Sorry for the delay in posting these this week; unforeseen vehicular complications and an out-of-the-ordinary shift in day job hours today resulted in me not getting to sit down and babble about comics until much, much, much later than usual. Having just re-read these, I notice that I apparently swear a lot more when I’m tired, and that I stop making sense around 12:45 a.m., which is when I wrote the last one, the JSoA review…
Fantastic Four: True Story #1 (Marvel Comics) I love these sorts of one-shots and miniseries, moreso than just about any run on the main monthly title that I’ve read. The characters that make up the Fantastic Four are just so sharply realized and defined, and the basic premise so pliable—superhero explorers lead by guy who can invent anything—that you almost have to try really hard to screw-up the characters and their voices, and just about any situation you put them in is going to fit, no matter how wild it is.
Wisdom and Captain Britain and MI13 writer Paul Cornel teams with artist Horacio Domingues for just such a wild adventure featuring the FF.
In the middle of a battle with an alien monster, Reed breaks off to talk to a depressed Sue about her feelings (while Ben and Johnny carry on against the monster in the background for four panels), and they eventually realize someone seems to have placed a sort of wall preventing everyone on earth from accessing and enjoying fiction.
“To look into this, I’ll need to create a new field of human endeavor,” Reed says. “Give me a couple of days.” A couple of days later, they’re traveling through the world of fiction with Dante Alighieri as their guide. First stop Sense and Sensibility to save the Dashwood sisters from an army of horrible demons, where Cornell gives us what has to be the first Jane Austen/Stan Lee mash-up line: “It is a truth universally acknowledged…That it’s clobberin’ time!"
There’s something funny on just about every page of the book, from the revelation that Reed Richards has a crush on Rachel Leigh Cooke (Hey, me too!), to the Four’s four-way banter, to scenes of meta-fictional and meta-meta-fictional gags.
I liked this one, in which Cornell portrayed Johnny and Ben bickering:
Yeah, it’s kind of a cop-out—the pleasure in such scenes is seeing writers try to come up with new ways to do them over and over—but it’s a funny cop-out.
Anyway, read this book. It’s really great. Guest-starring Willie Lumpkin, Tarzan and Rikki-Tikki Tavi.
Green Lantern #33 (DC Comics) Being part five of Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis’5,647-part origin of Hal Jordan, retrofitting it to better lead into his ongoing rainbow emotions story, and tying more and more of Hal Jordan’s rogues into his story. Pretty solid stuff, if you like this sort of thing; I like it just fine, though I’ve run out of things to say about it, as there hasn’t been anything terribly remarkable or surprising about the story in months.
Justice Society of America Annual #1 (DC) Sigh…
Would it have killed Geoff Johns, Dan DiDio, Grant Morrison and some other folks responsible for the construction of the DCU to maybe sit down sometime in the course of the last few years and discussed and decided just what the hell is up with their stupid fucking multiverse? And then maybe, like, let us know at some point?
This story, entitled “Earth-2,” is set on the post-Infinite Crisis/52 Earth-2, which is the same as the pre-Crisis On Infinite Earths Earth-2. Got all that? Okay, but then on page 15, Power Girl and the various members of the “Justice Society Infinity” (Basically the original Infinity Inc. with some Society members tossed in) get to discussing the state of the multiverse.
The idea was that the post-COIE DCU Earth was a single Earth formed from a merging of five of the infinite Earths (-1, -2, -S, -X and –4, I think it was). According to Dr. Midnight II (a.k.a. Dr. Lady Midnight) and Earth-2 Robin (a.k.a. Terrible Costume Robin), Earth-2 wasn’t folded into post-COIE Earth, but post-COIE Earth was a “New” Earth, which is what the post-COIE Earth was called in Johns’ own Infinite Crisis, and—
I suppose this could all just be bullshit, since a) it doesn’t really make much sense in light of the fact that Johns-written Infinite Crisis made it explicit that post-COIE Earth was part Earth-2, b) Gog could have created this world just to send Power Girl to it, and c) something’s clearly not right with this world, but you know, this stuff really shouldn’t be this hard.
Can’t we just have another dimension? Why does it always have to have a name and a place in a vast cosmology that’s all numbered and mapped out, especially if those names, numbers and maps are going to be in a constant state of flux?
So anyway, page 15 is a real son of a bitch of a page. I hate that page. Fuck you page 15!
As for the rest of the comic? Not too bad. The script, by Geoff Johns, is a particularly nostalgia-driven one, which is probably pretty cool if you are Geoff Johns or are as old as Geoff Johns and/or read the same comics as Geoff Johns growing up. I didn’t, so I don’t really have any great affection for any of the Infinity Inc. folks or the Batman’s daughter Huntress.
Even still, when you suck out the nostalgia, and the melodrama tied-in to a familiarity with the characters, it’s still competently enough told; Johns can really write superheroes angsting, talking, fighting, talking some more and surprising one another with sudden arrivals in his sleep by now, and even if you don’t know or care about any of these characters, it’s still always clear what’s going on and that Johns is in complete control of the narrative.
The art is by Jerry Ordway and Bob Wiacek, and it’s great stuff. There’s a wonky expression here or there, but for the most part it’s extremely solid work—well rendered designs, crisp, clear storytelling and expressive characters who are all well “acted.”
As much as I enjoyed the Ordway/Wiacek art throughout the book, my favorite moment of the whole thing was probably the two-page pin-up of the JSoA by Dale Eaglesham and Wade Von Grawbadger. It features a Norman Rockwell like painter doing a portrait of the team—all 26 of them, not counting pets—and they are all seated formally in his painting, while in real-life the models are all busy flirting, smoking cigarettes, swilling martinis, smoking pipes, dozing off and so on. It’s a really, really great piece, and I like it so very much that I plan to marry it, as soon as homosexual activists like California and Massachusetts judges allow gay marriage, which will mean everyone is free to marry whatever they want, and Orson Scott Card won’t be able to stop me. We’ll be together soon enough, Pages 37-38 in Justice Society of America Annual #1!
Project Superpowers #5 (Dynamite Entertainment) This is really the only part of the latest issue of Alex Ross, Jim Krueger, Carlos Paul and company’s latest issue of putting all those cool-looking Golden Age heroes into a run-of-the-mill, boring-ass modern superhero story:
It’s just a two-page spread in the back marked “The Giants” featuring Ross painting Jack Cole bad-guy The Yellow Claw (renamed to be more PC), Green Giant, Phantasmo and The Boy King.
I really wish Dynamite was telling stories about these characters in their original settings and with their original conceits (or just reprinting their Golden Age adventures) instead of trying to tell a Crisis-style inter-company crossover featuring a bunch of characters who they are just now (re-)introducing.
Reign In Hell #1 (DC) Well that was a disappointment.
Not that there was any reason to get one’s hopes up about this thing. Keith Giffen has said in interviews that the miniseries—about a war between DC’s various Satan stand-ins for control of their version of Hell—was Dan DiDio’s idea and not his; he simply took the assignment. Previous writers to define DC’s Hell and its major players and their power struggles have included Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis, Grant Morrison and (to a lesser extent), Alan Grant. How does one follow those guys, particularly when one’s not even British?
That said, the talent involved was rather impressive. Despite his failure to be born and raised on the other side of the Atlantic, Giffen knows how to write a good old-fashioned DC Universe super-comic. Weekly comics vet Tom Derenick is providing pencils, and Bill motherfucking Sienkiewicz is inking.
You would think a team that talented would be able to make a halfway decent premise into a halfway decent comic, and you’d be right—this is definitely a halfway decent comic. But that’s all it really is.
Like way too many of these let’s-use-like-fifty-random-characters from DC over the last few years, there’s a weird tension about this book, a steady pulse of frustration rays emanating from the pages. It’s that catch-22 I find awfully tiresome: If you’re not familiar with the characters and literally decades now of DCU stories, you’re likely going to be so confused they might as well have written the book in Farsi; if you are familiar with the characters and literally decades of DCU stories, you’re going to notice all of the little things that are wrong.
The story starts in “Hell,” which has the same map as Earth, only with different place names. Some devil’s in “The Second Province of the Infernal Domain” are under attack by some monster planes, and they spit jargon while talking military tactics (a little like all those Grant and Ennis The Demon stories set in Hell, but without the humor).
