Fiction: “Wonder Woman: The New 52” by Brian Azzarello and others

I do not consider myself to be a comic book nerd. I went to most of the Marvel movies (usually with my Dad), and I remember reading Fantastic Four and Spider-Man comics he would let me borrow, but I never really read past that.

I was a Marvel kid – if you can call non-comic-book-nerd-me that at all. And I couldn’t tell you when I learned about Wonder Woman, or what made me like Wonder Woman; all I know is that I’ve just … really liked her.

In … late 2012, early 2013, maybe? I know I was working at Torrid in the mall, because I bought a bunch of these issues at Newbury Comics down the hall from my store – but anyway, DC Comics decided to reboot their entire line of comics. All of them. From Batman down to … I dunno, whatever hero the CW is going to go with to replace Arrow? Anyway, I purchased probably a good two and a half of these volumes when they were the actual comics, and I still have them here, in my house – in fact, I believe they are in a plastic tub in the library, waiting for their permanent home. (No, I haven’t finished unpacking. I will get to it. Eventually. If you want to know why I haven’t invited you to my house, it’s because I don’t want Judgy McJudgerson looking around at my half-empty tubs of things that still need to be unpacked and then glancing at me in pity. I’VE BEEN BUSY, LEAVE ME ALONE)

Anyway. At the same time as I was catching up with the Hawkeye series, I was also catching up on the Wonder Woman series that was relaunched again, somewhere between 2011 and 2013 that was branded as “the New 52,” referring to the 52 different heroes and book titles that DC had to reboot.

And I was excited – you know me, I love origin stories! Or, at least, reading series from the beginning! And again, I knew I liked Wonder Woman, and I knew she had a lasso of truth and bulletproof bracelets and an invisible jet, and she didn’t kill people, and as far as I could tell she didn’t turn to crime-fighting because someone murdered her parents in an alley after the opera (or whatever); but I didn’t know where she came from. So I appreciated that The New 52 would provide an origin for me to begin with Wonder Woman.

Hoo boy, did it seem convoluted at times.

Long story (six compilation volumes long) short (I’m trying): In this version of lore, Wonder Woman/Diana was not formed from clay because Hippolyta, the Queen of the Amazons, wanted a child; Diana was the product of a liaison between Hippolyta and Zeus. Hera, Zeus’ wife, is extremely jealous of all of Zeus’s children conceived with other women. The story begins when Hera sends a couple of her minions to kill the latest girl Zeus impregnated, Zola. Hermes is there to protect her, and he sends Zola to Diana for safekeeping.

The plot appears to be a pretty banal, “protect the pregnant woman from assassins” type of deal. But as you read, you learn that Zola and her child are just pawns in a plot to take down the entire Greek pantheon of gods – Zeus’s first son, an unnamed, quasi-Titan who had been banished to … I dunno, Antarctica, let’s say, has resurfaced and is making a play for the throne. Zeus is missing. Apollo is getting his family together – including Ares, Strife, and Artemis – to call a council and determine a successor to Olympia, who he hopes to be himself. And also, Diana is there.

See, there’s a prophecy – there’s always a prophecy – that one of Zeus’s children will kill another. And they seem to think it’s Zola’s baby that will do that, which is why there are so many people aside from Hera interested in killing Zola and/or the baby before the baby is born. But surprise surprise, the prophesied god killer is actually Diana; before the end of the series, she is named a full-fledged god in the pantheon, practically against her will.

The series, as I said, is convoluted. There is occasional humor, and Diana always operates from the warmth and compassion she is known for, but … I dunno, I guess I was hoping for more standard comic book villains and not, y’know, Greek gods? Not that that’s a bad thing; it just wasn’t what I expected.

Anyway. I’m glad that Wonder Woman came out in 2017 and gave me a better origin story than The New 52 did. (Although yes, I totally agree that the third act of that movie is crap on a stick and I thank all gods, new and old, that Wonder Woman 84 has nothing to do with Zack Snyder.)

Grade for Wonder Woman, volumes 1 – 6: 2.5 stars

Fiction: “Hawkeye: Volumes 2 through 4” by Matt Fraction and various others

It has been a while since I read any comics compilations. At some point in 2020, I’m planning to go through the Fables series again. But I learned that the Auburn library has a pretty deep selection of comic volumes, so over the course of March and April, I finished the Hawkeye series that I started reading back in 2014.

