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Sean William Scott


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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

A Month's Worth of Comics Reviews 

I'm going to review everything I bought for the last four weeks. In one go. I know, I'm insane. Bear in mind that anything that I seem to really, really hate, but read anyway, is probably something that I bought because Pete likes it.

Losers #22: I really enjoy this series, the writing is sharp, the art is excellent, but I always find myself at a loss of anything particular to say about any given issue. I suppose it's the curse of serial entertainments. Consistent quality is always good, but it runs the risk of a certain sameness creeping into each installment.

Deadshot #5: This was such a wonderfully depraved comic. It's also a fairly good example of how to do these short, character-based storylines. Some growth has been allowed to happen in Deadshot's character, but at the end the essential status quo is maintained. So other writers can take him in the direction they wish to go, or they can revisit and expand upon what was done here.

Detective #805: So, wait…are we not supposed to immediately assume that the villain behind this vast conspiracy is Clayface? Because all the clues are saying "Clayface," but none of the characters seem to be realizing that.

Witching #10: The conclusion very much reads as if Vankin was given little notice as to the cancellation of the series. It feels rushed and things that really did need some exposition are glossed over hurriedly.

Strange #5: Baron Mordo and the Ancient One fight each other with light sabers in this issue. Uhm…yeah.

Firestorm #12: I was enjoying this series, until it became all about Ronnie Raymond and his villains. I don't want to read about the old Firestorm, I want to read about the new Firestorm. We can revisit all of Ronnie's villains ten years from now in Firestorm: Rebirth.

Spider-Girl #85 and #84: Occasionally I'm asked for a good, all-ages title from Marvel. And the best one I can offer up is this book, which is heavily reliant on an understanding not only of the convoluted Spider-Man continuity, but on the M2 continuity as well. And yet, it's still the best written and best drawn and least condescending of all of Marvel's "all ages" titles.

Superman/Batman #18: Y'know, there are "big dumb fun" comics, and then there are "big dumb" comics. This series consistently straddles that line. This issue was more on the "big dumb" side of the line. I'm sorry, but I simply cannot take the adult Legion's presence in a story as a sign of how serious and important the story is supposed to be. I mean, Loeb actually had to type out the words "Matter-Eater Man" and he still apparently thought that the story should be totally earnest?

Green Lantern: Rebirth #5: If you can't say anything nice--I like the way Ethan Van Sciver draws Killowog.

Ultimate Spider-Man #75 and #74: If you can't say anything nice--Wow…real metal staples.

Ultimate Fantastic Four #17 and #16: It still feels like Ben Grimm is the character that Ellis has the best handle on. Of course, Ben Grimm is probably the most distinctive and easiest to write of all the Fantastic Four characters. Johnny and Reed are, at best, one dimensional, and Sue has always been a bit of a cipher and has had to have quite a few personality implants grafted onto her by various writers over the years. But Ben has a distinctive personality and one that you can wring a lot of pathos and humor out of.

Teen Titans #22: I realize that this is supposed to be the big, scary, post-Identity Crisis Dr. Light, and he's not supposed to be silly anymore. But, it's still Dr. Light. And frankly, I'm more excited by the teased appearances of Wildebeest and Duela Dent at the end of this issue than by the revelation of the "new" Hawk and Dove. Ah well. I enjoy the book, but they can't all be winners.

Outsiders #22: Arsenal fights Deathstroke for most of the book and then realizes that the team featuring three characters who had never been seen before has a traitor on it. Clearly, Arsenal has never read a super-hero team-book.

Batman #638: I was flipping through the most recent issue of Wizard, and the argument against bringing back the character who is (apparently) brought back in this issue is that it would be "spitting in the face of democracy." See, that' the best argument I can think of to bring back Jason Todd. The character shouldn't have been killed in the first place. Never, ever give comic book fans that much control over the editorial direction of a title. It was nonsense like "phone in to see if Robin lives or dies" that lead, almost directly, to DC getting fed up with fans whining over when Hal Jordan was going to come back. They got their way once, now they expect to get their way all the time.

