Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Weekly Haul: August 6th

Avengers/Invaders #4 (Marvel Comics) Quite distressingly, this issue ends with a little box saying “End of Act One. Act Two begins in October!” Can they do that in a limited series? Just take a month off for no reason like that?

What makes this so distressing isn’t that I can’t wait two months to find out what Present Bucky is going to tell Past Bucky, which is the cliffhanger the issue ends with, but that it was simply so refreshing to have an Avengers comic in which the Avengers actually appear available now that the two monthly Avengers titles were being repurposed to showing flashbacks involving Skrulls.

This issue doesn’t contain a money panel like last issue’s pissed-off Baby Namor, but it does have its moments. I liked the scene in which Namor tells himself off (that guy is such a prick, that he’s even acts like a prick to himself!), and a neat two-page splash in which the Mighty Avengers rush into battle against the New Avengers, and Sentry just completely flies into a wall (looking at the page again, I guess Iron Fist leapfrog-ed over him; man, for a guy with the power of a million exploding suns, The Sentry sure is easy to beat in a fight), and an appearance of what looks like a Golden Age Vision.

The look on Black Widow’s face as Spidey sprays his web fluid all over her on the cover is pretty funny too; you don’t want to make his webbing look too much like it does in the movies Alex Ross because, well, gross.

Comic Book Comics #2 (Evil Twin Comics) The second issue of Action Philosophers creators Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey’s comic book about the history of comics focuses on the 1940s. A series of anecdotes are woven together to tell of life in the studios and shops of the so-called “Golden” Age, detail the births of Namor, Captain America and Wonder Woman, reveal what various cartoonists and artists did during the war and then discuss the transition from superheroes to romance to crime the industry went through.

Anyone interested in comics has probably heard many of these stories before, but seeing them re-told as comics sure brings them to life in a new and interesting way.

I’m sure this isn’t the case for those that knew, worked with or even just met many of the artists and personalities who appear here, but, for me personally, people like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby have always been as much comic book characters to me as, say, Batman or Spider-Man, so I get a real kick out of Dunlavey drawing Kirby and Joe Simon clasping hands and jumping up and down when they see a couple of teenage girls grabbing their romance comics off a rack and saying “I hope they put out more of these!”, or Kirby balking at the suggestion that he’ll need to hire more artists to draw sixty-four pages on a tight deadlie: “And cut into my page rate? Nuts to that!

Much like Action Philosophers, I suspect that this project will be of greatest value in its eventual trade format, perfect for libraries and college bookstores, but be almost impossible to resist in its serial installments. Well, maybe you can resist panels of a young, mustache-free Stan Lee with a Shakespeare collar and quill pen staring intently at a skull for inspiration for a two-page, space-filling, post rate loop hole taking advantage of prose story, but I sure can’t.

Final Crisis #3 (DC Comics) Here are some more or less random thoughts on Final Crisis #3, organized as a numbered list, so as to be easier for the reader to scan and hopefully be less whiny-sounding:

1.) On the eve of the release of the first issue, I had heard from a friend who had already read it, and asked what he thought of it. He paused, and then mentioned that the art is very good. That seemed like the conventional wisdom when the first two issues rolled out and people began to realize that Countdown to Final Crisis was, in fact, hella false advertising that had fuck all to do with Final Crisis and that Morrison was going to be taking his time getting some plates spinning before it was clear what exactly the story was going to even be about.

Me, I’m not so sure anymore.

Jones’ art seems a little too stiff, posed and bloodless to me. It became particularly clear on the first page wherein Frankenstein, a character previously drawn by Doug Mahnke, appears and lacks the presence of the hulking, empty-eyed Mahnke design in Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein. Or the splash on page 18, wherein an all-new All-Star Squadron is assembled, and it’s just a bunch of heroes standing there looking boring, or Jones’ Tawky Tawny, who looks like a dude wearing a taxiderimed tiger’s head (he even has totally human hands), or that last page (spoiled by one of the covers), in which a group of super-women appear to have graduated from the Greg Land School Of Posing.

It’s not bad art, mind you, it’s just nothing to get terribly excited about. It lacks the weird energy of Jack Kirby art, the vague vibe of which seems like it should probably be around in a comic about Jack Kirby’s creations kicking the rest of the DCU’s ass. Or any kind of heroic spirit or individual design tics. The characters all just seem like mannequins to me.

2.) I thought the hand on page 2 was cool.

3.) Cool, a Cave Carson cameo!

