Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Weekly Haul: December 13th

52 #32 (DC Comics) There are three story threads in this week’s issue, and the main one is that which is teased by J. G. Jones’ Yeti-tastic cover. Ralph Dibny and the Helm of Fate journey to Nanda Parbat, where they meet up with Rama Kushna after Ralph proves himself worthy, helping a member of the Great Ten take down a Chinese meta-human who would be the Great Eleventh. Meanwhile, Beast Boy and Rave have an open casting-call for new Teen Titans, and Osiris and Sobek the Talking Crocodile make the scene. And then there’s a brief check in with the space heroes, who decide they’re going to risk their lives saving the galaxy. All in all, a strong issue, and one that should hold special significance for Kid Devil and Teen Titans fans, as we see Eddie pre-makeover here. The art comes courtesy of Pat Olliffe and Drew Geraci and it’s fine, but I sorta wished they could have found someone else to handle the Titans scenes, someone who drew nothing but those scenes (current Teen Titans penciller Tony S. Daniel would have been an obvious choice). There’s one of those big, splash panels with a ton of heroes just milling around on it, and while many of the heroes are going to be anonymous ones, I would have preferred to make out who some of the others were. There’s a little guy standing on Argent’s shoulder, for example, who calls her by her first name, but I haven’t a clue who it’s supposed to be.

Blade #4 (Marvel Comics) In a sop to the season, this issue features Santa Claus on the cover, albeit a gigantic, scary-ass Santa Claus with his claws around Blade’s throat. That’s all it took to sell me on this issue. Inside, writer Marc Guggenheim pits the title character against a body-hopping demon who has taken temporary residence in a department store Santa. I imagine it was inadvertent, but the villain and his battle with Blade is pretty similar to an old Son of Satan story I had coincidentally just read in Essential Marvel Horror. Guggenheim continues to make with the two-stories-done-in-one-issue format, flashing back to a young Blade’s earlier life, as well as moving the plot with Lucas Cross forward. I have to admit, this issue I was rooting against Blade; I think he sort of deserved to die for choosing to wear that sweater, whether he was trying to lay low or not.

The Escapists #6 (Dark Horse Comics) Whew! I was sort of worried after #5, which was the weakest of the series thus far, but Brian K. Vaughan wraps up this incredible miniseries with another strong issue, making for an incredibly layered and textured story about fiction, metafiction, comics, the creative process and Cleveland. If you somehow resisted the temptation of reading this miniseries in single-issue format, don’t you dare miss it in the inevitable trade collection.

Ghost Rider #6 (Marvel) Axel Alonso—best thing to happen to ever happen to Marvel Comics? Probably not, but the thought certainly ran through my head as I saw the guest-artist on this issue, none other than horror maestro Richard Corben, which was all it took to goad me into trying out the current GR monthly. According to the title page, the series is operating on a kind of video game-like logic (or perhaps Pokemon-like logic), with the devil being shattered into 666 pieces across the physical world, and it being up to Ghostie to collect ‘em all and send ‘em back to hell. In this issue, he tracks down a piece that has possessed a minister in the act of baptizing the faifthful—to death! Ghostie does battle with Lucifer, whom Corben draws with red skin and horns, while a flashback sets up a story in which Johnny Blaze cuts a deal with another sort of infernal creature of darkness—a lawyer. Great art and an accessible story make this a nice jumping-on (or just trying-out) point.

JLA: Classified #30 (DC) Easily the best Justice League comic of the week. This part five of the six-part Howard CHaykin-scribed story of the “Big Seven” iteration of the League going undercover in the third world to bust up a meta-human arms race. It’s been a lot of political and espionage-tinged fun thus far, and looks like it’s about ready to explode next issue. Chaykin manages to work in plenty of great little character moments, too, like the exchanges between the World’s Finest in a few panels here. I’m sure that other Justice League-related monthly will outsell the hell out of this story, but you know what they say—there’s no accounting for taste.

