Icarus: Detective Comics 30-34

Let's be honest: in comics, you can and should judge a book by it's cover. Manapul's are gorgeous.
Let’s be honest: in comics, you can and should judge a book by it’s cover. Manapul’s are gorgeous.

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt the arduous wait for the next issue in a monthly story-arc. I have been following Snyder and Capullo’s Batman: Zero Year arc, but as Dale pointed out in his last post, that story was hardly one to have you counting down the days until the next issue.

Manapul and Buccellato had me doing exactly that with this 5 issue run. I like my Batman stories like my OJ and eggs: pulpy and hard-boiled. The Icarus story-arc delivered, and it was exactly what I needed to pull me back into a series I haven’t followed since well before the New 52. In fact, the story was so damn good I had to re-read all 5 issues immediately after finishing the conclusion. The story treads very little new ground (though I thoroughly enjoyed getting a new look at Detective Harvey Bullock; for once he was more than just a caricature), but it’s perfectly executed. The art is gritty, vibrant, and memorable. Better yet, the mystery kept me guessing until the final issue. Manapul and Buccellato crafted a detective story that fulfills all the requirements of a thrilling super-hero action comic: Giant squids? Check. Knock-down-drag-out sumo fights? Check. Radioactive-human-explosions? Check.

True to the Detective Comics title, the best part of this story isn’t the detective work, but the detectives themselves. The mystery of Elena Aguila’s murder and Gotham’s most dangerous designer drug feel almost secondary to the friction between Bats and Harvey as they race to solve the mystery. If that sounds very backwards and a little grim,  it is. Manapul and Buccellato use their inaugural run on this title to reminds us of the contradictions which make Batman my favorite super-hero: he stands for justice only because he is willing to break the law. As the story unfolds, they reveal the same impulse in Bullock’s own police-work. The cop and The Detective clash not because they’re different, but because they’re so similiar. The line in the sand is little more than a badge, which is exactly why they can put aside their disgust for one another to catch a murderer. Thankfully, Manapul and Buccellato’s colorful portrayal of both characters keeps their new angle on this familiar theme from feeling stale. A two-page spread of Bullock at home in his apartment melted my heart, as did a scene of Bruce repairing Damien’s old motorcycle. It’s details like these that kept Icarus from being just another dark, gritty, DKR-riff. Also compelling were the story’s numerous references to other events in The New 52 Gotham. Without distracting from the plot, Icarus connects to Zero Year (particularly fun for me as I was reading the stories simultaneously) and Batman Eternal. This is how you get people hooked on comics.  I’m not ashamed to say that it’s working.

My only gripe with Icarus: who is he, and why doesn’t he loom larger in the plot? The answer lies somewhere in the bittersweet denouement. Despite Batman’s best efforts, true justice slips through his fingers. Batman can’t be everywhere, and as Alfred regretfully reminds him in the final installment, “That’s the job…picking up the pieces.”

Enjoy this story with a Negroni. This drink started as a relative unknown to us here at CnC, but over the past few months it’s captured our hearts. It’s a classic cocktail, and one of the simplest and most versatile. It’s elegant, well-balanced, colorful, and just bitter enough to make you take notice. All you need is equal parts gin (so far my favorite is Norseman), Campari, and sweet vermouth. Garnish with an orange twist.  Lemon twists are acceptable too.
It’s amazing how many different characters you can get from this drink by simply trying different gin and vermouth combinations. The Negroni is a drink that’s just as challenging, rich, and complex as any good Batman story.

P.S.
If you like easter eggs, pick-up Detective Comics Annual #3 to round-out this arc.  Besides being a fun one-shot, it’s a great tie-in to the Icarus storyline.

Batman: Futures End #1

I had given up on Futures End. I had decided it was just going to plod along, repeatedly zooming in for close-ups on boring third-stringers about whom I give zero fucks (*coughFirestormcough*) and generally just being a high-effort, low-reward series on which to keep up.

Then DC sent me Batman: Futures End #1. When I got home today, I poured myself some home-brewed Irish draught ale, took the dogs outside to run in the yard, sat down on the stoop and cracked the seal on this sucker (mine doesn’t have the fancy hologram cover like in the .gif below).

