Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Weekly Haul: September 16

Agents of Atlas #11 (Marvel Comics) Girl in a bikini on page one, gorilla with a machine gun on page four, gorilla piloting an airplane on page 5, flying convertible versus a killer robot on page 10, dragon warfare on page 16, Atlanteans riding giant crabs on page 17, flying saucer on page 19, and a killer robot programmed with Muhammad Ali’s smack-talking abilities punching the head off a second killer robot on page 20 and shouting “DESTROY” with four exclamation points.

Why isn’t anyone reading this title, exactly?

It looks like this is the last issue of the series for the time being, and it’s kind of hard to believe it lasted only 11 issues. It seems that it’s only semi-canceled though, the way Runaways tends to get canceled. Word on the street—well, on the Internet—is that it’s going to become a back-up in Incredible Hercules for a while (which is a-okay in my book, since I’m reading it anyway, and I imagine if you like Inc Herc you’re going to dig AoA), and will be replaced on the shelves by an X-Men vs. Agents of Atlas miniseries, the first issue of which prominently features Wolverine on the cover.

I’m not sure if that’s really going to bring many new readers to the Agents, as they already had the more popular New Avengers guest-star and still only made it 11 issues, but here’s hoping.


Batman and Robin #4 (DC Comics) Just three issues in, and the quality of this title does falling down the stairs. The art team of Philip Tan and Jonathan Glapion replace Frank Quitely, and they just aren’t very good, as is made double apparent by the fact that Quitely drew the cover for this issue—just flip the cover and the visuals devolve into amateur hour.

Look at that page. (Actually, you can look at the first third of the book without even buying it, by downloading the preview from DC's site). Are they on a rooftop? In a club? A club on a rooftop? A club high in a sky scraper with a huge window? Who the fuck knows? Tan's still wrestling with perspective apparently, based on how that second panel turned out.

I was expecting the drop in quality though, and I’m glad to report that it’s not that bad. It’s not good work, it’s certainly the worst work on any of the comics I’ve read this week (and you’d think one of DC’s best-selling comics penned by one of the company’s best-selling writers would have better art than Brave and The Bold, wouldn’t you?), but it usually didn’t take too long to figure out what was supposed to be happening in the panels, and the mis en scene wasn’t as messy as it was during Tony Daniel’s partnership with Morrison (although as with those issues, I found myself in a constant state of reimagining each panel the way it might look if it were drawn better).

In this issue, the new Batman and Robin face-off against darker, more dangerous versions of themselves in the form of vigilantes The Red Hood and Scarlet. It’s refreshing to see Morrison use the old villain-kills-super-characters-to-show-how-bad-ass he is technique, but goes to the trouble of inventing his own super-characters first, so he’s not subtracting anything from the universe that he didn’t at least add first.

(Confidential to Commissioner Gordon: Dick Grayson isn’t the ward of Bruce Wayne anymore; Wayne adopted Grayson a couple of years ago).


Beasts of Burden #1 (Dark Horse Comics) I’ll have a full review of this over at Blog@ over the weekend (although it’s a new comic by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson, so it’s not like you need me to to tell you that’s well worth reading), but I’m including a sentence on it here anyway since I did haul it home during my weekly trip to the comics shop.


Blackest Night #3 (DC) The Black Lantern Justice League attacks Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Flash Barry Allen and Ray “The Atom” Palmer, the “Indigo Tribe” of Indigo Lanterns appear and exposit the hell out of a two-page, turn-it-sideways-like-a-centerfold spread, and Geoff Johns seems to tip his hand about where this is all going super-hard (Not that there’s a whole lot of suspense about what will happen at the end of this series). Oh, and a supporting character gets killed, and this character is so minor that chances are he or she won’t be coming back at the end of this the way I imagine most of those killed in the series will (he or she isn’t immediately resurrected as a Black Lantern, for example).

If you liked the first two issues, you’ll like this one. If you didn’t, then I wouldn’t bother with this issue if I were you—the title has been rock-solid in its consistency so far.

I wanted to note a couple of things though. The first page is devoted to the component characters who make up the new Firestorm II, as they have a talk about their relationship. It’s kind of cheesy and melodramatic, but not necessarily in a bad way.

