Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Weekly Haul: March 25th

Avengers: The Initiative Featuring Reptil #1 (Marvel Comics) Wow, is “Reptil” a terrible superhero name or what? Is it pronounced “rep-tile” and, if so, why is it spelled like that? Or is it pronounced “rep-till” and, if so, why?

The character is actually kind of cool. He’s a teenager being raised by his grandfather after his parents went missing while on a paleontology gig. He found a magical crystal fossil that allows him to manifest the body parts of various dinosaurs, so he can grow pterodactyl wings or stegosaurus spines or an ankylosaurus tail or whatever.

In this $3.99, 37-page story, he’s recruited into the Initiative to help them track down and battle Stegron, who is leading raids on government institutions around the country with his army of reanimated dinosaurs.

Christos Gage and Steve Uy turn out a pretty basic story that, if not big on originality, is still very enjoyable (Dinosaurs! Superheroes!). Getting a whirlwind training session, Reptil spends time with Tigra, Prodigy, Komodo, Cloud 9, Batwing and Sunstreak, each of whom have their own opinions on what it means to be a superhero or part of the Initiative, and he has to decide whether he wants to be one of them or not.

It’s a pretty thorough example of what I find so enjoyable about the book’s parent title: It creates new characters and builds onto the Marvel Universe, instead of just moving the most popular toys around in circles.

Ka-Zar, Zabu, Devil Dinosaur and Moonboy all briefly appear, so there’s that too.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold #3 (DC Comics) Writer Matt Wayne is rejoined by the Andy Suriano and Dan Davis art team, who illustrated the first issue of the series but weren’t around for the second, kind of messy-looking issue (which was penciled and inked by Phil Moy).

Suriano’s design style is nicely Dick Sprang-y, which compliments the cartoon show’s design nicely, but Suriano explodes it; since the comics’ images are static, they don’t need to be so simplified, and the extra lines and slightly exaggerated (from the show’s already exaggerated style) which makes up for the lack of motion.

There’s a two-page Wonder Woman team-up, which seems to break a rule of the TV show (as I perceive it, anyway), which seems to forbid team-ups with Batman’s Justice League allies and appearances from Gotham villains. Here Killer Crock, Two-Face (and what a Two-Face!) and the Scarecrow appear alongside Clock King and Dr. Psycho, and Wonder Woman comes to the rescue.

Suriano and Davis, by the way, draw the best Dr. Psycho since H.G. Peter:

In the main story, Batman calls in Green Arrow to watch his back while he impersonates the president of the United States, who has received a ransom letter from The Ultra-Humanite, who wants to put his brain in the president’s body.

The dialogue is quite consciously silly, and thus funny in the way much of the dialogue in the cartoon show (Offered his own portfolio in the U.S. government, for example, Batman says he already has his own portfolio…of justice! And when Ultra-Humaite reveals his plan, Batman scolds him that that’s not how democracy works).

Oh, and Batman and GA fulfill the American dream and beat-up congress.

I found the depiction of the president to be rather strange. He’s a black guy (just like our real world president!) and may be Hawaiian (just like our real world president!) but he doesn’t look like Obama. He’s older, and rounder, and has white hair and a white beard.

It seems like a very self-conscious decision not to cast Obama as a comic book character, or of even being suspected of casting Obama, which I find perplexing.

You can certainly draw a comic book president so he suggests the real president without doing so explicitly (or tackily, or politically). Like, if the president was a 40-ish black guy, he would have looked vaguely enough like Obama so as not to cause a reader to wonder why Suriano went out of his way not to draw Obama, without actually looking so much like Obama that it distracted from the real stars of the comic book.

As it was, I was pretty distracted by DC and/or Wayne and/or Suriano’s thought process behind drawing the president the way they did.

Batman: Gotham After Midnight #11 (DC) Oh shit, this is the “Evil 11th Issue of Twelve,” which means I’m about to run out of my monthly supply of crazy Kelley Jones Bat-gadgets and operatic gestures and poses. Damn. Well, I think Jones has more Bat-work in the near-ish future, and this will free up $3 to spend on some of the cool-looking Batman comics DC has planned for the summer (Batman and Robin, Streets of Gotham, Gotham City Sirens and TEC all look worth a purchase).

In this issue, Batman fights all the villains who have appeared in the story so far, and then corners Midnight for their final confrontation.

It’s as so-so as always, and the pleasure I derive from it comes mainly from how much I dig Jones’ art. Steve Niles’ script remains little more than something for Jones to draw in my estimation.

This issue seemed awfully light on backgrounds, but there are a couple of nice two-page spreads. The first features the small gang of Bat-villains little standing on top of one another as they rush like a wave at a defiant Batman, his ears back like an animal’s. And the second features multiple images of Batman spinning his way through a half-dozen villains, each standing under alternating red and green spotlights, with contrasting-colored sound effects. It’s like a Christmas-themed sequence of Batman beating the shit out of villains.

The Incredible Hercules #127 (Marvel) It’s Herc, Athena and Amadeus vs. Hera and her bad god allies vs. Norman Osborn and the Dark Avengers! Or at least the preliminaries; the actually punching and hitting phase probably won’t come until next issue. Another seamless blending of Greek mythology with the specific history and storylines of the Marvel Universe by Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, this time out featuring art by Dietrich Smith and Cory Hamscher.

Oh, and a superhero dies, although it’s someone I never heard of. If you read the latest New Warriors book you might know him and be sad.

