Thursday, November 05, 2009

(Later-than-usual) Weekly Haul: November 4th

Assault on New Olympus #1 (Marvel Comics) Hey, it’s an issue of Incredible Hercules, but instead of just calling it Incredible Hercules, Marvel gave it its own weird, hard to read title, with “Assault On New” across the top in small font, and “OLYMPUS” running top to bottom all gigantic-like down the right side of the page.

There’s a 32-page story by the regular Inc Herc writing team, continuing plot threads from their title, as Hera prepares to unleash an extinction event foreshadowed previously, and Hercules finds kinda-sorta-but-not-really-married Peter Parker dating his wife Hebe, leading to Hercules and Spider-Man fighting for about 20 pages (which is pretty awesome, by the way).

There’s also a six-page Agents of Atlas back-up story by Jeff Parker and Gabriel Hardman that flows directly out of the two-part X-Men Vs. Agents of Atlas miniseries so, um, good luck keeping track of the Agents, I guess.

It all seems needlessly complex to me, like whatever sales boost comes form putting a “#1” on the cover of a comic book isn’t really worth making the story so hard to follow around the comics rack. Presumably it will be a little easier to keep track of in trade form.

Oh, by the way, Hardman’s version of Greek octopus god Phorcys? Awesome.

Batman: Unseen #3 (DC Comics) You know, if Batman just used the heat-vision lenses in his cowl, fighting an invisible man really wouldn’t give him much trouble. Of course, then we would have been denied artist Kelley Jones’ depiction of Batman getting kicked around by an unseen foe for about eight pages. You know what to expect by the half-way point of this miniseries, right? A good-old fashioned Batman story with plenty of opportunities for Jones to demonstrate his skills, including a bravura page during which a pair of black leather gloves breaks into a couple’s house and murders a woman.

Deadpool Team-Up #899 (Marvel) The Merc with the Mouth and the Herc who also has a mouth are shown hoisting mugs of beer while lounging atop their fallen rivals Wolverine and Thor on Humberto Ramos’ cover, but their actual adversaries within are Arcade, the assassin with the most overhead in the Marvel Universe, and Nightmare, who has just got done reading one of those Starman omnibi and though The Shade dressed super-cool.

It’s written by Fred Van Lente, who co-writes The Incredible Hercules (and had a short story in Deadpool #900, and it’s therefore pretty good stuff—Van Lente can do superhero action comedy with the best of ‘em at this point, and he proves it writing a Herc book month-in and month-out.

It’s about a standard a formula for a done-in-one Marvel superhero team-up as you could imagine, with the pair meeting up, fighting, realizing they’re the pawns of their two foes, and then defeating them by working together.

Deadpool’s antics and pool of gags have gotten a tad tiring for me personally—on account of having spent so much time with Deadpool comics recently—but Van Lente has some pretty inventive riffs on them, particularly the two dueling voices in ‘pool’s head.

Artist Dalibor Talajic draws a huge, beefy, fuzzy Hercules with a very classic, very Greek looking face—most of the panels with the big guy in them just sing. Talajic’s art is actually all around very nice. The characters have a lot of detail and lean toward realism, but retain a hand-drawn look and move through comic book environments, and thus avoid the slick, sickly “house” look of too many Marvel comics. (You can see five unlettered pages of the book here for a better idea of what Talajic’s art looks like than my poor description of same).

Doom Patrol #4 (DC) The latest attempt at a Doom Patrol revival lasted a whole three issues before needing a fill-in artist and crossing over into a company-wide event (To be fair to the regular at team, however, the two may be related).

Is this a bad thing? Well, I’m pretty sure it won’t be from where DC’s sitting, once they tally up the sales. The copy I bought was the last one on the rack at my local shop (although they did have more by the register and a stack to refill the rack with), and my purchase of it got me a big, fat yellow plastic ring—just like the one Sinestro wears!—which oughta help drive sales (Mine will be something my grand-nieces and nephews get left to them in my will, and be very disappointed in the rest of their lives—“Why did Uncle Caleb have all this weird plastic jewelry? And why did he think it would be valuable?”)

I can’t imagine it will still be a good thing in a couple more issues though, as you’re going to either have to be a reader of a certain age (or a certain attraction to your shop’s back-issue bins) to find the contents all that interesting. The plot here isn’t exactly something that seems likely to appeal to new readers, which is presumably the sort of reader issue #4 of a brand-new series wants.

If you’ve read any of the “Blackest Night” branded books, then you know the drill here. Dead characters return to life as zombies in Black Lantern uniforms and start making fun of the heroes in an attempt to stir their emotions. Here the dead characters are from a previous incarnation of the Doom Patrol (the second, I think), all of whom were killed off around the time of DC’s 1988-1989 Invasion! line-wide cross-over story.

Writer Keith Giffen kicks off the issue with a three-page illustrated Wikipedia entry on the Doom Patrol of the eighties to prep readers for the next 18 or so pages, but if the point of the exercise is to work up the emotions of the readers, the story might have benefited from a different approach (Me, I just read a long thinking, “Oh Niles Caulder’s had a wife I never heard of who was also a superhero, and I guess she has some powers? Hey, there was another guy named Tempest before Aqualad used that codename, apparently.”)

The pencil art Justiniano, and it’s pretty decent, although less detailed and inventively arranged on the page than most of his early work. The art seemed to have a little more life than it’s had in previous issues, but I think this is probably where I get off. I’ll just hope they collect the (still) excellent Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire Metal Men back-ups in trade eventually.

