Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Weekly Pull - June 29th

Oh man.  After a month of relative restraint, it seems as if I am back to buying all of the comics.  It kind of crept up on me, but there have been a number of factors that didn't help matters.

For one thing, it seems as if Marvel is saving every single Spider-Man title I follow for a single week, so I find myself picking up FF #5, Amazing Spider-Man #664, and Venom #4.  Not that I'm complaining, because all of those books have been absolutely top-notch of late.  I'm also super excited for Incredible Hulks Annual #1, which will be finishing John Layman's (of Chew fame) epic three annual spanning tale featuring Spider-Man, Deadpool, and the Hulk.  The first two parts of this story actually came out, like, over a month ago, so I almost missed this one on the solicitations for the week.  I'm glad I ended up finding it.

Over on the DC front, it seems as if they've done the same thing as Marvel, except it's Batman books instead of our friendly neighbourhood webhead.  The only difference is that I'm actually more excited for Batman Incorporated #7 and Detective Comics #878.  Grant Morrison's run on Batman has been nothing short of legendary, and Scott Snyder's more recent take on the Caped Crusader in Detective is almost as good.  Of course, I can't just buy one of Snyder's books, so I'm continuing to pick up my monthly dose of American Vampire with number 16.  You'll also note that I'm picking up every single Flashpoint book that's coming out this week.  After buying almost every other tie-in, I figured I might as well give the rest of the series a shot (especially since two of these are one-shots).

There is also a healthy dose of smaller company books on my list, as I'm picking up one Dark Horse and two Image books.  I've been enjoying Butcher Baker Righteous Maker thus far.  It's a superhero book with an attitude unlike most everything else on the stands.  I've really enjoyed every single issue of Skullkickers that's come out and have high hopes for number 8.  And though I've never bought an issue of Goon, I've read my fair share through library and friend borrowing.  I'm excited to see something new after two years away for the series.

You can see all fifteen books I'm buying below.


FF #5

DC Comics

Other Companies
GOON #34

As stated above, I'm excited for almost every single book on this list and I've spoken about most of them.  However, there are two that I've left out until now: THUNDER Agents #8 and Scalped #50.

As some of you may recall, the first review I wrote for this blog was THUNDER Agents #7.  It was a phenomenal issue, and I've been eagerly awaiting the next one since that time.  When DC announced all 52 titles for their relaunch and Nick Spencer's THUNDER Agents wasn't there, I was pretty crestfallen, so I was quite happy to hear that it would be back in October with all new issues to continue the wonderful story that he has been telling.  Knowing that there are lots of issues left in this series makes me very, very happy, and if you aren't picking this book up, you definitely should be.It was an exciting process for me, and one I continue to enjoy.  Taking a closer look at that book  like to think that I've gotten a bit better since that time, 

As for Scalped, I must give credit where credit is due.  I had read through the first two volumes earlier this year, but really wasn't grabbed by the story.  However, two weeks ago, Ryan K. Lindsay suggested the series' protagonist, Dashiell Bad Horse, as the subject over at thoughtballoons.  In preparing for my script, I ended up reading every single issue through a combination of borrowing from the library and friends (and picking up an issue or two along the way).  All that said, I have yet to buy an issue the week it hits stands.  I'm very excited to be starting, especially with the 50th book in the series.  I don't know if it'll be any longer or if it'll acknowledge how many issues have come out, but it doesn't matter.  Jason Aaron is writing one of the best comics out there right now, and you should be following this one, too.

(As a side note: you should go check out the scripts that dropped for the Dashiell Bad Horse week if you haven't already seen them.  We have a talented crew over at thoughtballoons, but the pages they put up that week were some of the best I've seen.  You can find 'em all conveniently listed at this link here)

The Black

          There is nothing but the black.
          I always pray that my eyes will adjust, but they never do.
          This box is not that big. I can feel the sides, find the edges and corners with ease. I have been here so often that I know it like the back of my hand, but my eyes still see a great nothingness. As far as they are concerned, there is nothing and there will always be nothing. I am alone. Trapped.
          I try to distract myself and think on happier times. In vain.
          Fantasizing will do me no good. The black remains.

I don't have much to add to this one.  I like it.  Maybe you like it, too.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Flashpoint EXPRESSions - Week of June 22nd

Seeing as how I picked up three of the four Flashpoint tie-in books for the past week, I figured I might as well spend some time offering up my thoughts on the issues.  Although there's nothing quite so nearly as offensive as Grodd of War #1 from the week before, there also wasn't any particularly impressive books on tap either.  However, even though none of the books managed to blow me away, it doesn't mean they didn't necessarily have some moments of brilliance.  Well, maybe it does.

Let's see how it all shook out, shall we?

Flashpoint - Kid Flash Lost #1
Written by: Sterling Gates
Art by: Oliver Nome

I really enjoyed Sterling Gates' run on Supergirl, finding his work with the Girl of Steel to be well-written, honest, and original.  Unfortunately, those qualities seem to be mostly absent from Kid Flash Lost #1, making for a comic that offers a number of almost interesting plot threads that don't quite hold together and are, on the whole, surprisingly derivative.

The main thrust of the issue is that Kid Flash has somehow been sent into the 31st century (the century he's originally from), but everything is different and he is cut off from the Speed Force (presumably due to all the timeshifting going on in Flashpoint itself).  Not a terrible premise, but Gates doesn't really do anything with it. For some reason, in this altered future Brainiac has long since taken control of Earth and seems to be in the habit of imprisoning people in a virtual reality representation of the 21st century to use their life force as a source of energy.  If that sounds eerily like the plot of The Matrix, it's because that's exactly what this is.  Kid Flash actually comments "I think I saw this movie with Conner."

So for reasons unexplained, Kid Flash has found himself living The Matrix and his only ally is Hot Pursuit, the character introduced in Geoff Johns' recent run on The Flash.  However, for reasons that are barely touched on, Hot Pursuit is no longer an alternate-Earth version of the Flash.  In fact, Hot Pursuit is no longer even a man.  Apparently Penny Spivot, a minor character who showed up in The Flash #12 somehow got her hands on the suit and the time travelling device and is now also in the 31st century?  Again, for reasons that are barely touched on.

Eventually, Kid Flash realizes that the past has changed, and if he doesn't get back to the past soon, he will disappear from existence.  Yeah, the comic also lifts from Back to the Future ("I saw this movie with Cassie," Kid Flash mentions).  Additionally, Brainiac, in his short appearance, talks exactly like HK-47 from Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.  For no reason.

At the end of the issue, I had no interest in reading anymore of this story.  I can understand how Kid Flash's current plight could be interesting and suspenseful, but the sheer amount of borrowing from other works from popular culture done in this issue kills any momentum it could have created.  I spent most of the issue wondering why it would lift things so blatantly for no discernible reason.  These references are made, explained, and then left.  I know that Sterling Gates can write better comics than this, which is perhaps the most disappointing part.

