I couldn't decide which of these titles to review in this last slot (and I wanted to give myself a finite amount of review space so I wouldn't spend all day writing blog posts), so decided to go with some three-way action here today and cover Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #32, Annihilation: Conquest--Star-Lord #1, and All-Star Batman and Robin #6.
Unlike my last two entries on Morrison and Brubaker/Fraction which deal with self-contained flashforwards or flashbacks, my post here deals with three comics which are part of larger story arcs, and all three of which might read better if not read in isolation.
But how do they rate as chapters in larger serials? Flawed, all of them. But interesting.
I wrote about Morrison's Batman and Brubaker/Fraction's Iron Fist first, not just because I was most excited about those two issues (even though I was), but because I think both of those issues (and surrounding stories by those creators) belong in the top tier of super-hero comics. As disappointed as some people have been with Morrison's run on the title, I think, by the time he's finished, his tenure on the series will be considered one of the major Batman contributions ever. People will look back on this stuff in 10, 20, 30 years time. And the same goes for the Iron Fist stuff coming out now. It's some of the best stuff ever produced at Marvel (a company with relatively little top-tier work, once you get past the early stuff from Kirby and Ditko and Miller's Daredevil). If the current Iron Fist series keeps going as it has, it will be remembered as one of the great comics of all time.
These next three comics belong in the second tier (and my tiers are pretty large, as you can probably guess, but I do think of comics in this way--For example, I'd put Gaiman's Sandman in the top tier, his Books of Magic in the second tier, and his Eternals in the third tier.) These are some interesting comics, but they aren't anything I'd give to someone as an example of super-hero comics anywhere near their best.
Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #32 is a back-to-Legion-basics story by new writer Tony Bedard (featuring some strange, wildly inconsistent artwork by Dennis Calero). While the Waid/Kitson run featured a large cast of characters and an exploration into social dynamics and intergalactic threats of destruction (or oppression), this first part of a two-part storyline features a handful of characters on a much smaller "mission." It's reminiscent of the old 8 or 12 page Legion stories from the late Silver Age, and the content of the story matches that style, as Bedard brings back some of the classic Legion concepts like Lightning Lord and Validus. Calero's art, though, looks too rough in some panels, and too photo-real in others. Particularly jarring are the first panel on page 2, with Mekt Ranzz's bed-head, the two side-by side panels on the top of pages 7 and 8 which look as if Calero scanned the same exact pencils into the computer and then used it for two different panels but added different facial details and a different haircut on Mekt Ranzz, and the constantly shifting lightning design on the shoulders of Mekt's costume throughout the issue (why the Mekt hate, Dennis?). Calero does a nice job with Tenzil Kem throughout the issue, and I've enjoyed his artwork elsewhere, so I'm guessing he was rushed on this particular story. Nevertheless, his Mekt-related problems ruin the narrative consistency and distract from Bedard's story--which is quite good.
Star-Lord #1 doesn't actually have a cover that looks anything like this image, but I already showed the cover for this issue in my enthusiastic preview of this story, and I didn't want to put the same image up two days in a row. Plus, it's important to the new Star-Lord series that you consider how dorky he used to look back in the Bronze Age. He looked less like a Star-LORD and more like a Star-Speed-Skater. And he also killed thousands of people in an attempt to save millions. Such is the backstory given to us at the beginning of this new issue #1. I'm not a big fan of multi-page exposition to start a story, but writer Keith Giffen gets the backstory out of the way so he can show us a bit about Peter Quill's tortured past and his lack of eagerness about the future. The exposition establishes Peter Quill's self-depracating tone, at least, even if the narration goes on a bit longer than it needs to. The rest of the story is great. We're introduced to the members of Star-Lord's strike team, who will undertake a suicide mission against the Phalanx threat. These strike-team members are all Kree prisoners: a big tree dude, a Captain Universe, Mantis (from the Avengers), and Rocket Raccoon to name a few. Quill makes a Dirty Dozen reference, and that's clearly the archetype Giffen's drawing upon for this series. Sounds good to me! Although this series, coupled with the Wraith comic, which is also part of the Annihilation crossover and is clearly a homage to the "Man with No Name" Spaghetti Westerns, makes me think about what movies the other two Annihilation series are referencing. Here's my guess: Quasar is Thelma and Louise in space, and Nova is Rebel Without a Cause except James Dean gets replaced by a girl halfway through.
All-Star Batman and Robin #6 is finally here, and I'm not going to make any jokes about how late this series has been running, but it is rather difficult to even remember how the series first began those many years ago. This issue features a sensitive portrayal of two important female characters, Black Canary and Batgirl. Both characters have long been an integral part of the Batman mythos and Frank Miller and Jim Lee allow for enough tender moments to reward the close reading such a dense story requires.
Who am I kidding? You guys know that's all a total lie. All-Star Bats #6 is a ridiculous mess, and what does Black Canary have to do with anything? When she first appeared in the series, a few issues ago, she seemed unrelated to the main "plot," and now that her "storyline" has converged with Batman's, she still doesn't seem to fit. And now she's Irish too?!? I though Frank Miller was just being verbose with her speech on page 13 (or I thought he was referencing some bad film noir dialogue), but I guess that was his attempt at an Irish cadence. What's that about? And we get more close-ups on Vicki Vale's ass! Oh, and Batgirl appears! And there's some attempt to establish a theme of "youth, hope, inspiration" and then there are some swear words crossed out.
Everyone seems to have a theory about this comic. Some say it's Frank Miller taken to the extreme, some say it's his attempt to subvert his Dark Knight work, some say the whole thing's a satire of super-heroes. