You Read These With Your Eyes – May 18th, 2011

Read about these, earth-man.

Every week, Comics! The Blog goes through the list of new releases and tell you which comics to plug into your mind hole. Your mileage may vary.

Not pictured, but always present: Queen Elizabeth IIALPHA FLIGHT #0.1 (Marvel Comics)

Comics’ premiere-slash-only Canadian superhero team returns from their untimely demise to do Canadian things!  They’ll vanquish villains by asking them politely to leave.  Of course, if the villains are Canadian too, they’ll comply.  Then Puck will take everybody out for a flame-broiled, made-to-order burger at Harvey’s before they adjourn to Tim Hortons for a dessert of Timbits and Iced Capps!

Man, I love Canada.

Now, in the off-chance that this isn’t actually what happens, that the doom-y advance solicitation of asking, “DO YOU FEAR…YOUR COUNTRY TURNING ON YOU?” turns out to be something a little more serious and Fear Itself-related than I imagine Canadian superheroics being, having never actually read an Alpha Flight comic, then remember: we’ve still got the writing team of C!TB favourites Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, of The Incredible Hercules and Herc fame to assure us that this will be as awesome as Harvey’s and Tim Hortons combined.  Americans, look it up.

ARCHIE & FRIENDS #154 (Archie Comics)

I do not generally read Archie comics, or at least not as fervently as Brandon does, theoretically under the auspices of buying them “for his little sister,” who I have not actually met and thus cannot – as a scientist – assume exists.  Eventually he will throw things my way talking about how awesome they are, from Kevin Keller to Archie: The Married Life to those two issues where President Obama and Sarah Palin hang out, to an issue where the gang are straight up riffs on The Jersey Shore, can you just picture that awesomeness?

Well, prepare to be blown away once more!  In the latest issue of Archie & Friends, these are characters present:

  • Justin Beaver
  • Meowly Cyrus
  • The Jonas Barkers
  • Lady Arf Arf

I swear to god, if you don’t buy this, we’re not friends anymore.

Pray this is right, kids: STEAMPUNK BATMAN

BATMAN: GATES OF GOTHAM #1 (DC Comics)

Batman: The Streets of Gotham is dead!  Long live Batman: Gates of Gotham!  Only a few weeks after the former title shuffled off after the completion of “House of Hush,” Paul Dini‘s sequel to “Heart of Hush,” a new miniseries takes its place, and there are a few things that sound like they’ll make this special:

  1. It’s written by Scott Snyder, he of the stupendously awesome, deliciously dark  “The Black Mirror” arc in Detective Comics.
  2. The series itself, dealing with the history and “soul” of Gotham, sounds like it’s taking a lot of inspiration from Snyder‘s run on Detective, including the fact that it’s a straight-up detective story, which is just lovely.
  3. The series will be a launching point for a few high profile Bat-family stories this year.
  4. It costars Blackbat, aka Cassandra Cain!

Basically, you need to read this.

DOCTOR WHO: A FAIRYTALE LIFE (IDW Publishing)

I am not a Whovian, or at least I wasn’t a month and a half ago.  But then I watched all of Matt Smith‘s first season in under a week and have been loving every second of the new season since it premiered.  But did you know those the only Eleventh Doctor & Amy Pond stories out there, with the exception of some video games that I may or may not have bought one of?  It’s true!  Or at least it was until I remembered that Matt Sturges, who has written awesome comics like Jack of Fables, Blue Beetle, Justice Society of AmericaFinal Crisis Aftermath: Run! and House of Mystery is now writing some Doctor Who comics where my favourite floppy-haired madman and redheaded Scottish lass muck about on a planet that’s all about fairy tales!  In other news, I am a hopeless addict, please send Dino-Sours.

Now, a lot of licensed brand tie-in comics tend to be, well, not very good.  But IDW is doing some great work over there, and as it turns out, throwing Sturges, a lifelong fan of Doctor Who who is also a really great writer, is basically a stroke of genius.  If you like your Eleventh Doctor, I wholeheartedly suggest you read this and never stop reading it except to watch more Doctor Who.

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #158 (Marvel Comics)

I am going to miss Ultimate Peter Parker.  There, I said it.  I initially started reading Ultimate Spider-Man around the time of the Ultimate Clone Saga, not really knowing anything about Brian Michael Bendis other than that Seth Cohen really liked him and that The O.C. was boss.  Like, boss Hogg.  I also loved Spider-Man.  So I picked up an issue, and then another.  I started looking for back issues and picking up all I could.  Ever since then, every new issue has jumped straight to the top of my to-read pile for one simple reason: Ultimate Spider-Man is quite probably the single greatest run of any series in modern comics.  It’s just been incredible quality all the way through, and as The Death of Spider-Man wraps up, I can’t help but be sad about the impending departure of its title character.

Now, of course I know that (a) death in comics is almost never permanent and that (b) Bendis is going to continue writing the series past that.  It will undoubtedly remain completely awesome and I will love it to death.  But still: I’m sad.  I’ll miss Pete.

The fact that the comic and this arc can make me feel so sad about a fictional character’s pretend death is a testament to how good it is.  I can’t wait to read this issue, even if it means the pollen in here gets crazy.  I want to devour the writing and Mark Bagley‘s art.  I just love this comic so very much.

