Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Weekly Haul: May 6th

Agents of Atlas #4 (Marvel Comics) I really like the split-time period format this series has settled into, with two different art teams handling the Agents’ 1950s adventures and their modern adventures, which writer Jeff Parker weaves together in a complete narrative.

In the ‘50s, artist Gabriel Hardman wraps up the story of the mysterious skeleton pilot flying a teleporting ghost mig, while in the present, Clayton Henry draws the Agents’ brief skirmish with Captain Buckmerica, apparently an attempt to draw the New Avengers into conflict with them, perhaps as a way of proving the Agents’ bonafides as the evil overlords of a criminal organization they’re pretending to be.

Colorists Jana Shirmer’s work on the modern day sequence is still a bit much for my personal aesthetic tastes, but this remains a fun and highly readable series.

Exiles #2 (Marvel) Oh man, I really don’t know what to make of this book. It is very much a capital-X X-Men comic, with all of the characters parallel world versions of Marvel mutants, on yet another parallel world fighting Magneto and various X-people and evil mutants, and it’s so X-Men-y that every few pages I stop to think to myself, Jesus, Caleb; why are you even reading this thing?

And then I’ll get to a scene where a magnetic mutant makes Forge punch himself in the face with his own metal arm.

I’m really torn over whether to stick with this book or drop it, but I guess I’ll come back next issue and see if it’s either so good I completely overcome my antipathy for Marvel’s merry mutants, or so bad I give it a pass and hope writer Jeff Parker’s next book is more up my alley.

Artist Salva Espin’s work is very crisp and clear, and colorist Anthony Washington eschews that murky, painterly “house style” of coloring that makes me recoil from so many Marvel books these days, so regardless of my interest in the characters or premise, I can’t find any fault with the way the book looks. Dave Bullock’s cover work continues to be pretty nice, despite the dashed-off, pin-up feel of this particular issue’s cover.

Flash: Rebirth #2 (DC Comics) I don’t know if it’s an indication of my own apathy, or writer Geoff Johns’ failure to move too far away from his regular bag of tricks, or simply a matter of having grown desensitized to the idea of Barry Allen’s return over the course of the last year (His return was announced in DC Universe 0, which came out in June of 2008). But, for whatever reason, I’m just not that excited about this series, which strikes even me as odd. I know Barry Allen’s resurrection after being dead for a generation should be a really big deal, and yet I can’t seem to get myself to care about it.

In this second issue, Johns continues to set-up the story, as well as recapping much of this Flash’s origin and background, which has been tweaked to make Barry darker, edgier and more tormented (Apparently, Barry’s mother was murdered and his father went to jail for it and died in prison, although Barry is convinced he was innocent. Maybe he shoulda just used the old Cosmic Treadmill to go back in time and stop the murder…?).

Johns does deserve some credit for trying so hard to differentiate this from all the other resurrection-of-a-dead-character stories we’ve read lately—some of which he himself has written—by ironically making Barry’s return seem like it’s actually a really, really bad thing for him and his loved ones instead of some sort of triumph. And again, I suppose Johns is telling as decent a “Barry Allen comes back from the dead for no reason just because we like him and Flash is selling poorly” story as we’re likely to get, but it just doesn’t seem like enough to me. At least not yet. Maybe Johns will change my mind by the story’s end, and what exactly brought Barry back is made clear, but thus far it reads like the super-comic equivalent of rearranging the furniture in your living room—it’s all the same stuff, it’s just in a slightly different place than it was before you started.

Ethan Van Sciver’s art is as detailed as always, and he gets off some nice speed effects with the help of colorist Alex Sinclair, but there were some surprisingly weak scenes (the sudden reveal of Savitar’s worshipers in what in the establishing shots looks like an empty room, the fact that the caped gorilla seems to be sticking to a sheer wall Spider-Man-style, et cetera).

Human Torch Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1 (Marvel Comics) Hot on the heels of the Captain America and Namor specials comes one featuring the original Human Torch, the android Jim Hammond.

