Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Weekly Haul: September 17th

Action Comics #869 (DC Comics) Oh my God! Does Superman/Clark Kent, the grown man who’s invulnerable to everything except magic, red solar radiation and Kryptonite, actually drink beer, a popular adult beverage which can lead to inebriation and the death of brain cells in frail, mortal human beings, of which Superman is definitely not?

No, no he does not. He drinks “Soda Pop” brand soda pop out of old-fashioned brown bottles, just like his pa. I know this because it is right on the cover of this week’s Action Comics, which was supposed to come out last week, but was actually delayed while the original printing was pulped because it looks like Gary Frank drew Superman and Pa holding bottles that could conceivably be construed as beer bottles.

At least, that’s what gossip columnist Rich Johnston says, and he has an image of the original cover image in this week’s Lying In The Gutters.

Hey, remember when known teenagers Supergirl and Wonder Girl snuck into a bachelorette party being held in a strip club and got sick on alcohol in the pages of Countdown?

The cover controversy is probably the most exciting thing about this particular issue, in which the one, true Brainiac attempts to do to Metropolis and Earth what he did to Kandor and Krypton. The Gary Frank and Jon Sibal art team continues to do incredible work, and Geoff John’s scripts are as solid as any of his others (if not a little more so), but this reads very much like a chapter of a graphic novel rather than something that can be read all on its own.

Of course, I did have to make an effort not to think about what I’m reading, as it seems to be messing pretty hard with Superman continuity, even the Superman continuity that was established after the Superboy punch period and the formation of New Earth. For example, this seems to be Superman’s first encounter with the bottle city of Kandor, despite the fact that Kandor played a pretty prominent role in 52.

The Age of The Sentry #1 (Marvel Comics) I’ve never liked The Sentry. The publicity stunt roll-out of the character, in which Paul Jenkins and Marvel pretended to have found a “lost” Stan Lee creation which they proceeded to then integrate into the Marvel Universe with a Triumph-like schtick and Marvelman/Miracleman-like conflicts, threw him into readers’ laps with a bad smell already emanating from him.

I skipped his solo outings (save for a single JRJR-illustrated issue I found in a bargain bin that wasn’t half-bad), and his inclusion in Brian Michhael Bendis’Avengers series and the last few Marvel crossover events made him an easy character to not simply not like, but to actively hate. A barely-veiled Superman-analogue, his presence was always a constant reminder of why Superman doesn’t really fit in with the Marvel characters and the Marvel Universe, with the vast majority of Sentry appearances falling into one of two categories: 1) Explaining why The Sentry can’t participate in a particular conflict or 2) Having The Sentry completely fail to do anything more than what Luke Cage or Wonder Man could do just as easily (i.e. punch out a couple of doombots, trade a couple of punches with superheroes, etc).

I’m not saying the character’s inherently flawed or that none of his appearances have been any good (I’ve heard his original series was good, actually), just that I’ve never personally read a Sentry appearance that didn’t seem completely pointless to me.

But then, I’ve never read any Sentry stories by EDILW favorites Jeff Parker, Paul Tobin and Nick Dragotta, beneath a cover by animator and way-too occasional comics artist David Bullock (the man responsible for about a half dozen spectacular Action Comics covers during 2003).

The conceit for this miniseries seems to be the telling stories set during the Sentry’s Silver Age, if such a thing had ever really existed. What that means is we get to see Parker, Tobin and the artists they’re working with tell lighthearted, Silver Age Superman stories with occasional knowing winks to modern readers. And that suits me just fine.

After a one-page prologue (drawn by Bullock?), we plunge into the first of two short stories by two different creative teams.

In the first, by Parker, penciler Nick Dragotta and inker Gary Martin, The Sentry is killed by a goofy looking villain, and it’s up to his sidekick, his super-dog and his nosy would-be girlfriend to travel back in time to The Sentry’s origin to bring him back to life.

In the second story, by Tobin and artist Ramon Rosanas, The Sentry falls victim to a plot by The Mad Thinker and the Terrible Tinkerer (while taking time to take out classic Marvel monster Torr).

Extending the period piece gag as much as possible, the second story kicks off with a cover for 12-cent Adventures Into Weird Worlds which kind of vaguely hints at the actual story, but is actually pretty off, plus “continued after next page” notes on pages facing ads and even an old-school Marvel Bullpen Bulletin.

Part celebration and part parody of the comics of yesteryear, particularly Silver Age Superman and the presentation of Marvel Comics during their 1960s heyday, this is a Sentry comic for people who like superhero comics, regardless of their feelings about the modern day Golden Guardian of Good and whatever Bendis has him crying about this month.

Warning: While time travel is involved in one of the stories, at no point does The Sentry kiss Cleopatra or punch out a chimpanzee in a necktie, despite what Bullock drew on the cover.

All-Star Superman #12 (DC) And so ends the best Superman story ever told in any of the many media that the original comic book superhero has conquered over the decades. Although, to be fair to all the other great Superman stories over the years, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely did have the advantage of taking what worked best in each of them and forging into their own story. I’m sorely sorry to see this series end, despite the sequel promise of the last panel (which seems more along the lines of Jesus or King Arthur promising to return some day rather than the set-up for All-Star Superman Returns), but am glad Morrison and Quitely were able to end it so well.

