Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Weekly Haul: January 27th

Amazing Spider-Man #619 (Marvel Comics) I’m really only reading this for the art, but it’s worth noting that Dan Slott’s scripting remains highly accessible, and contains a clever idea (Mysterio’s behind-the-scenes mob takeover) or intriguing hook (For example, what’s gotten into Aunt May?!) or two. I imagine it’s even more appealing for long-time Spidey fans, for whom names and faces like Captain Stacy, The Big Man, Hammerhead and Silvermane mean something. For me, the greatest pleasure is simply marveling at the way artis Marcos Martin draws a punch, or a facial expression or the hunch of Spider-Man’s shoulders. If ASM looked this good each week, and was written at least this good, I’d happily read it regularly.

The Atom and Hawkman #46 (DC Comics) This is another of those Blackest Night tie-ins that are themselves back from the dead, and it’s one of the tie-ins that seems more likely to be relevant to the overall storyline, given that it’s written by Geoff Johns.

I suppose there is a relevant moment or two, as it focuses on the newly Indigo Lantern-ized Ray Palmer trying to hold off Black Lanterns while the original Indigo Lantern sends out an SOS to the various Lantern Corps, but the majority of the issue is merely a recap of Ray Palmer’s history, specifically as it pertains to his ex-wife Jean Loring, and a reenactment of the nonsensical murder scene from the start of Identity Crisis.

Ryan Sook is the artist whose name is on the cover, and in the solicitation, but Sook merely contributes the cover and, I’m going to guess, maybe the first 10 or 12 pages of the book, while the not very Sook-like Fernando Pasarin finishes the rest of the book. (Please see this post at Funnybook Babylon for a good—if depressing—accounting of just how often these creative team changes happened in Big Two super-comics this month. Yeesh).

So if you’re buying this just for its relevancy to the Blackest Night storyline, you can probably just read the last three pages in the shop. And if you’re buying it mainly because you like Sook’s art, well, be advised there’s much less of it than originally advertised.

Batman and Robin #7 (DC) Oh hey, here’s a novel idea! Why not put an artist who is capable of drawing comics pages on one of the most-read books in the direct market?

After a three-issue, nigh unintelligible run by Philp Tan, in which the script had to fight through the art to get to the reader, writer Grant Morrison is joined by an on-again off-again collaborator, Cameron Stewart, who has calibrated his style just enough to make his art look slightly more serious and realistic than in some of his other books.

Morrison does what I appreciate most about his superhero work, creating things at a breathless clip. Dick Grayson has teamed up with The Knight and Squire (Oh what I’d give for a Morrison/Stewart miniseries featuring that pair!), somewhat accidentally, Batwoman, to fight some crime in England and do what you’d expect people who know about Lazarus Pit’s to do when a loved one dies.

Along the way, Morrison introduces at least a half-dozen British rogues—most of them simply by name, but still—and London’s answer to Arkham, which is where a Beefeater (The Beefeater?!) currently serves as a guard.

It’s pretty much perfect super-comics, and, like the first three issues of Batman and Robin, tainted only by the knowledge that this artist won’t be sticking around for long either. (Well, there are some misplaced dialogue balloons on page 19, but otherwise…)(UPDATE: Here's a scan of the panel at

Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam #12 (DC) You know, I’m pretty sure “the wisdom of Solomon” and “the ability to calculate the timing of the electrons and atoms in solid matter so that you can pass through it” are two entirely different powers…

Green Lantern #50 (DC) First and most importantly, this issue features an appearance of another Black Lantern character I had specifically requested seeing, so whether it was merely a coincidence or if writer Geoff Johns is an avid reader of EDILW and is constantly trying to make me happy, thanks for Black Lantern Aquababy!
Second, congratulations to Geoff Johns for sticking with the Green Lantern title for fifty issues. It’s almost impossible to overstate what a rare achievement that is for Big Two super-comics in this day in age; I think Brian Michael Bendis’ run on Ultimate Spider-Man/Ultimate Comics Spider-Man is the only current Big Two superhero run in that ballpark*.

I give Johns a lot of shit on this site, but I do want to take a moment to acknowledge the fact that he’s dedicated himself to long-term storytelling like this—and that DC has allowed him to do so—is really worth applauding, and that commitment is (in large part) why the Blackest Night story/event is doing as well as it is. It took Johns being willing to commit five years of his life (well, however long it takes him to write a monthly comic script every month over the course of five years, anyway) and DC being willing to let a writer do what that writer wanted for such a long period of time to get to Blackest Night, which is working out exceedingly well for both Johns and DC. (And I hope the folks at DC have noticed).

