Game Review: Diablo 3

Diablo 3 is out. But is it a game? Or is it the most brilliant money making scam in internet history?

Movie Review: The Avengers

Okay, okay, I posted my Avengers review. Get off my back already, geez.

The Most Important Comic Book You've Never Heard Of

Action Comics #1. Detective Comics #27. Why is All-American Men of War #89 as important as these great comics -- and why have you never heard of it?.

Tales From the Vault: Lois Lane #93

If you thought Superman was a total tool before, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Mass Effect 3: The Official Review

Mass Effect 3 isn't the end of the world, it just portrays it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Batman Awards

Ladies and gentlemen, fans of The Vault and people who accidentally landed here when googling the phrase "women in spandex," welcome to an extra special landmark blogging event, The Batman Awards. No, Bruce Wayne himself will not be presenting me with a gold statue; rather, The Batman Awards mark the first Vault post created by a guest writer. That esteemed guest? None other than former Marvel Bullpen stalwart Rob Lettrick.

So what are The Batman Awards exactly? Simply put, they're Rob's ranking of pretty much everything Bat-related, from both film and comics: with a whopping 30 categories, The Batman Awards put lesser awards ceremonies like the Oscars to shame and make the Emmys look like a bunch of damn pikers. All of these awards are accompanied by video clips or relevant artwork, so by all means, feel free to click away to get an in-depth look into the recess of The Bat Cav... er, I mean, Rob's mind.

Without further ado, then, here's Mr. Lettrick with the first ever Batman Awards!

Best BatmanMichael Keaton

Best Joker -- Jack Nicholson

Best Robin
Burt Ward

Best CatwomanErtha Kitt

Best Two FaceAaron Eckhart

Best PenguinBurgess Meredith

Best RiddlerFrank Gorshin

Best BatmobileThe Tumbler

Best AlfredMichael Caine

Best Commissioner Gordon – Tie (Gary Oldman and Batman Year One version)

Best Batman artist
Neal Adams

Best Batman writerFrank Miller

Best AllyGreen Arrow (Dark Knight Returns graphic novel)

Best EnemySuperman (Dark Knight Returns graphic novel)

Best BatgirlYvonne Craig

Best Batman ToyBatman Exploding Bridge Playset

Best Arkham AsylumGrant Morrison/Dave McKean’s Arkham Asylum graphic novel

Best GothamNo Man’s Land (storyline that ran through multiple Batman titles in 1999 in which Gotham was hit by a 7.6 Earthquake)

Holy $&%# Batman! Worst Batman related junk – three way tie: 1) Batman partakes in the network television show Superhero Roast (Adam West actually showed up for this.) 2) Christian Bale’s Batvoice 3) The Batfro Dishonorable Mention: whatever this is.

Best fan-made filmBatman versus Aliens versus Predator

Best Batman rip offThe Confessor (Kurt Busiek’s Astro City)

Worst Batman rip offGeorge Clooney in Batman and Robin

Best Batman Video GameLego Batman

Best “Oh, crap, what did I get myself into” moment - Vs. Hulk

Best romantic interest - Wonder Woman (yep, they dated)

Best group affiliationJustice League (Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire version)

Most satisfying moment for Batman readers
- Batman knocks out Green Lantern Guy Gardner with one punch

Definitive BATMANAlex Ross/Mark Waid’s Kingdome Come version

Definitive JOKERAlan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke version

Thanks Rob. Now, let the arguments begin!

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Friday, July 23, 2010

The Week in Geek: July 17-23

Hey there, old friends. Welcome to my newest ongoing feature here at The Vault, The Week in Geek. As some of you know, this blogging thing isn't just a groovy hobby, it's also how I pay the bills (and by "pay the bills" I mean "afford these goofy back issues"). Because I spend so much of my time blogging for money, I don't always have the time or energy to update The Vault as much as I would like because, let's face it, when you finish work the last thing you want to do to relax is go back to work.

