Wednesday, February 13, 2013


 I've written about Empowered a lot here (so much so I've gone through and tagged all the posts for easy access for the next time I talk about Empowered) but haven't yet, to my knowledge (and the blog's search capabilities) said anything about the one-shots Adam Warren periodically runs in between releases of the larger book that usually riff on a piece of the universe he's built up around the titular bondage-prone heroine.

 Part of the reason I haven't is due to the fact that I've never thought to when I sit down to blog (and you would think, given how hard up I am for content, that it would be a "gimmie") and partly the other reason is that they're more entertaining in theory than in practice--technically accomplished (Warren chooses artists for these that match his style, but add some of their own to it as he tends not to draw the entirety of these one-shots).The first one-shot "The Wench With A Million Sighs" was ostensibly an analysis of Empowered by fan-favorite character Caged Demonwolf, who Warren had already overexposed and walloped into the ground in an earlier volume. The second, "Ten Question For The Maidman" featured his Batman riff in a featured role, and while in theory it should have been funnier than it was, it didn't quite get there.

 The most recent one-shot "Hell Bent or Heaven Sent" is the strongest of the one-shots so far, as it features an air-tight concept, some genuinely amusing conceits, and manages to make a pointed comment on the ever-present "male gaze" in superhero comics a literal story point, and if one were so disposed, one might also read guest artist Ryan Kinnard's (he of the quasi-infamous MAX Phoenix book that was blog-fodder a few years and that, all things considered, is best forgotten) presence as an added layer of commentary, if one so wanted to do that, though it might be carrying things too far.

 The plot of the story involves Empowered being introduced to the Superhomeys storage vault--one of the many places they teleport all their debris, junk, decommissioned weaponry and God only knows what else. The vault is overseen by legendary "douchemecha" (I love this book if only for coining that phrase) Mechanismo (who talks like Razor Ramon, which is just damn funny, no matter what), who got his powers from an alien female robot and can't understand the operating system that runs it all. This leads to him just randomly clicking on stuff just to accomplish something close to what he wants, which leads to the crisis this issue, because he exports his porn cache out and, since it's a nanotechnology plague, Empowered is alone against a very smutty version of a Grey Goo Bomb.

 There's a lot of good bits in here (apparently superpowered mechs spend all their time scanning bits of girls they like and merging them in Photoshop, which explains a whole lot about superheroes and Photoshop users, now that I think about it.) and allows Kinnard to do what he does best--draw sexy ladies attacking Our Heroine whilst shouting "SEXY TIME!"

 One must play to one's skill set.

 The whole thing is clever enough and manages (for the most part) to have it's smutty cake while commenting/eating it too, and it's clever without being too impressed with itself, which, in some points along the way with Empowered, Warren sis guilty of doing. Thankfully, things keep moving at a sufficiently brisk pace to where that's not an issue here.

 Which is good--however, the story doesn't "end" as much as "stops suddenly," It's odd, when you consider that the main books of Empowered are collections of short stories with common plot threads and seldom run for longer than the length of this book. I'm not sure what happened in this instance, but it's a shame the ending is stronger.

 But of the three one-shots, it's the best-realised so far, and the one that feels closest to Empowered's core preoccupations, and as such, it's well worth your time and four bucks in a way that say, Justice League, isn't.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Just Sayin': Master Plan?

 So I stumbled upon this think piece today that suggests that DC's utterly slipshod, occasionally horrible, and generally ropey new 52 is actually a willful act of temporary self-sabotage so they can shed their audience of die-hard fans who've been with DC for years and chase after a younger, sexier, more sociopathic demographic.

 I don't buy a word of it. While I agree that DC Comics urgently needs an audience other than myself, There are several points where it falls apart for me:

 1. DC Comics has never shown an ability to plan anything comprehensively, not even a lunch order to the Chinese place down the street.

 2. Intentionally sabotaging yourself in halfhearted pursuit of rewards to be determined at a later date is stupid.

 3. If you get rid of all the die-hards who are positively obsessed with the minutiae of DC continuity and yet still seem to hate-buy all the books, are you going to put a bullet in Geoff Johns' head just to show you're serious? Because you're not exactly innocent from exploiting this particular obsession when it's convenient for you to do so guys, and by giving him the keys to the caddy, it's something you institutionalized.

 4. What the hell kinda way is that to motivate someone, Coach Lombardi? "Now get out there and SUCK!"

 5. There are two tracks of logic I follow on this, and both of them are horrible. Either DC Comics is conducting a long, epic, troll of the last remnants of comic fans, or this is really the best they can do.

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Witless Prattle Winter 2013 Viewing Guide!

Well, it seemed like people like to hear what I'm watching on TV (the notion I am a tastemaker is proof the world and indeed, the entire universe, has probably leapt off the track in a fundamental, irrevocable way) and I figured I'd let this lay morbid long enough (those Justice League posts grind the soul out of you, you know) so I thought, in the name of generating easy content providing you with new and insightful critical thoughts on the pop culture of our day.

This then, is a rundown of the shows I'm following here in the first quarter of 2013:

 AMERICAN DAD: I am endlessly fascinated by the notion that American dad has about two seasons worth of episodes in the can that they can roll out at will despite being pre-empted, forgotten and shoved aside for one-hour Family Guy episodes (usually dreadful) or an extra episode of The Cleveland Show (The Caddyshack 2 of spin-offs--let's just pretend it never happened) It's the Anti-South Park, in terms of how it feels about timeliness.

