Thursday, September 25, 2014

Comic shop comics: September 24th

It's Thursday night, which is usually when I just link to the various pieces I wrote for other places throughout the past week, and then call it a night, but it just so happens that I only wrote one piece for anywhere other than EDILW this week, and that was about four comic books that were released yesterday, so I figured I would just fold a link to my reviews of those last few DC Futures End specials here, before commencing with reviews of the comic book-comics I bought at the shop this week.

Of those four, Superman: Futures End #1 may be the all-around best, but Booster Gold: Futures End #1 has a lot to recommend it, and will likely be the most talked-about DC super-book of the week (tied with Superman: Doomed #2, which ends with a page teasing some of the very same stuff Booster Gold teased). For more on what's going on with DC's multiverse now, I'd recommend Tom Bondurant's column on the latest exciting/annoying developments. Personally, I'm a little unsettled that DC seems to be expanding its Multiverse at the very same time that Grant Morrison's The Multiversity is finally seeing release, complete with a map of the Multiverse. Are there now multiple Multiverses? Multi-multiverses? Are we heading towards a Crisis On Multiple Multiverses?!


Adventures of Superman #17 (DC Comics) Noooooooooooooo! It's the very last issue of one of the small handful of DC Comics still left on my pull-list! (Luckily, Sensation Comics and Gotham Academy have/are come/coming along when they did/will...and I'm looking forward to trying out Batgirl once its new creative team takes over next month).

Well, at least its going out with a bang, featuring three short stories, the worst of which is well-drawn, interesting and decent enough, the other two of which are excellent. Pretty A-list talent, involved.

The first story is written by Jerry Ordway, who I would normally wish also drew it, given how much I like his artwork (which you can see in the last five issues of SpongeBob Comics), but in this case, I'm perfectly okay with someone else doing the drawing, as that artist is Steve Rude. Rude, who draws in a slightly rougher style than usual, likely in order to better reflect the artist whose creation the story deals with. No, not Joe Shuster, although naturally, his Superman is the star. Rather, it's an unlikely team-up between Shuster aJekkend Siegel's Superman and Jack Kirby's O.M.A.C., in the character's original form (For the last, oh, eight years or so DC has been using OMAC and Brother Eye as villains more than heroes, so it was rather refreshing to see a version of the original so undiluted).

In that story, Superman encounters a powerful, deadly and cool-looking robot—"Why is it that every robot I meet wants to kill me?" Superman thinks to himself in the greatest Superman panel I can remember seeing at the moment, one in which his cape is draped awkwardly over his head after he's been knocked a few dozen yards away by a robot. Just when Supes seems to be on the ropes, OMAC arrives to save the day.

That's followed by the weakest of the three pieces, a sci-fi ghost story of sorts written by Steve Niles and drawn by Matthe Dow Smith. The art is great, and there are some pretty neat ideas at play in the script, but they never quite come together as well as they should, perhaps a result of the short length of the story (The Ordway/Rude story could have used at least another page too, based on how crowded with panels the last page was).

Finally, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro's "Mystery Box" is pretty much a pitch perfect Lois Lane/Superman comic, a fast-moving, jam-packed ten-pager that perfectly defines the pairs relationship (or at least its modern, idealized version, rather than the weird-ass version that dominated the comics for the first few decades of the characters' existence).

Lois Lane, who we meet in mid-adventure, has just given Superman a lead-lined gift for Valentine's Day, and he seeks advice from his super friends—Batman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman—as to what it might be, and what he should get Lois in return. The last three panels were so great that I hoped DeConnick's editor high-fived her upon receiving the script.

Did Fabok start drawing a belt reading "HUSH" and then decide against it...?
Batman Eternal #25 (DC) The big reveal, teased out over the course of the last few issues and explored at some length in this issue, that the villain Hush has been the secret villain behind the other villains likely would have carried more weight if I—or anyone—knew anything at all about the character of Hush, but given that this is his first appearance since DC rebooted their own history, the only reaction really possible has been, "Oh, it's that guy."

He may have been the antagonist in the extremely popular Batman story arc "Hush" by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee, but since that story quite clearly never happened in this "new" DC Universe, he's really nothing more than a name and a not-terribly-interesting character design at this point. The reveal that he's the maestro of all the madness of the past 25 issues doesn't really bear any more weight than if it was revealed that it was Anarky, or Nyssa al Ghul, or Orca, The Whale Woman pulling the strings.

Well, aside from the fact that many readers will think, "Well, they did something interesting with Hush once; maybe they'll do something interesting with him here." (They didn't really, though; "Hush" was interesting as a greatest hits, "Let's let Jim Lee draw all the Batman characters!" story, but the villain at the center of it was...less-than-compelling. Hush was an evil plastic surgeon, who turned out to have multiple identities; like, he was technically Dr. Tommy Elliot, but he was also kinda sorta The Riddler, Two-Face and Harold in that story, too. And Clayface pretending to be a resurrected Jason Todd for a little bit too, I guess).

Luckily, the book does end with a tag reading "NEXT: THE HISTORY OF HUSH!", so I guess it's good Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV and the rest of the writing team at least anticipated my reaction (and I would imagine the reaction of many readers) after hearing Batman and Hush talk at each other for a few pages, but it would have been nice to get some of that history a little earlier. Right after Hush was introduced into the story a few issues ago, for example (Or, better still, if there never was a New 52-boot, we'd already know/care about the character and his history).

