Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Weekly Haul: December 6th

52 #31 (DC Comics) For the second week in a row, the book seems to be particularly Morrison heavy, so much so that I read half the dialogue in a Scottish accent. Deep in space, we get a look at this crazy plague Lobo was talking about, as he and his allies (now including Ekron) prepare to cut it off at the source. Back on Earth, Everyman uses his shape-changing powers in a rather sketchy but perfectly understandable way, Ralph Dibny hits a flask (of Gingold, I hope…?) and chats with Wonder Girl, and, in the most maddening bit of the this week’s book, he solves the mystery of Supernova’s identity. Off-panel, of course. Here’s how he breaks it down: “The who made perfect sense. The powers threw me, but when I saw them from the proper angle, I sussed out the one device that could tie them all together. Superman being out of the picture was the key. One of two keys, if you want to be cute about it.” I lingered on that page for quite a while, reading that bubble over and over, but I just couldn’t figure it out. My best guess remains Booster Gold because of the familiarity with Ralph, but I don’t get the “key,” why Supes would have to be gone, or the device, so Booster’s just a wild guess. And why is “angle” emphasized like that? Confidential to 52 editorial: Nice save on the “Cult of Connor” business, even if it was really awkward and not really true (that phrase appeared in a headline in a clipping Ralph was waving around previously). Don’t forget to change that headline and cut out Cassie’s bubble about the C.O.C. in the trade.

Agents of Atlas #5 (Marvel Comics) It’s another exposition-heavy issue, as we learn the true origins of Venus (Hint: Should Jeff Parker get to write an Agents of Atlas/Mighty Avengers crossover, she and Ares won’t have all that much to talk about after all), and the team ferrets out the traitor in their midst…sort of. Only one more issue to go, and you all damn well better buy it, because I’m hoping for an ongoing of this creative team handling this weird-ass superteam.

The All-New Atom #6 (DC) There’s a whole lot to like about this series, including it’s wonderful setting, gorgeous covers and the number of pilgrims cameo-ing the backgrounds, and this first story arc had a neat idea behind it (a war between science and magic) and some interesting villains (the flea people with the weird grammar), but as the first story arc comes to an end, it’s clear the book’s start has been—what’s a nice way to put it?—rocky. We’re only on issue #6, and we’ve already had two different artists with two very different styles, and this penciller, Eddy Barrows, does a merely serviceable job. The two-page splash spread on six and seven is written as if it should be a total money shot, but instead it’s simply a suburban grid with five or six giants in it, with random supervillains choosing seemingly random sides (not sure what’s going on in that monkey panel). The book has all the elements of a great one, and writer Gail Simone has severely cut back on her misuse of asterisks (only one instance this issue), but it’s birth has been a messy and painfully awkward one, as if it was launched a few months too early, and without sufficient development. Here’s hoping things get better from here on in.

Batman Confidential #1 (DC) For this they cancelled Legends of the Dark Knight? Just like the over-ten-years-old LDK, this book is set during Batman’s early years, and is dedicated to rotating creative teams telling previously untold tales of Batman’s long crime-fighting career. The problems start immediately, with the title that sounds like a Harlequin romance novel about the Caped Crusader, and the cover by artist Whilce Portacio who apparently couldn’t find any photo reference of Bats when he sat down to draw it, and settled for Muppets instead. Writer Andy Diggle has done a fine job rehabbing DC characters in the past—see his Swamp Thing and Adam Strange: Planet Heist—but doesn’t do anything too sensational here. The story is that of Lex Luthor and Bruce Wayne’s first meeting, but it opens with a paint-by-numbers Batman vs. Thug scene and makes a minor but oh-so-easy-to-avoid continuity flub (At this point, the only human being on Earth who should no about the existence of Gorilla City is Barry Allen; and if Luthor did know it, he certainly wouldn’t use it as a random example like he does publicly here). A bigger problem is Potacio, who is visibly, painfully struggling with fundamentals here. Note Batman’s never-symmetrical, never-the-same-length ears, Luthor and bodyguards’ repulsive choice in suits and a couple of panels that just plain make no sense (page 8, panel 1; page 20, panel 1). I think I’ll sit the remainder of this arc out.

Detective Comics #826 (DC) Okay, I give up. I can’t think of a better Joker story I’ve read, except for maybe Mad Love, which was also written by Paul Dini. In his best done-in-one of his run, Dini stages a dramatic Joker and Robin confrontation, with Mr. J. rescuing the Boy Wonder from a gun fight, then gassing him, tying him up in the passenger’s seat of a car (and using a glass Christmas bulb for a gag—nice touch) and then driving around town running people over while chatting him up. In addition to the strong setting and nice ironic climax, Dini really gets into the Joker’s head here, letting us see the method to his madness, and, via narration, gives us a nice peek into Tim Drake’s detective skills. The art is by Don Kramer and Wayne Faucher, and though it’s not as strong as the writing is (during a flashback to the Bat Family’s trip around the world, it’s hard to distinguish Dick Grayson from Bruce Wayne), they do a wonderful Joker, one who seems one-part DCU Joker and one-part Batman: The Animated Series Joker. Just make sure you stop reading after the third panel on page 21; the last page and a half are a sub-par denoument to an otherwise excellent story.

Dr. Strange: The Oath #3(Marvel) This is issue three of a five-part miniseries, so it’s more than halfway over at this point. And it’s just as awesome as the last two issues. Like Agents of Atlas, this is a book just begging to be a monthly.

