Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Weekly Haul: June 25th

Avengers: The Initiative #14 (Marvel Comics) Given my disappointment with Secret Invasion proper (and the Avengers titles by its architect Brian Michael Bendis), I’m kind of surprised how much I’m enjoying some of these tie-ins.

This issue of my favorite Avengers title that doesn’t start with the words “Marvel Adventures” begins its Secret Invasion focus, following three different story threads that all crash together at the climax.

We’ve known Hank Pym was a Skrull since SI #1, and here we get re-see some of the events of the book with that knowledge (And learn President Bush’s nickname for Pym). We also get inside The Crusader’s head a little bit; he’s a Skrull posing as an Earth hero that was introduced in a Marvel Team-Up arc by Robert Kirkman and Andy Kuhn (available in trade), and suspects Pym is too, but isn’t sure how to out a bad Skrull without outing himself as a Skrull, even if he is a good Skrull. And then we follow Triathalon, the new 3-D Man, as he meets his Hawaiian Initiative team…right after getting a pretty important gift from his predecessor.

Good stuff, as always. I hope the SI tie-in brings in some readers from the other two Avengers books and they stay on permanent-like, because here’s an Avengers title that deserves some high readership.


Batman: Gotham After Midnight #2 (DC Comics) It’s the “scary second issue,” according to the cover, of the new Batman maxi-series hell-bent on evoking happy memories of the 1995-1998 Moench/Jones/Beatty run on the title. I could use some happy Batman memories, given my (relative) disappointment with the current Batman and TEC runs (That is, while neither of the “real” Bat-books is exactly awful, neither are as good as one would expect Morrison and Dini-helmed runs would be).

In this issue, Steve Niles spends some time illustrating an aspect of Batman’s character I’ve always liked—the lengths to which he goes to pose as a scary creature of the night to scare crooks straight—and give Jones plenty of opportunities to do what he does best—draw crazy, ultra-exaggerated Batman shit. This time this includes Man-Bat, Batman looking a bit like Zebra Batman in a light-through-the-blinds color effect, and a cool-looking clock.



Final Crisis #2 (DC) Biff! Bam! Pow! Holy Curse Words, Batman! Comics aren’t just for kids anymore! Dan Turpin totally calls The Mad Hatter an “asshole” on page 11. Not an “@#$%hole” or an “@$$hole” but a straight-up “asshole.”

I didn’t know you could say that in DC Universe comics. I mean, Superman’s in this one and everything. Maybe that’s reflective of the darkening and coarsening of the DC Universe, which is part of the plot for this story? After all, that panel is one in which Turpin has severely beaten with a sobbing villain with a toilet seat, and he had expressed some surprise that he was getting turned on by “the sound of breath whistling through smashed cartilage.”

As with the first issue, Grant Morrison’s script reads like a welcome mixture of his JLA run mixed with bits of Seven Soldiers and 52. Considering how great all those comics are, that’s definitely a good thing. The problem is, this is a flagship miniseries to a line-wide crossover story, a reported “third act” to decades worth of DCU stories, and, whoever’s fault it is, it just doesn’t make any goddam sense.

That’s a pretty big problem for DC and loyal DC readers, as Final Crisis assumes the only way to enjoy it is to be someone who doesn’t read any DC Comics…or at least any that aren’t Seven Soldiers, 52 and maybe a few issues of Green Lantern (the ones introducing the Alpha Lanterns) or Battle For Bludhaven (did they introduce Atomic Knights on Dalmatians in that storyline?).

So yeah, this continues to be a pretty great story that’s completely broken, or a great Elseworlds. Even the big, Geoff Johnsian “Holy shit!” last page is anti-climatic, since DC Universe 0 already told us to expect to see Barry Allen, and in a more dramatic capacity than the old running-out-of-the-time-stream method we’ve seen in all the other times Barry Allen’s returned from the dead.

I’m sorry to say that I’m not even feeling J.G. Jones’ art as much as a lot of other online-talkers-about-comics seem to be. There’s a scene where John Stewart is attacked by someone, and I had to read it over and over to figure out what was going on—I think I know who attacked him, but in the panel itself it seems to be a disembodied arm that attacks him. But I think we’re supposed to think it was Hal Jordan? I don’t know.

This comic is so far just making me sad, something I didn’t think a book showing Dr. Sivana’s sweet-ass ride and a character named Most Excellent Super-Bat could do. It’s a sadness born of disappointment and frustration; I mean you can see how good the story should be, but know that it isn’t. Kind of like with Morrison’s Batman, except instead of the shittiest possible art being responsible, it’s a few years worth of editorial incompetence bumping up against inflexible writing.


Green Lantern #32 (DC) Introducing the Red Lanterns’ oath…I think. Are all the Lantern Corps going to get their own oaths? Because if so, Geoff Johns still has a lot of bad poetry to write.



Hero Initiative: Mike Wieringo Book #1 (Marvel) I’m actually not sure what the title of this book is. This is what’s written in the legal indica; the cover makes it look more like What If This Was the Fantastic Four?: A Tribute to Mike Wieringo. You’re recognize it when you see it though; it features the temporary Fantastic Four from waaaay back in Fantastic Four #348—Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, (Gray) Hulk and (Costume-less) Wolverine —on the cover, as drawn by the late, great Mike Wieringo.

The contents are the results of Wieringo’s unfinished last work, a What If? special with Jeff Parker, his collaborator on the wonderful Spider-Man/Fantastic Four series you should all totally read. Wieringo only finished seven pages of the story, and a cadre of friends and fans among his fellow creators finish the rest of the art. Pencillers include Art Adams, Stuart Immonen, Cully Hamner, Alan Davis, Humberto Ramos, Barry Kitson, Mike Allred and others; the majority of the inking is done by Karl Kesel.

The story would have been a really fun one, if it weren’t haunted by Wieringo’s absence (Parker and Wieringo would have made a hell of a Spider-Man or FF team). This story posits the FF having been killed, and their temporary fill-ins becoming their permanent replacements…even getting awesome-looking matching FF uniforms.

The book also includes a one-page “Mini Marvels” strip featuring this FF and some of Wieringo’s Tellos characters, and prose remembrances from Parker, Todd Dezago, Chuk Wojtkiewicz, Scott Hampton, Mark Waid, Richard Case and Wieringo’s brother Matt Wieringo.

It’s the comic book equivalent of a wake; mourning the person who was lost, while at the same time celebrating his life in an event that is of course sad, but also a bit fun and certainly cathartic. At least for me as a reader and a fan; that was the extent of my relationship with Wieringo and, not having known him at all, I still feel a degree of loss. After all, I won’t have his next project to look forward to anymore.


The New Avengers #42 (Marvel) As much as Brian Michael Bendis seems to over-explain things to readers, I have to admit some of these “explanations” leave me even more confused than I was before I read them.

In this issue, drawn by Jim Cheung, he goes way back in time to summarize the life of Spider-Woman/Skrullder-Woman from before the first issue of New Avengers, and I’m still lost on what happened to the real Spider-Woman, what exactly happened on the four-page ritual in which the Skrull boss assumes Spider-Woman’s form, and what on earth the last few pages are supposed to indicate.

The one thing Bendis and Cheung do make clear is that everything that’s been happening since Bendis started writing these characters—House of M, “Disassembled,” New Avengers, Civil War—can be laid at the feet of this Skrull plot. I’m not sure if they’re also claiming responsibility for the Genosha disaster in New X-Men or not too, or if they’re talking about some later X-Men story I didn’t read.

Anyway, another issue of New Avengers in which a bunch of pretty tedious explaining goes on. Perhaps this week’s issue of Mighty Avengers would have provided a nice counterpoint to this issue, but I don’t know, I completely forgot to buy it until I got home. I think it was the fact that I’d already bought three other books with the word “Avengers” in the title that made me think it was part of my stack already.