Luckily, I've come up with the perfect solution: blatant laziness. After all, many of the articles I write for my day job -- which encompasses such esteemed and wildly popular websites as,, and (coming soon) -- are about the exact same subjects I would be writing about here at The Vault anyway. Okay, maybe I wouldn't be highlighting comic books from the 40's about self-amputation, but when it comes to geeky TV shows and movies, it's pretty much the same thing.

And that's where The Week in Geek comes in: each week I will provide a brief overview of all the cool pop culture and geek-centric articles I've written for these other sites. Don't worry, I'll still be producing comics stories for The Vault as often as my schedule allows; The Week in Geek just allows me to provide you guys with an even larger taste of me, which judging from the slew of emails I receive every day is something I'm guessing pretty much everyone has been demanding.

So let's get right to it with our first Week in Geek, a look back at some of the cool happenings from July 17-23:

July 19: 'Inception' Ending and Theories: What Just Happened?!

Confused by the end of Inception? No? Well, you will be by the time you finish reading this article. You should only check this out if you've already seen the movie or don't intend to, because there are some major spoilers involved.

July 21: Original 'Tron' Star Cindy Morgan Talks About the Movie's Legacy and Blowing Up a Golf Course in 'Caddyshack'

Yes, it's true: I had a chance to interview Yori from Tron, who also played Lacey Underall in Caddyshack. What would happen if fans of these two movies got in a fight? Well, I thnk we all know that one side would end up with their horn-rimmed glasses snapped and their pocket protector ripped in two, but whatever. Cindy loves both groups equally for what they are.

July 21: Cartoon Network Revives 'Hole in the Wall' ... And Other Game Show Mistakes

Don't ask me why anyone would want to revive this ridiculous show, but Cartoon Network must see something the rest of us don't. I took this opportunity to look back at some of the other terrible game show ideas that have graced screens over the past few decades.

July 23: Working Title Builds 'Astro City'

Official friend of The Vault Kurt Busiek was nice enough to take some time out of his busy Comic-Con schedule to talk to me about the upcoming Astro City movie, which was announced on Thursday. Notice that he's still teasing fans with promises of Loony Leo. You're a bad, bad man, Kurt.

Next Week: That's it for this week, but don't worry, there will be plenty more geekery next week, including my choices for the cast of the Justice League movie. Which we'll probably see about the same time we get that Loony Leo spotlight issue.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Web Review: The Guild Season 4 Premiere

Well, it's finally happened: The Vault has been around so long that we're reviewing a sequel. You may recall that last September we provided you with an in-depth look at the viral sensation that is sweeping hard drives all across the world (kind of like Norton only without the malware) -- The Guild. Back then, we were discussing the highly anticipated premiere episode of Season Three, which introduced a whole new level (no pun intended) of intrigue by adding the guild's evil rivals, the Axis of Anarchy and their asshole leader Fawkes (played with verve by the legendary lord of all geekdom, Wil Wheaton himself).

Well, that was then. And if you followed through with the rest of season three (which I'm sure you did, considering I gave the series a good review and I know how much my opinion influences your daily choices), you know that following the epic PvP throwdown between the Knights of Good and the Axis of Anarchy, things got even stickier between Fawkes and Felicia Day's main character, Codex (okay, that time the pun was intended). So how would this play out when season four finally rolled around?

Well, that rolling has finally commenced, and like a fat man falling down a ski slope, it's already picking up serious momentum. And no, I don't know that from personal experience, thanks for asking, you douche. Codex makes the typically upriught yet incredibly naive and ill-advised decision to immediately tell the entire guild that [spoiler alert!] she slept with Fawkes. As you might expect, this goes over like a ton of bricks, or at least it does right up until the point when...