Superman #686 (DC) How do you pronounce the "Mon" in "Mon-El?" I always assumed it was pronounced "moan." But maybe it’s a short "o?"

I just ask because early in the issue we see two figures in the distance, and one says to the other, "So what are your plans, Mon?" and I read it with a Jamaican accent.

Anyway, this issue features Superman flitting around visiting people and telling them he’s going to leave the book for a while to go star in World of Krypton, so would they mind watching Metropolis for him and keep an eye on Mon-El for him? These people include The Guardian and the MCU, Jimmy Olsen and John Henry Irons/Steel. Meanwhile, Mon-El gets a job, and meets a lady that was in Robin for at least an issue, and ten-foot-tall, seven-hundred-pound Atlas continues to do a pretty poor job of disguising himself with a red hoodie.

Writer James Robinson does a fine job on this set-up-the-status-quo issue, and the art team of Renato Guedes and Jose Wilson Magalhaes (colored by David Curiel) do a simply outstanding job on the book. Not only are the characters and foregrounds well-rendered, but a great deal of affectionate attention is paid to Metropolitan architecture, giving the city the look and feel of a real and unique city.

Guedes also pulls off some cute but effective tricks, including keeping Superman off-panel or otherwise obscured during all of the scenes featuring him—he’s in the story, but not entirely in the issue—and a neat sequence in which Mon-El fights Rampage way up into the sky and then drops her.

A very well-made comic book all around, really.

Trinity #43 (DC) This is still coming out, and I’m still reading it. In the Busiek/Bagley half, the still god-like trinity floats their way toward the Dark Trinity’s home base, while the JLA and JSA run around punching demons. In the back half, drawn by Tom Derenick and Wayne Faucher, the trinity’s supporting players and a still-alive Tomorrow Woman try to get their former friends’ attention.

This is my favorite part:

It’s a little burry and the flare of the flash doesn’t help any, but that’s Lois Lane, Alfred and company expressing surprise that the trinity are thinking of themselves as gods now.

I like the image because it looks like Derenick drew all of the characters with surprised looks on their face and, at some point, he or maybe Faucher looked at it and though, “Hmm, they just don’t look surprised enough. I know! I’ll add little halos of surprise lines around each of their heads! That’s the ticket!”

The only thing that could improve upon that panel was if they were all so surprised that they fell backwards off panel, so we just saw their feet up in the air.

Wolverine: First Class #13 (Marvel) This is the first issue by Peter David, who seems to be the new regular writer (His name’s on the credits of the book through at least the June solicitations, anyway). It’s not bad per se, but it is a little annoying. Specifically, David indulges his love of puns and jokes to the point that I began sighing heavily on the first page, and just kept sighing heavier and heavier as the issue went on.

For example, Kitty Pryde’s narration box says “You have to learn to swing with the unexpected,” and the panel shows a group of Hand ninjas swinging between buildings. Ha ha ha! David does this throughout, in several instances trying so hard to set-up the joke that the dialogue seems completely unnatural.

That aside, everything else works just fine. Wolverine takes Kitty and a friend of hers to see an exhibit of Japanese artifacts, and Daredevil, The Hand and—right before the “To be continued”—Elektra show up. The next issue page promises “More ninja fight stuff!!” With two exclamation points!

This may be the weakest of the issues in the series so far, but it’s also David’s first, so it’s just as possible that I’m still adjusting to the changing tone of voice and writing style.

Pretty nice art by Ronan Cliquet, by the way.

And those are the comics I bought and paid for with cash money at the comic shop to read this afternoon. They are not the only comics that came out this week, though. I’ll have a review of The Muppet Show #1 at Blog@ over the weekend, and reviews of The Incredibles #1 and probably Proof #18 here over the weekend. Still working on the 800-page A Drifting Life.


LurkerWithout said...

Ah damn. David is on the book long term? I mean it was nice enough. Everyone likes seeing Wolverine beat up ninjas. But he's no Van Lente...

So does it look likely that Tomorrow Woman will be brought back after the series ends? That would be kind of cool...

Hdefined said...

David's obsession with puns has jumped right off the cliff of Unhealthy and straight into the pit of Suffocating. I flipped through the final issue of She-Hulk, and the last page is just one big painful pun.

I mean . . . why? Puns are only funny when they're intentionally not funny, like on The Office.

Patrick C said...

I really enjoyed Superman, and I love that Bibbo is still around!

No Umbrella Academy this week? I hope you're just waiting for the trade and didn't just give up on it!

Caleb said...

That would be kind of cool...

I agree it would be cool. Right now I'm thinking she's just one of the things that will remain unchanged until the trinity reverts to normal, but I suppose she could remain resurrected when all is said and done. That would give Trinity a lasting effect on the DCU of the sort I think a lot of readers bypassing it because they think it will lack/lacks.

I hope you're just waiting for the trade and didn't just give up on it!

Yeah, I'm waiting for the trade. I really enjoyed the first issue of Dallas and assumed that it would remain just as good.

Anonymous said...

How do you pronounce the "Mon" in "Mon-El?" I always assumed it was pronounced "moan." But maybe it’s a short "o?"

Huh, I always pronounced it with a short o, like "Pokemon" or "Bob Marley, mon!"

Tony said...

Peter David, man ... That guy has such an 80s sitcom sense of humor. Once you key into his style, it's off-putting.