Thursday, May 23, 2013

Comic shop comics: May 8-22

Daredevil #26 (Marvel Entertainment) Something seems like it went a little funny somewhere in the scheduling of this book, as the double-sized climax of writer Mark Waid's entire run on the series up until this point, in which the mastermind between all of DD's woes up until this point is revealed, comes not in issue #25, as tradition might dictate, but in issue #26. That's unusual, right?

But whatever. I love Chris Samnee's cover for this, with it's somewhat reserved Eisner homage, and, something I just now notice while I'm looking at this pile of Marvel, DC and Dark Horse Comics, I really rather like how Marvel's covers are currently designed, with all the visual clutter nonsense—UPC symbol, ad for a cartoon, credits, price, etc—all cordoned off in a red stripe along the bottom.

What makes this issue double-sized is a regular Daredevil issue, with a Foggy Nelson story at the back, both by Waid and Samnee. In the DD story, the mastermind is finally revealed (It wasn't my last guess, Mister Fear, but I did guess who it was before it was revealed...but only ten pages early). The Foggy story is a bit on the sappy side, involving a cancer patient, a bunch of little kid who are all cancer patients and the power of comics and heroes to instill hope, but well-made nonetheless (Iron Man appears in a few panels of it. Have any of you guys been reading Iron Man since the Marvel "NOW!" relaunch? How come he's wearing yellow and black now? Is that something they explained, or is it merely an aesthetic thing).

FF #7 (Marvel) I haven't read every single run on the Fantastic Four before, but I'm pretty sure there's a rule written somewhere saying that each new iteration of the team must fight an iteration of the Frightful Four at some point. In this issue, the Faux-tastic Four and the kids of the Future Foundation battle a new version of the Frightful Four consisting of The Wizard, Blastaar and reluctant recruits Medusa and The Wizard's own clone (and FF member) Bentley-23.

Also, it's written by Matt Fraction, drawn by Mike Allred and colored by Laura Allred, so it's pretty awesome.

I liked the Moleoid kids' battle-suit:

And I'm always up for some Lockjaw:

Green Lantern #20 (DC Comics) As Mark Antony once wrote on his blog about Julius Caesar, I've come here to bid farewell to Geoff Johns' run on Green Lantern, not to praise it.

I've read every single issue of Johns' Green Lantern run, from Green Lantern: Rebirth through this issue, and while I haven't loved every single page of it, I never dropped it, no matter how much more picky I've been in my comics purchases over the course of the last nine years. Sure, I've complained about it an awful lot—mainly regarding the violence and the over-usage of splash pages once the book became 20 rather than 22 pages for $2.99—but I never stopped reading.

And while I don't think Geoff Johns is the best mainstream comics writer, he is one of my favorite writers.

So I'm not going to bother with an overall assessment or appraisal of Johns' run in this space; clearly it's been incredibly successful by pretty much any definition. I've liked it well enough to pay attention to it. All of it.

This particular issue is a $7.99 behemoth, bearing a wrap-around cover and a spine, making it more trade paperback than comic book-comic. There are 66-story pages, by my count, although many of those story pages are simply splash spreads, including one massive, four-page fold-out at the end of the book. It's almost ad-free, with the only non-GL ads being an inside front cover ad for something Man of Steel and Walmart related, and an inside back cover ad for one of those direct-to-DVD cartoons DC occasionally releases. The rest of the ads are all house ads for the upcoming five-book Lantern franchise (Green Lantern, GL Corps, GL: New Guardians, Red Lanterns and Larfleeze. Then there's an editorial of sorts by Johns, and a multi-page ad listing all of the books collecting Johns' run on the title, rather more thorough than usual summaries of their events, and even the covers of past books whose continuity they draw on.

Then there's this weird thing they do, where every few pages or so there's a full-page ad-like "Congratulations Geoff Johns" featuring about a half-dozen quotes and blurbs from Johns' co-workers, collaborators, celebrity fans, "celebrity" fans, and even a few family members. It's nice, but it's so...much. I can't remember ever seeing anything remotely this...big done to celebrate any creator by either of the Big Two, even upon their deaths, let alone when they simply stop writing a series they've been writing for a long time (Not to dismiss the achievement of Johns' run; his stick-to-it-iveness is extremely admirable, although I suppose it must come in large part from it also being successful enough that DC never saw fit to kick him off the title either). The closest I can think of was that special collection of Brian Michael Bendis stories Marvel put out a few years ago to commemorate his 10th anniversary with the publisher, and that DC Comics Presents series of one-shots DC published in honor of Julius Schwartz.

Anyway, it's a nice thing DC did for Geoff Johns. I'm just standing back and whistling at it, as all.