This issue is drawn by R.M. Guera, who is proud enough of his work to sign several pages, and is scripted by Tynion. The out-of-town sub-plots involving Batman's extended family seem to have been occurring off-page for a while now, as Batgirl, Red Hood, Red Robin and Harper are all back in town now, and seem to have progressed in their various relationships.

Jason Bard pushes Vicki Vale to help him push the city towards martial law, Hush uses hologram technology to taunt Batman, Alfred's daughter makes fun of the dinosaur and Batgirl and the two former Robins who aren't currently faking their own deaths team-up to help Batman.

It's fine, even if the pacing of the series can be a bit uneven in terms of juggling plotlines and the art has been better (it's also been worse, so I can't complain) and the villain is a complete cypher with no gravitas as of yet.

Batman '66 #15 (DC) A so-so issue in which a villain I had never heard of/don't remember—Black Widow—teams up with Burgess Meredith. Wilfredo Torres provides the art, while Jeff Parker scripts as usual. I don't have anything else to say about it, which is of course a review in and of itself.

Lumberjanes #6 (Boom Studios) This issue seemed like a disappointment after the previous issue, which was so awesome I guess it would have been nigh impossible to follow up. In this issue, the girls spend the, um, entire issue playing capture the flag, while there are a few hints about the conflict behind the strange goings-on.

The New 52: Futures End #21 (DC) While I can understand the storytelling virtues of a slow, slow reveal, this issue more than any other since the Free Comic Book Day #0 issue really made me question the structure of this entire series. From the first issue, there has been talk about some vague war in the past involving Apokolips and Earth 2, one that apparently destroyed the parallel Earth (which the title Earth 2 is set on), filled Earth 1 with refugees, killed off and/or terribly altered many of Earth 1's heroes, and lead to a secretive, sinister group on Cadmus Island keeping a prison camp/laboratory full of Earth 2 superheroes.

Here, the full story of that war is told, in one big info-dump conversation involving characters who already know most of the story, and are simply recounting it for the sake of the readers.

It made me question if maybe this would have been a better conflict with which to launch the series, rather than the extremely derivative of, like, all time-travel stories in all pop culture media of a robot-ruled dystopia that someone must go back in time to prevent from ever happening. That has only really occupied one of maybe a half-dozen occasionally criss-crossing storylines so far, and it seems to disappear for issues at a time. Batman "Beyond" Terry McGinnis travelling from 2049 to 2019 is but one character in the story, and a rather minor one at that. (Additionally, after a few of this week's releases, including Superman: Doomed #2 and Booster Gold: Futures End #1, it sure seems like the next weekly, Earth 2: Worlds End, is going to dramatize the war that is in the past of this Five Years From Now series).

Anyway, it's nice to finally get some of the story here behind the story, as inelegantly communicated as it might have been and even if it had me continually questioning to what extent this could have—or should have—been teased out over the course of the previous 21 weeks or so (Also, readers of this title may want to check out Superman: Futures End #1, which hints at Superman's role in the war, in which he did something so awful he decided to stop being Superman—my guess is he killed Darkseid, but it's just a guess).

So, long story short, here, finally, is the Reader's Digest account of the Apokoliptian war that destroyed Earth 2 and followed its refugees to Earth 1, and what followed. It's told as Team Arrow and The Outsiders prepare Big Barda to join them in an all-out assault on Cadmus Island, which I can't imagine is going to all that well for them, since Brainiac/Brother Eye is now in complete control of the powerful Earth 2 heroes that were once being kept on the island, like Power Girl, for example. Oh, and all those OMACS too, I guess.

Cully Hamner draws the living hell out of this issue, which is the best looking one in memory. Regular cover artist Ryan Sook gets to draw something heroic and action-packed for a change, and really fills it with superheroes.

Saga #23 (Image Comics) Wow, trippy cover, Fiona Staples! I love the way that Staples designs and draws Ginny, by which I mean I hate it, because it makes me feel things about a blue space-lady with bat ears and a bat nose. Also, the second panel of Marko on her doorstep is just as awesome as the first panel of Ginny opening her door in the middle of the night.

A lady friend of mine and I have been fighting—well, arguing—about the Marko/Alanna fight since it happened, regarding who was more wrong, Marko for thinking of a pretty bat-lady who is totally in to him while dreaming (You can't control your unconscious mind, or I would have far more dreams about being Robin or going on dates with that girl from high school, and far less about being abducted by aliens or finding ghosts messing with my lights in my apartment!), or Alanna for getting high on space-drugs around their toddler daughter.

The sticking point seems to be Marko's reaction to the news; throwing a bag of groceries at Alanna. (For the record, the nanny seems to agree with me). Obviously I can see both sides—throwing things at your spouse in anger is terrible, and doing space-drugs around your toddler daughter is also terrible. I mention this only because Brian K. Vaughan and Staples have done such an incredible job of developing these characters and making their conflicts so complex and realistic (despite the fact that they are all, you know, space aliens) that it's possible for real people to argue about who is right and who is wrong, and who is more right and who is more wrong, in the way you might discuss a couple you know in real life.

1 comment:

SallyP said...

I am going to miss Adventures of Superman terribly. The only decent Superman book that they have!

Also, Saga was superb, as always.