Wednesday, August 31, 2011

FIGcast - Episode 32 - "The Good Kind of Heart Attack"

Doughnut-induced heart attacks are the best.

FIGcast - Episode 32 - "The Good Kind of Heart Attack"


Don't forget, you can email us at, you can follow us on Twitter with @theFIGcast, or you can look for us on Facebook or the iTunes Store.

DCnU Review: Justice League #1

Hi, this is Justice League #1, the first issue of the DC's New 52.

    At first glance it may look like the new book starring the Justice League. After all, that's what the title certainly implies. But guess what, it's not. No, this book certainly stars some of the League's core members, but it is far from being a book about the team at this point. Rather, Justice League #1 is this: an introduction to the DC Universe.
     If you are a long time comic book reader, you might have felt a nagging feeling of familiarity with Justice League #1. In spirit the first issue of the brand new series bears a closer resemblance to DC's classic Brave and the Bold series than any of the past Justice League relaunches. A re-imagining of the Justice League's origin, the majority of the issue revolves around just two of the future roster (unsurprisingly Batman and Green Lantern). While a couple of other heroes eventually show up, neither are given much page-time. Superman and Vic Stone both make appearances but the former is only on one page while the latter is still in his pre-Cyborg form. The result is that Justice League #1 feels more like a Batman/Green Lantern team-up than anything else.
     If issue one is any indication, the series will act as a mixture of origin and crash-course of who's-who in the DCU. The team's formation will be explored with the gradual addition of characters. Each character will be given time to shine and a moment to exhibit their characterization beats. From a comic book geek's perspective, this is a funny choice. The last decade and a half has seen at least two revamps to the Justice League's origin story and, while we expected relaunch-inspired tweaks, few of us guessed how much emphasis would be placed on the new origins.
     This leads to a very important distinction: Justice League #1 is not for us. Comic book junkies were going to buy it anyways. Geoff Johns and Jim Lee were enough to spark the interest of anyone already comfortable within the realm of comic books. No, Justice League #1 and its plotting, art, dialogue, characters, and characterizations was designed specifically for the much coveted new reader audience. So, when the story begins with Batman (DC's most popular character) and adds Green Lantern (DC's hottest character, failed summer blockbuster aside), it is obvious what they are doing. They are taking the characters that the general public is most familiar with and using them to open the door for new readers. The months that follow will surely see superheroes added in ways that act like introductions to the individual characters for the uninitiated reader.
     While this may seem remedial to long-time collectors, it is an absolutely essential part of DC's plan. The fact that Justice League is the first (and only) book being released in the first week of the relaunch should tell you that it will be the engine that powers the DCnU. If that's the case, then the book needs to be at its most new reader friendly. Perhaps later story-arcs will take a more traditional tone but, if the first issue is any indication, Justice League #1 looks like it will read more like an introduction than anything else.
     Even the apparent villain of the first story-arc will be something of an introduction for new readers. Johns is not messing around with lesser baddies. While other Justice League origins have not usually included any of DC's “big bads”, this new retelling certainly goes for the gusto with one of the company's biggest. As non-traditional comic book fans read Justice League they will be shown who one of the real evil forces in the DCU is.
     Overall, it was a somewhat disappointing first issue. I'm never a fan of re-telling origins, not immediately at least. Yet, on an academic level, I understand why they are doing what they are doing. New readers are the goal and this book is DC 101. That's fine. Hopefully, once the newbies are hooked and all the pieces are in place, old and new readers alike can get the stories Johns is capable of. For now, though, we will just have to wait and see how things develop.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Archived for your Pleasure

In order to make your reading experience as enjoyable as possible, I have collected some of our most popular postsinto handy-dandy archives.  You can find the super-helpful links right under our banner!

Feel free to take some time to browse our past posts:
Listen to old episodes at the FIGcast Archives!
Read our (ie Trey's) take on the DCnU!
Learn about the history of Westeros with Tripp's Game of Thrones Primers!
Revisit the various times we have been wrong about casting speculations! Featuring GoT and more!
Join us as we delve into geekified literary journeys!

Friday, August 26, 2011

FIGcast - Episode 31 - Apocalypse Sunday

Will the world end on Sunday thanks to Hurricane Irene?  Find out next Wednesday!

FIGcast - Episode 31 - "Apocalypse Sunday"

  • (03:12) Darren saw Jerusalem, visited Tripp, and was in an earthquake
  • (09:07) Trey bought Fables - Rose Red, Hellboy 6, saw Sucker Punch and set up his first pullbox
  • (11:57) Keith saw Ben Folds, didn't get an HP Touchpad, and played Deus Ex
  • (14:20) Tripp won Trivia solo, saw Fright Night, read Fables
  • (21:59) Blu-Rays (Troll Hunter)
  • (24:42) Coming Attractions (Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, Columbiana, Our Idiot Brother)
  • (30:05) Box Office Results (The Help wins!  That's right, it opened last weekend.)
  • (37:44) Tidbits: Superman has no underwear, Steve Jobs steps down as CEO of Apple
  • (54:06) There may be another Star Trek franchise on the way.  We discuss how we would pitch one.
  • (86:35) We recap a bit of what we talked about last week.  NPRs top 100 sci-fi and fantasy books and Keith's DCnU rebuttal
Don't forget, you can email us at, you can follow us on Twitter with @theFIGcast, or you can look for us on Facebook or the iTunes Store.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

15 DCnU Books to Watch: “The Best of the Ancillary Bat-books!"

Look, even to a DC Comics Zombie, the company's September relaunch can seem intimidating. The information is almost overwhelming—52 brand new books, a smattering of new characters interjected into the publisher's traditional roster, and completely new creative teams on almost every book. On top of that, the chances of all 52 (or even a high percentage) being worth buying is minuscule. So, for you gentle reader, I have taken the time to separate the wheat from the chaff, to isolate the cream of the crop, and to highlight the must-haves of the DCnU. Once a week, between now and the end of August, I will attempt to explain and justify my choices for the 15 most important books of DC's upcoming relaunch.

