Age of The Sentry #2 (Marvel Comics) This actually came out last week, but I neglected to purchase it. I almost did so again this week, and discovered why I had neglected it last time. My local comic shop shelves its books alphabetically, but Age of The Sentry was neither shelved under Age nor under Sentry, but as Avengers, because, um, The Sentry used to be in Mighty Avengers back when that title still had Avengers in it.
So it was all my local comic book shop’s fault for their insane shelving of the book. Well, and mine, I suppose, for not adding it to my pull-list in the first place.
Anyway, you may have heard from a certain invincible super-blogger that this was the book of last week, and you may have heard right (it’s hard to say for sure; last week also had that Marvel Adventure Avengers issue where Odin tried to set The Mighty Thor up with a Frost Giant, while the Odinson was sneaking around with Storm…either way, Jeff Parker and Paul Tobin scripted the best book of the week, though).
In the lead story, “Ursus The Ultra-Bear,” Jeff Parker, Nick Dragotta and Gary Martin tell the tale of a giant, super-powered circus bear—“an animal with fighting instincts who could respond to training”—battling Silver Age Superman (Or, “The Sentry”) and Golden Age Wonder Woman and Etta Candy (Here called “Ms. Marvel” and “Lolly”), which guest-stars Truman Capote, the caveman of Wall Street, some killer whales who had it coming and Harper Lee, dressed as a ham for Halloween.
Is there an Eisner for “Best Half Issue?” Because I believe it’s been won.
The back up, by Paul Tobin and Michael Cho is a pretty old and obvious gag that I figured out from the cover alone, but it’s still pretty fun. Tobin really gets the horror of super-powered dogs, and Cho’s art is amazing, and as played out as the character’s-friends-blow-him or her-off-because-they’re-actually-planning-a-surprise-party (Oh, spoiler warning?) story is, I still find it amusing. Does a really kick-ass surprise party really justify making a friend feel like shit for days?
Now, Ursus The Ultra-Bear vs. X-Rex: Reptile Ranger spin-off, please.
Batman: Gotham After Midnight #6 (DC Comics) We all now that Batman has severe mental problems. But what are his specific mental problems? I’m no psychologist (nor am I a psychiatrist), so my opinion is hardly expert. Perhaps you are though, and can help me diagnose poor Batman.
Okay, so if you have a crush on a buxom, Batman-hating police officer who is apparently quite beautiful (although since Kelley Jones is drawing her, it’s impossible to know for sure), and you decide to give her the present of an expensive pearl necklace exactly like the one your mother was wearing when she was brutally murdered before your eyes driving you insane in the first place, a necklace which the very sight of causes you vivid flashbacks to the traumatic event, does that mean that a) you have some kinda creepy oedipal thing going on, b) you actually like freaking out about your mother’s murder and subconsciously enable your freak-outs, or c) both?
Also, Batman fights the Joker and Midnight, Joker and Midnight fight each other, Green Arrow has a humorous two-panel cameo, and Kelley Jones draws all kinds of totally crazy shit.
Final Crisis #4 (DC) Remember in 2005 when DC published their seven-issue long, big, huge crossover story Infinite Crisis? Remember how it was originally going to all be penciled by Phil Jimenez, whose style was greatly influenced by George Perez, the artist who drew the big, huge crossover story it was a sort of sequel to, with Perez contributing covers and a few passages of the story? And then, as the series progressed, more and more pencillers and inkers were called in, and they eventually got so far behind that in the seventh issue they skipped the inking on some pages, publishing clearly unfinished work? And it was so awful looking that some of it was even redrawn for the trade collection?
Well, you’d think DC would have learned its lesson for heir next seven0issue long, big, huge crossover story, right?
Ha ha ha! Well then, you’d be insane, that’s what you’d be.
Final Crisis editor Eddie Berganza and, presumably, his higher ups, thought, for some reason, that J. G. Jones would be able to pencil and ink (and draw the covers for) seven thrty-page issues in eight months. (For that 210 pages of pencils and 210 pages of inks in the time it takes most artists to pencil 176 pages…provided you can find any pencils working for the Big Two at the moment who can still pencil eight consecutive issues of a monthly comic book).
