Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Weekly Haul: July 15th

All Select Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1 (Marvel Comics) The lead story in this one is probably the worst of the lead stories in any of these issues I’ve read before, in large part due to Marc Guggenheim’s pretty generic “Murder on Another Planet” script (which, despite this being a Golden Age inspired story, does not actually occur on another planet). The hybrid prose way he presents that story (let the record show that I am not a fan of extended bits of prose in my comics) and the confusion of the setting don’t help one bit either.

The majority of the specials in this series have been set in the Golden Age, with the Young Allies special being set in both the Golden Age and the modern Marvel Universe. This one? I don’t know. It has hackers and hard drives, and heroine The Blonde Phantom talks about how old her dress is and how she’s old-but-not-old, but there’s no mention of her being unfrozen from a block of ice or taking the Nick Fury longevity treatment or whatever. What decade it is and why the main character isn’t in her seventies probably isn’t that big a deal, but, when added to the other minor complaints, well, it’s a lot of minor complaints for a single story.

But Javier Pulido draws the story and looks completely gorgeous so who really gives a shit? It would take some awful, awful writing to cancel out the positives that Pulido brings to the table, and while Guggenheim’s script is somewhat sub-par for the 70th Anniversary Special series, it’s not that awful.

That’s followed by a Marvex, The Super Robot story written and illustrated by Michael Kupperman and it is something. Marvex, an indestructible Super Robot, just kind of wanders around, looking for stuff to do. Mostly, he removes his clothing to show women that he can’t go on dates with them, earns $20 bills, and buys more clothes. (Plus, at least one truly bat-shit insane thing happens, but it’s more fun to discover on your own than have me point it out, I think).

I would be quite content reading a Marvex The Super Robot Does Stuff ongoing series by Kupperman.

But wait, there’s more!

Also included are two Golden Age Marvex tales from 1940, one of which Invincible Super-Blogger Chris Sims detailed here. All in all, not a bad way to spend $3.99.


Batman: Streets of Gotham #2 (DC Comics) I don’t think Paul Dini’s done such a crackerjack job of making this new series a good place for someone who wasn’t already reading every Bat-title to jump on to, something that was at least theoretically possible, given the fact that it’s a brand-new Batman series and that its back-up should attract the eyeballs of the tens of thousands of Manhunter readers.

For example, did you know Dr. Thomas “Hush” Elliot, Bruce Wayne’s boyhood best friend who grew up to be an evil plastic surgeon not only gave himself plastic surgery to look like Bruce Wayne and was being held in a high tech prison cell, but that the prison cell was actually in the new Batcave? I didn’t, until a scene where Alfred was like, “Oh snap, I gotta go check on Hush” and then is in Hush’s prison cell in the very next panel.

Dini introduces a somewhat interesting plot twist near the end of the issue, where Elliot calls a press conference and announces on live TV that he was planning to start giving away the Wayne fortune, as Dick Grayson and Damien Wayne/al Ghul look on helplessly (It’s not like they can be all, “You’re not Bruce Wayne! He was destroyed by the Omega Sanction when that evil god took over the world, right before Superman rebuilt the universe or whatever the hell happened in Final Crisis!” without compromising their secret identities, see).

Unfortunately, Dini does get around to that until around page 18 or so. The preceding pages are mainly tired Batman-scripting as action-figure-playing-with, wherein a Batman (who might as well be any Batman) and a Robin (who might as well be any Robin) must save Gotham City from Rogues Gallery Villain #36, who had teamed up with Rogues Gallery Villain #21, who he betrays, but then Rogues Gallery Villain #21 is luckily saved by Rogues Gallery Villain #45.

Dustin Nguyen, Derek Fridolfs and John Kalisz make for a great art team, though.

The back-up is infinitely more interesting, in large part because writer Marc Andreyko gives the characters he’s writing, those he created an those he inherited from other writers, personalities. It’s a generic vigilante-pursues-villain-in-both-identities plot we’ve seen a million times, but hell, it’s presented with some snap. Andreyko doesn’t seem bored by the task, and the results therefore aren’t boring.

