Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Weekly Haul: October 11th

52 #23 (DC Comics) This week’s issue dealt with my favorite and my least favorite story strands from the 52 tapestry. It opened with Dr. Magnus meeting once again with Dr. Morrow, on a tropical island that’s been turned into a sort of resort for mad scientists—we still don’t know who arranged for their abduction and why they’re financing them, however. And then it’s back to Kahndaq, where Montoya, the Question, Black Adam and Isis break up an Intergang religious ceremony. The Question doesn’t act very heroic—essentially shrugging off the thought of risking his life to save a boy being tortured by monsters because it wasn’t worth dying over—but it all works out okay in the end (And, thankfully, they’ve stopped including Montoya’s out-of-place, first-person narration, the only narration in the book, which screwed up the narrative perspective. Now if they just remember to edit it out of the trade collections…). In a completely out-of-left field moment, the back-up origin goes to Wildcat, who’s not only not in this issue, but not even in this series at all yet. The art on it, by Jerry Ordway, is sensational, however. (Well, the panel with Batman boxing in full costume looks a little stupid). What excited me most, however, was the next issue tease panel—it looks like Phil Jimenez, drawing J’onn J’onnz standing in front of a garden of statues dedicated to deceased Justice Leaguers. Maybe we’ll finally learn what drove him nuts, and why he, Aquaman and Plastic Man are MIA when the Justice League starts up again after the missing year ends.

Civil War: Front Line #7 (Marvel Comics) Writer Paul Jenkins is still crafting some of the best “Civil War” stories in this anthology title, but the greater story that the many ongoing stories within each issue are telling is starting to get a little messy, the more they all converge and share plot points. “Embedded” looks at Speedball’s shooting from a different angle, and reveals a traitor to the (Pro-Reg?) heroes cutting a deal with Norman “The Green Goblin” Osborn. “The Accused” doesn’t move very far forward very far, but recaps his origin and what’s happened since Stamford—nice panel of Speedball’s POV during the explosion, though. “Sleeper Cell” has Wonder Man and a bunch of Atlanteans getting creamed by the Green Goblin, who even SHIELD doesn’t seem to know about, and, finally, in the offensive parallel between real world tragedy and superhero crossover series portion of the book, Jenkins and Eduardo Barreto juxtapose the Battle of Somme in World War I, in which 950,000 soldiers died, with the battle between Green Goblin and a handful of Atlanteans, even using a quote from A. E. Housman to make it just a wee bit more tasteless.

Darkman Vs. Army of Darkness #1 (Dynamite Entertainment) Give Dynamite points for scoring the rights to another Sam Raimi-directed film property, and having the bright idea to use the two Raimi-created heroes in the same comic book (In this instance, the Army of Darkness title even sounds more appropriate than Evil Dead, which seems like a better name for the company’s Ash vs. Deadite comics). Kurt Busiek, Roger Stern and James Fry do such a fine job with Darkman, a hero who seems more than capable of carrying a book of his own, in the early parts of the book that by the time Ash is summoned by the Necronomicon to fight evil dead for the umpteenth time, I was almost disappointed to see him. The character of Ash is never as interesting as Bruce Campbell playing Ash, and I’ve grown rather tired of seeing Dynamite sending him through the same old paces, telling the same old jokes, over and over. At least pairing him with Darkman seems like an interesting twist. Although I thought the same thing when I picked up the first issue of Army of Darkness Vs. Re-Animator, which was one more Dynamite AoD series I started but never finished.

The Escapists #4 (Dark Horse) After some moody, silent art by Jason Shawn Alexander, who provides the art that character Case Weaver is supposed to be drawing, Brian K. Vaughan gives an awesome four page meditation on the giant “Free” rubber stamp sculpture in downtown Cleveland. He and artist Steve Rolston play coy with the reveal of the word on it, and Vaughan finds great meaning in it to apply to his chosen media of sequential art—“For me, it’s a reminder of how even great art can be elevated by the well-written word.” His Ex Machina has been called a love letter to New York City, something I never quite saw. This book, on the other hand, is clearly one to Cleveland, which he manages to look like an incredibly cool place with each passing issue.

Gen 13 #1 (DC/WildStorm) Wow, I had expected much better from the imprints relaunch of this title and these characters, particularly since Gail Simone has been kicking so much ass on so many different superhero titles of late. At the very least, I expected something mildly interesting, particularly in seeing how a female writer would tackle characters like Freefall, Rainmaker and Fairchild, the latter of whom made such a habit of having her clothes strategically torn off to show as much flesh as possible without showing the bits that would earn a “Mature Readers” label. Clearly, this was a franchise that played to a male demographic like no other. I was not expecting something this bland, however. Not only was this first issue far weaker than Adam Warren’s damn near brilliant run and the better Bootleg arcs and crossovers, but it doesn’t even hold up to the early Choi/Lee/Campbell run. Simone may have been given an impossible task here—with a character named “Grunge” on the line-up, it’s abundantly clear that this is a dated set of characters that can only be pushed so far past their expiration date—but even if she was destined to fail, I expected it to at least prove better than the ill-fated Chris Claremont/Ale Garza relaunch. No such luck. The art, by Talent Caldwell, is similarly disappointing. Few franchises have had more hot artists on them than Gen 13, of course, but Caldwell’s among the worst of the many artists to draw the team (they looked better in the crossover with The Maxx). I doesn’t help that every single character seems to be the same age.

