Jul 29, 2016

Short-Term Permanence, Batman, and the Comics Fan

Short-Term Permanence, Batman, and the Comics Fan
Travis Hedge Coke

I’m fascinated/annoyed with people who do not read comics getting worked up over scary internet articles or misleading memes regarding the fast turnaround on changes and developments, on twists and hooks in serial comics or huge shared universes. HydraCap. Robert Downey Jr retiring from Iron Man because Marvel is forcing Iron Man to be a teenage girl. But, look, we do it ourselves. I do it. We do it. We do it to ourselves, too.

Even the most history-minded of comics fans fudges stuff a lot. The continuity of the Marvel and DC universes roll up the timeline behind them, condensing their characters’ histories, simplifying, reintroducing elements constantly. And, so too, the comics fan rolls up the real world and in-world histories into, basically, what interests us most, what we remember easiest.

I’m going to use a 2013 Newsarama article to illustrate, because it is a fun article, but it is also blatantly wrong and misleading nearly all the way through. It’s predicates a lionization of Grant Morrison and his contribution to Batman, by basically ignoring that at its heart, his lengthy Batman run was a remix, that he is, quite often, and by his own admission, an appropriation and remix author. Morrison took some of these listed elements to new levels or dealt with them thoroughly, but dealing with a thing is neither “adding” nor inventing.

So, 10 Things GRANT MORRISON Added to the BATMAN Mythos by Graeme McMillan, is going to be our window into how easy it is to just feel, because it’s new, it’s huge, and we enjoy it, that it’s first, primary, and maybe more innovative than it actually is.

Number ten, Bruce Wayne, Social Crusader, states that prior to Morrison’s run, Bruce was primarily seen as “disinterested fop,” which is true, but that Morrison invented this aspect or that it was going to be permanent and undeniable is countered both by the comics, which had people dismissing his new philanthropic gestures and comparing them to old ones that were abandoned the moment a story or writer were done, and by the article, itself, which has to immediately check itself on just those points. This isn’t a thing Morrison “added,” to Batman, it’s something he used that’s been there for decades and the article, itself, can’t even pretend otherwise.

Next, Batworld, claims that “Morrison not only created a superhero community removed from the more familiar, more insular American characters that we read about on a regular basis, but placed Batman right at the center of it,” ignoring or forgetting that this community is made up, primarily, or a team from the 1950s, the Club of Heroes/Batman of All Nations, and an iteration of the 1980s team, The Outsiders, who have supported their own ongoing multiple times. Morrison does good work with this community, these concepts and the idea of heroes inspired by Batman, but he did not add or invent it.

The menagerie of animals that Batman and his son collect during Morrison’s time writing monthly Batman comics are credited to him, but of course, some he invented, some were introduced by other writers, and this, too, comes down to his take seeming definitive more than him particularly “adding” or creating a situation. The dynamic preexisted, but he did something notable with it.

With number seven on the Newsarama list, we hit the first thing Morrison actually did add to Batman, so far. The international policing and espionage agency, SPYRAL is a Morrison invention. It’s… a big, complex spy agency. They have some style, but that’s all they are.

Six, so halfway through, we have That Other Batwoman, and the idea that somehow, using two Batwomans (if it’s a name, Batwomen, if it is a job title) who preexisted Morrison’s use here, as somehow, something he added. He did great with both, but even the article can’t really muster a defense of the idea that he added either.

And, at this point, you may be wondering, “Why are you picking apart this one article?” Which, I am, but only inasmuch as it is emblematic of larger and pervasive trends. And, “Why are you so worked up about whether Grant Morrison added, introduced, or invented these things?” In answer to which, I would steer you to more than two dozen conversations easily found with a search engine, wherein people are lauding Morrison for inventing everything. I love Morrison’s comics, for the most part, and I understand how easy it is to be ignorant of something from forty years ago, or even five years ago, how easy it is to forget things when a newer version comes around or the old one wasn’t as exciting to you. This is not about this article, in particular, but how easy it is for us to claim this writer invented something, this artist was the first to do something, this current change or hook is unlike any other ever, and so on.

