Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Weekly Haul: October 29th

Avengers: The Initiative #18 (Marvel Comics) I would have preferred a single art team for The Initiative’s Secret Invasion tie-in arc—this month’s Steve Kurth is the third penciler, so far—but the inconsistency of the imagery aside, this remains a pretty fun storyline, one that actually gives some scope and urgency to the Skrull invasion plot (In the main title, the Skrulls have just fought some scrubs in downtown New York City, the Avengers in the Savage Land, and now Bendis’ favorite characters in a field outside of NYC; here they’re all over the U.S., and that superhuman army born out of Civil War is getting plenty of panel-time). It also explains what the hell the Skrulls were up to at the end of last week’s Secret Invasion #7; there was more to it than The Wasp unleashing flesh-eating Kirby dots, apparently.

In addition to the Skrull Kill Krew and the more or less regular cast, this issue brings us a Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends Super-Skrull, the Georgia and Kentucky Initiative teams, and a two-panel cameo of The Order (Remember them?)

Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns #1 (DC) I went with the Red Lantern-projectile-vomitting-blood-while-Hal-Jordan-drowns-in-a-lake-of-blood cover, rather than the Green Lantern-executes-Sinestro-in-a-GL-branded-electric-chair cover, although it was honestly a pretty tough decision. I just couldn’t decide which was the more hilariously “mature” cover for such a “mature” book that it might as well have been called Green Lantern: Blood Puke.

This thirty-page special is so completely over-the-top when it comes to violence and gore that writer Geoff Johns seems to have embraced his reputation (fair or not) as the guy who tries to write a scene in which someone loses a limb into every story arc.

Sometimes Johns’ tendency toward the ultraviolent is a bad thing, but I think in the context of a space war involving a second-string hero like Hal “The Boring Green Lantern” Jordan that will ultimately sprawl across probably hundreds of dollars worth of books, it works just fine. It’s not like anyone other than the most hardcore DC geeks and Green Lantern fans are going to be even remotely interested in reading this right?

And it is so stupid. Not stupid in a “Why did I even bother spending time and money on this?” kind of way, but in a hilariously stupid kind of way. Johns delivery of goofy, schoolyard concepts—Raindow Lanterns! Fighting!—is totally deadpan; it’s an unembarrassed, even celebratory embrace of the stupid, making the whole thing into a kind of joke that isn’t necessarily funny on its own, but, when told with conviction, is funny precisely because it’s unfunny and yet the teller insists that it is, ironically or not.

That’s Rage of the Red Lanterns in a nutshell there. I giggled my way through at least half of the book.

The main Red Lantern is a pointy-toothed, red-skinned alien with the George Lucas-like name of Atrocitus, of space sector 666. He’s just so damned mad at Sinestro that a red ring and red lantern rise up out of a lake of blood and give him a Red Lantern uniform. He then vomits out all of his blood (the ring replaces his circulatory system, apparently), and he recites an extremely funny oath which rhymes red and dead and hate and fate.

I really can’t get over the blood puking; I’m still grinning about it as I type this. Later on in the story, there’s a whole two-page spread where the Red Lantern Corps all synchronize their blood puking, so you see like a half dozen crazy aliens all vomiting blood straight up into the air. I just wish Johns would have made sure someone lettered “Blaaag!” sound effects into these panels, to make them even more disgusting.

That’s not the only blood in the comic though. Ho ho, far from it!

Apparently, the Red Lanterns can vomit blood that burns like napalm, even in the vacuum of space! And there’s a big three-way Lantern fight between the Green, Yellow and Red Lanterns, in which one GL’s head just cold explodes and another is torn in half, Black Adam-style!

There’s some plot in here too, about how Hal feels about the death penalty, the machinations of the Guardians and the formation of other colored Corps (some big, bald aliens who look like Watchers talk about an Orange Lantern, a Blue Lantern with a ridiculous name shows up in the last panel, etc.).

But mostly it’s just a big, over-sized splash of super-gore and silliness.

The best part? It’s not the Red Lantern oath, or even the part where John Stewart asks Hal Joran if he’s sitting down and John says “No” even though he is (Why are you lying to your partner about whether your sitting down or not, Hal?), but the fact that one of the Red Lanterns is a simple housecat. He has his own little uniform, he has his own little red ring on his tail, and he creeps up on his enemies all cute and purring, and then vomits burning space-napalm blood on them and melts their heads.

I do hope he and G’Nort do battle at some point in the near future.

Now, what does this have to do with Final Crisis? Nothing. Well, it has the words Final Crisis in the title, there’s a note saying it takes place between FC #1 and #2, and a sentence of narration referring to the “deicide” in FC #1, but that’s it.

Superman #681 (DC) While it the DC Universe bears some resemblance to our own world, it is a fantastic, magical world that is quite distinct from what we think of as “the real world.” Not only does it have super-people and aliens and androids all over the place, it also has all kinds of extra cities and countries and, perhaps best of all, George W. Bush was never the president there.

Remember, in 2000 third party candidate Lex Luthor won election on a campaign promise of sharing futuristic technology with America (hence the name of his party, The Tomorrow Party). When he went nuts trying to understand the scripts for Jeph Loeb’s Superman/Batman, his vice president Pete Ross took over.