So confident were Jones and Dan DiDio that they even made public, Bryan Hitch-style pronouncements that this would totally all be Jones and all be done on time.
And so began the wait to see how long until Final Crisis either shipped late or started using multiple artists to finish it up.
As it turns out, not very long at all. Going by the DC Nation page layout, this issue is about five weeks late (on top of a planned one month break), and features what looks like 13 pages of art penciled by Carlos Pacheco and inked by Jesus Merino.
This is a bad thing not just because it makes Jones and DC look foolish (fans will forgive them both, if they haven’t already), but because the trade is going to read pretty poorly; Pacheco and Merino aren’t bad artists at all (in fact, I prefer their work to Jones’, and their pages are much clearer, more comic book-ier and easer to read than Jones’) but their work doesn’t look a think like Jones’.
It’s just too bad. Obviously 210 is a lot of pages to expect any one artist to pencil and ink all by himself or herself in eight months, so why would anyone think that might actually work out?
Given the tremendous amount of pages Jones was taking on, why wasn’t work on the art for this story started earlier? Or why wasn’t a speedier penciller chosen, and why wasn’t that theoretical speedier penciller paired with an inker or two who had fairly compatible styles? And why not have someone else draw layouts, saving the penciller some time? And someone else draw the covers?
Anyway—the story. This isn’t Grant Morrison’s best work, and at times it read a little too much like Brian Michael Bendis’, what with all the superheroe’s swearing in odd-numbered “@#$%*” expressions constantly, sometimes to the detriment of an otherwise cool line. For example, when Green Arrow is faced with a group of Justifiers on giant dogs saying “Anti-Life Justifies our actions!”, he responds with, “Is that so? Well, my absolute hatred of dog-ridin’ totalitarian @$$#&%$ justifies this!” and shoots a dozen arrows into them. I think he meant “assholes” and not “asshole,” but still, that kind of swearing bugs the “$#!*” out of me.
Anti-Life is sweeping the country, and Oracle explains what makes this so damn scary. The Anti-Life equation is, after all, “a mathematical proof that darkseid is the rightful master of everything in existence.” You see, if that’s true, Darkseid is right.
While the world is being remade in Darkseid’s image, the few heroes gather in a half-dozen impromptu “Watchtowers” around the world, trying to hold out. At the Hall of Justice, Green Arrow, Oracle, Black Canary and The Ray receive Tatooed Man (see below), Darkseid finally finishes downloading into Turpin while his minions look on, and then Mister Miracle, who is suddenly a white guy, gets shot in the chest.
Relatively little happens (something underscored by the long wait), but there are some nice little character moments, novel applications of superpowers (Mostly involving The Ray), and plenty of little cameos of characters Morrison has written (The Great Ten, Warmaker of the Ultra-Marine Corps, The Metal Men, etc).
Final Crisis: Submit (DC) They say there’s no accounting for taste, but I wonder, is comic book art really just a matter of taste? Can it be objectively good or objectively bad? Because more and more, DC Comics’ comics seem filled with art that I would qualify as just plain awful.
Not awful stylistically, but awful in that it is hard to read, or the choreography is off, or the artist seems to focus on things the script does not, or objects appear and disappear from panel to panel.
And yet the artists responsible for this bad art generally keep getting more and more work, on some of the company’s most high-profile books, and I’m left wondering if maybe it’s me. Maybe there is no such thing as good and bad comic art, it’s all just a matter of taste.
Maybe editors like Eddie Berganza and Mike Marts just have completely different taste than me. Maybe when I read Batman or this book of trashy, amateurish art and start pointing out all the ways in which the work is clearly not doing what’s expected of it, I’m like some kind of asshole wine snob showing up at a party and talking about the quality of the box wine and the hosts are thinking, “Yeah, of course the bouquet sucks—it came out of a box we keep in the refrigerator, douche.”
Are DC super-comics, like box wine, just expected to be pretty crappy?
Because despite the fact that Final Crisis: Submit is by Grant Morrison, DC’s most bankable writer who isn’t named Geoff Johns and by far their most critically acclaimed creator and despite the fact that it’s a key tie-in to the biggest DC story since Infinite Crisis, Berganza apparently looked at this clearly terrible art from penciller Matthew Clark and the trio credited with “inks and finishes,” and signed off on it as good enough.