So, we had SPYRAL, and with number five, we have Damian, which the article calls a “literal” bat-son, even though before Morrison wrote his first issue of the Batman ongoing, Bruce had raised Dick Grayson, temporarily adopted a boy who forced his way to Robin-hood and died in Brave and the Bold, and formally, legally adopted Tim Drake as his son. I’m sorry, but that is family like three to six different ways. You adopt a kid? That’s your kid. You live in a multigenerational household where adults care for children and there are clear dynamics of who does the dishes, who has homework? That’s family.

Number three is that Batman is an icon. That is, in all seriousness, something that the author wants us to believe he believes about Batman. And, y’know? Lots of fans will say the same and they do believe it, so maybe he does, too.

It is still wrong. And, just plain silly. We’ve had decades, literally, of Batman as symbol stories, and Batman being replaced by new people, stewards carrying on the bat-mantle.

It is a theme of Morrison’s Batman run. It is a common theme of Batman. But, not one that he added to Batman or even introduced after decades of disuse.

They up their game with the final two, which are Batman as superhero and Batman as human hero. And, this is… it’s Batman! Bat! Man!

I don’t think a guy whose run started in the Twenty-First Century added “superhero” to the Batman lexicon. I’m sorry; no. No no no.

Nor, did Grant Morrison invent the idea that Batman is a mortal man, a flawed but good human being.

What other kind of Batman have we ever had?

How does someone get to the point where they think a run starting in 2006 added the idea that Batman could be a superhero? This is not on Graeme McMillan alone. We all do this. Someone could, undoubtedly, take some of my less-careful articles and find similar, and obviously in casual conversation or message board discussions. You make intuitive leaps, the forer effect kicks in, memory tweaks and pares to make a more agreeable garden of your overgrown thoughts and knowledge.

This is not about Graeme McMillan or Grant Morrison. It’s no slight on either of them, or any of their collaborators. It’s not even, necessarily, about Batman, except that there is so much Batman out there, that it piles up and makes this confusion and conflation easier.

We self-edit, we reflexively and unintentionally edit our awareness of these characters, these huge narratives. This is part of what became known as hypertime, and it is a natural response to these huge, labyrinthine, often-contradictory or counterintuitive continuities and character histories; character existences, since they aren’t really casual or chronological the way a history should be, they’re just differing and semi-related statuses quo.

Alan Grant put politics into Batman first. Paul Dini invented Batman being heroic. Frank Miller invented serious Batman. Tim Burton invented serious Batman. Neal Adams invented serious Batman. David Finch created huggy Batman. Michael Keaton invented serious Bruce Wayne. Joel Schumacher invented sexualized Batman. Nolan Batman is the first political Batman. Nolan invented political Batman. Nolan created the first serious Batman. Nolan invented bats. Paul Dini hand drew the first full-length cartoon of bats and they were serious and friendly and introduced Harley Quinn. Part of some of these is true, but mostly, this is our brain indelicately pruning and paring our garden of knowledge to make a comforting presentation.

Even a diehard fan fail to keep all the different versions of Batman, from movies and cartoons and comics separate, and in serial comics, where things are happening and repeating over decades of monthly issues and multiple titles, it is probably impossible for a human brain to keep it all perfectly straight. We all approximate. We latch onto good hooks or memorable names. Fantastic usage becomes, in our heads, first use or first true occurrence.

But, once we have done this, if we are going to talk to others about it, either in edutainment articles or conversations, we need to be willing to re-think our position, check our facts, question our own assertions, and maybe once in awhile, just google a development to see if we’re understanding its context correctly.

Jul 25, 2016

5 Reasons to Read GI Joe Classics

5 Reasons to Read GI Joe Classics, Volume 3 and 4
Ben Smith

I’ve expressed my admiration and respect for Larry Hama before, but you can never spend enough time praising someone that was so important to an entire generation of kids, even if they never realized it. As the writer, creator, and occasional artist of the G.I. Joe comic series, he brought life to hundreds of toys, giving them all interesting personalities and defining characteristics. What could have been another run-of-the-mill licensed toy comic, became one of the defining comics of the ‘80s (the cartoon would also use many of the bios he developed as a basis for the series.) G.I. Joe and Transformers were groundbreaking cartoons unlike anything really seen before it, and I happen to believe they, along with Star Wars, unlocked the imaginations of untold amounts of children. We owe Larry Hama a tremendous debt.

