So, I tend not to post on a few things coming out as new news, either because of apathy or because other people tend to communicate my thoughts more effectively. One such debacle is DC’s recent fiasco with an issue of All-Star Batman and Robin (or, as long-time readers of the blog may remember it, “That book written in Idiot Pentameter”) where Frank Miller wrote out the swear words “so that the editor could space them correctly” and then black bars got put under them. In a printing error due to the different shades of black on the computer screen, the words ended-up being perfectly visible behind the black bars when printed. DC fixed the error, but not before issues had already shipped out with the swearing, including the use of the C-word.

Now the reason why I bring this up is because according to a statement made by DC on Newsarama, DC is instituting a new review policy of their books after their printed to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again, as well as not using the actual swear words beneath black bars again like that.

Well why the heck weren’t they doing this in the first place?! Are you telling me that at comics companies, people just print the books up and no one picks one up and takes a look to make sure the pages weren’t put on backwards or something?! Maybe this explains ASBAR in its entirety – no one actually paid attention to what Miller was doing and never picked up the book because they were too busy reading the awesomeness of Blue Beetle.

Furthermore, they were using the actual swear words “for correct spacing?” Oh, that’s complete horse crap. It’s four freaking little letters. One could easily have written “cant” or “dann” under the bars and had the same effect. And whatever happened to just using ampersands and pound signs for swearing? It worked for Judd Winick’s Outsiders.

Of course, while it’s certainly DC’s screw-up, I think blame for all this eventually comes back to Frank Miller for feeling the need to include this crap in a Batman book in the first place.

…And proof positive that, to the shock of the world, Chuck Austen CAN write a good book:

From Exiles #27

I ask YOU, readers of the Blog, what is, by far, the Worst Comic Evar?!

As you know, I’m working on releasing a collection of Atop the Fourth Wall recaps that will include some new ones, some continuations of old ones, and etc. But I’d like to know what the people reading this think is the most god-awful piece of crap so I can see it for myself!

Now, please give a reason for your selection, but don’t do stuff like Robin #150 where Cassandra Cain turned evil. Sure, that issue sucked, but it sucked because of different reasons than what we’re used to around these parts. ^_~ Just consider, does the book feature people like this:

…Or this:

…Or does it just make you do this:

…Or this:

Tell me what it is and maybe I’ll even feature that issue in the book!

So, as anyone can tell from my previous post about BAGS (Bad-Ass Group Shots) or where I decided not to collect the Teen Titans book because of McKeever’s sudden decision to become kill-crazy, I’m kind of a fan of the Titans. It’s why I also get upset when members of the team get killed, turned evil, or when the book just suffers from bad writing or bad art.

As I also mentioned, for the book I’m putting together of reviews of bad comics (hey, if I’m going to be reeaally late with the recaps, I might as well make it worth your while to get a lot of them all at once), one of the ones I decided to do was Judd Winick’s nightmarish Titans #1.

Needless to say, the book hasn’t exactly been a favorite of mine. I love the fact that the adult Titans are getting their own book, but the writing was amateurish and the artwork was just horrific, be it from Ian Churchill’s 90s-esque “sneers, muscles, and look at the bewbs” or Joe Benitez’s… unique view on human anatomy, the book just hasn’t exactly been firing on all cylinders and I dropped it the second I decided I could spend my money on better things. But then, surprisingly, two weeks after Titans #4, the follow-up issue debuted on Wednesday. The cover was still by Benitez, but the interior artwork was by Julian Lopez. But it’s got to be the same kind of stupidity from last time, right?

Any book that features the line “You’ve got a bear in the lobby” is off to a good start. As such, behold the horror and intrigue that is…

A GOOD ISSUE OF TITANS WRITTEN BY JUDD WINICK.

More and SPOILERS behind the cut!


