Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Weekly Haul: February 27th

Action Comics #862 (DC Comics) Wow, Geoff Johns’ “Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes” story arc is in the fifth of its six issues, and Johns is still introducing new characters into the mix. The good news, particularly for those of us who may have been getting a little bored with the title being hijacked by the LOSH, is that, this time, these new characters are the goofy-ass Legion rejects/subs, including Chlorophyll Kid, Fire Lad, Stone Boy and Rainbow Girl. It’s just a big fun, fight issue, with Johns’ sometimes too-serious script getting some much needed comic relief from lines like, “The ferns cry out for retribution and they’ll have it!”

Plus, Johns answers a question no one asked—how did Infectious Lass end up in the present to participate in Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s Dr. 13 story?

All-Star Batman & Robin, The Boy Wonder #9 (DC) Frank Miller continues his career-long deconstruction of superheroes, now focusing his attention on the incredibly easy target of the Silver Age Green Lantern and the Batman comics of the same era. Of course, with Jim Lee on art, that deconstruction isn’t reflected in the visuals, leading to that highly subversive conceptual whiplash that gives the book it’s love it or hate it aesthetic.

Me, I love it, and while I’ve probably said this regarding several previous issues, I think this may be the best one yet. At least the first half, which has Batman and Robin, painted yellow, casually hanging out in an all-yellow room, enjoying yellow snacks and refreshments, while dressing down and beating up the slow-witted Hal. For Hal-bashing and just plain silly scenes, it’s really hard to beat Batman leaning back in his stool sipping a yellow beverage, while Hal screams “Damn you and your lemonade!”

Lee’s doing the work of his career, too; just watch Robin move around the background of the scenes. Great stuff.

Batman #674 (DC) Much of the story finally begins to make some sense, although I’m missing out on some of the clues, and I’m not quite sure to make of the weird bug demon Bat-Mite wears like a backpack. It would help if the art were more competent. For example, it took me a long time to come up with a theory on what exactly happened in panel four of page 14, which was the pivotal moment of the issue. (I think Batman had removed his armor and struck the Other Batman in the face with it?) This very much feels like the end of the first act of a two- or three-act story, and I closed the book feeling the same sense of disappointment I have after each issue of the Grant Morrison/Tony Daniel collaboration. It reads like a would-be classic, it looks amateurish.

Batman and the Outsiders #4 (DC) Missed it! How does this storyline involving Brother I and the OMACs square with what’s going on in Countdown? How does a fight between Batgirl and Green Arrow Sr. last longer than a panel? Where does GA get off being pissed at Batgirl for killing people, and arguing it with Katana of all people? Is Jardine manufacturing Pokemon? Who the hell are those people who change their appearances from issue to issue who approach Batman? (It’s not…them is it?) I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. I really like Juan Lopez, Bit and Marta Martinez art though.

And hey, did you see that four-page preview of terrible-looking Judd Winick and Ian Churchill Titans monthly? Churchill does fairly bad versions of the whole cast, and it looks like he’s given Beast Boy, Donna Troy and Starfire all new bad costumes. (Or is Starfire’s just so much smaller than usual it looks new?) Actually, Donna’s might be an improvement. I’m not crazy about how many stars she has, but I don’t really like the night sky look she’s had going on for a while now.

Blue Beetle #24 (DC) Okay, now it really, really, really feels like writer John Rogers is winding things down for the title. The battle between Jaime and The Reach reaches its penultimate climax, and characters from throughout the run show up to throw down. Is this the end of the title we’re looking at? It’s solicited through May, but it sure looks like if the book isn’t cancelled outright, it may at least be seeing a new writer coming on, which is tantamount to cancellation anyway (I don’t expect All-New Atom or Checkmate to last much longer without Gail Simone and Greg Rucka writing them, for example).

Justice Society of America #13 (DC) The plot involving Kingdom Come Superman and “The Heartbreak Slayer” finally kicks into gear, but I enjoyed the beginning segments much more than all that tedious domino setting-up, what with Jakeem expressing his frustration over the size of the line-up (“Enough is enough! This team is too damn big!”) and meeting Black Lightning’s second retcon-tastic daughter.

Some of my favorite sub-plots from JSA involved Jakeem and Stargirl’s relationship (including the creepy romantic triangle involving Captain Marvel), so it’s neat to see him crushing on the new girl, particularly with Black Lightning warning him to keep his hands off, “Romeo.”

Guest-artists Fernando Pasarin and Richard Friend do a fine job, keeping the book’s look and aesthetic consistent with that of the MIA penciller Dale Eaglesham. Pretty cool cover from Alex Ross, too.

