Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Weekly Haul: May 2nd

52 #52 (DC Comics) And thus ends what I’ve long considered the most ambitious super-comic ever, the ultimate in “universe” comics (being a story of the whole fictional universe) and the best DCU comic of the past year. I’m really sorry to see this end, and I’ve no real confidence that Countdown will be able to replace it in quality (the main selling point of 52 was the four guys writing it, not the schedule or even the scope).

I’ll probably be doing an autopsy on the series as a whole sometime later this week, but regarding this single issue, it involves Rip Hunter and the Carter Boys taking on the Suspendium-mutated Mr. Mind to save the new Multiverse of Earths 1 through 52, which they plan to keep a secret between the three of them (You know, just like The Trinity decided to keep Hypertime a secret between the three of them). I’m not exactly sure I followed all of the multiverse shenanigans here, and I still have that uncertain feeling that DC hasn’t quite nailed it down either (At one point, Hunter says that figuring out the changes in the Earths can wait, to which I say no it fucking can’t. Say what you will about Zero Hour, but we got a nice, specific timeline at the end of the series, nailing DC history down for readers and writers alike, and the post-Zero Hour period was devoid of the rampant continuity errors that have plagued the DCU since around the time that Identity Crisis dropped).

The part of the book that doesn’t involve these blonde heroes and Mr. Mind checks in with the rest of our stars, giving them all wonderfully happy endings. I don’t know if I’m on board with all of the changes coming out of 52 (I think Question II is a mistake, and I’m not terribly excited in the Steels heading up an Infinity Inc. series, as announced), but I’m definitely on board for future Booster Gold stories and a Ralph and Sue Dibny miniseries (their new status is the best possible solution for the characters; Identity Crisis ended their story potential as it was, and while their original concept was more visually interesting in its possibilities than this status quo, this is seriously as close as you can get to their original concept at this point).

It’s probably not terribly likely that these four writers will get together to co-write another series in the future, but man, I would love to see them launch a Shazam! monthly or take over JLoA at some point—on a monthly schedule, that’s only as much work as three months worth of 52, guys!

The Avengers: The Initiative #2 (Marvel Comics) This issue is something of a weird read, and I vacillated between extreme revulsion with the characters and the illogic of the whole thing (the bit about the Negative Zone jumps? Um, what?! Having the prison there threatens all existence, and they treat it like global warming?) and satisfaction with how well Dan Slott pulls so much of it off. And as for Stefano Casselli’s art, it just gets better and better. The mixture of real-world politics and problems and Marvel high super-fantasy makes me a little queasy, and the heroic George W. Bush standing his ground in the face of terrorist threat seriously made me want to throw up. Come on Slott, I know the “616” is technically a parallel universe, but I have a hard time believing Bush would be like, “Leave the danger zone like I did on 9/11? Fuck that! I’ll stand my ground and kick Hydra’s ass myself if I have to! Let’s roll, Avengers!” Not that Slott should have taken the opportunity to bash Bush either, but what exactly do those two panels add to the story exactly? Maybe he’s going somewhere with all this though; I admit I did like Bush saying “You’re doin’ a heck of a job, Pymmy,” which is perhaps simply Slott building up to a Katrina-sized fuck-up on the part of Pym and the Camp Hammond assholes.

Green Lantern #19 (DC) I’m not feeling this storyline at all. Geoff Johns and Daniel Acuna enter the middle chapter of their storyline about the Star Sapphires, and it amounts to a long burst of exposition in the form of Carol picking the middle of a big superhero fight to tell Hal Jordan the history of the star sapphires for the first time, and there’s a brief fight at the end. It’s worth slogging through if only to get to the “Tales of the Sinestro Corps” back-up drawn by Dave Gibbons, in which we get a six-page pulp science fiction spin on The Jungle Book.

Midnighter #7 (WildStorm/DC) Brian K. Vaughan and Darick Robertson present a one-issue story that internalizes the way the Midnighter’s mind works in the story structure itself, resulting in a rather typical Midnighter adventure told in Midnighter-vision. Yeah, it’s a gimmick, but it’s a pretty inspired one, and absolutely brilliantly executed.

Runaways #26 (Marvel) One punch! One punch!

Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil #3 (DC) Wow, what a week for Sivana fans! Jeff Smith pits Captain Marvel against his diminutive archnemesis and some monsters, and gives us at least two wonderful scenes (the panel where Cap says, “Cute!” and the sequence of Billy and Cap conversing about Helen Fidelity). Three-fourths over already, it’s pretty clear that there’s a lot Jeff Smith just isn’t going to have time to get to—Mister Atom, Ibac, Sabbac, Uncle Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr., Black Adam, Hoppy the Marvel Bunny, etc.—which is a shame. As for the future of Smith’s vision of the Marvel Family, sure to have a long life on bookshelves once the trade is released, given the revelations of 52, maybe this is continuity after all. Maybe this is the “Year One” story for the Captain Marvel of Earth-5?

Superman #662 (DC) And we’re back on track, with Busiek’s overarching storyline about Superman’s role in the world and how by averting some disasters, he may actually be inadvertently building up to an even bigger one. It’s a solid idea that’s been great fun to watch Busiek explore thus far. With Carlos Pacheco and Jose Merino back on art chores, Busiek seems to be bringing his A game again (Well, his A+ game, since his fill-in issues have all been great too, just not as great as his Pacheco-pencilled issues). Great interpretations (verbally and visually) of post-Seven Soldiers Zatanna and newer character Sirocco, particularly the former’s magic words. Wow.