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This Futures End one-shot appearing in the monthly Batman title resembles Futures End #0 from Free Comic Book Day this year: it’s exciting, action-packed, and yet story-driven in a very media res kinda way. And most importantly, it takes place “five years from now.” (“Now” being the date in DC’s current New 52 continuity). Why’s that important?

Because when you set shit in the future, you (mostly) don’t have to give a shit about continuity.

That’s why The Dark Knight Returns is so fucking good, that’s why Kingdom Come is off-the-chain amazing, and so on for dozens of DC’s Elseworlds tales (DKR and Kingdom aren’t technically Elseworlds, but that’s beside the point).

And technically, this comic is part of continuity, so the storyline they’ve introduced here will probably end up a lot less cool than it seems right now, but that doesn’t detract from the fun of this one-shot.

SPOILERS!

So waaay back when the passage of time was still at least kind-of a thing in the DC Multiverse, there was this big crossover event called Final Crisis. Among a lot of other trippy mind-bending story threads Grant Morrison wrote into the series, there was this one where Batman gets captured by Darkseid’s goon-squad. They’re all like, “Holy shit, we just bagged the most bad-ass motherfucker on planet Earth, what should we do with him?”

Rather than just, you know, kill him (which you probably should if you’re just a lackey of the story’s primary antagonist) they decide to clone him like a million times,  steal all of Bruce Wayne’s memories, and implant them in the clones to make a Batman-army — all of whom would for some reason decide to work for Darkseid, the incarnation of evil in the DC Multiverse. I dunno, maybe Apokolips has really good unions.

Anyway, Batman totally fucks that plan (“What kind of man can turn his own memories into a weapon?”) and then shoots Darkseid with his own supernatural bullet. Cue Omega Effect and Bruce Wayne tumbling through time, buckling some swash with pirates and riding off into the sunset of the Wild West and such.

Back to Batman: Futures End #1 which, despite the Flashpoint event and the New 52 relaunch, still takes place after Batman’s experiences during Final Crisis.

And so, being the goddamn Batman, he mulls these experiences over a bit. He reflects. He considers his overarching strategy. He examines his weaknesses, and recalls the fact that, bad motherfucker though he is, someday he will die. Pff, stupid death. And then he’s like, “Eff that. BATMAN CAN NEVER DIE.

So he starts researching how to create stable, programmable clones and implant them with all of his memories up to and including that one night in his father’s study:

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Hence, the cover of Batman: Futures End #1 — an army of Batmen.

So that’s the premise; the comic’s timescale and scope are actually much tighter. Batman breaks into the only lab in the world with the cloning technology he needs, and naturally the lab belongs to Lex Luthor, so there’s, I dunno, I guess like some high-end security systems or something, but Batman’s like “bitch please” and strolls in like it’s a revolving door convention.

He discovers something* that causes a minor inconvenience during his egress from the facility, but he manages to grab the tech he needs and bug out before Luthor’s security activates “the B-Zero Contingency.” Yes, Lex Luthor built a special contingency into his security program, because Batman.

So you can tell I really liked this comic, and it makes me mad because now I want to start reading Futures End again. And here’s me thinking I could just ride it out until the collected hardcover dropped.

*Luthor’s trying to clone Superman. Again. So there’s an army of Bizarros trying to stop Batman from escaping. Like I said — minor inconvenience.

Batman #33 — “Retcons complete! Returning to the future…”

WP_20140730_002So I finally got around to reading Zero Year‘s final issue, sipping on a coffee cocktail instead of a boozy one. (Buttered Ice from Butter Bakery in Mpls — cold press, vanilla syrup, and cream. Delish.)

I’m relieved it’s over. There were some cool moments, like Batman zooming around on a motorcycle in an overgrown, jungle-like Gotham City, or when he fights off a pair of hungry lions with a well-timed gasoline fireball.

But it’s still a story about the Riddler, by whom I’ve never, ever been impressed. These days he alternates between hapless “private eye” and arrogant shitbag, neither of which should by any stretch of the imagination give the goddamn Batman even the slightest pause.

But Bats does break his stupid face, just like I hoped, so there’s that.