This week, the The Best of the Ancillary Bat-books: Batgirl, Batwoman, and Batman and Robin!

Batgirl (Gail Simone and Ardian Syaf)

     Last month, as DC was revealing the books that would make up their New 52 relaunch, Tripp and I attempted to guess what books would be on the list. To me, a Batgirl book seemed like a no-brainer. After all, Brian Q. Miller's run on the book was making Stephanie Brown the most popular iteration of the character since the original Barbara Gordon character. While early indications implied that September would see a mixture of relaunch, re-branding and reboot, I was certain Batgirl would be one of the least changed. Steph was a fan favorite and Barbara Gordon was one of those rare characters that had transitioned successfully to a new persona in Oracle. Early revelations (and logic) implied that characters and books that worked well would be returning in the DCnU. As we have seen, Batman and Green Lantern are barely being touched. Then, when the first cover of new Batgirl was released with Barbara Gordon's rust colored hair instead of Steph's blonde, the comic book community went kerplooey. Because of Miller's recent run and Bab's beloved status as both Batgirl and Oracle, the new book is, without a doubt, the comic that has caused the most press of the DC Relaunch. Fittingly, it is also one of the books with the greatest potential.
     The evolution of Barbara Gordon is a fascinating story. Like Jimmy Olsen and Perry White before her, Babs' origins are based in a separate medium from comic books. Her first appearance coincided with the third season of the popular Adam West Batman television series. Played by the lovely Yvonne Craig, she sported the iconic dark purple batsuit with long hair flowing out from under her cowl. Once Batgirl made her first appearance within the DCU proper, she became one of the company's most popular heroines. In the late 1980s Alan Moore had Joker paralyze her in the Killing Joke. (Spoiler alert, for those of you that have not read a comic book that is over twenty years old by this point, I guess.) Later creators would take Barbara and transform her into Oracle, the digital eyes and ears of the DCU. Way back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Babs was capable of stuff Anonymous can only dreams about. Dennis O'Neil and Chuck Dixon would transition Oracle into her most famous roles—as one of Batman's biggest allies and the leader of The Birds of Prey, respectively.
     While Oracle's role in the greater DCU has won many people over, it was not without its controversy. Gail Simone famously included Barbara on her list of Women in Refrigerators. The name refers to Alex Dewitt who was shoved into a fridge by Major Force as way to taunt her boyfriend Green Lantern Kyle Rayner. The Women in Refrigerators list catalogs female characters who were injured, depowered or otherwise came to violent ends. Simone was later given an opportunity to remedy the situation when she wrote Birds of Prey. She helped build Barbara/Oracle into one of the most powerful, respected, and popular members of the DC pantheon. As one of a very limited number of disabled characters in superhero comics, Oracle gained a very unique place in comic books. The idea of Barbara returning to her Batgirl role and DC's seeming plan to erase her Oracle years, has not sat well with many Babs fans.
     Personally, I think the choice to return Barbara to her Batgirl role is a perplexing one. The powers-that-be-at-DC have stated that they wanted to return some of their characters to their most iconic versions—a decision I understand to an extent. Yet, it opens all kinds of weird questions. Is Barbara's most iconic persona Batgirl at this point? As a child of the 90s, to me, Barbara is Oracle. I was vaguely aware she was once Batgirl, but Oracle was much cooler and interesting. On top of that, there are an extremely limited number of characters that writers have been able to transition from one role to another as successfully as Barbara went from Batgirl to Oracle. Plus, Miller's pre-relaunch run on Batgirl was well received and had laid the groundwork from Stephanie Brown's rise to prominence. In my opinion, Batgirl is one of the few books where DC missed the point of their own relaunch.
     Complicating things is the fact that Batgirl is going to be a good book. Taking the helm is none other than Gail Simone, one of the writers who had a hand in making Barbara Gordon's Oracle alter-ego so popular. If there is anyone that understands what makes Barbara an interesting character it is Simone. She has stated that she identifies with the character and all indications point to her requesting the assignment. Simone is as close to a cult-favorite I can think of within the comic book industry. Her run on Secret Six did not exactly sell like hotcakes, but the comic was consistently called the best book published by DC. (Incidentally, S6's disappearance in the DCnU is another perplexing choice on DC's part, but that's for a different post.) Over the last five years, Simone also had fan-favorite runs on Birds of Prey and Atom. Relative newcomer Ardian Syaf is slated to handle artistic duties on Batgirl. Since 2008, Syaf has been pretty prolific, mostly working for DC. His work has a nice finished look, smooth but detailed and he knows how to arrange pages well. Though it was very limited, they have worked together in the past—Syaf penciled issue 7 of Simone's Birds of Prey.
     Bottom-line: Simone is well aware of the various sides of the Batgirl controversy. She will handle the character and her transition better than anyone else could. Few writers understand Barbara Gordon like Simone and she will treat the character with care. In the end, I hope she is able to please many of the fans of Oracle and Batgirl, and Babs and Steph.

Batwoman (J.H. Williams III, Haden W. Blackman, and Amy Reeder)

