Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Weekly Haul: January 16th

Wow, talk about a light week for single issues! Even with some catch-up purchases—Glister #3 from a few weeks ago, last week’s issue of The Spirit which Diamond insidiously tried to keep from me by not shipping enough of to my shop—comic book day was more like comic book hour and a half this week.

So here are the Internet’s most hastily written reviews of the very few books that made the trip home with me…

Birds of Prey #114 (DC Comics) After a somewhat wobbly start last issue (albeit a much less wobbly start that he got off to on Teen Titans), Sean McKeever’s run on Birds of Prey seems to be rapidly stabilizing. Barbara Gordon’s going all Dark Knight all of a sudden—which includes breaking Misfit’s ankle to work out her frustrations—seems pretty wrong, and the Superman being a Supercock last issue which plunged her into this characterization doesn’t seem any more natural after a month to think about it. But there ends my complaints.

Thee plot McKeever’s building seems pretty well-constructed, and with the exception of the Gordon portrayal, the character are all nicely fleshed out through their dialogue and actions. I loved the page of Zinda and Huntress discussing the former’s difficulties that have spun out of being the world’s youngest-looking World War II vet. Also, Killer Shark is involved. The only way to screw up a comic book that involves Killer Shark would be to use Killer Shark but not use one of his fish-shaped modes of conveyance. And guess what? McKeever and the superior art team of Nicola Scott and Doug Hazelwood include a scene of him flying off in a cool glowing fish-shaped airship.

I’ve run out of new nice things to say about this art team, so suffice it to say that Birds is one of the DCU’s best-looking books at the moment.

Now, do any of you know who Infinity is? Her one-panel cameo here is the first I’ve heard of her…

Booster Gold #6 (DC) And now the story we’ve all been waiting for since it was previewed in Booster Gold #1! Or at least I’ve been waiting for since it was previewed in Booster Gold #1, and I assume a lot of other Blue and Gold fans have been—Booster teams up with a cadre of Blue Beetles to intervene in the climax of Countdown to Infinite Crisis #1 and save Ted Kord’s life from the-evil-for-no-reason Max Lord.

Oh wait, there was a reason, wasn’t there?

Anyway, if you enjoyed the last five issues of this title, I think it’s safe to say you’ll enjoy this one as well, as the book is certainly consistent. This story is a little more serious than, say, the first four, but still works in a killer visual gag amongst all the talk of destiny and death (page 4, panel 1), and is perhaps a bit recap heavy, but that’s the nature of the book, as it’s essentially one that visits other DC books to fix, fight and/or preserve elements of DC continuity.

As for whether this works out the way Ted Kord fans like me wish, it’s hard to say. It works better than Booster’s attempts to save Barbara Gordon’s lower spine did last month, and the last page seems to indicate that the save is permanent, but there’s a lot of pretty big questions left purposefully unanswered, ones that will likely drive the conflict of the next few issues, and determine how many Blue Beetles will be sharing the current DCU when this storyline ends.

Oh, and I hate the way Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund draw bruises. Just saying.

The Incredible Hercules #113 (Marvel Comics) Okay, yes, it is insane that this is comic is labled “The Incredible Hercules #113” on both the cover and in the legal indica instead of “The Incredible Hercules #2” while, meanwhile, Marvel is publishing a Hulk comic in a new series instead of over here.

Seriously, sit down and think about it. Think hard. Does it make any sense? Any sense at all. Try sitting on the floor and crossing your legs. Close your eyes. Taking a deep breath. Another. You got anything yet?

The best I can come up with is that Marvel hopes people will accidentally order Incredible Hercules in Incredible Hulk numbers for a few months.

And yes that is super-lame, but let’s not hold the lunatic and/or ethically dubious decisions of what to call and number what against the comic book itself which is, frankly, pretty cool.

Of course, this one’s got nothing at all to do with the Incredible Hulk, beyond the vague, formula similarities I mentioned in my review of #112. The Green Goliath doesn’t even cameo this time around.

Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente do continue to do a fantastic job of telling a story that’s one-part modern Marvel Universe and one-part Greek myth, emphasizing the similarities between the two by including characters that have been prominently featured in both. Sometimes it’s a neat throwaway gag (like that second page), and sometimes it’s more fundamental to the story, like the casting of Hercules as the title’s hero and the constant parallels being drawn to his past adventures.

It’s also a lot of fun. The Ares and Wonder Man vs. Herc battle is great, and I particularly enjoyed Hercule’s accusatory question to Wonder Man: “You mean like The God of War? Your new best friend?

Robin #178 (DC) Chuck Dixon returns to the pages of the ongoing monthly he himself launched waaaayyy back when I was Tim Drake’s age. And it’s pretty much like all Chuck Dixon comics. A major portion of the plot involved Violet—a gigantic female vigilante wearing the absolute worst costume design I’ve seen since, I don’t know, Forerunner maybe—ripping off mob money. Like a lot of Dixon’s DC work, it’s a storyline that could just as easily feature Robin as Nightwing, Black Canary, Batman, Green Arrow, Catwoman or whoever.

The other component of the plot deals more directly with the protagonist, specifically Robin’s thoughts and feelings regarding the demise of his one-time girlfriend Stephanie “Spoiler” Brown. (Dixon even proves he reads the Internets in one panel, in which Robin thinks, “She didn’t even get a memorial in the cave.”)

I’ve always thought Dixon wrote Robin better than any of the other superpower-less vigilantes he’s written for DC (which, I believe, is all of them), and, as could have easily been predicted, the soap opera side of things is solid as well.

All in all, nothing spectacular, but certainly not as horrible as the Adam Beechen issues I read either and, given the state of this title for much of the last, oh, three years or so, even being mediocre is a huge step in the right direction.

Except for one panel. One panel is spectacular. Brilliant even. (Page 15, panel 2).

The art comes courtesy of pencillers (with two L’s) Chris Batista and Jamal Igle and a trio of inkers. It’s fine, but again, unspectacular. They waste an awful lot of space on very unimpressive splash pages and oerly-spacious lay-outs, but that’s not necessarily their fault, and hey, they do draw backgrounds, which makes me feel like I’m getting my $2.99 worth or ink lines…at least in comparison to, say, JLoA.


Anonymous said...

You know...I think the fact that "The Incredible Hulk" changed to "The Incredible Hercules" has quite a bit to do with the shift in emphasis from the character to the creative team. Instead of being a comic book about the Hulk it's a comic about the story Pak (and now Van Lente) want to tell. At first it featured the Hulk, and now it features Herc (also, I think we all know the Hulk will return eventually to these pages).

I guess I see it as less Machivellian than you - sure, Marvel is hoping to sell more issues, but I don't see it as purely a money grab. It's also a change in comics and creators.

arch 14

Patrick C said...

The only Marvel I read is Punisher MAX, but I'll comment on it anyway. I totally think it's a money grab, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Completists and long-time Hulk fans will continue buying the Incredible Hulk even though it's under a different name, and those same fans might not try a new Hercules series. I'm all for stodgy old fans being tricked into trying something new.

I totally agree, the lesions all over Booster's face was kind of distracting. I'm wondering if that's not more Rapmund than Jurgens though, or we'd have an oddly bruised Superman running around before he was killed.

And speaking of JLoA, I see it isn't in your haul. Finally give up on it?

Tony said...

>Oh, and I hate the way Dan Jurgens and Norm Rapmund draw bruises. Just saying.

I know. I kept trying to remember if Booster caught a plague or something.

When he's not writing the Midnighter, Dixon is as sure a bet as you can make in comics.

Caleb said...

And speaking of JLoA, I see it isn't in your haul. Finally give up on it?

Yeah, I gave it a good five issues to stop being terrible when Dwayne McDuffie came on and, well, they were five terrible issues. It looks like the next three issues at least will be Salvation Run tie-ins, so I dropped it.

I'll probably give it a look again if McDuffie gets the chance to write non-tie-ins in the spring or summer.