Further, Zero Year retcons a lot of details from Batman’s early career. As in it completely invalidates the events of Batman: Year One, which is pretty much universally regarded as one of the seminal works in the Dark Knight’s history.

I’m okay with change, but I need it to advance or complicate the characters somehow. With the exception of some fairly under-explored tensions between Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne, I don’t see that happening in Zero Year.

I’ve got another year of Batman coming; I’m hoping Snyder and Capullo return to the present tense of the New 52 and start adding to the Dark Knight’s history, rather than rearranging the past.  Their work in Court of Owls was excellent, as was Snyder’s previous run in ‘Tec and Batman which resulted in the collection titled The Black Mirror.

For now I’ve got a 9-day overdue copy of Preacher Book One on my shelf, so I better get cracking.

Send a Bracer Down the Plank: An Adventure with The Canadian X-Man

Growing up, the Marvel vs. DC debate seemed as basic as choosing between Coke and Pepsi. Today, most of my favorite comics are DC owned titles, but my first collection was hand-me-downs from an uncle, and most of those were Marvel. I loved those comics into fingerprinted, dog-eared pieces, and what remains of them live in a Comics Defense cardboard box at my parents’. Someday I’ll retrieve it. Either way, that earliest collection left me with a permanent soft-spot for Spider-Man and the X-Men. Wolverine, in particular, held on as a favorite character long after I defected to Batman, Detective Comics, and Nightwing.

I recently acquired a small collection of Marvel Essential trade paperbacks from an old friend: Doctor Strange vol. 2, Marvel Team-Up, Human Torch vol. 1, and Wolverine volumes 2 and 3. Between that and the movie release of X-Men: Days of Future Past, it seemed like a good time to dig up some nostalgia and reacquaint myself with the Marvel Multiverse, starting with my old favorite. I realize now Wolverine comics have a campy charm all their own. Larry Hama’s colorful dialogue brings ridiculous characters to life in a fun and believable way. The action sequences are over the top, and Logan’s tough-guy with a heart-of-gold persona is always good for a chuckle. Something the bluntness and colorful idioms feel like home.

It would be easy to dismiss the comics collected in Essential Wolverine 2 & 3 as juvenile and overly macho. They are over-the-top campy, often convoluted, and frighteningly full of Women in Refrigerators and problematic cultural stereotypes. They’re also witty, humorous, and heartbreaking. Despite the problems, many issues and story-arcs shine through. Great writers like Larry Hama and D.G. Chichester are able to bring Wolverine alive in ways that highlight his struggle as a survivor and his self-destructive commitment to justice. During Chichester’s three issue arc “Wonkeywrenching”, Logan rescues the daughter of a wealthy logging company owner from militant environmental justice terrorists. I was pleasantly surprised by an ending in which Logan refused to let the logging baron off-the-hook for deforestation profiteering.

So what did I get out of Wolverine? I’m really not sure, just like I’m not sure what I can get out of the Canadian Club whiskey I bought to go with him. There’s not much use to cocktails when you have a mutant healing factor: Logan’s body processes alcohol almost as fast as he can drink it. In Wolverine #31 he downs single-malt scotch. In #65, he pounds a boilermaker and chases it with a fistfight he wins by snapping his jaw and eyeball back in place after giving his opponent a free punch. Canadian Club doesn’t hold-up in cocktails—its bland flavor can’t standup to a quality bourbon or rye. But sometimes when I want to forget work with a stiff drink and a thrilling story, beer is really what I crave. Cocktails are novel, exciting, and challenging, but sometimes a shot and a beer is still the perfect drink. These classic Wolverine comics feel the same way: a tried and true way to escape. Seeing Wolverine tear through horde after horde of ninjas/military grunts/dumb thugs is supremely satisfying, especially given his tortured history. Wolverine is fun because he gets to unleash all of his character’s worst qualities in the fight to reclaim the bits of humanity that have been stolen from him. Sometimes, we all need to stop being so (self)conscious and live in the moment. Some of the best moments in my life have been savored with the strategic help of a shot and a beer, just like some of my fondest childhood comic memories come from poring over Wolverine’s outrageous and hyper-macho pages. For the first time in decades, I’m finding myself wondering what kind of adventures Wolverine is currently embroiled in. Today was my one day off before I get back to the hourly grind, and I still have Canadian whiskey to finish in honor of my old pal Logan. I’m going to down a boilermaker and find out what other joys I can dig up from panel-to-panel.