Runaways #30 (Marvel) Fourteen months after his six-issue run began, superstar deadline-ignorant writer Joss Whedon presents the final chapter of “Dead End Kids,” with call backs to plot points you’ve probably long since forgotten. Like that old lady and the scarred guy with the wings in the first part? Remember them? It will all make sense in the trade, anyway.

My enthusiasm for this title was been killed, a stake driven through its heart, and the head cut off its corpse over the course of the last year, and now I’m unsure how to proceed. I’m so used to not reading Runaways, that I don’t know if I should quit the monthly and simply start picking up the eventual trades of the upcoming Terry Moore/Humberto Ramos run. (Whedon similarly convinced me to quit reading Astonishing X-Men in serial format, and just wait for the trades…although I’ve yet to get around to actually reading any of those trades yet).

At any rate, there’s some fighting, and they get back to the present okay. Molly punches out some guys while wearing a bonnet, and it is adorable.


Project Superpowers #4 (Dynamite Entertainment) This remains the least interesting, most boring, entertainment value-lacking book that I just can’t seem to bring myself to drop yet. I might have to struggle to get through it, but I’ll be damned if I don’t love seeing The Yellow Claw plummet to his death while Daredevil flies by in a WWII-era plane in one panel, or those back-of-the-book two-page sketches of Golden Age heroes by Alex Ross, where it looks like everyone is about to have sex with everyone else.



Secret Invasion: Runaways/Young Avengers #1 (Marvel) Given the Ultimates-like delays on Runaways, and Marvel’s refusal to publish an ongoing Young Avengers without its deadline-challenged creator/writer Allan Heinberg at the helm, a special miniseries re-teaming the two teams would, theoretically, make for a nice substitute for Runaways and Young Avengers; something to keep the characters in their fans’ attention until Runaways writer Joss Whedon gets the hang of this whole “monthly deadline” thing and Heinberg clears room on his schedule for some more comics writing.

So it seems odd that this miniseries debuted today, the same week that both the new, quarterly Runaways and an issue of the other Young Avengers project, Young Avengers Presents.

Oh well; I suppose it was decided that this title couldn’t launch before Whedon’s Runaways run wrapped up, or else readers would be surprised to find out that the team both survives their big fight in the year 1907 (now 101 years ago, thanks to Whedon’s delays) and made it back to the future.

Maybe…?

This story is by writer Christopher Yost and artist Takeshi Miyazawa, and both are incredibly well suited to the characters. I’m not at all familiar with Yost’s work (at least, if I have read any of it, I don’t remember having read it), but he gets all of the characters’ voices down, and kept them all in tact while thrusting them into the middle of a scene from Bendis and Yu’s Secret Invasion #2 (specifically, the Skrull invasion of New York City, which Molly heralds with a cure “It’s raining Xavins!!”)

Miyazawa has plenty of history drawing teens, super and otherwise, so its no surprise at how great his work is here. I love his apple-cheeked, whide-eyed, skinny-bodied versions of the Runaways, and his versions of the Young Avengers actually look like teens, something I don’t often notice in stories featuring them (Their original artist, Jim Cheung, tended to just kind of draw them as small adults).

Kudos too to colorist Christina Strain; colorists usually don’t get name-checked unless they do an exceptionally good or exceptionally bad job, and this is definitely a case of the former. She makes the kids’ eyes gleam and their cheeks shine, there are several awful nice panels in which an old-school dot effect is employed in the background or over “special effects,” and the art looks like comic book art, instead of murky photo reference.

Sure, this is a tie-in to an already over-long line-wide crossover, and yes, it does have a title that makes me tired just reading, but it is exceptionally well crafted and a lot of fun. I don’t mind tie-ins like this one bit.



Superman #677 (DC) I was pretty nervous about James Robinson coming on to Superman, not because I don’t trust the guy who wrote Starman as much as I was a little sketchy about any big change to the Super-books, which, under Kurt Busiek, Geoff Johns and, occasionally, Fabian Nicieza’s care, have been in great shape since “One Year Later,” one of the few DC books that have been (The “Last Son of Krypton” story failing to match up with, um, the rest of them in any way aside). So any messing with success seemed risky to me.