 This is to its benefit, as it's not hidebound by doing feeling like it has to be au courant (which it tried to do early on and it was just god-awful then) and so can pursue any lunatic tangent they feel, whether said tangent is a quadriplegic with telekinesis or just providing and excuse for Patrick Stewart to be utterly batshit insane and hilarity, typically results.

 Naturally, this is the one that no one watches so much so . . .yeah. Leave it to me to back the winner.

 TRON: UPRISING: Bit of a cheat this one, as it aired its last episode last Sunday, but I thought it was worth a mention all the same. This show kinda spun its wheels in place at the mid-season break (it felt very much like the final episode had come ten episodes before it actually did) but this turned into a pretty interesting show, expanding on the story in between the first and second movies (and probably having more story and more depth than both combined--I mean, I love the movies but they sure as heck aren't deep)

 Naturally, they ran it at midnight on Sunday and have no cancelled it because no one was watching. Is that a tautology or a truism? I'm not sure.

 JUSTIFIED: Last week, Justified had an interesting master villain for the season in in Robert Quarles, who met one of the most bizarre fates possible in a TV show. This year it seems there's a larger plot but no apparent master villain (to be be fair, after three seasons, that would get a bit rote if they didn't change it up) and in the meantime it gives us some time to see our nominal protagonist and antagonists--Raylan Givens and arch-nemesis/occasional ally Boyd Crowder deal with the fallout of certain seismic changes in their lives and situations.

 I'm kinda curious to see how this plot they're developing plays out, though it is some curious commonality that it's a cold case from the early 80's, considering . . .

 THE AMERICANS:  . . .this show, which debuted this week, also takes place in the early 80's. I was intrigued by the premise (KGB sleeper agents in 1981 America) and despite the fact that the lead character is Felicity (" . . .on the WB," I find myself adding silently. If you're too young to get that, yo're a young punk and I hate you) she's actually pretty damn awesome in this (I respect anyone who punts someone's head through drywall) and the pilot really impressed me.

 Barring one thing--while I appreciate these kinds of elements are there to prove to us that these people are Tough Bastards who work for Evil People, was it necessary to have KGBelicity raped by her superior on-camera just so we'd have a character connection when she kills him twenty years later while he's trying to defect? That's . . .well, it feels too easy and I guess I was hoping for more nuance.

 They're the KGB. If you know even a little bit about them, you know what kind of hard-asses they are.

 That said, it's got an interesting dynamic--KGBelicity is all gung-ho about killing people for the KGB, and her husband (whom she was pared up with in what it is assumed is a loveless arranged marriage for the sake of their cover) is quite impressed with the amenities of the west.

 I'm intrigued to see where this goes--the mise en scene is quite interesting (the Soviets reaction to Regan being installed in the pilot was telling and adds some tension, knowing as we do that the USSR will be very different come the end of the decade) and for all my wisecracks, KGBelicity is an ass-kicker par excellence.

 ARCHER: Speaking of spies (man, this made for a great segue trifecta) The several parts spy comedy/office comedy/meditation on collective madness recently returned for its fourth season this month, and it's said that this season will be a bit more serialised, and I can see a little of that. My main thing was--would it be funny?

 As of last week's episode, featuring one of the best final two minutes in the show's history, I can safely say . . .most definitely.

 GREEN LANTERN: THE ANIMATED SERIES: Initially, I really hated this damn show, because Hal Jordan is a deeply boring character crammed full of undeserved smugness and a 1960s, boring-ass, Chuck Yeager manque who come across as a self-absorbed asshole sixty years removed from that milieu.

 The show won me over by doing what the comics did long ago--by generally allowing Hal to do the heavy lifting with regards to plot so the other characters can be far more interesting and overshadow his milquetoast ass. See also: why do you think there are five Green Lanterns from Earth in the comics, all of whom, even undercooked though they may be, are far more interesting than Hal Jordan by several orders of magnitude.

 This has been recently cancelled to the surprise of no one (as it was made to tie-in to a movie no one liked enough to want to see any more of) and while it's kind of a shame it's being dropped just as it hits it's stride it's . . .enjoyable enough, but I won't miss it that much.

 YOUNG JUSTICE: You'll hear a lot of stuff about Young Justice being cancelled, because holy GOD are people angry about this. They're . . .well, everyone's entitled to their opinion, but Young Justice really dropped off for me in this season.

 I hated the multi-year jump they did at the beginning of the season (it's a bullshit way to kick over the table without doing it logically and I hate it so much.) and far too much of the consequences of decisions made in that time-jump (which we were mostly left out of seeing) were driving the story, which is a bit like trying to go on a road trip without tires--you can kinda do it, but you will face many problems brought on by a fundamental absence of very necessary things.

 Couple this with the fact that one of the major driving plots as of late happens entirely because no one is willing to have a conversation with people who should probably know about things so they don't screw them up and . . .yeah. It's OK, like Green Lantern's OK, but this was not the new Justice League Unlimited, nor was it the panacea for lapsed DC fans who hated the new 52--it was a generally not-terrible DC cartoon that was a passable way to kill a half-hour.

 And that's what's on the docket for winter. Pretty soon Mad Men will return (and so will my reviews--I have no idea why people love my writeups SO MUCH, but they do) and the last few Breaking Bad episodes will also unspool. So there's that going for us, which is nice.