Amazing Spider-Man #572 (Marvel) Norman Osborn puts on his old costume, the one with the darling little eye-lashes! Harry’s girlfriend is all rubbing on Peter Parker! Spider-Man totally gets shot a whole bunch with machineguns but somehow doesn’t die at all! Norman uses some vivisected super-guy with a dumb name to produce anti-anti-venom! Mac Gargan puts his old costume on over his new costume! Did Spider-Man just totally kill the hell out of Bullseye?! (Because having a guy shot in the chest repeatedly with machine guns is kind of a deathblow type of move, isn’t it?)

The Dan Slott-written, John Romita Jr. and Klaus Janson-drawn action and super-heroics and super-villainy is all pretty well done, but some of the drama falls awfully flat.

Harry’s father nearly killing him and destroying his business, with Harry rushing off to finally confront him man to man would probably have a bit more resonance if this was a conflict years in the making and not some murky bit of retconned continuity unclear to readers who aren’t currently producing Amazing Spider-Man comics themselves and thus don’t understand the rebooted fictional histories of the characters.

Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam #2 (DC) Okay, yes, Mike Kunkel’s all-ages take on Captain Marvel, building on Jeff Smith’s miniseries, is cute, charming and maybe even a little heart-warming. But that doesn’t mean Kunkel’s credits should read “Pictures, Words, & Heart.” Do you want me to get sick to my stomach here?

Like the first issue, this is pretty fun and very well-drawn, with Perez-plus amounts of panels on every page, and a very interesting approach to sequential art storytelling, employing a whole series of borderless panels here and there.

Given how much time has passed since the first issue, though, those who haven’t already given it a try might want to just wait for the trade at this point.

Captain Britain and MI13 #5 (Marvel) With Secret Invasion over (at least in England), writer Paul Cornell spends an issue on team-building: Who’s in, what their powers are, how the team will be structured, that sort of thing. Nothing we haven’t seen dozens of times before, certainly, but there’s something quite appealing about a whole team of such relatively obscure-ish characters like Spitfire and Pete Wisdom, and Cornell’s decision to place just as much emphasis on young doctor Faiza Hussain bringing The Black Knight home to meet her parents and help her get their blessing to be on a superhero team as on any of the normal super-business.

There’s also a truly surprising last-page cliffhanger, surprising enough to shake me free of my cynicism and get me actually curious about how it will play out. Guest-stars include Union Jack and Blade, the latter of whom at least seems to be joining the team.

The Family Dynamic #2 (DC) The Copybook Tales creative team of J. Torres and Tim Levins steam ahead with the second and penultimate issue of their abbreviated miniseries about a family dynasty of superheroes, with this issue focusing mainly on some female Batman and Robin analogues fighting a rather inspired supervillain. DC’s decision to cut this six-part mini in half before even releasing the first issue is a little bewildering, as this is actually pretty good stuff (if unlikely to sell well; all Johnny DC books do relatively poorly in the direct market, and, unlike other books with name-brand, cartoon-supported heroes, this one’s less likely to do gangbusters in the book market). While the first issue seemed oddly paced and way too overcrowded, presumably as a result of the series suddenly shrinking, this one flowed just fine. DC should really sign Levin and inker Dan Davis up for Teen Titans, Robin or one of their books that could benefit from such clear, crisp, Wieringo-esque artwork.

The Guardians of the Galaxy #5 (Marvel) Writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning seem to have finally dropped the reality show-like debriefing device, in which the characters talk at the reader, revealing info about the story while it’s going on. I’m glad; it was really starting to wear thin. This is the second part of a kinda sorta Secret Invasion tie-in (in that it involves Skrulls, and says Secret Invasion on the cover), and Abnett and Lanning play up the paranoia angle inherent in shape-shifting alien infiltrators (not unlike Brian Michael Bendis was doing in the Avengers books in the lead-up to the actual event miniseries), with the characters bickering about their trust issues and pre-existent conflict. Drax The Destroyer comes up with a unique solution to the Skrull problem: Since they revert to their original form upon death, he can discover who’s a Skrull simply by killing every living thing on the space-station the team’s based out of. Why didn’t Reed Richards ever think of that?

The Incredible Hercules #121 (Marvel) This is already my favorite Marvel Comic, so I didn’t think Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente could actually do anything to make me like it more, but they have.

With the Secret Invasion tie-in story arc “Sacred Invasion” over, Hercules and his God Squad having already won the war for everyone (Seriously; Herc killed the Skrull god and forced their holy book to self-destruct—why are they still bothering with their holy war?), our Grecian good guy and his not-eromenos Amadeus Cho kick back to relax on a tropical island.

For Cho, this means reading Namor comics on the beach; for Hercules and The Agents of Atlas’ Namora, it means doing it so hard they cause earthquakes and set off volcanoes. Then both Atlantis and the Amazons attack (and Ares and Atlas probably won’t be too far behind), and Pak and Van Lente return to playing with Greek mythology, as seen through a Marvel-ized lens.