Secret Six #15 (DC) I like this title because I like pencil artist Nicola Scott, I like writer Gail Simone and I like a couple of the half-dozen characters ensemble cast. This fifteenth issue of the series has a different artist, a different writer and only features a single member of the cast.

As an issue Secret Six therefore, it’s fairly awful, and fails to meet some of the basic requirements of being an issue of Secret Six. As a Deadshot one-shot, however, it’s not bad at all.

That’s due mostly to the presence of John Ostrander, the long-time DC who probably knows the character better than anyone, on account of having written him for so long on Suicide Squad. If you want a Deadshot character piece, which folds his origin into his current status quo, then you’re going to want Ostrander writing it.

The art is by Jim Calafiore, whose work I can’t appreciate it. He knows how to design a comics page and move a reader’s eyes, so I realize that alone puts him a step or two ahead of some of DC’s worst artists, but I just don’t like looking at his work at all. I don’t like his character design (particularly the weird things he does with limbs), and I generally try to avoid his work. (Which isn’t to say he’s a bad artist, just that he’s an artist I don’t like).

I tried pondering what others see in his work that I might be missing, given that how much work DC gives him (including at least a couple issues of an upcoming Secret Six storyline), and the best I can come up with is that he must work very fast (which explains why editors call on him so often) and that there’s a weirdness to his art that perhaps reflects the intended tone of comics like this (in which a killer struggles with his urges to shoot everyone he sees to death).

To end on a positive note, I think this is the best of Dan LuVisi’s covers so far. It’s his sixth, and too often he seems to simply pick a single character to spotlight, and then render in a really odd way. Here, the one-character spotlight is appropriate, since the comic is all about this one character to the exclusion of the rest of the cast, and his Deadshot is rendered perfectly well. I’m not a fan of this sort of digital work, but it’s nice enough looking, and I could certainly see kids thinking it looks totally badass.

X-Men Vs. Agents of Atlas #2 (Marvel) Wow, what a completely lousy cover this book has. Adi Granov has drawn six fairly random characters engaged in some form of combat with one another. If you read AoA already, you can probably figure out the guy in the background is supposed to be Jimmy Woo (by process of elimination anyway), and you can probably figure out the rest of the characters, although I’m not sure why you’d even be tempted to pick up and flip through a book with such a boring, prosaic cover—Namora looks bored while fighting the X-Men, and if actually fighting the X-Men is so goddam boring, what’s reading about fighting the X-Men going to be like? Will you actually fall asleep, as Colossus has here?

The weakness of Granov’s reader-repelling cover was made all the more apparent when I got to pages two and three, which are a double-page spread in which—let’s see—about a dozen X-Men, including the ones from the movies and cartoons, rush into battle against a killer robot, a gorilla with a jetpack, a bunch of warrior monks, and a lady who looks like Namor with big tits.

It’s a very exciting image, one with enough information in it that I stopped reading just to look more closely at all the X-Men rushing into it from the left and pick them out. Why on earth is Marvel trying to sell this book with some lazy pin-up art on the cover instead of hinting at how exciting the interiors are?

It used to be that the covers were always more exciting than the contents of the comics, that publisher’s went out of their way to hype up the comics by giving them bold, mind-blowing cover images that demanded you stop and look at them, if not pick them up and buy them.

I wouldn’t have even seen this comic on the rack; luckily I have a pull-list at my shop, so someone physically handed it to me. (The X-Men also fight a dragon in this issue. Doesn’t “The X-Men fighting a fucking dragon!” sound like the sort of thing that might move a couple extra comics? (If it sounds like I’m being too hard on Granov, I should note Humberto Ramos’ variant cover is just as bad, if not worse. His characters look a little more enthusiastic to be on the cover, but he doesn’t even bother to put Wolverine on it, which is, like, step #1 on an X-Men cover, isn’t it?)

The interiors are pretty predictable, as writer Jeff Parker continues with the fight and then make-up portions of the Marvel team-up formula, but there are some fun moments in the specifics of the fighting (I particularly liked Gorilla Man’s assessment of Wolverine’s strength, for example).

After all the X-Men fighting, there’s an eight-page prologue to the story that continues in the back-up of Assault On New Olympus #1, and artist Gabriel Hardman does a hell of a job on it. I loved his giant statue of Aphrodite as an avatar of the real thing.


therealaznpirate said...

I think the problem with the art in Doom Patrol is that Kieth Giffen actually does layouts that he gives to Clark and now presumably Justiano. This would probably explain why the page compositions (I mean, come on, six panel grids? That just screams out Giffen!) are so boring and beneath Justiano and Clark's abilities. I mean, I know he saved 52 with his layouts, but Giffen should really just let the artists make the call when it comes to depiciting the art, he's not exactly a Grant Morrison or Alan Moore in that aspect.

Hdefined said...

I think you meant "Herc and the merc."

caleb said...

No, I didn't.

Hdefined said...

You should've. It's less clunky.

Jeremy H said...

The really weird thing about Granov's cover (other than sleepytime Namora and Colossus) is that Wolverine's costume looks more metallic than M-11.

Drew said...

wolverine has been on the most x-men covers of all (counting uncanny, x-men legacy and astonishing throughout their publishing history, although I guess i should count up x-treme too, hunh). Cyclops is second.

Tony said...

Here's my question: Why is Gail Simone's Secret Six so much better than her Wonder Woman? I love the former; dropped the latter a few months ago.