Flashpoint - Lois Lane and the Resistance #1
Written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by: Eddie Nunez

After reading Abnett and Lanning's take on the Amazon-Atlantis conflict in last week's Wonder Woman and the Furies #1, I was interested to see how the story would play out from the perspective of civilians trying to resist their Amazonian overlords.  While I enjoyed the comic, it wasn't quite what I was expecting.

For one thing, the advertised "Resistance" barely shows up at all.  Instead, we get a comic that focuses on how Lois Lane accidentally ends up in Amazonian internment camps in New Themyscira (England, which the Amazons have taken over in the Flashpoint universe).  During this stint, she secretly becomes an agent for Cyborg, tasked with discovering the local Resistance and opening a dialogue with them.  However, no one from said group appears in the comic until the second last page, and even then, their arrival is out of the blue and left unexplained for the moment.  It's kind of misleading, is what I'm trying to say.

For all that, it was a decent story.  I suppose it's interesting to see a Lois Lane who, without Clark Kent / Superman, lacks both a rival and a love interest, but I feel like more could have been done with that scenario.  As well, I think the comic could have moved a little faster and done with a little less exposition, but I suppose first issues are supposed to set up the status quo of the story.  It's just kind of a shame when the story is only going to last three issues.

My biggest complaint about Lois Lane and the Resistance #1 is the art.  It's not bad, per se, but it really doesn't appeal to me.  I found Nunez's work to be a little too cartoony and a little too influenced by comics of the 90s.  A lot of the characters were virtually identical, aside from their clothing and hair.  This problem was especially noticeable with a number of the women characters.  Not only that, but the comic seems to subscribe to the somewhat reigning theory that all women must be depicted with crazy-exaggerated physiques.  Almost every single lady had a near impossible hour glass figure, complete with large breasts and wide hips, that is pretty ridiculous.  Certainly this isn't the only comic guilty of providing a single representation of the female form, but just because the practice is common doesn't mean I have to accept it.

I might come back for issue 2 of this mini-series, but like Wonder Woman and the Furies #1, Abnett and Lanning have once again failed to really entice me.  I'd been waiting to see what they could do in the DCU for so long, and I haven't really enjoyed anything they've offered thus far.  Unfortunate, to be certain.

Flashpoint - The Outsider #1
Written by: James Robinson
Art by: Javi Fernandez

I'm starting to feel a bit like a broken record, but I didn't much care for The Outsider #1 either.  This series focuses on (as you may have guessed) the enigmatic Outsider character who has been showing up in various Flashpoint books with little to no explanation.  While Robinson and Fernandez offer a glimpse into a lot of neat ideas and concepts in this issue, it feels like they're only asking more questions, without offering any answers.  There is certainly a lot of potential within this issue, but I don't really come out of the comic caring about the Outsider or the world around him.

The issue opens with a pretty nifty flashback providing a bit of the "Secret Origin" of the Outsider, including the death of hundreds of thousands upon his birth.  This sequence is really well done and gives the reader an idea of the power the Outsider possesses (or could possess), but it doesn't really explain what that power is.  Instead, we get a scene of him in the present that takes place in his ultra-high tech lair.  Again, it all looks kind of cool, but I'm not quite sure what the point of it all is.  The comic is very insistent on the fact that the Outsider is powerful, incredibly intelligent, and has a lot of enemies, but it seems a bit less certain on the why or how of any of these questions.

It's strange, because a lot actually goes on in this issue (on top of the "Secret Origin", there's a scene of the Outsider planning some stuff, and an attack by a few of his enemies, among other things), but it doesn't feel like any of it matters.  I'm not referring to mattering to continuity when I say that.  I simply mean that because this comic offers so little concrete information about the Outsider or what he's doing, it's hard to consider any of the details or events within it as important.  They're just things that happened, but they lack any meaning associated with them.

Holding things back from the reader isn't necessarily a bad thing, but The Outsider #1 shows some possible negative consequences if it isn't handled correctly.  Due to its insistence on mystery and keeping the reader in the dark, the issue robs itself of any possible weight or poignancy.  Instead, we just get an issue where a bunch of stuff happens for seemingly no reason.  Certainly there is a lot of potential for future issues, but this issue doesn't offer any concrete reason to pick up those subsequent comics, and I probably won't.

So, as you can see, this past week's crop of Flashpoint books didn't make for the most exciting reading.  They weren't bad, but they also weren't really that good.  Kind of disappointing to go through three mediocre books, but on the plus side, it's good news for my wallet, because I won't have to pick up the rest of these series.

Fight or Flight

          Jester was getting tired. It felt like he'd been running for ages. His chest burned. His legs hurt. He chanced a look back.
          They were gaining.
          He tried to put on a burst of speed, but didn't have it in him. They were going to catch him. He knocked over a few garbage cans to try and slow them down.
          It didn't work.
          Desperate, he ducked down a side alley to double back and lose them.
          Dead end.
          He could hear their loud footsteps getting closer.
          Jester turned, readying himself. If he was going down, he was going down swinging.

I don't know how many of you have seen the classic 1979 movie, The Warriors.  For those unfamiliar with the film, the first thing you should know is that it isn't really a classic.  In all honesty, it's kind of meandering, doesn't hold together all that well, and objectively, isn't all that good.  However, it is a movie with a ton of style.  And for that reason, it's one of my favourite movies.

It takes place in a New York City that is overrun with gangs, with each one having its own theme and fashion sense that is turned up to 11, and while the film is far from a masterpiece, it has some enough solid moments to hold a special place in my heart.  The video game from Rockstar only adds to my love of this piece of popular culture.

However, as much as I like The Warriors, this post is only tangentially about that movie.  One of my favourite aspects of the movie is the world of constant low-level street gang warfare that is depicted within it.  Therefore, I decided to compose this little piece about a tagger who ends up a little too deep into enemy territory.  I really enjoyed writing it, and I hope you enjoyed reading it.  Who knows?  Maybe this isn't the last we'll hear from Jester and his gang, the Royals.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Review - Gates of Gotham #2

Gates of Gotham #2
Story by: Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins
Written by: Kyle Higgins
Art by: Trevor McCarthy

So I wasn't exactly blown away by issue one of the Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins plotted, Kyle Higgins written series, Gates of Gotham, but based on Scott Snyder's involvement in the story planning, I decided to come back to see what the creative team would do for the second issue.  I'm certainly glad I came back for more, because this is a solid issue.

One of the biggest success for Gates of Gotham #2 is that it takes all the setup from the first issue and really runs with it.  The comic opens with a flashback sequence focusing on the two brothers introduced in the first issue, and the time spent in the past not only expands on Gotham City's history, it builds towards an excellent pay off towards issue 2's end.  What's more, all the time spent in the present in between makes for a fast paced, action packed issue of Batman.