     I think few people were surprised by Batwoman's inclusion in the DCnU. Rarely has a new character done so little and been so popular. First appearing in the 2006 year-long event 52, the new Batwoman was mostly famous for being a high-profile lesbian superhero...and little else. After appearing in several issues of 52, Kate Kane was relegated to guest-star status for a couple of years. It was not until 2009 that the new Batwoman was given a starring role in Detective Comics. In a now legendary run, Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III took Batwoman and turned her into one of the most fascinating and exciting characters at DC. Adapting the original, somewhat one note, high-profile-lesbian premise and adding depth to it, Rucka and Williams created a series of comics that expanded the boundaries of comic books as an art-form. The issues were filled with Williams' gorgeous visual storytelling and the scripts were infused with a weight that only Rucka and a few other writers can achieve. With such a stellar creative team in charge, Batwoman seemed destined to have a meteoric rise within the DC family of characters.
     Unfortunately, Batwoman's rise was not to be. Rucka and DC parted ways leaving a large part of the already planned story untold. Her run as the star of 'Tec ended in May 2010 and she was suddenly relegated back to guest-star status. Thankfully, a hope yet remained. Near the end of 2010 Batwoman #0 was released co-written and co-drawn by J. H. Williams III with Haden W. Blackman and Amy Reeder, respectively. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the book was that Williams drew the segments were Kate was Batwoman and Reeder drew her civilian life making for a beautiful mixture of visuals.
     Sadly, the ongoing Batwoman title by Williams, Blackman and Reeder was seemingly delayed into oblivion. That is until September, when it will be resurrected as part of the DCnU. The creative team remains the same. Williams III is easily one of the best, if not the best, superhero comic artists working today. His early work resembled Tony Harris' 1990s style but has evolved into something wholly unique. His page layouts are spectacular—panels and pages flow into each other naturally. Reading a comic book drawn by Williams III is sometimes like reading a beautiful wall-filling mural. Reeder, while not quite as spectacular, fits the high-flying life style that Kate Kane lives in her daily life. Blackman who has made a name for himself writing Star Wars books for Dark Horse will keep the stories and scripting grounded (for lack of a better word). If you've listened to the podcast you may have heard me make a few snide remarks about artists turned writers, but Williams is not without scripting experience. He co-wrote a short-lived gem in the late 1990s titled Chase that was canceled before its time. Written in the deeply continuity-connected Starman mold, it featured a strong female character holding her own in the male dominated DCU. This bodes well for Batwoman. In the end, Batwoman will be the best drawn book of the DC Relaunch. It may lack the Detective Comics run's Greg Rucka punch, but it's scripting will be solid enough to not detract from it gorgeous presentation.

Batman and Robin (Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason)

     Batman and Robin is the one book of the DC Relaunch that I am buying entirely for myself. That's not to say that I do not think it will be one of the better books of the DCnU. Rather that it is a book that I am buying completely because I want it. Sure, I am excited to read all of the books I am purchasing, but several of them are books that I have chosen very carefully because I think they will be important or particularly good. Batman and Robin is not one of those books. Don't get me wrong, I have no doubt it will be solid. Spectacular?, maybe.
     The thing is, Batman and Robin has a pretty strong lineage. Originally, started back during Morrison's run as the main Bat-writer, it was a place to showcase Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne as a crime-fighting duo. Written by Morrison with art from a string of high profile artists, it was one of the best books DC published over the last few years. So, it's no surprise that Batman and Robin is one of the books that will be reintroduced in the DCnU.
     With the advent of the New 52, the book is shifting to the writer artist team of Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason. As a pair, they had a long run on Green Lantern Corps, the secondary Green Lantern franchise book. Personally, I think GLC was a stronger comic than the main series—thanks mostly to the way the two books were plotted. Geoff John's Green Lantern was the book that had to deal with the major ongoing plot points, while Tomasi was allowed to explore the lives and events surrounding the Green Lanterns without having to move the main arch forward. He was able to play around with secondary characters and ideas that first appeared in Green Lantern without having to explain or introduce them. This made room for deeper character explorations and a more interesting cast of characters.
     This could be a good sign. After all, the main Bat-book is Scott Snyder's Batman. Tomasi and Gleason will be able to tell stories on the outskirts of major stories. While Snyder handles the overarching Batman stories of the DCnU, Batman and Robin will most likely tell short but interesting stories starring Bruce and Damian Wayne. The other Bat-books will probably effect the book peripherally but, for the most part, I predict that B&R will be mostly self contained.
     The thing is, Batman and Robin is positioned to be the second best Batman book of the DCnU. (At least until Batman Inc starts coming out again.) I know I harp on Daniel and Finch too much, but Tomasi's scripting is streets ahead of anything they can write. Meanwhile, Gleason is one of the best monthly artists in the industry. His art fit the alien worlds of DC's universe perfectly, and it should translate well to the grotesque world of Gotham. Gleason is the real selling point of B&R, in my opinion, but that does not mean Tomasi is not capable of writing spectacular comic books. His run on GLC and his Black Adam miniseries were very, very good. The bottom-line is this: Batman and Robin will be the second best Batman book published by DC for the foreseeable future. If you want self-contained, solid Batman stories, this is the place to get them. Add to that Gleason's art and a healthy dose of Damian Wayne and you have a book with a ton of potential.

FIGcast - Episode 30 - Aborticus (Remix)

Darren conferred upon Keith the title of Producer for a week, and he epic-failed.  Here is what we were able to save, along with a recap the "podcast that wasn't" by none other than Ron Granger!

FIGcast - Episode 30 - "Aborticus (Remix)"

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Don't forget, you can email us at, you can follow us on Twitter with @theFIGcast, or you can look for us on Facebook or the iTunes Store.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

15 DCnU Books to Watch: The Dark Side of the DCnU!

Look, even to a DC Comics Zombie, the company's September relaunch can seem intimidating. The information is almost overwhelming—52 brand new books, a smattering of new characters interjected into the publisher's traditional roster, and completely new creative teams on almost every book. On top of that, the chances of all 52 (or even a high percentage) being worth buying is minuscule. So, for you gentle reader, I have taken the time to separate the wheat from the chaff, to isolate the cream of the crop, and to highlight the must-haves of the DCnU. Once a week, between now and the end of August, I will attempt to explain and justify my choices for the 15 most important books of DC's upcoming relaunch.

This week, the The Dark Side of the DCnU : Swamp Thing, Justice League Dark, and Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.

In the interest of full disclosure, allow me to confess that I was sick all weekend. Apparently a head cold and Nyquil makes Trey ramble. apologies. I make no promises for the overall quality of this week's post.