With that, I have decided to read those original Joe comics again, and highlight a few things to help inspire, entice, or nag a few of you into doing the same. G.I. Joe: Classics volume 3 and 4 cover issues 21 through 40 of the original series. All were written by Larry Hama, with art primarily by Mike Vosburg, Hama, Russ Heath, Frank Springer, Rod Whigham, and others.

One of the interesting things I noticed as I read these comics again, is how few captions Hama uses. There are hardly any to be found beyond the standard “elsewhere” or “later that day.” This is drastically against type for the show-and-tell method of storytelling in the ‘80s, especially under the Shooter regime. Writers like Claremont and Byrne would write numerous paragraphs of captions for every single page, often describing something that was already readily apparent from the artwork. That’s no knock, I love those guys work, but it makes these comics a little bit easier to read than others from the era.

I’ve already covered the silent issue and the origin of Snake Eyes elsewhere (and those alone are reason enough to get volume 3) so let’s uncover what delicious meat remains on the bones of this discarded carcass. (I may have been watching too much Shark Week at the time of this writing.)


For those of us that grew up primarily watching the cartoon, it can be quite surprising to see such iconic characters like Duke not appearing in the comic series until issue #22.

I always assumed that the blonde soldier jumping at the reader in that iconic cover to the first issue was Duke, but no, it was Hawk. In a coincidental reversal, Hawk wouldn’t appear in the cartoon until the second season.

Roadblock makes his debut alongside Duke, and quickly establishes himself as a badass of the highest order.

Other notable favorites that were introduced in this stretch include Spirit

In a scene where Spirit is at the mall trying to find something to heal his Spirit after being injured in battle, I joked to myself that he was really looking to score some weed. Then he goes to a florist shop and starts eating plants. I don’t know which version I like better.

Lady Jaye

Cartoon headliner Flint.

and Shipwreck.

Shipwreck was inexplicably one of the main characters of the cartoon series. Inexplicable, because I’ve never met anyone that liked Shipwreck, much less considered him a favorite. Thankfully, he is much less prevalent in the comic. That should be more than enough reason to rush out and purchase these for yourself.

In nearly every single comic, Hama had to include multiple new characters and vehicles, and yet he did it so expertly that it never felt like it was overwhelming or distracting. They may not have gotten a full-issue showcase, but you learned from even a few panels who they were, and what they were about. (Lady Jaye, for one, kind of disappears after she’s added to the team. You can’t win them all.)


One of the more entertaining aspects of the comic series was watching the various evolving loyalties among the main Cobra characters. Baroness, Major Bludd, and Destro are often at odds with Cobra Commander, which makes it that much more important that the Commander maintain the loyalty of (recently introduced) characters like Storm Shadow, Firefly, and Zartan.

Storm Shadow is only around to learn the true identity of the man that killed his uncle. Storm Shadow isn’t actually evil, which is something that is often left out of subsequent interpretations of G.I. Joe. As the series continued, these characters would continue to change their alliances and allegiances.

Baroness and Bludd combined forces to coerce a young Springfield resident named Billy to shoot and kill Cobra Commander during an upcoming ceremony. Destro eventually stops the assassination attempt, not wanting to see a boy kill his own father. (Billy would become an important long-term character in the G.I. Joe saga.)


Snake Eyes is granted leave, and he decides to enjoy it at his secluded cabin in the Sierras. Hawk wants to make sure nothing bad happens to their most valued warrior, and assigns Spirit and Airborne to secretly keep an eye on him.

Fortunately they were there to help him fight off an all-out assault from Destro, Firefly, and Crimson Guardsman Fred. (Cobra used undercover operatives to spy on high profile targets, giving them all plastic surgery to look the same, and assigning them the name Fred, plus a number.) An explosive encounter that is one of the rare instances where Snake Eyes isn’t depicted as invincible.

