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Sunday, July 18, 2004
Last Week's Comics
Big haul this week, so even though I started reading them on Wednesday night, I didn't get through them all until yesterday (almost, I still have XXXholic Vol. 2 to read).
Batman: The Order of Beasts, by Eddie Campbell and Darren White, from DC:
The story here is very slight, concerning Batman investigating a series of murders in pre-War England. There's not much mystery here, and the story's resolution has a "crap, I only have six pages left" feel to it. Of course, I bought it solely for Eddie Campbell's art, so that doesn't particularly bother me. I'm more used to seeing his work in black-and-white, so the color work here looks oddly familiar, but not quite right.
Noble Causes: Extended Family #2 by Various, from Image:
Jay Faerber's super-hero soap opera is one of those books that often sounds better than it actually is, and this anthology of stories about the Noble family by several different writers and artists makes that clear. Some of the stories are good, most are just sort of forgetable.
JLA #101 by Chuck Austen and Ron Garney, from DC:
This was just painfully bad. And not original in the slightest. How many more of these "Superheroes aren't capable of saving everyone" stories have to get published before people realize just how trite and cliche they are. The one time, the only time, I can think of this kind of story being handled well was by Garth Ennis in Hitman.
District X by David Hine and David Yardin, from Marvel:
The first issue suffered from "Marvel First Issue Syndrome", the second issue actually introduced a plot, and with this issue we finally start to get a book thats, well, surprisingly good. I hate to have to say that about a book starring Bishop, whose presence can usually be taken as a sign that you're about to read a really bad comic.
Books of Magick: Life During Wartime by Si Spencer and Dean Ormston, from DC/Vertigo:
Proof that it's not just Marvel that publishes books that are completely unfriendly to new readers. Not only do you have to be familiar with the regular "magic" characters of the DC/Vertigo universe and have read all prior appearances of the Tim Hunter character, you have to be a sophisticated enough reader of comics to understand that this story appears to take place in a universe apart from the one in which the characters previous adventures took place. And apart from all that, this issue is all pro-logue. We don't know why there's a war going on, who the combatants are, why Tim is important to all of this, or why Tim has no seeming knowledge of magic and his role in all of this. DC might as well have put a big warning sticker on the cover: "Do Not Read Unless You Are An Obsessive Vertigo Completist."
Fables #27 by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham, from DC/Vertigo:
I'm partly just glad this storyline is over. Other than that, there's some resolutions, some hints as to the nature of the fables, and some forward momentum on other stories. It's good, but there's nothing too terribly exciting or noteworthy happening in this issue.
She-Hulk #5 by Dan Slott and Paul Pelletier, from Marvel:
I like Pelletier's work, and it's not that he's unsuited for a book like this, but I was really enjoying Bobillo's work, so I'm hoping this is just a temporary fill-in. Besdies that, the first multi-part story in this title is cute. It reminds me of a time in Marvel comics history when everything wasn't being taken so seriously and you were allowed to be silly and just play with the ludicrousness of super-powers a little. You know, the pre-Quesada era...
Alpha Flight #5 by Scot Lobdell and Clayton Henry, from Marvel:
This book is almost the exact opposite of She-Hulk. It thinks it's funny, but it clearly has no conception of what humor actually is. It's like Lobdell has heard of the concept but never actually seen something that was funny, and so he is trying to write a comic that, in the abstract, could be described as "funny" without ever once actually being funny.
Spider-Man #4 by Mark Millar and Terry Dodson, from Marvel:
I'm really starting to wonder what the point of this book is. So far it's just been an exercise in sadism. Millar is torturing the reader with how clever and witty and what-not he thinks he is. Expecting us all to gaze in wonderment at the giant of creativity he is, showing us this new, breathtakingly original and not at all cliche-ridden Spider-Man opus he's crafting...you didn't think by "sadism" I meant what he's doing to a fictional character do you? I mean, come on, you'd have to have no concept of reality whatsoever to get emotionally upset over what a writer does to a fictional character...
Identity Disc #2 by Robert Rodi and John Higgins, from Marvel:
This book is so blatantly modeled on The Usual Suspects that at this point I'm going to be more surprised if it turns out there actually is a Tristram Silver. The most frustrating thing about this is that Rodi is usually a good writer. So how did this end up being so pointlessly dull?
Pulse #4 by Brian Bendis and Mark Bagley, from Marvel:
This would have been a great four issue storyline. Too bad it's being padded out to at least six.
Guardians #1 by Marc Sumerak and Casey Jones, from Marvel:
I did manage to get a copy of this, and I'm not sure I should have. It's not a bad comic, but it suffers, again, from "Marvel First Issue Syndrome." We're given nice introductions to some characters, who for a change in a Marvel first issue are compelling and interesting and I want to read more about them. But I'm not really given much to compel me to come back for a second issue. The gist of the story is, a group of children "save" an alien, and twenty years later all but one of them has convinced themselves that they imagined the whole thing. The art doesn't really do much of anything for me and the story doesn't seem strong enough to support itself past one short storyline.