Swamp Thing (Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette)

     Over a decade ago, I stumbled onto a cache of comic books at my local public library. Among the limited selection was the first collection of Alan Moore's run on Swamp Thing. Teenage Me read it and enjoyed it but was not sure what to make of it. It would be years before I read anything else by Moore and even longer before I revisited Swamp Thing. At the time, I was barely aware that Swamp Thing was even a comic book character. He had already been relegated to DC's Vertigo imprint, a universe I would not venture into until I was a bit older. He had no presence in the 1990s comic books I collected, so I passed him off as a minor character. Having learned the extent of my ignorance, I recently reread the first collection of Moore's run and realized how fascinating and important the character can be.
     There are only a handful of characters that have experienced shifts like Alec Holland. A late Silver Age/early Bronze Age creation by Len Wein, Swamp Thing would be taken and re-purposed by Moore as part of the earliest foundations of what would become Vertigo. Since then, the character has been almost completely confined to the companies “mature” comics line. In that same period some the comic book industry's biggest names have written stories starring Swamp Thing. Moore, Mark Millar, Brian K. Vaughn, and Andy Diggle are just a few of the A-list creative minds that have written the character while he was under the banner of Vertigo. Then, after decades closed off from the DCU, he was reintroduced at the end of a year long story named Brightest Day.
     With the DCnU release of Swamp Thing #1, a new name can be etched in stone along with the likes of Moore and Millar—Scott Snyder. With his critically acclaimed work on American Vampire and Detective Comics, Snyder brings quite a bit of weight to the reintroduction of Swamp Thing to the regular DCU. It almost seems preordained that one of the biggest young guns in comic books would tackle a property that has been a stepping stone for some many other legendary names. He will be joined by artist Yanick Paquette, who has done some incredible work in the last few years. Notably, Paquette has drawn multiple series penned by Grant Morrison, including several issues of Batman Inc.
     Swamp Thing is a book filled with potential. He has not interacted with the denizens of the DCU in decades and is one of the truly unique fictional characters owned by the company. Snyder and Paquette will be able to tap into Swamp Thing and his origins to provide a fascinating story. Snyder is a rare writer with the ability to naturally imbue weight upon his subjects. The upcoming Swamp Thing is destined to be one of the most critically praised books of the DC Relaunch—you might as well get in on the ground floor.

Justice League Dark (Peter Milligan and Mikel Janin):

      No, it's not a superhero-shaped, dark chocolate bar! It's not a Dark Avengers ripoff! It's a team book starring DC's most prominent magical characters under the umbrella of the Justice League! Allow me, if you will, to go on a tangent for a moment. I may be a DC Zombie, but I do not entirely endorse every decision that the company has made in regards to this relaunch. For example, as I will explain shortly, I really like the concept of Justice League Dark (henceforth referred to as JLD) but, at the time of writing this, I loath the name. There are two headlining, mystical teams residing within the new DC Universe—JLD and Demon Knights, and, on the outset, the concepts for both sound great. But am I the only one (and I may be) that thinks that DC has an established mystical team that already has lore surrounding it with a better name that both JLD and Demon Knights? It was not that long ago that an ongoing book named Shadowpact was a fan favorite and a minor critical darling. On top of that, within the pages of said book, it was established that there had been many iterations of the team throughout the ages. So, I am of the opinion that either JLD or Demon Knights should have been named Shadowpact. I know it is not a big deal, and the names were probably chosen very carefully by the authors and DC to attract new readers. I understand the care and thinking that was most likely involved. There's also a really good chance that I pine for one of these two books to be named Shadowpact just so there would be a chance of Detective Chimp being a member. (Actually, let's be honest, that the entire reason I want JLD to be named Shadowpact.)
     Anyways, back to the topic at hand. Justice League Dark is one of the books I have strategically chosen off of a list of several books I was on the fence about. Being of limited funds, I am holding myself to certain number of titles each month, which meant that I had to carefully choose the books I plan on buying. In the end, the choice came down to Peter Milligan versus Paul Cornell. Both writers are penning two books I wanted to read and both are writing a magically based team book. For a combination of reasons I have chosen JLD as my Milligan book. (For my Cornell choice you'll have to come back in two weeks or listen to last week's podcast!)
      In JLD, Milligan is taking a cast of characters that he has worked with extensively and combining them into arguably the most powerful comic book based magical team of all time. Former Vertigo standbys Shade the Changing Man, Madame Xanadu, and John Constantine will be joined by DC Universe regulars Deadman and Zatanna on the team to face an insane, sometimes-villian named Enchantress (ironically, a former Shadowpact member!). Milligan, an industry veteran, knows the formula for writing great comic books, but some people would argue that he sometimes forgets key ingredients. Hopefully, working with a familiar cast of characters will help him produce the kind of comic he is capable of. Spanish artist Mikel Janin will take JLD's reins artistically. His American comics work is limited at the moment, but sample pages from JLD #1 that have been making the rounds on the internet look incredibly promising.
     JLD is, perhaps, most notable for the fact that it stars several characters that have been closed off in the Vertigo universe for almost twenty years. Now Milligan will have the opportunity to place fascinating characters John Constantine, Shade, and Madame Xanadu back into a psuedo-superheroic, magical, trenchcoat-y context within the DC Universe. The cast of characters is interesting and diverse, Milligan can be a great writer, and Janin could be a breakout artist—adding up to a book worthy of being excited about. (Now, if they would just add Detective Chimp to the roster, JLD would be a must-buy for sure!)

Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. (Jeff Lemire and Alberto Ponticelli)

