Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Weekly Haul: February 28th

52 #43 (DC Comics) With the Ralph Dibny and Steel/Everyman plotlines a wrap, the remaining storylines that feed into one another are all steaming toward a conclusion. This issue, we check in with Buddy Baker and Lady Styx, but spend most of our time looking in at a very intense meeting between the Marvel Family and the Black Marvel Family. I’ve really dug the concept of a reverse Marvel family, right down to their own talking animal mascot, but the writing’s been on the wall all along that their existence as a unit was never more than temporary. Still, I was pretty surprised at just how grisly their break-up is. I sometimes wonder what would have become of Geoff Johns if he weren’t a comics writer…a serial killer, maybe? Nice art by Giffen, Jurgens and Rapmund, even if the panel-to-panel mis en scene is a little jumpy. Ethan Van Sciver joins Waid for the back-up origin, featuring EDILW favorite Plastic Man, and it’s a complete mess, but we’ll look at that later in this week’s edition of “Actually Essential Storylines.” Line of the week? I’m gonna have to go with: “I’m about to lose the space dolphin powers I sampled…”

Action Comics #846 (DC) The oft-delayed next installment of Donner, Johns and Kubert’s Superman II-tastic story arc finally arrives, and my immediate reaction was along the lines of, “For this I waited so long?” (How late is it? Well, the Next Issue Box mentions the weeks-old Action Comics Annual, which was itself a stop-gap to the late issues). Kubert’s art is great, yeah, but he’s hardly the only artist capable of rendering a punch ‘em up between Superman and the escaped Phantom Zone criminals. Johns and Donner get props for the scale of the threat, though—just as I was nodding off seeing Superman trade blows with P.Z. escapees for the ten millionth time in my lifetime, Zod answered Supes' “You and what army, General?” comment with a well-timed “This one.” I know we’ve seen that very exchange in different situations repeatedly over the years in DC comics, but just like references to “fastball specials” in Marvel comics, it still makes me smile every time.

Black Panther #25 (Marvel Comics) Okay, add this issue of BP to the list of “Civil War” tie-in issues that do a much better job of concluding the main Civil War series’ story far better than Civil War #7. I know I (and much of the Internet) had a lot to gripe about regarding CW #7, but one of my many complaints was the one I made over at this week’s "Best Shots” column—that Millar and company spent six issues (and almost a year) lining up all of Marvel’s toys for a big superhero fight, and then neglected to actually show the superhero fight (Seriously, go flip through #7 again if you don’t believe me; there are exactly two splash pages of more than one name superhero exchanging blows with another, and neither occurs during the Battle of Manhattan).

After Storm tells Reed Richards off and T’Challa and Captain Marvel/Photon/Monica Rambeau figure out how to bust into 42, we flash forward to the big fight scene. It doesn’t match up with what actually occurs in CW #7 terribly well at all (but hey, how many of the tie-ins actually do?), but it’s full of fun little moments, like Falcon and Nighthawk mixing it up, Storm and Clor dancing before first Sue Richards (“You’re my husband’s abomination… And I’m here to abort you!”) and then Hercules cut in to help finish him off. The last page includes two pretty awesome moments, one which makes fun of the ridiculousness of the news media (I’ve got to assume writer Reginald Hudlin is making fun of their tendency to exaggerate when he has an anchorman reporting that, “The streets of New York were as violent as the fields of Gettysburg as the final battle of the ‘Civil War’ between superheroes seems to have peaked today”), and of Millar and company’s story, when Storm responds to the news of Caps’ surrender with an incredulous, “What? You can’t be serious.”

Marcus To’s pencil art is pretty strong, even if there are some oddly static panels of the fighting heroes all just kind of standing around talking in the middle of the big battle, and colorist J. D. Smith gives everything a nice painted veneer.

Civil War: Frontline #11 (Marvel) The relative strength of Paul Jenkins’ Frontline series has been overshadowed by certain sucky elements pretty much all along. I found the “Here are the ways in which our superhero crossover is just like real world wars” back-ups clumsy, repetitive and more than a little offensive; the Dark Speedball story’s last chapter was a weird U-turn of the narrative; and issue #10 was a horribly embarrassing exercise in on-panel time-wasting. Now we finally learn who the traitor on the Pro-Reg side was (it’s the only person it could be) and learn Tony Stark’s true motivation (which is the only mildly heroic one he could have, and, it’s worth noting, is a completely different one than he gave in Civil War #7). The plot involves Ben Urich and Sally Floyd interviewing the incarcerated Captain America (which turns into Sally, The Worst Reporter Ever, yelling at him), and confronting Tony Stark with what they’ve learned, essentially a parlor scene for the ten issues that preceded this one. I’m not sure I understood what the hell all that was about Atlantis and how it benefited Tony Stark or the ideal of Pro-Registration, but the rest of the speech at least makes the idea of Iron Man as a hero in the Marvel Universe going forward somewhat palpable (although, again, this is a case that Millar probably should have been made in Civil War, since it is, essentially, the character’s entire motivation for everything that he did in that series after #1). Three things really stood out, however, and I will proceed to list them numerically, because this is already a pretty long paragraph.