Wonder Woman #214: And see, again…it's hard to think of anything in particular to say about a book that you consistently like.

Hawkman #38: As near as I can determine, most of Hawkman's rogues never even warranted Who's Who entries, in any of the various incarnations of that book. That's not really a complaint, more of an observation. It's hard to take their threat seriously when I don't even know who they are and I've been reading DC comics for 25 years.

Gotham Central #29: Say it with me again…when it's always good, it's hard to find particular things to say about any given issue.

Young Avengers #2: This was going so well. I was willing to put up with the rather silly and contrived time travel story. I was willing to put up with the attempts to integrate the silly and contrived "Avengers Disassembled" story into the back-story of this book. I was even willing to put up with the idea that Ant-Man's daughter has the power to grow. But what I don't buy is the need to let the audience know what color panties the fourteen year old girl is wearing. Sorry. Combined with the already announced death of a character, the promise this book started with is rapidly diminishing.

Batgirl #62: Ugh. I don't generally mind reading this book. It's one of Pete's favorites, and it's usually diverting enough. But that "dead character imparts words of wisdom to a character near death" cliché really bugs me.

X-Men: Phoenix Endsong #4: I think this is the best work I've seen from Greg Land. And while the story does tend to suffer from the angsty melodrama that is all X-Men stories, I'm glad to see a story that doesn't run screaming from the work that Grant Morrison did on the title, or try to ignore or downplay the Scott and Emma relationship.

Ultimate Secret #1: I thought this was a very good start to a short run series. We've got some basic exposition out of the way, we get an action sequence, and if you follow the larger narrative of the fictional universe in question you get some intriguing teases. That being said, it does feel like a bit of a cheat when you put six different super-heroes on your cover, and you only put one of them in the book itself.

Pulse #8: If you can't say anything nice--It's always nice to see Michael Lark's work.

Secret War #4: So, let me summarize this series so far. Something, we don't know what, happened in another country, that some of the heroes seem to remember but others don't, and so in retaliation someone we don't know tried to kill Luke Cage and turned all the costumes of the tech based villains into bomb components. That about it?
Christ, Green Lantern: Rebirth and its "the evil personification of the color yellow possessed Hal" story makes more sense than this shit.

Legion of Super-Heroes #4: I've run out of amusing ways to say "Waid's attempts to meld the look and feel of the Paul Levitz era Legion with a knowing, meta-textually aware story designed to appeal to contemporary comics readers is disconcerting and annoying to me."

Concrete: The Human Dilemma #4 and #3: This is very, very good stuff, and I'm glad that Pete eventually decided to tell me that he was a Concrete fan so that I would buy this for him. But…the angst and melodrama feels just a little heavy here. It could just be the middle part of the story dragging, as tends to happen from time to time, but it feels like something more significant should have happened than finding out that Concrete is pregnant.

Astonishing X-Men #9: So…someone apparently downloaded a bunch of Heavy Metal cover scans into the Danger Room. Because I don't understand why a sentient computer program would make itself look like a sexy female robot otherwise.

Blue Monday: Painted Moon #4: What if…Archie comics actually allowed their characters to grow and reflect the actual tastes and interests of real teenagers, instead of a weirdly idealized version of ultra-pure teenage virginity and innocence? You'd probably end up with this series. I mean, sure they're music nerds of an indeterminate time-period, but they still feel more realistic than Archie's teens.

Hopeless Savages: B-Sides: The Origin of the Dusted Bunnies: More Hopeless Savages is always a good thing. More Becky Cloonan is always a good thing too. Sadly, the parts don't quite add up to a satisfying hole. It was good, but it felt more like a tease than a full story. I want more Dusted Bunnies after this, and I'm probably going to have a long wait.

Ultimate X-Men #57: If you can't say anything nice--Someone, somewhere, is probably really upset about what they did to Longshot in this issue. (What…that is a compliment as far as I'm concerned. It's not about pissing people off, it's about pissing off the right people.)

Fables #35: Wow…I really don't care for this Hollywood storyline.

Ultimates 2 #5: If you can't say anything nice--On page three, that last panel with the ants moving the equipment around amused me.

JSA #71: Needs more Wildcat.

Bloodhound #9: Ah well. It's almost starting to look as if any book that bloggers seem to enjoy is doomed to rapid cancellation. We should use that power responsibly, now that we know we have it.

JLA #112: It's Kurt Busiek writing the JLA, so I should have really dug this, but this issue was just over-load. Too much going on with too many different characters in too many different places.

Catwoman #41: As far as fill-ins go, this wasn't too bad. There doesn't seem to be too much actual "mystery" as to what's going on, though. That's probably just an after-effect of the reader being given more clues than the characters.

JLA: Classified #5: It's nice to have a funny super-hero book come out from time to time, but that doesn't mean that an entire line of super-hero titles should have to be consistent in tone with the humor book.

Wild Girl #5: Oh, sorry, I went to get Chinese food and lost my train of thought. Good lord, that's still a lot of comics to get through. Anyway…place-holder issue. Maybe this should have been a five issue series.

Angeltown#5: I thought this was an excellent series. The resolution of the mystery is a bit out of left-field and doesn't really seem as if it plays fair with the reader, hinging on information that wasn't "in plain sight" all along. I'd like to see more with this set of characters, but Vertigo doesn't seem to have much luck with straight-forward detective titles (where is the second Scene of the Crime mini anyway?).

303 #4: God bless Garth Ennis. If this dialogue were in a Chuck Dixon or Chuck Austen book I'd be rolling my eyes. But here, I can pretend to myself that it's Ennis trying to ape over-wrought, "real American" style speech for effect, and that it's not just clumsy dialogue in service to a heavy-handed political allegory. Now, granted, I like the heavy-handed political allegory…but man is that some clumsy dialogue.

Adventures of Superman #638: If you can't say anything nice--the art pastiches were kind of clever. (Seriously, Rucka needs to lay off the Mr. Mxyzptlk for awhile.)

Birds of Prey #80: Hey! Wildcat's in the next issue! This was fine. The angst was a bit heavy for my taste, but this was still good super-hero stuff.

Plastic Man #15: Eh. I'm not so interested in Plastic Man's adopted daughter.

Legend #2: A bit of a let-down after what I thought was an excellent first issue. It's still a bit hard to tell whether or not Hugo is meant to be a sympathetic character or if we're meant to tick off mentally all the little steps along the road to Hugo's downfall.

Terra Obscura Vol. 2 #6: Another whimper of an ending. It's a nice little resolution with little in the way of loose ends. I have to admit, there's a dark part of me that is greatly enjoying the notion that fans of these characters are incensed by what has "been done" to them in this series.

Aquaman #28: A book I'm constantly trying to decide whether or not I should keep getting. Every time a new issue comes out I say to myself, I'll look at it before I make the decision to keep buying it or not, and each time there's enough there that I feel like I can keep picking it up for a little while longer. And I'm not sure why, because lately it really hasn't been terribly exciting or interesting. It's become a very, well, typical trade-mark perpetuation title.

The Grimoire #1: If you can't say anything nice--The raccoon is cute.

Exiles #61: I honestly have given up on this title. Pete still likes it, so I'll keep buying it for him, and I may look inside it from time to time, but my utter and total lack of interest in anything having to do with this "Age of Apocalypse" nonsense has completely soured me on the book.

Runaways #2: I don't really care who Victor is the son of, because it's almost certainly not going to be a compelling revelation when it's finally made after being dragged out for seven or eight months.

City of Heroes #10: I've enjoyed this incarnation of this title, and I'm still leery of the Top Cow version. Top Cow still means "fan service" to me, and I haven't seen anything in their output over the last couple of years to dissuade me from that opinion. So, I'm not really looking forward to a heavy fan service version of this book. Much less one that focuses on the iconic characters instead of the ones that more closely resemble the kinds of characters you can play in the game. I'm sure someone out there really wants to know just what Swan thinks of Ms. Liberty, but I don't.

Simpsons/Futurama Crossover Crisis II #2: Occasionally funny, but not as satisfying over-all as the first series.