This is just one example of Hama’s ability to tell a captivating one-and-done tale (though this one is technically a couple issues long) which there are several great examples of in this run. Whether it be an aerial dogfight between Ace and Wild Weasel, or the Dreadnoks out causing trouble with Zartan’s hologram technology.


Cobra Commander has Billy interrogated using Dr. Venom’s brain wave scanner, to learn the identities of the co-conspirators in his assassination attempt. Billy shows an impressive amount of mental fortitude in resisting the scanner, concealing his memories of Baroness and Bludd coaching him in their plot. (It’s this mental strength that impresses Storm Shadow into freeing Billy, fleeing with him, and taking him on as a pupil.)

However, during the interrogation, Billy does reveal a few glimpses into his father’s early days in forming Cobra. (Something that is fascinating for those of us that only watched the cartoon, getting a glimpse into the back story of Cobra. Well, one that doesn’t involve snake people and a hidden land called Cobra-La.) Sadly, these scenes aren’t all that different than the political landscape of the world as of late. So much unnecessary hate.


The Joes commandeer a party supplies van driven by a bear, while in pursuit of a covert Cobra operative and his manufactured family. (This was Fred II.) As I’ve said many times before in reference to many other situations, if that description doesn’t fill you with delight, comics are not for you. (Incidentally, the bear happened to be a woman named Candy in a costume, and her and Rip-Cord struck up a romantic relationship.)

There you have it. Five fantastic reasons to read one of the best and most influential runs in comic book history. Larry Hama wrote nearly every comic of that original 155 issue G.I. Joe run, and infused it with a level of storytelling skill and military knowledge that truly earns the designation “classic.” If you remember watching the cartoon but never read the comics, or if you simply love good comics, I can’t recommend enough rushing out and purchasing your own copies today. Go ahead, we’ll wait for you.

Now that they’re gone, we can talk freely. Just kidding, I’m done.

End transmission.

Jul 21, 2016

Roundtable: Your Favorite Criminal Volume

What (and why) is your favorite volume of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' Criminal?

Migs Acabado: Last of the Innocent. It's like a teen movie gone wrong. All those regrets and those what ifs in life all in one great volume. The main character would do anything just to undo the decisions he has made and reclaim his childhood sweetheart. I'm a sucker for regrets and self destruction.

Duy: It's Coward for me. Leo is the best character in the entire franchise. And you guys know me, I'm all about whether or not I care for the characters. It's that simple.

Edrick Tan: The Sinners. I'd have to go with one centered on Tracy Lawless simply because he is the signature/most popular character in the series..and for good reason. From an outstanding introductory volume in Lawless, The Sinners further fleshed out Tracy in a procedural that's the most action-packed and disturbing Criminal volume yet.

Ben Smith: Last of the Innocent is the easy answer because of the way it plays with genre, and I think there's a lot of fans that might not want to admit how much they want a dirty Archie book. But I've always been a sucker for stories told from multiple perspectives, so Dead and the Dying has to get a mention from me. It gets more and more heartbreaking the more you learn about what happened. Plus the comic nerd in me likes the flashback telling the backstory of previously seen characters.

Peter Turingan: It's a tough call for me but in the end, while Leo is also my favorite character, I'm gonna go with Last of the Innocent as my favorite story. Painful, personal and powerful in it's impact, it's a story that's hard to forget. But what a series this was, right? I can't think of a weak volume in the entire run. Sinners was disturbing, Bad Night was scary, Dead and the Dying was brilliant in the way they connected a lot of the stories, et cetera, et cetera. Just an all-around perfect crime series from these masters of the genre.

Christopher Cornejo: Definitely Last of the Innocent. There's a lot of reasons for it, but one that I don't consider is that it's "Archie Gone Wrong," simply because I don't see it that way. I see it more like a JH Williams way of doing stuff you know? Different tone of art depending on the tone the story goes. I like that it pretty much tells a very compelling story on how an all out douchebag can actually be very sympathetic. It's a fascinating work on contrasts, particularly with Riley being haunted by the wonderful nostalgic memories of the past causing him to do all these God-awful things. You'd think that that kind of darkness can stem from a much more malicious motivation.

