As we left off on Friday, Vampire Jubilee and Vampire Wolverine put a hamper into the X-Men’s plan to defeat this undead enemy — and also have none of them turn into vampires. Sadly, that solitary neck chomp also brings it with an evil personality devoid of all the good stuff that sunshine, puppies, and such provide. Well, Cyclops won’t stand for it. Remember his new ideology of the X-Men being less of a school and more of a highly-trained heavily fortified army?
Bad guys don’t listen to the threats of Ol’ Laser Eyes (whose eye lasers are not compressed energy but instead portals to a universe that doesn’t follow the laws of physics — or something like that). Plus, Cyclops hasn’t smiled all arc. Masterminding the potentially greatest slaughter of vampires ever known can be quite stressful. But Xarus, being a traditional supervillain who doesn’t realize that the superheroes always emerge victorious, attacks the X-Men base Utopia with the full vampire force because he has to learn his lesson the hard way.
Vampire Wolverine has the benefit of being unfiltered and evil as opposed to his normal unfiltered and curmudgeony. Nowadays, the X-Men preside as the Batman of the Marvel universe, in that they have plans for every single possible scenario — poor planning prevents the extinction of the few hundred remaining mutants against almost ten thousand bloodsucking monsters and Vampire Wolverine. Anyway, they win. Go buy the book for all that. Most important to today’s topic:
Yes, now instead of a being a powerless nobody, Jubilee now gets to walk the streets as a hungry, bloodthirsty night demon. It might have been better for her emotional health if she stayed useless. Unfortunately, like I mentioned earlier, there’s no going back — vampirism doesn’t cure if someone doesn’t possess a healing factor or the writer no longer wants her to be a vampire.
We jump five issues to a simpler time, where Professor X still had that shred of kindness and teacher-ness deep inside him before all that uncovered psychic manipulation tainted his reputation. We start with an angry Jubilee, as most people who are turned into vampires against their will tend to be:
In this issue, he tells a long story from his pre-Magneto past where he tracks hunters in Africa. The story itself doesn’t become relevant until the final scenes, when he meets a special man. Or used to be man.
You can probably guess his secret. Hint: it starts with a “v” and ends in “–ampire.” Like all mythical monsters, you get the good and the bad populating a universe with billions of other fictional people. Take DC’s sword-wielding Frankenstein. DC’s ghost Deadman. Half of Blade. So when Professor X assures Jubilee that her actions from this point have no influence from the vampire baddies of the past, he has proof. That and the only vampire to ever wear a tank top.
On Wednesday, we’ll read more Vampire Jubilee stuff, because I’m never afraid to beat a dead horse well beyond the point of embarrassment.
I mentioned briefly that Jubilee currently prowls around the Marvel universe as a vampire and mother. The latter is a story for another day, but in a fictional universe with mutants and space gods and mole people, why not throw in the classic monsters as well? Jubilee joins the ranks of vampire-hood (the scary kind) in X-Men #1-6, written by Victor Gischler and drawn by Paco Medina, as well as X-Men #11, written by Gischler and drawn by Al Barrionuevo.
Before we begin, it’s important to know that all that’s about to happen spawned from the Marvel event House of M. At its conclusion, Scarlet Witch wipes out the genetic mutation of all but 198 mutants (mainly those Professor X protected). Jubilee unfortunately misses out on the professor’s gift, rendering her among the millions now powerless. No more fireworks for our dear mall rat.
You see, we expect vampires to remain as old fashioned and Victorian as their myth dictates. But of course they adjust to new technology and skills. In today’s modern world, couldn’t something (or someone) be created to mimic the effects of a bite without all that hassle of the romanticization and allure of a neck puncture? Vampires use Facebook just like the rest of us, or in this case, manufacture biological weapons that accomplish their goals under the guise of a terrorist attack.
No going back now. Our girl’s on her way to vampire-dom. Want to talk about vampires in Marvel comics? I guess if not you could always skip this paragraph. The mythical creatures first appeared in the Marvel universe in the early ’70s, as Marvel comics’ version of Dracula received his own comic book. Morbius the Living Vampire technically premiered before him, but Morbius is also technically not a vampire. The Comics Code Authority finally allowed comic books to return to their horror roots, and they jumped on that with a fury you’d expect from an easy way to make bijillions of dollars. Thus the series The Tomb of Dracula ran for over seven years and seventy issues. The superhero Blade premiered in that series as well. He’s a major character in this arc we’re reading now, but I’m skipping him in favor of Jubilee. Note: it’s worth buying the book just for Blade’s Hulk Hogan mustache.
