Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Weekly Haul: April 2nd

Action Comics #863 (DC Comics) Finally, Geoff Johns, Gary Frank and Jon Sibal end their 3,000-part “Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes” arc, a storyline that, if you cut out all the fat and Legion fan-stroking, could have been told in two issues. Personally, I found it all a bit boring and pointless, and wasn’t too jazzed about the conclusion either, which basically amounts to our heroes ganging up on and totally beating the crap out of a single villain.

I still read the whole thing though because I really liked watching Frank and Sibal redesign the Legion’s costumes, and each new issue brought a few more redesigned Legionnaires in. So Legion fans and super-fashion nerds? Here’s a story for you/us!

I imagine the part of greatest interest, however, is the “trailer” at the end of the issue for a Johns/George Perez Final Crisis tie-in of some kind called “Legion of Three Worlds.” If the plan was to use Johns’ greatest hits version of the Legion idea after all, maybe DC shouldn’t have mentioned it in the Infinite Crisis trade collection?

The two-page ad, featuring seven horizontal panels and a splash by Perez, promises Superman and the Legion vs. Superman-Prime and the Legion of Super-Villains, and some resolution to the “Lightning Saga” person-in-the-rod dangling plotline.

I’ve seen all the Superman-Prime stories I ever want to see at this point, but if anything could interest me in one, it would be Perez drawing it.

DC Special: Raven #2 (DC) This issue focuses almost entirely on our heroine Raven, wearing a belly shirt, being adopted by a clique of other girls wearing belly shirts, and her fish-out-water attempts at relating to teenagers who don’t have super-powers or devote themselves to full-time world-saving. There are a lot of low-key kinda fun moments—I really liked the bowling montage—and artist Damion Scott gets off some fantastically over-detailed panels during the emotions gone wild scenes. I like it okay, but both Scott’s highly idiosyncratic art and writer Marv Wolfman’s straight-forward superhero-less super-comic storytelling probably isn’t for everyone.

Detective Comics #843 (DC) So has Zatanna completely replaced Robin as Batman’s sidekick yet or what? This is at least the third story guest-starring her that Paul Dini’s written during his tenure on the title, and the second two-parter. His love affair with the character became more irritating this time around not simply because of the repetition but because of the verbiage devoted to her desirability and/or potential desirability. One of the characters, a club-owner who hires her to perform, spends most of the issue lusting after/flirting with her, and, at one point, Z. pulls Bruce Wayne for a bit to discuss the possibility of a relationship between the two of them.

(Now, I don’t want to tell a couple of fictional characters how to run their lives or anything, but, come one!. First, Zatanna, isn’t Batman a little too old for you? Remember when you first appeared, how all the Justice Leaguers were all calling you kid? And secondly, Batman, remember how pissed you were at Zatanna because she accidentally magically lobotomized a villain while trying to magically alter his personality, erased part of your memory, and fucked with your ex-lover Catwoman’s mind?)

I didn’t really care for James Robinson and/or the Bat-office killing off of the Ventriloquist, one of the few great new Bat-villains created after the end of the 1940s, and Dini’s replacement of him with a Ventriloquist II, which also stripped Scarface of his speech impediment.

If it weren’t for Dustin Nguyen’s art, I think I probably would have pulled this title off my pull-list by now, but it’s another great cover and another great 22 pages of fine designs and story-telling. Nguyen does a pretty terrible Penguin, though.

Kick-Ass #2 (Icon/Marvel) Wow, what a horrible fucking comic book.

I thought the first issue was just a poorly told script adaptation of a potentially neat idea, and that this could shape up to be a worthwhile book, but no dice. This is actually much, much worse than the last issue, as the unlikable protagonist demonstrates healing powers to rival Wolverine’s (Not that he has superpowers, just that Millar doesn’t think something like a broken back can keep a teenager down for long).

This issue is devoted entirely to young Dave Lizewski’s recovery from being beaten and run over by a car in the last issue, a few pages of him blaming comic books for it, and then he’s back on the streets. Last time, three little kids nearly killed him. This time, after having plates put in his head and having recovered from a broken spine and two broken legs, he takes on three huge and professional-looking thugs. And wins!

