Thursday, December 13, 2012

Comic shop comics: December 5-12

Ame-Comi Girls #3 (DC Comics) Ted Naifeh art! That guy's style is ideally suited for a stay in Gotham City, so it was fun to see him drawing the origin of this version of Duela Dent, plus another chapter of the good guys vs. bad guys story, this one introducing the Ame-Comi version of The Flash and seeing Steel suiting up.

Note the fact that Steel, a hero/-ine known for wearing a suit of armor, leaves a lot of skin un-armored:
Also, she has a metal tentacle for a hat...?

While it was a great pleasure to see Naifeh's art for 30 pages, I was pretty surprised by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray's dialogue which is, uh, let's say less-than-politically correct:

Fantastic Four #2 (Marvel Entertainment) I was terrifically, thunderously disappointed with the first issue of this new series by Matt Fraction, Mark Bagley and company (and said so at the time). As a "Marvel NOW!" relaunch, it simply seemed like a new run on the series by a new creative team, with nothing justifying any additional hype, let alone a renumbering. Plus, it was like a Greatest Hits collection of everything terrible about modern super-comics in general, and modern Marvel in particular.

Well, the second issue was greatly improved, containing the second half of the first issue (Maybe they shoulda done a double-sized #1? Because the first satisfying chunk of story comes at the end of this issue, with the two scripts combined) and the ARs and the ads and the space-wasting lay-outs significantly toned down (I did read this in the red, neon light of the dark lobby of a Chinese restaurant though, so maybe the very poor lighting helped me overlook the weaknesses that were apparent in the first issue, which I read in the glaring, sober light of day).

Maybe I was too hasty dropping this from my pull-list after just one issue. (Maybe too my fondness for FF #1 helped me better enjoy the next issue of Fantastic Four; Fraction seems to be writing Fantastic Four and FF as if they were alternating, but optional chapters in the same story.

In this issue, the Fantastic Four finish recruiting their temporary replacements, introduce everyone, and take off on their trip.

I can't tell if the Future Foundation went with them or not, though; the Foundation kids are last shown in front of the ship before it takes off. Bagley doesn't draw 'em in the ship, but he doesn't draw 'em hanging around with the replacement Fantastic Four, so I'm not sure who is where in the narrative (Both Fantastic Four #1 and FF #1 implied the kids would be hanging out with each group of heroes, so I'm a bit confused).

I really dig the replacement Fantastic Four's new costumes. And I love the way Bagley draw's this Ant-Man (II, I think) and his Ant-Man helmet. It's the best Ant-Man helmet ever, I think.

Oh, I was super-surprised to see two pretty glaring errors from the first issue show up again. Once more Mr. Fantastic refers to he molecules of his own body by the term "unstable molecules," while everyone knows (well, I didn't until someone pointed it out to me, but then I remembered that I used to know it!) that the Four aren't composed of unstable molecules, their costumes are.

And Johnny and his girlfriend return to the prehistoric time in which the Four fought a dinosaur in the first issue, which is again pointed out to be 2.66 million year ago, or, put another way, a good 62 million years after the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.

Of course, one of the dinosaurs turns out to be Devil Dinosaur, and there's hominid Moonboy, and I guess in Devil Dinosaur a hominid and dinosaur co-existed, but I haven't read all those comics, so I'm not sure when they were set. Also, The Savage Land. So, eh...I dunno. I can't call Fraction or editor Tom Brevoort on messing up a basic dinosaur fact because I can't keep track of evolution and paleontology in the Marvel Universe well enough to do so. Nor can I keep track of Devil Dinosaur and Moonboy. Last I saw them, they were in the 21st century in a few issues of Heroes For Hire.

I like Fracton's writing a log—you'll note of the two Marvel comics in this batch, both of them are by Fraction—but playing fast and loose with continuity while simultaneously using shared universe setting, characters and history as texture is apparently something of a habit of his.

Hawkeye #5 (Marvel) This sure was a goddam pretty comic. It's the second half of the first two-parter in the book's short life; a fill-in arc by artist Javier Pulido. It was a bit jarring to see his art last issue (um, just two weeks ago) as it's so different from David Aja's, but I was used to and expecting it by the time I cracked the cover on this one.

