Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Weekly Haul: November 12th

Action Comics #871 (DC Comics) Foul! It’s just not fair to tease us with images of Krypto The Super-Dog, particularly a fully-painted Krypto The Super-Dog square in the center of a group shot, on the cover of a Superman comic, and then fail to include any Krypto The Super-Dog in the actual book.

Ah well, what is in here isn’t so bad, even if it’s all playing out in fairly predictable fashion, save maybe the last few pages, which is either a big huge deal, or Geoff Johns at least teasing his readers that hey, maybe this will be a big, huge deal.

General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, forever upset that his daughter has gotten romantically mixed up with a bespectacled milquetoast and his super-strong alter ego, recruits Lex Luthor to build him weapons (for some reason, Johns has Lex refer to Ross as “Lane” repeatedly; probably just lazy editing); Doomsday is savagely beaten to death by Kryptonians, while Superman kind of stands by looking horrified (Nice job, hero!);* and, in the big reveal of the issue, we meet the new Kryptonian superheroes of Kandor, Nightwing and Flamebird and, get this, Nightwing has the power of tactile telekinesis. Which he announces, out loud, while using it. Hmm, now who does that remind me of…?

So typically skilled and over-violent Geoff Johns super-scripting, typically well done Pete Woods art, big “Oh no he di’n’t!”Johns cliffhanger, and not nearly as much Krypto action as I—and probably only I—would have liked. So pretty much your average Superman book at the moment, which is better than your average DC book at the moment.

Hulk: World War Hulk—Incredible Hercules (Marvel Comics) This trade collection of the Amadeus Cho-centric stories that appeared in The Incredible Hulk during World War Hulk isn’t new or anything, but I picked it up at the shop this week, so I guess I should mention it here, given this is a list of new comics I got today.

As I’ve probably mentioned a few times before, the Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente written Incredible Hercules series is currently my favorite Marvel comic, and maybe the best ongoing superhero universe comic in general (It’s certainly the one I enjoy the most), so I was curious to see how the Cho/Hercules team-up originally started.

Taken on its own, this trade is kind of a mess and, read in a vacuum, is probably completely incomprehensible. The art teams are all decent, but there are at least three of them in this one trade, so it doesn’t look so pretty, and the vast majority of the story is focused on how Cho reacts to the events of WWH, so unexplained things happen in the background that you’d only fully understand if you have already read WWH.

There are a lot of great, giddy moments though and plenty of neat ideas (Cho’s Hulk reservation is actually a pretty great idea; why didn’t anyone ever try that?), and most of my favorite Marvel characters appear at some point. Cho, Herc, Namora and Angel form the core cast, but Cho also tries recruiting She-Hulk and Namor. It’s not as strong as what ultimately follows, but taken as a warm-up for Incredible Hercules, it’s not bad at all, and definitely gives a greater depth to that reading experience.

JSA Kingdom Come Special: Superman (DC) Oh, fuck you DC Comics. Because Justice Society of America writer Geoff Johns just hasn’t had enough space for his twenty-part (and counting!) sequel to Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ Kingdom Come, DC is giving the story still more room to breathe by publishing a trio of laboriously-titled one-shots—I went with what the legal indica referred to as the title at the beginning of this paragraph; the cover actually reads Justice Society of America Kingdom Come Special Superman One Shot.

This one-shot is written and illustrated by Alex Ross, and costs $3.99. Since that’s a dollar more than your average DC universe comic book—or a 33% price increase—you might expect, as I did, that it would be an oversized issue, with a higher page count. After all, this isn’t a Marvel comic.

Well, if that’s what you expect, as I did, then you’re wrong, as I was. This fucking thing is just 23 pages long. So lesson learned—always count the pages of your DC Comics purchases when the cover price if jacked up, I guess.

After the 23-page story, there’s twelve pages marked “Bonus Material” (Confidential to DC: It ain’t “bonus” if we pay for it), which features Alex Ross explaining his process of dressing people up, taking photos of them, and then drawing from the source material, for anyone who has never, ever read any Alex Ross comics before, which is no one who would buy this thing. (You know what would be cool though? One of these stupid “this is how Ross does what he does” sections devoted to how he paints Krypto The Super-Dog, like on the cover of this week’s Action Comics. See that image of Krypto all splayed out awkwardly up there? Did Ross find a white dog, make a little cape for it, and then have two friends hold the dog aloft while he photographed it?)