And then things get a little confusing. I think there was someone named Knight and maybe a robot being president or running for president in that terrible Uncle Sam and The Freedom Fighters series, and then there was someone named Horne as president during Amazons Attack, and now there’s an election going on in DCU Decisions, right?

So what the hell’s George W. Bush doing being president in Superman #681, complaining about how Supergirl destroyed his plane in Amazons Attack? (I guess DCU: Decisions #4 came out today; maybe Bush wins the 2008 election in the DC Universe…?)

That was the main question this issue of Superman, the second chapter of the “New Krypton” storyline which heradls the return of the old triangle numbers and everything, left me pondering. But there were two others:

1). Why is it that Perry White is all smoking a cigar in his newsroom like it’s 1973? Doesn’t Metropolis have anti-smoking ordinances like New York City?

2.) Where is Superman’s penis? If Alex Ross is going to paint Superman flying taint-first at the reader on the cover, shouldn’t we see at least a little bulge in there somewhere?

Trinity #22 (DC) Working for a newspaper in Gotham City must be the most exciting job in the world. Where else would “Cat-People Attack City” be the sub-head and “Crime Wave Swamps Gotham” be the headline?

I was really impressed with this particular issue, as the scale of the story keeps getting bigger and bigger, without anything ever feeling like its disconnecting from the plot.

We see more of Alfred Pennyworth, man of action, flash back to ancient Egypt to hang out with Prince Khufu before he ever became Hawkman, and then flash forward to the new, messed-up version of the present, in which minor characters like Gehenna and Tomorrow Woman get some spotlight.

Ultimate Spider-Man Annual #3 (Marvel) Like the rest of the books in Marvel’s Ultimate line, this bears a “March On Ultimatum” banner along the top of the cover, although I’m fairly certain it doesn’t actually have anything to do with Ultimatum, a sort of Crisis-style crossover masterminded by Loeb. Unless the sex life of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson has something to do with Magneto’s attempt to destroy Earth-Ultimate.

Yes, this is an issue dealing with an issue, particularly the sex life of Peter and MJ. Have you wondered how far they’ve gone beyond making out? What are you, some kind of pervert? Well, Brian Michael Bendis is her to play to your perversions!

Actually, this is a pretty tame exploration of their sex lives, essentially just making it clear that they don’t actually have a sex life (and good for them! They’re fifteen-year-olds after all, and it’s nice to see them being positive role models for any kids who accidentally read this comic; not like those libertines in Teen Titans).

Bendis’ script is actually pretty tame and reserved—there’s no discussion of bases, to use the old baseball analogy, or what exactly constitutes “all the way” (because, kids, you can go awfully far without going “all the way”), and he avoids being too preachy, by not having them go so far as to say they’re waiting for marriage, although marriage does come up in their conversation.

Other than the sex stuff, which Bendis stratches out into a really rather suspenseful story, a good half of this over-sized issue is devoted to the introduction of Ultimate Mysterio.

This being an annual, the art chores are handled by someone other than the monthly art team. The previous two annual were drawn by Mark Brooks, who here provides the cover, while this time David Lafuente does the honors.

Lafuente’s the artist on Patsy Walker: Hellcat, and he’s got some serious chops. He’s actually a perfect Ultimate Spider-Man artist, as he excels at drawing cute teenage girls, cute teenage boys, and big-headed, still-a-kid Spidey (If you haven’t already, click on his name in the previous paragraph to see his blog, including a couple of pages of the annual). I hope Lafuente becomes the new Guy Other Than The Regular Artist Who Draws Ultimate Spidey, and that Marvel finds a regular, high profile gig for him somewhere.

Wolverine: First Class #8 (Marvel) Part two of a story pitting Wolverine versus Soviet super-soldiers like Ursa Major, while Colossus and Kitty team-up to help rescue some crazy-looking mutant with a bunch of faces floating behind its head. It’s pretty standard superhero fare this time around, perhaps in large part because Kitty and Wolvie are separated from one another for most of the issue, but I loved the shonen-like last panel.

This issue includes a one-page advertisement for Age of The Sentry disguised as an ad for “Marvel Fruit Pies,” and a two-page gag strip featuring Kitty and Wolvie by series writer Fred Van Lente and Ms. Colleen Coover. Honestly, every Marvel comic should end with a two-page gag strip drawn by Coover.


John Foley said...

I think Alex Ross has gotten a little gun-shy about showing bulges after the "Citizen Steel's junk" non-controversy. Or maybe DC has just decreed that Supes is not to be depicted with a package because think of the children!
The only thing I really took away from that cover was "jeez, doesn't anybody from Krypton know how to dress themselves?" I guess the current edict is to keep all of the worst design elements from both the 40s comics and Byrne's reboot.

LurkerWithout said...

1. Honestly, every Marvel comic should end with a two-page gag strip drawn by Coover. This is so true that it should be made into law at every level of every government anywhere, for all of time.

2. Scans_Daily has that cat Red Lantern pic up. And the debate seems to be between whether Ruffles (as he's been dubbed) is the stupidest or awesomest thing ever. I'm very much on the side that says both...