Now, I didn’t read any of Firestorm II’s short-lived title while it was still around, because I never cared about Firestorm I, so it’s not like Firestorm II was likely to entice me (I did read that last arc that Dwayne McDuffie wrote, though, because I like Dwayne McDuffie and the guest-starring Mister Miracle). So maybe this sort of thing occurred fairly regularly in the series, I don’t know. On this one-page scene, Firestorm has Jason and Gehenna, the two young people who combine forms to create the superhero Firestorm, arguing about generic relationship stuff, and at one point, Gehenna says, “Maybe we shouldn’t be Firestorm anymore.” That is awesome—superhero as metaphor for relationship. There’s potential there, and it’s exciting to see potential, even if that’s all it is, on a super-comics page.

Okay, that’s something positive, now here’s something negative. On the second page, Black Lantern Ralph Dibny is being a real jerk to Barry Allen (that’s the B.L. M.O., to be real jerks while trying to eat people’s hearts). “You were right. Going public with my secret identity way back when? Not the best idea I ever had, was it, Sue?”

I don’t get it. Sue wasn’t raped by Dr. Light because he knew that The Elongated Man was Ralph Dibny; it was a crime of opportunity, as she was alone on the League satellite with him. And she was murdered by someone who would have known Sue was married to a superhero whether Ralph was “out” or not. So what the hell is Ralph talking about? (Interesting that, a few pages later, Black Lantern Sue brings up the fact that “Jean brought along a flame-thrower ‘just in case.’ Ha ha ha, Identity Crisis was just awful and everyone—Sue Dibny, Geoff Johns, literally everyone—knows it!)

Finally, my favorite it of nerd service? The Black Lantern who appears attacking Washington D.C. on the monitor bank on pages nine and ten. That is awesome. Oh, and that same panel makes clear that yes, there is indeed a Black Lantern Rainbow Raider. Fantastic.


The Brave and the Bold #27 (DC) Well it’s about time new regular writer J. Michael Straczynski showed up here. He’s teamed with artist Jesus Saiz, to tell a story about a team-up between Batman and the Dial H For Hero dial.

They do a pretty good job. The story can veer into pretty cheesy territory at times, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a Batman/H-Dial story being a little cheesy, is there?

So teenager Robby Reed and his grandfather are visiting Gotham City (this is apparently set in the past), when a no-account, petty thief robs them and makes off with the Dial. Meanwhile, The Joker has a plan to finally kill Batman, and he might actually have gotten away with it, if the thief didn’t turn the dial and turn into another superhero.

It’s a very tidy, tightly plotted done-in-one, and JMS gets the voices of both The Joker and Batman right (I particularly liked the little speech Batman gave the new H-Dial created hero about working in Gotham; it sounds like something Batman has memorized from delivering every couple of weeks). It also serves as a pretty good introduction to the character/concept teamed up with Batman, which is what the book should do.

Saiz is no George Perez or Jerry Ordway, so the book still looks like a step down from where it was when it initially launched, but his art is clear, crisp, easy-to-read and allowed to do a lot of the heavy-lifting, as far as the story-telling is concerned. Saiz certainly doesn’t crumble under that weight.

He’s not my ideal choice for a book like this, which is—or at least I assume should be—devoted to introducing elements of the DCU to readers unfamiliar with them in the way that Perez is. I think I’d prefer someone with a more classic approach, like Perez’s, be it Ordway or Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez or Graham Nolan, but Saiz does a pretty great job here.

Welcome back to my pull list, Brave and the Bold!


M.O.D.O.K.: Reign Delay #1 (Marvel) This is Action Philosophers! and Comic Book Comics’s Ryan Dunlavey’s online comic about M.O.D.O.K. moving back to his hometown of Erie, PA (where I went to college!) in an attempt to conquer it, now in a good old-fashioned paper-and-staples comic book format. Much more on this later and elsewhere.


Tiny Titans #20 (DC) Art Baltazar and Franco riff on the old portable hole gag from classic cartoons, here generated by Raven’s handy teleportation spell. That’s the first half of the book. The second half involves Alfred doing Batman’s laundry, trying to prevent Robin and his friends from playing in the Batcave and saving Beast Boy from rocket-powered mischief. I might have already mentioned this like twenty times now, but I would totally read a Baltazar and Franco Alfred series. Maybe a back-up in Batman and Robin…?


Wednesday Comics #11 (DC) What the hell Comics-Buying Public?! More of you bought a fill-in issue of JLoA, JSoA by the Salvation Run writing team, Batman by Judd Winick and Red fucking Robin than bought the first few issues of a comic featuring all of your favorite DC superheroes and featuring work by some of the greatest writers and artists working in comics, including that Neil Gaiman fellow, who turns everything he touches into gold?