Snyder and Higgins involve a large cast of characters, including Batman (Dick Grayson, not Bruce Wayne), Red Robin, Robin, and Black Bat (Cassandra Cain's new superhero persona), and manages to give each character their moment in the limelight.  And that is without even mentioning the various antagonists and secondary characters appearing throughout the comic who also get their fair share of memorable moments.  It's all quite well done - and quite different - for each character, but I must highlight the great work done between Damian and Cassandra.  I don't know if I've ever really seen the two interact before, but the scenes Snyder and Higgins have built between the two are issue-stealingly good.

Some time must also be spent in praise of the great work being done by Trevor McCarthy on art duties.  I'm not terribly familiar with his work, but he is quickly winning me over with what he's doing in Gates of Gotham.  He has a wonderfully distinct style that melds the sensibilities of Batman: The Animated Series with modern day Batman comics.  It's perhaps a tad cartoony for some, but I'm really enjoying his work.  Perhaps the best compliment I can offer is that the character designs from one character to another are all unique: every character has a clear outline that belongs only to them.  To put it simply, the characters look different and are not simply interchangeable.  And in a medium where men are often all the same degree of burly and women the same degree of buxom, that is a breath of fresh air.

For all the love I have for this issue, there are some minor quibbles that I must mention.  It's not the fault of the creative team, but somehow during the flashback sequence a name got left out of one of the word balloons.

In case you can't make it out, the caption makes it clear that the mystery man in question is Alan Wayne (the Wayne relative active at this early time period), but that mistake shouldn't be happening at all.  Not a major problem, but it did take me out of the story momentarily, which is hardly ideal.  Editorial's job is to catch that, so it should have been caught.

My other complaint is a two page spread within the comic where the panel order is left a little unclear.  It's during Batman and Red Robin's short talk with Commissioner Gordon.  I realized after reading the issue a few times that the reader is supposed to go all the way from the left side of the first page to the right side of the second page, as the spread was done with three major rows in mind, but that isn't clear enough in my mind.  There could have been a bit more bleed over from one page to the other to emphasize the intended reading order, but I digress.  Again, it's not a major issue, but one I feel could have been avoided.

Final Thoughts - The above issues aside, Gates of Gotham #2 is a rather enjoyable read.  This series is shaping up to be a fantastic reimagining / redefinition of Gotham's past, while also telling a great Batman story in Gotham's present.  I was unsure about the series after issue 1, but issue 2 has assuaged my doubts and concerns.  I can't wait to see what comes next, which is always the best feeling to have when you finish a comic book.

Second Thoughts

          “And how was the adventuring today, sir?”
          “Not exactly to your liking, I take it?”
          “I dunno. After a while all the henchmen, damsels in distress, and evil megalomaniacs kind of blur together. Sure, I managed to escape the Wrath of the Ivory Pharaoh, but so what?”
          “You did recover that chalice, did you not?”
          “Yeah. And don't get me wrong, it's a mighty fine receptacle of power, but...”
          “I'm starting to feel like maybe there's something more to life than living through a series of death-defying adventures.”
          “Perhaps some time away would be beneficial?”
          “A vacation? Maybe...”

My character brainstorming can take many forms.  Sometimes I have a really cool idea for something that could happen, and I need a character cool enough to do all that.  Sometimes I come up with a trait that I want to write, and so I whip up a character that possesses that habit.  And sometimes all I come up with is a name.  I hope you enjoyed this piece about Adventure Dan, the Adventure Man.

I came up with that epithet a while back, but haven't done all that much with Dan since then.  In my mind, he is a man of adventure (quelle surprise, I know) in the style of Indiana Jones.  Fedora.  Sweet Jacket.  Perma-stubble.  Maybe a whip.  That kind of thing.  I figured it would be nice to have someone that I could throw into any lighthearted adventure tales that I might be wanting to tell.  Still, I imagine that even men who live for adventure would sometimes grow weary of the constant excitement.  And so this story was born.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My Weekly Pull - June 22nd

Another week, another pile of comics to take home.  While I was drafting my list, I noticed that I didn't have all that many single issues (only five this week), so I decided to pick up a graphic novel or two.  To be fair, that's only half true.  I've talked a little bit about how much I've been enjoying Judd Winick's run on Power Girl, and since I don't own all the issues, picking up the first trade seems like a sound plan.  On a similar bent, I figured I might as well keep up the Girl theme and pick up Gingerbread Girl.  Okay, that's mostly a lie.  I heard about Paul Tobin and Collen Coover's project a few months back at Top Shelf's website, but kind of forgot about the whole thing shortly after.  I don't really know all that much about it, but now that it is coming out in print, I figured I would give it a look.  (If you follow that link, you can actually read the whole comic online - just so you know).

You can see the rest of my picks below.


DC Comics

Other Companies

As you can see, my habit of purchasing Flashpoint tie-ins remains unabated.  I've enjoyed checking out most of these issue 1s, but I don't think I'll be following them all through to issue 2.  Of the ones dropping this week, I really only expect to be buying the next issue for Lois Lane and the Resistance, but we'll see how it goes.  Gates of Gotham 1 was a little underwhelming for me, but I've signed on for the second part of the story due to my faith in Scott Snyder's storytelling.  Hopefully that gamble pays off.  Despite all these uncertainties, if Mystery Men 2 is anything like Mystery Men 1, I know I will have at least one good comic to read this week.

Fingers crossed.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Problematic Representation of Africa in Grodd of War #1

I recognize that this entry is a little on the long side.  I felt it necessary to provide some background information for those who may not be familiar with the situation in question.  Please bear with me and please take the time to read through the entire post.

Grodd of War #1, by Sean Ryan and Ig Guara, is not a very good comic book.

It combines the ridiculous penchant among comic book readers to purchase any comic book that features monkeys along with some poor writing for mediocre results.

When writing up my feelings on this week's Flashpoint tie-ins, my draft said about as much, although it also featured a number of jokes and jabs, focused mostly on the monkey phenomenon and belittling the lack of clear motivations ascribed to Gorilla Grodd in the issue.  However, halfway through writing the review, I realized that there was a far bigger problem with Grodd of War #1 than the fact that it was a bad comic.

I found it's representation of Africa to be highly problematic and incredibly offensive.

Let me quickly summarize the comic's content to give you an idea of what I mean.  The issue's main character is Gorilla Grodd.  For the uninitiated, Gorilla Grodd is a "classic" Flash villain who is (as you may have guessed) a gorilla.  He is also super strong, hyper-intelligent, and possesses psionic powers (he can control people's minds and actions).  He is also not unique.  There is actually an entire civilization of super-intelligent gorillas that live in the aptly named Gorilla City, which is located somewhere in Africa.