So the vampires’ plan? Hint: it involves delusions of grandeur.
She can officially stamp her vampire card. Definitely no going back from that. I’m not happy about the weird pseudo-seduction of the young Jubilee by an ancient creepy vampire (Dracula’s son Xarus), but I guess it wouldn’t be a good vampire story if we weren’t all weirded out.
Up next you’ll witness a beautiful exercise in a slow burn. Not like an insult, but the overextending of a scene to heighten the effect of the ending. And of course Xarus is right: the X-Men’ll totally rush to save their precious former X-Men. No one more than Wolverine, who collects teenage girl protégés faster than matted back hair.
For all of Wolverine’s unpleasantness, his father figure-ness towards the younger X-Men almost compensates for his many, many, many faults. Sure, he may smell like meat, drinks too much, needs anger management, and murders every other person he talks to — but you see how much he cares about the kids? He’s tortured, not evil. Kitty Pryde, Jubilee, Armor, and the rest are objectively better people for knowing him. Now remember this for our slow burn.
What a jerk. Can Vampire Jubilee redeem herself? Maybe, but at least she’ll have her buddy Vampire Wolverine. Now when he goes to the bar, it’ll bring a whole new meaning when he orders a Bloody Mary. Right? Sorry, I promise I won’t do that again.
Every decade or two, DC and Marvel come together to have their superheroes punch each other in the face. That’s about it. Some excuse is made up as to why these two companies have to kick and throw batarangs at each other, but the story always revolves around the fights. And good. Because thanks to these crossovers, you get to see Aquaman and Namor chuck whales at each other. Flash vs. Quicksilver. Catwoman vs. Elektra. Lobo vs. Wolverine Batman vs. Captain America. And the list goes on, but I know the fight you’ve been really shouting for. Jason, you ask, it’s cool to see Superman fight the Hulk, but what about the match up that critics and fans alike have desperately begged for years and years? That’s right: Robin vs. Jubilee. Finally. Today, we’ll be using the following issues:
DC vs. Marvel Comics #1-3, written by Ron Marz and drawn by Dan Jurgens & Claudio Castellini
Legends of the Dark Claw #1, written by Larry Hama and drawn by Jim Balent
DC/Marvel: All Access #2-3, written by Marz and drawn by Jackson Guice
In the first time our two protagonists meet, two godlike creatures basically pick a superhero from each company and have them brawl. It’s for the survival of one of the two universes or whatever. Here’s the important part:
Teleportation complete. All that remains now is a dose of melodrama to heighten the tension and the two can throw fireworks/hit each other with bo staffs. I’d like you to always have in the back of your mind that in current comics, Jubilee is a mother. Also, a vampire. The past couple of years have been rough to her.
Of the eleven matches in this series, six were determined by writers and five were determined by voters. This one did not get left up to the fans, but we can all pretty much guess our eventual victor. Whether it’s a constant overcompensation by the writers for no superpowers or simply the benefit of an incredible amount of training, Robin totally takes down the living Fourth of July. I don’t normally like to spoil this stuff, but I can’t see this coming as any sort of shock whatsoever. For the other fights, you can buy the book. I won’t spoil those.
While Robin takes some time to learn about Jubilee’s fetishes, I can’t stress enough just how insane this crossover event becomes. It’s great. Situations that have never occurred in comics and never will again pop up on every other page. Want to see Peter Parker flirt with Lois Lane? I’m about to show you. How about Dark Claw (Batman merged with Wolverine) fighting Hyena (Joker merged with Sabretooth)? Yes, it’s amazing.
By the way, those Amalgram combo-superhero issues? They made 24 of them. The ’90s could be a wacky time for comics. But as we jump back to our sorta-love story, we pick up a year later in the sequel. The superhero Access (real name Axel Asher) has the superpower to travel between DC and Marvel. That’s his sole purpose for existing, and Jubilee wants to abuse that power.
Remember what happens when two superheroes attempt a serious talk? That emotional bubble must be popped before it manifests itself into something mushy and gross. Luckily, before Robin and Jubilee can round the bases in the rain, they have to first overcome an obstacle. It comes with the cape and cowl duties.