The lead story is written by Scott Snyder and features art by Atomic Robo artist Scott Wegener, and is a solid, 22-page story in which the Torch loses his artificial flesh and then struggles with his humanity and rest of the worlds’ perception of him as something-less-than-human. Thankfully he does so much more quietly than emo androids The Vision and Red Tornado tend to do. Snyder lays it on pretty thick with the torch metaphor and the power boost a flower gives the hero allowing him to save the day, but there’s nothing wrong with a little melodrama in a superhero story. All in all, it’s perfectly serviceable, and Wegener’s art is a nice contrast to all the hyper-real stuff that infects Marvel’s more popular books.

The back-up is a 1940 story from Human Torch Comics #2 which the credit sequence says is by Carl Burgos before confessing it could be from pretty much anyone that worked in the studio. It’s a 19-page mini-epic introducing “Toro, The Flaming Torch Kid.” While I love Golden Age superhero stories for their bright colors, breathless, made-up-as-they-go plotting and often alluringly crude art work, I was especially pleased to read this one, as I had no idea what Toro’s secret origin was. Whoever drew this, there are some really effective images of the flaming child hovering in air, and the Torch himself is a great design, whether the flames on or off.

There’s something about the red, flickering figure and all those little lines on the two torches that seems stranger and more, well, marvelous than more representational efforts to signify a man on fire, as in the lead story, or Alex Ross’ Marvels version of the Human Torch, and on and on.

The League of Extraordinary Gentleman: Century #1 (Top Shelf) I’ve read this twice so far, and I’m still not sure I’m ready to attempt a full review yet. Maybe this weekend at Blog@…?It’s good stuff naturally, and I enjoyed it a lot more than the Black Dossier, but not quite as much as I enjoyed the first two volumes. Still, it’s a new Alan Moore comic, full of art from Kevin O’Neill, so it’s pretty much required reading for comics fans.

Power Girl #1 (DC) I’m fascinated with this book, more so from the perspective of an industry watcher than a DC comics reader and fan (I’ve never been terribly fond of Power Girl as a character, beyond liking the way she irritates Wildcat).

I talked about this a bit in my weekly 'Twas the Night Before Wednesday… column over at Blog@ (in which I try my hardest to metaphorically slap Thacher E. Cleveland in the face by liking different comics than he likes), but I find the fact that DC is releasing an ongoing Power Girl book at the moment pretty perplexing.

Usually DC (and Marvel, for that matter) try to launch ongoings that spin-out of one of their big events, or some artificial “event” in the character’s fictional life, but Power Girl’s been off-the-radar for a while. She played a fairly big role in Infinite Crisis, which finally clarified her origin story once and for all, and had something of a spotlight in last year’s JSoA annual, but lately she’s just been kind of hanging around in the background of JSoA.

Of course, so many of those DC titles launched out of events tend to fail that maybe just launching one for seemingly no reason is an attempt to try something different, even if the book seems somewhat doomed to fail.

The writing team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray have their fans, but they don’t generally turn out hits, and are unlikely to be able to carry a series on name recognition alone (That is, the way Geoff Johns could probably write a Brother Power, The Geek ongoing for DC and keep it above cancellation level, but Palmiotti and Gray—and most writers who aren’t Geoff Johns or a hobbyist like Brad Meltzer—will have trouble clearing 50,000 books). And artist Amanda Conner is extremely talented and beloved by some fans, but probably turns off just as many of DC’s regular readers (One of the more depressing things I’ve seen lately was some Newsarama posters decrying Conner’s art seen in the PG preview as ugly).

Oh, also, on the other hand, DC seems to have really gotten behind this effort, putting a few pages worth of it as a free sample in the back of many of their recent books.

So basically I’m just interested in why DC is publishing this series, how many issues this book will sell and whether it will be able to stave off cancellation and, if so, for how long.

