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Sean William Scott

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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Superhero Comics Reviewed & A Contest 

Batman: Gotham Knights #56, Robin #129, Batgirl #55, Catwoman #34 and Batman #631: Reading two weeks worth of "War Games" chapters in one sitting makes a few things very clear. First of all, this is actually not all that bad as far as cross-overs go. Lord knows DC has published worse ("Our Worlds At War" springs immediatly to mind...), but this one actually has a rather simple, straightforward plot that makes it easy to hang individual chapters onto the over-arching story. That being said, the weaknesses become painfully clear. First, there's a tremendous amount of unneccessary exposistion and redundant information, apparently included under the mistaken assumption that someone out there is only going to be buying the chapters that happen to take place in books they normally buy anyway. Secondly, there are all kinds of weird gaps and holes in the narratives that put me in mind of nothing else so much as somebody thought somebody else was writing the chapter that explained how Character A got from Point X to Point Y and why Character B told Character C this.

Ultimate Elektra #1, Ultimate Spider-Man #64 and Ultimate Fantastic Four #10: Judging by on-line reaction I'm the only person who both likes the NuLook Doc Doom and wasn't the least bit surprised that they killed off Gwen Stacy. You know, if I were still in school, I'd be half-tempted to write a paper on "Fear of Technology in the Ultimate Marvel Universe." Nothing good ever comes of science or technology in the Ultimate comics, especially the ones written by Bendis. And is it actually possible to write a good comic featuring Elektra if you're not Frank Miller?

Legion #38: A whimper. Just as I was starting to warm to this incarnation of the LOSH, they go and cancel it so that Mark Waid can reboot the title yet again. Probably into something that more closely resembles the "classic" Silver Age Legion that only comic book fans in their forties really like...

Adventures of Superman #631: I'm still liking the more character-driven book this has become, as opposed to the all-hitting-all-the-time Action, which I also enjoy, and the talking-head-itis of Superman, which I'm not reading because my patience for both Azzarello and Lee is quite low.

DC Comics Presents:The Atom and DC Comics Presents: Justice League of America: Overall, I'd have to say that the stories that don't rely on characters meeting Julius Schwartz have been the best. It's just such a silly gimmick, and my patience for it wore thin after the third time in this series it was used. I didn't like the Atom book at all, and I only really liked the Wolfman story in the JLA book. The David/Ellison story was too pleased with it's own cleverness by half, not to mention being so preoccupied with "paying tribute" to actually bother telling an entertaining story. Overall, I'd say that the best story, by far, was Grant Morrison's Adam Strange tale, with Wolfman's JLA and Azzarello's GL and Stan Lee's Superman being the next best.

JSA: Strange Adventures #1: The price and format are a good argument for waiting for the trade, but I have a fondness for period super-hero tales, especially the ones with the JSA. The mix of Johnny Thunder's writing career and the A-Plot of Nazi saboteurs fighting the JSA is appealing. Besides...Wildcat! What is not to love?

She-Hulk #6: Easily the best book Marvel is publishing right now. It's all the bits about super-hero comics that are fun, without the pointless angst and stupid soap-operas that bug the hell out of me. And finally, someone remembered Damage Control!

X-Men: The End: Book One: Dreamers And Demons #2: If someone were to create a course in comic-book writing, and how to avoid cliches and trite dialogue and one-dimensional characterization, and how to make each issue accessable to new readers without relying on heavily exposistional dialogue, this book could be used as a concrete example of the exact opposite way to go about it. Not just bad, but insultingly bad. Books on the display shelf next to it are actually made worse by their proximity to it. But I understate.

JLA #104: I've seen several people claim, both on-line and in Real Life (what's that?) that this issue was actually pretty good. I can only assume they mean in comparison to the rest of Austen's "Super-Hero's Cry" storyline, because this was terrible. It's like Austen had never even read a single comic featuring the Martian Manhunter before writing this.

Plastic Man #9: True to Jack Cole's spirit, Plas is the only sane man in a world gone mad. It's over-the-top, yeah, and full of more in-jokes than, well, that Alpha Flight series Marvel is publishing right now. The key difference being, of course, that Baker's comic is actually, you know, funny. I mean, how can you not find the idea of Plastic Man and Woozy Winks plotting to kill Lincoln not absolutely hilarious? Especially when, in context, it's the most natural and obvious solution to everyone's problems.

Authority: More Kev #3: Garth Ennis should really write the Authority more often. His obvious loathing of super-hero comics actually has an appropriate outlet with this set of characters, creating a ludicrously over-done smorgasboard of operatic violence and bad taste. And it's funny.

Astonishing X-Men #4: I don't see how people are praising Whedon's writing. Unless it is that the see it as good only in comparison to what's being written in the other X-Titles. It's a reversion to the status-quo, giving the fans the safety of the same characters they've been reading for twenty years in the same kidns of situations. Even to the point of bringing characters back from the dead. Dull...but at least it looks pretty.

Supreme Power #12 and Doctor Spectrum #1: I don't understand the point of doing a Doc Spectrum mini at this point. Is this for the benefit of the legion of Doctor Spectrum fans, who demand more than the one or two page appearance every couple of months they've been getting in Supreme Power? And if so, what was the point of spending the first issue rehashing events from SP, with a few "important" background elements thrown in to pad it out to 22 pages? And, as for SP, I don't think Straczynski is quite a good enough writer to pull off page-layout trickery as he's attempting to here. The fact that one of the panels is static for a good chunk of the book really drives that point home. It reeks of trying to be clever, without displaying any understanding of how or why the comics form works. On the other hand, at least Zarda puts on some damn clothes and the plot moves forward, at least slightly, so maybe the book will pull itself out of the holding pattern it's been in for the last couple of issues.

Astro City Special: Supersonic: A nice examination of the flashy heroes of the Silver Age in the context of contemporary comics. It's one of the strenghs and a good part of the appeal of Astro City, but it does draw attention to the fact that often the stories themselves are somewhat slight. Sure, there's a hero fighting a giant robot, but all the real character growth and action takes place on the internal level, which makes it feel odd that so much time was spent on, well, a hero fighting a giant robot.

Terra Obscura Vol. 2 #1 and Promethea #31: The world ends, and it's not all that bad actually, and soemthing weird approaches from space. And that's about it. It's too hard to write about books like these without writing about the entire series, so I'm not going to try. Maybe someday I'll do write something about Promethea as a whole, but seeing as it's taken me this long to write about comics from two weeks ago, I wouldn't look for it anytime soon...

Manhunter #1: Like Bloodhound and Monolith, this title seems to be another part of DC moving into a slightly different territory than it's bright and shiny JLA image would suggest. Darker titles, more mature titles, and titles that reward an audience that's willing to give them a chance. So, I liked this book a lot. Tons of moral ambiguity, a compelling lead character, and a first issue that works strongly on it's own, but gives us just enough information and loose threads to hopefully draw readers back for more. I've been looking forward to this since it was announced, and I'm not disapointed at all. Good book, go check it out, new titles that don't have an "X", "Spider", "Super" or "Bat" in the title need as much support as they can get right now.

Speaking of which...Cognitive Dissonance is running a Fallen Angel contest. Seems a good segue to talk about the latest issue. It's a one-off story, catching us up on some of the supporting cast and what they've been up to. David is excellent at characterization, and all these characters are engaging. It's not quite the "jumping-on" point that the book maybe needs, but it's damn close. There are even two very surprising, uh, surprises snuck in for long-time readers. Go get it, or go enter the contest.


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