We’ve got more crazy sound effects, Hippolyta with a bazooka, Hercules riding a shell someone shot at his stomach out to sea, The Avenging Son, The Avenging Daughter, and a cliffhanger that promises this next issue.

Clayton Henry provides smooth, bright artwork (somewhat dragged down by the over-elaborate coloring, at least in my personal aesthetic opinion), and Aruthur Suydam provides the cover art, proving he can draw things that aren’t zombies. For example, he can also draw bras really well. Seriously, look at the detail on that underwire.

Marvel Adventures Avengers #28 (Marvel) Hey, it’s another Parker/Tobin comic! Like the previous issue of MAA, the writers tell two separate but connected stories, each with a different artist. In the lead story, by Parker and artist Rodney Buchemi, we’re introduced to the Marvel Adventures version of Luke Cage, as Spidey and Ant-Man try to recruit him. The look he’s given here is a pretty good one, a nice compromise between his shaven head and street clothes from New Avengers with his original yellow shirt and chain belt look. The tale guest-stars Cage’s mom and Dr. Doom, who calls the Avengers wretched curs. I don’t know why exactly, but Dr. Doom calling people wretched curs is still funny.

In the Tobin-written back up, drawn by Ig Guara and Sandro Ribeiro, Spider-Man, Captain America, Storm and Bruce Banner try to get a cat out of a tree—and intangible cat from a different dimension, stuck in an intangible, extra-dimensional tree. Also, Hammerhead threatens to blog.

Confidential to Stephen Wacker: Why on earth isn’t Jeff Parker or Paul Tobin writing Amazing Spider-Man yet?

Tiny Titans #8 (DC)You know, I think Art Baltazar draws the single best Alfred Pennyworth I’ve ever seen.

Trinity #16 (DC) The fighting continues, with a couple of suspenseful surprises thrown in, like Despero maybe not being Despero after all, and Hawkman getting all Zero Hour-ed up again. A decent dose of beter-than-average, old-school superheroics.


Ryan said...

Thanks for pointing me towards those David Bullock covers- I saw one of those years ago (well, five, as I now know) and couldn't for the life of me recall which Superman title it was, or what issue, or year, etc. I'm a sucker for that retro, Fleischer-influenced style, the whole Darwyn Cooke/J. Bone thing.

As for that Action cover, could DC possibly be foreshadowing Pa Kent's death any harder? Is that the correct adverb? Does one foreshadow "hard"? WHO KNOWS. Also, who is being told to "speak to the hand"?

Patrick C said...

I felt a heavy DC One Million influence on All Star Superman #12, and not just the presence (well mention) of Solaris.

Superman going into the center of the sun to build a new heart. And Jor-El telling him that "The best in us, the GOLD in us, will survive in you." Could that be foreshadowing the re-emergence one million months from now of a Golden Superman from the center of the sun? (Well 999,881 months or so from now. That did come out 10 years ago.)

scottmill said...

I felt a heavy DC One Million influence on All Star Superman #12, and not just the presence (well mention) of Solaris.

We saw (the real)Superman Prime (who wasn't called that because of copyright issues) at the end of issue 6, when Superman thought he was a future descendant.

Matthew said...

The Sentry's first mini *was* really good - it made me really like the character, so much so that I still feel the need to defend him in the face of all the nonsense that Bendis puts him through. That's why I'm so excited for this new miniseries - I can't wait to pick it up this weekend.

Also, next month's Herc cover - isn't this, like, Namora's greatest wet dream or something?

SallyP said...

Action Comics was ok, I really don't understand what all the hoohah over the cover was about.

I have to say that the Sentry just bores me to tears.

Allstar Superman on the other hand, was fabulous. Gosh, I'm going to miss it.

I liked Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam a whole lot, it was cute as could be, and there was some MEAT to it. Plus little Black Adam was SUCH a hoot.

Incredible Hercules was another hoot, probably my favorite Marvel book.

I've been enjoying Trinity. New things actually keep happening.

Matthew said...

Oh Sally! And for a moment there I had actually been admiring your taste! :P

John Foley said...

I can't believe they had to actually change that Action cover. If you look at the original, it even appears to say "ROOT BEER." So what's the big idea?

Caleb said...

Also, who is being told to "speak to the hand"?

Hopefully Geoff Johns and Brad Meltzer are just off to the right on that Action cover and they're pitching their idea about how Pa Kent should die in the comics because he died in a movie they saw when they were little kids and Clark's just laughing at them and telling him to talk to the super-hand.

Also, next month's Herc cover - isn't this, like, Namora's greatest wet dream or something?

Aren't all of Namora's dreams wet? Ha ha ha ha! 'Cause she lives under water? Huh? Eh? Eh?

it even appears to say "ROOT BEER." So what's the big idea?

I couldn't make it out, but it's definitely says something beer, so root beer seems just as likely as beer-beer to me.

mordicai said...

The Superman offerings this week were CHOICE. I was very pleased. As I was with GotG. Somehow Nova & Guardians are my top Marvel picks at the moment? How did THAT happen?