I sort of hope that, if it’s not a Green Lantern level hit series, it at least moves enough issues to stick around for a while, as I would really, really like to see a book drawn by Amanda Conner succeed. Not because I like or even know Conner personally, but because wouldn’t it be great if a DC series with such original, expressive art drawn by someone who seems to have actually seen the real world and real people and real clothing in their lifetime were to became a hit? Wouldn’t it be nice if it caused someone at DC to sit up and take notice that wow, this Tony Daniel, Ed Benes and Less Popular People I Don’t Want To Single Out And Hurt Their Feelings Artists, all these guys who learned to draw from comic books drawn by comic artists who themselves learned to draw from comics books, were actually no damn good at all? (Speaking of no damn good, that last sentence? Totally sucked).

DC Comics—and mainstream super-comics in general—need a hell of a lot more artists like Amanda Conner drawing them.

So what the hell, I’ll give $3 to that particular cause.

I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve always found the Gray/Palmiotti team sort of hit-or-miss, digging one story and hating the next, or liking the first issue of a series but not the next, or appreciating a scene in a book, but shaking my head sadly when I take in the next page.

But there wasn’t really anything bad about this. The first page, four-panel origin story is rather clever, and they manage to get through a whole issue without resorting to any of the usual new series tricks, like Batman and Superman showing up for a cameo, or even involving her JSA teammates in anyway. True, some of the narration is way (way, way, waaayyyyy) too wordy, and they don’t exactly reinvent the genre or anything with this pretty straightforward story dividing superhero punching with secret identity-related conflict building, but it was perfectly readable, easy to understand and made Power Girl work rather well as a solo character, something she’s never really done for long before.

The art, as expected, is quite strong. Beyond the strong character design and the highly emotive expressions, Conner is a great panel-to-panel storyteller.

Check out the last two panels on page ten, as Power Girl casually wrecks a half-dozen robots with a car, and how much action the tiny space between those two panels, or the three-panel sequence on page 12 where the employee tries to check out our heroine’s cleavage and she moves his head with a single finger. That’s just really good cartooning there.

I guess I’ll give Power Girl #2 a shot too…

School Rumble Vol. 12 (Del Rey) I picked up the first volume of Jin Kobayashi’s high school romantic comedy from the library on a whim, and was hooked by the time I was halfway through, racing through the first eleven volumes. This is the twelfth. I love this series. That is all I have to say at this point. Oh, in the last story a giant lesser/red panda escapes from a zoo and fights one of the characters. That seems worth pointing out.

Seaguy: The Slaves of Mickey Eye #2 (DC/Vertigo) Grant Morrison is famous for being a big idea factory of a writer, but I think this issue contains his single greatest idea ever: The thrilling, dangerous sport of bull-dressing. Kind of like bull-fighting, except rather than elegantly dodging a weakened and tormented bull as it charges past, the matador must try to put an item of women’s clothing a hale and hearty bull as it charges past.

Trinity #49 (DC) Krona tears the Earth apart with his bare, gigantic hands, seemingly ending it and killing everyone on it, especially Hawkman and the just-resurrected Tomorrow Woman, who get honest-to-God death scenes in the back half of the book (drawn this week by Mike Norton and John Stanisci). Kurt Busiek and his collaborators have only three more issues to put it all back together.

The Warlord #2 (DC) Hey Warlord, why don’t you just change your name to The Recaplord? This issue is recap-tastic, with a two-page sequence detailing Travis Morgan’s past dealings with the evil Deimos, a four-page summary of past adventures presented as a song sung by a bard, and another page devoted to re-telling a story of this one time Morgan had to fight and kill his own son, who was magically aged from a baby into adulthood.

That’s about a fourth of the book right there.

Sadly, no dinosaurs or monsters of any kind are fought at all, although there is some pretty graphic violence in a two page sequence during which three dudes get their heads chopped off and a fourth has sword shoved into his open mouth and the blade explode out the back (I’m not complaining, mind you; this stuff belongs in a book like this moreso than in Teen Titans or Green Lantern).


Patrick C said...

Wait, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century came out? Did I miss it or did you get a review copy or something??

And I totally forgot Power Girl came out this week. I was planning on flipping through it at the store and making the call on whether to buy but it slipped my mind.

I agree with you about Flash: Rebirth. I can't point out anything specific, but it just left me underwhelmed.