Matt Fraction's story was as clever as always, but this time, it was really the art that struck me; there are clever, occasionally brilliant lay-outs. The kind of lay-outs that make you stop reading, stare in admiration and think, "Damn, what a great lay-out...!"
And yet they are not so flashy as to be distracting. They make you pause to admire the work, but not long enough that you don't keep reading while you admire. The art in those lay-outs too...Man, the lines in that "My ride's here" panel, Hawkeye's posture in it...or all the fight scenes. Jeez, this comic.

If you're reading one Big Two superhero comic, I hope it's this one. At this point, I think it's even edged out Daredevil as the all-around best one on the stands (To be fair to Daredevil, that book has had longer to fuck things up; it's still early days for Hawkeye, and there's still plenty of time for a "#11AU" issue tying into Age of Ultron by guest-artist Whoever Had An Opening In His Schedule or a three-part crossover with Gambit and Uncanny Avengers to send the book reeling).

Oh! But! Continuity!

Let me spoil the ending (so, skim down to the next bolded title if you haven't read this yet/care if I spoil the ending or not), so that we can talk about it and try to figure it out. Together.

So the maguffin of this arc is a VHS tape showing Clint "Hawkeye" Barton shooting what the letters page makes clear is supposed to be an off-brand Osama bin Laden (You know what would have made for a more topical, potent comic? If it was Osama bin Laden. But the Marvel Universe is only the universe outside your window unless that might offend someone; in those cases, it's National Security Advisor Dondi Reese playing the part of National Security Advisor Condi Rice, or, in this case, dictator Du Ke Feng playing the part of UBL—even though DKF doesn't even have a beard!).

An Avenger killing someone is supposed to be a sort of big deal, not just to the media, but to Hawkeye's associate, Hawkeye (the Young Avengers, girl version, if you're not reading this book). It's kind of weird, since both of them were killing people left and right in the previous three issues of the series (On the letters page, writer Matt Fraction clarifies that when that one guy got shot in the spine with an arrow, he was paralyzed, not killed, and when that other guy got shot in both eyes with two arrows fired from a bow at close range, he was merely blinded. [That, by the way, is how Hawkeye supposedly kills DKF on the tape] That's how good these archers are at shooting bows and arrows, I guess. No mention of all the car crashes.)

Anyway, the twist ending was that Hawkeye didn't really kill Faux-sama Bin Laden; the Navy SEALS did (just like in real life!), but Nick Fury's son Samuel L. Jackson Wearing An Eyepatch created three VHS tapes showing three different Avengers killing FBL in an attempt to tempt a mole into revealing his or herself.
One tape featured Hawkeye, another Captain America, another Wolverine.

Now, like I said, this comic pretty clearly showed Hawkeye killing dudes before, so, as a plot point, this is a weird one. And Captain America fought in World War II with a teenage sidekick whose weapons of choice were a knife and machinegun; dude personally fought Hitler, so hearing he sorta killed a modern Hitler type really shouldn't freak the world out.

But Wolverine? That guy's whole deal is that he kills people. Like, constantly. In every appearance. Wolverine is the best there is at what he does, and what he does is kill people constantly.

The plot works, of course, and, in the context of this book, who really gives a shit?

It's just that the only reason to bring up Captain America and Wolverine—and all these other jokers like Kingpin, Madame Masque, Maria Hill and Sam Jackson—is to reinforce the shared universe thing, that this continuity all matters. So it's always disappointing when a super-book goes the route of "This stuff is totally important, unless it's inconvenient, in which case, grow up—it's not 1972 anymore and you're not a ten-year-old. Sorry we didn't have time to reread every issue of the Official Guide to the Marvel Universe before deadline, but he were making movies, nerd."

That's the only thing I can think of to complain about with his issue though.

I talked about it at greater length at Robot 6 this afternoon, but more in a review capacity/wondering after Marvel's frequency of publication, not kvetching-about-continuity-capacity.

Legends of The Dark Knight #3 (DC Comics) Nice of The Joker to strategically place his writing just so on that little note to Batman so that the Dark Knight Detective would have a thumb-sized blank space to put his thumb, allowing him to hold it like that and still be able to read the message.

