Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Weekly Haul: March 4th

Agents of Atlas #2 (Marvel Comics) How dare Marvel force me to buy a comic with a Greg Land cover on it by having him contribute a cover to this pretty great new comic series. There was a less-awful variant cover by Ed McGuinness, one on which Namora’s hips weren’t smaller than her breasts, but it was one of those 1-in-a-larger-number schemes that my local comic shop jacks the price up on. Damn you Marvel Comics!

Anyway, this issue unfolds in the present, where The Agents try to do an arms deal with ATF agent The Grizzly while The Mandarin’s son gets involved, and in the past, where the Agents investigate the mystery of a skeleton in an appearing and disappearing Soviet plane. And then what looks like Communist Hydra shows up at a beatnik-filled Tiki bar.

Total number of Uranus gags: 2.

The Age of The Sentry #6 (Marvel) It’s the Chris Sims-iest issue yet! Not only did one “Chris Sims, Sumter S. Carolina” get listed as a member of the M.M.M.S. in the Golden Guard-o-Grams letter col, but the cover features a big old Chris Sims blurb: “THE NEW APEX OF THE ART FORM…to which all others must be compared and, almost inevitably, fall short.”

I know from reading his weekly reviews that Sims did indeed love this series, just as I know Sims often exaggerates for comedic effect, but that quote still cracks me up. I imagine one of David Mazzucchelli’s friends reading a copy of his upcoming years-and-years-and-years-in-the-making graphic novel Asterios Polyp and the setting it down and saying, “Not bad, Dave. Of course, it’s no Age of The Sentry.”

Anyway, this is the last issue of the mini-series, featuring a “book-length epic imaginary story” by Jeff Parker, Nick Dragotta and Gary Martin (instead of the two stories-per-issue format of the preceding issues), and I’m a little conflicted about it.

On the one hand, it’s a nice concluding chapter, returning just about every guest-star, villain and crazy character to play a role in the climax, tying everything together, and it’s, like, crazy ambitious, with an Alan Moore/Grant Morrison level of thought put into fiction’s place in the onion skin of reality metafictional meditation.

The Sentry is, of course, the perfect vehicle for this exploration. The rewriting of the Marvel Universe’s fake reality is integral to his origin, and Marvel even rolled him out with a fake story about him being a “lost” creation of Stan Lee’s. Parker slings some major comic book science here, making sense of The Sentry, while simultaneously providing cover for future writers to go ahead and ignore all this, since the entire miniseries has been framed as a bed-time story Reed Richards is telling his son Franklin. It’s just “one of my theoretical mental exercises to help me brainstorm,” he says, “None of that is real.”

And of course it isn’t. Nothing in any Marvel comics real, so much as it’s “real,” and there are levels and gradations of fake reality within its “reality.”

So yeah, it’s all pretty heady stuff for what has mostly been a giddy riff on Silver Age Superman comics and light-hearted laughs at the expense of the both DC’s and Marvel’s characters. (Not that there aren’t such laughs here; dig the sub-head on the Daily Bugle story about The Sentry’s secret identity, or Spider-Man’s plan for dealing with an asteroid threat: “Daredevil and I will swing around a lot!”).

Oh, I said “on the one hand” a few paragraphs ago, didn’t I? And that implies that there must also be an other hand, huh? So yeah, as ambitious and clever as all this is, it’s revealed during an eight-page explanation from Cranio. Parker infuses the explanation with Cranio’s personality, but there’s no way around the fact that as exciting as the explanation may be, it’s is just eight pages of one guy talking at another. I liked it well enough, but not so well that I wasn’t conscious of what Parker was doing and wishing he could have done slightly better.

It’s ambitious, clever as all hell, incredibly intelligent, as funny as any of Parker’s work, and, taken with the rest of the preceding issues, maybe Parker’s best so far. But it’s not a work of transcendental genius or anything.

I sure wish “not a work a work of transcendental genius” was the sort of complaint I could level against more superhero comics.

Black Lightning: Year One #5 (DC Comics) So it looks like I’m going to make it all the way through this series then. Teen Titans: Year One is the only other of DC’s recent spate of Year One minis I’ve done that with. This isn’t anywhere near as fun as Teen Titans, but its readable enough.

Secret Six #7 (DC) Did you know Deadshot’s skintight spandex pants actually have pockets in them? Or that the thought that he’s going to be violently killed gives him an erection? Or that he’s such a good shot that he can shoot someone point blank in the forehead and not kill them? It’s all true! This is the concluding chapter of the first story arc of the ongoing Six title, in which our protagonists, Junior, The Mad Hatter, some Birds of Prety, and a small army of mercenary supervillains all gather on a Gotham Bridge for a big long fight scene.