P.S.
Research tells me that Wolverine’s very first solo adventure was a four-part run written by Chris Claremont and pencilled by Frank Miller in 1982. I dunno about you, but I think I have the newest addition to my “Must Read Comix” list.

P.P.S.
I enjoyed my boilermaker(s) for this re-introduction to Wolverine with ShinerPremium and Canadian Club Whiskey. I suppose if you’re really crazy about the Ol’ Canuckle Head you might want a cheap Canadian brew like LaBatt Blue.

 

SAM LLOYD, ROB MASCHIO, JOHNNY KASTL

CnC Brain Trust Special #1 Spectacular!

Holy nerd extravaganza, Batman! A brand new ongoing series on the real-life events behind the Cocktails and Comics cyber-facade: Brain Trust Special #1!

(Spoilers!)

The minutes:

  • Jean Paul Valley is a boring, derivative character who only served to artificially extend the life of an otherwise great storyline (Batman: Knightfall).
  • Andy Kubert’s Damian: Son of Batman 4-issue miniseries jumps off from an imagined future first created by Kubert and Grant Morrison in Batman Vol. 1 #666; Bruce Wayne is dead and Damian assumes the mantle of the bat. Ass-kicking ensues.
  • Prince Oberyn Martell was far too likable and therefore could not possibly survive more than a season on HBO’s Game of Thrones. He had become such a fan favorite that his final scene in “The Mountain and the Viper” was akin to watching a horrible, horrible remake of The Princess Bride in which Inigo Montoya is brutally murdered juuuuust before he achieves his long-awaited revenge.
  • Knob Creek’s 120-proof Single Barrel Reserve is a vile substance on its own, but drinkable (even pleasant?) in a 2:1:1 ratio with limoncello and amaretto.
  • WP_20140607_007Cherry Heering is a liqueur that serves well as the sweetener in a whiskey sour. A 2:1:1 bourbon-lemon juice-Heering ratio is recommended. Adjust the sweet and sour quantities to your taste. And don’t forget the egg white and soda for that gorgeous frothy head!
  • The Muddler is a new villain of our own creation; he’s a down-on-his-luck bartender who wanders the clubs and dives clobbering those poor souls unfortunate enough to drink (or serve) bad cocktails. His clobbering device of choice is an excessively over-sized hardwood cocktail muddler.
  • Chris McMillian is a walking library and national treasure of American cocktail history. Check out this video of his take on the mint julep, which should probably be the only julep you ever make. I mean really — how many barkeeps do you know who recite prose from the 1880’s as they prepare your drink?
  • Behold! the elusive sharktrain, CnC’s Master of Sazeracs, whose first post to the blog we await with bated breath.

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  • The cocktails of the evening included: the Sazerac, the Perfect Strange, the Mint Julep, and the Cherry Whiskey Fizz. Look for the recipes in upcoming posts!
Uptown Pizza goes with everything
Uptown Pizza goes with everything

 

Comic booooooooks
COMIC BOOOOOOOKS… and a mint julep

 

Perfectly Strange: Mixology History & Variation

It’s been far too long, dear readers.  Working at history museums during the spring field trip season sapped my desire to write over the past few weeks.  Fortunately, it’s also helped me realize I love studying history, be it academically, occupationally, or in this case, alcoholically.  Since joining this adventure I’ve researched, mixed, and sipped five types of drinks: the Manhattan, Old-Fashioned, gin & tonic, gin martini, and Sazerac.  All five drinks have competing origin stories stretching back to the 19th century, and all have the numerous variations you’d expect from recipes with a century-plus of history.  Reading these origins and spin-offs online has been almost as much fun as enjoying the drinks.  Almost.