LaMar Forte: I liked Savage so much (no Randy Poffo included, but hey you can't win them all) that I had to flip a coin. Well, not really, because I read Coward again and I think it's the most well crafted out of all of them even though there's a few I like better. It's the Captain America: The Winter Soldier of the bunch in that regard. What makes me go for a story, equally as much as the character and in some cases even more so, is the execution of the idea the creators intended. And for my money, Coward does that better than the rest of them. End-to-end burner, B.
Travis Hedge Coke: You can't make me pick. And, I'll change my mind if I did.

Jul 18, 2016

Jubilee: The Underrated Other Immonen

Jubilee: A Detailed Introduction to an X-Men Legend
Part 6 – The Underrated Other Immonen
Back Issue Ben
Ben Smith

I’m sure there are probably a few decent stories with Jubilee inbetween where I left off last week, and the mini-series I’m going to be covering this week, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to sift through the crap that was the X-Men of the ‘90s to find it. It doesn’t matter anyway, because none of it could possibly top the best Jubilee comics of all time, as you’re about to witness for yourself.

Jubilee was one of the mutants that found themselves depowered by the Scarlet Witch following the events of House of M. She was turned into a vampire during a vampire assault on Utopia, and was happy to find herself with powers again. Now, she is struggling to find a place for herself back amongst the mutants, who do not trust her now that she’s a vampire.

Let’s get this party started.

Writer: Kathryn Immonen; Art: Phil Noto; Lettering: VC’s Clayton Cowles; Editor: Jeanine Schaefer

Coipel’s cover is one of my favorite covers of the modern comics era. I would really like to own the original art for it.

Dr. Rao is trying to offset Jubilee’s vampirism with regular injections of Wolverine’s blood. She’s now much more in control of her actions, but filled with a constant anger. While Rao, Cyclops, and Emma Frost debate what to do with her, Wolverine talks to her and calms her down.

(I love Noto’s art. It can be a little static and he definitely has trouble rendering distinctly different faces, but it’s just oh so very beautiful.)

They just want to be sure she isn’t going to hurt anyone, including herself. Wolverine decides to take responsibility for her, since he is the one she trusts the most. Later, Jubilee is trying to blow off some steam in the weight room, accompanied by the rock guy (whatever his name is).

Armor isn’t too happy about Jubilee interacting with her friend after she attacked them all, along with the other vampires, and confronts her about it. (The irony of the mutants persecuting the vampire because she’s different is not lost.)

Wolverine breaks it up, and lets Jubilee know that Emma wants to speak with her. Emma talks to Jubilee about trying to adjust to her new life change. Jubilee is struggling. As she says, “I’m just having a really hard time trying to be nice to people.” (I can relate to that. Maybe I’m a half-vampire. That would explain how much I hate the sun and enjoy sleep.) She knows that Wolverine’s blood is the only thing keeping her mind clear, but she also feels like she’s constantly in a fog because of it. After every injection there’s a high, and then she crashes hard.

They’re interrupted by Pixie, who’s there to show that not everyone is mad at Jubilee.

Outside, Pixie has the bright idea to spar with Jubilee, to show the others that there isn’t anything to be afraid of. That she won’t hurt them. But Jubilee’s anger is too much, and she almost crushes Pixie with a boulder before she teleports away.

Fed up, Jubilee leaves by herself and goes into the city. As she sits alone in a hotel bar, she flashes back to her days doing mutant tricks in the mall for change, and the first time that she saw the X-Men. (Nice touch.)

Her vision is interrupted by a mysterious woman in white, apparently a vampire herself.

She tells Jubilee that she gives the X-Men credit for embracing variation, but they won’t embrace deviation. She wants Jubilee to come with her, because she has something to show her.

Later, Wolverine and the rock guy are at a port in Oakland, tracking down Jubilee’s scent.

He finds her in a locked shipping container, covered in blood amongst a pile of dead bodies.