Interesting to see Jane Doe, one of the minor villains Dan Slott created to fill out the cast in his 2003 miniseries Arkham Asylum: Living Hell, being treated as a Batman big bad. Slott only wrote a Batman comic for a few months, but in that time managed to create more villains for future creators to play with than many other Bat-writers do in the space of their entire runs.

I think this will be my last issue of Streets of Gotham for the foreseeable future. I’ve certainly read my fill of these sorts of Batman stories by now, and I’m certain the back-ups will eventually go into future Manhunter trades.


Blackest Night #1 (DC) Writer Geoff Johns has two strong ideas in this 40-page first chapter of a story he’s apparently been wanting to tell almost as long as he’s been at DC (threads from his runs on Flash, Hawkman and JSA also come into play, in addition to all of the Green Lantern material).

One of those is unfortunately a really dated idea, while the other a little more evergreen.

The dated idea is, of course, the zombie angle, which is a very 2002 angle to explore in popular fiction of any medium, and marrying it to superhero comics seemed rather inspired when Mark Millar first did it in 2005 or so. Johns narrows it down even further, moving from superhero zombies to Green Lantern zombies, but it still seems like an idea past its expiration date (And the Black Lanterns work just like movie zombies; they kill characters, and then the recently dead get rings and rise again as zombies, adding to their ranks).

The other idea is that “years ago, the day everyone thought Superman died was declared a national day of mourning. Since he returned, it’s become a day to honor the super-beings who gave their lives protecting the world-- --and the innocents [they] failed to save.”

I like these sorts of little world-building touches Johns occasionally works into his comics, and it gives him a great excuse to run down the various burying rituals and cemeteries of the DCU (some of which he created) and check in with whose dead and who’s morning those dead. It’s a pretty natural way of reminding readers who’s where before launching into the jist of the story.

As for the comic book housing those ideas? I don’t know. It’s not bad, provided you like this sort of thing. The sight of a zombie Elongated Man beating Hawkman to death with his own mace, the arm delivering the beating being naturally elongated, isn’t really the sort of thing I read comics to see. This is gross, it’s decadent, it’s laughably “mature” in the more-gore-and-violence-the-more-sophisticated-the-comic-must-be kind of way, and yes, it balances quite well on that razor thin line between “completely retarded” and “totally awesome” that Johns’ monthly Green Lantern has been dancing upon for the last year or two.

But hell, this is Night of the Living Dead in the DCU—by this point in the game, everyone should be fairly well forewarned as to the fact that Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern is for fans of a very particular aesthetic sensibility and/or embrace of his particular worldview of the DCU.

I mean, Black Hand is licking the mud off of Bruce Wayne’s skull on page two (“SLLK”), by the point where one of the Guardians chomps another, tears out his still-beating heart (“KRAAATCHH”) and holds it aloft (“CCHHRFFFFFF”) and eats it, well, it was hard to even get terribly surprised, let alone shocked.

Surprise and shock are both in rather short supply here, the Black Lanterns that are shown rising are all ones we already knew about or expected, and the characters who “die” are ones DC already telegraphed as far back as Final Crisis (apparently, after being killed in the climax of Final Crisis they had to be un-killed in a few lines of dialogue in Justice League of America so they could be re-killed here).

What I did find in lieu of surprise and shock, however, was satisfaction, and it was satisfying to see Johns bringing closure to certain conflicts he generated years ago or when it became apparent why attention was focused on this or that in other comics before.

That may all seem like faint praise but, hell, how else are you gonna praise this thing, really? I didn’t feel like I had just been mugged, like when I finished an issue of Secret Invasion, nor did I feel disappointed, like I did when I finished the first issue of Final Crisis. So…a success?


Marvel Adventures Avengers #38 (Marvel) Well, Paul Tobin loses some points right off the bat for having a character named “Caleb” in this story, and making him a pigtail-pulling, peer-pushing around little brat. If you must include characters named Caleb in your comics, then they should probably be handsome, heroic comics bloggers.

Okay, so anyway, this is another issue of Paul Tobin’s MA Avengers, so you already know it’s going to be pretty great, right? All that really matters is what the plot is, so you can determine if it’s as great as past issues, and who the artist is, and how great they might be.