You know, what the hell. Just watch it yourself. That's what all this fancy internet code nonsense is for right? Take a looksee and after you're done, rejoin me on the other side for some insightful analysis and the all-important final grades:

<br/><a href="" target="_new"title="Season 4 - Episode 1 - Epic Guilt">Video: Season 4 - Episode 1 - Epic Guilt</a>

So, what did I think? To be honest, it was just a tiny bit flat for me, but then again, it serves to set up the entire season so generally speaking I'm not expecting fireworks until we get a little ways into it. Vork (Jeff Lewis), as always, is a highlight for me and I have to say that during season three I thought Clara (played by Robin Thorsen) really got much stronger to the point where she had some of the best deliveries of the season; that looks likely to continue this year as well. And as always, the more you're into online gaming and MMOs in particular, the more you're likely to appreciate this episode; I, too, want a virtual guild hall, something that World of Warcraft has foolishly not implemented. Maybe during Cataclysm...

So what will happen? Will they manage to get the gold to build their guild hall? Will Fawkes and Codex stick together, or will their fling destroy them both? Will Felicia Day read this review and send me an email that leads to a hastily planned Mediterranean wedding? One thing's for sure: I'll be hooked to my internets waiting to find out the answer.

My Grades: This gets a solid B, though I am expecting it to pick up at it dgoes along, so no worries. Last season as a whole (since I only had a chance to review the first episode) gets an A-, with special props to breakout star Bruiser (J. Teddy Graces). Good stuff.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Breaking News: Harvey Pekar Dead at 70

This is a particularly sad and (somewhat) unexpected bit of news: multiple sources, including The AP, are reporting that American Splendor author and indie comics legend Harvey Pekar was found dead in his home today. He was 70.

Pekar, who had been suffering from a number of ailments including prostate cancer, first began publishing his groundbreaking autobiographical comic book in 1976 and attracted a who's who of artists to depict his introspective, street level stories of the mundanities and dilemmas of an average Joe's life. Though he was well known in the underground comics community, he vaulted to national fame in the late 1980's thanks to some highly publicized appearances on Late Night With David Letterman, a show he was temporarily banned from thanks to his refusal to play ball on Letterman's terms. The appearance gave Pekar a cult following and became one of the show's classic episodes, eventually leading to return appearances for Pekar.

In 2003, Pekar also became the subject of a groundbreaking film, also titled American Splendor, that featured Pual Giamatti as Pekar in an experimental structure that liberally mixed dramatic scenes with documentary and interview footage liberally interspersed.

Even through his illness, Pekar continued writing new stories for American Splendor, vowing to continue writing it for as long as he lived. Sadly for all comic fans, that time has come to an end. Here's a look at Pekar's Letterman appearance and Giamatti as Pekar from the film version of American Splendor:

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Friday, July 9, 2010

Tales From the Vault: Mr. District Attorney #40

Welcome back to another Tales From the Vault, where we dig into our stash of back issues and read comics to you via the internet. Up today is an extra special treat (?), Mr. District Attorney #40, from 1954. Yes, this crime comic comes to you from the last dying moments of the Golden Age, when the comics industry was brought low by Senate hearings, Red Scare tactics and class warfare, all because of some overwrought crime and horror comics. So with that in mind, is Mr. District Attorney part of the problem? Or is it part of the solution?

One hint is that this crime book was published by DC, not EC, which for long time readers pretty much answers the question right there. I don't want to give any spoilers away before we get into the comic, but considering how blandly inoffensive and whitebread pretty much everything DC put out in the 1950's was -- a policy that allowed them to escape the Comic Code pyres unscathed -- chances are pretty slim that we'll find anything salacious in this issue. But we can hope, right?

Let's take a look!

Details: As previously noted, this issue hails from July/August of 1954, with art from Howard Purcell and scripts provided by an anonymous donor. For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. District Attorney -- which I'm guessing is almost everyone -- this curious comic was licensed from a radio program. That sounds kind of strange, but it's true; back in the late 40's, DC actually licensed a whole line of radio crime dramas that they turned into comic books, including fellow titles Gang Busters and Big Town. Not only did Mr. District Attorney outlast the radio program, it also outlasted the eventual TV version as well, and by a long shot; the comic continued bi-monthly until 1959, more than a half decade after the other versions of the series had vanished.

Story One Synopsis:
Ah, this is nice. Each story starts off with a little narrator's box in the voice of Mr. District Attorney (that's "D.A." to his close friends, of course. Of which he has...none). That's a nice touch, though it's not quite as cool as if the note were from the writer, a la Charles Biro's often hysterical rants in Boy Comics. But anyway.

