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Sean William Scott

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Monday, March 13, 2006

Massive Monday Review Post 

Plantary Brigade #2 by Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis, Fabio Moon, Zid and Alfa and Joe Abraham.

The prequel to Hero Squared continues, and like the previous installment, this satirical take on super-hero team cliches is amusing. The characters are familiar types, but Giffen and DeMatteis render each one with an engaging personality and enough twists to make them enjoyable despite their familiarity. The only sour note in this issue is the introduction of Mr. Brilliant. He's a fat guy who lives in a comic book store. It's a cheap joke, and one that's made often enough, but it feels out of place and trite here.

Sky Ape: King of Girls by Richard Jenkins, Phil Amara, Tim McCarny and Mike Russo.

Sky Ape is a fun, absurdist action comic, and another satire of the tropes of super-hero team books. I had difficulty remembering the names and details of Sky Ape's secondary characters, but really it doesn't matter. There's a semblance of a plot here, having to do with men being taught manners and how to socialize with women, only to then use those new skills for revenge, but the bulk of the book is taken up with strange, surreal jokes about an incompetent super-hero team named Victory's Thirteen and the Minotaur. Jenkins' art has an angular, cartoon look to it that's appealing, and the jokes are, well, funny, but as I said, a strange, surreal humor that may not appeal to all folks.
I love it. It's pure comic book goodness and strangeness and the kind of wonderful nonsense I look for in comics.

Dorothy #5, by Mark Masterson, Greg Mannino, Illusive Arts and starring Catie Fisher

As Dorothy finally reaches the Munchkin village, we get an issue that's heavy on the exposistion. Some of the basic elements of the status quo of this version of Oz are established, with heavy foreshadowing of what still lies ahead for Dorothy. The art, a mix of photography and digital imaging for those unfamiliar with the title, is lush and lovely. And while this is a very dialogue heavy issue, the story still retains a brisk pace and forward momentum. It's also a fairly good issue for those unfamiliar with the title to pick up on, as all the vital details of past issues are covered.
If your local comics store doesn't carry Dorothy, it is also available from the publisher's website.

Channel Zero by Brian Wood

This is one of Brian Wood's earliest comics projects, and it has been reissued in a new edition by Ait/PlanetLar. It's a story of resistance to government censorship and a fascist, racist near-future America. And while there are certain resonances with current political discussions in this country and abroad, the book very much feels like a product of the time in which it was created, 1997. Much of that probably has to do with the fact that this is very early work from Brian Wood, and as a writer he hadn't quite found his voice yet. It suggests, heavily, the relative youth of the creator, and of the intended audience. It reminds me, in that sense, of DMZ, Wood's current series for Vertigo. Both books have a very angry, and somewhat unreflective, political viewpoint that "feels like" the kinds of unfocused political awakenings people often experience in their late teens and early twenties. It's not a criticism of the book at all. In fact, I would strongly suggest the book to any fairly bright teenagers you know, but reading it did, at times, made me feel very, very old. Mostly, I suspect, because I remember when I would have been much more enthusiastic about a book like this.
I also feel like I should note that there's really only one sequence which, to me, doesn't work at all. It's the brief passage about the "cleaner" who operates in New York. While I have no trouble believing in an American public that happily accepts neo-colonial overseas adventurism and media censorship, I have quite a bit of trouble finding an America that cheerily accepts government sponsored death squads openly roaming the streets plausible. It also works against the grain of the story. If, as the story suggests, the fascism of this future America is of the velvet glove variety, then a public morals officer with a license to kill smacks more strongly of the iron fist. It doesn't quite fit.
As I said, the book makes me feel a bit old, but it's still good work. What I find particularly remarkable about it now is the art and design work that went into it. Wood is an excellent artist, with a keen eye for design, and this book, as an aesthetic object, is superlative.

DC: One Year Later

Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis #40, by Kurt Busiek and Butch Guice
This was a perfectly acceptable Aquaman comic. The combination of Busiek and Guice means that this book has lots of potential, and perhaps higher expectations than it can live up to, but this issue serves as a fairly standard set-up and quickie origin for the protagonist.
If anything, for my taste, this issue would have benefited from fewer references to previous Aquaman continuity. If they're going to make a clean break, best to make it an all the way break.

Detective Comics #817, by James Robinson, Leonard Kirk and Andy Clarke
Much like Aquaman, this is a perfectly adequate Batman comic. I'm slightly disappointed by the lack of any characters from the late Gotham Central comic, as putting James Gordon and Harvey Bullock in the roles of Batman's police allies feels like an unnecessary step backwards. It's a needlessly retro move, and feels counter to the general direction of the "One Year Later" books, which is forward. In addition, the broad hints as to what happened during the "missing year" weren't engaging, but merely annoying.
In fact, the over-all feeling was that this storyline is only serving as a place-holder filler until Dini and Morrisson can begin their runs.

Firestorm: The Nuclear Man #23 by Stuart Moore, Jamal Igle and Keith Champagne
By retaining the previous creative team, Firestorm manages to avoid both the placeholder feeling of Detective and the "that's all" feeling that Aquaman flirts with. Instead it feels much like a continuation of what has gone before, only with a big gap in the narrative. Only in this case, the mystery of the missing PhD is strongly based on the existing Firestorm continuity, making it feel more natural than Detective's vague hints about whatever it is that Bullock did in 52. It's a fun super-hero comic that doesn't pretend to be much of anything else.

JSA #83, by Paul Levitz, Rag Morales, Dave Meikis with Luke Ross
The story is passable, and I enjoy Morales' art, but the entire Levitz run as a whole, including the prequel issue #82, strongly feels like a place-holder. It's a fun enough comic, and the Gentleman Ghost is a goofy enough concept that I can get behind it. But it feels like this storyline is killing time until Johns (or a new writer) can start work on the title.

Outsiders #34, by Judd Winick, Matthew Clark and Art Thibert
Of the "One Year Later" semi-reboots, this is my favorite so far. I like Winick's take on super-hero action comics, I like Clark's art, and this issue has a nice mix of old, familiar characters and characters new to the team. And the "twist" for this issue, that the world believes the Outsiders to be dead, is saved for a pleasingly dramatic cliff-hanger. The mystery is engaging, but it isn't allowed to over-power the story, nor is it teased out pointlessly. Instead, it serves to establish the direction of the next storyline. It's a good use of the "One Year Later" gimmick, in addition to being a fairly good comic.


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