Kick-Ass #1(Marvel Comics/Icon) Based on how it reads, I have to assume that this is writer Mark Millar’s rejected screenplay for a R-rated superhero action movie with a real world twist, broken down and blocked out as a comic book. John Romita Jr.’s art work, the closest thing to a Marvel House style I can think of, gives it all a subversive twist, in that it looks like Amazing Spider-Man or Hulk or Daredevil comics, but—get this!— it has the F-word in it!

My favorite part? Teenage protagonist Dave Lizewski telling us a little about himself and how he’s just your average teenager thusly: “I liked Scrubs, Stereophonics, the Goo Goo Dolls and Entourage. Snow Patrol, Heroes and the movies of Ryan Reynolds.”

Uh, yeah Millar. That sure sounds like a real teenager. Or, you know, a middle-aged man’s semi-educated guess about a teenager in 2003 or so. This is a terrible problem with Millar’s writing in general—when reaching for real-world relevance, he tends to anchor his stories to ephemera that will instantly date them (The Goo Goo Doll’s lat album, I notice with a four second Google search, came out five years ago). This single narration box already feels hilariously old; how’s that Kick-Ass trade going to read in five years?

It continues throughout the book though; a conversation about one of last summer’s big superhero movie and mention of Paris Hilton as an admired celebrity some twenty minutes after her fifteen have expired.

Structurally, Millar doesn’t do his story the best service, either. The narration of the first four pages ensure us that the cliffhanger at the end of the book—a big one, particularly considering that this is a completely original character—isn’t going anywhere.

Nice art, though.

The Mighty Avengers #9 (Marvel) Missed it! I guess I was so used to this book coming out every couple of months that I wasn’t expecting to see #9 so close on the heels of #8. I certainly didn’t miss anything important. This is a rather uninteresting and insubstantial issue, opening with a post-coital Dr. Doom (ew!) chatting up his naked lover Morgan le Fey (illustrated by Marko Djurdjevic) in the past, and then returning to the present in time for a fight between the Mighty Avengers and hordes of Doombots. Bagley depicts the battle in three consecutive two-page splashes—that’s six pages spent on three panels—and while the drawings themselves are nice, it seems like a gigantic waste of space, given what Bendis could have accomplished in terms of characterizing some of the blank slates on the team if he put a little work into it.

I find Ares endlessly amusing, though.

Oh, and not to get too nerdy or anything here, but how the hell is this even a fight? Can’t The Sentry take out a few dozen robots and Dr. Doom himself in, like, a second or two? Or am I overestimating the actual potency of a million exploding suns?

Project Superpowers #1 (Dynamite Entertainment) I found the set-up for this story back in PS #0, involving The Fighting Yank capturing his fellow forgotten Golden Age heroes in Pandora’s Box and then needing to release them all, to be awfully dumb, and this issue doesn’t do anything to redeem that wobbly foundation. But it’s hardly a terribly written comic and, besides, how often do you get to read new comics featuring The Green Lama and The Black Terror?


The former Fighting Yank teams up with the Lama, and then confronts Dynamic Man, with the Terror getting a few pages near the end. Carlos Paul’s art is fine, but painterly colors by Debora Carita give the book a sort of sickly look I’m not terribly fond of. I guess it’s to establish and aesthetic closer to that of Ross’ painted cover, but it’s not my cup of tea.

RASL #1 (Cartoon Books) Although Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil was technically Jeff Smith’s first post-Bone work, it was also an adaptation of a Golden Age story and a full-color reimagination of a corporate-owned superhero franchise, so this book really feels more like Smith’s first post-Bone book, if that makes sense.

The plot involves a small-faced thief of some sort using some kind of science-fiction-y devices to travel through time and/or dimensions, and ends up in a universe where Bob Dylan didn’t go by Bob Dylan on his album covers.

There’s a lot that remains unclear—including what exactly the title means—but I’m interested in finding out. It’s also an all-around great package. It’s nice to open up a comic book and seeing the whole thing involved exactly four people to create—Smith handles writeing, art and lettering; his frequent collaborater Steve Hamaker colors the cover, and there’s a publisher and production manager credit. And the book feels and even smells like a comic book should. It’s a little hard to communicate to someone in writing without them actually handling it, but, if you get in the same room with it at some point, feel the slightly rough, papery-paper, and inhale that inky comic book smell.

Ahhh! That’s comics!

Ultimate Spider-Man #119 (Marvel) Confidential to Joe Quesada: Please feel free to cancel The Ultimates 2, Ultimate X-Men and Ultimate Fantastic Four and replace them with an Ultimate Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends ongoing. Based on this issue, I’m fairly confident it would rule.