4.) I just can’t get the least bit excited about the return of Barry Allen. He has the same powers as Wally West, only less of ‘em; he has the exact same superhero name and costume as Wally West; the main thing that differentiates him from the current Flash is that he’s more middle-aged and has less of a personality than West. So…yay?

The scenes of Jay Garrick talking to the three Flash wives about Barry coming back, while full of some neat Morrison hyperbole talk, just felt so…off. The emotion Iris shows just seems silly, given how often Barry Allen has popped out of the time-stream before.

5.) Alan Scott and Wonder Woman activating Article X to found a new All-Star Squadron sounds a lot cooler in theory than it is here, wherein the characters from the half-dozen or so active superhero teams all get together to stand in a room together. Argent and Ryan Choi are the closest things to surprises in the assemblage. Well, them and whoever that Aquaman is supposed to be.

6.) Speaking of whom, what’s up with Aquaman here, exactly? Oracle mentions that she “even scored a connection with the mysterious new Aquaman who’s shown up” in one panel, and in the next we see Aquaman in his original, Silver Age costume riding a big Silver Age seahorse, his hair cut nice and short.

Is this supposed to be Aquaman I, back from the dead? Is the “mysterious, new Aquaman” just the old, original Aquaman? Or is this the “One Year Later” Arthur Curry Aquaman I, with a haircut, dressing like Aquman I? Or is this an entirely new Aquaman? It’s not a really big deal or anything—it is literally just one panel of the book—but it does bother me, as its one of those little things that an editor should have removed or smoothed over just to preempt confusing and irritating readers.

7.) By the end, two of the three Flashes running around through time end up overshooting the present and land in the future, after Darkseid has already won and conquered the world with a spam email scheme and a line of Cylon-looking helmets with built in Anti-Life Equation speakers. Wally West was traveling through time when he overshot and landed in a future Earth after Darkseid had conquered it in Grant Morrison’s own “Rock of Ages” story.

And that’s it for Final Crisis for now; it goes on a planned one-month hiatus, during which there will be a couple of tie-ins that may or may not have much of anything to do with the series.

Superman Beyond should, at least, since halfway through this issue a woman dressed like a John Byrne Kryptonian shows up and is all like, “Come one Superman, let’s leave this miniseries and go star in a tie-in comic of your own, huh?”

I’m just paraphrasing.

The Invincible Iron Man #4 (Marvel) I still love Matt Fraction’s scripting and I still hate Salvador Larroca’s art, but I hate the latter less this month than I did last month, so I’m either getting used to his style or he’s toned down the photoreference a bit or Frank D’Armata’s getting better at coloring Larroca or perhaps some combination of all three.

King-Size Spider-Man Summer Special #1 (Marvel) Don’t let her furrowed brow and gritted teeth fool you; She-Hulk is apparently actually very excited to be on the cover of this comic book.

Nightwing #147 (DC) The first issue of a “Batman R.I.P.” tie-in arc, this is closer to the Detective Comics #846 sort of tie-in (i.e. it has the logo on the front and a vague reference or two to the storyline) than the Robin #175 sort of tie-in (in which Robin’s actively searching for Batman, whom he believes is going crazy, like in “Batman R.I.P.”).

Two-Face comes to New York City and shines a Nighwing-signal into the sky to attract Dick’s attention, and then asks him to please protect an old friend of his from the mob. He didn’t go to Batman because he “wouldn’t consider a guy running around in a Technicolor dreamcoat very open-minded.”

So Harvey’s seen crazy, drugged up Batman dressed as The Batman of Zurr-En-Arrh, then? Oddly, Nighwing doesn’t even bother to ask him what the hell he’s talking about.

Anyway, that’s it for “tie-in” material, aside from a line of narration in which Dick mentions Batman having “his hands full, at the moment, with Black Glove.”

As a standalone issue of Nightwing, it’s as solid as the previous issues of Peter J. Tomasi’s run (although the pencil art is by the inferior of the two artists taking turns drawing it), but as a “Batman R.I.P.” tie-in it is completely without value.

Patsy Walker: Hellcat #2 (Marvel) Oh wow, there is a lot of mystical mumbo jumbo in this issue and, unfortunately, despite the fact that writer Kathryn Immonen devotes the bulk of the issue to a circle of Native American magic aunties explaining things, it never really becomes any clearer what they’re talking about. The effervescent Patsy doesn’t much seem to care, being fine that it has something to do with saving a princess or something. It’s incredibly well illustrated and designed though; I might not have had any real idea what the hell was going on for most of it, I sure dug the scenery.

