Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Weekly Haul: May 23rd

Birds of Prey #106 (DC Comics) Woah, complaining about the same thing over and over on a comics blog really does effect change sometimes! Case in point: BOP penciller Nicola Scott finally, finally, finally started drawing Big Barda’s armour correctly, with her breastplate actually covering her breasts, instead of being removed to show off her cleavage. Awesome. I can’t tell you how much that one little thing bugged me. I mean, you have to proceed very, very carefully when it comes to revamping a Jack freaking Kirby design, and of all the changes that could be made to Barda’s costume, removing some armor to allow for more cheesecake was at the absolute bottom of the list. Her street clothes, after all, consist of a bikini top and mini-shorts (Cover artist Stephane Roux didn’t get the memo yet, however, and draws Barda with her breasts popping out of metal corset, allowing enemies easy access to stab her in the heart).

As for the parts of this comic book that aren’t between Barda’s neck and stomach, it’s basically the big fight issue, with the Birds and the Secret Six smacking each other around. There are some things I hated (Huntress vamping Catman, Misfit landing a blow on Harley, Deadshot being such a terrible shot) and some things I loved (Barda’s facial expressions, the two-page spread, vitually every word out of Ragdoll’s mouth), which all adds up to a perfectly fine outing. As for the story arc’s biggest point—what exactly is up with Ice—I’ll have to withhold judgment until we find out if it’s a legit resurrection or…something else. Seeing as her hair and costume are completely different than they were when she died, and that she doesn’t sound much like Tara, and that bringing her back to life makes absolutely no sense at all and this is one of the worst places to do it, I’m kinda hoping it’s an elaborate fake out that will make sense when Gail Simone wraps this all up.

Countdown #49 (DC)
This time it’s Tony Bedard’s turn to script Paul Dini’s plot, and Carlos Magno’s chance to pencil the proceedings. It’s much better than the last two issue, but still not very good. Bedard does handle the reveal of something odd about Jimmy Olsen on pages two and three quite well, but while that is presented as something that is supposed to seem off, the casual name-dropping of “Jason Todd” to Lois over the phone still seems like a big, dunderheaded mistake, one that would have easily been fixed by changing those two words to read “Jason Todd.”

Mary Marvel goes to Gotham for some reason and runs into another Marvel (maybe?), and for some reason she first-person narrates her scenes, even though the rest of the issue is told in narrator-less, objective point-of-view. Grr…of all the things to keep from 52!

There’s some stuff with the Rogues that seems fine if you don’t think about the Trickster’s past at all, there’s a strange scene set on the JLA satellite which is a tad hard to follow do to the weird expression Magno gives Karate Kid in his last panel, and, finally, a scene explaining what’s up with the Monitors a little more clearly.

Okay I get the fact that they’re playing multiverse cops/meta-continuity cops, but their targets don’t seem to be chosen very well. Supergirl and some Legionnaires are shown on a Monitor’s monitor as examples of “loose ends left by the last crisis…cosmic mistakes just waiting to be corrected.” But also shown are Nightwing, Red Hood, Kyle Rayner and Donna Troy. Which is where Countdown loses me.

All four of those characters are native to, and have always been on in the central DCU setting. Three of them existed on “Earth-1” (Kyle wasn’t created until post-Crisis On Infinite Earths). When the multiverse was collapsed during COIE into just one earth, they were all part of the shared universe that existed between the two Crises. That’s where Kyle was created, retroactively having been born on “Earth-1.” After Alex Luthor accidentally re-created Earth as “New Earth,” they were all still there, and when “New Earth” split into a multiverse of 52 parallel earths, they all remained on “Earth-52.” So I don’t get why the hell they’re targets for the Monitors instead of, say, anyone from Earths-2, -X, -S or –4 (Or, in less nerdy terms, just about every DCU character who’s either from the Golden Age or acquired from a different comic book company).

This issue also starts the back-up features, once again written by Dan Jurgens. Considering how pointless his “History of the DCUniverse” was in 52, this kinda scares me. The first installment simply covers some of the same ground as the scene in the front of the book with the Monitors, and the meeting between Barry Allen and Jay Garrick, which I coulda sworn was included in “History of the DCUniverse.”