Hdefined said...

"Where Is Superman’s Penis?" The Superman event of 2009!

Scott said...

"I guess the current edict is to keep all of the worst design elements from both the 40s comics and Byrne's reboot."

How do you get Alex Ross to paint a post-1986-reboot Kryptonian outfit, anyway? Maybe he only paints the parts he likes?

The penis thing is weird because he's always been so adament about painting a huge Captain Marvel bulge. ...And he talks about how the Big Red Cheese should be larger and more imposing than Superman. Maybe it's because he paints things so realistically, but strange anatomy choices are much creepier in Alex Ross' art compared to a cartoonier style.

Jacob T. Levy said...

I know the readers are supposed to recognize both elements of the Kryptonians' clothes as Kryptonian. But if you were an average DCU resident, would you look up at the group of people flying overhead and instantly know that they were Kryptonians, as apparently everyone did? There are lots of people and aliens who fly in the DCU; and the clothing shouldn't be that recognizable to them, even if one could accurately identify the clothes on people a few hundred feet over your head.

I dislike Superman being portrayed as stupid. I know that we're supposed to think he's blinded by his joy at the Kryptonians/ grief about Pa/ excessive belief in everyone's natural goodness, and so is failing to realize that all these non-Pa-raised Kryptonians yadda yadda, but really, he's being stupid.

He took serious precautions with Supergirl and Christopher Kent and Krypto (are there any animals in Kandor? Bacteria? Bugs? What kind of super-powered infestation are we in for?) but he blows off the heroes' concerns about 100,000 Kryptonians he doesn't know. It adds up to "being stupid."

Patrick C said...

Not only is it strange Perry White is smoking in a newsroom, but he had lung cancer during the 90s! That was when he had Clark fill in as EIC. I guess that bout with cancer was S-punched out though. Good for him.

And come on, let's be happy that Superboy tapped Wonder Girl before he was killed. Good for them!

Chris said...

"Where Is Superman’s Penis?"

And with that, the "Where's Waldo" spinoff book experiment came to a close.

SallyP said...

Oh, I thought that the Rage of the Red Lanterns was good loud stupid fun. LOVE the cat. And the scarred Guardian is definitely up to something.

Trinity really has been pretty darned good

I have to admit that I liked the little two-page gag strip at the back of Wolverine: First Class even better than the main story.

Scott said...

Has Superman ever met a Kryptonian who didn't try to kill a bunch of people at least once? Why would he think 1,000 of them would behave any better than Supergirl did when they suddenly get powers?

Also, shouldn't he know at least a couple of them? I kind of hate the "Godfall" story where 100 years passed in Kandor because Superman didn't pay much attention to it.

Caleb said...

And he talks about how the Big Red Cheese should be larger and more imposing than Superman.

Are we still talking penises, or just in general?

Maybe it's because he paints things so realistically, but strange anatomy choices are much creepier in Alex Ross' art compared to a cartoonier style.

Exactly. Ross is one of too-few superhero comics creators who remembers that there are human (or Kryptonian, whatever) bodies under the costumes, so when he leaves something out, it's noticeable. Especially when the subject of the cover is Superman's bathing suit area anyway.

Are there any animals in Kandor?

Hopefully at least a cat, horse, monkey and maybe a gorilla.

Also, shouldn't he know at least a couple of them? I kind of hate the "Godfall" story where 100 years passed in Kandor because Superman didn't pay much attention to it.

I'm confused by this too. I got the impression reading "Brainiac" that this was the first time Superman encountered Kandor...? But eve in "Godfall" is out (and I didn't really understand much of it anyway), Kandor's been sitting in his Fortress forever, hasn't it?

Trebro said...

I'm just hoping that "Final Crisis" means final time DC will much with some of my favorite characters...

Scott said...

"Are we still talking penises, or just in general?"

Well, I think he means height and weight-wise, but then he goes and paints his favorite hero with a huge bulge in his shorts. Alex Ross is creepy.

PS I've found the scans of the Red Lantern cat. The costume looks very stupid(just a cat with a ring on it's tail would look much better, I think) but all will be forgiven if the cat is killed in a battle with Krypto before next August.

Patrick C said...

That other Kandor was some transdimensional thing that a wizard put together that was filled with a collection of races - not Kryptonians.

I think, that's what it was in the late 90s anyway, something else could have happened since then.

Calvin's Canadian Cave of Cool said...

Hey...if you keep kitties out of the Green Lanterns (they got an eyeball and a planet one but not a kitty one?)you gotta expect that kind of response. Cute and cuddly???? -mummies realized thousands of years ago that "FLUFFY DON'T PLAY". I totally agree that making "Ruffles" a Red Lantern is the greatest thing ever so all you mouse and squirrel lanterns better beware! How about a Streaky the Supercat vs Ruffles the Red Lantern in heat one shot? Don't laugh it can't be any stupider than Final Crisis. And am I the only one who sees this whole Superman/Kandor thing ending really would think Superman never read even ONE of his own comics. Time to put Krytonite in the water system and the kool-aid.