Then Lord Satanus, “first seated of Purgatory, ninth province of the Infernal Dominion” appears and gives a speech to the damned like some kind of infernal Barack Obama: “We dare to hope for better than an eternity of debased lamentation. We dare to hope…We dare to hope!”
He plans to wage a “war of hope” in Hell, wresting control from Neron (whom I guess is thus John McCain? Or Bush?) and turning it all into a Purgatory.
Meanwhile, in “Pandemonia, First Province of the Infernal Dominion,” Neron, who escaped from Dr. Fate’s tower in some DC comic I guess I missed, is in his castle, which looks a bit like an evil version of the Capitol building, meeting with this court: Lilith, Off-model Belial, Super-off-model Asmodel.
Just when I was losing all hope, there’s a scene involving two characters I really like whose names begin with Z’s, one I really didn’t expect to see here; they’re working with Hell’s resistance, which is stupid, but still, nice to see them, you know? It’s like seeing a character actor you like get a supporting role on a TV drama you might not be all that into but, still, you think, “Nice to see so-and-so getting work.”
On earth, the Shadowpact is busy performing a sting operation on Linda Danvers, the Peter David Supergirl (i.e. the Well-written Supergirl), who we haven’t seen since Jeph Loeb and company reintroduced Supergirl as if there were no previous Supergirls because if there were HOW WOULD IT MAKE ANY SENSE?! Since this seems to be a continuity wound no one is openly griping about constantly, I guess DC felt the need to point it out by including Danvers in this series. Finally, a half dozen minor mystical-ish characters cameo on the last page as they are apparently being press-ganged into the war.
And t hat’s only the lead story! There’s still a back-up. That features Dr. Occult, suddenly talking like a stereotypical private eye, which the ghost of Sue Dibny even points out. Oh yeah, the ghost Dibnys are in this story too because why not? This story is mostly just an origin recap, in which the Dibnys tell Dr. Occult that he should get involved in this big occult thing that’s going on, and he acts like a dick and says, “The occult? What’s that got to do with me?” and eventually summons up a cameo I don’t recognize, the end.
The art in the first half is pretty decent. I don’t think Derenick’s pencils really mesh all that well with Sienkiewicz’ inks, which tend to have a transformative effect on pencil art, but under this inking everything takes on a weird, nervous energy that seems highly appropriate for the subject matter. The design is uniformly uninspired however; short of some of the architecture, nothing really jumpst out as particularly inspired or infernal; Hell might as well be a generic alien planet. And, as I mentioned, many of the models seem off, in both stories. I actually had to consult my DC Universe Encyclopedia to make sure that Asmodel was really the angel from Morrison’s JLA run, since he doesn’t look anything like him here. The need to consult a reference book to make sense of a comic is, I think, usually pretty indication that it wasn’t as clearly told as it should be.
The art in the back-up, by Stephen Jorge Segovia, is pretty great. If I didn’t check, I might have thought it was Leinil Yu’s. And I really like Yu, so that’s a good thing.
Trinity #9 (DC) This issues really demonstrates the book’s ability to use the entire DCU as its setting and its sprawling character catalog as its cast. In addition to the Trinity, we see Wonder Woman’s supporting cast (Etta Candy, Sarge Steele, Nemesis), Batman’s supporting cast (Nightwing, Robin and Alfred), and a cameo from a villainous super-team that should come as no surprise, given writer Kurt Busiek’s previous JLA sory arc. In the back-up, Robin and Nightwing get more scenes and lines, and there are appearances by Oracle, Huntress, Commissioner Gordon and The Penguin. Like 52 then, this weekly is exploiting the positives of the DCU in a way few book’s can, only rather than focusing on the lesser-known characters, Trinity is focused on the top of the pyramid.
Ultimate Spider-Man #124 (Marvel) Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen introduce the Ultimate Beetle in a really fun sequence that takes up the bulk of this issue. There’s some other stuff going on—MJ nagging Peter to see a doctor about his spider-powers, Nick Fury popping up, flashbacks to, um, the last few issues—but the centerpiece is Spider-Man swinging through the New York skyline, spotting a guy dressed like a beetle flying around, and then trying to introduce himself. Amusing violence ensues.