In this series, Robin’s petrified of Two-Face. Like Harvey Dent’s the Darkseid of Gotham City. I understand that Two-Face’s a good shot and such, but so is 90% of the bad guys Robin battles every night he goes on patrol. For the sake of this story, Two-Face is someone to be feared. Robin’s blood freezes as a grown man wanders the soaked streets looking for children to shoot. Plot-wise, what’s about to happen works — the goal to heighten suspense and give the two young superheroes a legitimate challenge is totally achieved. But just how dangerous is Two-Face really? Couldn’t Jubilee light a Roman candle under his chin followed with Robin’s kick to the face? Down goes the supervillain.
How do these kids beat this unstoppable maniac? Capes, of course, which blows The Incredibles‘ moral right out of the water. Also, note that giant coin? Symbolism, dude.
You know how earlier I mentioned it would take one firework and a good kick to defeat Two-Face. I’m wrong and I apologize. It took one firework and two kicks. I’m a big man and I can admit my mistakes. Scorpion (Spider-Man’s baddie) pops up in the next page. He’s a much scarier supervillain in terms of abilities, but I’m going to skip the fight. In summary, Batman pops up to shows Scorpion why he’s the C-lister he is.
If you look again, Robin’s the one leaning in. He totally kissed her. Good for him. And to be fair, it’s probably not cheating if the girl lives in another universe.
No two superheroes have less in common than Impulse and Batman, except maybe a mutual respect for Batman. The child speedster arrives in Gotham to play a prank on Robin — that’s his entire motivation for coming to the city and almost a perfect summary of the character himself. And you know Batman already, the scariest man in the DC universe. Today, they team-up against the Joker and it’s absolutely delightful. Let’s read together Impulse #50, written by Todd Dezago and drawn by Ethan Van Sciver.
Note the brilliant difference in art styles. Impulse is drawn like a living cartoon with a larger noggin and softer features while Batman has his standard gritty lines and indulgence in shading. Unfortunately, despite Impulse’s superpowers and Batman’s over-reliance on solo work, there’s one more solid reason for Impulse to run on home. Y’know, it’s in his superhero name. Also, you can really see the clear gorgeous difference in the art on these pages:
Witness Impulse’s first conversation with the Joker. The poor kid has to keep Joker busy long enough for Batman to disable all the traps. Luckily for all the Joker’s unpredictability, at least he’s always terribly verbose.
Joker’s bad grammar aside — it’s almost impressive for the Joker to bring about that level of fear in those he’s around. The guy has no superpowers, no real alliances, an above average but not genius intelligence, and fairly middle-of-the-road martial arts skills. Though I guess anyone would pick up a few fighting tricks getting bashed in the head monthly by Batman for the past decade or two. So what would any good supervillain do with a speedster at his disposal?
You can click the picture for a larger version of the montage. And you should, because it’s fantastic. Note all the jokes: the two notes he starts to write his real name before crossing it out, that gleeful panel of Batman and Impulse cackling like mad scientists, Impulse’s poses as he takes pictures for Joker, etc. For all the darkness and extreme-ness of comics in the ’90s, we can’t forget that glimmer of silliness and fun hidden beneath numerous pouches and leather jackets.
Also, three great jokes on the next few pages.
There’s a three page fight scene after this, but you can buy the issue for that. The important life lesson comes at the story’s conclusion, where all young superheroes experience growth through the tribulations of working with their elders. Most importantly, Batman does something that’s his own perfect character summation. He manages to give a compliment and an insult at the same time, thus bringing Impulse’s feel-good status back down to neutral. You wouldn’t want the kid to get a big head, right? I mean, a bigger head than he already has.
We’re back to Robin on Wednesday because Tim Drake holds a special place in my heart. He makes out with Jubilee. How’s that for a tease?
Every weekend from 2003 till the reboot, the DC superheroes would ship their child sidekicks off to San Francisco to bond or whatever. Maybe Batman just needs a break. Maybe he wants some time without have to worrying about being a good role model or wearing pants in Wayne Manor. In Teen Titans #1-7, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Mike McKone & Tom Grummett, we get to see the teenagers’ days off from fighting crime. Which they use to fight crime anyway. But the idea of Teen Titans? Fantastic idea, and good for personal growth or at least two days a week that Flash doesn’t have to deal with the DC universe’s annoying kid brother.