Now, as for this particular issue, it is—thankfully—a return to form after last month’s hodgepodge GL #49, which was by far the worst issue of this series.

Pencil artist Doug Mahnke is back on art, and he draws all 29 pages of it himself, even though four other artists help with his inking (This issue’s oversized and costs $3.99, although it’s worth noting that there are three double-page splash panels and a single full-page splash panel, so it doesn’t necessarily “read” oversized). As Mahnke has proved again and again on this title, he’s exceptional at drawing horror and monster motifs, possessing an all-too-rare ability to marry a great deal of detail with slightly loose superhero design work. There isn’t really a bad page or bum panel in this whole book, and, when you consider what #49 looked like, that is an accomplishment.

As for the story side of things, well you see the above sequence, right? The one where an undead Aquaman presents his wife, who has vomited out her heart and all of her blood and had the replaced with hate-blood, with their undead zombie baby, and she vomits acid hate-blood on them both?

This is another of those issues where Johns is pirouetting on the razor’s edge between awesome and stupid, and he’s just cold doing a whole ballet routine this month. The New Guardians (the rainbow corps Hal Jordan assembled) and the New New Guardians (the seconds that Ganthet recruited in the last issue of Blackest Night) team-up, and devote most of this issue to fighting the Black Lantern Spectre.

For reasons not entirely clear to me**, they can’t defeat it, so Hal remembers back to Green Lantern: Rebirth and decides the only way to beat the Spectre is to allow Parallax to take possession of him again, which happens in a neat little panel of the giant space bug climbing into Hal’s mouth (Damn, I shoulda scanned that one too, actually).

The cover gives away this month’s “Holy shit!” cliffhanger ending, but then, this storyline has been all about giving fans exactly what they want rather than surprising them, so I doubt anyone’s going to hold that against the book.

Justice League of America #41 (DC) Well, this is sort of awkward. James Robinson and Mark Bagley start their run on the title for real now, people! with their fourth issue on the book, and yet the issue is set after Blackest Night (concluding in March) and after Justice League: Cry For Justice (concluding next month, if it keeps its current schedule).

Our narrator Donna Troy (ugh) tells us that they “survived” Blackest Night… "Prometheus too…some of us anyway.” And that’s where we start, after the conclusion of Cry (which is pretty well-spoiled here, so not sure why anyone is actually going to buy #7 next month) and Blackest Night, and, while there probably wasn’t too much suspense about it, it turns out Donna, Wonder Woman, Hal Jordan and Oliver Queen all get de-Black Lanternized and are still alive and not wearing any unusual rings at the end of the crossover.

This is an oversized, $3.99 issue (and one fortunate to have one of the few pencillers who could manage to draw 30 pages a month as its regular artist), seemingly devoted to putting together a new League.

Wonder Woman asks Donna and some Titans to join Dr. Light on a new Justice League, Dr. Light asks her friends from Metropolis (The Guardian and Mon- “I hope he gets a codename soon” El) and of course Hal Jordan and Ollie Queen.

Robinson spends some time on some of the characters’ motivations—particularly Donna’s—and the writing’s decent enough, although perhaps because of the publisher’s scheduling difficulties, question marks kept cropping up in the team assemblage (Like, why can’t Wonder Woman join the team, for example). He also sets a weird scene back in 1777, featuring frontier hero Tomahawk, Lady Liberty and other characters of the era.

How that will fit in with what’s going on isn’t made explicit yet, but it is intriguing and, for the first time in a long time, I’m kind of excited about the next issue of JLoA.

On the downside, this issue was unfortunately Congorilla-free (cover appearance aside), and, while I don’t mind it if it’s only temporary (as I have to assume it is), I really, really don’t care for Starfire and, especially, Donna Troy, and hope the line-up will continue to get tweaked as additional characters become available again.

*Um, except for like a half-dozen other writers and titles I didn't think of as I typed that sentence, but my commenters did when they read it. Please see the comments for several other examples, perhaps the most salient to the Long, Well Planned Runs Leading To Successful Sales and Big Story/Events probably being Bendis on New Avengers and Ed Brubaker on Captain America.

**Okay, forgive the tangent about science and physics in the DC Universe here. As I understand The Spectre, it is a vaguely anthropomorphized aspect of element of God, an angel-esque being that is usually bonded to the spirit of a dead human being to give it something of a consciousness. As I understand the Black Lantern rings, they aren’t really bringing the dead back to life, but are animating their corpses, running advanced programs to imitate the personalities of the deceases, as well as their powers.

In the case of the Black Lantern Spectre, though, there is no body to bond with. In a previous issue of
Blackest Night, a ring took possession of the Spectre’s current host, Crispus Allen. But Allen is himself a ghost, and doesn’t have a body either.