But it’s not. It’s hard to imagine a professional editor not sending this back covered in notes to the penciller.
Now, I suppose there could be more going on here than I’m considering, like the fact that Morrison turned the script in, like, four days before the artists were supposed to be done, and Clark had to pound this out in two days and two extra inkers were called in to make deadline. It is at least three weeks late, judging by the layout of the DC Nation page in the back.
From a reader’s perspective, I guess it doesn’t really matter who’s fault it is that the comic is a piece of shit, so maybe none of that really matters.
Let’s start on pages two and three, a double-page splash of Black Lightning being chased by three giant dogs with red eyes down a street. Oddly, he’s wearing a satchel full of newspapers with the logo for the Daily Planet on it, paperboy style. That’s an unexpected detail, so obviously it draws attention to itself. Strange then that in a panel two pages later, the satchel disappears. Just one panel it’s there, the next its not. It won’t reappear until about six pages later, when the script mentions newspapers again (As to what exactly Black Lightning is doing running around with newspapers, it’s not explained in the book at all; it is explained in Final Crisis #4, which also came out this week, but was supposed to come out five weeks ago, despire the fact that Submit occurs chronologically before FC #4. Got all that? Not only are both books several weeks late, but they were planned to be published out of order anyway).
During this chases scene, there are sometimes shadowy figures shaped like gingerbread men or the icons on the doors of public bathrooms somewhere behind the dogs; these are apparently human, as is revealed when we see human limbs among an explosion that kills the dogs. What are these shapes? You can’t tell by the art.
What happened in the background of the fifth panel on page four? A silhouette explodes into existence, shattering the glass of reality, or…?
What is that thing reaching toward a book in the first panel of page 11? A tentacle? A deformed foot? Is that a hand? A human hand? Jesus. Presuming Clark is right-handed, he can simply look at his left while penciling a left hand. Problem solved; no reference research necessary.
So this is a little like Morrison’s Batman work—a script that seems locked in conflict with art it will eventually triumph against, but rather than helping tell the story, the art seems to be trying to obscure it.
Although, unlike Batman, the story itself isn’t that good. It’s sometime after Final Crisis #3, when Darkseid’s anti-life equation began remaking earth, and Black Lightning is running around a post-apocalyptic (post-apokalyptic?) world on a secret mission, but stops to save Tattooed Man II and the Tatooed Man’s family from Darkseid’s Justifiers and their giant dogs.
Morrison indulges in clichés from about a half-dozen different zombipocalypse/post-apocalyptic survivaist movies, as Tattooed Man wants to stay right where he is and knows its safe, Black Lightning knows better and wants them to move, and the family members choose sides in the conflict of the best course of action. It involves piling into a school bus and driving frantically through the streets, people who aren’t used to using guns having to use guns (Don’t forget to take off the safety!), running through a dark tunnel that leads to safety while being chased by the Infect—er, Justifiers, someone heroically holding them off, blah blah blah.
Saddest of all, Morrison has sunk so low he actually has Black Lightning explain his powers thusly: “I make electricity dance like Beyonce…”
Oh Grant, what have they done to you?
G.I. Joe #0 (IDW) You probably can’t tell from how little I ever mention the comics here on EDILW, but I was at one point a pretty huge G.I. Joe fan. I’m a 31-year-old American male, so, you know, obviously I watched G.I. Joe every day after school, played with the toys, read the Choose Your Own Adventure books, had at least one G.I. Joe-themed birthday party, ate the breakfast cereal, and would occasionally read the Marvel Comics when I was sick.
I read the Devil’s Due comics for a while, until the veritable flood of product, a couple of reboots and more than one consecutive continuity killed my interest. That and the fact that, you know, there are hundreds of dollars worth of comics, including a lot of really great stuff, being released in comic shops and book stores every single week.
I was mildly curious about the IDW relaunch of the franchise, particularly when I heard Chuck Dixon would be involved, since he seems to be a pretty ideal G.I. Joe writer (Well, if it can’t be Garth Ennis…), but only mildly so: IDW single issues are usually priced at $3.99, a $1 more than most crappy-to-mediocre comics, and why drop $4 on 22 pages of nostalgia nonsense when that’s half a digest of a great manga, you know?