Let’s talk about Bart Allen for a moment. It’s weird and complicated, so I’ll try to explain the best I can. Bart comes from a thousand years in the future, but unfortunately all that speed juice or genetic abnormality started to age him prematurely. Like that Robin Williams movie Jack. His family raised him in a video game-esque environment to keep his metabolism in check (hence Flash stating that Impulse treats everything like a video game with continues, extra lives, etc.), but it didn’t work. Taking the next logical step, his mother sends him back in time to our day where medicine doesn’t have the ability to fix a future disease. The Flash (Wally West) races Bart Allen around the world and the crazy speed fixes his metabolism. Look, I’m not a scientist, but that’s comic books for you.
Now he’s the superhero Impulse, saving a yacht from a mysterious bad guy.
The Teen Titans’ arch-nemesis Deathstroke is an old man. His hair is white and he rocks full facial hair. Yet he spends his time battling teenagers, like the ultimate elderly dude yelling at kids about stepping on his lawn. Sure, he occasionally blows off kneecaps and slices people open with swords, but we can’t forget that he loses constantly to superheroes with a median age of 15.
Now here’s the thing about super speed — it also means super recovery. Impulse can heal fully within minutes, but like in the real world and not in the world where running fast cures metabolism issues, if the knee heals in the wrong place then Impulse can kiss walking goodbye. Plus, all the surgeons retrying after the healing ruins their surgery gives Impulse a long time to painfully think about his own life mistakes. Remember when his mentor said that he doesn’t believe in him?
Impulse is the only Flash-like character with perfect memory. Flash or Max Mercury or Johnny Quick can learn how to repair a skyscraper in the time it takes for the first brick to fall, but weeks later the skill’ll be removed with football stats or however superheroes spend their weekends without their kids. Time for poor Impulse to grow up.
Robin solos Deathstroke next. And as I’m a former English teacher, I’d be remiss not to mention that for all of Robin’s skills — martial arts, detective logic, weapon training, years of on-the-job experience, and a costume full of Deus Ex Machina gadgets — his life today gets saved because of books. Beautiful, glorious, spectacular books.
If knowledge is power, than Impulse now has the power of the entire San Francisco Library.
You can click the image above for a larger version where you can actually read all the text. Like many Pokemon evolutions, the Flash title takes two promotions to obtain. He starts as the immature and annoying Impulse. After he proves himself (with knowledge), he graduates to the second level Kid Flash. That’s the same title Wally West used before he became the real deal. In a few years, Bart’s Kid Flash finally gets his precious Flash moniker (for thirteen issues before he dies, but that’s a whole other story).
Oh yeah, the kids battle their superhero mentors, but you can buy the book for all that. As we end today, I want to mention one more time how delightful and refreshing real superhero growth is. I totally get that superheroes almost always must go through temporary change or personal growth with no future impact on the story — comics are a business and sales must remain steady. Though I guess the New 52 is out to prove me wrong. We should root with all our heart that this reboot succeeds because there’s no going back. Readers’ delusions of an “oops” and shift back to 2010 isn’t healthy. Buckle up for the long haul and enjoy the ride.
Being a superhero, Robin has an advantage that normal people don’t — namely superhuman detective skills and kung fu-ing faces. With his classmate dead, it’s time the teenage murderer pays for his crimes. Through kung fu-ing him in the face, mainly. Robin and his buddy Spoiler have all the information they need, and all that’s left is the bruising and the arresting.
I’m not totally an expert on teenage behavior, but two colorful vigilantes bursting through a gang’s door invokes less fear and more apathy. We forget that Batman’s the scary one. Robin’s the lighter side of crime fighting. Since children can’t be as frightening as Batman hopes, Robin’s bright colors allow the bad guys to underestimate him. He wins the fight through psychology. Or because Robin’s color scheme has been around for over 70 years and it’s too late to make any considerable changes to the costume. Giving Robin pants were a nice touch though.
You know Robin doesn’t belong in that area when he counters the thug’s threat with Gatsby’s catchphrase. Some hidden benefits of being a gang leader is your own theme song, like a half dozen highly armed men pounding a drum line for foreshadowed walks down the hallway. You know how Batman always wins because of his incredible level of preparation? Robin and Spoiler spend the next pages dodging a nonstop stream of bullets and other situations they’re not ready for. The chase eventually leads outside:
Daddy has a lecture planned. I know in the movies, they always show Batman’s eyeballs, but the white slits make for a wildly more intimidating Batman. Time for Robin’s life lesson this arc.