This month's issue of Batman Digital Comics Re-Printed On Paper For Luddites is written by Steve Niles, whose past Batman writing includes Batman: Gotham County Line and his collaboration with my second favorite Batman artist* Kelley Jones, Batman: Gotham After Midnight. This 30-page one-shot is drawn by Trevor Hairsine, who does a fairly solid job. His style reminds me a lot Bryan Hitch's here, and while the backgrounds sometimes look sparse in an I-don't-really-wanna-draw-more-on-this-page kinda way and many of the characters have slightly too-small, beady-looking eyes, it above-par 21st century Batman comic art.

His Batman is huge, all big and blocky and his Joker—yeah, it's another Joker story, right on the heels of last month's #2—has overlong limbs and slightly sharper-than-natural, predator-like teeth (You know what's really weird about that "Death of the Family" storyline currently running through every Batman-related comic that Grant Morrison isn't writing? How is it, like, supposed to be at all dramatic if they rebooted the universe, like, a year ago? Batman's only fought the Joker, like, once, and he shot Barbara Gordon in a flashback. That's, like, his entire history in New 52-iverse, right? Or, because it's a Batman comic, it wasn't really rebooted, except for everything having to do with Barbara Gordon, it was just renumbered...? I don't know or care really; Gates of Gotham is where I left off on Snyder's Batman run, so I've got a long ways to go before I run into that for myself. Anyway—seems weird. And here's another Joker comic, if you prefer him with his old face, I guess).

There are some nice story beats in this issue, and while a lot of them are riffs on oft riffed-upon bits, that's basically what Batman comics are, right? Writers and artists perform the material as much as create it at this point. The middle section is either clever or cheesy—I can't quite make up my mind which—and takes it's inspiration either from Miracle on 34th Street or one of those older Superman Christmas comics that might also have been inspired by Miracle on 34th Street.

Multiple Warheads #1 (Image Comics) Would you believe my shop didn't order enough of these, and so I had to wait until the second printing came out to possess read a hard copy of it? I previously read a review copy (and reviewed it here; please refer to for more detail of what I thought of it). It's really good. I'm pretty sure Brandon Graham is the only comics artist making comics at the moment whose work I buy in multiple formats; his comics are so great to read as comics, but the trades are great too. Wait for the trade or read serially (there's no harm in the latter; these things are ad-fucking-free), but, whatever your preferred format, do read these comics.

Multiple Warheads #2 (Image) You know what's so great about this particular Brandon Graham comic? They're just fun to hang out in and hang out with. Plot-wise, this issue is fairly light. Sexica and Nikolai continue on their road trip—driving around, being attacked by giant lizards, checking in to a hotel—and the blue-haired, sword-wielding lady and her talking motorcycle continue on theirs. Amazingly immersive, every page is full of deep world-building, with unique creatures, foods, products, vehicles...Man, Graham just knocks my socks off. The comic is light and leisurely in pace, but so much work seems to have gone into it before the first line was drawn on the paper, given the amount of design and conception that went into it. All thumbs up! Five million stars! A+ plus an 26 more A+'s!

Saucer Country #10 (DC) It's the first debate! Will all those people shooting at the governor and her staff help or hurt them in the polling? Is there a conspiracy and, if so, is it for or against them? Lots of questions as always. But everything looks fine, and wondering after the questions is one of the pleasures of this book.

*Norm Breyfogle, if you're wondering.


Dean said...

re: Future Foundation- in FF#1, didn't Reed say that the main reason he picked Scott Lang as his replacement was because he could pressure Scott into looking after the kids by exploiting his guilt over the death of his daughter? I took that to mean that the Foundation was staying behind.

Aki Alaraatikka said...

Great comics, as usual. And great mini reviews. But that link to your rev of Multiple warheads 1...doesn`t exist.

JohnF said...

I think the big deal for Hawkeye is that this was a political killing/assassination, not just collateral damage in the heat of battle. Nobody cares if a SEAL does it, but the idea that we have a government-sponsored hit squad would be terrifying to a lot of people. It's all about the target, not the killing itself.
Look at all the Skrulls he killed during that dumb Secret Invasion.