As for the story, it’s Kingdom Come Superman recapping the events of Kingdom Come and JSoA for the benefit of those who haven’t read either, I guess (and why would they then be reading this, exactly? I don’t know) and having a few emotional chats, with Cyclone, Lois Lane and Alex Ross’ dad. The only real fresh material here is an expanded version of the scene in Kingdom Come where The Joker kills Lois, notable mainly because here Ross goes to great pains to hide the stupid ponytail Kingdom Come Superman was sporting when the scene originally played out in Kingdom Come.

Nightwing #150 (DC) Oh hey, this story still isn’t over yet, is it? Like writer Peter J. Tomasi’s first over-long arc on the title, this one apparently has a whole series of endings (this is conclusion #2, and solicits promise at least one more conclusion to come). After having failed to save the day last issue—the goriest, nastiest issue of Nightwing ever—Nightwing is being super extra Batman-like, all being grim and gritty, staying awake for superhuman amounts of time and showing off his super-scarred body while he changes costumes. Two-Face is planning a kind of novel attack on New York City, which he announces in a pretty novel way, and it’s up to Nightwing to save the day, and hopefully actually do it this issue. But first he’ll have to scare a bunch of stoolies, including covering one in gravy so rats will chew on him…?

Like most of Tomasi’s run, this was a pretty not-terrible issue, if a little on the mean and nasty side for a book about grown-up Robin. The art was once again by penciller Don Kramer, who, at this point, I’m pretty sure has put in more fill-in issues than “regular” artist Rags Morales has, and two inkers. Kramer’s a decent artist, and he understands how to draw a comic book, which makes him a better Batman artist than the one currently drawing Batman, but he’s also not Rags Morales, who was the reason I started picking this book up in the first place.

Anyway, this is my last issue of the series. As it’s being cancelled in expectation of some sort of relaunch, depending on the outcome of Grant Morrison’s “Batman R.I.P.” story arc, the remaining issues are guaranteed to be irrelevant. Er, more irrelevant than usual.

On the positive side, this comic is 38-pages long, so at least you won’t feel tricked and robbed for shelling out $3.99 for it.

Tales of The TMNT #52 (Mirage) Well this was…weird. And weird even by the standards of a comic with an acronym for “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” right there in the title.

It’s a kinda sorta crossover with the 1992 cartoon series The C.O.W.boys of Moo Mesa, the creation of TMNT artist Ryan Brown, who co-plotted and thumbnailed this issue, while Steve Murphy scripted it and Dario Brizuela finished Brown’s art.

Check it out, here’s the plot: On the C.O.W.boy’s planet or maybe in their dimension/time period, an evil Utrom (those little brain octopus guys who live in robot stomachs) is riding around in an android anthropomorphic cow man suit, which is riding on a horse, and this Utrom allies himself with a mutant bat man named “Bat Blastagun” (get it?) as part of an evil plot by a group of evil Utroms. Meanwhile, a good Utrom, Donatello, Raphael and Casey Jones travel there, and team-up with the C.O.W.boys to foil the Utrom plot, joined by the most insane character creation of the old Archie Comics TMNT comics** (which I won’t spoil here, but it’s actually kind of obvious once you see him…or her…or it). Then an alien appears and says something about a mutation crystal.

The plot (which Peter Laird also helped with, according to the credits), is pretty wild and disjointed feeling, with a breathless “and then this happens, and then this, and then this” pacing, with no room spared to acknowledge—let alone develop—the characters, or the significance of anything happening in it to really set in. It’s just a series of cameos leading up to nothing, although it is “To be continued,” so perhaps the pay-off comes in the next issue.

I was deeply impressed with the depths of terrible cow puns Murphy came up with (including one character asking for his lawyer, “Johnny Cowchrane”), and I really liked Brizuela’s artwork, particularly the turtle character designs.

Trinity #24 (DC) Oh Trinity, at least you’re always there for me. No matter how few super-books come out, no matter how bad they may be, at least it’s comforting to know there will always be an imaginative, well-written, competently illustrated super-comic full of surprises each and every week. Seriously; I did not see that last panel coming, and it’s fun watching Busiek and company picking up various plotlines that they had seemingly abandoned and weaving them back into the story.

I especially liked the part where Despero asks an underling to shoot him out into space to fight Green Lantern, and the underling’s like, “But you have no space suit,” and Despero’s all, “Air is for cowards!” That made me laugh.