Volume 2, Little Hits (by Matt Fraction and David Aja), is made up of six issues that show what Clint Barton and Kate Bishop, the Hawkeyes, get into when they’re not working with the Avengers (although Kate is only practically an Avenger). The first issue takes place during Hurricane Sandy, but the rest show Clint in conflict with a group of the Russian mob (?) who are also involved in Kingpin.

And look, here is where I should give the caveat that a) I have watched most of the MCU, and b) I’ve watched a single season of Daredevil, so I have a bare inkling of who all these people are. Don’t “fake comics girl” me, okay?

The Russians are mad that Clint bought the apartment building out from under the Russians (I think they were hoping to purchase the building to raze it and build … I don’t know, let’s say a casino or something, it was probably in the first issue I read five years ago, cut me some slack). And then an ex-flame of Clint’s shows up and throws a wrench into Clint’s relationship with his girlfriend (or “friend-girl,” as one issue identifies her) Jessica – and I’m assuming this is Jessica Jones? But I’m probably wrong?

(Note from the Future: I was wrong – she’s Jessica Drew, also known as Spider-Woman.)

Anyway. Kate Bishop tries to keep the guardrails on Clint’s “car-crash life”, but when one of the tenants in the building gets murdered because of this war between Clint and the Russians, Kate decides to take off – with Lucky Dog – and heads out to Los Angeles.

L.A. Woman (by Matt Fraction) is Volume 3, and these six issues show the trouble and shenanigans Kate and Lucky Dog get into in California. Kate, who up till now has relied on her father’s largesse to keep her in style, finds herself stranded and penniless when dear old Daddy cuts her off. Luckily, Kate runs into Whitney Frost – who, fun fact!, was the Big Bad of the second season of Agent Carter, which I was rewatching around the same time as I was reading this series – who offers her a place to stay for a night. But Kate’s Spidey Senses are tingling, and she escapes once she learns that her benefactor is actually Madame Masque, and Madame Masque had sworn vengeance on the Hawkeyes after “what happened in Madripoor”.

What happened in Madripoor?

confused baby

Kate manages to get a job catsitting for a couple of lesbian hippies who want to attend Coachella or something, and then makes every attempt to become a private detective. In every issue, she gets beaten up and arrested or brought in for questioning. It turns out that not only are all of her cases linked to Madame Masque (“your case and my case? are the same fucking case”), but her father is also involved with Masque’s business of creating perfect bodies so your essence can live forever.

Gross.

Defeated, Kate returns to Brooklyn and the other Hawkeye. The final volume, Rio Bravo (by Matt Fraction and David Aja), shows Clint teaming up with his brother Barney and the rest of the tenants to defend the apartment building from the Russians. Kate comes back from LA in the nick of time and helps rescue Barton from certain death. At the end, Clint’s ex-wife Bobbi (apparently the same Bobbi that Adrianne Palicki played on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) helps him to purchase the building legally (albeit with a forged signature), but also Barney absconds with the money that Clint stole from him.

I’m glad I finished the series. But. I dunno. While reading them, I was able to make assumptions as to who the characters are (see where I assumed “Jessica” meant “Jessica Jones,” even though she was very clearly wearing a spider-esque costume in one scene), and even though I was wrong I was able to get the jist of the story.

But I also … I dunno, Hawkeye’s not … really … I think I finished the series to be done with it, y’know? If I have to pick a favorite Avenger, it’s Chris Evans. No, not Captain America – if I meant Captain America I would have said Captain America. Captain America is my second favorite Avenger, but I do not have the time or the energy to devote to catching up on all of his backstory. And Captain America is, like, at least seventeen points ahead of Hawkeye on the Alaina Avenger Scale, so, really, the only reason I finished reading this series is because a) the library had them all and b) why not, there were only three volumes, it didn’t take me long.