World War Hulk Aftersmash: Damage Control #2 (Marvel) A great recap page! Venom drool! Penance dissing! The only time you’ll hear the term “black buck” used in a Marvel comic! An admantium razor, for the closest shave imaginable! And the line, “You know the Chrysler building? Well, it’s pissed…”

Why didn’t this Dwayne McDuffie didn’t get to write Justice League of America for Marvel’s distinguished competition?


Anonymous said...

The Batgirl fight lasted longer than a panel because she wasn't fighting back, just evading. If you want to see her job badly to someone she has no business losing a fight to, wait until Beechen's Batgirl miniseries comes out in a few months.(At this point I'm convinced DC Comics works on the principle of actively trolling their fanbase.) My guess as to the people talking to Batman are J'onn and either M'gann or the white martian from the Manhunter's recent miniseries. I still want Ollie replaced by Connor, simply because Ollie has his own solo title and is an annoying prick besides.

It took me approximately forever to realize the Beetle cover was an homage to Ted's last minutes in Countdown to Infinite Crisis.

I really liked the Billy Batson/Stargirl pairing in JSA, enough that Jakeem moved onto my blacklist for tattling on them.(And Solomon for his "Sure, I sent a guy off to war so I could sleep with his wife, but you can't reveal your identity to Jay Garrick so you can make out in a movie theater.")

Did anyone have any pretensions about Kick-ass being remotely good? Millar hasn't done any decent character work since Crossgen was in business.

Best recent Golden Age revival remains Amazing-man in Iron Fist.

malpractice said...

Caleb, out of curiosity do you still pick up the TMNT books? I am assuming not because it didn't show up on this list, but just figured i would ask.

Patrick C said...

I am totally digging Gary Frank's art on Action Comics. And I'm not sure when it happened, but I'm really like the Legion of Super-Heroes lately. I think it's a combination of Jim Shooter taking over Legion, this Action arc, and reading all the Legion Lore at the Legion Omnicon and the Comic Treadmill.

And, ummm, I actually really enjoyed Kick-Ass. (Remember, this was told in flashback, so it's okay for the teenage references to be slightly dated).

Unknown said...

There's a lot to love this week: Blue Beetle and Ultimate Spider-Man were especially satisfying this week. I'm just loving Damage Control more than I thought I would. Reminds me of the Giffen-Maguire Justice League issues. Shame it seems to be listed as a 3-issue mini - maybe the trend will be a new Damage Control mini after every "cosmic crossover" event - clean up all the damage and danglong plot threads.

SallyP said...

Damage Control was fun, but then I knew that it would be. Ultimate Spider-Man was also fun. Heck of a last page cliffhanger.

Blue Beetle was beyond awesome.

Jason Quinones said...

i agree with patrick! i thought kick ass was actually...well, um...KICK-ASS!!

didn't mind the teenage references he used at all. despite the fact that i hate half of the things on said list. overall i thought it was a good start.

Anonymous said...

Man, it's moments like Frank Miller writing Batman kicking the crap out of Hal Jordan that make me sometimes regret waiting for the collection. I can't wait to read that.

My big problem with Kick-Ass #1, upon further reflection, is that Millar's writing in his typical "Michael Bay" mode, and I think the high concept is too slight to work in that mode. He's essentially writing a story that we all imagined when we were seven years old, but not giving it any thought or depth, and consequently, the "real-world superhero" is showing so much less than we all imagined it could be.

Caleb said...

It took me approximately forever to realize the Beetle cover was an homage to Ted's last minutes in Countdown to Infinite Crisis.

It took me until I read your comment to get that, but now it seems obvious. I still don't get the dialogue in the last panel though...

Caleb, out of curiosity do you still pick up the TMNT books?

No, I haven't. I read the first ten issues or so of the last relaunch, but there were just so many books coming out, with the Tales of... and so forth that I was overwhelmed, and dropped the main book when cutting down a bit on my purchases.

Man, it's moments like Frank Miller writing Batman kicking the crap out of Hal Jordan that make me sometimes regret waiting for the collection. I can't wait to read that.

Actually, it was Robin kicking the crap out of Hal Jordan. Batman let his sidekick kick the crap out of Hal on his behalf. Awesome.

Anonymous said...

"The only time you’ll hear the term “black buck” used in a Marvel comic!"

The joke-name "Big Brother" for "Black Goliath" was the funniest thing I've read in a comic since Nextwave got cancelled.

malpractice said...

Caleb, I am not sure if you knew about this but all of TMNT (Vol. 4) has been uploaded unto [url=]WOWIO[/url], and all new issues will be going straight to WOWIO starting in May. It's all for free as well.

Unknown said...

Batman & The Outsiders is truly becoming a clusterf*** of a comic book. If that couple is actually who some have guessed at them being, it could quite possibly be the only redeeming quality the series possesses. That will only last as long as it takes for the idea to completely be ruined by it appearing in a clusterf*** of a series. :)