This first story looks as though it's ripped from today's headlines: a guy is at a diner and isn't paying attention to what he's doing and the next thing you know, he's spilled hot coffee all over himself. It sucks, but what are you going to do, right? Well, how about sue the owners? I had to double check that this was 1954, and not 2004, but there's one key difference -- in this story, the people doing the stupid things all pretty much agree it's their own fault. Instead, it's ambulance chasing lawyers who convince them to sue against their better thoughts. Now, of course, we just cut out the middle man.

Coffee burn man isn't the only Clumsy Clem in town, though, and we get a nice montage of people doing dumb things like falling down escalators, grabbing electrical generators and getting sick on roller coasters. Before you can say "Starbucks," a skeevy lawyer has swooped in and convinced them to sue. But that's not all; as Mr. District Attorney learns, the lawyers then pocket the settlement money, giving the victim's only a mere pittance, which they are happy to get because they figured they would have no chance of making anything since it was all their own stupid fault.

I guess it is 1954 after all. You can tell by the naivete.

Anyhoo, Mr. District Attorney comes up with a cunning plan: he has his assistant go undercover and purposely get in stupid accidents all over town in the hopes of drawing out a bad lawyer. Well, that sounds like a really bad, random plan, but okay. And funny enough, it actually totally fails. After a long day of clutzery, the assistant finally gives up and hails a cab -- only to accidentally get dragged down the street by the cabbie, who didn't see him getting in. Whoops! And, of course, ironically, it's the real accident that the lawyers spot.

After all this setup, we suddenly get an abrupt ending, which seemed to be the style back in the day: Mr. District Attorney follows the lawyers to the cabbie's garage, where he catches the lawyer tampering with the car in an attempt to jury rig some fake proof of wrongdoing to help his case. D.A. throws him in the clink and Nameless City U.S.A. is once again safe from ambulance chasers! Justice is served!!!


Story Two Synopsis: Things get off to a bang thanks to a suspicious fire. Luckily, Mr. District Attorney is on the scene and immediately sports the presumed perp just hanging out right there. That's always a handy way to solve crimes. Unfortunately, they have to airmail the fingerprints to Washington, D.C. in order to have his record checked and by the time they come back, the guy has already been sprung by a lawyer. Darn those inefficient 50's police techniques!

Of course, this won't do for a big cheese like D. A., so he comes up with the solution: they need to buy a new Fastphoto System to instantaneously check criminal records. The amazing device? Well, it's basically a giant fax machine! The astonishing futuristic machine is immediately put into play when a guy who looks a lot like a wanted fugitive comes into the station. The coppers only have an hour before the lawyers are allowed to free him on bail, so they need to get answers fast, see? Luckily, D. A.'s assistant is on hand to rush to a nearby town that actually owns a fax machine. After his car breaks down, he commandeers a horse and rides the rest of the way, faxes in the fingerprints and gets back the results just nine minutes and 34 seconds later: the bad guy is a crook, all right.

Meanwhile, time has expired, so the crook is being let out. Just then, though, Mr. District Attorney gets a call from his assistant with the good news and he throws the criminal back in the clink. Even better, there was a $5,000 reward for his capture, so the assistant can afford to buy a new car. being a paragon of justice, though, he decides to buy a fax machine for the town instead. Good work, son!


Story Three Synopsis: In this four page tale, which doesn't even have D. A. in it, a steward on a cruise ship realizes that a guy on board is smuggling diamonds inside a fake hairbrush. Naturally, the steward kills him and tosses him overboard, then absconds with the hairbrush. However, he's detained by custom's officials who realize he must be a smuggler because the hairbrush doesn't have any hair in it, so it's not actually being used as a hairbrush. Duh. They pop the false top, diamonds come out and that's all for the would be thief. I mean, that's really all, because the last panel says they executed him for murder. Can you get the death penalty for a crime that took place in international waters?