Well, so far, so good. Robinson employs multiple narrators, on top of providing narration, getting us inside the heads of a member of Metropolis’ Science Police and Krypto. I loathe this story-telling technique, but Robinson uses it quite gracefully, or at least much more gracefully then Jeph Loeb or Brad Meltzer tend to.

As for the story, Superman chats with Green Lantern Hal Jordan in space while throwing a giant metal Frisbee to Krypto, the science police fight a monster, and then this guy shows up.

I’ve been pretty curious about him since I read his brief entry in The DC Comics Encyclopedia and, hell, he’s a Kirby DC creation, so there’s gotta be at least a little appealing weirdness to him, right? (Hey, how did Atlas manage to escape the fate of his fellow Kirby creations suffered in Countdown To Final Crisis (But it’s Just a Title it Doesn’t Really Have Anything to Do with Final Crisis So Get Off Our Backs Already)).

Of course, Atlas just kinda shows up and punches stuff while bellowing for Superman, which makes his appearance here not any different than the other few dozen times a strong guy appears bellowing for Superman, but hell, there’s not a damn thing wrong with this comic, and a lot that’s right.

And pencil artist Renato Guedes is really, really, really good. I hope he’s on the book for the long haul…and that Robinson has plans to stick around for a while too.

On a nerdier note, if I’m reading the Green Lantern passage correctly, it would seem that what’s missing in Hal’s life is a dog he can team-up to fight super-crime with. So I hope he gets a dog soon. Or, barring that, has G’Nort come live with him on Earth. He could pose as an Earth-dog, and then, when it’s time to go into action, activate his ring and…Ah, who am I kidding? I would hate to see Geoff Johns writing G’Nort, wouldn’t I?


Trinity #4 (DC) Confidential to Mark Bagley: Batman’s bat-ears look cooler longer rather than shorter. Just a heads-up. You’re doing fine otherwise.


Ultimate Spider-Man #123 (Marvel) This is probably the second best Venom story I’ve ever read, but don’t feel bad, Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen. The first best one was this one:

And really, who could hope to compete with that masterpiece?

So this is a highly accessible, exceptionally well done done-in-one featuring Ultimate Eddie Brock/Venom letting readers know what he’s been up to since we’ve seen him last.

Bendis employs one of his I-have-to-keep-trying-new-ways-to-tell-these-stories-over-and-over-or-I’ll-lose-my-mind approaches, having Eddie frame this story as a one told to a series of unfortunate strangers/victims who share a park bench with him. It’s great stuff, and Immonen really makes Venom look cool in a way the Marvel Universe version never manages.

The last page of this issue is just pure comic book perfection.



Wolverine First Class #4 (Marvel) This is a conclusion to the first multi-part story arc in the title’s short run. Multi-part stories isn’t the only way in which WFC differs from the Marvel Adventures line; this veers closer to Marvel Universe territory with a bit of continuity (The High Evolutionary and all that jazz) and even the death of a character. And it’s a cute character too. Interior artist Salva Espin’s work is quite good, particularly for a title directed more towards kids and new readers than toward Marvel’s regular fanbase (Kitty’s cat-armor is exceptionally well desgined), and, hell, you can’t go wortng with a cover by Alan Davis and Mark Farmer. Especially if it’s a cover of Wolverine holding a battle axe.

13 comments:

J Ray said...

so why does supes need hal to make him an astronaut helmet to breathe with in Superman #677? Am I wrong in remembering our Superman and Golden-age Superman chasing Superboy prime through space without any aid breathing in IC #7? Is this something that is "New Earth" specific that i've just missed?

one good issue other than that though.

Patrick C said...

My take on Superman's helmet was that he wore it so him and Hal could talk. Whether he needs to breathe or not, you can't talk in space. My problem with their conversation was Supes talking about the "exotic" daughter of Alan Scott. Seemed a little creepy, especially since she's dead.