But hell, this special #0 issue was only one (1) dollar, so it seemed like it was at least worth a try.
Well, having read it, I’m not entirely sure it was worth a dollar. This comic contains three short, six-page stories, all acting as preludes to three different upcoming G.I. Joe series, the Chuck Dixon-written G. I. Joe, Larry Hama-written G.I. Joe Origins and Chris Gage-written G.I. Joe: Cobra. Three series right out of the gate seems a wee bit ambitious, and is so much G.I. Joe product that it stifled my (admittedly little) enthusiasm for the IDW version before any of the series even debuted their #1 issue.
The stories mostly focus on the less colorful Joe characters, the ones that could conceivably exist right now in the real armed forces: Duke, Hawk, Torpedo, Beachhead and those guys. Me, I always liked the rhyming, cooking Roadblock, totally gay Gung Ho, the comedy duo of Alpine and Roadblock, Shipwreck and his sarcastic parrot Polly, love of my life Lady Jaye, irritating as all hell Quick Kick, offensive stereotype Spirit and pretty much every single Cobra guy
This was really just some pretty rote, Tom Clancy-like nonsense about army guys doing some army guy stuff, and the only look at Cobra we really get are sketches of Baroness and Destro in the back.
It’s hard to tell from just these little bite-sized stories, but so far the IDW version doesn’t seem to be in any way improved over the Devil’s Due version (the Reloaded continuity in particular), and I saw nothing here that made me want to hand them $12 a month for more.
Runaways #3 (Marvel) This was released today, and I bought and read it.
You know, I suppose it’s time to finally drop this title if that’s really all I can think to see about a new issue of it…
Secret Invasion #7 (Marvel) I bough four books this week that cost $3.99, a dollar more than the average DC or Marvel comic book. DC published three of those $3.99 books; two of them were 30 pages long, and the other was 40 pages long. Marvel published one of those $3.99 books; it was only 23 pages long (the same length as the the average DC or Marvel book with a $2.99 cover price).
This is the penultimate issue of Brian Michael Bendis’ years in the foreshadowing superhero epic, and, as it comes to a close, it’s pretty clear that this is another Marvel event along the lines of House of M and Civil War that isn’t going to have what you might call a “conclusion” so much as a final issue, with a dozen or so unresolved plotlines playing out in a bunch of other Marvel books for months to come.
Because this seventh issue is just the continuation of that big Skrulls Empire vs. The Marvel Heroes and Villains fight that began in the sixth. Bendis throws some characterization in there—Jessica Jones deciding to fight by her husband’s side, Thor, Captain America and Iron Man talking strategy over one another’s shoulders (hey, they should put those three in a team book together), Hawkeye taking revenge for being “forced” to decide to murder a Skrull that thought it was Mockingbird, etc.
I actually sighed when I hit page seventeen and it was all the heroes regrouping and rushing at the Skrulls shouting catchphrases, exactly as happened at the end of last issue. So, pretty typical Bendis treadmill superhero script, I guess.
There’s a cliffhanger in which Skrull-Jarvis reveals to Baby Cage (who isn’t a Skrull at all? I thought that was the whole point of that portentous ending of New Avengers fifteen years ago where it’s eyes turned green-ish?) that it doesn’t matter if the Marvels die or if the Skrulls die, just so long as their religious gibberish comes true (whatever that gibberish is, exactly). Apparently the Skrulls have some kind of weapon implanted in The Wasp which generates Kirby dots that make people scream, but it’s not clear what’s going on.
Tune in next month for the over-priced anti-climax, the lead-in to all those “classified” December books branded “Dark Reign."
Superman: New Krypton Special #1 (DC) The credits on the last page say this oversized one-shot was the written by Geoff Johns, James Robinson and Sterling Gates, but it doesn’t say who wrote what. Did all three write every page, 52 style, or did they each write the sections dealing with the plots from their own books? I can’t say with one hundred-percent certitude.
And this saddens me, because I don’t know who to credit with the hilariously maudlin bit at the beginning in which we see the last dead leaf clinging to an otherwise bare tree outside a Smallville church get blown off, and then fall slowly to the earth, the P.O.V. of the panels following it until it reaches Pa Kent’s funeral.
