Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Weekly Haul: April 9th

Booster Gold #8 (DC Comics) Having altered the events of Countdown to Infinite Crisis #1 and The OMAC Project in the previous issues, our hero Booster Gold and the now still-alive Blue Beetle II find themselves in a dystopian present where Maxwell Lord and his mind-controlled Superman rule the world.

A small group of freedom fighters survives to fight on for, um, freedom: Anthro the First Boy on Earth (previously seen in the background of this very title, coveting a jacket like Mr. Terrific’s, which he now wears), former New Titan Pantha (who was infamously beheaded in co-writer Geoff Johns’ Infinite Crisis), the eponymous star of late-eighties series Wild Dog (who cameo-ed in Infinite Crisis) and bickering Justice Leaguers Green Arrow and Hawkman, both wearing cooler versions of their costumes than the ones they currently wear in the “real” DCU.

How much fun you’ll find this particular issue will depend heavily on how much you like those characters, and/or simply find it amusing to see them all sharing panel-space with each other and Booster Gold and Blue Beetle. Personally, I—

Hey, has there ever been a team-up featuring Wildcat and Wild Dog? No? Mark Waid, I think you’re next issue of The Brave and the Bold is currently writing itself. I’ve even got the cover copy for you: Together they fight like cats and dogs!

Green Lantern Corps #23 (DC) That odd little detour story about the Alpha Lanterns over, the title’s regular creative team returns to continue the ongoing storyline with the appropriately cheesy title of “Ring Quest.” Writer Peter J. Tomasi’s script is decent but certainly not spectacular space opera, but penciller Patrick Gleason and inker Prentis Rollins stellar artwork elevates the whole endeavor. Just look at that cover.

Justice Society of America #14 (DC) Once again Geoff Johns and Dale Eaglesham’s JSoA is extraordinarily entertaining…right up until the fighting starts. The cast is huge, probably a little too huge, but the characters are all fun, fairly unique (particularly considering most need roman numerals after their codenames to keep ‘em distinct from other heroes with the exact same names and schticks), nicely designed and nicely expressed (Starman still makes me laugh at least once an issue; I loved him spilling Superman’s coffee with that easy chair).

Once the fighting actually starts, it’s still kind of fun; Johns and Eaglesham know the too oft-forgot basics of superhero fight scenes—show the heroes using their superpowers. But this Kingdom Come business seems like its been going on forever now, and yet we’re in the same place we were a few issues ago.

Question time! I’m afraid I didn’t understand the last panel. Did Green Lantern and Obsidian just take on looks resembling those from their Kingdom Come appearances, or are those the Green Lantern and Obsidian from Kingdom Come?

The Last Defenders #2 (Marvel Comics) Joe Casey continues to script a plot he and Keith Giffen came up with, and it’s a very pleasant, accomplished old-school superhero comic (Confidential to Brian Michael Bendis: This is how you use thought clouds effectively).

It’s a very unusual sort of team comic though, because it’s framed and sold as a team comic, but there’s no real team in it. The foursome that became the Defenders last issue disband halfway through this issue, with only Nighthawk and She-Hulk still around by the end of the book (which has a stupid-awesome cliffhanger last page).

It’s a fun enough book, but it does seem oddly out of touch with the rest of the Marvel Universe for a stpru so strongly rooted in the goings on of Civil War. With Secret Invasion starting up in earnest last week, all this business with Civil War and registration and Iron Man-as-douchebag and the Fifty-State Initiative all seems so two crossovers ago now. Doesn’t it seem like the Blazing Skull should be punching out Skrulls by now?

I’m not really feeling the art. Muniz and Smith have a big, chunky sense of figure design that separates it from much of that being published at Marvel these days, which in and of itself is fine, although the flat, hand-drawn look makes for a discordant clash with the computer effects generating the flame halo around Atomic Skull’s head, or the planetoids orbiting around The Son of Satan in one scene.