I had the same problem with you on that panel of Final Crisis, Caleb. When Batman saw Kraken's hand, she had a GL ring embedded in it, so I'm guessing that it was HER hand that John punched. But she had the white gloves on, so was she posing as Hal? Also, in the panel immediately preceding that punch there was no ring on John Stewart's hand. A little thing, but stuff like that drives me crazy. His whole deal is the ring, you can't forget to draw it, especially if it becomes a plot point later in the same issue!

I think Final Crisis will read much better if you go straight through. I remember having the same problem reading Rock of Ages back in the JLA days, I had no idea what was going on until it finished and I reread it.

John Foley said...

I realize that this is a pointless nitpick, especially since I've been reading superhero comics my entire life...
BUT
How in the holy hell can Superman hear Atlas yelling his name when Supes is in space? Sound doesn't travel in a vacuum, and it certainly doesn't travel fast enough to get to Superman in time to do any good. Couldn't they have just had the GL ring send an alert or something?
Maybe I just really hate super-hearing.

J Ray said...

Patrick,

I agree that it would make sense for the helmet to be there for superman and GL to talk, but then Superman hears what's going on in metropolis...i guess hal is letting some of the "background" sounds filter through too?

J Ray said...

haha, exactly john.

Jayunderscorezero said...

You know, it wasn't until this week that I realised that Allan Heinberg was the one who wrote the "comic book guy" episode of Sex and the City, which I guess makes perfect sense, now that I think about it.

Also: Takeshi Miyazawa drawing the Runaways? Yeah, I'll most certainly be grabbing that one post haste...

Anonymous said...

"colorists usually don’t get name-checked unless they do an exceptionally good or exceptionally bad job, and this is definitely a case of the latter"

So you didn't like it? You made it sound like you did except for the above comment.

Longtime reader, firstime poster.
Richard

Caleb said...

I don't know enough science to know whether or not a kryptonian can live without oxygen, but whether or not Superman can breathe in space seems to change depending on the story. I thought the bubble helmet was weird, because lately he's been shown to be able to breathe unaided, but then realized it was probably there just so he could talk to Hal (Krypto didn't have one, or any breathing apparatus).

Hearing the scream from Atlas bugged me too. The best I could come up with was maybe Atlas screamed so loud with some kind of, um, super yell which pushed the sound waves into space...somehow...maybe?

Yeah, maybe they should have had Hal's ring alert him or something.

Patrick,

On my first reading of the John attack scene, I thought maybe the GL with the horns attacked him, since he also had gloves and was, like, right there. But yeah, pretty messy page.

And thanks Richard. I meant "former," not "latter." I fixed it.

Dan Coyle said...

Originally, post-Crisis Superman couldn't breathe in space. After the Death of Superman storyline, Lobo punched him into orbit, and Supes discovered he could, thanks to the power of the sun he got when he resurrected.

John Foley said...

Originally, post-Crisis Superman couldn't breathe in space. After the Death of Superman storyline, Lobo punched him into orbit, and Supes discovered he could, thanks to the power of the sun he got when he resurrected.

In short, stuff got a lot dumber after the "Death of Superman." All of John Byrne's good work [as far as bringing Superman's power to reasonable levels] went the way of the dodo.

Anthony Strand said...

Patrick -

James Robinson has always had a crush on Jade. In Starman #9 or 10, Jack saves Solomon Grundy just because Jade asks him to and he thinks Jade is hot.

SallyP said...

I have to admit that Final Crises has me both enthralled and confused.

Green Lantern was awfully good however, and although I don't usually pick up Superman, I love James Robinson, so I was pleased with this. Loved the frisbee in spaaaaaace game. Hal probably DOES want a dog, but G'nort only loves Guy Gardner.

Derek said...

"(And learn President Bush’s nickname for Pym)"

Oh god. Please tell me it's "Shrinky Dink".

RE: Superman's Space Helmet

I read in an issue of Supergirl that they're really just holding their breath for a really long time.

I figured Supes needed the helmet because they were gonna spend the day out in space, chatting with Hal and playing frisbee with Krypto.

RE: Super Hearing

*shrugs* It's never bothered me. In a universe with Faster Than Light travel, Faster Than Sound hearing doesn't make me bat an eye.