99

Avengers Team Common Variant - Price $3.99

X-Men Team Common Variant - Price $3.99

Sketch Cover Common Variant - $3.99

Midtown Comics Exclusive Wraparound Cover Side 1 - Price $8.00

Midtown Comics Exclusive Wraparound Cover Side 2 - Price $8.00

Ryan Stegman Incentive Variant Cover - Price $85

Hastings Stores Variant Cover - Price $8.00

Ryan Stegman Rare 1:200 Incentive Sketch Variant Cover - Price $175

John Romita, Jr. 1:25 Incentive Variant Cover - Price $15.00

Dynamic Forces Exclusive Variant Signed by Stan Lee (image may vary) - Price $399

Dynamic Forces John Romita, Sr. Signed Cover Edition (image may vary) - Price $69.99

Which version did I buy?  I got the first issue that Jason Aaron signed, with a note by Jason on the sketch cover version…

By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

It’s like a film noir for super folk.  Just saying that, without even opening the book to one of the well-drawn pages, you can see them in your mind’s eye, pulling on a cigarette and blowing out the smoke or casually cutting into a bloody rare T-bone and thoughtfully chewing between each sentence detailing how they got to where they are.  In addition to dames and money, it adds something more mysterious, something more powerful and every bit as tragic.

I recommend Sleeper: Season 1.  Pick it up.  Read it.  It holds up seven years later and it holds up to a second read.  Probably a third one as well.  Don’t believe me?  Eh, go to hell.

You’re still with me?  Good.  You can get all of what I said in the pages of the trade paperback as you sit in your comfy chair, immune to the ills of the world since you got a roof over your head and money to spend on comic books.  It sure as hell can’t make you any softer boyo.  The story’s all there, maybe the second most famous Holden serving as a double agent and trying to figure out the madness of his underworld boss.  Pretty simple stuff.  The twist?

Every instance of pain inflicted on Holden, no matter how deadly, can be transmitted in the same magnitude to whomever he touches.

Don’t tell me that power is not one for a bad guy.  He doesn’t feel his own pain.  He makes you do it for him.  You’ll die so that he can live.

That’s about as anti-Christ as they come.

As you read, the other villains in the upper echelons of this criminal organization slowly start to reveal their powers.  I won’t spoil them for you, but let’s just say they would only work for bad guys as well.  What polite society would consider bad at least, but I guess it depends on the society you keep.  For you, enjoying your iced tea and slab of pizza as you watch another episode of Spongebob, yeah, it’s bad.

So, it got me to thinking.  Do the powers that you have automatically make you good or evil?  Nah, that’s too simple.  We know the world has a lot more shades of grey than that don’t we boyo?  Still, would it be better to have any random power as a hero or villain?  Let me take you on a quick ride to the country and we can talk about it as we drive.

Invulnerability

If the villains can’t hurt you, a hero can use less force to bring them to justice.  Kill or be killed isn’t the equation since one side is an impossibility.  On the other side, invulnerability means that the good guys can’t hurt you so that you can take more risks.  Jump into an active volcano.  Plunge off a 100-story building.  Hide on the bottom of the sea.

So, on one side, a bunch of villains can have fun, the hero can let them feel they’re doing well while they wail on his invulnerable self and he or she just waits until they tucker themselves out and he takes them off to jail for a nice nap.  It’s like being Dad to a world of super-powered three-year-olds.

On the other side, maybe a villain robs all the rich folks camping up on the side of Mount Everest, climbs to the top and sleds to the bottom, creating the single steepest, greatest thrill ride of all time.  Our villain dusts herself off, walks down to the sea and figures she’ll use her ill-gotten gains for Cuba Libres and helicopter lessons.

Advantage: Villain.

Shrinking/Invisibility

With the omnipresence of porn on the Internet, being a villain and sneaking into locker rooms just doesn’t hold the cachet it used to.  Riding an ant into battle?  If horses are smelly, ill-tempered beasts, I can’t say that riding an ant would be much better.  Stop, miscreant, or you’ll step on me doesn’t even put the fear of Tom Hanks into a person.  I guess these heroes and villains will always have reconnaissance and espionage.  Then again, that’s Archer’s realm, so they’ll have to take a distant second.

Advantage: People without Internet that live near a gym.

Marksmanship

You might immediately think this one would go to the villains, but you’d be wrong.  What does a villain have to think about?  Head or heart.  Head or heart.  That’s it.  A hero on the other hand, gets to aim at wooden cross beams at their weakest points, causing them to collapse on the stack of water-filled vats, spilling a tidal wave of water toward the inflated inner tubes, pushing them up into the sharp bowl of knives that cut a rope, releasing a crate of guitars that gently nudge the villain into a pit of extremely viscous pudding.  The hero becomes the star of their own OK Go video every time they fight crime.

Advantage: Hero.

Gadgets

The hero/villain becomes an entrepreneur/inventor.  If you wanted to be Ron Popeil all your life and created super juicers and vacuum cleaners that get the hard to reach dirt, well then, this is the super power for you.

Dolls that come to life?  Combination night vision goggles and underwater breathing apparatus?  A hot plate that can be thrown like a Frisbee?  What great Christmas gifts for only $19.99 plus shipping and handling.

Advantage: The ghost of Billy Mays.

So, that’s that, and lookee here.  I’ve driven to a nice deserted field.  Well, what’s this in my trunk but a shovel.  Didn’t you say you liked to dig?  You didn’t?  You better learn quick boyo.  Think of yourself as The Shoveler.

You shovel well.  You shovel very well, because I ain’t got all night.  While you dig, I’ll ponder to myself other superhero powers like power beams, adamantium claws and talking to the fishes in a non-concrete galoshes kind of way.  But in an hour we’ll both be done.  I need my beauty sleep.

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