There are a few pages of Clark Kent and family in black dress clothes in completely silent panels (because dialogue would just make everyone—the writers, the readers, probably even the characters—feel a little silly about pretending to give a shit about Pa Kent’s fifteenth “death”). Then, after the sequence, the leaf reappears, blowing off panel into the next section.
I’m going to assume this is the work of Geoff Johns, since he’s the one who wrote Pa’s death in his Action Comics, and his Action collaborator Gary Frank draws the sequence (Plus, Johns often writes hilarious melodrama; see, for example, every line Sun Boy utters in Legion of Three Worlds).
From there, we check in with various plot strands from the emerging family of Super-books, including last week’s Jimmy Olsen special and Supergirl, which is apparently going to shape up and be part of the Superman line instead of changing creative teams and directions every three months as it’s been doing.
Clark thinks about beating Braniac to a green pulp in revenge, and some of the nice moments he’s shared with his father over the course of Johns’ foreshadowing of slotting him, and gets very, very sad. Ma Kent gets sad, and has to eat dinner alone now. Those now full-sized Kandorians are probably going to be trouble, since they’ll all have Superman’s powers and one of them accidentally kills a blue whale. Someone I forgot was supposed to be dead is revealed to actually be alive, and be behind the Codename: Assassin and Atlas business that’s been going on in Superman, and now he’s got Brainiac, and is recruiting Luthor, who is apparently in jail now…? (Not sure how that squares with Salvation Run, which I’ve tried my best to ignore, and Final Crisis).
In addition to Frank, Pete Woods and Renato Guedes pencil this thing, and it’s all really quite lovely looking. In fact, it’s so well drawn, it may actually distract you from how silly the whole thing actually is.
I ‘m afraid I still just don’t see the point of the dead Pa storyline: a whole city of Kryptonians on Earth and a secret government agency devoted to killing Superman using Brainiac, Luthor and the stars of First Issue Special seem plenty exciting enough to run the Super-books on for a few months without having to go the whole Crying Superman and Martyr Ma route.
Tiny Titans #9 (DC) Beppo the Super-Monkey gets his hands on Zatara II’s magic wand, and turns the Tiny Titans into monkeys. Hilarity ensues. I do take issue with one panel of Art Baltazar and Franco’s super-cute and pretty funny issue, however.
After Beppo turns Batgirl and Starfire into monkeys too, Beast Boy says, “Well, technically, we’re chimpanzees.”
No Beast Boy, no you’re not. You all have tales. Your technically monkeys, not chimpanzees. Chimpanzees do not have tails. No apes do; only monkeys have tales.
It always annoys me when apes are referred to as monkeys in comics. But, because this is a comic book geared toward children, it annoys me even more than usual, because the next generation of comic book readers needs to know the difference between monkeys and chimpanzees. If Baltazar and Franco pass the comic book industry’s ignorance and confusion over the difference between apes and monkeys on to young readers, we may never solve this problem.
Trinity #21 (DC) Ohhhhhhhhhh…I thought the crazy mechanical thing that kept jumping out of John Stewart was The Construct, which was featured in the very beginning of Kurt Busiek’s unfortunately aborted JLA run, but it’s actually The Void Hound, from the end of Kurt Busiek’s unfortunately aborted JLA run.
So the front half is the secret origin of DC’s Morgiane Le Fay and Enigma (Actually Earth-2’s Quizmaster) and the revelation of which old JLA alien antagonist was posing as old JLA alien antagonist Despero, and the back half is a sort of Firestorm II/John Stewart team-up.
As always, pretty solid super-comics that put most of DC’s highest profile stuff (Batman, Final Crisis, JLoA) to shame.
Ultimate Spider-Man #127 (Marvel) So, Peter Parker and Mary Jane are making out just outside of school one afternoon. Broad daylight, people all around, and then Mary Jane pushes Peter away telling him to stop, and how she doesn’t want to go too far or too fast, and he keeps apologizing. Stuart Immonen tastefully only draws them from the shoulders up or so, but clearly Peter going for some heavy petting, or maybe rubbing his erection on her, trying to get some dry-humping going.
So Ultimate Peter Parker is an exhibitionist.