JLA: Classified #28 (DC) Okay, Howard Chaykin completely burned out my Murky Continuity Outrage circuit. I have no idea when the hell this is taking place. Rayner’s on the team, so it must be pre-“Obsidian Age,” but Faith is referred to as the newest member, and she didn’t join until during “Obsidian Age.” Aquaman’s wearing his post-“Obsidian Age” costume, but he also refers to himself as the “reigning monarch” of Atlantis, even though he was stripped of his title and exiled from the ocean during the time he wore that costume. And, come to think of it, that was when J’onn J’onnz had left the League to work with Scorch on his weakness to fire, and shouldn’t Lex Luthor still be president at this point, and not this guy… Aaaa! Doesn’t anyone edit for character continuity anymore? Can’t they at least stamp a damn “Elseworlds” tag on the cover, if for no other reason than to not drive people like me crazy? At any rate, Kilian Plunkett and Tom Nguyen’s art is incredible—I particularly like their Bruce Wayne, Wally West and Green Lantern—and Chaykin does nice work with all of the characters, even if it’s impossible to fit this story into recent Justice League history. Wait, three last nitpicks and then I swear I’m done complaining. Why does Aquaman refer to himself as “Aquaman” and not “Orin” or “King Orin” when talking to the President of the United States? Why is Holland called “Holland” and not “The Netherlands,” exactly? And shouldn’t international billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne maybe wear a mask or disguise of some sort—heck, a pair sunglasses and a ball cap even—when scaling around rooftops in broad daylight?

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories Vol. 1 (Tokyopop) Okay, so I’m not the target audience for this adaption of the videogame of the same name, itself a sort-of meta-adaptation of a dozen or so Disney films and cartoon stars, mashed-up against your typical Final Fantasy characters. I can’t help myself. I love so many of these Disney character designs—particularly Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty and Donald Duck in his sailor suit—and am intrigued by the idea of the various Disney film stars all interacting like this, but I lack the patience to actually play the games. This second series of Kingdom Hearts manga collections is even more full of exposition and Final Fantasy bullshit than the first, and three-fourths of the volume flew by before our heroes re-entered the world of Aladdin, but it was well worth the slog through. I’ll be back for volume two.

Pirates of Coney Island #1 (Image Comics) Interesting premise, some nice moments, and some really knock out art, but otherwise, not much to go on just yet. The titular pirates don’t even appear in this issue. Perhaps I should have waited for the trade on this one, but I just can’t resist a title like that (they had me at “Pirates”), nor could I pass up a cover that cool looking.

Sam Noir: Samurai Detective #2 (Image Comics) “The thing about arrows is: They’re pretty fast. And they’re really pointy on one end,” Noir narrates during the first of many fight scenes here, offering some pretty valuable advice. “But there’s a trick to fighting archers that they don’t teach ya in school: Don’t get shot with an arrow. Everything else just kind of sorts itself out.” Those few sentences were almost worth the price of admission alone, but there's also Noir’s underhanded way of dealing with Henchman Number Two, his running commentary on a “pretty impressive cliché of thugs,” some funny chess metaphors and, lest I forget, the luminescent black and white art. Lame title, awesome comic.

Sokora Refugees Vol. 2 (Tokyopop) I’ve made my negative feelings about American-made manga known on this site before, but this series is another welcome exception to the rule. Silly, funny, sexy, melodramatic, and chock-full of cool designs, with the occasional action scene, Sokora Refugees is everything I want in a fantasy series, with the added advantage of an incredibly fast pace and large, likable cast that few other manga series dabbling in the genre can match.

Stan Lee Meets Doctor Strange #1 (Marvel) “Disappointing” seems to be the word of the week. I was downright shocked about how much I enjoyed Stan Lee Meets the Amazing Spider-Man two weeks back; it was probably the book of the week from either DC or Marvel. So I was expecting big things from the next Stan Lee Meets… book, which must be where I went wrong. The higher your expectations, the easier it is to be disappointed. The cover, by Alan Davis, is a fine image of the Sorcerer Supreme doing battle with his foes, but Stan Lee’s appearance on it seems an after thought, when it should have been the focus. Inside, Lee’s story, penciled by Alan Davis and inked by Mark Farmer (an art team I can never see enough work from) is pleasant enough and has a few zingers, but lacks the punch that his Spidey story had. There’s no lack of punch in Brian Michael Bendis’ story, which amounts to a self-parody of his own handiwork and much of the changes that have been wrought to the Marvel Universe over the last few years, as the Impossible Man appears looking for someone to mess with, but is unable to find anyone to play with. This is probably Bendis’ funniest story since his Oni work—I particularly liked the jab at his boss’ work on Daredevil: Father, JMS’ Gwen Stacy retcon and the fact that he actually typed the world Mxyzptlk in a Marvel comic. Where was this ballsy sense of humor during Wha...Huh? a few years back? Rounding out the issue, and certainly justifying the cover price, is a two page Chris Giarrusso Mini Marvel story featuring Lee having an awkward conversation with Spidey, and a reprint of a Lee scenario-ed, Barry Smith-drawn Dr. Strange story (What, no Ditko?).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Two things have been bothering me about Civil War, well, bothering me more than the idea of Iron Man turning Bullseye (Bullseye) loose on Captain America. )

1) The pro-reg insistance that the law is the law and should never be questioned or resisted. I get the feeling that Reed Richards would have counseled slaves to just wait a little while for their freedom. I don't understand why such intelligent characters were given such a brainless position.

2) I hate, hate, HATE the growing evidence of some kind of conspiracy overseen by a shadowy cabal of uber-powerful insiders. It's just so damned unnecessary. The main story of powerful people fighting for a perhaps flawed, but deeply held and possibly correct idea. Isn't the conflict inherent in law vs. justice enough to fill a dozen limited series? It seems like this conspiracy is a set-up to allow the MCU from splintering completely. By rights, some relationships should be irrevocably destroyed after this series, but I'm betting the writers will allow somoe characters to claim they were duped so some teams, especially Fantastic Four and the (New) Avengers can continue largely as before.