Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Weekly Haul: July 1st

Agents of Atlas #7 (Marvel Comics) Damn it Jeff Parker, why you gotta be so damn consistent every month? You make it hard to review your comics! This issue is pretty much the same in quality and subject matter as AoA #6, which I liked an awful lot. This one does feature a dragon fighting a genie, which is pretty cool, and almost makes up for Parker’s decision to use Namor in a comic and have him neither a) Punch anyone (with the exception of a huge shark in a flashback) nor b) Be a real prick to anyone. I know there was punching and prick-being in the previous half of this particular story, but that was last issue.

Batman and Robin #2 (DC Comics) You know what I don’t encounter nearly often enough? A perfect superhero comic book. That’s what this was. A new Batman, a new Robin, new interpersonal conflicts, colorful new villains and it all worked perfectly. After reading this particular issue, I have a hard time imagining how this book is going to work without artist Frank Quitely using his visual skills to interpret the action an emotional content of Grant Morrison’s scripts.

Justice League: Cry For Justice #1 (DC) I made a joke about the title of this miniseries in the weekly poorly-drawn cartoon I do at the top of my weekly column about new releases over at Blog@, specifically regarding whether the “cry” meant crying as in weeping, or crying as in shouting.

As it turns out, both!

There’s some actual crying-crying, when Congorilla cries over the bodies of the score of dead mountain gorillas he lived with, because really, what other motivation does a giant golden gorilla have for being a superhero other than the slaughter of his loved ones? (Please go see Douglas Wolk now).

He eventually pulls it together enough to shout, “I WANT JUSTICE!” in a big red scream-y font. He’s not the only one to similarly yell for justice. Alien Starman Mikaal Tomas “cries out in his native tongue” words that don’t translate directly into any human language, “But their meaning does--Justice!” Also shouting “Justice!” out loud rather nonsensically is Ray “The Atom II” Palmer, in the aftermath of a bar fight. Cool fan fetish object Hal Jordan doesn’t cry, weep, shout or yell for Justice, but he does want it, and he says so. “You want a League,” he tells his old teammates before floating off the JLA Satellite in a green bubble, “I want justice.”

So there you have it. The “cry” has a double meaning—characters weeping and yelling for justice—and even the “for justice” bit is meant to be taken literally, as they are actually shouting for it by name.


It’s a fairly stupid comic book, but it’s not necessarily poorly written at all, and Mauro Cascioli’s fully-painted artwork is fairly accomplished, although I think it’s presence ultimately damages the work, as superhero comics readers have been trained to think painted = important, and the painted artwork here is merely in service of a straightforward, unremarkable super-team comic, then not only will readers be let down, but they’ll be let down rather far. In other words, I think fully-painted art raises readers’ expectations, which increases the likelihood for disappointment.

Now, I say it’s a fairly stupid comic book (and if you’re someone following the DC Universe as a whole from any sort of distance, probably a pretty frustrating one, as this is set before big events like Flash: Rebirth, the march toward Blackest Night, the goings on of the Superman books, and the last few months worth of the Justice League of America title it spins out of, and I’m not entirely sure how well it links up to those other stories/events). But James Robinson has written a very particular sort of “fairly stupid,” a Geoff Johns-like sort of fairly stupid, the kind where sections of my brain, the critical sections, light up at the ham-handedness of it all, while other sections of my brain, the sections that like things that are bad-good or good-bad, light up with a sort of appreciation.

If it’s a bad comic, it’s a gleefully bad one, the sort that is extremely entertaining. It's a superhero comic book as professionally made B-Movie.

So, here’s the plot: Silver Age Green Lantern Hal Jordan had had it with all this heavy-on-the-“League”-and-“Society,” light-on-the-"Justice” stuff in the group (Which he, um, founded), and so he acts a bit like a petulant teenager for six-pages, whining to Superman, Wonder Woman, the Meltzer line-up and a few random characters I was surprised to see in the background (Plastic Man, Huntress) about wanting the League to be more pro-active. He really wants to get Libra and make him pay for his crimes during Final Crisis, particularly killing J'onn J'onnz and Batman.

Everyone thinks Hal is being a baby, and Superman is probably quietly scanning him for signs of possession by the Parallax bug (the last time Hal got like this, he did destroy the universe). Everyone except Oliver “Green Arrow” Queen who, when Hal asks if he’s against him, replies with—and this is actual dialogue from the actual book—“No, Baby. I’m with you. You and me. Old times, new times, all the time.”