In the comic book department, I’ve been slowly progressing through Marvel’s Essential Doctor Strange, Vol. 2.  The more I read, the more I knew Dr. Strange needed a cocktail to go with him: something intriguing, exotic, and full of history and lore.  That drink hit me taking in the menu during happy hour at The Sample Room a few days back: the Sazerac.  Rye whiskey (or if you want the chronological progenitor, cognac) sugar, Peychaud Bitters, and a lemon twist (squeezed into the glass then discarded, according to purists) strained into a chilled glass washed with absinthe and ice.

Problem is, Peychaud Bitters are hard to find.  They’re definitely not stocked at my three main liquor stores.  Neither is absinthe.  I finally found the closest thing on my 3rd try: Absente Absinthe Refined.  Made with real Artemisia Absinthium Wormwood, Absente is the right proof (over 90) for real absinthe, but boasts additional sugar and coloring, presumably in lieu of more complex traditional distillation methods.  Besides that, I’m not sure the Sazerac is the right drink to capture/pair with Doctor Strange.  While absinthe has the legendary history you’d expect from a figure like Strange, I’m not sure he’d be a big absinthe drinker.  He’s a modern American doctor, not some 19th century bohemian artist.  What’s more, he’s a New Yorker: Manhattan has been his home both before and after becoming Master of Mystic Arts.  But that’s too simple for an illustrious Master of Black Magic.  Surely Stephen Strange’s tastes must be more refined, more exotic, than the basic Manhattan.

Enter David Wondrich, cocktail historian and author of Esquire Magazine’s the Wondrich Take.  Classic cocktails, much like comics, have long histories complete with reboots and spin-offs.  And according to Wondrich, the Manhattan has plenty of spin-offs, including the Sherman.  The Sherman is a Manhattan, much like Dr. Strange, but modified with only one dash of Angostura bitters, a dash of Orange bitters, and three dashes of absinthe.  Just enough of the mystical powers of the over-proof green fairy to unlock its flavors. The Sherman feels right with Dr. Strange, but it’s still a Sherman.  Lucky for us, we haven’t varied from the traditional Manhattan vermouth formula.  To turn our Sherman into a Dr. Strange, cut your amount of sweet Vermouth in half and replace the other half with Dry Vermouth.  Now you have a Perfect Sherman, or better yet a Perfect Strange.  Garnish with a lemon twist if you can, but if you love Maraschino cherries knock yourself out.  Half of the fun of comics are the twists, and cocktails were made for improvising.  And yes, this drink does use every bottle currently in my cabinet.  So what?  What makes Dr. Strange Vol. 2 so interesting is its combination of superhero comic cliché, surreal art, and florid cosmic horror prose.  It’s the perfect amount of Strange: both the comic and cocktail are mutations on familiar traditions.  Enjoy responsibly, for as Lovecraft (Or perhaps Roy Thomas? Stan Lee?) warns on the opening page of Dr. Strange #183, “We live on a placid island of ignorance, in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far…”

Why yes, that is a lime you see garnishing this Perfect Strange. I used all my lemons in prototypes of this drink before I got to taking a photo. I was getting Strange and improvising, so sue me.
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Because It’s Not Funny: Why No One Should Ever Read “The Killing Joke” Again

Andrew:

Reposting a previous blog from Sure as Shiretalk re: misogyny in superhero comics. #YesAllWomen

Originally posted on Sure as Shiretalk:

I bought this comic sometime in 2008 or 2009, during its most recent resurgence to popularity. As The Dark Knight‘s release date approached and Heath Ledger revealed it as a source of inspiration for his upcoming performance, Moore and Bolland’s 1988 one-shot (re)surfaced as the definitive depiction, “easily the greatest Joker story ever told.” The Killing Joke is a bizarre, brutal carnival ride of a comic book to be sure, but it doesn’t add anything meaningful to the characters it involves and torments and maims.

It does a lot of subtracting. It robs a beloved heroine of her dignity and the use of her legs. It lowers the Batman to the Joker’s level of depravity. And it diminishes the value and complexity of one of the most compelling villains in comic books.

Why does anyone like this comic? Why did I like this comic?

Until sometime last year…

View original 1,343 more words

Futures End #0-3/Batman Eternal #5-7/Limoncello Lemonade

The-New-52-Futures-End-full(Spoilers. But they’re pretty lame ones, so don’t fret too much.)