Honestly, this reads like artist John Romita Jr. found a script in an eighth-grader’s wastebasket and decided to illustrate it on a dare.

Metal Men #7 (DC) A bunch of crazy shit involving robots and time-travel happens. I liked the piece of art hanging in Colonel Magnus’ office, and the idea of his BRS’s, although the actual name of the devices is more than a tad tasteless (and the way they’re spelled here more than a little spineless).

Nightwing #143 (DC) Don Kramer comes in for penciller Rags Morales, who was a big part of why I’ve been digging this title so much the last few months. Kramer, inked by Christian Alamy and Mark McKenna, does a pretty fine job…fine enough that I didn’t miss Morales quite as much as I expected to. Writer Peter J. Tomasi’s script is Dixon-esque in its paint-by-numbers cliché adherence, with only that dialogue and the fact that Nightwing and Robin wear the costumes they do distinguishing this good-guys-infiltrate-insane-villains-secret-base-and-disrupt-his-plans-for-world-domination-plot from the 27,435 other stories like it.

That’s not a bad thing. I mean, it’s certainly not a good thing, but if all you’re looking for is a decent comic book version of a plot you’ve seen in one-fifth of all G.I. Joe cartoons and every single James Bond parody ever, this sure fits the bill.

Project Superpowers #2 (Dynamite Entertainment) Alex Ross should have only agreed to work on that Avengers/Invaders series for Marvel on the condition that they let him and Dynamite call the Golden Age Daredevil “Daredevil” instead of “The Death-Defying Devil.” DDD shares the cover of this issue, along with The Flame, and inside, some boring nonsense involving The Fighting Yank and company goes down, while Samson, The Scarab and the cover characters appear. It remains a not-very-good, completely generic superhero story, but until someone seriously starts reprinting some old Daredevil and Green Lama comics, what choice do I have but to read the hell out of this?

Secret Invasion #1 (Marvel Comics) This is the launch of Marvel’s next big tent pole crossover, and I think before we begin considering how good or bad it actually is, we’re going to have to first ingest a few grains of salt. Four, actually.

1.) The New Avengers went to the Savage Land and noticed some kind of conspiracy within SHIELD in the first few months of 2005. Three years ago. They discovered the body of “Skrullektra” in June of 2007; about a year ago. It was revealed that sometime long ago “The Illuminati” slaughtered a whole ship full of Skrulls in The New Avengers: Illuminati #1 in February of 2007; a little over a year ago.

So the storyline that “starts” here has already been going on for practically forever and, honestly, I was sick to death of it before I even turned the cover of this issue. Your mileage may (greatly) vary.

(For those of you interested in the way fictional shared story universes relate to our own, it’s worth noting that the entire last years worth of Bendis’ Avengers titles essentially took no more than a few weeks of Marvel time).

2.) Recent Marvel events in general tend to have really bad, anti-climatic endings. The biggest, Civil War, literally just fizzled out when the end of the last issue arrived, with no conclusion or resolution to any of its (many) conflicts. Even the best recent event, World War Hulk came to a bit of an anti-climax, in terms the deus ex Ironmanica ending to the Hulk threat and the fact that the Hulk is right where he was before the series—off the board. The worst of them all? Probably Brian Michael Bendis’ House of M, one of the more pointless of these types of stories ever written. So, let’s not get too excited about the promise that this is going to change the Marvel Universe forever or, you know, at all; after all, part of this book’s sales pitch is that many of the changes in the Marvel Universe in the last 30 years or so may not even have occurred, since any or all of the characters involved may not even be themselves.

3.) Yes, this does sound like the plot of DC’s 1988 Millennium, with a touch of 1950’s sci-fi films (particularly Invaders From Mars and Invasion of the Body Snatchers), Marvel-ized.