Y: The Last Man #32: I've said before that, if nothing else, Vaughan knows how to make the techniques of serial fiction work for him. In each issue the story advances incrementally, new mysteries are introduced just as old ones are resolved, and each ending is enough of a cliff-hanger to leave you anticipating the next issue. Now, that being said, I did think 355's sudden interest in sapphistry a bit out of place. And having the most recent villain who inexplicably knows more about Yorick's situation than they probably should be the Australian navy will require a damn good explanation.

Ocean #5: Ellis takes that hoariest of sci-fi cliches, that Earth was seeded with life by aliens, and actually makes it work within the context of the story. It also sets up a nice little counter to Kane's character if it's followed through in the story. If Kane likes to take guns away from people who aren't supposed to have them, does it make his job more important, or ultimately futile, to know that violence and aggression in humans are genetic traits inherited from our alien forebears?

Manhunter #8: This is one of those books that causes me to revel in my DCU fanboy-ishness. I find the characters compelling, and Javier Pina makes a good choice of fill-in for Saiz. It's also playing well within the boundaries set for the DCU at the moment, working with the established traits and status of other characters, and giving plenty of story potential for other writers and artists to use if they choose.

Question #5: Isn't weird science in comic books fun? It's always nice to see someone taking the weird, implausible nature of super-heroes and just running with it. I was amused by the scene of Superman talking to Vic from across the city, and greatly relieved to find out that, of course, Lex is being totally evil yet again with his latest project. And, of course, Edwards art on this book is fascinating.

Adam Strange #6: Simply beautiful art in service to an unpretentious story. As I've said before, I wouldn't mind in the least if this book becomes a model of how to write exciting, entertaining super-hero stories.

Ex Machina #9: Well, it's well drawn, and I generally find the storytelling good, but I'm always rubbed a little the wrong way when straight men decide to talk about gay marriage, even when they support it. It's just one of those things I've been trained to expect the worst of.

Conan #14: I was a little under-whelmed by this issue. I'm actually starting to feel a bit frustrated by the number of guest artists coming in to do a page or two here and there on the book, and for what should be a fantasy adventure comic, I thought the fact that Conan passes out and misses a good deal of the resolution while he goes on to have a metaphysical experience a bit anti-climatic.

Hypothetical Lizard #2: The art is much rougher in this issue, and it distracted me somewhat. The figures have a slightly distorted look to them, particularly Rawra Chin, and it looks…odd, for lack of a better word. Despite that reservation on my part, Johnston does a good job here of adapting Moore's story into comics form. The pacing, always a tricky thing to get hold of in adaptations from one medium to another, is excellent, and he strikes a good balance between using the words and actions of the characters to reveal personality and thought and using the narrator to fill in the remaining details. The scenario with Som Som is both strangely compelling and horrifying, not only because of what was actually done to Som Som but because of the position it puts her in for the tragedy about to unfold. She is perfectly aware of what is happening, but lacks the agency to do anything about it, and that is an excellent plot point to hang a tragedy such as this on.

Jack Spade and Tony Two-Fist #1: It's a hard-drinking penguin. He gets into fights. There's precious little plot to the two stories here, and less in the way of character, but there are very good drawings by Steve Rolston of a drunken penguin, and some days that's all I ask.

Sticky #2: This is excellent, excellent porn. I liked this even more than the first issue. The art by Steve Macisaac is probably not going to be to everyone's taste. It has a rough quality to it, but it's very expressive. There's a lot more plot than the first issue, and it's communicated well, despite the lack of text or narrative captions again. And it doesn't hurt at all that all the guys in this issue are a bit stocky and hairy, and therefore much more my physical type. The back-up story, "Too Drunk to Fuck" was good for a grin as well. So, anyone looking for quality gay porn in comics format, this is definitely the book for you.

Deep Fried #2: Sick, bad, and wrong. And those are the good points of this series. I always feel like I should feel guilty for enjoying this book, but I never do. It's just so funny, in it's twisted little way, I can't help myself.