Story Four Synopsis: It's The Secret of Sound Stage Seven! Okay, this one starts out with some promise: a group of suspects in an unsolved murder are brought onto a movie set, where the scene of the crime has been perfectly replicated. Mr. District Attorney explains that they are filming a short called "Famous Unsolved Murders" and for the sake of authenticity, they are having the actual participants in the movie.

Just as he is explaining this -- and as we get some exposition showing what happened during the murder, where, during the typical convenient power outage, a weighted sap apparently flew through a window and clocked the victim -- the power goes out on the stage as well! Everyone kind of panics, but the lights come back on and D. A. reveals that the experiment is over because he now knows who the killer is!

At this announcement, the killer panics even more and makes a break for it, rushing out onto the set of another movie to try and escape. D.A., thinking quickly, shouts "Cut!" and everyone except the killer freezes in place, allowing the cops to easily locate the killer in the bustle.

So how did D.A. know who the killer was? The answer: he didn't, he just set the whole thing up sop he could pretend he knew in order to scare the killer into revealing himself. And by god, if it didn't work! The fact that this is probably the shoddiest crimesolving methodology in the history of law enforcement doesn't factor into things, thanks to the happy ending, but I can't be the only one wishing he had made his grand pronouncement only to have everyone just stare at him waiting for the answer as to who the killer was. It's fortunate that crooks in comics, TV shows and movies all seem to be total dumbasses.


Extras: Compared with issues of Boy Comics form the same time period, the ads seem more contemporary for some reason. The best of the bunch is a Hostess-style mini-comic featuring Abbott and Costello approaching two kids playing marbles to prevent one of them from gambling away his valuable popsicle sticks. There's also, as usual, two text pages, this time called "The Crime File," which is an almost Reader Digest-esque rundown of wacky crime stories, true or otherwise. Best of all, there's a section touting DC's "Editorial Advisory Board," which lists prominent educators and children's experts who are no doubt listed here in an attempt to convince worried parents that this comic isn't some kind of communist evil. And we all know how that turned out.

My Grades: As a historical artifact, the comic gets a B. The ripped from the headlines topicality of the ambulance chasers is maybe more interesting now than it was at the time, while the futuristic use of the fax machine in 1954 is awesome. Though why some podunk neighbor town already has one and a big city like Los Angeles still doesn't have one is beyond me (the city is not explicitly named here, but it was clearly identified in the TV show and made plain in the comic by the presence of the movie studio in the fourth story). The actual stories, though, get a D+ because they are some of the most boring and least entertaining I have read in recent memory. Hell, the main character doesn't even have a name for Pete's sake! I do like the cover design, which I would give a B as well, but my copy is coverless so I don't even get that out of the bargain. Overall, then, my final grade for this is a C- at best.

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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Fourth of July

We here at the Vault would like to wish all our American readers a Happy Independence Day. And for all our foreign friends, we wish you, I dunno, a happy Sunday or something. Either way, there;s no better way to celebrate the Fourth of July than by taking a look at perhaps the greatest patriotic cover in comics history, the iconic image that graced the front of Superman #14 back in January of 1942. Enjoy, and as always, click on the picture to view it at its proper size.

Happy Fourth!

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Friday, July 2, 2010

Great Moments in Comics: The Black Bomber

Welcome back to another installment of Great Moments in Comics, where we take a look at some of the forgotten episodes in comics history that deserve to be remembered for their sheer awesome power. Lat time out, you may recall, we recalled the classic Boy Comics amputation scheme from Boy Comics #19. This time around, though, we're mixing it up a little by taking a look at a comic that never actually existed, the legendary DC book The Black Bomber.

Now, as you may recall from February's discussion about African-American superheroes, there once was a time when pretty much every costumed hero was as white as the pages they were printed on. This began to change in the mid-60's, as Marvel introduced Black Panther, followed by The Falcon (who shared the title for a decade with Captain America beginning in 1969) and Luke Cage, who became the first black superhero to get his own comic in 1972.