I’m sure they’re fine. I like Kate Bishop, and I hope that Disney/Marvel decides to make the Hawkeye TV series about her and not Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, for a multitude of reasons. (Not that it matters to me, I don’t have a Disney+ account yet and I’m waiting to see how long I can hold off on “needing” it. The Hawkeye series is definitely *not* going to be the thing that makes me shell out more money to that fucking mouse.) Maybe I didn’t like these volumes as much as Volume 1 because Kate and Clint are separated for most of it? I don’t know. I just know each of these books are getting a lower star grade and I needed to justify it in some way.

Look, they’re fine. They’re probably better than fine if you’ve read more than none Avenger or Marvel comic books. But I’m not that person, so “fine” is going to have to be … fine.

(Also: I didn’t assign a Guster song to these compilations – I wasn’t sure if I should do it on each individual volume or overall, and at the end of the day I really didn’t care that much.)

Grade for Hawkeye: Little Hits, LA Woman, and Rio Bravo: 2 stars

Fiction: “Sex Criminals” Vol. 1, by Matt Fraction / Chip Zdarsky

sex-criminals-vol-1I had seen this graphic novel advertised on the interwebs, and I found a used copy at Bull Moose one day. I was familiar with Matt Fraction – he wrote the Hawkeye series I started to read (and have yet to find a library version of the next volume, what the hell, Yarmouth Library), and this series was touted as a comedy with heart.

I should probably explain two things before digging into this. First of all, this book is DEFINITELY Not Safe For Work. Secondly, this book is named “Sex Criminals” because the lead characters are two consenting adults who have sex and then commit crimes. I want to emphasize that this book does not detail sexual crimes.

Finally, I’m writing this while watching the Cubs play the Giants in Game 3 of the NLDS. I want to extend my sympathies to Red Sox Nation, and I’m hoping I can finish this entry before the end of the game. (How mad was I when I found out the game wasn’t scheduled to start until 9:30 EST? SO MAD. I have to go back to work tomorrow, you guys! The good news I have about that is I’ve already put tomorrow’s outfit in the bathroom and my purse and shoes are already by the door – I shouldn’t have any reason why I couldn’t hit the Topsham Starbucks on tomorrow’s commute.)

Okay. So, the graphic novel stars Suzie, who learned when she was a teenager that when she orgasms, time stops. Like, the world is frozen, but she can run around and do stuff, including yell at her mother and pet tigers at the zoo and just really wonder what the hell is going on. She calls it “in the Quiet,” and she’s all alone in the quiet until she meets Jon.

Jon is also able to enter “the Quiet” when he orgasms, except he calls it “Cumworld,” after the porn shop he frequents as a teenager – and when I say “frequent,” I mean “visit the bank across the street from the adult toy store, rub one out in the public restroom, then run across the street to the porn shop undetected.”

Jon works for BankCorp, which is the bank Suzie’s father worked for until he got in the way of another banker on a day the markets crashed. Suzie’s father got caught with a bullet or pushed out a high-story window – either way, he died, and Suzie’s mother was really unable to take care of herself or her daughter. When Suzie started asking normal teenage sex questions, her mother dismisses her curiosity. So Suzie starts doing her own research, and ends up in the library.

Flash-forward to now: Suzie still works at the library, but the bank is going to foreclose on it. (Rutting bastards – how dare you foreclose on a library!) She meets Jon at her Save the Books Party, and their first date lasts almost three full days. They keep hanging out, and then Jon comes up with a brilliant idea – why don’t they use The Quiet to pay off the library’s debt? By having sex in public, and then taking small amounts of money from various banks?

And that works really well — holy Jesus, we’re only in the third inning still?! (I just looked up – I shouldn’t have looked up. This game has gone for almost an hour and a half and we’re just in the third?! Crap. I am going to be One Tired Alaina tomorrow morning.)

ANYWAY, before the Giants scored, I was going to say that Suzie and Jon’s plan works very well – until the Sex Police get wind of what they’re doing, and show up on the day of their big heist.

Because yes, there is a shadowy organization of others who can enter The Quiet, and they’re trying to stop Suzie and Jon from doing what they’re doing. What hasn’t been revealed yet is their motive or reason for being.

Being a graphic novel collection, this was a very quick read for me – although to be honest, I think I started reading it the weekend of my sister’s wedding because I left the book I was reading in my car or something, and I was so tired that week that it still took me a couple of days to read it. Normally, I can read a graphic novel compilation in a night. But dammit, Kid, your wedding wore me out.