What a world, what a world…

Sigh. Anyway, this is the penultimate issue of the weekly experimentally series, and many of the strips are clearly climaxing this week, and taking the opportunity to open things up a bit with huge panels or splashes (to the extent one can have a splash panel in this format). I expect a few climaxes, and a whole lot of denouement next week.

Of special note this week?

—The end of the Batman strip is excellent, as Risso makes it appear as if the murderer is attempting to escape Batman not only by jumping out the window (as she is in the context of the comic strip) but by jumping out of the strip itself (as she appears to be). Beautiful.

—Nate Piekos’ weird alien font for the praying mantis-like alien creature in Metamorpho? That is a fantastic font for alien speech. (While this strip has been hit-or-miss, this installment is definitely one of the hit one)

—Ben Caldwell only draws 13 panels in this week’s Wonder Woman strip, and one of them is a gigantic panel that fills more than half of the space on the page, so fuck you everybody! It makes ffor one hell of an effective splash, after the cramped, claustrophobic panels that have lead up to it.

—The lay-out on the Flash strip is fantastic this week. I like the way they included the title into the dialogue, to eat up even more space on the page then usual.

The Demon/Catwoman is one of several strips to open way up with some huge panels and, in this installment, some extremely bright colors. There’s some real nice use of Kirby dots, always appropriate in a story featuring a Kirby character, including one in which the borders of an artful burst of flame emanating from The Demon’s mouth imply Kirby dots in the night sky around it. That whole panel, in fact, is a thing of beauty.

—This week, Kyle Baker’s Hawkman is a little like this particular Brandon Bird painting.

Now I’m off to start fasting and praying that next week’s issue includes an unannounced insert featuring the Plastic Man and Creeper one-off strips…

18 comments:

censustaker said...

"It’s refreshing to see Morrison use the old villain-kills-super-characters-to-show-how-bad-ass he is technique, but goes to the trouble of inventing his own super-characters first, so he’s not subtracting anything from the universe that he didn’t at least add first"

A-freakin-men. You hear that Robinson? *sobs a bit and goes back to quietly eating his disgusting carrion ice-cream... in Taz's memory*

Hdefined said...

People, like me, aren't buying Wednesday Comics because we're not interested in spending $4 to get various single pages of story in each helping. I'll wait for the trade.

Robert Repici said...

I really enjoyed the third issue of Blackest Night, but I'm definitely fed up with DC's damn misleading solicitations. The solicitation for Blackest Night #3 made it seem like the Spectre would play a prominent role in this issue, but did the Spirit of Vengeance even appear? No. Okay, so the Spectre was actually in one small panel and Geoff Johns did devote an entire essay to the entity as a bonus feature, but that's it. Really though? Who writes DC's solicitations, anyway?

Jeremy H said...

Modok on the cover = insta-buy.

I don't even care what the interior is. It could just be 32 pages of Liefeld drawing a Loeb scripted orgy between Hush, Red Hulk and big-boobied Heroes Reborn Cap, but put the man with the giant head up front and you're getting my money.

censustaker said...

I don't think Tan's work is anywhere near as `bad' as you do. (then again, I don't even dislike Tony Daniel, much- I never had the problem distinguishing his rendition of the different sons like you did). Tan's kinda suits the vibe to this story and all too (asian film noir-ish?) Early days yet I know but it kinda seems to me like Morrison is writing arcs to suit the attached artists style. (When was Tan anounced? I'll even accept its DC editorial who deserve the credit if the trend continues). Either way than GM is one diverse MF.

LurkerWithout said...

"Why isn’t anyone reading this title, exactly?"

Extensive and highly scientific research has lead me to conclude that most super-hero comics fans are fucking stupid and couldn't buy quality books even if they had a robot programmed just to buy good books. The only solution is likely shovel beatings...

Jeremy H said...

Did anyone else notice that Red Hood's costume changed somewhere between the cover of B&R #4 and the interior?

googum said...

Hey, I've been getting Wednesday Comics...but I only get to my comic shop once a month lately. I did not plan this weekly book thing out, like at all.

Hdefined said...

"Extensive and highly scientific research has lead me to conclude that most super-hero comics fans are fucking stupid and couldn't buy quality books even if they had a robot programmed just to buy good books."