My only real quibbles are these. First, the story is framed as a story being told by an older, wiser, veteran Green Lantern opening up a gigantic green book to share "the story every young Lantern comes to the archive hall to hear....the story of Hal Jordan." Near the end of that story, the elder Lantern refers to Jordan as "the spark" that started it all, which glosses over the fact that Hal Jordan was the second Green Lantern, a rebooted version of the old Golden Age hero in a way that, if not awkward, at least made me think, "Oh, hey, what about the actual spark, Alan Scott?" (I imagine Scott and probably Jade would have had some small role in this story, were it not for The New 52-boot).

Second, and related, in Johns' little editorial, he gives special thanks to Julius Schwartz, John Broome and Gil Kane "for creating such an incredible foundation to build on wiht Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps."

"Without them," Johns writes, "there would be no Green Lantern."

Except for Green Lantern Alan Scott of course, the character Schwartz and company re-created into Hal Jordan. While their overhaul was fairly extensive, they did have the name Green Lantern, the magic ring and magic lantern, the green constructs and an oath to work with already, thanks to Green Lantern creators Martin Nodell and Bill Finger, who probably deserved a shout-out similar to the one Broome and company received.

I did say they were quibbles, right?

As for the story, I was a little more lost than I would have liked to have been, due largely to the last two story arcs having played out like "War of The Green Lanterns" had, with chapters of the story appearing in each of the books (of which I only read one of the three or four involved series). It resets the franchise to about where it was prior to the New 52 reboot, with only a few tweaks—Kyle Rayner is apparently still a White Lantern for some reason, Simon Baz exists. Most of the characters who played some role in in Johns' GL run make some appearance, including each Corps and the principals from each, and the climactic battle with First Lantern Volthoom plays out like most of the climactic battles in the series up until this point, with sudden transformations, unexpected players arriving and unusual power-ups.

Johns resolves the relationship between Hal and Sinestro (and Sinestro and the Corps, and Sinestro and the Guardians) quite nicely, as well as Hal's relationship with his father's death, a plot point Johns would keep coming back to in various ways throughout his years on the franchise. Johns even provides little glimpses of the various characters' far-flung futures, so each of the Earth Lanterns, for example, gets a sort of happy ending, even though their adventures will actually continue next month in the five Lantern books, the four pre-exising ones all with brand-new writers.

It sure looks like those books are going to continue the cosmic space opera approach Johns went in during most of hir run, but I kind of hope Green Lantern at least gets a little more earth-centric, and has Hal dealing with old rogues like The Shark, Goldface, The Invisible Destroyer and whoever—poor incoming GL writer Robert Venditti has to follow this after all, and the further he can take Green Lantern into a far different, un-Geoff Johnsian direction, the better for him. (Personally, I'm dropping the book; I dont' have strong feelings for Venditti one way or the other, but I do not care for the work of incoming artist Billy Tan one jot).

As for the art in this, it is surprisingly good and surprisingly consistent, despite the many hands involved. Doug Mahnke handles the bulk of it, and does his regular superlative job, and he's got six guys inking his work along with him, but that's not unusual for Green Lantern. Even the 20-page issues have that many inkers, sometimes.

There's guest art by Ethan Van Sciver, Patrick Gleason, Cully Hamner, Aaron Kuder, Ivan Reis and Jerry Ordway, but it's all pretty smoothly integrated, so shifts in style are usually rather logically signaled.

Green Team #1 (DC Comics) This is Art Baltazar, Franco and Ig Guara's New 52 revival of the least-likely-to-be-revived premise in the DC Comics reservoir of premises, one of those guaranteed pre-canceled comics they occasionally throw out into the market just to watch die. I believe it's currently racing The Movement to cancellation, which, in both cases, I assume will happen around issue #8.

I've reviewed this elsewhere this afternoon, but am noting it here as per the self-imposed rules of this column (That is, it was released on one of the dates in the post title, and I bought it at the comic shop). It wasn't the best comic I read today, but it wasn't the worst either. If I were ranking them all, I'd put it at #5.

Star Wars #5 (Dark Horse Comics) Maybe it's just the similarity in style of comic cover artist Alex Ross and movie poster artist Drew Struzan, but I kinda dug Ross' covers for the first four issues of this new series, while Rodolfo Migliari's cover for this issue just kinda creeps me out: It looks like wax statues of Han Solo and Chewbacca photographed and dropped into a painting of a still from one of the movies (Spoiler: The action depicted on the cover does not occur in this book at all).

I was similarly less enchanted with the contents. I found the first issue (and those that immediately followed) quite enjoyable to read (on top of being well-made), but like the next comic discussed in this post, the pacing is slow enough that the narrative's grown dull taken chunk-by-chunk on a monthly basis.