I recommend it. The plot is definitely something I’ve never read before, the characters are great, and the art is gorgeous. Just keep in mind that it is truly rated M for Mature and Not Safe For Work – it’s not just words that are dirty, here. Entire chapters of the story take place at a porn store. And it’s a graphic novel. That means visuals.

Grade for Sex Criminals, Vol. 1: One Weird Trick: 4 stars

Fiction: “Hawkeye: My Life As a Weapon” Vol. 1, by Matt Fraction/David Aja

hawkeye coverSo as I said the last time we were here, this was my other “impulse-borrow” from my trip to the library a couple of weeks ago.  And when I finished reading And Only to Deceive I needed something to read before I went to bed, so I read half of this late Friday night and the other half Saturday morning when I woke up with that fucking OneRepublic song acting as the soundtrack to my dream.

Look, in case you haven’t been following along, the woman who shares an office with me at my job listens to the radio for her entire shift.  Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem – I like music, I like radio, and unless she’s listening to gangsta rap (which she wouldn’t, she’s in her 50s) or country, I’m gonna be okay.

Oh, how naive I was.  Because here I was, assuming that a radio station that proclaimed itself to have “Maine’s best mix” would actually play more than thirty songs in a day.  Boy, was I wrong.  And the song that I have heard the most is that fucking “Counting Stars” song by OneRepublic.  On Friday, I heard it 5 times.  FIVE.  TIMES.  Every fucking two hours.  If I ever meet a member of OneRepublic, I will punch him right in his stupid little face.

And guys, I may not have mentioned this before, but years ago, “better man” by Pearl Jam would follow me around on multiple radio stations, and I would cringe and hate that song (because weird, odd stuff would always happen when I heard it), but seriously, I would WILLINGLY listen to that song ON REPEAT for an ENTIRE HOUR if that means I would never have to hear that fucking OneRepublic song again.  THAT IS NOT AN IDLE THREAT, MAKE IT HAPPEN VEDDER I’LL DO IT

Needless to say, when I woke up Saturday morning with that fucking song playing in my head for no other reason than my unconscious mind hates me, I needed something to put me back to sleep.  Good news for Hawkeye: I finished it instead and then had to break out my all-time favorite for inducing insomnia: Ten Days That Shook the World by John Reed, which supposedly describes the Russian October Revolution in 1919.  I say “supposedly” because I can’t make it past the introduction.

I saw Hawkeye – or this edition of him, anyway – as scans passed through on my tumblr.  The author, Matt Fraction, is apparently a friend of Wil Wheaton, and so he’s got some geek cred going for him.  Previous to the comics, all I knew about Hawkeye was from Thor and The Avengers, so I didn’t really have an idea as to his backstory was: I knew that he was a member of SHIELD before the Avengers were formed, and that he’s super-awesome with a bow and arrow, and that he and Natasha Romanoff have a history.  I was hoping for some Black Widow / Hawkeye friend!adventures, clearing the red in their ledgers, but even though this book didn’t give me that, it didn’t disappoint.

What drew me to the comics was the color scheme: everything is in shades of purple and yellow, which are Hawkeye’s colors.  We meet this Hawkeye (or Clint Barton) after he’s become an Avenger, but we don’t see him being an Avenger in these issues.  We see him being a stand-up guy, going after the bullies who are going after the little guys, and we see him rescuing a stray dog that eventually becomes known as Lucky Dog.

(On his way to breaking up an underground gambling ring, he gives this stray dog a piece of his pizza.  On his way out of the underground gambling ring, being chased by a bunch of gun-toting bad guys, the same stray dog jumps in front of Hawkeye and saves him, then gets hit by a car.  The next frame is Hawkeye laying the dog down on a 24-hour vet clinic saying, “Lady.  Save. This. Dog.”  And I was hooked.)

Anyway, he rescues Lucky Dog, and we also meet his cohort Kate Bishop, who is the Hawkeye in the Young Avengers (apparently).  (Gleaned backstory: at some point Hawkeye was believed to be dead, and Captain America gave Kate Bishop’s Hawkeye’s boy and arrow and the name Hawkeye.  When Clint came back [to life? not sure], he let her keep the name but he wanted his bow back, so now they work together on occasion.)