LurkerWithout said...

Ignore the Blog@ haters Caleb. Anyone who thinks you dislike supers books is just..well..monumentally stupid...

Preston said...

Yeah, comic fans are just overly defensive is all.

"Oh no, someone has a different opinion than me about something inconsequential so I must rudely speak up no matter what!"

Siskoid said...

Recaps... I wish DC would get with the program and include an inside cover recap of essential elements like Marvel does now. Either they have no recap which makes context hard to decipher (the wait between issues alone, sometimes...) or it's done old school like this, which eats up pages for nothing. Fine back when comics were 60¢, not so fine now that they're breaking the 4$ barrier.

EDP said...

I thought Power Girl No. 1 story was overwhelmingly OK, and the art was really nice. Like you said, there's some normalcy there, like she can draw people without making them look grotesque. Plus, the, uh, handling of PG's famous chest was cute.

Sea-of-Green said...

Flash: Rebirth, so far, strikes me as something Geoff Johns was TOLD to write, as opposed to something he practically BEGGED to write (like Green Lantern). His enthusiasm for Green Lantern really comes through in that title -- and has infected darn near the entire rest of the DCU. For Barry's return, though, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of love there.

James Figueiredo said...

" I would really, really like to see a book drawn by Amanda Conner succeed. Not because I like or even know Conner personally, but because wouldn’t it be great if a DC series with such original, expressive art drawn by someone who seems to have actually seen the real world and real people and real clothing in their lifetime were to became a hit?"WORD.

Scott said...

"—by ironically making Barry’s return seem like it’s actually a really, really bad thing for him and his loved ones instead of some sort of triumph."

Wasn't this called "The Return of Barry Allen" when it was first published? It can't be really the Reverse Flash in disguise every time, can it?

scott.snyder said...

Hey Caleb - thanks for the kind words regarding the Torch story. Worked hard on it. Stay in touch. Scott

Caleb said...


Yeah LOEG:C did indeed come out this week. I did get a review copy a while back, but I also got the "real" version in the shop this week.

Preston said...

Oh, and I wouldn't worry too much about Exiles being too mutant oriented, afterall solicits indicate that the next world they travel to will be one that's been taken over by robots and cyborgs.

The only factor that may still lean heavily towards the X-Men side is the team, Parker did say new members are a possibility but for now it seems like they're all going to be mutants (except Black Panther but even now it's possible that his mutant power hasn't surfaced yet).

The Philosophy Teacher said...

LOEG 3 is not out. It's not. Caleb says it has, and Hibbs at Savage Critics reviews it as if it had, too. So unless it's been released only in Columbus and San Francisco, there's something funny going on here. Top Shelf lists it as shipping on May 13, if that means anything.

Caleb said...


I think there was a line of dialogue that mentioned his x-gene was active, but if he has a mutant power, I guess we don't know what it is yet.

Philosophy Teacher,

Hmmm, that is weird. Where are you located? I don't know enough about Top Shelf's distribution or the way the Direct Market works to have an answer (paging Leigh Walton...? Is Leigh Walton around...?), but they had copies of it at my shop in the pull-lists and on the shelf. You mentioned Hibbs in San Francisco, and I saw it on Chris Sims' shopping list this week (I think he's in one of the Carolinas, but I forget which).

It was on the diamond shipping list for this week, in the mature readers version but not the not-mature readers version (as there's a naked lady in it)

Hdefined said...

I don't dislike (or feel as disinterested in) Flash Rebirth as much as some people seem to, but I admit it's not all that overwhelmingly interesting.

The biggest problem is that it's different from the tone and framework Johns used when he wrote the ongoing series - and this is a problem because the formula Johns used before was working just fine and didn't need changing.

The Philosophy Teacher said...

Caleb, thanks for being understanding! It's so stupid, but it's driving me nuts. Didn't see it in any of downtown Philadelphia's three comic shops, but then again didn't ask since Christ if I could find it on the Diamond list. There's an adult section? It's beginning to feel like a dream. Does this mean that Infinite Horizon #5 could be on the shelves after all?