She keeps repeating “I didn’t do it,” as Wolverine yanks her out of the container. Wolverine hands a weird talisman he finds on Jubilee to the rock guy, and tells him to crush it.

Wolverine jabs a needle into Jubilee’s neck and proclaims that it’s time to do this his way.

Kathryn Immonen is underrated. I don’t actually know where she’s rated, but wherever it is, it’s under where she should be rated. Here she is, writing the best Jubilee story, and then she’d go on to write the best Sif comics ever done as well. Immonen, she’s the real deal.

Writer: Kathryn Immonen; Art: Phil Noto; Lettering: VC’s Clayton Cowles; Editor: Jeanine Schaefer

Jubilee wakes up in a hotel room, bottle of blood on the nightstand, and a desolate landscape out the window. Wolverine enters, and lets her know they’re in Siberia. After enduring her pity fest for a few, he lets her know that he tracked the shipping container number she was found in to Siberia. The bodies were victims of human trafficking.

Jubilee gets cleaned up and they head downstairs.

Wolverine drives her out into the middle of nowhere for a good ole’ fashioned sparring session. Except for he didn’t account for her vampire super speed, and ends up with his own motorcycle on top of his head in a funny exchange.

Later, the two hotel owners interrupt their latest mentoring session and ask them if they can handle the zombie problem happening in one of the nearby abandoned mines. They agree to look into it, and after indeed finding a nest of zombies, Jubilee is able to take out a lot of frustration on them.

(The zombies are never explained, unless I just missed it. I’m not one of the most astute readers around. Either way, I’m fine with it. More comics should have random zombie destruction scenes.)

Later, Wolverine is roused from his sleep by the arrival of the beautiful vampire woman from the San Fran bar, with Jubilee in tow.

(I’ve come to hate most modern depictions of Wolverine, but there’s just something that works about him mentoring a young female teammate. This makes me want to re-read X-23, another character I really shouldn’t like as much as I do, considering how much Wolverine annoys me now. Maybe this just confirms that Wolverine is better when he’s not the main character. Like Spike in Buffy, he’s the ultimate superstar supporting character.)

Writer: Kathryn Immonen; Art: Phil Noto; Lettering: VC’s Clayton Cowles; Editor: Jeanine Schaefer

Wolverine lunges at the woman, but again doesn’t account for the super speed. Wolverine promises that he will kill her, and Jubilee tells him that he might as well go ahead and kill her too. His blood makes her feel great for a while, but when she crashes it leaves her vulnerable to anybody. The woman pulls out a small circular blue amulet and it sends Jubilee off to who-knows-where, and Wolverine slices off her arm in retaliation.

Long story short, this was all a plan to get Wolverine to retrieve a package for her where only he can go, a highly radioactive area. Jubilee is being held as collateral until he finishes the job.

Back on Utopia, Rockslide discovers that the amulet he crushed is now imprinted in his hand.

Wolverine is lowered deep into a tunnel below the Chernobyl exclusion zone.

Rockslide returns to the Oakland shipping yard where they found Jubilee, but is surprised to find a Dry Cleaner’s building there instead.

After falling a long time, Jubilee finally lands. She finds herself inside your classic creepy makeshift “girl’s bedroom.” Like when you’re captive by some secret government agency, or aliens.

(As of this writing, The X-Files has just returned to television. The X-Files was the first non-cartoon television show I decided to follow religiously. We’ve also been rewatching the original series, and most of these episodes I haven’t seen since they originally aired in the ‘90s. Whenever you binge watch an old show, you really notice how much they were not designed to be watched back-to-back like that. Scully’s skepticism was probably a little less glaring on a weekly basis, but watching them all in a row just makes her denial look almost idiotic. What’s ironic is that the X-Files is the first television show I can remember seeing box sets for, in VHS. Regardless, I’m glad it’s back. I can’t get enough of shows I love being brought back in the relaunch era of TV.)

Wolverine meets the guardian of the mystery package, a creepy vampire accountant that has been gnawing off his own arm for nourishment.