Their relationship is an amazing platonic, bantery, brother-sister relationship.  It’s kind of adorable.

I don’t really have much to talk about plot-wise: he’s a good guy, he saves the day, he shoots arrows and drives cars (and boats – see later), he likes women but not Kate because she’s the little sister he never had, and also he has a dog.

Have some pictures that truly show Hawkeye:

hawkeye cumberbatch  hawkeye coffee pot

(He’s drinking coffee straight out of the pot.  A man after my own heart.)

And finally – I saw this on tumblr, and I didn’t think it was real until I saw it in the book:

hawkeye great at boysYes you are, Hawkeye.  Yes, you are.

Grade for Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon4 stars

Fiction: “The Green Lantern Chronicles, Volume I” by John Broome/Gil Kane

So I have a long, torrid history with The Green Lantern. Okay, not very long — maybe about eight years long. And not torrid, either. Actually, everything I just said was a lie. Maybe what I should have said just there was that I’ve always had a fascination with The Green Lantern.

It all started one night at Franklin Pierce College. I had gone down for the weekend to hang out, and we had been drinking (as college kids are wont to do), and Justice League comes on Adult Swim or whatever. And we end up watching it. And it’s the episode where Aquaman gets his hand chopped off, and when he comes back at the end of the episode with A HOOK FOR A HAND, all five of us in the room at the time yell, in unison, “Daaaaaamn, Aquaman!”

That led to a discussion of which member of the Justice League was the lamest. Considering the original members of the Justice League are: Aquaman, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Green Lantern, the Martian Manhunter, and the Flash, we had some choice. And we ended up choosing the Green Lantern as the winner. Or, rather (and more appropriately), the loser.

In fact, ever since that fateful night, we have been unable to mention the Green Lantern without proclaiming that he is the bitch of the Justice League. Not that he’s bitchy; just that he’s the Justice League’s bitch. Because while Superman and Batman are out having fun, fighting over Wonder Woman, and generally saving the world, Green Lantern’s stuck doing the housework at headquarters. They send him out to pick up the dry cleaning. He follows Aquaman around with a mop. Y’know, that kind of bitchery.

When I was younger and in even lower low-level management, I proclaimed myself the Green Lantern of the department leadership, because they had made me their bitch. It’s gotten better since then, though I have not yet progressed far enough to determine who my Green Lantern is. My potential Green Lanterns keep getting taken away from me.

So this leads me to the movie about Green Lantern coming out. And I fully intend to see it at some point — though, after the short clip they played on Conan the other night, I’m most likely going to wait until it comes out in Redbox format, because it looks super cheesy. Like, Twilight-level of cheese. Which means that if I go to see it in the theatre, I will be sneaking in a flask of some form of alcohol.

Now, all of this blathering does nothing to describe the collection of comics I just finished reading. See, I had decided at the beginning of the summer that one of my Summer Improvement Projects was to find the archives of Green Lantern comics and read from the beginning. I mean, you can do that with Spider-Man, and the Fantastic Four, and I’m still working my way through the Fables series (who the hell in the Portland area has Volume 12 of that!?), why couldn’t I do that with Green Lantern? And here’s where I could digress into a discussion of why I picked the Chronicles to read rather than the Showcase editions (number one reason: they’re in color), but I’m not going to.

There’s not a lot of plot involved in these comics. I see a brief glimpse of the epic storytelling that would soon come to dominate comics, both DC and Marvel, but for the most part, the storeis are all one-shots. The main character is Hal Jordan, an ace test pilot for Ferris Aircraft Company. Mr. Ferris has recently taken a two-year-long tour of the world, leaving his daughter Carol in charge of the company. Prior to her father’s leave, Carol had been encouraging Hal in his affections for her; but now that she’s the boss, there will be no fraternization.

And then Hal becomes the Green Lantern. Some dude in a spaceship crash-lands on our planet and searches for a fearless, honest man to take over the work of a Guardian, as the space-dude is dying. He finds Hal, Hal takes the Power Battery (“it looks like a green lantern!”) and the dead man’s clothes, I mean come on, he couldn’t have made his own Super Suit? (And now I’m imagining Edna Mode getting into an argument with Hal over his HOBO SUIT and that there will be absolutely NO CAPES, and that would have IMMEDIATELY raised the rating on this to 10 stars.)