This comic, set in the alternate Flashpoint universe, is about Gorilla Grodd taking over Africa through military force.  The book opens with one of Grodd's minions telling him that his forces, composed entirely of the aforementioned intelligent gorillas, have finally defeated the last remaining resistance in South Africa, making Gorilla Grodd the ruler of all of Africa.

From there, the issue focuses on how Grodd is unsatisfied with this accomplishment.  He spends the balance of the issue searching for a meaningful challenge, whether from within or without his forces.  The book goes on at length to emphasize that Grodd has a death wish, though it doesn't really spend any time explaining why this is the case.  Either way, the issue ends with Grodd deciding that his African forces will invade Europe, attacking the Amazons and Atlanteans, who are two other world powers in this universe.

It's a serviceable plot that isn't very well-executed.  And like many comics published nowadays, Grodd of War #1 takes elements from "real life" and places them within its narrative.  However, when I really considered the comic's plot and images, I realized that this comic is perhaps one of the most repugnant comics I have ever read.  It addresses some of the diverse and unique issues facing Africa with all the subtlety that you would expect from a comic starring a talking gorilla.  That is to say, quite poorly.

To begin, let me repeat that Gorilla Grodd takes over the entire continent of Africa.  He, an intelligent monkey, controls a continent of over a billion people.  And no one in the comic book (or any of the other Flashpoint books I've read) seems to care.  This isn't an enormous issue, but it does bear mentioning how nonchalantly the whole thing is treated.  Especially with the other things that happen in the story.

A major problem with this comic is that there are virtually no African characters within the entire story.  When in Cape Town, Grodd confronts the leader of the defeated African resistance, who is revealed to be Catman, a white, American supervillain who just happens to hang out in Africa sometimes.  The comic seems to posit that no Africa could have led a defence of the continent.  But that is not my major issue with the comic.

The main problem is that the only characters of African descent in the entire comic appear while Gorilla Grodd is travelling to Cape Town.  His convoy is attacked in transit, killing everyone except for Grodd.  He emerges to confront his attackers: five child soldiers.  The only African characters in this comic book are child soldiers.  Their appearance lasts for two pages, both of which I've included below.  I would invite you to take a look at them before you continue reading.  Please note, they are a tad graphic.

As you can see, Grodd uses his mind control powers to take control of the children, telling one child to "Kill your friends", forcing him to murder the other four.  This murder is depicted in four sequential panels that move closer and closer to the child's face, looking on in increasing horror as he guns down his four companions, bullets flying from his gun.

The next page shows the results of Grodd's coercion.  The child stands alone, tears streaming down his face, surrounded by the corpses of the four murdered children.  The boy is so distraught that he turns the gun on himself, intending to commit suicide.  Grodd stops him, telling the boy to leave and "spend every minute of your life planning and thinking about how you're going to kill me.  And when you're finally ready, I want you to find me, and I want you to get the job done."  Then the child runs off in fear.

Maybe it's just me, but I don't feel like any of that is appropriate.  Especially when child soldiers continue to be a real problem in Africa (and around the world)?  Especially when that is the only representation of Africans in the entire book?

It is reductive, short sighted, and in incredibly poor taste.

On top of this already deplorable issue, I don't even want to go into the many possible interpretations of the fact that, in this comic, Africans have been enslaved by monkeys.

I think that all of this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.  I'm don't believe that these were necessarily malicious choices by the creative team, editors, or DC Comics.  They seem more thoughtless than anything else.  But that doesn't excuse how offensive it is.  For all DC Comics talks about trying to diversify their line and feature more minority characters, this comic is an absolute mess.

I'm a firm believer that comics can successfully address serious issues.  I have seen many superhero comics do just that, but Grodd of War #1 fails on all counts.  Again, it's not that I feel the comic set out to represent everything so poorly.  I imagine no one gave a second thought to what they were doing.  And that is a serious problem.  You can't integrate things as serious as child soldiers and enslaving an entire continent (especially one that has been abused so often in the past) without considering what you are doing and why you are doing it.  Unfortunately, that seems to be exactly what DC Comics did.

In looking through a number of reviews of Grodd of War #1 from around the net, I found that few of them made any reference to the scene with the child soldiers.  Of those that did, only one took the time to reproach the comic for "demean[ing] the truly horrific realities of soldier children actually in combat in Africa at this very moment".

I am by no extent of the imagination an expert on Africa and the many issues facing the continent, but it is clear that this comic's representation of Africa is unacceptable.  I believe that we as readers must do our part to recognize this and express our displeasure.


          The lights were giving him a headache.
          They were too bright, too hot, and too artificial. The biggest problem, though, was that they were everywhere. They lined every single one of the perfectly cylindrical, perfectly featureless passageways.
          At first, he'd wished for windows. He thought it would be nice to be reminded of things outside the labyrinthine ship. Then he remembered that, at this point in the voyage, there probably wasn't anything out there to see.
          He tried not to think about that.
          Instead, he focused his efforts on figuring out what had gone wrong and where everyone else was.

For this piece, all I had was that opening line.  I had come up with that while writing Sickness and really wanted to use it in something.  So I sat down today with that line in mind and came up with what you see above.  In my first few tries, the setting was just a barren hospital, but that wasn't going anywhere, so I decided to go a little bigger.

I imagine this could start off a longer science fiction piece about a group of astronauts travelling through space to find a habitable world, new resources, energy, or some other MacGuffin for planet Earth.  Due to the length of the voyage, they would have rotating shifts, where the majority of the crew is under cryogenic sleep, leaving only a few awake at a time.

The story would feature Ensign James Decker (the man with the headache) waking up to find the rest of the crew missing and the ship strangely different (or different from how he remembers it).  We would then follow his search through the enormous vessel to figure out what happened.  Maybe not the most original idea, but I find stories generally live or die based on their execution, and I think I could manage something interesting out of the premise.

For example, maybe it's not the lights giving him that headache.

Perhaps, one of these days, we'll see.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Flashpoint EXPRESSions - Week of June 15th

So, as my weekly pull list will attest, I went into my local comic book shop with the aim of only buying two of the four Flashpoint tie-ins that came out this week.  I don't really know what to tell you, but somehow I ended up getting my hands on all four introductory issues -- Deadman and the Flying Graysons, Grodd of WarLegion of Doom, and Wonder Woman and the Furies.  Instead of dwelling on how that ended up happening, despite my best intentions, I thought I would use this "opportunity" to offer my thoughts on all this week's tie-ins.

Let's give 'em a gander, shall we?