DC Comics’ official page for Futures End #4 poses lots of questions.

“Where is Red Robin? Who wants to steal from the world’s most famous man? And whatever happened to Stormwatch?”

But unless I’m very much mistaken, they answered all of these questions as main plot points in Futures End #1-3 (tending a dive bar in New York City; Terry McGinnis aka Batman Beyond; it blew up, respectively).

So I have a few questions of my own:

Why is Green Arrow “dead”? (Again?) And more broadly, what does “death” even mean in superhero comics? (Answer is almost always: Nothing. Nada. Fuck all.)

Why should I care about Frankenstein? Why is he featured so prominently in 2 of the 5 issues thus far, and more pointedly, is DC pushing him on us because that movie sucked so hard?

(Almost forgot that existed, didn’t you?)

And one perpetually nagging query: What’s with Batman Beyond’s face? Especially the mouth region. Like… you can see his teeth and inner mouth and stuff, but the mask completely covers his jaw and mouth and lips… I don’t understand. Somebody please explain.

Anyway — Futures End #0 was so promising. It was all Terminator-meets-Days of Future Past, and as usual, the goddamn Batman was the last man standing. Mr. Terrific seems intriguing so far, despite the fact that the “T” could just as easily stand for “Tool.”

Though I really want to like this series, I remain ambivalent. Oddly enough, the same is true of Batman Eternal.

BatmanEternal7Again, strong start followed by filler. I mean, Oswald Fucking Cobblepot is the cover image for Eternal #7. Can we be done with Penguin already? Nobody fucking cares. Least of all Batman.

Is a weekly series just too ambitious? Or maybe “bloated” is a better word. With an eternally (heh) rotating creative team, Eternal and Futures End are perhaps suffering from that cliche about the box of chocolates. One person’s pineapple truffle is another’s rum nougat. (Or vice versa…?)

Eternal #5 features art by Andy Clarke, who pretty much knocked my socks off. Looking forward to more issues from him — his images are simultaneously sharp as glass and just a little rough around the edges.

On to the drink! Today was really the first summery day here in Minneapolis, and I was craving some lemonade. I bought some limoncello for the Bourbon Pom drink I posted a while back, so I figured I could use some of that up. So — I give you the limoncello lemonade. (It’s limoncello with lemon juice and ice.)

1.5oz Il Tramonto limoncello

juice of one lemon

ice, slightly crushed

Combine in a glass. Stir. Add ice.

Yup. So I was lazy. It’s a lazy kind of day. Good way to get rid of limoncello if you have no other use for it, but I’d highly recommend that Bourbon Pom if you’re looking for a little more pizzazz.

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Batman Eternal, American Vamp, and the New Old-Fashioned

Holy expendable income, Batman! I’ve bought a lot of comics lately. From left to right:

Scott Snyder has revived his American Vampire series, and based on the strength of his writing for Batman I’ve decided to give it a go. I’m three issues into the original run of 34 (#1-5 featuring Stephen King as co-writer) and it’s pretty killer so far. Smart, fresh, and definitely not your granddaddy’s (nor your teenage sister’s) vampire story.

Issues 1-3 of the Batman Eternal series, which just started this month and, if Batman #28’s preview was any indication, seems pretty promising. (Can you tell I dig Scott Snyder?) Got these on a recent outing with the other CnC dudes to The Source Comics and Games.

The three latest additions to Andrew’s Batman Comics CanonJLA: Crisis of ConscienceInfinite Crisis and Batman: Battle for the Cowl.

And just for kicks, here’s what I’m drinking to warm myself up after a day chainsawing in the cold, rainy, miserable Minnesota spring thus far:

Maple-Orange Old-Fashioned

2oz Knob Creek Kentucky straight bourbon

1tsp Grade A maple syrup

Fee Brothers orange bitters

Combine all in a pint glass with ice, stir; strain over large ice cube into a rocks glass.

I loooove maple and orange together (especially orange zest on French toast or in pancake batter). You can also fix this sucker with Knob Creek’s Smoked Maple bourbon and just use simple syrup instead of maple. Garnish with an orange wheel if you’ve got one on hand.

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