Hearing that, Hal forms a green bubble and says, “This is right!” and the two float off to make out (off-panel, of course).

Meanwhile, in New Mexico, Palmer and Ryan “The Atom III” Choi beat up some guys in a bar while narrating about each-other in color-coded narration boxes, and then Palmer tortures Killer Moth to get a name out of him.

The name is "Prometheus," and Palmer non-sequiturs into saying, “Yeah…Justice!

In Opal City, Mikaal “Starman II or III” Tomas sees the body of a person I think was his boyfriend, and then blows up a car and shouts about justice.

And in the Congo, Congorilla mourns the loss of his clan of gorillas, some torn completely in half, and then the death of his friend, who is probably the most popular hero in DC’s Africa. And then he screams about justice.

The end!

That, by the way, only takes 22 pages, and yet this comic book costs $3.99. What gives? Well, in an extremely Marvel-like move, DC upped the price of the book a $1 and, in exchange, give readers a bunch of space-filling back matter. Not cool, DC!

That back matter includes two more pages of comics, a Congorilla origin re-cap story like those that ran in the back of 52 and Countdown, only minus an inspired artist’s involvement (It’s written by Len Wein and penciled by Adrian Syaf).

The rest of that material consists of six pages of heavily illustrated, space-wasting prose from Robinson, announcing that he’d be taking over JLoA, explaining how excited he is to be working on the project, how much he enjoys working with Cascioli, how much he admires Len Wein and then a bit about the history of Congo Bill/Congorilla.

I don’t mind this sort of thing in the back of a trade paperback, or even in the back of a comic book, provided it’s free, but DC jacked the price of this book up a whole dollar and only gave us two pages worth of comics in return, which is exactly what Marvel’s been doing for a while now. I thought DC’s strategy was to use back-ups to justify the higher price point, thus looking like the less evil of the two Big Two?

At any rate, it would have been nice if the book matched the solicitation, which promises 40 pages. For their 22-page comics, the solicits usually say 32 pages, but ten of those are ads. Even if you subtract the ten pages for ads from the solicit for this book, you’re still at 30 pages, not 24, which is what the book is.

Kinda hard to not feel cheated in such circumstances.

I would hope this was simply for the first issue, and I can’t actually tell by looking at the solicits for the next two issues. August’s #2 is billed as 32 pages for $2.99, while September’s #3 is back up to 40 pages for $3.99…?

Secret Six #11 (DC) I generally really enjoy this title, but this particularly cover by Daniel Luuisi had me considering whether I even wanted to buy it for the first time. Do I really want to pay for a book that has a chained, soaking yet, bloodied woman in a skull-shaped bathing suit on the cover? Do I want that stupid thing in my apartment? I caved and bought it anyway.

USA Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1 (Marvel) Hey, it’s another one of these things! This one features The Destroyer, a Golden Age hero with a sweet costume consisting of striped pants, a blue face mask, a skull symbol and a schtick that involves destruction.

The lead, Golden Age-set story is written by John Arcudi and drawn by Steve Ellis, and it’s a fast-moving, nicely-drawn story about a good German struggling between with whether he should continue to be a good German or a “Good German.” Destroyer helps him make up his mind—after destroying a couple of trains and killing a mess of Nazis. Also, it’s the sobering secret origin of Destroyer’s pants.

The back-up story is a Stan Lee-written gem from 1942’s All Winners #3. It’s pretty cool, even though Destroyer never actually fights this awesome-looking dragon depicted on the title page:
(Rather, he fights a Nazi agent known as Doctor Dragon or, in German, “Herr Doktor Dragon,” so I guess that’s a symbolic monster there).

It’s a typically breathless catalog of events that run right up until Lee and the unknown artist/s run out of space.

Destroyer is going about the destruction of some trains when he learns the Nazis are building an underground tunnel to attack England, so then he beats up a bunch of Nazis (including punching two out by sticking his fist out the passenger-side window of a speeding truck he’s driving and SSPLAT!-ing them as he passes), goes home to shave, is attacked by more Nazis that he then beats up, then he attacks an airplane factory and steals a plane and flies to England to warn them of the attack plan, gets captured by the British, learns his girlfriend is being held hostage by the Nazis, escapes, swims to Germany, rescues his girlfriend from a concentration camp, blows up the tunnel, takes Dragon prisoner, steals a Nazi plane, and flies back to England. Whew!

