Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Weekly Haul: January 31st

52 #39 (DC) Penciller Andy Smith joins the writing staff for an action-packed issue of DC’s best super-series, an issue which manages to touch base with just about every of the many ongoing plotlines (only the space heroes and Montoya are missing, and I think that after last week’s issue, we’ve all had more than enough of Montoya for a while). Interesting things are going on in Khandaq (the Horsemen attack!), on the ocean floor (Ralph and Helmet visit…Aquaman?!) and on the island of mad scientists (Suspendium! Mr. Mind mentioned! Magnus fights back!), but the most talked about plotline is sure to be the inevitable early climax of the Infinity, Inc. storyline (one which most readers probably saw coming for about 30 weeks or so now). In another demonstration of the fact that no one at DC ever reads anything on the Internet at all, we get the start of what looks like another classic moment of women-in-refrigerator-ism, as another teenage heroine gets the hell beat out of her (after having spent the last few weeks making out with a shape-changer who pretended to be her boyfriend). Will Natasha Irons survive her encounter with a super-powered Lex Luthor? Tune in next week! And now, some nitpicking: If that is Aquaman, half way towards losing his mind enough to become “The Dweller in the Deep,” his hand was mis-colored on page six—his left hand is made out of magic water, remember? And Montoya does not, in fact, fight a Dragon, as the cover states—I don’t mind, I’m just saying.

Black Panther #24 (Marvel Comics) This is a very ugly issue of Black Panther, but the story more than makes up for it. The cover is by Michael Turner, and it’s not a very good-looking one—His Panther and Cap look fine, but all three female characers look the exact same, and Falcon’s wings look like those of a fairy more than a bird of prey. The interior art is penciled by Aspen studios’ Marcus To and Koi Turnbull, and it’s all over the place. The worst part is the Cap vs. Panther sparring, which doesn’t make a lick of sense, from a fight choreography stand-point. Writer Reginald Hudlin has a lot going on in this issue though, all of it exciting. The U.S. readies for war with Wakanda, Iron Man and SHEILD try to get T’Challa’s bodyguards in custody, Storm approaches Reed Richards, T’Challa literally sniffs out the traitor on Caps team (if you read Civil War #6, last month, you already know who it is) and plots to break into the Negative Zone prison (again, shown in last month’s CW #6), Clor gets a clean bill of helath (just in time for this showdown next month), and some of T’Challa’s “Black Avengers” from the Bad Mutha trade get some panel-time.

Connor Hawke: Dragon’s Blood (DC)
Missed it! Writer Chuck Dixon recently told Newsarama’s Matt Brady that when he’s hired to write other people’s characters, he’s a professional about it and keeps his own political views out of the story. He makes several good points and gets a neat dig in at Judd Winick (with whose politics I often agree with, although he seems completely unable to communicate them in a readable fashion). “I’ve never backed away from my disdain for agenda-driven comics in what should be the medium’s primary escapist, mass appeal genre,” Dixon said. “Stand on your soap box all day long. But don’t stand on the shoulders of household-name icons. Write the characters incharacter and don’t write your world-view through them.” Okay, good point, but then, by the same token, you probably should spout off about your own backward political views all over the Internet, particularly on sites like devoted to covering things like the comic books you think responsible creators like yourself shouldn’t use as soapboxes. Now I’ve always enjoyed Dixon’s Bat-writing; the guy does good, straight ahead action stories. And I’ve always particularly enjoyed his Connor Hawke, who seemed created to be the polar opposite of Green Arrow Oliver Queen, part of what makes him so unique. I dig the fact that he’s a vegetarian (hey, me too!), multi-racial, and weird around women—he’s always been portrayed as clumsily oblivious, and it was up to the reader to decide if he was gay, asexual or just a pre-sexual virgin. Dude was raised in a monastery mastering martial arts and archery, after all! Well, Dixon can’t seem to leave it to the readers anymore, which is why his series should probably just be re-titled Connor Hawke: Straight as an Arrow. The icky cover shows him making out with his dad’s former flame (and rapist?!), the mother of his half-brother, Lady Shado. Inside, Dixon goes about assuring us that Connor is 100%, red-blooded heterosexual. After he misinterprets a woman’s attempt to pick him up in standard Connor Hawke-style, he then turns around and asks her to dinner. There they have this conversation, about his life at a monastary:

Date: You never see any women there?

Connor: No.

Date: But you think about them, right?

Connor: Yes.

Date: Am I making the big, bad Justice League member uncomfortable.

Connor: My social skills ar epretty much…non-existent.

Date: You’re doing fine…maybe I’ll come around to your room.

Connor goes upstairs to wait for her, and finds Lady Shado in his bed, wounded. She kisses him, and, instead of a panel showing us Connor recoiling (as you might expect him to do if just about any woman kissed him all of a sudden like that, let alone Shado), we get a panel of them making out. They’re interrupted by Connor’s date, who dies from an arrow shaft in the back, thus preserving Connor’s virginity (but see? He totally made out with a woman, while waiting to hook up with another woman, so he’s obviously totally straight!). While Dixon’s politics and use of the issue to highlight the fact that a character he created doesn’t accidentally turn out gay sort of ruins the proceedings, artist Derec Donovan is simply fantastic. I hope he gets tons more DC work after this miniseries; he’s easily the most skilled artists I encountered in any of this week’s books, and his presence would have infinitely improved any of the stories I read this week.