Vimanarama #2: So far, while I'm enjoying this series, it isn't doing as much for me as either Seaguy or WE3 did. It's got that mad, manic quality that usually makes for a good Grant Morrison comic, but there's still something about it that just, so slightly, feels off to me.

Otherworld #1: I've got this nagging suspicion that, had this come out ten years ago, it wouldn't have been a Vertigo title. I've always liked Phil Jimenez's work, but there are times when it feels like he almost puts too much detail into his work, and it can be a bit over-loading at times to try to take in everything on the page. And then he goes and, as the writer, makes the decision to drop us into the story without really explaining what the conflict here is or giving more than a passing glance at each character's personality and situation. While I'm confidant that, in the end, this is the sort of work I'll end up enjoying, and while we certainly haven't had any problems selling it, there are times I would like a little more exposition at the start of a big, epic story.

Countdown to Infinite Crisis: Here is a comment on how the narrative structure of the DC universe is being shaped for a little while. Here is my take, as a long-time DC fan, as to the significance of this event and what it means for the narrative strategies and "meta-text" of the DCU as a whole. Here is a dispassionate and hopefully objective analysis of the actual quality of the writing on this book, focusing on craft. Lastly, here is an allusion to Lacan's mirror theory, mostly because I think I'm smarter than I am, used as a metaphor for super-hero fandom. It is ambiguous enough to be seen as a critique of the editorial direction of the DCU if one so chooses.
"Make with the snark, faggot."
Okay…they should have just had Dr. Light rape the Blue Beetle's corpse. Oh, and to let you know how serious I'm taking my outrage, let me type the words "shit," "fuck," and "damn" many times.
"That's better. If we wanted reasoned discourse we wouldn't be reading blogs, now would we."

Seven Soldiers: The critical reaction to the first three books has amused me. It seems to me that people seem vaguely disappointed that these are "merely" very well done super-hero comics, and not the personally revelatory and ground-breaking works of high art that they apparently wanted them to be. But that's one of the things I like about Grant Morrison. Sometimes you get The Filth, yes. But sometimes you get New X-Men as well. So I'm perfectly happy with my "merely" good super-hero comics, when they have some wit and originality to them. And if you scratch the surface, some interesting things come up.
Shining Knight: I've gotten the impression in the past that Morrison doesn't much care for fantasy literature. It's not just the not-at-all disguised snipes at Terry Pratchett in Kill Your Boyfriend, it's an element to his work over-all. So, this strikes me as Morrison's response to the perceived resurgence in interest in fantasy. It's a bunch of pseudo-mythic sounding names and ideas thrown out at the reader without any context, only to end, literally, in a bloody heap on the too-real streets of Los Angeles. Bianchi's art is wonderful, right out of, for lack of a better description, the European comics tradition.
Guardian: I think this is the least obviously "metaphoric" character to come out of this project so far. What it seems Morrison is trying to do here is integrate a new personality into a pre-existing and developed super-hero universe. Only, in this case, as with Seaguy, it's a universe that didn't actually exist before this character. If you wanted to stretch the analogy, you could see this as a forced metaphor for the comics industry as a whole, I suppose. But why limit it to that. I mean, the book has subway pirates in it. I'd half suspect that Morrison is just trying to throw archetypes out there to let people make their own meaning for the book.
Zatanna: Now, this book does tend to wear its goals on its sleeves a bit. As others have noted, it's hard not to see this as some kind of response to Promethea. Only where that book was happiness and light, this book wants to make it clear that, no, magic is dangerous and not to be taken lightly. It puts me in mind of a "middle-ground" book, taking up that space between Morrison's run on JLA and The Invisibles. It's big ideas, and ideas that are thrown at you, but there's a larger point to them, and signs of careful planning and story structure on display. It's also very much a call-back to other supernaturally themed DCU stories, notably Moore's Swamp Thing and, I strongly suspect, Sandman. Which, again, makes it very hard not to see it as a direct response to some of the notions of the nature of magic and the cross-connections between the "real world" and the fictional world that those authors have offered in their works and Morrison's own view of the subject.

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© 2007 Dorian Wright. Some images are © their respective copyright holders. They appear here for the purposes of review or satire only.