JSA #63 by Geoff Johns and Jerry Ordway, from DC:
I like JSA but issues like this one really drive home the fact that the intended audience for a book like this is people who have been reading DC comics for a long time. I don't know who Cave Carson is, apart from a few cameo appearance in other books over the years, so his presence and the presence of his assistants could have used at least a little exposistion. Likewise the many refrences to the various DCU Sandmen. It's simply assumed the reaser is already going to know all of those things, and I can't help but think that maybe it's a bad thing that assumption is almost certainly correct.
Legion #35 by Gail Simone and Dan Jurgens, from DC:
It's a good, old-fashioned super-hero romp and it doesn't pretend to be anything else. That's the good part. The bad part is: Legion, like JSA is also one of those books that is written under the assumption that every single person reading it has been reading Legion comics for the last twenty years. And from what I've heard of it so far, the Waid/Kitson revamp is going to be the same thing. But then, all of Waid's comics are written for, well, Mark Waid, so that won't be too surprising.
Action Comics #817 by Chuck Austen and Ivan Reis, from DC:
I'm enjoying Austen's Superman title. It's a little too dependant on knowledge of the DCU, but since Rucka's giving us a more mature, nuanced look at Supes, and Azzarello/Lee are giving us an ode to fanboys, it's nice to see Austen doing a Superman book for what I always think should be a character like Superman's primary audience: kids. It's a book of Supes hitting bad guys for twenty-pages a month. That's all most kids want out of him. And he's doing it in a way that's entertaining without neccessarily being insulting to older readers. That still doesn't excuse that issue of JLA.
DC Comics Presents: Mystery In Space by Elliot S! Maggin, Grant Morrison, Jerry Ordway, and JH Williams, from DC:
The Maggin/Williams story is good, but it's really just another Adam Strange story. But Morrison's story, that's a work of real note. We get not only an Adam Strange story, but a sly satire on US military adventurism, American machismo and its shortcomings lampooned, a defense of the much maligned "new man" and an ode to the lovely strangeness of the Silver Age of DC Comics and it's cheif architect. All beneath a typically dull Alex Ross cover.
Trucker Fags in Denial by Jim Goad and Jim Blanchard, from Fantagraphics:
Not for all tastes. In fact, probably only for very select tastes. Unsurprisingly for something written by the man who gave us the shock-zine Answer Me!, the comic manages to lampoon homophobia while still somehow seeming somewhat homophobic in tone. One of the assumptions the comic makes, and it's one I've seen far too many people make before, is that homophobia is a sign of repressed homosexuality. Well, the jury is still out on that one, and the "studies" that purported to prove it were at best inconclusive. Still, if you have the stomach for it and are not easily offended, this is an occasionally amusing comic.
Superman/Batman #11 by Jeph Loeb and Michael Turner, from DC:
It's a big, blustery, incredibly dumb super-hero comic. So why do I like it so much?
Teen Titans #13 by Geoff Johns and Tom Grummet, from DC:
Johns gets around to revamping Garfield Logan's origin now that John Byrne has gone and rendered it moot for no reason other than to make his laughably bad Doom Patrol the "real" one. There's not much else to say about this issue. The idea of dozens of Beast Kids running around is amusing, but not much is done with it at this point other than set up the crisis for the next couple of issues.
Scurvy Dogs #5 by Andrew Boyd and Ryan Yount, from AiT/PlanetLar:
Boyd and Yount graciously get off the stage before wearing out their welcome. This issue doesn't have the manic pace of the previous issues, though the dead-on satire of conspicuous consumerism and aging pop-culture refrences still provided me with some of my best comics-related laughs this week. (Okay, I kid about the conspicuous consumerism, but still, it's a funny, funny book.)
Bloodhound by Dan Jolley and Leonard Kirk, from DC:
See, this is how you should write a first issue. I'm given enough information on the lead character to have a sense of who he is, but I'm teased with the promise of more information yet to come. Stuff actually happens so I don't feel like this was all set-up for later issues, yet there are plenty of threads left open for devlopment in subsequent issues. Nice art, good story, slightly disapointing cover. This comic, the story of an ex-con, a cop-killing cop, set out into the world to hunt down super-powered criminals is what I want in super-hero comics: not the same-old, same-old I've seen dozens of times already, done in an interesting way.
Challengers of the Unknown #2 by Howard Chaykin, from DC:
The mystery of who these five people are deepens, while we're given more insight into the power players behind the scenes in their world. All your Chaykin touches are here: dead-pan cynicism, tough-as-nails broads, and even a guy who kind of vaguely resembles Chaykin himself. I love the conceit of the character's names and the idea of making FOX News the villain. Great, great comic which is just a fun, wild read. (With really spectacular backgrounds!)
Also good, but I just can't think of much to say about them, so "good" will have to suffice: Gotham Central, Bite Club, Aquaman, Fallen Angel, Nightjar and Touch.
I'm planning, time permitting, to give Eightball and Identity Crisis a couple of more reads before I write about them. EB has enough depth, and everyone else has already written so much about it, that I think it deserves a more in-depth examination than I usually give to reviews here. As for ID, well, there are some issues about it I want to address, and some complaints about it I've seen on-line that I particularly want to respond to, so it also needs a more thourough discussion than I usually do in my weekly reviews.