Well, the plot is that a class of third-graders won an essay contest and the prize was getting to hang out with the five of The Avengers for the day. The Mandarin decides this is the perfect time to attack the Avengers with his power-sucking Cyclone robot. Hilarity ensues.

The art is by Jacopo Camagni. I really want to say this is the best looking art I’ve seen in an issue of Tobin’s run on MAA, except I think I might have said that before. Maybe Camagni also drew the issues I said that about before? I don’t know. I suppose I could look it up, but that sounds like an awful lot of work to go to just to say that this is another fun, funny issue of my favorite Avengers comic. (And since there are currently about eight Avengers comics, that’s saying something!)


Rasl #5 (Cartoon Books) I may have said this four times already, but I half-wish I would have waited to read this in trade, as I tend to forget elements of the plot between issues, only to be reminded of them while reading the new issue. But then, I love the fact that Smith is publishing this as a comic book at all that I don’t want to not read it in comic book form.

Basically I’m saying it’s a big story, with a lot of moving parts, and I don’t feel I’m going to do this chapter much justice in a few hurried paragraphs.

The art is still great, I still love the tactile experience of reading it (the way it looks, smells, feels), Smith is still introducing outrĂ© ideas that make me think the story is still getting bigger and weirder than it’s dimension-hopping art-thief first issue implied, and I still haven’t quite gotten used to the ideas of Jeff Smith drawings smoking cigarettes and doing it while talking n Jeff Smith-lettered dialogue bubbles.


Wednesday Comics #2 (DC) I was curious if the novelty of this…project would ever wear off and, if so, at what point. I’m still wondering, as it hasn’t worn off seven days later. My intense curiosity about the format was sated last week, and my excitement and awe over it has waned, but my affection for it hasn’t.

Not yet anyway.

So…how to talk about this…maybe a sentence on each? That’s fifteen sentences. That sounds do-able.

Batman answered my question regarding how the strips would reference the previous ones, tackling the problem of keeping the reader up-to-date; apparently by not repeating panels or story points, but working that information organically into the story. Wednesday Comics trusts its readers a lot more than most newspaper serial drama/adventure strips trust their readers. (Okay, that’s two sentences, shut up!)

I’m not a fan of the sort of hybrid storytelling seen in Kamandi (see my complaining about it a few reviews up), but goddam can Ryan Sook sell a Jack Kirby-as-Prince Valiant strip.

So Superman and Batman are dating right?

Deadman remains awesome. Green Lantern? I like the art, but hate the coloring…particularly around the character faces.

Man, fuck Neil Gaiman for teasing me with the existence of a comic book starring “Metamorpho’s Canine Pal, Element Dog.”

The second installment of Teen Titans includes backgrounds this time out, as well as “older Titans” Nightwing, Starfire and Cyborg. What is this feature even doing here?

When they collect Paul Pope’s excellent Strange Adventures strip, I sure hope they"He has the strength of ten Paladors” as a cover blurb.

In Supergirl, Krypto chases the mailman. Well, the U.S. Postal Service.

Dan DiDio’s script for Metal Men is cheesy, but in an acceptably old school sort of way, with each character making a pun about their powers in the space of two panels.

Ben Caldwell’s Dr. Poison is a wonderful design; give this man another Wonder Woman project in a normal comics format when this thing is all done, guys!

That Nazi in Sgt. Rock holds his cigarette the way a very evil or very effete man might.

In this week’s Flash Comics, Iris West walks in on Barry doing something you never want your loved on to walk in on you doing.

My thoughts while reading The Demon/Catwoman were two: “Damn, these are nice drawings” and “Nooooooooooooooo! He’s not rhyming!”

Kyle Baker’s Hawkman is fucking fantastic; having the winged hero fight sky-crimes is so simple and yet still seems inspired. In the last panel, he tells the remaining terrorists on the hijacked plane, “Your companions are dead. The rest of you will envy them before I’m done with you.” And then there’s a little blurb saying “Next Week: Mile High Clubbing!” Apparently, Hawkman is going to have violent, violent sex with the terrorists next week? Now that’s a cliffhanger!

18 comments:

continuityblog said...