Of course, The Son of Satan is in this comic so, it’s probably worth $2.99 whatever one thinks of the art. If one is a Son of Satan fan. And one is. Er, this one is.

Marvel Adventures Hulk Vol. 2: Defenders (Marvel) Not a bad week for Defenders fans, all things considered. In this second volume of the Marvel Adventures Hulk title, which may actually be the only real Hulk title being published at the moment (Has a Bruce Banner Hulk shown up in that weird Jeph Loeb/Ed McGuinness book yet?), writer Paul Benjamin, mostly regular penciler David Nakayama and other penciler Mario Gully continue the Hulk team-up theme, this time focusing on…well, the title’s a clue, isn’t it?

The first issue Hulk, Rick and Monkey meet Dr. Strange, Dormammu possesses Monkey and thus becomes a giant monkey with a flaming monkey head, and the Hulk tries out herbal tea.

The second, the Gully-drawn one, was my introduction to the title. It was one-part fight with Namor, one-part courtroom drama with Namor, one-part team-up with Namor to fight gamma-irradiated sea life. In other words, it’s a perfect Marvel comic. (Although Benjamin neglected to have Namor refer to himself as “The Avenging Son,” and, having just skimmed through it again, I didn’t see any “Imperious Rex!” in there either).

The third features our heroes meeting The Silver Surfer, who’s getting killed by Terrax. The Surfer gives the three of them the power cosmic, which amounts to them getting silver like the Surfer and then flying into space to beat up Terrax.

There’s some sweet Monkey action in this one, including a scene where he clotheslines Terrax with his now-metallic tail, and another in which he summons the Hulk:

(Above: A great moment in Monkey history; scan totally stolen from Rachelle Goguen’s review of the original issue)

Finally, Benjamin brings all four together to fight the Nameless One. Some lame jokes involving the Nameless One wanting a name and going with Bob—although his trying out other names later makes up for it—drag this down a bit, but just a bit. Benjamin does the whole non-team thing justice, with Rick telling the other three off while they’re fighting one another, has someone lay a hand on Namor’s shoulder only to have it slapped away, and this time Namor does refer to himself as the avenging son.

All it needed was an “Imperious Rex!”

Marvel Adventures Spider-Man Vol. 9: Fiercest Foes (Marvel) If you like writer Fred Van Lente (The Incredible Hercules, Action Philosophers!, Comic Book Comics), if you like Spider-Man or if you like superhero comics with a sense of humor, I highly recommend this cheap digest volume collecting four issues of Marvel Adventures Spider-Man, which is basically Ultimate Spider-Man with done-in-one stories.

Van Lente scripts all four, and they’re all illustrated by Cory Hamscher, an artist with a more individualized style than is usually associated with the MA line, with big-eyed, bit-teethed character designs.

Two of the stories are just more-or-less so-so. One features Aunt May renting out the spare room to Dr. Otto Octavius, who helps around the yard and joins her book club (!) and ends with a neat punchline, and the other features Harry Osborn donning goblin garb to help out his dad, and finding himself torn between good and evil.

Two others are simply hilarious, however.

There’s the one with Spider-Man kicking dirt on the Green Goblin’s shoes

which I had read previously as a single issue, but must point out again that it’s an issue in which Norman Osborn is revealed to be one of those jerk dads who takes his son’s baseball-playing way too seriously.

The other is the one with this cover

the mere sight of which convinced me that I should probably start reading this series in trade (Besides, it's just $7.99 per four-issue volume! That’s like $2 per comic!)

In “The Sidekick,” Venom decided he wants to turn over a new leaf and fight crime alongside Spidey, and we get to watch as Venom follows Spider-Man around on patrol calling himself “Venom, Lethal Protector”. The villain of the night is The White Rabbit, who’s launched a crime spree that keeps the spider-themed heroes busy.