Flashpoint - Deadman and the Flying Graysons #1
Written by: J.T. Krul
Art by: Mikel Janin

I had dismissed this comic based entirely on the fact that J.T. Krul was writing it.  This might seem a little closed minded, but I had not enjoyed a single comic of his that I had read.  I know it's a bit harsh, but I couldn't really understand why DC kept giving Krul so many writing assignments.  Especially since he is responsible for writing what many consider one of the worst comics ever produced.  All that said, I'm still not one hundred percent sold on Krul, but after reading Deadman and the Flying Graysons #1, I do have proof that he can write an enjoyable comic book, so there is that.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I was originally intending on skipping this book all-together, but I flipped through it and saw that Ragdoll and King Shark of Secret Six fame were putting in appearances in the comic's circus's freak show.  Intrigued, I looked a little closer and noticed that, in the comic, the poster advertising King Shark read "MAN + SHARK = INCREDIBLE".  The fact that Deadman is wearing a sweet skull mask didn't hurt, either.

I don't know about you, but that was enough to convince me to give the book a chance.  I'm glad that I did, because this is one of the most enjoyable Flashpoint tie-ins I've read thus far.

The beginning of the comic is used to establish that Dick Grayson's parents never died in a tragic circus accident in Gotham City, meaning that he and his parents (the Flying Graysons) continue to perform for Haley Circus.  Additionally, the circus has picked up the talented Boston Brand (Deadman) as its main attraction (thus explaining the title in one fell swoop).  This would be all well and good if it weren't for the fact that the circus is trapped in Europe in the middle of the Amazonian-Atlantean war that's been escalating throughout all the Flashpoint books.

Krul does a good job of emphasizing the difference between the cooperative and familial Graysons and the aloof and selfish Brand, which seems to be one of the main focuses of the book.  It nears being a little heavy-handed at times, but is well-done for the most part.  The comic seems content to focus on those dueling character studies for the majority of the issue, and it works pretty well.

Certainly, this effort is greatly helped by the wonderful art provided by Mikel Janin.  Though I have never encountered his work before, I was quite taken by what I saw in this issue.  He has an excellent grasp of panel layout and pacing, using it to great effect in the various sequences throughout the issue.  He also does some quality action sequences, which is a plus for a comic that focuses on trapeze artists.  I eagerly await seeing more of his work in the coming months.

For the balance of the issue, there is no clear conflict to drive the plot forward, but that's okay.  Again, the character-work is good enough to keep me turning the page, and there is a slow build-up to the dangers that are to come that become clear towards the end of the book.

I was pleasantly surprised by this issue.  I'm really glad I picked it up and will definitely be staying around to see how everything turns out.  I'd suggest you do the same.

Flashpoint - Legion of Doom #1
Written by: Adam Glass
Art by: Rodney Buchemi

To be honest, I picked this book up on a whim, partly because Heatwave is one of Flash's Rogues and I couldn't resist and partly to get an early idea of what Adam Glass's Suicide Squad title might be like when it releases in September.  Unfortunately, I was disappointed on both counts.  Heatwave, as he appears in this book, is the flattest of characters, and if Suicide Squad is anything like this, count me out.

The comic opens with an interesting premise, with Heatwave hoping to become a part of the Firestorm matrix as a way to satisfy his pyromanic tendencies.  To accomplish this goal, he kills Jason Rusch, one half of the duo who combine to become the superhero Firestorm.  An interesting idea, but the comic doesn't really do anything with it.  Ronald Raymond, the surviving half of the Firestorm team, tells Heatwave that it doesn't work that way and before Heatwave can retort, Cyborg shows up to save the day.  After a brief fight between the two, Heatwave is subdued and subsequently sent to supervillain prison to be executed through the electric chair.

There's a lot of potential in that paragraph, but Glass doesn't really take advantage of any of it.  Heatwave pretty much spends all his time talking about how much he loves fire and going on about how badass he is.  Unfortunately, there's no real effort beyond that to make Heatwave a sympathetic or interesting character.  The comic tells us - repeatedly - that he is a badass pyromaniac and pretty much leaves it at that.  It makes all his monologuing fall a little flat.

Once he arrives in said supervillain prison, Heatwave spends the rest of the comic asserting his place in the prison's hierarchy through unnecessarily violent and ultimately unconvincing prison fights.  All the while, he insists that he is going to break out, even though no one has ever broken out of the super secure prison.  Again, the ideas aren't necessarily bad, but the execution leaves something to be desired.  I also must admit to being underwhelmed by the prison idea when I've already seen it done in a more interesting way in DC's Elseworld book Kingdom Come (which is one of the best DC comics I've ever read).

Of course, Heatwave has a trick up his sleeve as to how he will manage to the prison break, which is saved for the cliffhanger reveal at the end of the issue.  That reveal is also kind of interesting, but everything that came before killed any interest I had in following this series.

On the art side of things, the comic does a lot better.  It certainly seems as if DC is trying to give some of their newer talents the chance to show their stuff on these books.  While Glass didn't manage to wow me, Rodney Buchemi did.  His style fits right into what's generally happening in sueprhero books.  It doesn't necessarily stand out, but Buchemi manages to give a relatively weak script a lot more life than I would have expected.

Not exactly a glowing recommendation, but this wasn't exactly the best comic I've ever read.

Flashpoint - Wonder Woman and the Furies #1
Written by: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Art by: Scott Clark

I've been a fan of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning since reading through their excellent run on Guardians of the Galaxy.  I'm not usually a big fan of cosmic books, but the team dynamics and the fantastic plots they whipped up for Guardians won me over hook, line, and sinker.  Consequently, I've been picking up a lot of their work since that time and was looking forward to their Wonder Woman Flashpoint tie-in.  It was a pretty good first issue, but a combination of a rushed plot and varying art quality took away from the reading experience.

The book opens on a flashback sequence, showing this world's Diana Prince and Arthur Curry meeting for the first time, which also represents the first meeting between the Amazon and Atlantean peoples.  I really enjoyed this portion of the book, as the time spent focusing on Arthur and Diana's interaction was well done and made for some quality character work.  It even made for some good hinting towards the arranged marriage between the two that was revealed as being a failed endeavour in issue 1 of Flashpoint.

From this flashback, the issue jumps to the near past, spending the rest of its pages looking at what exactly happened during the day of the marriage that resulted in the Amazonian - Atlantean war that has been tearing the world apart.  At this point, things start to move really fast.  The pages are covered with word balloons as characters provide some exposition of what's happened in the time in-between to get the reader up to speed. It comes off as kind of awkward and rushed.  I really get the feeling that the series would have benefited from having a few more pages (2 perhaps?) or possibly from an extra issue.  It just seems like Abnett and Lanning are jamming everything into the first issue in an attempt to have more breathing space in the issues to come.

There's some good things going on in those pages, to be certain.  Some interesting political maneuvering and some genuinely cool double and triple crossing that will surely be built upon in the issues to come, but there's so much going on that the exciting parts of the comic get a little overshadowed by everything else.  I feel like the issue managed to make the Amazonian - Atlantean war more interesting, which is a good thing, since it has simply been presented as the status quo up until this point by DC, but I still feel like the issue could have been a lot better.