If The Spectre is entirely immaterial, I guess I don’t understand how a ring can possess it, let alone acess all the divine powers. For example, we’ve also seen Black Lantern rings posess Deadman, but basically one took his body and made a Black Lantern Deadman, while the ghost/spirit version of Deadman remained unaffected. What makes the rules different for the two dead characters?

So far, the Black Lantern Spectre has just been growing and shape-chaning and suchlike, so it’s possible the ring is just possessing, like, a bunch of ectoplasm or something, and hasn’t accessed the Spectre Force itself, but I don’t really know. They might have explained all this in last week’s
Phantom Stranger #42, which had a Black Lantern Spectre on the cover, but I didn’t read that.


Filipe Freitas said...

While the Hal Jordan Specter was just the ghost of Hal Jordan possessed by the spirit of vengeance, I think the Crispus Allen Specter is actually Allen's corpse possessed by the thing. There was a scene of him waking up at the morgue during Infinite Crisis, if I'm not mistaken. So a black lantern ring could get the corpse and trap the Spectre in it, I guess.

But it doesn't explain why Allen as Spectre is different from Jordan as Spectre...

Hdefined said...

"What makes the rules different for the two dead characters?"

Phantom Stranger #42.

Mory said...

"Second, congratulations to Geoff Johns for sticking with the Green Lantern title for fifty issues. It’s almost impossible to overstate what a rare achievement that is for Big Two super-comics in this day in age; I think Brian Michael Bendis’ run on Ultimate Spider-Man/Ultimate Comics Spider-Man is the only current Big Two superhero run in that ballpark."

There are a few others. Bendis' New Avengers just hit 61, Ms. Marvel reached 49, the current run of X-Factor has been going for 52 issues. (I guess you're not counting Vertigo books as DC.) But yeah, it's rare. And series which last that long with the same writer and artist the whole time don't exist anymore, do they?

Jacob T. Levy said...

Phantom Stranger 42 really didn't explain anything to my satisfaction. I'm with Caleb on the Spectre point.

Atom/Hawkman was a terrible, terrible comic. I am very tired of seeing the whole Silver/ Bronze Age JLA reduced to endless rehashings of Identity Crisis. I could happily have gone my whole life without reading Ray Palmer calling someone a bitch. And the editing!

p. 2: "tradgedy"
p. 3: "Your heart ached for the Elongated Man when Sue Dibny was murdered. And it brought you both back into Jean's arms." In the English language, that passage means that both Ray and Ralph ended up in Jean's arms. Who else could "both" refer to? *Jean* doesn't end up in Jean's arms...

James said...

This is a strange period where there's actually a decent number of writers sticking with a title for a long time. Brubaker has written Captain America for over 50 issues, he wrote Daredevil for almost 40 issues, Wolverine Origins has been written by Daniel Way for its entire run. Mike Carey has been writing an X-Men comic, which while changing names has basically told the same story for at least 40+ issues, X-Factor is basically PAD at this point.

Kid Kyoto said...

You really don't want Mon-El to get a code name, you just don't. Last time we got 'Valor'. Why not just call him Captain Heroman!

Then we got Mo'Nel!

Now we're back to Mon-El which is neat. The El harkens to Superman, and monel is an alloy of steel.

Matt D said...

I haven't read it yet, but you made JLA sound more like a "good Robinson" issue. He's really best when he can dig in and foreshadow things and build worlds. I hope we get some of that.

tomorrowboy 2.9 said...

Matt Fraction's written Iron Man for 25 issues so far, which isn't that long. But I believe Salvador Larroca has drawn every one of those issues too, now that's a rarity.

Peter said...

Technically isn't Mon-El his codename? I mean his real name name is Lar Gand, not that anyone calls him that. In fact, I think he's one of the few heroes left in the DC Universe that other heroes still refer to by codename. None of this "Bruce"," Clark", or "Hal" business

Aussiesmurf said...

In line with the other comments, I would also mention :

Bendis on New Avengers is really - Avengers (4) + New Avengers (61) = 65

Also Grant Morrison on Batman / Batman & Robin - approximately 45 issues

Bendis on Daredevil - around 45 issues

I'm not sure if you'd count it as 'superheroes' but Garth Ennis on The Boys is up to around 45 issues.

Recently you also had JMS on Amazing Spider-Man (although all of his work was immediately dismantled). Also Dan Slott on 2 volumes of She-Hulk, Kurt Busiek on Trinity (same issues, although only 1 year), Brian Vaughan on 2 volumes of Runaways (around 50 issues), and Paul Jenkins on Peter Parker : Spider-Man and Spectacular Spider-Man (around 60 issues)