Batman’s right, of course, except for one tiny detail — the whole fear of Batman prevents crime thing. Maybe in a real life society, a giant man in a bat costume dropping from the sky to punch all your friends would give you some hesitation before committing the next illegal act. But Batman lives in a world where he needs stories to fill four or five monthly books — Gotham isn’t lacking in repeat offenders.
We pick up twenty issues later. Bad guys continue to rob banks and steal and kill and poison the water supply and tear people in life while wearing luchador masks. But today, we get the conclusion to Robin and Young El’s tale. One of them didn’t learn the first time.
See? What a great dilemma! Young El will need Robin’s help to survive his mistake, but Robin will be assisting a known murderer — and a personal tragedy in Tim Drake’s life — only to have Young El break the law later down the road again. While people rave about characters who “put down” their villains, of course Robin’s going to attempt to save Young El. He’s better than us. Batman’s better than us. Superheroes have to be morally superior, as it goes with the cape-and-underpants territory.
We end our Robin stories today, and like the other two articles, this one also ends unhappily. That child gets wrung through the emotional ringer. Thank goodness poor Tim has the composure to suppress or deal with trauma (and it certainly helps that he’s a fictional character) or else his father wouldn’t need to find the costume to discover Robin’s secret identity — he’d just have to listen to the daily night terrors and massive therapy bill.
In summary, Tim Drake’s the best Robin. I think that’s the message I’ve tried to convey this week.
Don’t worry, Robin’ll smile on Monday as we cover an Impulse moment from Teen Titans.
As a teenager, Robin’s going to come across the normal teenage dramas as well as occasionally batarang-ing Two Face or Penguin or whoever. Even Tim’s mentor can’t help with high school issues as unfortunately, Batman spent his own youth training as a ninja in the Himalayans. Vengeance takes decades of prep, y’know. So poor Robin has to get thrown into the inferno of improvised problem solving today in Robin #25-26, written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by Mike Wieringo, and Robin #46, written by Dixon and drawn by Cully Hammer.
Get ready for another after-school special with bo staff beatings, because hopefully nerdy ’90s teenagers would pay attention to stuff Robin does. Though it seems a bit patronizing in 2014, I’m okay with this type of story. While kids can’t totally relate to school shootings (well, maybe now but not so much in 1996), they do understand impossible choices and it’s nice to have their fictional hero attempt to tackle that type of problem. I might just be overly simplistic, but I think we can all agree that in summary, being a teenager totally sucks.
Tim enlists his dad to go talk to Karl’s dad. The conversation goes exactly as you expect.
Have you noticed how perfectly comic book characters’ hair grays? It only reaches the temple and never expands into the precious moneymaker at the top (see Hal Jordan, Mr. Fantastic, Alan Scott, etc.). Just a touch of distinguish-ness to show old age and a full, beautiful heap of hair above. Do comic book characters only ever have a thick, gorgeous head of hair or none at all? What about the balding superheroes and villains?
Oh yeah, and Karl’s rebuttal to Tim the next day also goes exactly as you expect.
You don’t have to be Martian Manhunter to figure out what’s coming next. That and the title of today’s article gives it away. Robin has no problem snitching on his classmate — it’s to save his life, after all. Did Karl really think Tim wasn’t going to say anything? The dude spends his nights handing over tied up bad guys to the police by the dozens. He has battled every psychopath, monster, and criminal mastermind that Gotham City can throw at him — and won every time. Robin ain’t scared of bullies. Though like all dramatic and sad superhero moments, our hero’s just a moment too late.
Why is this moment so upsetting compared to the rest of Robin’s career? Batman’s partner has seen hordes of dudes gunned down, women and children horribly killed, and the absolute core of Gotham’s evil. So why one dumb bully from his school? Simple:
Robin and Tim Drake are separate entities, and they have to be for a teenage boy to handle the stress and sights of being a vigilante crime fighter. Kids worry themselves sick over algebra tests, much less dodging machine gun fire. Robin keeps all that potential PTSD locked away behind that mask — something Batman doesn’t do. For a superhero who we all claim as a non-powered human, there’s very few human characteristics about Batman. Now Nightwing, he’s more of the perfect balance. I know it’s a little brief today but it’s a good stopping point for the second half on Wednesday (mainly because 30 images in one article gets draining) and Robin’s attempted revenge. Spoiler alert: it’s sad.