     “Frankenstein?!” you scoff, “why would I want to read a silly book starring a character ripped-off from the pages of Mary Shelley, Trey?” I'll tell you why, Imaginary-voice-in-my-head! Because it's going to be one of the best books in the DCnU! Frankenstein, like many other literary and mythological characters, was appropriated by comic book writers in the Golden and Silver ages of comic books. Generally, these borrowed characters were loose adaptations of their original source material. For example, Marvel borrowed Thor from Norse mythology and both DC and Marvel have featured their own versions of characters like Hercules and Dracula. However, thanks to one of the comic industry's biggest names and one of its rising stars, Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. bears little resemblance to Shelley's original creation.
Back in 2005, Grant Morrison turned his magical distorting lens on DC's version of Frankenstein, effectively Morrison-ifying the character. As part of the Seven Soldiers of Victory mega-event, the new Frankenstein was transformed into an undead agent of a paranormal government body named S.H.A.D.E. (Super Human Advanced Defense Executive). With a gigantic sword, a humungous revolver and the help of a four-armed Bride of Frankenstein, he carved his way through paranormal threats from middle America to the desserts of Mars. Instrumental in the defeat of Melmoth and the Sheeda at the end of Seven Soldiers, Frankenstein resurfaced only two or three more times over the last half decade. More recently, Frankenstein reappeared in the alternate universe of DC's Flashpoint event written by Jeff Lemire. Not coincidentally, Lemire will also pen the the new ongoing series that is spinning out of the revamped universe.
     Lemire is an important up-and-coming creator within the comic book industry. His pre-relaunch work on Superboy was nominated for an Eisner and his creator-owned works Sweet Tooth and the Essex County Trilogy are highly regarded by critics. The art will be handled by Italian artist Alberto Ponticelli whose most recent, notable work was an impressive run on Vertigo's Unknown Soldier. Lemire is a natural storyteller. He knows how to weave an interesting tale, evoking emotions from the reader using characters that are strange, familiar and compelling all at the same time.
     Here's the bottom line: If you like good comics, Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. is a series to keep an eye on—the writer is a rising star, the artist is a good visual storyteller, and the characters will be over the top in an awesome way. Despite Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.'s premise similarities to series like Hellboy and Atomicrobo, Lemire is talented enough that it will certainly be its own animal. Honestly, the idea of Frankenstein and a bunch of monstrous creatures working for a shady government agency should be ridiculously awesome enough to pique anyone's interest, in my opinion. (And if it doesn't get your pulse checked.)

Next week: The Most Important of the Ancillary Bat-titles!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

FIGcast - Episode 29 - "Darren's South Korean Mystery Virus"

Darren was crazy sick earlier in the day, but all better by podcast time.  We think the virus may have given him super powers.  We'll keep you posted.

FIGcast - Episode 29 - "Darren's South Korean Mystery Virus"

Don't forget, you can email us at, you can follow us on Twitter with @theFIGcast, or you can look for us on Facebook or the iTunes Store.

Monday, August 8, 2011

15 DCnU Books to Watch: “The Justice League, Part Two”

Look, even to a DC Comics Zombie, the company's September relaunch can seem intimidating. The information is almost overwhelming—52 brand new books, a smattering of new characters interjected into the publisher's traditional roster, and completely new creative teams on almost every book. On top of that, the chances of all 52 (or even a high percentage) being worth buying is minuscule. So, for you gentle reader, I have taken the time to separate the wheat from the chaff, to isolate the cream of the crop, and to highlight the must-haves of the DCnU. Once a week, between now and the end of August, I will attempt to explain and justify my choices for the 15 most important books of DC's upcoming relaunch.

This week, the Justice League, Part Two: Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Aquaman

Wonder Woman (Brian Azzarello and Cliff 

     Wonder Woman is a strange case in the world of comic books. She’s one of the oldest characters at either of the big two and easily the most recognizable female superhero. Somehow she has retained her iconic status despite years of lackluster stories, poor sales and multiple
reboots and re-launches.
     Considering that she is the least well known of DC’s big three, the higher-ups at the company seem to have been more willing to let new and even untested talent take shots at reviving interest in the character. The most recent Wonder Woman re-launch (2006) was spearheaded by Allan Heinberg, writer of television shows The O.C. and Grey’s Anatomy. After a rocky start, the book was handed to best-selling author Jodi Picoult, who also only lasted a handful of issues. Even when Wonder Woman was under the direction of more experienced comic book talent, DC was willing to take artistic left turns with the character. Wonder Woman (2006) had finally found its footing under the direction of comic vet Gail Simone when DC decided to transition the book to J. Michael Straczynski. As he did with his run on Superman, JMS turned in a lackluster story and abandoned the book mid-run when his work was panned by readers.
     September will see yet another revamped, redesigned Wonder Woman. This time, instead of looking outside the realm of comic book for talent, DC has gone to two of the most respected creators currently working within the industry—Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang. Azzarello is most famous for his lengthy creator owned Vertigo work, 100 Bullets, but has written his share of DC royalty. In 2004 and 2005 he wrote solid stories for both Batman and Superman. He also penned well-regarded stories with art by Lee Bermejo starring Lex Luthor and Joker. I have no doubt that Azzarello can tease out all of the most interesting aspects of Wonder Woman. If his work with Superman and Batman’s greatest villains is any indication, perhaps he can also give Wonder Woman a villain that is as iconic as she is. Chiang is a fan favorite but has been little more than a cover artist over the last few years. He's developed a unique style that will lend itself to the more magical elements of Wonder Woman's mythology. Azzarello and Chiang have worked together before—their Tales of the Unexpected backup story “Doctor 13: Architecture & Morality” was brilliant, weird, and beautiful, and easily outshone the book's main feature. If the team can avoid lengthy delays, Wonder Woman could be one of the most artistically exciting books of the DCnU. For Wonder Woman’s sake, let’s hope so.

Green Lantern (Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke):

     Right now, two things at DC are working as intended—Batman and Green Lantern. Sure, the nearly universal praise that Geoff Johns' GL run garnered in the beginning has started to deflate somewhat and the color-coded stories of the last few years might seem a little played out, but there can be no argument that Johns has pulled an flailing character out of the doldrums and into the forefront of DC's pantheon. There is no doubt that without John's run on Lantern there would have been no Green Lantern movie this summer. Blackest Night may have been a letdown after the thoroughly awesome Sinestro Corp War, but there is no denying that BN was the best-selling event DC has published in yearsall thanks to Geoff Johns writing Green Lantern.
     So, as DC prepares to relaunch their entire line, it should be no surprise that they are leaving the main Green Lantern book in Johns' capable hands. In fact, the powers-that-be-at-DC have kept the complete creative team in place. Art on the book should be awesome thanks to Doug Mahnke, who consistently hits his deadlines and is one of the best superhero artists in the comic book industry. Though it may look like a known quantity, Mahnke's art continues to get better and Johns has proven that he is able to consistently surprise readers. (As long as he avoids some of the pitfalls that have plagued his run. For example, Mr. Johns, we really don't need to see more characters possessed by Parallax. I feel as if Bouncing Boy and Ambush Bug are the only DC properties that haven't been taken over by the Yellow aspect, at this point.)
     Honestly, the biggest question mark with Green Lantern will be the book's lead. When the DCnU was first announced it was implied that someone other than Hal Jordan would be the focus of the comic. Then, at Comic-con it was revealed that longtime GL villain (and recently reinstated Green Lantern Corpsman) Sinestro was going to be the main character. This is certainly interesting from a story stand point, but a strange move for them to make in the context of a relaunch that was specifically targeted at bringing new readers into the universe. So the Green Lantern movie was bit of a flop, but surely it was big enough that when John Q. Public decides to “give comics a try” Green Lantern will probably be one of the books he or she picks up. Sure, the pre-evil version of Sinestro was (perhaps) the best part of the movie, but at the end he puts on the tellingly yellow suit of fear and...blah blah get my point. It's just an interesting choice for a character that already has potential identity issues. With four human Green Lanterns flying around and literally thousands of Corpsmen, new readers could find the characters diluted and confusing. Especially when it turns out that Hal, the hero of the movie they just watched, is a court-martial'ed bum wandering America (again).
     Regardless, Green Lantern has been one of DC's premiere books for the last handful of years and I see no reason for that to change. With Johns writing both Justice League and Green Lantern there can be little doubt that both books will play an integral part in the shape of the new DCU. Personally, the book would be worth buying just for the art. Combine Mahnke's pencils with John's scripts and Green Lantern should be at the top of any DCnU pull-list.

Aquaman (Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis):
     Essentially, there are two Aquamen. One is the inevitable butt of superhero jokes, destined to be mocked as a useless, one-note character. The other is the actual Aquaman—the bad-ass, tough-as-nails king of 75% of the globe. Conceived during the any-gimmick-goes Golden Age of Comics when even the most ridiculous ideas were fertile ground for a brand new superhero, Aquaman is far from the most ludicrous super-concept of the era. Yet, years of replayed Filmation footage has watered down his image, even within the halls of comic book geekery. Among the most ardent DC Comic supporters, only a select few would identify themselves as hardcore Aquaman fans. Ironically, his perceived lack of utility has given Aquaman a certain level of fame (or more correctly, infamy) outside the general comic book fandom.
     This image is not entirely deserved. Aquaman, or Arthur Curry, has had his share of solid comic book stories and has been written by some of comic's biggest names. Over the years, writers like Peter David and Kurt Busiek have attempted to rehabilitate the King of Atlantis' image. Perhaps tellingly, both David and Busiek flipped the script on the traditional version of the character. David's run famously saw Curry lose his hand, grow a beard and change his costume while Busiek took advantage of DC's “One Year Later” initiative to reboot the character almost entirely.
     Now, with the DC Relaunch one of the biggest names in comic books is taking the reins. Geoff Johns will be looking to use the same magic he used to reinvigorate Green Lantern (and, to a lesser degree, the Flash) to infuse Aquaman with new life. Art on the project will be by Ivan Reis, who has teamed with Johns on several of his more successful projects. Reis is one of the best monthly artists in the comic book industry and will bring much to the project. The creative team is, by no means, new to the character. They have been writing/drawing Aquaman for the last year as part of DC's Brightest Day bi-weekly comic book.
     If Johns' plans for Aquaman are similar to his plans for Green Lantern or Flash we can predict some of what is in store for DC's King of Atlantis.  Like Hal Jordan and Barry Allen, Arthur Curry will most likely be taken back to his roots with a distinctively Johns' twist. Geoff's greatest talent is his ability to layer and nuance stories while distilling the essence of a character and challenging them on that level.  If successful, we could see a yellow-suited, traditional Aquaman with a strong supporting cast and engrossing epic-level stories.
     Like Green Lantern and Justice League, Aquaman benefits from being written by Geoff Johns. As a member of the powers-that-be-at-DC, Johns can bring the biggest battles and most important tales to any book he writes. From a talent perspective, Johns has the writing chops to pull off just about any story he can conceive. Ivan Reis' art is more than capable of both interpreting Johns' scripts and adding the necessary emotional depth needed to make stories compelling. This is certainly meant to be one of the premiere books of the new order and DC has put one of their most popular teams on it in an effort to bring Aquaman the respect he deserves.

Next week: DC goes Dark! Justice League Dark, Swamp ThingFrankenstein

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Change-up: A Few Notable Racial Changes in DC and MARVEL History

     So there's a new Ultimate Spider-man in town. Recently deceased Peter Parker will have his legendary mantle taken up by teenager Miles Morales. But superheroes die and are replaced all the time, right? Aside from the fact that this is the first time Parker has ever been replaced (We're just going to ignore the Clone Sage, OK?), the real reason this is news-worthy is that Morales is of African and Hispanic descent. While this is an interesting move, it is nothing new. MARVEL and DC have a long history of replacing some of their second tier characters with people of different descent and nationality.
     DC Comics has built an entire business model around the legacy system, but MARVEL is not without it legacy characters. By replacing aging characters with younger heroes under the same superhero name, the companies can reinvigorate their properties while maintaining name recognition. This has been going on since the dawn of the Silver Age of comic books in 1954, but in more recent years both companies have used this strategy to increase the diversity of their roster of heroes.
     While DC relies on the legacy system, creators at MARVEL have been allowed to take advantage of the alternate Ultimate version of their universe to make changes to some of their characters. The more lax continuity restrictions of the Ultimate line means that creative talent is allowed to change things as they see fit.

Here's a list of some notable changes in the history of the big two:

Miles Morales (First Appearance as Spider-man Ultimate Fallout #4 2011)

At this point little is known about the new Spider-man. Created by Brian Michael Bendis, Morales is a biracial teenager who was inspired by Peter Parker's death.