LOL I called it when I read the end of Blackest Night #1 that you would complain about the violence. I got to give you props for not mentioning the children this time. I think you are an amazing blogger (a thousand times better then I am) but one thing that annoys me is when you write as if this violence is horrible because children are reading it when in fact children are not supposed to be reading DC Universe books. The DC Universe books are geared towards teens and adults and have been for a long time.

As for Streets of Gotham, I disagree that Dini's issue was not written for new readers. I think it was very easily understood and not everything has to be explained with the internet these days. (Although I have to admit I have been reading the Batbooks and even I thought the Hush cell in the batcave came out of left field)

LurkerWithout said...

That can be Carter Hall's new battle-cry. "Surrender evil doers or its sloppy, angry make-outs time!"

Sea-of-Green said...

The zombie Lantern idea is actually older than that! It goes all the way back to 1982, to a "Tales of the Green Lantern Corps" three-parter. I'm half expecting the villain from that story, Nekron, to be behind the whole Blackest Night kerfuffle. I certainly wouldn't put it past Geoff Johns.

Patrick C said...

I don't know. If someone TOLD me that zombie Elongated Man with his arm (very creepily) wrapped around zombie Sue, beating Hawkman to death with a fully extended arm and mace, and then tearing out Hawkman's heart... yeah I would have said no way.

But it worked for me! That part really creeped me out, and was the part that I had to go back and flip through a few times. Intense.

John Foley said...

I realize that there are a lot of civil liberties issues when you're talking about vigilante justice, but even so I was pretty weirded-out to see Tommy Elliot just chilling out in a Batcave prison cell. There's something really wrong with that.

Caleb said...

...but one thing that annoys me is when you write as if this violence is horrible because children are reading it when in fact children are not supposed to be reading DC Universe books. The DC Universe books are geared towards teens and adults and have been for a long time.

I suppose I should probably do a full post at this at some point, as I usually just talk about violence in DCU and Marvel Universe comics in passing.

I know DCU books are currently written for teens and adults, but I don't think they should be. Ideally, DCU books would all be all-ages. (It makes more business sense to tell stories for kids and adults, not for adults at the expense of children).

These characters were created as children's characters, and while that doesn't mean they can't appear in more sophisticated stories, adding violence and gore alone doesn't made a story more sophisticated or adult, it just makes it more violent and gory.

I am genuinely confused by the way DC treats adult content in their line. I don't necessarily like Marvel's ratings system, but I don't see why DC can't add a mature readers tag to books like GL if they're really meant for mature readers.

It's just...weird that Vertigo bears mature reader warnings for swearing, while books starring Justice League characters have limbs being torn off and sex crimes and necrophilia and gorilla-sex and what not.

I don't think this sort of stuff belongs in a Green Lantern comic, but for the most part, it works in this context. Johns and his collaborators could learn to suggest more and show less; not necessarily to make the books less gory, but to make the stories better.


I think it was very easily understood and not everything has to be explained with the internet these days.

Again, I know that is the case, but I don't think it should be. If you need to research a comic book just to understand it, then it's not a very good comic book, in my opinion.

That part really creeped me out, and was the part that I had to go back and flip through a few times. Intense.

I did like the way Reis drew his fingers when they showed a close up of the mace, and E.M.'s fingers were kinda wrapped around it like tentacles.

Greg said...

The Blonde Phantom, as far as I can remember, is still somewhat older than most, but she hasn't aged because she's in a comic book. When John Byrne did She-Hulk, he had her get into the comic as a way to arrest her aging. I have no idea if that's still the status quo, but that's a great short run of comics, so I remember it. I'm surprised too that Guggenheim didn't try to explain it, because it was a bit strange. She does look a bit older in this issue than I would expect, so maybe that issue is where Guggenheim was getting his information.

Hdefined said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Caleb said...

"H-defined",

Yeah, I enabled comment moderation Wednesday night because I didn't want to watch my comments section all night just to delete dumb comments you were making (I corrected the typo you pointed out, so thanks, but the other comment didn't make sense, and was just you being a jerk for being-a-jerk's sake.)