By the way, did you know Patsy Walker’s Indian name is Double Clawed Cat Full Of Red Hell Fire With Her Head Against The Wind And Comes Not Quietly From The Great Sea Road? Well, it is.

Special Forces #3 (Image Comics) Well, the cover shows our scantily clad heroine staring through the gory hole that used to Mickey Mouse’s head, which she herself has just made, while some children look on. So really, can the contents of the issue really shock the reader?

Um, well, yeah, kinda. Contracters, child-soldiers and child victims are addressed in this issue of Kyle Baker’s unabashedly over-the-top war commentary which is just barely obscured by a narrative seemingly celebratory of battlefield heroics (Kinda like the way Felony’s shredded uniform just barely obscure’s her lady parts). It’s beautifully laid out and illustrated, occasionally quite funny and always horribly sad.

Trinity #10 (DC) I actually enjoyed this comic about DC’s various icons running around fighting for the universe a lot more vibrant, exciting and fun than Final Crisis, so either Final Crisis leaves a lot to be desired, or Kurt Busiek, Mark Bagley and company are really stepping up their game as their weekly approaches its fourth month.

The opening half is basically a Justice League story, which is great, since JLoA is unreadable these days, in which the League visits Earth-Whatever Number the Crime Syndicate’s World Has now.

The back-up features the extremely chatty team-up of Nightwing and Robin, as they face Primat, a gal gorilla from Gorilla City wearing a corset, forearm and shin guards, bows in her hair, lipstick and painted toe nails. She’s as chatty as Batman’s sidekicks, and is very impressed by how nice Nightwing’s butt looks in his tights.

Scott McDaniel pencils this section, and while I’ve soured on his style of late, he does a nice gal gorilla, and since he redefined the Nightwing character back in the ‘90s, his style always looks right when applied to Nightwing bouncing around alleys.

The Twelve #7 (Marvel) Master Mind Excello’s dire warning to Phantom Reporter that one of the mystery men was going to be murdered some time in the future might have been more suspenseful if J. Michael Straczynski and Chris Weston didn’t show us Blue Blade’s dead body in the first issue, six months ago. Just saying.

Ultimate Origins #3 (Marvel) Hey, so, is anyone out there reading this? Does anyone know what happened on pages 4-6? Was Ultimate Watcher (that’s what I assume that alien parking meter thing is, anyway) appearing to all of those characters, or were they just, like, sensing its presence watching them or…what, exactly? I honestly have no idea what that sequence was supposed to mean.

The flashback portion was much clearer, revealing how Charles Xavier and Erik Magnus’ love affair first begin. Xavier, a college professor, is reading love poetry aloud to his bored college students, when Erik walks in and psychically asks Chuck if he can buy him lunch. Eventually they move in together in the Savage Land.


Baal said...

Thank god I wasn't drinking anything while readng your review of Origins. I hate it when I do a spit take.

Patrick C said...

I agree about Final Crisis. I was reading it and started thinking... you know this art really isn't that great.

And I couldn't identify a few people in that drafted super-heroes group shot. Which one is supposed to be Argent? The green girl behind Hawkman? The expressionless girl behind Nightwing? The expressionless girl behind Ragman?

dellllllllllllllll said...

You're a moron, srsly get hit by a truck.

SallyP said...

I actually thought this was a pretty good issue of Final Crises. It seems as though things are finally really happening, and very BAD things at that. I liked the bit with Libra conning that poor schlub, Mike, the Human Torch, and then dissing Lex Luthor. I'll bet THAT comes back to bite him in the butt!

Nightwing was pretty good. The pool of blood underneath the car full of FBI/Thugs was a nice touch. Plus, I rather like Two-Face.

I've been enjoying Trinity more as well, now that things seem to be happening as well.

But this whole taking a couple of months off in the middle of a story a very strange one.

David page said...

and chris westons art is still fantastic....

LurkerWithout said...

Man, the Spider-Man Summer Special came out this week? I mean I don't think I could have afforded even one more comic this week, but I really wanted that one...

Caleb said...

Which one is supposed to be Argent? The green girl behind Hawkman? The expressionless girl behind Nightwing? The expressionless girl behind Ragman?

Yeah, the green girl behind Hawkman; the one who appears to be ordering two drinks from someone. Not sure why her face is green; I thought she was Jade at first.

The expressionless girl behind Ragman is The Enchantress, and I think the girl behind Nightwing is one of the ladies from Checkmate...?