Yes, you read that correctly – this issue was actually really good. Sure, it’s not Watchmen, but it doesn’t try to be. This is a shining character piece, filled with some sweet moments between characters while setting up actually interesting plot points. And like the image above says – it features a bear in the lobby. In this case, Beast Boy decides to show up at Raven’s school as a big green bear and pose as an advertising stint (which is actually FUNNY, as opposed to the lame humor we were subjected to in the previous issues from Beast Boy). Now, the only thing that confuses me here is that Raven is supposed to be in high school, yet the fact that she has a roommate and a lobby for her school where any green bear can be received as a piece of mail seems… odd, like it was meant for college. Still, it’s amusing so I’ll forgive the one lapse there.

Beast Boy wants to talk to Raven since she’s been through some crap lately. Now, what’s really fascinating about this is that Winick has been writing Raven like a stereotypical “bitchy high school goth girl” who’s snarky and mean and uses expletives left and right… which Raven certainly does not do. She usually speaks with a very dramatic tone, with controlled words for what she does and says. As such, while the tone in her speech here isn’t perfectly in sync with her Marv Wolfman days, she doesn’t sound TOO far off for her current personality.

Another funny bit ensues when Raven asks Beast Boy if he’s asking her out on a date:

We switch to Titans Tower, where Cyborg is about to show Arsenal, Troia, and Flash his new body. Now I especially comment on this because of two things: one, Donna Troy is back in her starfield costume (though I still miss her cleavage-less halter top), discarding the fugly black outfit with red stars along the side. Two, the artwork TOWERS over Joe Benitez’s work, with actual human proportions on display. I mean, just take alook at cyborg here as compared to Benitez humans from the cover of Issue 3:

Joe Benitez:

Julian Lopez:

Now, a word on the art – sometimes lopez nails it, but he seems to have a real problem with facial expressions if they’re closer up. He’s much tigher in shots that have the characters taking up a reasonable amount of panel space, but then in the very next panel from the Cyborg one above, we have Donna Troy look like, well, this:

Or Raven looking like this…

AAIIIEEEE! ART ATTACK!

In any case, in terms of actual plot developments, besides for the previous two threads, we also see Dick Grayson and Starfire having A MATURE CONVERSATION ABOUT SEX AND THEIR RELATIONSHIP. And bear in mind, this was written by Judd “Green Arrow and Black Canary are going to have a 24-hour sex-a-thon” Winick. It’s mind-boggling that we’ve suddenly gone from atrocious to quality so quickly. In any case, Starfire is the one who says the two can’t have a relationship because, as she asks Dick to confirm and he does, he doesn’t truly LOVE her. While this is a frowning moment for me, since I’m a Dick/Kory shipper, it’s actually maturely handled and it’s a natural development between the two.

My theory is that Nightwing himself hit Judd Winick with his Magical Fist of Morality (see the end of the Titans East storyline) and it wapped a clue into him about proper character writing. Now, I know Judd’s capable of writing good stories – I’ve certainly read them, but it’s just he’s been failing so utterly lately in his writing that it’s shocking to see something so damn GOOD coming here.

Anyway, the issue’s final scenes are of Raven admitting to Beast Boy that she feels like she’s a monster because she’s been fantasizing about killing the Titans, leading to the other Trigon children (the plot of the last four issues, which was a neat idea, if poorly executed) appearing and helping her leave. Beast Boy tries to stop them, but sadly is outmatched.

So, yeah, this was actually good. I’m going to pick up the next one to see if the quality endures, but I’m honestly surprised by this. What’s even more shocking is that apparently this is the first issue where Dan Didio directly edited it, so it might be because of HIM that the book was good.

To quote Cordelia Chase from Angel, what freaking Bizarro-world did I wake up to?

There’s something that, more often than not, gets my comic-loving heart a buzzin’: the bad-ass group shot (BAGS). You’ve undoubtedly seen it countless times before, from Crises to group books and even sometimes in an individual character’s book. It’s a shot of superheroes or cast members gathered together and grinning right at the reader with a look in their eyes that says, “You are all so %$^@ed.”