I'm not tech-savvy enough to know how to ban a single user or to get into tracking down IP addresses or whatever, and I didn't really want to limit the blog to members or whatever simply because I have one faithful reader who likes to pick fights.

As to ignoring your comments lately, I thought maybe that might be a good way to get you to go away. Guess not...?

Regarding Turner, doesn't your sentence address that? I didn't like the guy's cover art, so when I was writing about covers and saw his art, I talked about how I didn't like it. That's what I do here--talk about comics-related stuff I like and don't like. Obviously I haven't been seeing much new cover art from Turner, so there hasn't been occasion to discuss his work, now has there?

As for pathetic and spineless, well I am signing my name to my work here, aren't I? I at least have enough spine to admit my own identity in public.

As for conflict-free blogging, is there supposed to be a bunch of conflict in comics blogging? Because I certainly don't do this to get in fights. Particularly not with anonymous strangers.

Bottom line, if you don't like the blog, don't read it. If you have strong beliefs about the way you think this blog should be run, um, just start your own blog and do it yourself. I'd recommend blogger. It's free and easy to use.

continuityblog said...

I know DCU books are currently written for teens and adults, but I don't think they should be. Ideally, DCU books would all be all-ages. (It makes more business sense to tell stories for kids and adults, not for adults at the expense of children).

I see what you are saying but I think you are wrong here with the expense of the children thing. They have Johnny DC so they got that demographic covered. I personally wouldn't want to read an all-ages DC Universe because it limits the amounts of stories you can tell. Maybe that is just my personal taste but I think it is a valid problem with all-ages stories. I want to read a story (i.e. Identity Crisis) that deals with adult issues and I don't think those stories could be done in all-ages DCU. I think they have it covered with Johnny DC and they shouldn't alter anything about the mainstream DCU just so children can read it.

One thing that annoys me is when people suggest comics will die out if they don't appeal to children. The fact of the matter is that adults can gain hobbies too.

I do agree that DC should slap a Teens and Up sticker on it so people are not confused like Marvel does.

Again, I know that is the case, but I don't think it should be. If you need to research a comic book just to understand it, then it's not a very good comic book, in my opinion.

Once again I completely disagree although I think it's a generational thing or a matter of personal taste. I think sometimes research is the fun part of it. I knew the history of the DC Universe when I was 13 before I ever picked up a comic that wasn't a bat comic. I think that's great and fun to have that knowledge and have it accessible online.

Look at great literature with all of it's symbolism and so forth; I mean you need to take classes on some books to truly appreciate them. Would you say those are bad books because of this?

John Foley said...

Ohhh, I wish I knew what you guys were fighting about.

Caleb said...

Ohhh, I wish I knew what you guys were fighting about.

Eh, nothing exciting. "Hdefined" made two comments on Wednesday night; the first, like his Michael Turner question above, was just a sarcastic complaint that answered itself, which I could either ignore like usual or delete. I thought I'd try deleting it this time.

The second was an addendum to the first which corrected a typo (I used "feint" instead of "faint"), but because of the phrasing if I just deleted the first, his words woulda looked weird, as it was an addendum.

Anyway, I put moderation on so I wouldn't then get a bunch of "Why didn't you post my comments, you sir are a passive aggressive coward" type comments while I slept.

Sorry for the inconvenience; it's temporary.


Continuityblog, I hear ya, and I'll be back to respond this evening. I gotta get to the day job at the moment.

John Foley said...

I guess that guy deleted his post. Too bad. It's always funny when people get overly worked-up and unpleasant over comic books.

Caleb said...

They have Johnny DC so they got that demographic covered. I personally wouldn't want to read an all-ages DC Universe because it limits the amounts of stories you can tell. Maybe that is just my personal taste but I think it is a valid problem with all-ages stories.

I don't think the Johnny DC titles do a very good job in terms of appealing to all-ages. I love Tiny Titans, sometimes love Brave and The Bold and the Captain Marvel book, but really don't care for Super Friends most months. Also, I'm a grown-up; if I were 10, 12 or 17, I don't know that I would care for those books at all.

Marvel does a much better job with their Marvel Adventures books, which actually are all-ages (Johnny DC seems to be more kids books that adults can enjoy rather than all-ages, with the exception of Tiny Titans).