There’s some talk about how the beautiful vampire had a debt with his boss, and how Jubilee has now been impounded as payment on that debt. Wolverine will never get her back, blah blah. (I love a good weird accountant-out-of-place story as the next, but this got weird. I like it.)

Rockslide is getting impatient with the little old lady running the dry cleaner’s, and she with him, so she turns into a dragon.

Wolverine slices off the vampire accountant’s head, and then opens the box. Inside are a bunch of the same weird amulets like the one found on Jubilee.

Jubilee finally finds an exit to her little prison, and discovers that she’s not exactly on Earth anymore.

(My top TV show that needs to come back is Firefly. It’s a miracle that a movie was ever made, but it’s not enough, I need more. Buffy would have been cool at one point, but they’re all too old to pull that off now. They were a little bit too early for the TV show revival era. Freaks and Geeks would be interesting, but I suspect they’re all too old for it make sense. I’m not sure if I want to see a series about them all grown up. If you don’t know what Freaks and Geeks is, just look up the cast list. It’s amazing.)

Writer: Kathryn Immonen; Art: Phil Noto; Lettering: VC’s Clayton Cowles; Editor: Jeanine Schaefer

Jubilee tries to make her way through the fantastic landscape, all the while talking to Wolverine through some kind of connection brought about by the amulets.

(Oh, That 70’s Show! They should totally do at least a special, show us what the knuckleheads are all up to. It’s not like any of them have a whole lot to do right now. Except Mila. Mmmmm, Mila….)

Rockslide is trying his best not to fight the dragon-lady. He holds his hand up and she sees the imprint of the amulet on it. She immediately apologizes and takes him inside. She rifles through some stuff and locates the other half of his “claim check.” Which is another of those blue transportation amulets.

If you can’t appreciate the absurdity of a dragon holding paperwork behind a counter, then comics really aren’t for you.

After some snooping around, Jubilee finds the gatekeeper of this weird little dimension, an even bigger and angrier dragon.

Wolverine tries to find a transportation amulet himself, and finally digs one out of the severed head of the vampire accountant. Jubilee is on the run from the dragon, when Rockslide pops into the action. (Jubilee is starting to banter like her old self now. I missed her.) Wolverine pops in just in time to save her from falling endlessly to her doom.

Jubilee finally let’s her old self show, giving Wolverine a big hug and admitting to herself what she had really been worried about this whole time, that the real her was going to disappear.

Reinvigorated, Jubilee throws one of the floating train cars at the dragon, complete with a wisecrack.

“I added injury to insult!”

After some more running around, Jubilee finds herself on the wrong end of the dragon’s fire breath, but disappears just as its about to hit her.

She reemerges behind the creature, grabs a giant spike, and rams it straight through his head.

Much later, Wolverine and Emma Frost are in Siberia, discussing Jubilee and the other recent events.

Emma is concerned that Jubilee decorporealized, a power she shouldn’t have yet, and that they need to figure out how and why she was able to do it.

Wolverine isn’t going to tell her where Jubilee is, and tells her they’re not going to test her like some lab rat. Wherever she is, she’s loaded up with his healing factor, and she’s going to be okay.

The story closes with Jubilee and Rockslide back in San Fran, watching the sun rise behind the Golden Gate Bridge.

(I can’t say I really care about any of the New X-Men cast of characters. Must have been one of those “had to be there” books.)

Immonen and Noto delivered easily the best Jubilee story of all time, so that’s as good a place as any to end my exploration of Jubilee. Not only was the artwork beautiful, but it had some great lines of dialogue, both emotional and funny. I was honestly kind of surprised how much I enjoyed it, because I'm pretty sure I had read it before. Look, you can’t really beat a story with dragons, random zombies, and vampire accountants. If that sentence doesn’t make you want to rush out and buy this series for yourself, then comics really aren’t for you.

Next week, something else (finally)!

Jul 17, 2016

Sandman's Biggest Mystery: Auberon Did It

If you've read Neil Gaiman's Sandman, one of the questions you've probably pondered is who did it?

Spoilers for Sandman follow, so if you haven't read this two-decade old story, well, quit reading.