1.) In the Battle of Manhattan, there were apparently “fifty-three killed…only six of them super-powered.” That’s one-twelfth of those killed at Stamford, and more than the Hulk killed before Stark and the Illuminati decided to shoot him into space for the good of earth. Who are these dead heroes? (Other than Typeface, of course, whose body we've seen, and maybe Triathalon and Coldblood, whom Amazing Spider-Man said were among the missing). Who are the heroes who accidentally killed people? And why didn’t Millar and Marvel think it might be important to show us any of this?!

2.) We learn that “Three days after the end of the war, the Sentry publicly announced his support of the Registration Act, much to everyone’s surprise.” Except for readers, who saw him register twice in different comic, and will therefore not be even slightly surprised to see him take a stand again. And this is the first John Q. New Yorker has heard of where Sentry stands? Did he not even make it out of the Negative Zone fight in CW #7 then? God, what a pussy.

3.) I love that the story ended with Tony Stark crying. It provided a nice sense of balance to Captain America crying over in CW proper.

Connor Hawke: Dragon’s Blood #4 (DC) Connor Hawke’s heterosexuality so firmly confirmed last issue, writer Chuck Dixon gets back to what he does best—big action and plenty of action movie-style banter. This issue was a lot of fun, and, as I’ve said at least three times before, I totally love Derec Donovan’s art.

Doctor Strange: The Oath #5 (Marvel) Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin and Alvaro Lopez bring their wonderful Dr. Strange story, by far the best I’ve ever read (but then, I’ve only read a relative few Strange stories), to a close. The ultimate fate of Wong and even that last panel were predictable enough, but it was certainly pleasurable to see them occur anyway. I hope this thing sold like hotcakes, and that BKV has more Strange stories to tell, because I would love to read a book like this every month. Confidential to Brian Michael Bendis: I do hope you’ve been reading this series, and plan on incorporating the last few pages worth of changes in Doc’s status quo into your New Avengers title.

Eternals #7 (Marvel) Worst. Neil Gaiman-written series based on a lesser Kirby creation. Ever. Of course, the other Gaiman-written series based on a lesser Kirby creation was The Sandman, so perhaps expecting a repeat here was a little too optimistic. The long delays, slow pace and ponderous inclusion of “Civil War” into the proceedings didn’t help endear Gaiman’s latest visit to the Marvel Universe sandbox, but with the series finally wrapped, and reconsidering the story in it’s entirety, it’s not a bad set-up for a Marvel series to follow at some point. Although I get the feeling it will be someone other than Gaiman that’s assigned to write a potential Eternals monthly, and someone other than John Romita Jr. drawing it, so I can’t imagine such a series would interest anyone. I’d almost certainly pass.

Firestorm: The Nuclear Man #33 (Marvel) Okay, the thirty-third issue of a series which has already been announced as cancelled probably isn’t the best place to start reading, but, well, they didn’t have Dwayne McDuffie on scripting duties until this very issue, did they? That and the appearance of the New Gods, whom I’m currently completely confused about (I can’t make heads or tails of how Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle fits into New God-itunity), were more than enough to get me to try out this series for a second time (I tried the “One Year Later” issue. I didn’t like it). McDuffie is in top form here, as he was in FF #542, and this feels like good, plain, fun superhero comics. We get nice, solid intros of both Mister Miracle (still Shiloh Norman; no clue where Scott Free is here, either, although he’s repeatedly mentioned, so he obviously still exists on this New Earth) and the title character, plus Orion showing up to punch them both, and then the Female Furies doing the same.

Green Lantern #17 (DC) Panel two shows us J’onn J’onnz using his super-powerful telepathy to de-brainwash the Global Guardians at what I assume is a JLA headquarters of some sort (We’ll have to wait until Brad Meltzer gets around to finishing their origin story to let us know where that may be). I’d really like to hear what follows that scene, once J’onn’s finished up: “Well, I’ve used my completely unique Martian power of telepathy to deprogram these superheroes so that they will no longer do the bidding of the Faceless Hunters for you. I guess since I’m not on your Justice League anymore, I’ll just go hang out with all my friends and family, maybe stop by the office and get some work done. Oh wait, I’m the last surviving member of my race! And my only friends are members of the Justice League! And my fucking job is just saving the world with the Justice League once a month! But you guys didn’t want me on the team because Meltzer already assigned the green narration boxes to Hal or some such bullshit. Guess I’ll just go sit by the phone and wait for you guys to call me the next time you need some telepathic help. Dicks.” The rest of the book? Batman gets offered a place on a brand-new team he wants no part of (sweet costume though!), John Stewart finally makes the scene, Hal punches an alien in the face and the newest, sluttiest Star Sapphire appears. (Stupid question—Why does she wear pink if her name is Star Sapphire?)