The other major issue is that the art from Scott Clark is inconsistent.  Generally his character work is fine and serviceable, if a little generic from one character to the next.  My main concern is in regards to his backgrounds, which don't seem to match at all.  I can't tell if they are coloured over pictures or CG images shoved in in Photoshop, but they don't fit the rest of the book.  I figure it's supposed to make the background more imposing and more striking, but it simply comes off as distracting.  Not something I'd want to see regularly in a comic book.

I was a little underwhelmed, but I think I might have come into this with my expectations a little too high.  It wasn't a bad comic, per se, it simply wasn't Guardians of the Galaxy, which isn't a fair comparison.  If I want to read Guardians, I'll read it.  Not hope to find it in other comic books written by the same team.  I believe I'll be back for issue 2, though that might depend on what next week's Flashpoint titles are like.  We shall see.

Also, it's worth noting that, though I said I read all four Flashpoint books, I only offered my thoughts on three of them here.  That's because my thoughts on Grodd of War #1 didn't quite fit in with a post concerned mostly with reviewing comic books.  At least it didn't fit in my mind.  I'm going to spend a bit more time pondering that book and I'll have a full post on it tomorrow.  It will be partly a review, but it will also deal with issues a little more serious than what I've spoken of thus far.  I hope you'll come back to give it a look.


          The wheezing he'd taken for a broken air conditioner was coming closer.
          Before his mind could process this realization, a sickly figure shambled into view from the doorway ahead. Its eyes were glassy and unseeing. Its skin was loose and wrinkled. Its breathing was harsh and belaboured.
          He wanted to run, to get away, but his legs wouldn't move. Frozen to the spot, all he could do was try to choke back a cry.
          Too late.
          The figure stopped. Turned its entire body towards the sound's source. Started to limp towards him. Let out a wet, phlegmatic rasp.
          He ran.

I've been sick for most of the past week.  Nothing serious.  Just an ongoing cough that, among other things, has made it hard for me to get to sleep at night.  Consequently, last night while I was trying in vain to turn in, I got the idea for this story.

Make of that what you will.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


          Some friends they are. I ask for some support and all I get is a bunch of naysaying.
          Julie's reaction is not surprising. Even Richie's, to an extent. But Mike? That hurts. I thought he would understand. I thought he would believe in me.
          I guess not.
          Whatever. It's not like I even care what they think. If I say I'm ready for this, then I'm ready for this. And I am. I know it.
          I can feel it.
          I'll soon be the embodiment of masculinity. And they'll all be jealous.
          I'm growing a beard and nothing's gonna stop me.

And there we have story the second.

Months ago (longer then I would like to admit, to be honest), I promised a friend of mine I would write her a story about growing a beard.  When I brought it up, it was mostly in jest, but she really clinged onto the idea and has been badgering me to get the story written since I originally brought up the idea.  I haven't been making a ton of progress on that (read: none), so I decided maybe I could start thinking about the idea a little more seriously.  This little yarn is the fruit of that labour.

I'm still not quite certain how I'll go about executing this particular idea, but the concept of a narrator trying to prove his friends wrong is likely to be my starting point.  From there, I figure he's going to have a harder time growing a beard than he expects.  Fortunately for him, he won't be one to admit his inability.  As his beard continues to grow slowly (or not grow at all), the narrative will follow as the narrator slowly loses his grasp on reality.  A little extreme, perhaps, but I'm hoping it'll make for an amusing story, at the very least.

My friend is out of country at the moment, but if I'm lucky, I'll be able to get that beard growing story done before her return.  It would make for a good homecoming gift, methinks.

My Weekly Pull - June 15th

Here's my list of what comics I'll be buying this week.  A bit light, compared to my regular numbers, but I am excited nonetheless. There look to be a lot of good comics coming out this week.



Other Companies

After being severely underwhelmed by last week's Fear Itself: Deadpool #1, I swore that I would not buy another book related to Marvel's questionable summer event. As you can see, with my intention to purchase Alpha Flight #1, it only took a week to renege on that promise, but it's not my fault. The 0.1 introductory issue was pretty strong, providing for some surprisingly current Canadian political commentary in the middle of a rather enjoyable superhero story. Since the first issue is by the same creative team, I hope that it will be just as good. If it can be like Jeff Lemire's Frankenstein #1 from last week, spending time ensuring that it tells a good story instead of making sure that it ties-in to the wider Marvel Universe, I will be happy. We'll see how that goes.

The rest of the week is a mix of my regular pickups and forays into new books / limited series.

Both Batgirl #22 and Powergirl #25 fall into the former category of old-standbys, and both of these books will tragically not be surviving DC's September reboot. However, while Judd Winick (write of Power Girl) will be switching to a few different books come the Fall, Bryan Q. Miller (Batgirl's writer) has been left entirely out of the whole event. That news really disappointed me, because Batgirl is easily one of my favourite superhero comics coming out right now. It does everything I could want a superhero comic to do. It's fun, funny, and does a great job of making sure that every issue is a complete story. I will miss Miller's work with Stephanie Brown and I will miss him come September. In the meantime, I look forward to the few issues of Batgirl that are still to come.

I'll be trying a few more of the Flashpoint tie-ins. As a primarily DC reader, they have more appeal to me than Marvel's Fear Itself work, but they also benefit from their relation to DC's old Elseworlds books. I've mentioned that here and there throughout my reviews, but Elseworlds is one of the best things DC ever did, in my opinion. Telling stories about their iconic characters that take place in slightly different worlds has made for some of the best comics I've read. While these current Flashpoint titles aren't exactly Red Son or Gotham by Gaslight, they have been generally enjoyable thus far, which is enough to get me to try out a few more.

Finally, we have a smattering of different books from the “Other Companies”, as I insist on calling them. Gladstone's School for World Conquerors is a fun premise of a school for young supervillains. The first issue was good enough to get me to come back for issue 2, and I'm too big of a sucker for kid's comics to not be checking it out. I don't know anything about Godzilla: Gangsters & Goliaths #1, except that it's written by John Layman, the writer of the wonderfully irreverent Chew, which is all I need to know. As for Kirby Genesis #1, it combines characters created by Jack Kirby with the creative team of Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross.  Additionally, I picked up the preview issue 0, and it wasn't too bad.  Hopefully the actual series can deliver on those early promises.

What are you reading this week?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

An Experiment

I started this blog for two reasons. First, I wanted a spur to do more writing. Second, I wanted a place to put that writing once it was done.

Though it is still relatively early, I've known some success in both of these intentions. I've enjoyed writing up reviews and thoughts on the comics I read every week, and while I intend to continue doing these, there are plenty of other things I'd like to write as well.