And that’s all in just twelve pages, including a full-page title splash page, and a two-page splash of the tunnel detonating.

Wolverine First Class #16 (Marvel) I took this title off my pull-list a few months ago, but I couldn’t not buy this one off the rack after seeing that Dazzler vs. Wolverine cover and getting a few glances at Gurihiru’s interior artwork. The latter is heavily manga-influenced, and yet it’s refreshingly flat, sharply drawn, somewhat airy and wonderfully arranged. It’s great stuff, and I could look at it all day. I wish more of Marvel’s books looked as good as this particular issue did.

Peter David’s script is amusing, although he does try a little too hard here and there. Disco artist Dazzler, in her original, mirror ball medallion look, is scheduled to perform at “The Mega Bowl” (is the term “Super Bowl” copyrighted or something? Do I owe someone money for just typing it?) half-time show, but someone has recently threatened her life. Professor X assigns Wolvie, Kitty and Siryn to serve as her super-powered bodyguards, and amusement ensues.

Did you know that in the Marvel Universe disco music remained popular much, much, much longer than it did in our universe? Or was camcorder technology developed much, much, much earlier in the Marvel Universe than it was in ours? One, as seventies style, pre-death disco and a twenty-first century looking camcorder co-exist in this story.


Kid Kyoto said...

"The Mega Bowl” (is the term “Super Bowl” copyrighted or something? Do I owe someone money for just typing it?) "

Superbowl is trademarked, so just like a comic can't use McDonald's or Coke without their permission they can't show the Superbowl or Olympics.

Now if they were commenting about these, if for example I did a comic about Jessie Owens or about Phil Parsels I probably could show the Superbowl or Olympics but for a fictional story it can lead to legal problems so most companies just side-step the issue.

Patrick C said...

Phil Parsels? Jesus. BILL PARCELLS!

Sorry, I hate when people correct other commenters (commentators?) but I couldn't let that one pass. Unless Phil Parsels is some obscure NFL player that I never heard of, in which case I apologize to Kid Kyoto.

Anyway, I really liked Cry for Justice, but where it fits into the big story hurts my head. It must take place fairly currently, as Freedom Beast was shown alive in a recent issue of Superman, unless of course he didn't really die in Cry for Justice.

And I hate the charging of the extra dollar, but I love reading James Robinson's writing, so I was perfectly fine with the added text pages. As SallyP wrote in her blog, I could probably read Robinson's grocery list and enjoy it.

Hdefined said...

"Silver Age Green Lantern Hal Jordan."

It doesn't feature Modern Age Green Lantern Hal Jordan? They use the '60s version instead?

Wild Goose said...

Yeah, Super Bowl is trademarked. You'll often hear TV and radio stations that don't have a license for the Super Bowl refer to it as "the big game."

Also, Red White & Boom is trademarked. Local TV stations that are not WCMH have to refer to the event as "the downtown fireworks."

It can be pretty funny sometimes to hear people in the media try to dance around trademarked names.

Phillyradiogeek said...

I was curious to hear your take on Captain America Reborn. I guess you didn't pick it up?

caleb said...

Oh man, now they'll never set an issue of Wolverine: First Class in Columbus' downtown Red, White and Boom fourth of July celebration...


Freedom Beast's wound looked like it was on the right half of his torso, so maybe he'll pull through. If so, no thanks to Congorilla, who just ran off.

I didn't think about it too much since I haven't been reading JLoA and just assuming this story took place on the heels of Final Crisis, but if Mon-El met Freedom Beast and Congorilla after Superman left Earth (and the League), then Freedom Beast couldn't have died in this issue, in which Superman had yet to leave, and sounded like he was all committed to the League...



No, I did not read it. I flipped through it. I've never been a Cap fan or regular reader, so when I started hearing everyone say how awesome Brubaker's run was, I started reading it in trade. So far, I'm only up to..."Red Menace." So yeah, it will be a long, long, long, long time before I catch up.

Shana Jean said...

I enjoyed Cry for Justice despite the... well... mediocrity or the storytelling. And I didn't really mind that they charged more for the end pages, but that's mostly because the end pages was the part I most enjoyed. That probably does not bode well for the comic, though.