Helmet of Fate: Black Alice #1 (DC) Missed it! I love exactly two things about Black Alice, the teenaged goth girl magic-stealer that writer Gail Simone introduced in one of her earlier Birds of Prey stories. One, she’s from Ohio, which really, more superheroes oughta be from. And two, she’s a character that lends herself to almost constant character redesign and riffs on classic DC costumes, as each time she borrows a characters’ abilities, she gets a personalized version of their costume (My favorite thus far was her “Black Lantern” Alan Scott get-up in the Villains United Infinite Crisis Special). Simone joins artist Duncan Rouleau for Alice’s turn in the Dr. Fate spotlight, and while Rouleau’s design style is well suited to the character, the outfits aren’t exactly inspired (I didn’t even know Giganta’s powers were magical). This was probably the weakest of the Helmet one-shots so far, but is still competently done; after all, those first three one-shots were pretty damn good. Confidential to colorist Mike Atiyeh: Goth kids just dress and act like vampires, they’re not actually vampires, so they should be pale, but not chalk-white with a hint of blue like week-old drowning victims.

JLA: Classified #35 (DC) This is the fourth chapter of “The Fourth Parallel,” but it’s labeled “Part 2C” because, for the third issue in a row, we explore a possible sequence of events that is occurring at the exact same time as the last two chapters, only in a parallel dimension (and with a third “finisher” inking scripter and lay outer Dan Jurgens’ art). Pretty clever, huh? On this world, villain the Red King kills the members of the Justice League, but he accidentally destroys the Earth in the process. That’s all there is to it really, a complete routing of the Justice League in a reality that doesn’t really exist. But hey, it could have been worse—J’onn J’onnz could have had a conical head, for example.

Justice #10 (DC) Fight, fight, fight! That’s the plot of this superhero and supervillain-packed issue, which brings this totally awesome series—which has been little more than gloriously illustrated fan service—close to climax. The League, many of them wearing cool new costumes and/or the Metal Men, launch their strikes against the Legion and their own brainwashed sidekicks and second bananas, the Joker shows up and the League keeps pulling secret plans out of their collective ass. I dig the Plas/Ralph rivalry, the Superfriends-style seating arrangement at the Legion of Doom’s after party, the Riddler’s power suit and going around that table and imagining what Black Manta, The Scarecrow and the Toyman intend to do with their glasses of wine. In fact, the only things I didn’t like about this issue were a few clunky lines of dialogue, Green Arrow’s narration, and Braithwaite and Ross’ Clayface design, which resembles a horribly deformed, naked old lady-cum-burn victim. Yeee-uck!

Runaways #24 (Marvel) Creators BKV and Adrian Alphona bring their second volume of Runaways to a close, and they do so in a nice, circular fashion, giving us a conclusion that recalls the conclusion of the first volume, and checks in with at least one character we didn’t expect to see again. I’m pretty bummed that the pair are leaving, and while Joss Whedon is the perfect BKV successor (Vaughan’s dialogue on this series has long been peppered with Whedon-esque invented slang), I’m not sure how and Alphona-less Runaways will read. I aim to find out next month though. Also, while there’s a lot to bitch about the characterizations in Marvel’s “Civil War” event, I kind of like the thought of Iron Man being a villain…he’s certainly used to swell effect as such in this issue.

X-Factor #16 (Marvel) It’s issues like this that make me wish Peter David were writing Madrox, The Multiple Man instead of X-Factor. The storyline involving Jamie tracking down a dupe that’s gone off to marry and start a family was wonderful, and the sub-plot involving Siryn and Monet busting out of a Parisian prison and rescuing a French mutant was fine, but was something of an unwelcome intrusion compared to the A story.


Harris said...

Aw, man. I liked Typeface. Marvel doesn't enough characters that are just outright bizarre.

On another note, why would the average person give two shits about the Sentry's position on Registration? Did Stingray hold a press conference? What about Squirrel Girl? He might have the power of a million exploding suns, but he less effective in a fight than Aunt May. I've seen May brain somebody with a frying pan. All I've seen the Sentry do is bang Chrystal and mope.

Anonymous said...

I was incredibly underwhelmed by Frontline (and I've usually defended it) - issues 10 and 11? The bit with Captain America at the beginning was ridiculous. The Iron Man confrontation was interesting, and the parallels to Watchmen were kind of clever (Stark's office looked like Ozymandias', and Stark's plan was a benign version of Ozy's scheme). But overall it felt flat. Sally might have had some points against Captain A, but she made them in a such a histrionic and melodramatic was hard to take her seriously.

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