Over at DC, though, things were going a little slower. Yes, there was some progress -- Teen Titans introduced an African-American hero named Mal, for instance, while John Stewart took over the mantle of Green Lantern for one issue. But that was just one issue, and other DC attempts at diversity (such as Jack Kirby's characters Vikin the Black and The Black Racer -- essentially a cosmic grim reaper on flying skis) left something to be desired. By the mid-70's, it was clear that if DC wanted to stay relevant and catch up to the times, they needed a black hero sooner rather than later.

The solution they came up with, however, was probably the worst idea in the history of comics: The Black Bomber.

You guys remember the classic Dave Chappelle character Clayton Bigsby, a white supremacist who is blind and therefore doesn't realize he's black himself? Well, he had nothing on The Black Bomber, who predated Bigsby by nearly 30 years. The unbelievable concept behind The Black Bomber? In his civilian identity, he was a white racist bigot. However, he was also a Vietnam veteran, and during his time in the war he was exposed to an experimental Agent Orange-style gas designed to allow troops to blend in with natives. As a result, during times of stress, the vet would suddenly turn into a black superhero -- The Black Bomber! Even better, The Black Bomber's costume was a Harlem Globetrotter-esque basketball jersey. Essentially he was like Captain Marvel, only instead of Billy Batson saying "Shazam" to turn into the Big Cheese, it was Archie Bunker using the N-word to transform into Meadowlark Lemon. And to top it off, the white version had no memory of being black, while the Black Bomber didn't know he was a white guy either -- and both personalities had their own racially appropriate girlfriends!

By now you probably think I am completely shitting you, especially since I don't have any images to back this up with. But that's because, luckily, DC decided to offer The Black Bomber to comics writer Tony Isabella; they already had two completed scripts in hand, ready to begin production, and wanted Tony to take over with the third issue. He took one look at the stories DC was preparing to publish and, being sane, managed to talk them out of what would undoubtedly have been one of the biggest fiascoes in comics publishing history.

Here's Tony himself discussing this bizarre episode courtesy of official friend of the Vault Fred Hembeck and how it led to him instead creating the first black DC character to actually get his own title, Black Lightning:

"I will say that I created Black Lightning after convincing DC not to publish another "black" super-hero on which they had started work. The Black Bomber was a white bigot who, in times of stress, turned into a black super-hero. This was the result of chemical camouflage experiments he'd taken part in as a soldier in Vietnam. The object of these experiments was to allow our [white] troops to blend into the jungle.

In each of the two completed Black Bomber scripts, the white bigot risks his own life to save another person whom he can't see clearly (in one case, a baby in a stroller) and then reacts in racial slur disgust when he discovers that he risked his life to save a black person. He wasn't aware that he had two identities, but each identity had a girlfriend and the ladies were aware of the change. To add final insult, the Bomber's costume was little more than a glorified basketball uniform.

DC had wanted me to take over writing the book with the third issue. I convinced them to eat the two scripts and let me start over. To paraphrase my arguments...

"Do you REALLY want DC's first black super-hero to be a white bigot?"

Okay, he wasn't precisely their first black super-hero, but I made my point. The Black Bomber stories were deep-sixed and I went to work on my own creation."

While Black Lightning wasn't exactly a massive sales success, the character has proven to be quite resilient, and still features prominently in Justice League of America and other major DC books. As for The Black Bomber, as far as I know nobody has ever made public the scripts or concept art for the scrapped series. However, Justice League writer Dwayne McDuffie recently slipped a slightly altered version of the character into an issue of the series as a joke and easter egg for hardcore comics historians. Take a look (and as always, click to enlarge):

If that last sequence doesn't seem to make sense, it's because DC editorial erased some of the dialogue form the last panel in post-production; the Brown Bomber is supposed to be asking Vixen if it's okay for him to use the N-word when he's in his black identity. It's too bad that they axed the line, because it is both funny and sharp commentary, but it at least proves that, 35 years later, DC editorial has at least learned some of their lesson from the debacle that almost was The Black Bomber.

If you're new to the Vault, be sure to check out our First Anniversary Flashback, where we go over all the highlights and lowlights of The Vault's first year.

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