For Hal, the major complication isn’t that he now leads a secret life as the Green Lantern; it’s not even the fact that he has to recharge his Power Ring every 24 hours (what? 24 hours? You don’t have a better battery backup than that?!); and it’s not even the fact that the Green Lantern’s powers are unable to work on anything yellow (don’t get me started); it’s the fact that Carol Ferris has fallen in love with the Green Lantern and wants to marry him, yet keep Hal on the side as a friend.

At this point, I’ve discussed all the plot points I can. So I turn to what I’ve been looking forward to since I began reading this: pictorial evidence of His Lameness.

Let’s begin with this point: apparently, Coast City (the home of Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern) is in British Columbia. Why? Well, based on this evidence, the Green Lantern must be Canadian:


There are more pictures, but I don’t want to tie up all your bandwidth, ‘eh?’ [Oh, speaking of: I have a point to make. How do you write the Canadian ‘eh’? It’s ‘eh,’ correct? Not ‘ay’? I’m right. I have to be right.]

Here’s a screenshot of Hal and Carol in Carol’s office, with Hal trying to ask her on a date and failing miserably on more than one level:

And as if he weren’t enough of a hound-dog, how about this view into his thoughts?:


But enough about his bordering-on-assault tendencies (it was the early Sixties, after all — have you guys seen Mad Men? Kinda par for the course). How about this: he’s so lame, he lives at the hangar:


In all two hundred or so pages I read, nowhere does it show Hal in his ‘apartment’ — it’s always “his private dressing room in the hangar.” It’s so sad!

And let’s talk about the lamest of the lame: the fact that he has no power over anything yellow.


I can’t — I can’t even. YELLOW? Not, like, something made out of adamantium or a meteor. No, just everyday, ordinary yellow. And to make things worse, the Golden Age Green Lantern (Alan Scott, in the 1940s) was defeatable by wood. Which, in the words of Raj Koothrapalli, that means that both Green Lanterns can be taken out by a #2 Pencil.

Here’s a fun sequence about yellow:


WHY DON’T YOU JUST PICK THE THING UP, DUMBASS? It’s just a yellow dome over your lamp — I BET YOU COULD LIFT IT IF YOU TRIED.

Penultimately, I would be remiss if I didn’t show you this last shot:


THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID.

And finally, a word from one of our sponsors:

“Oh, Waldorf, don’t look so surprised. Your precious Green Lantern is no match for me, Chuck Bass. As you can see, I can pull off a green suit the likes of which Jordan couldn’t begin to imagine. And in addition to my sartorial finesse, I don’t have any weaknesses. And if I were to have failings, they wouldn’t be as horrifyingly dull as ‘yellow.’ I mean, come on; I look amazing in yellow. Now darling, I must send you back to this season’s prince or whatever; I have important feats of daring-do to attend to, without help from a ring or Guardians of Oa. Nay, my most important task is to rescue us from that most devastating of evil villains: mediocrity.”

Grade for The Green Lantern Chronicles, Volume I: 1 star

Fiction: “Watchmen” by Alan Moore / Dave Gibbons

watchmen-book-cover-webI don’t think it’s news to any of my readers, new or old, that I’m a geek. When one of my reps was astonished at my ability to name all twelve colors of the Ultra-Absorbent towels without a crib sheet, I was forced to admit that I can name the first one hundred episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in order. It’s a great party trick, but only for people who are fellow geeks.

Anyway. Speaking of Buffy, I’ve been reading the Season 8 comics since they were released. This summer I got into the Fables series by Bill Willingham, and really enjoyed it. I don’t discuss Fables as I read them because the stories are intertwined and even though they’re collections in paperback form, I find it hard to classify them as a book. I read the first collection of Sandman, and honestly, it creeped me out a bit more than I like seeing in a comic.

But since I enjoyed Fables and the graphic novel is a genre I hadn’t really explored, plus, there’s a movie of it now, I picked up Watchmen from the library. Continue reading