*Is that even really Doomsday? Or a clone of him? It seems to me that Doomsday’s already died, like, fifty times. I blame Jeph Loeb, but I suppose it’s the Super-office’s fault for using Doomsday over and over as much as it is Loeb’s fault, who was writing for the Super-office during the period where Doomsday kept popping up, and Loeb did send, like, an army of Doomsday clones to fight the Trinity in Superman/Batman.

**Fact: I would kill for a Showcase Presents/Essential-style series of black and white phonebook collections of Archie’s TMNT books


Anonymous said...

Doomsday has gone from unstoppable, ultimately adaptable killing machine monster to monster-that-gets-stomped-to-prove-how-deadly-newer-shinier-big bad is.

All of which means that he's still just a plot device, there to serve authorial whims.

Patrick C said...

I think Doomdsday power is that when he dies he comes back immune to whatever killed him. So the deaths are fine, but he should be seriously impossible to defeat by now.

And ohmygod about Action Comics! If that's not really the Kid under that Nightwing costume I am going to be severely bummed out. I did not see that coming, and when I read "tactile telekinesis" I had a momentary freak out. Unfortunately I was reading the comic in a deli in NYC, so I think I may have scared the people sitting near me.

malpractice said...

glad to see a TMNT review. did you get that issue as pdf from tristan at mirage or did you actually pick the issue up ?

and while it isn't an essential, there will be a best of the archie TMNT trade paperback coming out from mirage next year, along with the new "forever war" mini-series.

SallyP said...

Yes, I too was hoping for a little Krypto action. I've been enjoyin Krypto an awful lot lately for some reason.

Boasting about his tactile telekineses? Gosh, I wonder who THAT reminds me of?

Trinity continues to entertain, and it's not shy about coming up with some rather wacky concepts.

I'm actually enjoying Nightwing, which makes me all the sadder that they are going to cancel it. Nightwing, Birds of Prey, and now Blue Beetle...there goes a big chunk of my reading.

Shep said...

I don't read DC (Marvel guy here) but I did burst out laughing when I scrolled down and the first thing I read was " JSA Kingdom Come Special: Superman (DC) Oh, fuck you DC comics!"

LurkerWithout said...

I thought General Lane died during Worlds at War? I remember some post-WaW one-shot which was Superman flying around to all the funerals of characters who bit it during that crossover...

JohnF said...

You're correct, but no one EVER stays dead.

Am I the only one who thinks Alex Ross' art looked better in this one-shot than it has in years? I find his paintings to be really repetitive, and once you learn how he does them it's a lot less impressive. It looked good as pencil and ink work. Looked a lot like Gene Ha's work. Can't Ross just, like...draw something? Just draw it, like from memory? He obviously knows how to draw, and his thumbnail sketches are pretty good. Couldn't he just finish those without dressing up his friends in costumes and taking pictures?
I dunno, the whole Kingdom Come think is making me weary. It's just not worth revisiting any more.

Caleb said...

did you get that issue as pdf from tristan at mirage or did you actually pick the issue up ?

Wait, how did you know that...?! Um, but yes, the latter.

I thought General Lane died during Worlds at War?

They acknowledge the fact that he's supposed to be dead in-story. I assume he must have faked his death in order to head up the mysterious anti-Superman initiative, as Lois and Lucy still think he's dead.

He could also be a clone, I guess, as cloning seems to play a rather large part in the goings-on in Robinson's end of the Super-books at the moment.

Can't Ross just, like...draw something? Just draw it, like from memory? He obviously knows how to draw, and his thumbnail sketches are pretty good. Couldn't he just finish those without dressing up his friends in costumes and taking pictures?

I've been thinking that since the JUSTICE series. Those Batman profiles in the back of the books were just Ross pencil drawings, and they were great...I don't see why he won't just pencil and have someone else ink and color him.

malpractice said...

did you get that issue as pdf from tristan at mirage or did you actually pick the issue up ?

Wait, how did you know that...?! Um, but yes, the latter.

ha ha ha sorry if that came off stalkerish. tristan is a friend of mine and i was the one who recommended that he contact you about doing reviews since i remembered you were a turtles fan. i just wanted to see if he did or if you by coincidence just picked an issue up this week.

Wild Goose said...

Cool, EDILW got a shout-out on ninjaturtles dot com. Maybe they saw your note about a big fat B&W Archie TMNT collection.