4.) Despite all the time spent laying the groundwork for this, Bendis is probably the worst person to write this story. As skilled and popular a writer as he is, his Achilles heel is his characterization, particularly through dialogue. Not only do all of his characters act the same, they all talk the exact same. A story in which any character could actually be a shape-changing alien infiltrator could be a lot of fun to read, giving fans months to offer theories on who is and who isn’t really a Skrull, but, the way Bendis handles the characters, there’s no real basis for suspicion. Nobody necessarily seems like themselves in a Bendis Marvel comic anyway, rendering the whole project somewhat pointless.

I can’t help but wonder how much better a story like this might have been if the writer at the reigns was someone who knew and wrote the characters so well that they seemed like real, consistent people. Someone like, say, Dan Slott.

Okay, so grains of salt enumerated and expectations sufficiently ratcheted down, this is…still not very good.

Most of this oversized issue is spent setting the table for what’s to come, and, it’s surprisingly clumsily handled.

If you’ve been reading New Avengers, it will seem like the exact same thing that’s been going on for months upon months or, in at least one case, years. Tony Stark brings Reed Richards and Hank Pym in on the Skrullektra secret and have them figure out why they can’t detect Skrulls anymore (Do Skrull bodies not decompose?), there’s a break out at The Raft again, SHIELD gets hacked and their carriers fall out of the sky again, the New Avengers go to the Savage Land again and face off against the Mighty Avengers without actually fighting for about the fifteenth time since Civil War.

But the execution of all of this seems way beneath a writer of Bendis’ caliber. For example, exposition-only dialogue is given to explain what S.W.O.R.D. is (“As you know…”) in one scene, and again later to explain the Negative Zone and the Baxter Building, simply to let us know what is being taken off the table a scene later.

A few Skrulls are revealed, and they’re among the most obvious Skrullspects, but there is one genuine surprise, which comes when the Avengers open the Skrull ship.

Taken as just another issue of Bendis’ Avengers run, it’s not bad; certainly better than Mighty Avengers, and as good as New Avengers, but as a special, game-changing occasion? I don’t see how this can be seen as anything other than a disappointment. From writing to Leinil Yu’s generally excellent pencils and layouts to the plot, this is quite literally just more of the same.

The Twelve #4 (Marvel) I bet if J. Michael Straczynski and Chris Weston were the creative team on Project: Superpowers, it would be a lot cooler. As this story of recovered Golden Age heroes chugs along, JMS’ overstuffed plot gets a little more interesting, due mostly to the characters becoming characters beyond “weird-ass Golden Age heroes less popular than Namor we happen to own” that they were when the series began. Chris Weston’s art continues to be absolutely gorgeous.


Anonymous said...

Negative, Negative Negative...

Man, you should have stayed home this week. You seemed to hate everything.

Either that... or its sleazy nightly news tactics to keep readers interested... "Oh, I don't like it when Caleb actually LIKES something. It's great to read a bunch of sandy vagina bitching."

I sir, am not one of those people.

Save your money, maybe my time and maybe practice "If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all."


Khairul H. said...

Paul Dini is married to a magician himself. And she kinda looks like Zatanna so that could explain his love for the character. (Or maybe Zatanna has been made to look like her?)

SallyP said...

So I'm not the only one who thinks that the whole Skrull thing has just been going on forever, and essentially spinning its wheels? They keep having issues of New Avengers and Mighty Avengers, and nothing really HAPPENS!

And they do all sound alike when Bendis writes them.


This was an average week for my books anyway. Nothing great, nothing really terrible, just meh. NEXT week however...!

Anonymous said...

I have mixed feelings about this Three Legions concept --

Pro: I'm a Legion fan. I love all those old Levitz and Giffen/Bierbaum stories, enjoy several of the post-Zero Hour stories, and loved the Abnett/Lanning run. Even read (and enjoyed) the Showcase and Archive #5 (50% off at some con). Part of me, simply wants a big, fun Legion epic again. And, Perez [i]is[/i] drawing it. That counts for something.

Con - The Three Legions. I love those old stories, but sticking Gates in the background, having Perez draw old Cockrum costumes, isn't going change the fact that it's [i]not[/i] Levitz and Lightle, or Giffen and the Bierbuams.
I don't care - at all - how the various Legions relate, or if they all exist on some parallel, yet completely fictional, reality within the completely fictional DCU.
I'd rather they just pick a Legion - and frankly, I'm fine with the current one, because bringing back a past version is meaningless; within four months, the characters won't be recognizable as those versions of the characters because, y'know, writers will be telling stories and moving the characters forward to new places! - stick with it, and tell the best stories possible.
You can tell a kick-ass Legion epic with the current team just as well as with a mixed bag of past teams.

Plus, honestly, Johns still doesn't do it for me, so I've little faith in him to pull it off. Too much awkward man-love for the stories of his youth for my tastes.

Anonymous said...

I actually enjoyed "Secret Invasion" quite a bit - I'll grant your point about it seeming to have already dragged on for a long time - I think Bendis would have been better served to make it a simmering subplot in the Avengers' books, rather than the focal point it has (sort of) been.

In fact, he could have easily done that - several people in the books themselves have said "So, Elektra's a Skull, so what" and Bendis has gone out of the way to have others (mostly Iron Man) say "NO! It's a big deal!!"

But for all that, when Mockingbird steps out of Skrull ship, and Captain Marvel blows up the Thunderbolts, I can't help being excited.

Anonymous said...

I rather like the Raven comic too. It's getting hardcore hate from some folk on various forums, but I think both the art and plot are very cute. Especially the bowling scene.

I liked Nightwing too. Sure, the plot is well-worn, but the dialogue and banter between Robin and Nightwing was zippy and fun

Anonymous said...

Heh. The fact that no one ever tries to apprehend the Sweet Christmas Avengers really takes the sting out of that whole Civil War thang, huh?

It amused me that they built up the whole ANYONE COULD BE A SKRULL thing, and who do we get?

A butler, a spy with a nickname that means "idiot", and every hack writer's whipping boy of choice, Hank Pym.

Golly, that's spooky, Bendis!

Anonymous said...

I rather enjoyed Secret Invasion...a couple of things in your review I wanted to respond to -

1) There was no breakout of the Negative Zone (I assume you meant 42?). There were breakouts of the Raft and the Cube (sure seem like a lot of Marvel the Vault still around these days?)

2) And while some of the exposition is ham-handed (you mention the description of SWORD and the Negative Zone/Freedoms Plaza) - it's kind of a necessary evil (since you want to bring all readers along, regardless of their previous comicbook background). I, for one, had never heard of SWORD before, and appreciate the reminder of what the Negative Zone is.

To be honest, I could have used a bit more explanation of the virus and how it is affecting all of these things simultaneously...(and how Jarvis has clearance to upload anything into such a system).

So, in my opinion, SI was fun. Nothing spectacular, but fun.

(also, I like the crabby reviews! usually your targets deserve the venom)

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Caleb said...

I liked a couple of 'em... but yeah, this was a pretty weak week in general. Or maybe just compared to last week, which was so good.

It amused me that they built up the whole ANYONE COULD BE A SKRULL thing, and who do we get?

A butler, a spy with a nickname that means "idiot", and every hack writer's whipping boy of choice, Hank Pym.

Yeah, I left it out of my review there, but the other thing that bugged me was when they showed a Skrull turning into Sue there. Not unlike the Daredevil Skrull in NA. It kinda takes away the drama of sleeper agents if other Skrulls are just waltzing in for a scene. Like, if Sue was a Skrull for four years than OMG!!!, but if she was a Skrull for three panels, um, so what?

There was no breakout of the Negative Zone (I assume you meant 42?). There were breakouts of the Raft and the Cube (sure seem like a lot of Marvel the Vault still around these days?)

Yeah, actually I was blurring the Negative Zone bit with the break-outs. Sorry about that; I'll correct that.

I, for one, had never heard of SWORD before

Really? It was in Whedon/Cassady's Astonishing X-Men Run. This might be the first non-AXM reference.

Anonymous said...

That would explain it - I've never read AXM. Despite my affection for the Avengers, (and a couple of titles like Iron Fist and Captain America) - I don't read too much Marvel.

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