Hamscher’s art really shines in this installment, as the typical McFarlane-inspired Venom drawn more-or-less straight just looks silly in the rest of the world Hamscher creates, with arms as big as Spidey’s whole body, huge fistfuls of webbing (he’s got like, five feet in each hand) and a tongue that dangles a few feet from his mouth (I love the shot of him dangling upside down in Central Park, with his tongue just dangling out like that…Venom should really have some kind of crazy speech impediment, shouldn’t he?)

Van Lente busts out some of his best lines in this story too, like, “This scheme is so complicated and stupid-- ONLY A SENTIENT COSTUME COULD HAVE COME UP WITH IT!!” and, “That could be the worst idea I’ve ever heard…and my whole life has been one bad idea after another!

Ha ha! It sure has, Spidey, it sure has…

Tiny Titans #3 (DC) I honestly meant to just read the first issue of this series, as I was more curious about this book and what Art Baltazar would come up with for it than interested in following an ongoing children’s gag book based around the Teen Titans franhise. But the last two times I and a new issue of this were in the shop at the same time, I ended up not being able to resist.

This time it was the image of Penguins strapped to rockets flying around the Batcave that tempted me, and the little purple umbrella symbols on their safety helmets that sealed the deal.

As for the insides, it’s exactly like the last two. I find it odd that this appeals to little kids—I mean, the Jericho gag necessitates familiarity with a character introduced when I was in grade-school—but I hear from commenters that the kids in their lives do dig the book, so that’s cool.

I did want to highlight one thing I found incredibly inappropriate, though. In the first story, we meet the Titan’s science teacher—Dr. Light. Remember him? He’s the guy who raped the Elongated Man’s wife in Identity Crisis, and hasn’t stopped talking about rape and how much he likes rape and how he intends to rape other characters since.

Now he doesn’t mention rape in this appearance or anything, but it just strikes me as wrong to put Dr. Light in a both a book like Identity Crisis and a book like Tiny Titans, the former of which was used to set a new darker tone for the grown-up line of super-comics and the latter of which was created specifically because the all-ages Teen Titans Go! based on the Cartoon Network animated series was deemed too mature for some kids.

If Swamp Thing can’t team-up with Batman these days because there are swears and consensual interspecies love-making and yam-eating in Alan Moore’s old Swamp Thing comics, doesn’t it follow that the villain who’s whole schtick is that he’s a super-rapist shouldn’t be in this book? Like, at all? Re-reading the short story, I see he’s not named at all, so I guess there’s little danger in a five-year-old isn’t going to google “Dr. Light” and “Titans” and end up asking their parents what rape is during dinner one night, but hell, it makes me uncomfortable, and I’m just a reader; I don’t have to worry about DC getting sued or slammed in the media or anything (He does look exactly like Titans villain Dr. Light, who appeared in the aforementioned Titans cartoon).

Anyway, the rest of the book is a lot less uncomfortable to read than that sequence. Alfred gets to drive the Batmobile, and then he totally makes Robin, Beast Boy, Aqualad and the penguins all stand in the corner at the end, and that’s pretty cool.

As fun as this issue is though, I’m done with this series for real this time. Unless #4 is the one in which Robin become Nightwing on a disco dance floor. Oh godammit…!

Titans #1 (DC) When I went to the comic shop today, there were a couple of police cruisers parked out front, their red and blue lights on. Across the door was that yellow and black do not cross police tape, and when I ducked under it, I saw the shop’s staff all standing behind the counter, looking pale and slightly shaken.

Their attention, like that of the small swirl of police officers, was focused the wall where the new books are racked. There I saw what at first I took to be a large heap of clothes, but then I realized was actually a pile of human bodies, chaotically stacked more-or-less diagonally a top of one another.

Each had died a spectacularly grisly death. One had choked to death on his own vomit, which formed a putrid halo on the floor around his head. Another’s eyeballs had liquefied, forming bloody, viscous pools in his face. The third and final one had a huge hole in his head, with greasy, gray bits of organ fanning out from there; his brain had apparently forced its way out of his head.