Emo Boy #7 (Slave Labor Graphics) “Well, I know who’s naughty, and I know who’s nice…why shouldn’t I know who’s emo?” With those words, Santa Claus meets Emo Boy in a diner on Christmas Eve. Our melodramatic hero has been hunger-striking to protest the horrible commercial ritual that is the modern American Christmas, and suffering all sorts of (hilarious) hunger-induced hallucinations as a result. He gets introduced to a whole new kind of suffering when the Christmas spirit is literally beat into him. An all around great issue of an all around great series, and just in time to give to the most emo person on your Christmas list (Though the cleverly-named trade might also make a good stocking-stuffer).

Justice Society of America #1 (DC) Wow, now this is a relaunch—I hope Brad Meltzer and Brian Michael Bendis are taking notes. Writer Geoff Johns returns to the JSA, bringing along cover artist Alex Ross, who gives us not only a kick-ass team portrait for the cover, but alo a brand new logo and his Kingdom Come Starman design. In 40 pages, Johns teases the events of 52, gives the JSA a new, separate and distinct raison d’ etre from the JLA’s, introduces and kills off one legacy character, reassembles the Society with some intriguing new characters and gives them a brand new base. It took New Avengers about 15 issues to accomplish that much, and Justice League of America has spun its wheels for four dithering over the roll call. I have a quibble or two, particularly regarding DC’s goddam Multiverse (the status of which no one who reads, creates or edits DC comics seem to be clear on at this point), but this is about as close to a perfect issue as a superteam’s #1 issue can be. Don’t believe me? Okay, well in addition to New Avengers and JLoA, please also take into consideration the recent Teen Titans, The Authority, WildC.A.T.S. and Gen 13 re-launches.

The Irredeemable Ant-Man #3 (Marvel) Finally, a Marvel superhero who tries to pull the same crap most of us readers would if we had such amazing powers. This is probably tied with Dr. Strange for being my favorite Marvel book at the moment.

Marvel Holiday Special (Marvel) Well, this book is definitely not worth the $3.99 price of admission, particularly considering how little of it is actually comics-comics, but it was definitely a lot of fun. The less said about Frazer Irving’s cover the better, because it just blows my mind (Why is the Hulk and adult, while the other Marvel heroes are kids? I don’t get it). There are only three short stories contained within. One is “A.I.M. Lang Syne” by Andrew Farago, Shaenon K. Garrity and Ron Lim, about A.I.M.’s holiday office party (the jumps at the end of each scene, like “Continued on 13th Page Following” are almost as funny as the jokes themselves). Then there’s “How Fin Fang Foom Saved Christmas,” by the Fin Fang Four creative team of Scott Gray and Roger Landridge, which teams Foom and Dr. Strange’s manservant Wong against a Hydra cell and a giant robot Santa (Confidential to Wong: There’s only one “L” in that kind of lama; if you actually meant llamas, then there are more of them in NYC than in Tibet). Finally, Mike Carey and Mike Perkins present a Thing vs. Annihilus story in rhyme that really has nothing to do with the holidays. The rest of the book is rounded out by weird little extras, like cut-out ornaments, a full-page, four-paragraph letter from Ralph Macchio, reprints of past holiday special covers (those Adams ones sure put this year’s to shame!) and the ridiculously extensive Marvel Handbook-style entry on Santa Claus.

Midnighter #2 (DC/WildStorm) Ever wonder why Hitler only had one ball? Wonder no longer, as Garth Ennis provides the reason in the second issue of his appropriately silly new series, in which the Midnighter is sent back in time to kill the future Fuhrer before he gets a chance to set up any death camps or invade Poland. Last issue, Midnighter kicked a tank shell that was fired at him just as easily as if he were punting a football. This issue, he chews through barbwire. I like how Ennis is writing the character as a mixture of Batman and the Punisher, with all the powers of Popeye.

Stan Lee Meets Silver Surfer #1 (Marvel) Wow, even Stan Lee, who wrote so much of the Surfer’s insufferable pseudo-philosphical ramblings, finds him annoying. In the Lee-written, Mike Wieringo-drawn lead story, Galactus summons Lee to try putting up with the Surfer for a few minutes, but Lee’s only human. Best part? Lee narrating out loud to himself as he’s teleported aboard Galactus’ ship, to which the big G. responds, “Spare me your comic book dialogue!” The second story is by Paul Jenkins and features art by Mark Buckingham, and it’s a pretty fawning ass-kissing of Stan, with Jenkins even patting himself on the back for creating Superman knock-off The Sentry. I especially enjoyed Lee telling the young Jenkins to try thinking of a charater of his own “in the mighty marvel style,” and out pops a character in the distinguished DC style. Back-ups include a two-pager by Jacob Chabot pitting the Marvel Universe’s lamest villains against Lee, and a reprint of an old-school Spidey vs. Surfter story by Lee and John Buscema.

Superman Confidential #2 (DC) The story of Superman’s first confrontation with kryptonite continues. The big green rock is still narrating, but now it seems like there’s something inside doing the thinking. Meanwhile, the young Superman again puts his invincibility to the test while fighting a volcano, learning that he can fill his lungs with lava and puke it up as if it were nothing worse than sea water. Also of interest is the possible reason why Superman lied to Lois about his real identity all those years. A well-written, beautifully drawn book, which I enjoyed all the more now that I’ve seen how badly wrong a Confidential book can go.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, I look forward to the weekly reviews. It helps me prioritize what I need to read.

Re: 52 and Ralph's detective skills. He specifically refers to a key: doesn't the JLA villan Prometheus use a Cosmic Key with trippy powers? i recall it went missing in a JSA: Classified arc, but I can't remember where it ended up. Just a thought, but like you I have no idea who Supernova is supposed to be.

Anonymous said...

BATMAN: YEAR THREE: I didn’t expect to see this storyline on this particular list. While it’s certainly an essential Robin storyline, it’s about the original Robin, Dick Grayson, and Tim Drake has next to nothing to do with it.

True, but it IS his first ever appearance in the DCU as the toddler meeting Dick Grayson and family at the circus.