Han and Chewie are still doing whatever they're meant to be doing on Coruscant, and here they've ventured into a bar that happens to contain either many of the exact same characters as the ones that hung out in the Mos Eisley cantina, or else representatives of the same races that hung out there (Artist Carlos D'Anda draws nice versions of them all, though). Boba Fett and Bossk are even there, and while I like Boba Fett (who doesn't?), it's sorta weird to see him on-screen (well, on-panel) this early in the Star Wars story (just as seeing so much Yoda in the prequels drains the import and surprise out of his appearance in Empire).

The first half of the book is devoted to a dogfight between some of Leia's X-Wing pilots and some TIE fighters that read an awful lot like a more sober and reserved take on the fight scenes from the old Robotech cartoon that I used to watch before school as a child, only without the action packed pay-offs (anime does space dogfights better than comics, really).

I don't know; maybe this book isn't really for me after all. I thought a Star Wars comics set between installments of original trilogy, starring the characters I knew and liked best, by high-quality creators, would be the Star Wars comics for me, but maybe I'm just not a more Star Wars kinda reader after all, despite how much I enjoyed the Force Unleashed and Darth Vader comics I read recently, and how much I dig Dark Horse's repints of the old Marvel series (I'm currently on the third volume of those).

Wonder Woman #20 (DC Comics) In this issue various factions of Olympian gods have ominous conversations with one another and maneuver to get their hands on the baby of Zola and Zeus, who was prophesied to one day destroy the ruler of Olympus, while Wonder Woman and her running crew try to protect the baby. You know, the same thing that's been happening in the book for close to two years now. Brian Azzarello's plot does move forward, but very slowly, and on a circular path, as if he were walking it up a spiral staircase with far too many steps. In this issue, for example, Wonder Woman fights Moon. Again.

My hopes were raised when Orion and a DCU analogue of Wesley Willis showed up a few issues ago, as I thought maybe Azzarello was bringing the New Gods mythology into this story of the Old Gods, but, if he is, he's doing so as gradually and slowly as he's done everything else in this book (Orion's MIA in this ish, for example).

I'm pretty sure I'm going to drop the book. It's slow and repetitive, but I think it's probably still worth reading—but I don't see any reason to read it in 20-page installments once a month, which only accentuates the slow pace and glacial plotting. I don't see any reason to keep reading it as its serially published instead of borrowing a trade of it from a library every six months or so.

Even the main reason I was interested n the book—Cliff Chiang's artwork—has been less and less of an incentive, as he's been increasingly less of a presence. In this issue, for example, he provides breakdowns and draws six pages, while Goran Sudzuka, the second of the fill-in artists, draws the bulk of the issue.

Young Avengers #5 (Marvel) Great cover, huh?

The art in this issue, as in the previous four issues, is excellent, and among the best I can find in any superhero comics on the shelves at the moment. I found the script somewhat disappointing this time around, perhaps in large part because this is the conclusion of the first arc, and rather than winning, these half-dozen heroes fight their foes to a standstill, and then decide on a course of action that will keep them together as a superhero team for the forseeable future. In other words, with this issue it becomes clear that these first five issues were about why this is the Young Avengers line-up and that they are gong to be starring in this comic book series, which is something I knew before picking up the first issue. It felt a bit artificial, and therefore hollow, at least in its plotting and pacing, if not in the characterization, which writer Kieron Gillen continues to do a rather fine job of.

But man, this art's so nice even if the writing were terrible I'd probably still be picking this series up every month.


Akilles said...

Mark Waids last DD-issue?




I just bought the book containing the first 11 issues, and he`s quitting the book?! Damn it all to hell!!!!


Seiously, I woulda loved 10-20 issues more.

SallyP said...

Chris Samnee's cover for Daredevil is indeed deilghtful. As is everything by Chris Samnee.

End of an era for Geoff Johns, and the Green Lanterns. I'm going to hang around and see what the new guys do.

Young Avengers has been a hoot and a half, and yes, the art is gorgeous. I'm also thrilled that not-so-bad young Loki is still around...somehow.

Caleb said...


This wasn't Waid's last issue of Daredevil; sorry if something I wrote gave the impression that it was. I think I said it was the climax of his run so far, but it's not the conclusion. It even ends with a cliffhanger, so Dardevil's gotta fight his bad guys next issue (which will likely be the new climax to Waid's run so far).

Akilles said...

Oh Jesus...I guess I just misread again (Or you wrote the post confusingly. If so, no negative feelings.)...Well, the good thing is that the relief you get after reading something like that, but then find out, wasn`t true after all, makes it worthwhile to have been wrong. I guess.