Sandman is a series that follows Dream of the Endless, one of seven beings who have existed since the beginning of time and fulfill the basic functions of the universe. Dream isn't the personification or representation of the concept of dream; he is Dream, in all that entails. But the Dream we see and follow in the series, who goes by the name Morpheus, is only an aspect of a larger being/concept. At the end of the series, Morpheus dies, giving way to another aspect (or a different "point of view") of Dream to rise, named Daniel. In the world of Sandman, death is equivalent to change. The current point of view is a fixed thing; we kill it to give way to a new one. It's all very metaphorical and blah blah blah whatever, a lot of people much smarter than me have written about the academic virtues of this series.

What's not written about enough is a very simple, shallow question: Who Killed Dream?

See, metaphors and deeper meanings are great and all, and Gaiman left this vague on purpose, but hey, that's what a mystery's for, and it's fun to speculate.

The thing that kicks off Dream's death is the fact that he kills his own son, Orpheus of Greek myth.  By ancient law, when an Endless spills family blood, the Furies (also of Greek myth, also known as the Erinyes) are given the power to hunt them down and kill them once they are invoked. They end up being invoked by a series of events that involves Lyta Hall (DC's heroine, the Fury), DC's version of Loki (closer to the Norse version than Marvel's, who happens, ironically, to have many similarities to the Sandman), and the Puck from Faerie (from Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream). The Furies hunt Dream down, and Dream lets them.

The common theory is that Dream, who wanted to die/change, kicked off the whole series of events himself, essentially committing suicide. He clearly didn't resist it, and at the point in the story when everything starts going down, Loki was indebted to Dream. But that's always felt too pat for me, too cut and dried. I like to think that while Dream did nothing to avoid the bullet, he wasn't the one who actually pulled the trigger.

Sandman ran for 76 issues and Dream didn't have any shortage of enemies, so there's no shortage of suspects. Desire of the Endless, Dream's sibling who promised to get him eventually, and Lucifer are both logical, prime suspects.

But no, as far as I'm concerned, this guy did it.

Auberon is the King of Faerie, husband of Titania. He showed up in the entire series all of once. And he killed Dream of the Endless.

He doesn't lack for power. Faerie itself has been established as a different entity altogether, equidistant to the waking world and the Dreaming and Hell.

Nor does he lack for motivation. Titania is strongly inferred to have been one of Dream's lovers over the centuries. To add, Auberon has horns, a classic symbol of cuckoldry.

Everyone else who gave a eulogy in this issue, including the two people
with Titania here, was a former lover of Dream's.
And the smoking gun is Puck. Loki may have been indebted to Dream, but Loki is loyal to no one. Puck, on the other hand, is loyal to one being in existence: Lord Auberon of Faerie.

In the end, who killed Dream isn't important to Dream's story. Dream had an opportunity to die and he took it, choosing to let another, more optimistic, fresher version of Dream take over. But Auberon being the one who fired the gun serves to highlight one of the series' biggest strengths: the feeling that even when you don't see a character, that character is still doing something. There's a whole world in that series ripe for exploration, and Auberon being the mastermind adds texture to the mythos.

Why, who do you think killed Dream of the Endless?

This article wouldn't exist without a much more comprehensive one entitled Who Killed Dream of the Endless?, from a website that apparently no longer exists. If anyone finds a re-post of it, feel free to send it to me for a link.

Jul 16, 2016

Watching Reflections, Watching Time

My friend Rich Handley of Hasslein Books wrote a book that is basically the unauthorized chronology of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen, looking not only at the original book, but all of the material to date that's been about them, including the Before Watchmen series and the RPG, the mobile game, and whatever else Rich managed to find.

The book is entitled Watching Time: The Unauthorized Watchmen Chronology. I wrote an essay in the book, which I believe is gonna go near the end and may or may not be entitled "Reflections." Watchmen is one of my favorite books, and I'm proud and honored to be part of this project. Brian Cronin of Comic Books Resources' Comics Should Be Good also wrote the foreword.

You can purchase a copy here:

Here are some more books from Hasslein: