A Fact-Check for the Four-Color World

Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Emperor's New Clothes

From Black Panther #23, here is artist Koi Turnbull's depiction of T'Challa and Storm at Bill "Goliath" Foster's funeral:

Note the button. For whatever reason, T'Challa is wearing a woman's jacket.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

As a little Christmas gift of sorts, the other day I made a huge update to:

The Collins Compendium of Free Online Comic Books

Lots of additions to the Vertigo and Marvel lists, plus a bunch of new stuff from Image, Virgin, and more. I've barely scraped the surface of what Tokyopop has to offer for free. I removed a lot of dead links too (including, unfortunately, the links to the Elseworlds 80-Page Giant pages). All in all, the list now tops 300 comics you can read for free. Maybe even 400, with all of Tokyopop and Dark Horse's offerings.

If you aren't reading Ed Brubaker's Criminal or Warren Ellis' Fell yet, you can read the first issue of each online. I recently added both to my pull list. The first five issues of 52 are online too, as are the first five issues of Powers. This time of year, you may be interested in the PvP Christmas Special. But my favorite new addition may be a short story that was only printed in the 2001 Small Press Expo Anthology, Max Hamm, Fairy Tale Detective in "Just Right."

I'll be tweaking the page further in the next few days, so if there are issues I'm missing, let me know in the comments section.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Civil War

Civil War has been running for what seems like a couple of years over at Marvel, and other than a couple of posts on She-Hulk #8, I haven't had much to say on it.

At first, the Superhero Registration Act, the crux of Civil War, seemed like perfect fodder for this blog. After all, it's superhero-centered legislation. But as the months went by, the need for such review seemed to pass.

For starters, I don't read much Marvel. I've bought a grand total of three CW tie-ins, two X-Factors and a She-Hulk, so I'm not in a great position to offer up an informed analysis. While I'd love to do an educational overview, I'm not about to drop a few dozen bucks just to get informed.

Additionally, there is already plenty of armchair analysis of the SRA out there. How does my saying "This is one wacked-out piece of legislation" add to the dialogue? It doesn't take a lawyer to see the absurdity in the government locking someone up until they agree to "register;" if the government has the person in custody, then they know who the person is, and the signed disclosure of one's name and powers is kinda moot. Or at least moot enough to make indefinite detention a serious exercise in overkill. (I do intend to address Iron Man's assertion on the legality of Negative Zone detention, but not in this post.)

From the beginning, I've been Pro-Registration. Or at least anti-Anti-Registration. I find the argument that there's a civil right to anonymously patrol the streets in costume and fight crime rather laughable. I thought the SRA could have used more definition in its details, but it's aim is practically a logical imperative of the law. Superheroes aren't generally immune from civil or criminal liability, and having an anonymous public persona makes it difficult to enforce the law with respect to that person.

Even certain Marvel creators have admitted that while they're anti-Reg with respect to Civil War, they'd be absolutely in favor of some kind of registration law if we had superheroes in the real world. I suspect that's true of most people, particularly if the real-world SRA were rationally constructed.

Unfortunately, the more we learned about Marvel's SRA, the worse it got. Superhero registration became superhuman registration, which became superhuman conscription. And in an astonishingly stupid turn, the punishment for failing to comply with this regulatory law turned out to be indefinite detention in a parallel dimension, without trial. Imagine failing to register with the Selective Service by your 18th birthday, and having the US government throw you in the Phantom Zone as a consequence. This absurdity more or less culminates in the treatment of Speedball, who gets punished (and punished rather severely) for failing to register while both unconscious and unpowered.

All of this irked me for a while. Why couldn't the terms of the SRA have been better defined upfront? Why bring in SHIELD? And what was Millar thinking by involving the Negative Zone? Why has the SRA been presented in such a bizarre and legally absurd fashion?

Finally, I realized the answer why: because the Anti-Registration side needs to win.

Any realistically-written version of the Superhero Registration Act would be almost indisputably right, and very much in the public interest. It would be such a rational piece of legislation that Captain America would look downright irrational for opposing it. It would be rather difficult to concoct a story that wouldn't end with all Marvel heroes being required to register.

Since that end is undesirable from Marvel's publishing and storytelling standpoint, Marvel and Millar needed a way to make Cap's side look like the good guys. And the easiest means to that end was to not portray the SRA in any realistic fashion, but rather to design it to be ridiculously over-the-top. When 'registration' evolves into a SHIELD draft to create a metahuman army, with dissenters being thrown into a parallel-dimension gulag, it's easy to make that kind of proposal look bad. It takes all the attention away from the original core proposal of simple registration and training for private vigilantes. It may not make a lick of legal or logical sense, but it's darn easy to villify.

So what's the point in seriously critiquing the portrayal of the SRA? They set out to portray a hideously messed-up law, and they succeeded. Why rake them over the coals for something done intentionally?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Jonah Hex #14

In Jonah Hex #14, young Jonah's father throws him into the well of an outhouse. After what would seem to be several hours, Jonah manages to pull himself out of the fetid and stinking cesspool.

Back in my Boy Scout days, we had latrines at summer camp. They were rather deep, and one time my curiosity was enough to shine a flashlight down one to see how it looked at the bottom. I wouldn't recommend doing it; in this case, ignorance is bliss.

Jordi Bernet may have drawn a pretty gross looking pit, complete with stink fumes, but it's nothing compared to what truly lies at the bottom of a latrine. The thought that Hex would willingly stay for any length of time at all is mind-boggling. Palmiotti and Gray may have inadvertantly written the most nauseating scene I've ever seen in a comic. Simply put, the cover ain't lying when it says "The Horrifying Origin of Jonah Hex."