It’s all decent enough, largely because of the colorful way in which Gail Simone writes the characters, but the consequence-free nature of the fighting drains a lot of the suspense out of it. For example, in this issue about 30 killers fight each other, and yet no one can really die because the characters are all too valuable to waste them like this. In one panel, The Cavalier has his back broken, but I’m pretty sure I saw him (with a different hair color) while flipping through Gotham Gazette: Batman Dead?, which was also released this week. Two of the characters that played a large role in this particular story arc are also seemingly killed, but it’s during a scene that doesn’t really make any sense to me (Seriously, I don’t understand; if they thought Junior had the card, why did they all shoot her off a bridge?). And besides, the only comic book character who has ever actually died from falling off a bridge is Gwen Stacy.

Spider-Man & The Human Torch in…Bahaia de Los Muertos! #1 (Marvel) This is writer Tom Beland and artist Juan Doe’s latest attempt to convince Marvel Comics readers that they should vacation in Puerto Rico because that place is totally awesome, following 2007’s Fantastic Four: Isla de la Muerte.

It’s an overall much weaker effort.

Spidey plans to spend the weekend with Johnny Storm at the Baxter Building while the rest of the FF are exploring, and they get called to Puerto Rico to deal with a sentient, killer bay monster.

Johnny doubts his ability to defeat big sciene-y monsters without Reed Richards around to hold his hand, but by teaming up with a local cop and an old FF villain Johnny forms his own FF to defeat the monster with.

Doe’s art is as much of a pleasure as usual, in large part because of how different it looks from so much superhero art, although there are some too-lazy shortcuts here and there (the repeated panels on page two, for example; is the tour guide paralyzed or something? No one’s going to so much as change facial expressions as a coupla skulls “ploop” to the surface of the bay?) and his monster design on Luminestro a bit to be desired.

Beland’s scripting is a lot clumsier than it was with his previous endeavor, particularly with the forced flashbacks delivered by the police man and the villain, detailing bits of local history that don’t really have too much to do with the plot.

The cop, for example, hears Johnny mention how he doesn’t want to let anyone down, and pipes up, “Sometimes it cannot be helped…I know a few things about letting others down,” and he then launches, unprompted, into a long, detailed history about his own great personal failings and his wife’s fatal breast cancer.

The scene has the subtlety of an old Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams Green Arrow/Green Lantern team-up, the same amount of subtlety applied to the denouement, in which Reed and Johnny have a heart-to-heart and discover each of them is jealous of what makes the other so special.

Superman: World of New Krypton #1 (DC) James Robinson and Greg Rucka write and Pete Woods draws the first of issue of what is going to be the new Superman title for the next year or so, while various second bananas fill-in for him in Superman and Action.

It’s quite competently plotted, scripted and drawn, but, I realized while reading it, that I don’t much care about life on New Krypton, and removing Superman from Earth and putting him in a more sci-fi context like this makes him a lot let interesting to me. But that’s just me personally. Maybe you’ll like it better. It basically depends on whether you give a shit about the ways in which Krypton differs from Earth or not (Spoiler! Earth is better than Krypton).

I think this will make an okay trade paperback in another year or so, but it’s definitely not something I feel I need to read 22 pages of once a month for a year.

Trinity #40 (DC) “Just as our foes’ power is channeled symbolically through representations of the conceptual structure of reality…” Yeah, it’s one of those issues. The trinity, still all god-ed up, return to the world they were excised from and kick the dark trinity’s asses, but the world still needs put back together, and it looks like a pretty interesting conflict is about to arise, as Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman seems to think the people of their home world should worship them as the gods they kinda sorta are at the moment.

The back-up is, oh man, it’s Krona talking to Krona about…Krona stuff…? One is the future Krona, and one is the present or past one; I think one hatched form the Egg World, or is the Egg World or, shit, I don’t know. And then they go and mention the stupid fucking multiverse, which I don’t understand at all anymore. (The last word on it from Final Crisis was that the “multiverse” was 52 Earths kept like gumballs in something called the surrey…?)


Tracer Bullet said...

We are talking about Spider-Man and the Human Torch. Skulls popping up at random is just a normal Tuesday for them.

Matt D said...

I came in with a pretty low expectation for New Krypton from a..

Well, Alright. I came in with a massively high expectation for New Krypton since it's my two favorite comic writers ever (give or take one or two guys), but I knew I didn't care much for the whole New Krypton concept and that would be a problem, but maybe because the low expectation, I actually liked it more than I thought I would.

Also, I'm sort of curious what you'd think of Secret Warriors. If you can get past the big twist at the end of issue 1, there's a lot of really cool stuff going on there.

Caleb said...

We are talking about Spider-Man and the Human Torch

They were ordinary civilians/monster victims in that scene, not the heroes who, yeah, oughta be pretty un-phased by things like skulls at this point in their careers.

Also, I'm sort of curious what you'd think of Secret Warriors.

Secret Invasion burned me out on Brian Michael Bendis and his Avengers work (I dropped both Avengers books during that time, when they became SI tie-in/Secret Warriors prequel books), and haven't had any desire to check out Secret Warriors. Beyond some mild curiosity about what a Bendis/Hickman collaboration would read like. Maybe I'll check for a graphic novel at the library in another eight months or so though, and I can let you know then.