Fantasitic Four #546 (Marvel Comics) Cover artist Michael Turner manages a background for this scene, a fact which so shocks and delights me that I’m not even going to waste time complaining about the fact that the fight depicted on the cover occurs in deep, background-less space instead of the urban setting Turner drew because, well, at least he’s trying. Also, there’s a foot. Well, the arch of a foot. But again, the guy’s trying. A little. And that’s a step in the right direction, right?

Between reading #545 and reading #546, I finally got around to reading Beyond! (I had intended to wait for the trade paperback, but I was weak), which this two-issue story arc was sort of a sequel to. Writer Dwayne McDuffie ended last ish on a cliffhanger teasing a new status for Gravity, but, like all good universe comics writers should, McDuffie puts that particular toy right back where he found it—or at least in a state that’s no worse for wear, so that if Sean McKeever and Mike Perkins ever make their way back to Marvel, they can pretty much pick up where they left off.

The bulk of the issue revolves the fight between Galactus’ heralds in one corner and Gravity and the FF, and it’s pretty great stuff, with nice, fun dialogue and nice, fun superhero art. The sight of Kirby creation Black Panther wearing what looks like some Kirby-designed armor to fight Silver Surfer was a winner, and that big, crazy frog that appeared in the last issue of Black Panther is explained.

The Iredeemable Ant-Man (Marvel) Writer Robert Kirkman’s old partner Cory Walker finishes up his stint as a fill-in artist in this story-packed issue. The titular character tries to bluff and lie his way into a lucrative job with Damage Control by claiming to be a bug-themed hero who’s name isn’t Ant-Man (Dude, you totally look like an ant!), clashes again with the Silver Fox, teams up with She-Hulk and maybe, just maybe meets his soul mate. Nice, fun and funny writing with great dialogue, a protagonist like no other, and clean, flat, fun art.

Madman Atomic Comics #2 (Image Comics)
Wow. The greatest recap page ever is followed by page after page of perfectly (and innovatively) composed lay-outs and a head-spinning story that reveals that the last issue, in which we found out that EVERYTHING WE KNOW IS WRONG! was actually itself WRONG! As an only occasionally Madman reader, with plenty of holes in my knowledge of what’s come before, I’m good and lost now, but damn, is that ever some nice scenery. Oh, and pin-ups by Paul Pope and Charles Burns.

Shadowpact #13 (DC) I am so Zauriel’s bitch. His appearance is the sole reason I picked up this book, which I’ve been avoiding for a year now. Despite my affection for Ragman and Detective Chimp, I so thoroughly disliked Bill Willingham’s Day of Vengeance mini and one-shot, and the state of magic in the DCU in general (which basically threw out everything that was built up over a few decades by guys like Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison in favor of whatever Judd Winick an Willingham think up) that I was sure I couldn’t possibly like this title.

But then they just had to go and put Zauriel on the cover, and I couldn’t help myself. This despite the fact that I don’t think anyone’s ever written a half-way decent Zauriel story other than Morrison (Actually, his Justice League Unlimited appearance was okay, and Steve Gerber did a decent page or two in Helmet of Fate: Zauriel; and his appearance in 52 was solid, but that was at least partially a Morrison story). I guess I just so liked his appearance in Morrison’s JLA and the potential in the character that I keep hoping against hope that future stories starring him will be good. Is that faith? I suppose that’s appropriate then.

This is actually a good jumping on point, I guess, since the ‘pact only appear in one page, and the rest of the issue checks in with various villains, providing nice introductions to who they are and what they’re all about. Also, Scott Hampton illustrated the thing, so you know every page is beautiful—wonderfully designed and rendered. The Zauriel bit gave me a little hope; based on page 21 alone, Willingham seemed to have at least understood what he read in JLA, although prior to that he does seem to resort to the Zauriel-as-Charlie’s Angels-type angel to God’s Charlie, in which God’s messengers acting as his Boswell call on him to go on special missions for God or whatever (as Gerber did in the Helmet of Fate special, which was basically just a Green Lantern Corps story, only with God instead of the Guardians). Word on the street is that Z.’s joining the team, so maybe I’ll be back for #14; while #13 didn’t knock my socks off, it wasn’t so bad as to repel me from getting the next one.