When I say "all-ages" I don't mean "for kids." I mean a book that can be read and enjoyed by all ages. The greater DC Universe has been all-ages for, I don't know, 1939-2001 or so, hasn't it? (I should probably note that I do think certain corners of the DCU have always been darker and more mature than others; I think writers can and should be able to get away with a lot more in a Batman book than a Superman or Flash one, for example).

I do agree that DC should slap a Teens and Up sticker on it so people are not confused like Marvel does.

Yeah, manga does something similar. Me, I wouldn't mind a tiny little "mature readers" on the covers of books like Identity Crisis, Blackest Night, Meltzer's JLoA and so on. If DC wants to do mature readers superheroes, that's cool, just let us know what you're doing and then really go for it. I think it's silly that we can see Hawkman getting his head pulped, but we can't see Hawkgirl topless or saying the f-word simply because this she's in a DCU comic instead of a Vertigo one.

Look at great literature with all of it's symbolism and so forth; I mean you need to take classes on some books to truly appreciate them. Would you say those are bad books because of this?

Oh, I agree it can be fun to look stuff up, but I don't think it should be mandatory. Any great work of literature may have tons of deep symbolism and allusions and context that you can better appreciate if you take a class on it in college, but they also work perfectly well if you only get the surface level. ("Batman R.I.P." is a good example; it wasn't necessary to have read all those Silver Age stories to process the one Morrison was doing, but it adds a little something if you have).

I think Johns actually did a great job of this in Blackest Night. He was referencing stuff at least as far back as Cosmic Odyssey, if not farther, but he explained the salient bits and how they'd relate to the story. In Streets of Gotham, I felt like I was missing pages.

Derek said...

You're filtering out H-defined's comments? Thank goodness.

I normally love the disagreements and discussion blog comments provide, but H-defined never had a positive thing to contribute. I don't know what that guy's problem was.

"(And the Black Lanterns work just like movie zombies; they kill characters, and then the recently dead get rings and rise again as zombies, adding to their ranks)"

Really? When?

I was expecting this to happen this whole issue, but I never noticed it. Who came back after being killed by a Black Lantern?

Caleb said...

Really? When?

I was expecting this to happen this whole issue, but I never noticed it. Who came back after being killed by a Black Lantern?


Oh, I guess they didn't come back yet, but they were in the process of coming back.

In the last panel (er, SPOILER ALERT, I guess), the Black Lantern ring font says the Hawks' names and then says "Rise." So I assume the Hawks are gonna be Black Lanterns next time we see 'em.

I didn't notice until just now when I double checked, but two Black Lantern rings spill out of the skull in Black Hand's hand in that panel. I guess the skull--Batman's?--is like a Black Lantern ring dispenser now? Neat.

snell said...

I guess the skull--Batman's?--is like a Black Lantern ring dispenser now?

Great. Now you've given DC merchandising a new idea--a $99 Batman-skull-Black-Lantern-ring-dispenser bust...

Jacob T. Levy said...

I have two beefs with the age-appropriateness thing, which overlap with but aren't the same as Caleb's.

1) We were promised a post-Infinite Crisis DCU that was more heroic, less grim and awful. We haven't seen such a thing. It's odd that we've still got Grim & Gritty as the semi-official name of an era of comic books in which the violence was *much less* than that in current books-- and one that the industry is supposed to be proud of itself for having outgrown.

2) *If* the DCU is going to be de facto for teens and above, then the wall of separation between the DCU and Vertigo lacks any justification at all. The wall went up in the 1990s because it would be terrible for the kiddies to se John Constantine in Superman and get interested in following his adventures over in Hellblazer. Even then it didn't make any sense-- Demon and Spectre and Hitman were a whole lot more "mature content" than Books of Magic. But now, we've got these characters that nobody can use-- Swamp Thin, Tim Hunter-- because Vertigo is out of ideas for them but won't release them into DCU custody.

(It sure seems like the Matt Wagner Madame Xanadu book has obliterated the wall-- but I haven't heard of any official change of policy, and the answer about Swamp Thing in the DCU still always seems to be "we can't have him unless Karen Berger gives us permission.")