These are just five of the many, many books being released this week! And seriously, the stuff I left out?  Comics by Matt Fraction, Kieron Gillen, Dan Slott, Rick Remender and EVEN MORE by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente.  Seriously.  It’s like it’s Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente Week, which I am now declaring it to be.

There are so.  Many.  Great.  Comics this week!

You can find the full list of comics being released here. If you have any other recommendations, let us know in the comments below.

Late to the Party, No 2: Doctor Who

Don't worry, we left you some Cheetos.

No. 2: Doctor Who

British Conan O’Brien enthusiast travels through time and space, or:

Eccentric faux-Englishman galavants about time, fights robots with plungers for hands

The reason two are necessary, of course, is because there is more than one Doctor.  And his name isn’t Doctor Who, it’s just… the Doctor.

I know, right?

And I’ll be honest: the second, more general description of the series didn’t quite get me there.  It got me oh so close, though.  My dad had watched the series back in some of its earlier days, including the Tom Baker years, aka the Scarf Years, aka the knitted sex swing years, but never really talked about it, I just knew that, when the series reappeared on my beloved CBC in 2005 with a weird, angry looking man I didn’t really believe had any sort of medical degree, I knew enough to know that when my dad watched bits of it, it was because he had watched something very much like it before.  And usually, this is how I discovered science fiction and fantasy things as a kid: my dad would mention something or explicitly suggest I check it out, I would and then we’d all have a larf and bond or something.  My childhood was heartwarming as fuck, people.

But for some reason, this time I didn’t listen to my dad (though I would not too long later with the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica).  Instead, I went to another room, did something else, and now, years later, am sorry I did.  That’s the lesson here, kids: always listen to your father.  Especially when he’s both a nerd and cool like mine is.

Hi, dad!

So.  Years pass.  There’s a new actor playing the Doctor, which isn’t weird.  In fact, it’s actually one of the series’ primary conceits, which is absolute fucking genius, when you think about it.  BBC America has successfully brought Doctor Who away from PBS reruns and into the wider minds of Geekville.  More of my friends started watching it, and it became an ever-growing part of Pop Candy, one of my favourite sites on the web.  I started getting urges.  Finally, in late 2009, I made an announcement:

All talk, no action.

Two years later, I had done literally nothing.  There was another new Doctor – the perfect jumping-on point – but still… nothing.  My sister started watching the show, and devoured all the seasons since the show’s 2005 relaunch in a matter of weeks.  I thought, okay James, time to get on this.  You can do it. I recorded the Christmas special, which was advertised as a great stand-alone episode.  This was on December 26th.

Then I waited three months.

I eventually watched it solely because of my sister’s vaguely terrifying anger when I let this slip.  I didn’t mean for it to be so long, but… it just happened.  I was watching Fringe, if you remember.  So finally, I watched it.  And guys, I absolutely loved Doctor Who!  The story was moving, the characters were funny and it really was all about the powers of intellect and curiosity over brute force, which really explains why we nerds love it so much.

That was it, for the time being.  But then my sister moved back to town, with her copies of the seasons, and we both realized that a new season would be starting tomorrow, April 23rd.  We made plans to watch the previous season, starting last Friday.  She came over, we watched the first episode and she made me eat fish custard, which is a Thing.

Really?

Seriously.  It’s actually good.

Hey ladies.

And, just like that, I was sold.  I got a great deal on the entire last season on iTunes and have been working my way through ever since, because she’s coming over again tomorrow for more TV and more fish custard.

The show is like nothing I’ve ever seen.  It is, in very literal terms, about the power of intelligence and imagination.  It’s a show where the Doctor helps save the Earth from callous international space jailers, then saves England, which is a starship (OR IS IT?), helps Winston Churchill fight the Nazis and evil aliens with plungers for arms, before saving the Church, which is now an army, from evil statues.  And those are just the ones I’ve watched so far.  Like the Eleventh Doctor, played with sexual gusto by Matt Smith, tells his companion Amy (Karen Gillan), the whole of time and space are the limit.  Imagination is the limit.  And that’s, well, you know.  Without a limit.

Doctor Who is a show where the most dangerous being in existence is a nerd with a bowtie, tweed jacket and floppy hair who waggles a “sonic screwdriver” about while cracking wise and rarely, rarely doing anything close to throwing a punch.  He’s much too smart for that, you see.  And the viewer?  Well, I’m a nerd.  And when I was a teenager, I’d have loved if this were real.  I’d have loved to be surrounded by an army of evil, terrifying monsters that have killed most of the people I’m hanging around with, crack a smile, come up with a plan and remind the monsters that they’re right fucked.  Frankly, that would have saved teenage me a bit of trouble.

Your first Doctor is your Doctor.  Your first doctor is the one that reminds you of the power of sheer thought, of the limitless possibilities contained within the mind, the one who introduces you to the TARDIS and the sonic screwdriver, to the Daleks and the Cybermen and the Weeping Angels.  My dad’s is Tom Baker.  My sister’s is Christopher Eccleston, though she loves Matt Smith too.  Probably in a different way than I do, though.  But I decided to start with the current Doctor purely for topicality and posterity, and I’m glad.  Because I don’t know if anybody else would have made me such a believer in the series, who would have me so excited to go on all these adventures.  But like the saying goes:

Trust your Doctor.