The most recent example has come from Trinity #15, which featured the Titans (both Teen and Winickmess), the Outsiders (sans Batgirl for some reason), the JSA, and he JLA all gathered together and ready to kick serious ass.

But not every BAGS works quite right. For example, let’s compare two such occurrences in the Titans books. Now, what got me into comics was the Devin Grayson Titans series. As I began to collect back issues of the series, I came upon this BAGS from Titans #4, wherein the Titans travel to hell itself in order to rescue Starfire and thousands of kids:

Look at that. Just look at it! The sheer bad-assness just radiates off the page and makes you want to pump your fist into the air in delight. Now, Geoff Johns’ Teen Titans had quite a few of these, especially when it came to calling in the entire Titans roster from past groups to go to war. The best example is from their confrontation with Dr. Light, however let’s take a look at one from the tail end of his run, right when Adam Beechen takes over during the Titans East storyline. Raven and Cyborg have gone off to find help to fight Deathstroke’s team of Titans. And who do they bring back? The original Wolfman/Perez era group (sans Wally West, since he was in another dimension and Bart Allen had been aged due to events in Infinite Crisis).

I mean look at it. It’s just UGLY. First of all, the angle of the shot is tilted as if we’re seeing a scene from Battlefield Earth and the facial expressions are a bunch of heavy-lined sneers. Donna Troy has her fist in the air… for some reason, which is even weirder since most of her arm is obscured by Nightwing. I mean look at the two examples above and then compare it to this one, in particular the one of Devin Grayson’s Titans – sure, characters have their fists in the air, but we can see most of their arms plus we get energy radiating from the fists as a means of intimidation to the bad guys. Beast Boy in particular has got it bad. It doesn’t even look like him! It looks like some kind of monkey cross-bred with Leonard Nimoy.

Plus grabbing this particular group of people makes no sense at all. Using their communicators, Raven and Cyborg could’ve easily made a call to EVERY Titan to bring them to the fight, but instead we get this select group.

Now I think what’s going on here is that DC wanted to get some early promotion for the fact that they were reassembling the Wolfman/Perez era Titans for a new series under Judd Winick and Ian Churchill (Don’t worry, I’ll get to that nightmare of a series when I release the Atop the Fourth Wall book), but otherwise dramatically their appearance here makes no real sense. As such, I now present the five basic rules to follow when making a Bad-Ass Group Shot:

1. A BAGS should consist of AT LEAST five characters.

2. If the BAGS does not consist mostly (about 75%) of characters who are either regulars to the series or part of the team, there must be at least 10 characters present.

3. The shot should be facing directly towards the reader, so as to resemble the perspective of the person(s)/villain(s) who’s seeing the BAGS
-COROLLARY: A side shot is acceptable if you’re attempting a DOUBLE BAGS, which features two groups of characters facing off against one another.
EXAMPLE (From Titans/JLA: Technis Imperative #2):

4. While not needing a one-liner, having something bad-ass to say increases the awesome factor by 28%.

5. Dramatic build-up to the point of the BAGS is essential. The appearance of the BAGS should be a surprise, but one that makes perfect sense for the story.
For example, the BAGS in Trinity was built up both within the single issue and the previous ones based on Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman bringing more heroes into their investigation. The example used in the previous corollary to rule 2 featured an argument between the Titans and the JLA about rescuing Victor Stone or trying to shut him down when he went nuts and tried to steal the moon. The set-up lines were simple but brilliant:

BEAST BOY: If you try to hurt Vic, I’ll stop you.
ORION: I believe the earth saying goes, “You and what army?”

And thus appeared the DOUBLE BAGS. In the example of a bad BAGS, the only hint of it coming was an appearance by Nightwing in the first part of the story from a few issues back, and it was a pretty superfluous appearance beyond welcoming back Jericho, who had returned from the dead.

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