JLA: Classified #33 (DC) DC seems to have cleared up the confusion over who did what on this story that was evidenced in the credits of the last issue , with Dan Slott now being credited with the plot and Dan Jurgens with the script and layout art (Trevor Scott finishes the art). After the double-sized introductory chapter of “The 4th Parallel,” we pick up in one of the several realities Darrin Proffit is trying to destroy the JLA in under the guise of “The Red King.” His plan is to help the League until they invite him to join their ranks, and this involves repeated battles with the Royal Flush Gang, who get a pretty cool upgrade halfway through the story. The script is pretty dreadful (and now I know who to blame!) and makes the “World’s Greatest Superheroes” seem more like a Little League baseball team. I mean, the whole team just to take on the Royal Flush Gang? Half the Detroit League totally kicked their asses a few issues ago. Maybe it’s my own fault for having just reread JLA: Trial By Fire, in which the Flash evacuates an entire North Korean city by himself in less than a second, but it seemed odd to me that the whole League had to stop chasing the R.F.G. to evacuate one measly burning hotel. While this story is currently tied with the afore-mentioned Detroit League arc for Worst Story-Arc In JLA: Classified ever, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I like seeing John Stewart, Plastic Man, Wally “The Flash” West and proper-skull-shaped J’onn J’onnz on the Justice League.

Teen Titans #43 (DC) As it turns out, this is the very last story arc of Teen Titans by Geoff Johns. Based on the first issue of said story arc, it’s a very typical Johns story, with a bunch of characters sort of jumping out and posing and being cool and saying cool lines. Tony S. Daniel is back on pencils, and apparently he’s leaving after this arc too. Which is odd, because I didn’t even realize he was the regular penciller, based on how often fill-ins were needed over the past year.

DinoWars #2 (Antarctic Press) Huh. I honestly can’t tell if writer/artist Rod Espinosa is making fun of big, stupid action movies in this series or not and, if so, to what degree. The part near the end of the book where our two principals meet up and catch up on old times definitely gives it a parody feel, but it could just be bad; I can’t decide. Kind of wish I would have waited for a trade, considering I’ve already dropped $7 on the series and we’re only two issues in.

Ultimate Civil War: Spider-Ham #1 (Featuring Wolverham) (Marvel) Perhaps I was expecting too much from this book, which features a fun title and contributions from a whole lot of artists whose work I enjoy and admire, but God, this sucked so much worse than I ever could of imagined. I loved the cover, which spoofs Michael Turner’s Civil War #1 cover, with Spider-Ham striking a Cap-like pose, and holding a blood-soaked dollar sign instead of a shield. The first five and a half pages aren’t bad either, with writer J. Michael Hamzynski parodying Marvel’s current outlaw of the though balloon by having Spider-Ham say “I am out of ideas” in a narration box, and then realize he’s out of ideas because he’s not allowed to think in thought balloons anymore, so he’s off on a quest to find his thought balloons. He wanders into a lame Civil War parody, and, from there, a Dr. Strange spell shows him possible futures (one-page splashes by various artists that make visual ham puns on Marvel properties), each drawn by a different artist. On the surface, it’s similar to Evan Dorkin’s wonderful World’s Funnest, a trade special in which Mr. Mxyplkt and Bat-Mite battle through the DC Multiverse, destroying everything in their wake, with each universe drawn by a different artist, in some cases those who created them (including Alex Ross doing Kingdom Come, Frank Miller doing Dark Knight Returns, etc). But this is only 22 pages. And Marvel doesn’t really have that many recognizable universes to parody, at least not that they’re willing to parody (Spider-Ham doesn’t stop by the 1602-iverse, or Earth X, or any place from any movies or cartoons). And JMS isn’t as funny as Dorkin. Nobody parodies Marvel as effectively as Marvel (as Brian Michael Bendis’ recent Impossible Man/Stan Lee crossover illustrated), but this book has the same sort of dated, unfunny toothlessness that marked their overly-safe Wha---Huh?! special. First up, check out the title. You may notice something missing, specifically the word “Crisis,” which was there when the project was announced and discussed. In fact, it must have been there fairly recently, because the Diamond shipping list reads, “NOV062278 ULTIMATE CIVIL WAR SPIDER-HAM CRISIS #1,” and’s solicitation misspells the word with an “F” instead of a “C,” but was written when it was still to be Crisis apparently. What gives? It’s not like DC owns the word “crisis,” guys. While it’s a very small matter, it’s like Wha—Huh?!’s Infinite Crisis parody—cowardly and afraid to offend. Not exactly attributes of good comedy. As for the “Ham” makeovers, having seen them all posted on months ago, I didn’t find the sight of Hambit, Hamneto or Ultimate Captain Hamerica all that hilarious here.

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