Ryan Choi (First Appearance DCU: Brave New
World 2006)
Ray Palmer, full-time professor and part-time superhero named the Atom, shrunk himself into oblivion upon discovering that his ex-wife had become a shape-changing, accidental serial killer to get his attention. Choi, created by Gail Simone and Grant Morrison, took up both his professorship and heroic title. He was one of the few high profile superheroes of Asian descent in the DC Universe. Ryan is currently deceased, killed by Deathstroke's team of douchebags, but there are rumors that he will be resurrected in September's DC relaunch.

Nick Fury (First Appearance Ultimate Marvel Team-Up 2001
Nick Fury is, perhaps, one of the most famous cases of race switching in comic books. This is interesting considering that many people who have enjoyed Samuel L. Jackson's portrayal of the Sergeant in the Avengers movies may not even realize that the main MARVEL Universe's version of the character is white. Created by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Mike Allred, the Ultimate Universe version of the character has been fairly successful, perhaps even spawning his own movie.

Jackson Hyde (First Appearance Brightest Day #4 2010)
Created by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis and based on a similar character that was already in development for the Young Justice cartoon, Hyde took up a mantle that had been empty for decades. The original sidekick to Aquaman, Garth, changed his superhero name to Tempest way back in 1996. Hyde's Aqualad is a fairly new character and, so far, there is no indication that he will be part of the new DCU. However, since one of DC's stated goals is to increase the diversity of their heroic roster and Johns is writing an Aquaman ongoing comic book, there is a good chance that the new Aqualad will make an appearance.

James Rhodes (First Appearance as Iron Man Iron Man #170 1983)
Tony Stark is one of the MARVEL universe's smartest minds, but the real measure of his character can be seen in his choice of friends like James Rhodes. Created by Dave Michelinie and Bob Layton, "Rhodey" is a longtime character in the Iron Man book who has taken over for Stark multiple times. He currently fights for good under the name War Machine. Also, he was played by Don Cheadle in Iron Man 2, which is more than any other superhero can say.

Yolanda Montez (First Appearance Infinity Inc #5 1958)
Goddaughter of the original Wildcat, Ted Grant, Yolanda Montez is given superpowers after (I promise, this is not a joke) a mad gynecologist named Dr. Love experimented on her mother while pregnant. Montez' superhero  career was a short one. She took up the name Wildcat after Grant was injured during Crisis on Infinite Earths and is killed by Eclipso just a few years later.

Isaiah Bradley (First Appearance Truth: Red, White and Black 2003)
Created by Robert Morales and Kyle Baker and unofficially known as the Black Captain America, Isaiah Bradley was the result of a clandestine attempt to reverse engineer the super-soldier serum that turned Steve Rogers into Captain America. After taking part in a suicide mission on Nazi soil, he was court-martialed and imprisoned. However, he has become a bit of his own legacy character as his son and grandson have both donned heroic mantles similar to his own.

Jamie Reyes (First Appearance Infinite Crisis #5 2006)
The third person to fight for good under the title Blue Beetle, Jamie Reyes is teenager of Hispanic descent from El Paso, Texas. Created by Keith Giffen, John Rogers and Cully Hamner, Jamie was given powers when he discovered a “magical” scarab owned by the original Blue Beetle, Dan Garrett. The scarab was revealed to be alien technology, fusing to Reyes' body and giving him a suit of technologically advanced armor. Jamie starred in his own series for 36 issues and is starring in one of the new 52 books DC is launching in September.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

FIGcast - Episode 28 - "Shady Shady Tweens: Comic-Con Special Part 2"

The title is our suggested renaming of the ABC Family network.

FIGcast - Episode 28 - "Shady Shady Tweens: Comic-Con Special Part 2"


Don't forget, you can email us at, you can follow us on Twitter with @theFIGcast, or you can look for us on Facebook or the iTunes Store.

Monday, August 1, 2011

15 DCnU Books to Watch: “The Justice League, Part One”

Look, even to a DC Comics Zombie, the company's September relaunch can seem intimidating. The information is almost overwhelming—52 brand new books, a smattering of new characters interjected into the publisher's traditional roster, and completely new creative teams on almost every book. On top of that, the chances of all 52 (or even a high percentage) being worth buying is minuscule. So, for you gentle reader, I have taken the time to separate the wheat from the chaff, to isolate the cream of the crop, and to highlight the must-haves of the DCnU. Once a week, between now and the end of August, I will attempt to explain and justify my choices for the 15 most important books of DC's upcoming relaunch.

This week, the Justice League, Part One: Featuring Justice League, Action Comics, Batman

Justice League (Geoff Johns
and Jim Lee):

     For the first time since 2006, the higher-ups at DC are placing an emphasis on the company's premiere superhero team. The League will once again be manned by the biggest names of the DCU. Gone are the B, C, and F-listers of the James Robinson Era, making way for more traditional members like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Aquaman. In the place of staple Justice League member, Martian Manhunter, the creative team has spliced former Teen Titan Cyborg onto the roster. Other lesser known and new characters will also be part of the team but the “new” Big 7 will remain at the team's core—making the reinvigorated Justice League one of the most recognizable teams in the comic book industry.
      It seems like it's been forever since the Justice League had a truly top-flight roster. The most recent attempt to rebuild the Justice League with A-listers was Brad Meltzer and Ed Benes' 2006 post-Infinite Crisis relaunch, Justice League of America. It was a run I panned at the time but, after watching the book languish under the direction of Robinson for the last few years, those Meltzer/Benes days are almost a happy memory.
     Of the 52 new books DC is launching, Justice League has, perhaps, the most high profile creative team. Geoff Johns has established himself as an exciting and even potentially epic storyteller, and Jim Lee, is one of the most famous “working” comic book artists in the industry. (I put working in quotation marks because this is Lee's first ongoing interior work since the aborted debacle of Frank Miller's All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder.) L'il Trey from 10 years ago would have been excited about Lee's involvement, but his style has been copied so much that even going back to the originator feels a little safe and maybe even boring. But, he's a big name to bring in new readers and that was the point of the DC relaunch. Johns has re-branded and relaunched several of DC's properties in new, more-streamlined packages. From the Justice Society of America in the early 2000s to his gigantic run at the head of the renovated Green Lantern franchise, Johns has rebuilt large sections of the DCU already. Now he and Lee set their sights on a book that the company is obviously placing a heavy emphasis on. Justice League will be the first of the DCnU to debut. It is the only comic book that DC will ship on August 31—a full week before any of the other new books.
     For these reasons, it is hard to leave Justice League off of any must-read list of DCnU launches. This is the “big” book. The Justice League is the amalgamation of the DCU's most powerful heroes and Johns will treat them as such. He's shown that he can turn books starring characters like Green Lantern and the Flash into blockbuster-like epics and there should be little doubt that he can do the same with the original super-team. This should be the book at the forefront of the DCnU. Whatever larger-than-life stories are going to be told in the newly refurbished DC Universe will most likely start or end with Justice League.