Therefore, I've been looking for exercises to get my creative juices going while also resulting in some written output. In my searches, I came across The 30 Character Challenge and 100 words. The former is an exercise (performed mostly by artists) where a person, over the course of 30 days, creates 30 brand new characters; the latter exercise encourages people to write 100 words every day. I've decided to combine the two, resulting in what I've taken to calling 1 Character, 100 Words.

As the name suggests, I will write a one hundred word story focusing on one character in particular. It might be a brand new creation or an old standby of mine. It doesn't really matter. This idea is here to give me a reason to be creative, to experiment, and to make mistakes. They might not all be great.  They might not all be good.  Some might end up being downright awful.  That's okay.   I know that I have a lot to learn as a writer and hopefully a project like this will give me the opportunity to practice and to grow.

I recognize that one hundred words is not a lot. Consequently, these vignettes will require a certain amount of focus; I'll need to decide what I want to accomplish for each piece. The story might be epic, tragic, pithy, banal, or any other type. It's all equally relevant. All equally important.

This, like virtually everything I post on The Thought Wrangler is primarily for myself, but if others read these little stories, maybe enjoy some of them, all the better. If anyone would like to share thoughts, I'm always happy to have feedback, no matter the type of form, but as always, it's by no means required.

Unlike The 30 Character Challenge, I probably won't do one of these every single day of the week. But, sometimes, I might. Regardless, when I do post one, I might spend some time describing who the character in question is. Or what their hopes and desires are. Or maybe I'll talk about the act of writing them. Or why I want to be writing that particular character. It might come before the entry; it might come afterwards. This whole idea is a work in progress, and I'll see how it progresses.

I do have one hundred word story done. It's not quite what I expected to get when I sat down to write it, but I like it nonetheless. I imagine a good part of my motivation for writing this has been watching a bunch of hockey games throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs. My hometown, Winnipeg, Manitoba, getting an NHL team back might also have been a bit of a spur.

I call it Sherman and Dubois.

      “Sherman and Dubois race into the corner, chasing after the loose puck.
      “Dubois has a step on Sherman, hoping to get an icing call. Sherman seemingly intent on avoiding that, grabs onto Dubois, forcing him into the --
      “Sherman has slammed Dubois into the boards! A brutal hit, driving Dubois' head right into the glass. The fans cheer as Sherman skates away with the puck, but Dubois is out. He is down and he is not moving.
      “The trainers are already over the boards as the referee blows the play dead.
      “This does not look good, folks.”

And there we have it.

Initially, I meant to write something that was about Thomas “the Tank Engine” Sherman, a thuggish fourth-line enforcer, but I feel like this might have ended up being more about Roman Dubois, a far more skilled sharpshooter. Of course, neither of the two are real hockey players, but perhaps this snippet of play-by-play might give the impression that they could be.

I'm excited for this project and can't wait to write some more.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Review - Flashpoint - Citizen Cold #1

Flashpoint - Citizen Cold #1
Written by : Scott Kolins
Art by: Scott Kolins

I want to like this book.  I really do.  I've never been a huge Flash fan, but I've always held a special place in my heart for the Rogues.  Something about their sense of brotherhood and loyalty is rather appealing and each member has a certain je ne sais quoi to them.  Chief among that would be Captain Cold, who by all logic, should be kind of lame, but somehow manages to combine the troubled childhood, ridiculous costume, and cold powers to make for a compelling character.

Therefore, a Flashpoint tie-in focusing on a re-imagined Captain Cold (here Citizen Cold) as a morally bankrupt villain masquerading as a hero to the people of Central City should be a home run, right?  Well, not so much.

Kolins is, in the minds of many, the Flash artist.  And while I personally prefer Francis Manipul's recent run on The Flash, I will not argue that Kolins can draw some mighty fine pictures.  However, despite his experience with the Scarlet Speedster, the writing on this issue leaves a lot to be desired.  There are a lot of interesting elements on display throughout the issue, including Citizen Cold trying to maintain the illusion that he is the hero Central City believes him to be, the incarcerated Rogues plotting to get their revenge on the man who has put them all behind bars, and Iris and Wally's investigative reporting to figure out just who this Citizen Cold really is.  However, these parts never really combine into a cohesive whole.  Kolins clearly knows his stuff, but there is something missing from this series that results in a well-drawn, but ultimately flat narrative.

Final Thoughts - I don't have much more to add on this one.  I'm sorry to say that, despite my interest, I will not be picking up the next issues in this series.  I know there are only two to go, but this book simply failed to connect with me on any level.  If you're a big Flash fan, I imagine there's something in here for you, but even then, it might not be enough.  If you're not that hot on the Flash or his Rogues, I would recommend giving this book a pass.

Review - American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #1

American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest #1
Written by: Scott Snyder
Art by: Sean Murphy

I've already spent a considerable amount of energy raving about Scott Snyder's American Vampire, so you can imagine that I was excited for the new 5 issues spin-off, Survival of the Fittest, by Snyder and artist Sean Murphy.  You would be right in your postulation, and even better, my excitement was well-rewarded by a fantastic first issue.

This series, like the main book at the moment, takes place in the midst of World War 2.  The difference for Survival of the Fittest is that it takes place a few months earlier, before the US officially entered the war.  And instead of being set in the far-flung locale of Hawaii, Survival of the Fittest #1 begins in New York City.

The first issues focuses on Felicia Book, a member of the Vassals of the Morning Star, a secret society dedicated to fighting against the vampire menace around the world.  Though Felicia has appeared as a minor character in issues of the main series and though the Vassals have been relatively important since early on in American Vampire continuity, Snyder manages to present both the character and the organization in a manner that gently reminds old readers and naturally informs new readers who and what they are without being didactic.  It's quite refreshing, in fact.

The book itself opens with a tense (and intense) scene in a local newspaper office, where Felicia tries to convince the paper owner that his organization has been infiltrated by vampires.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, the newsman is entirely unconvinced, leading directly to a well-crafted and well-executed fight between Felicia and the vampire infiltrator in question that gives the reader a taste of what could be to come in the series.  The scene is well-done on all fronts and shows that Felicia Book means business, can take care of herself, and will not suffer fools.

From there, the book slows down a bit for some exposition to spend some time setting up the goals and motivations of the characters that the next few issues will be following.  It does make for some "talking head" scenes, but the writing and art are of a caliber that it doesn't drag.  Frankly, I wish other comics could have such interesting and engaging conversations between their characters.

One minor nitpick I had was that Felicia comes off as a bit obtuse, as it seems to take her forever to make a glaringly obvious connection during these conversations.  However, though this bit of dramatic irony was a bit frustrating, it was by no means a deal breaker and, realistically, will probably go a long way towards developing Felicia's character.  I'll just have to wait and see what Snyder does with it in the coming issues.