I'm sick of elitist readers who are certain that their tastes are far more superior than anyone else's. If you're so certain you know what's objectively good, YOU write a comic, and then you're entitled to complain when it doesn't sell well.

Matt said...

Hey! Red Robin's really good. Read the first trade when it comes out. Trust me, it's good. Yost is really good at what he does (which is playing around with continuity to forge character and plot development and creating a mood where you think almost anything can happen, generally). And the Salvation Run team is also the Fables team, which is neither here nor there but just saying.

On the other hand, I'm waiting on Weds Comics because I'm much more of a writer-first sort of guy, who likes long-term character development and subplots and has no nostalgia for pre-crisis DC, and Weds Comics is sort of like the anti-52 when it comes to that sort of thing.

I'll check it out when it's eventually collected, mind you.

LurkerWithout said...

I love the "Then you write something better" arguement. Its a sure sign someone doesn't like having to defend buying crappy books based on a fondness for some character or title regardless of writer quality...

As for my own skills or possible of lack of some in regards to writing. What the fuck does that have to do with my taste in what I read?

Norman said...

Matt: Can't say anything about Fables, but Sturgingham's JSA has been pretty bad so far. Just a lot of non-characters standing around talking with wooden dialogue and lame-ass fight scenes.

caleb said...

Did anyone else notice that Red Hood's costume changed somewhere between the cover of B&R #4 and the interior?

How so? There was a point where I thought the chest symbol looked weird and consulted the cover to see if it was there too, but they both had pointy-fanged red skulls on 'em...

Hey! Red Robin's really good. Read the first trade when it comes out.

Really? I'll definitely check out the trade from the library, but I haven't been able to work up any enthusiasm.

The Red Robin name and costume seems to carry a Countdown taint now, and every time I flip through the issue, I see Ra's al Gul business, and I was bored with Ra's about the time he was being resurrected. I think he probably could have stayed dead another decade or so.

On the other hand, Tim Drake trying to solve the mystery of Bruce Wayne's disappearance does sound cool to me in theory.


On the other hand, I'm waiting on Weds Comics because I'm much more of a writer-first sort of guy thing...I'll check it out when it's eventually collected, mind you.

What I found so shocking about how poorly the first issue seems to have done was that I assumed even folks who were pretty sure it wasn't going to be for them would at least want to try the first issue, just out of curiosity's sake. The format is so unusual that it really is an experience as much as a story and I sort of expected everyone who reads comics--particularly DC ones--would at least try an issue, and that number would therefore have been closer to 100,000...or at least 80,000.

There was a second printing, so maybe that was huge, I don't know.

I'm kind of curious how the trades will work out...how they'll collect it and so forth.

I also expected much more media coverage, as it tied in so nicely with the ongoing "Oh no, newspapers are dying!" story that's been running through the mainstream media all year.

Some series would probably sell decent on their own...maybe better than they would as part of an anthology.

Hdefined said...

"I love the "Then you write something better" arguement. Its a sure sign someone doesn't like having to defend buying crappy books based on a fondness for some character or title regardless of writer quality..."

What crappy books did I defend or refuse to defend? Oh wait, that's right, we were talking about your own snobbery.

"As for my own skills or possible of lack of some in regards to writing. What the fuck does that have to do with my taste in what I read?"

If you have such objectively great taste, then you clearly know what elements are objectively necessary to make a story good. Writing should be absolutely no problem for a genius like yourself.

Caleb said...

Sigh.

Bob Temuka said...

Hdefined: Or you could just act like an adult, realise that some people won't like the same comics you do and that's it's nothing to do with snobbery or elitism.

Jeremy H said...

Caleb, on Quitely's cover, his costume is a dark gray bodysuit, with a white triangle area on the upper chest with the red skull on it. Tan's version (which is consistent with his variant cover) shows that the upper part of his costume is white, with the red skull on a dark gray triangle.

Here's a side by side comparison:
http://img36.imageshack.us/img36/6712/redhood.jpg

MOCK! said...

The second half involves Alfred doing Batman’s laundry, trying to prevent Robin and his friends from playing in the Batcave and saving Beast Boy from rocket-powered mischief.

re: Tiny Titans #20

I was reading it to my son tonight as his bedtime story and the "Fight Club" reference caught me off guard and I laughed for five minutes. He looked at me just like Alfred looked at Robin.