The comic they were all lying in front of was Titans #1, the new comic by Judd Winick and Ian Churchill. Three copies of it were flung on the floor near the bodies, and a police officer wearing white plastic gloves and manipulating what looked like a large pair of tongs was nervously placing a fourth copy into a plastic evidence bag held by another police officer, who leaned far away from the approaching comic book.

Ha ha, no, I’m just kidding.

There weren’t any dead bodies in my comic shop today, and, if there were, I probably would have fainted long before I noticed any of those details. I feel a little woozy just from imagining them, actually.

But let me be serious for a second: This is by far the worst comic book that I have ever read. No joke, no exaggeration, no hyperbole—the absolute worst. Justice League of America #10 and Teen Titans #46 are Maus and Watchmen compared to this; Countdown is Love and Rockets.

I know what you’re thinking. “Oh, Caleb has an irrational hatred for all of Judd Winick’s DC writing bordering on the insane. Of course he’s going to say the book sucks.” Well, my distaste for Winick’s questionable skills as a scripter of superhero comics aside, it does suck. Harder than anything has ever sucked before.

If I had to find something positive to say about it, like, if you held a gun to my head and demanded I do so, or, worse still, threatened to make me read it a second time, I guess I’d say that a few panels—the splash pages where Starfire and The Flash are show being ambushed by monsters while they’re naked—are hilarious in their sheer over-the-top exploitive conception and completely inept construction. But that’s about it.

But don’t just take my vague, still rather shell-shocked word for it. Best Shots @ Newsarama/ ringleader Troy Brownfield has a more detailed review up here.

Wonder Woman #19 (DC) Part two of Gail Simone’s second story arc, one mainly marking time for the arrival of a new “regular” artist and marking someone finally getting around to someone doing something—anything—with Nemesis, whom is now the 21st century version of Steve Trevor. I don’t much care for Simone’s vision of and expression of the character—essentially the goody two-shoes stereotype of Superman, with the ability to think like a Terminator robot, as demonstrated by her narration during a fight with a Green Lantern–but this was a thoroughly decent story, and “decent” is something Wonder Woman hasn’t been in so long I think it actually qualifies as good these days.

Artists Bernard Chang, Jon Holdrige and whatever the “I.L.L.” that is credited with the colors refers to do a really good job of portraying the Lantern’s ring constructs. I liked the pointy teeth on the ram head.


Anonymous said...

"the Titan’ science teacher—Dr. Light. Remember him? He’s the guy who raped the Elongated Man’s wife in Identity Crisis"

I find it astonishing that these comics are written for children!!

SallyP said...

Yes, well, Dr. Light has pretty much been ruined as a character...all for the sake of a cheap shock moment. And I don't even like Dr. Light.

I'm awfully glad that I passed on the Titans book. I thought about it, but I haven't even been enjoying the regular Teen Titans (except for Jaime) so I gave it a pass.

Wonder Woman, Green Lantern Corps and Booster Gold however were ALL fun.

Anonymous said...

Sally: it's deeply, deeply weird to read the Dr. Light issues of Suicide Squad knowing he only acts like that because Brad Meltzer can't deal with his heroes acting silly in old Silver Age books.

JohnF said...

No FF review?
Quick assessment- I'm amazed that Hitch has been able to stay on schedule with the art chores, but it seems like the only reason for that is that this is about a C- effort from him.
The story is ehhh.

Michael Strauss said...

Isn't it Blazing Skull?

"Defender defenestrate!"

Caleb said...

No FF review?

No, Millar and Hitch have trained me into trade-waiting their efforts, so I haven't been reading it. Looks like it's been coming out like clockwork so far, though.

Isn't it Blazing Skull?

It is. I was thinking of the Superman villain with a flaming skull for a head. But since Blazing Skull predates atomic power, he couldn't be named "Atomic Skull" could he? Nice cath; I'll fix that.

Anthony Strand said...

I read Tiny Titans last night, and I think the Jericho gag works fine if you don't know the character. It just looks like he's controlling Principal Slade's mind, sure, but that's still a funny thing for a little kid to do.