Action Comics (Grant Morrison and Rags Morales):

     It is somewhat obvious that the powers-that-be at DC are attempting to walk the thin line between relaunch and out-and-out reboot. They seem to have employed an “if it ain't broke, don't fix it” philosophy to the entire undertaking. So, while long time bestselling characters like Batman and hot, newly reinvigorated properties like Green Lantern are barely being touched (and even being expanded upon) much of the rest of the DC is getting a second look.
     At the forefront of this examination is Superman. The original superhero, the genesis of the medium, and DC's oldest property, Clark Kent has seen better days. Despite a decade that has seen a (kind of) high profile, long running television show, a popular original graphic novel origin retelling and a legitimately brilliant twelve part maxi-series all starring the Kryptonian, the ongoing tales of the same character have languished in mediocrity. After a strong start to the 2000s by writers like Jeph Loeb, Joe Kelly, some of the comic book industry's biggest names tried with varying degrees of success to guide the hero into the new millennium. This all culminated in truly bizarre series of events surrounding J. Michael Straczynski's run on DC's most iconic character. He wrote an overwrought and heavy-handed story where Superman made a baffling trek across the United States by foot. After being panned by critics and readers, Straczynski abandoned the project, like a friend that comes over to play, breaks your favorite toy, and leaves before your parents get home.
     It did not have to be this way. At the turn of the century, DC famously shoved aside a creative proposal to reinvigorate Superman written by major comic book talent (Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Mark Waid, and Tom Peyer) to promote a much more traditional retelling of the character led by the aforementioned Loeb. Over a decade later, DC has chosen to amend this oversight by letting Morrison take the reins of Action Comics. The way Morrison has talked about his plans makes it pretty clear that elements of the Superman 2000 proposal will not be appearing. (It should also be noted that many of the ideas from the proposal have already been used in other works by Morrison, Waid, and Millar.)
     Morrison is, understandably, a polarizing figure. He does not shy away from Golden and Silver age comic book craziness and has a tendency to allow a certain level of abstraction to seep into his work. Morrison is one of the few comic book writers that rewards readers for paying close attention to narrative clues. This can require a certain amount of reading between the lines and paying extremely close attention. (In fact, some of his recent Batman Incorporated stories have encouraged a certain level of basic historical knowledge.) However, if a reader is willing to learn and pay attention, Morrison will reward them with some of the deepest, most detailed stories the industry has ever seen. The weak-link for Action Comics would seem to be artist Rags Morales whose work can shift from fantastic to flawed from panel to panel. So far the covers we have seen by Morales have trended toward the former and not the latter, so that is a good sign.
     Here's the bottom line: You should buy this book. This is might be the most important book that DC is publishing in the relaunch. The first time Morrison wrote a Superman book the result was All Star Superman. The new Action Comics might be worth buying even if the artist rendered the entire book in nothing more than stick-figures. With an competent, if not spectacular, artist working off of Morrison's scripts, this book is a “must-have.” Just remember Rule #1 for Morrison books: Do not let the concepts scare you away. Sure, Bruce Wayne franchising the Bat-logo and Superman wearing a short cape and jeans sound bad on paper, but only Morrison could bring them full circle into awesomeness.

Batman (Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo):

    With the DC Relaunch comes a Bat-regime change, chum. The Bat-books, headlined by Grant Morrison for nearly half a bat-decade are shifting to a new creative Bat-talent. Scott Snyder, who has Bat-helmed Detective Comics since October of 2011 moves to the Bat-flagship, Batman. (That was the last Bat-prefix, I bat-promise.)
     It appears that Batman franchise (along with other solid seller, Green Lantern) is going to be the least changed of the DC properties. While other characters get de-aged, disappear, or are repurposed, Batman and the majority of his supporting cast seems to be left intact. At Comic-con last weekend, DC editorial even pointed out that all of the Robins (presumably the male ones) are still in continuity. (Interestingly, this does imply that the DCnU Bruce Wayne moves through Robins as quickly as he does Bat-mobiles. Four (maybe five) Robins in five years seems a little crowded. Yet, what is the point of reading comic books without a health dose of suspension of disbelief?)
     In the DC Relaunch, a whopping 14 books are related to Batman in someway. Later on, I will discuss the best of the ancillary Bat-books, but for now let's focus on the one where Bruce is the solo headliner. Scott Snyder's Batman seems to be head and shoulders above the rest of the Batman-centric books. Tony Daniel's Detective Comics promises to be underwhelming and David Finch's Batman: The Dark Knight will probably be similar (if more than 2 issues even get published). Both books are written by artists turned writers, and while others have successfully made that transition, it has not gone well for Daniel or Finch. The previous work of both was uninteresting and Finch has a serious problem meeting deadlines. Meanwhile, Snyder's pre-relaunch run on Detective Comics featured solid writing, intriguing mysteries and a well rounded take on the Dick Grayson version of Batman. Artist Greg Capullo, a Spawn alum, will bring a sharp, dark and kinetic look to the book. It will be interesting to see what Snyder and Capullo bring to the original Batman.
     This is the Bat-book.  If you are interested in reading a series starring just Bruce Wayne that is well-written and deeper than a paper plate, this is the book to buy.  Snyder's vision and grasp of Gotham will make this the premiere book of the Batman lineup. His move from Detective Comics to the main Batman book indicates that DC want his hand to guide their biggest franchise.

Next week: Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and....Aquaman?!