She-Hulk #18 (Marvel) It’s patently unfair to blame writer Dan Slott for dumb things that writer Mark Millar and Marvel editorial did in other books, but that’s the burden of big company cross-over events that change the whole shared universe forever. Every book dealing with those changes is colored by them. As the horrible, horrible Greg Horn cover attests (I often quite like his work, but this strikes me as his worst cover ever), this is the issue in which She-Hulk finally wakes up and realizes that Tony Stark is an asshole. After their big fight scene, she tells him off regarding his whole shooting-her-cousin-into-space thing and Project: Achilles, which he turns on her. “Do you have any idea of the laws you’ve broken here? Of the rights you’ve trampled on?!” And she can’t help but seem like an idiot. I mean, is it any worse than the laws he had broken and the rights he’d trampled on during Civil War? Um, Clor! The death of Goliath! Superhuman draft! Mandatory registration! Indefinite detention…in the Negative Zone…without trial!

Now, Slott didn’t write Civil War, but he did write this, and to have Shulkie turn on Stark now over this, but go along with all that other stuff? It just rings false. And that, my friends, is one of the major problems with the now thankfully ended Civil War. In order for their to be a war, not only did Iron Man have to start acting like an out-of-character douchebag, but Millar and company had to draw a line down the middle of the Marvel Universe and pick heroes pretty much at random to line up on the two sides. Why on earth would a lawyer superhero like Jen Walters line up with the guy who was clearly making a mockery of the entire U.S. legal system and history to enforce a single, controversial, untested and unproven law passed through congress in a hurry? Because Iron Man needed someone besides Hank Pym on his side, that’s why.

Anyway, as far as this issue is concerned, SHIELD’s Hulk-buster unit gets decimated by The Leader (aw, and I was really starting to like that team), Jen learns the big secret and knock’s Tony around quite a bit and Rick Burchett and Cliff Rathburn knock the art clear out of the park. Again. I’m really going to miss Slott when he leaves this title, and I’m having a hard time imagining who could possibly replace him. I’d be down for Jeff Parker maybe, but other than that I can’t imagine who could follow Slott here. Peter David seems a natural choice, but I don’t think I could take David on two Marvel titles at once, personally.

The Spirit #6 (DC) If you’re only reading one comic book, it had damn well better be The Spirit, or there is something deeply, deeply wrong with you. I keep expecting one of these things to be a dud, because it seems statistically possible for Darwyn Cooke, J. Bone and Dave Stewart to keep this up forever, but man, not only is each issue as good as the one before it, each seems to be getting better. In this particular issue, the title character plays a smaller role than usual, while still remaining present throughout the whole thing, as it’s told to him by one of the other participants. It’s also another great example of how Cooke is able to seemingly effortlessly bring the Golden Age mystery man into the present without making anything seemed forced at all. Personally, I have a hard time imagining Denny Colt and punk rock existing within the same comic book, but I’ll be damned if Cooke doesn’t pull it off, and make it seem perfectly natural in the process.


All Blog Spots said...

nice blog

Matthew said...

I have read somewhere that Kyle should, had the multiverse still been in existence, have been the Green Lantern of Earth-8 and thus the Monitors consider him an anomaly?

Pfft, don't ask me, I came to DC after Infinite Crisis so I've no idea what's going on.

Caleb said...


Yeah, it was Infinite Crisis. There's a point where Breach is referred to as someone who would have come from Earth-8, which is basically where all of the post-Crisis heroes like Kyle and the second Firestorm would have been from if COIE didn't prevent the creation of/existence of an Earth-8, so they existed on the post-Crisis Earth instead.

It basically amounts to the current crop of DC guys picking Hal's side in the Great Hal/Kyle Debates and saying Kyle was a cosmic mistake (likewise, I can only assume Dick Grayson's on the hit list because Dan Didio had wanted him killed during IC but got voted down...all of which amounts to this series dealing with the Monitors monitoringtwhat DC's editors and writers would have liked to have happened in their comics rather than what actually happened in their comics. Or somethin...?)

JohnF said...

What about the Surfer's man-boobs though? That Mike Turner is out of control.

I'm sorry, but I really think that some of Jack Kirby's character designs look stupid. I realize that criticism of Kirby is verboten, but some of those New Gods look ridiculous. Granny Goodness? Mr. Miracle? I just don't think you have to be absolutely faithful to his designs. If you can improve on them in some way then you should. Nothing should be sacred.

I'm not saying that that makes it OK to take away Barda's breastplate just to show some skin. That's dumb and out of character.