Justice League of America #4 (DC) Kevin Church over at pretty perfectly summed up one of my main contentions with Brad Meltzer’s recently relaunched JLoA series, so I won’t rehash his comments about the new “Justice League of Emo” direction (although that’d be a sweet team-up with Steve Emond’s Emo Boy). That will cut back at least a little bit on my complaints about this issue, which is just one more ponderous, plodding step toward a story that makes your average New Avengers arc seem as adrenally paced as your average Silver Age Superman story. But let’s start at the beginning, Michael Turner’s godawful cover, easily the worst fucking piece of art I’ve ever seen on the cover of a DC comic book. As far as I can tell, this cover featres three primitive, painted stone sculptures of superheroes being tossed at a giant starfish that is emerging from an even more gigantic kaleidoscope in a cave somewhere (it’s probably not worth mentioning, but there is no gigantic Starro within the issue, nor is Roy Harper wearing this weird “Red Arrow” outfit with a red “G” for a belt buckle). I know a lot of people have said some pretty harsh things about Turner’s art online before (earlier this week, Dirk Deppey’s Journalista blog [facetiously] suggested setting him on fire with kerosene), but I never really minded his artwork too much. Of course, I’ve mostly just seen pin-ups and covers, and certainly nothing as repulsive as this one. On the inside, Meltzer moves his story exactly one step forward. Hawkgirl, Black Lighting and “the Trinity” poke around with a little Starro; Arsenal, Hal Jordan and Black Canary fight some super-thugs; Red Tornado and Vixen fly around. What annoyed me the most about the superheroes calling each other by their first names in this issue, in addition to it being boring, was that most of them are supposed to have super-secret identities (Wasn’t that the point of your Identity Crisis series, Mr. Meltzer? That secret identities are important to protect the loved ones of heroes?) Yet here Black Lighting not only calls Batman Bruce, something he shouldn’t know, and Kendra calls Superman “Clark” in front of B.L., who didn’t know his secret identity either. Other annoying bits of continuity: Hal Jordan mentioning “Bane hits,” though he’s never met Bane or likely heard anything about him; Black Canary talking about her need to avenge the deaths of Steel and Vibe at the hands of Ivo all of a sudden, despite the fact that it occurred about a half-dozen iterations of the League ago and she’s done jack shit about it since; Canary’s bad-cop routine with Ivo; and, finally, Amazo having Batman, Superman and Flash’s powers on file, even though they’re nor present (Um, if Ivo had access to all those powers, why not give those to the Rainbow Tornados?). Am I being overly sensitive to continuity? Perhaps, but then, at the same time, Meltzer keeps name-dropping events in League continuity, so we’re expected to know who Bane is or that Ivo was indirectly responsible for Vibe and Steel’s death (and who they were in the first place), but not that Black Lightning isn’t on a first-name basis with the Leaguers. Despite these littler irritations, the issue reached it’s real nadir on page 17, in the silent panel where B.L. and the Trinity respond to Hawkgirl’s question by posing; Superman punching his palm. That’s was probably the first panel I’ve ever read in a DCU superhero comic where I actually felt an overwhelming sensation of embarrassment after reading it—embarrassment for Meltzer and artists Ed Benes and Sandra Hope, embrassment for the fictional characters, embarrassment for myself, embarrassment for everyone else reading the issue.

The Spirit #1 (DC) I had more reservations than a restaurant when it comes to this new ongoing series from writer/artist extraordinaire Darwyn Cooke. On one hand, a Spirit series without creator Will Eisner seems kind of pointless—Eisner’s characters weren’t the appeal of his Spirit comics, but it was Eisner’s way with those characters. And an ongoing homage to Eisner seemed like a waste of Cooke’s quite considerable talents. My reservations began to thaw with Batman/The Spirit, and continue with this first issue by Cooke and inker J. Bone. Cooke puts together a fine, charming done-in-one, including the mandatory title scene, a visually interesting villain, a beautiful girl in peril with a funny name (“Ginger Coffee”), a running gag, a slow reveal of the mystery man hero, and even manages to update Ebony while making fun of his original portrayal (One signifier of Eisner’s original Spirit stories that didn’t age well at all). I’m not sure how long Cooke’s Eisner homage will remain compelling—I imagine that even if the quality remains this high from now one, at a certain point it will inevitably become tiresome—but today at least it’s a fun, charming comic book adventure with plenty of humor, action and great, great art. At the very least, let’s hope Cooke can stick with it until Frank Miller’s movie version of The Spirit; I’d hate for Miller’s vision to be the only one people associate with Eisner’s creation.

X-Factor #14 (Marvel) Another slow-boiling, character-driven issue in Peter David’s superior return to the X-Factor characters. Jamie Madrox dithers about having accidentally slept with two members of his team (oh, the dangers of being able to duplicate oneself!), and decides the best way of getting himself together is to literally get himself together, reclaiming his lost duplicates, staring with the one that’s working for SHIELD. It doesn’t go so hot. David comes up with a pretty sweet new meaning for the SHIELD acronym given the events of Civil War, having Jamie refer to it as “Super Hero Internment, Elimination and Licensing Division.” Artist Pablo Raimondi is a great new addition to the book, which has never looked better.


Anonymous said...

How come you rarely review Image titles?
Are you reading... Nightly News, Girls, Walking Dead, or The Other Side (Vertigo)?


Caleb said...

The "Weekly Hauls" are generally reviews of whatever I buy on a particular Wednesday, which tends to be mostly singles from the Big Two. Much of what I read from other publishers tends to be via trades. I think the last two Image books to get play here or in my LVW column were Last Christmas and Sam Noir.

Of the books you mention, Nightly News looks like it will either be godawful or great, though I like the sound of it; I'm waiting for the trade. I'm reading Walking Dead in trade, and am waiting for the trade on The Other Side (like I do with most Vertigo books), and I've never tried Girls, although perhaps I should...?

Anonymous said...

I agree with you completely on the latest issue of Justice League of America but actually Black Lightning does know Batman is Bruce from his time with the Outsiders.

Anonymous said...

I think Nightly News is amazing... but it's pretty much a nightmare for anyone with ADD. Every page is packed full of little off-hand jokes disguised as copywrite print, or diagrams. I was extremely impressed with the first issue, but I haven't read the 2nd yet. It's "A lie told in 6 parts," so looking at your TPB habit, you should probably wait.

And I'm not sure how you feel about the Luna Brothers, but I think if you liked Ultra you will probably like Girls. But, it to has a limited 24 issue run, and this week was issue 20, so you might just want to get the trades.


Caleb said...


With a name like that, I'm sure you're right. I never read Batman and the Outsiders, as it was before my time. Was that pre-Crisis (On Infinite Earths)?

Because the JLoA secret identity revelations were undone after COIE during the continuity rejiggering (that Neil Gaiman-written SUperman/Green Lantern story from a few years back wasn't originaly published in the '80s because of a scene where Hal Jordan calls up Clark Kent and asks to talk to him about superheroing).