I tend to focus a lot on a comic's writing, when reading and when reviewing them, but I would like to take a moment to praise Sean Murphy's brilliant work on this book.  He first came onto my radar with Grant Morrison's Joe the Barbarian, and Murphy stole the show on that book.  Well, the skill that he demonstrate there is on full display throughout Survival of the Fittest #1.  His layouts are really effective, doing a lot to keep a sense of momentum going, even through the latter half of the issue, which is a lot of talk from the characters.  It also doesn't hurt that Murphy can happens to be incredibly talented.  As I said, I am far more inclined to notice a comic's words, but Murphy's art is wonderful and really grabs me in a way I can't quite describe.  His work really adds to and supports all those little words, making the comic far better than it would have been in the hands of a lesser artist.

Final Thoughts - If you've been waiting to start reading American Vampire, but are intimidated by its numbering, this series looks like it will make a great jumping on point to help you familiarize yourself with the world Snyder has been crafting.  Additionally, Murphy's amazing art, doesn't hurt in the least.  Survival of the Fittest promises excitement, adventure, and some Nazi fighting.  If that doesn't sound good to you, I don't know what would.

Seriously though, you should buy this.  And you should buy American Vampire.  You won't regret it.

X-Men First Class - Xtras

This week's selection over at thoughtballoons is X-Men First Class.  My script, which went live yesterday evening, focuses on the possible reactions of the original X-Men after their first week at Professor Xavier's school.  However, it isn't the only thing I ended up with when writing for the X-Men.  While composing my submission, I found myself with three different ones to choose from.  Focus is what went up at thoughtballoons, but I always whipped up Different, which has similarities to my chosen script, and Report, which is kind of off-the-wall and only loosely fits into the "X-Men in the 1960s" prompt we got for the week.

The point of all this, is that I figured I shouldn't let those other two scripts go to waste, so after checking out my post at thoughtballoons, I'd invite you to check out the two pages I decided not to go with.

However, that's enough from me.  I'll let the scripts do the rest of the talking from here.

X-Men First Class - Different

Panels are arranged on a classic 3 by 3 grid.

1 – Scott and Hank are walking down a hall in Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters

SCOTT: I didn't like it at first, but I think I could get used to this.

HANK: Hmm?

SCOTT: This school. It sounded like a crazy idea, but I never really fit in at my old school, and it seems like things will be different here.

2 – They continue walking. Warren is coming towards them, wearing a grim look and walking briskly.

SCOTT: There won't be any bullying.

3 – Warren bumps into Scott, knocking Scott to the ground and causing him to drop all of his books.

SFX: shove!


4 – Scott and Hank are on their hands and knees, picking up Scott's books. Warren walks away without pausing.

WARREN: Watch where you're going, Four Eyes!

HANK (quietly): That was hardly necessary.

SCOTT: Well, at least everyone will be taking things seriously.

5 – Bobby flies by overhead, dressed as a surfer bum and corkscrewing wildly on his ice slide.

BOBBY: YAHOO! Oh man, this is great!

6 – Hank and Scott look towards Bobby as he continues on. Hank is already standing, while Scott is still on his hands and knees. In the background, Bobby's reckless “flight” brings him uncomfortably close to Warren, who has to duck to avoid being hit.

SCOTT: Well, at least there won't be anything to distract us from our studies.

JEAN (off-panel): Hey, Scott...

7 – Hank and Scott turn around to see Jean standing there, looking lovely. She smiles shyly and extends a hand to Scott.

JEAN: Are you okay?

8 – Scott accepts Jean's offered hand. Though Jean is shy, Scott is downright embarrassed, stumbling over his words and flushing brightly.

SCOTT (quietly): I am now that you're here.

SCOTT (2): I mean -- Yeah. Totally. Doing great. Sitting pretty.

SCOTT (3): ...

SCOTT (4): How are you?

9 – Scott and Jean walk off together. Hank watches them go, smiling to himself.

HANK: Yes, things will be very different here.

X-Men First Class - Report

Four rows of panels. Each row is of equal height. Row 1 consists of panels 1 through 3. Row 2 consists of panels 4 through 6. Row 3 is divided equally between panels 7 and 8. Row 4 is composed solely of panel 9, which takes up the entire width of the page.

1 – Professor Xavier is talking to the five original X-Men, Scott, Hank, Bobby, Warren, and Jean, outside of the X-Mansion. They are dressed in relatively 1960s era-appropriate clothing.

XAVIER: I've gathered you five brought you five young people to my School for Gifted Youngsters because you are all unique...

2 – The X-Men are in the Danger Room, just coming out of a combat simulation. They are wearing the regular X-Men uniforms, but everyone is sporting stereotypical 60s haircuts. Jean has a beehive. Scott sports a bandana and those round, 1960s era sunglasses instead of his regular visor. Hank and Bobby wear matching Beatles mop-tops, along with impressive beards. Warren's hair is grown quite long, and he has a full moustache.

SCOTT: That was good, but there's lots of room for improvement.

3 – Some of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants lie defeated at the feet of the X-Men. Magneto is in the background, in the midst of flying away in retreat. Hank is holding Warren, stopping him from giving chase. The 60s haircuts remain, and now their uniforms are tie-dyed.

HANK: Let him go, Warren. We'll get him next time.

4 – The X-Men sit around a television. Their 60s haircuts are only more obvious, and they are now decked out in super stereotypical hippie regalia.

NEIL ARMSTRONG (from television): ...and one giant leap for mankind.

ALL: Like, whoa...

BOBBY: Outta sight!

5 – Jean stands in front of a number of other young women. All wear 1960s clothing. Jean is holding her bra above her head, burning it. No dialogue.

6 – Warren is dressed exactly like Austin Powers. The only difference is his blond hair and angel wings. He makes the Austin Powers pose as some psychedelic colours go by in the background.

WARREN: Yeah, baby, yeah!

7 – Hank, in full hippie dress, is hanging off of a Sentinel's hand, placing a flower in its hand beam.

HANK: Make love, not war.

8 – The X-Men are on the Ed Sullivan show, playing instruments and dressed up like The Beatles. This is a recreation of The Beatles' actual performance. Everyone is in suits, sporting impressive mop-tops (even Jean), playing instruments and singing into their mics. The drum kits reads “The X-Men”.

ALL (with musical notes to denote singing): Jeanie in the sky, with diamonds!

9 – A young child stands in front of his class, giving a presentation. Behind him, “History of the X-Men” is written on the board. Hank sits at the teacher's desk, a look of disbelief on his face.

HANK (quietly) (1): That doesn't even begin to make sense. The timeline and chronology are all over the place --

STUDENT: But Mr. Logan told me it all happened that way, sir.

HANK: Of course he did.

(end scripts)

So there you have it.  Did I make the right choice?  Was Focus the right script to put up on thoughtballoons, or were one of these two better?  Feel free to let me know your thoughts on the matter in the comments.