Teen Titans #46 (DC) I’ve never been terribly impressed with this volume of Teen Titans; thus far it’s been a bit of a roller coaster that dipped into not very good, occasionally climbed to fairly decent, but spent most of it’s time around mediocre, and it was the characters more than the stories that kept it on my pull list. With Geoff Johns’ run officially over now, it seems like a good time to drop it, particularly since this last story, co-written by Johns and his replacement Adam Beechen, is probably the worst Titans story I’ve ever read (and I read Dan Jurgens’ volume, the D.E.O. kids arcs of The Titans, and an awful lot of Teen Titans Go!). The last three issues have been ten kinds of horrible, and this is the conclusion to that story. The plot goes like this: Bad guys attack good guys, bad guys capture good guys, good guys escape and fight bad guys, more good guys show up and they outnumber the bad guys, and are thus able to beat them up more easily.

The only thing that could possibly make this simplistic plot remotely interesting is the characters, and Johns and Beechen are playing with pretty much any characters they want, including the current Titans, some old-school Titans, and cherry-picked rogues from throughout the DCU (Superboy enemy Match, Impulse enemy Inertia, et cetera). But Johns and/or Beechen seem to not know anything about these characters, twisting them to suit their own story-telling agenda (Match is written like Bizarro, not, you know, Match), which defeats the one benefit of using them. You want to dust off ‘90s D-Listers like Risk? Fine, but at least read a few stories featuring Risk before you write him.

Let me wrap up the irritated fan-boy portion by pointing out that Risk is never given a reason for turning from hero to villain, and that Batgirl’s in no better shape now then when Beechen besmirched her in Robin. Yeah, there was the brainwashing juice (although World War III and Supergirl contradicted it), but this Cassandra Cain is still a killer and is still a weakling. Rather than holding her own against Slade, she does nothing but jump over his head once (it took Slade a few pages to kick Batman’s ass, Cassie should tear him apart if she’s got a dozen superheroes helping her out), and then get knocked out by a rightwing by Nightwing, who, let the record show, is no Batman. (And, if he was, Cassie would still kick his ass).

Okay, now that I’ve got all that out of my system, let me just point out that the dialogue is embarrassingly bad. Take, for example, “I am Deathstroke, The Terminator. And I never lose,” or anything that comes out of Flash IV’s mouth, or, my favorite exchange…

Deathstroke: “You’ve got guts, Grayson, thinking you can stand up to me after how I’ve played you for years… …Guts, but no brains.”

Nightwing: “Coming here, doing what you’re doing… …You tell me who’s missing brains, Slade.”

Dude! He just told you who’s missing brains! It’s you! (He goes ahead and says, “You , will be, when my sword carves them out of your skull!” anyway). Beechen is one-sixth of the Countdown writing team, which is one of the reasons I’m not expecting too terribly much out of it.

The art, by Al Barrionuevo and BIT, looks horribly rushed. There are lots of one-page splashes full of nothing but characters in random poses, three-panel pages, and zero backgrounds. There’s maybe three or four panels where you see the coast in the background, and two at the end where you see an urban landscape, and that’s it.


Anonymous said...

Appropos of absolutely nothing, I flipped through a copy of "House of M: Spider-Man" while at a bookstore yesterday. Holy fucking christ, that series was terrible. What kind of stupid bastard actually writes down the fact that he's been harboring a terrible lie for decades? A lie that would instantly destroy his life, stripping him of wealth and fame and putting his family at risk? If you said "The same stupid bastard who wouldn't guard that diary with his life," you win a prize.

Unknown said...

Re: 52

Interesting "Birth of the Multiverse" concept. It was basic chaos theory, except instead of a butterfly, you have a giant inter-dimensional space moth.

I'm with you on the new Booster Gold series and I'm jonesing for something with The Dibny Occult Detectives. I had hoped that there was another trick up Ralph's sleeve, but this little slice of ethereal happiness will do. I imagine the "changes to history" will be explored in the new Booster Gold series.

I think there's a place on the market for a new anthology series that picks up these characters. I'm not confident any one of them could sustain a new series past 24 issues (Firestorm for example), but pack 3 or 4 ongoing stories in a new "Showcase" and it might work.

All in all, job well done. Newsarama has a series of exit interviews with the writers, and it's interesting to read where they diverged from the plan and what ended up on the cutting room floor. I'd buy a mini about Clark Kent's missing year. Same with Bat-Family.

Matthew said...

I'm totally down with the2scoops as far as wanting to read a "The Bat-Family Takes a Vacation" mini-series. I got to see Daredevil visit Europe in The Devil Takes a Ride, so why not the Bat-Family?


Unknown said...

re: the new multi-verse

So correct me if I'm reading this wrong, but here's my take on the main difference between this new 52 Multiverse and the pre-Crisis one.

The old multiverse had some characters with parallel copies (Flash, Atom, Green Lantern, etc.) while some chracters where unique to their separate earth (Freedom Fighters, Marvel Family, Charlton characters, Legion of Super Heroes).

Now, there is still the amalgamated New Earth with all the heroes like the JLA, JSA, Marvels, Freedom Fighters, and Legion, but there are also worlds that have only the JSA,or the Freedom Fighters, or the Charlton characters. In effect, we have Earth 1 Shazam and Earth 5 Shazam, an Earth 1 Legion and an Earth 32 Legion. But we don't necessarily have Earth 1 Wildcats, just Earth 52.

Phew. It's like they should publish a guide or something.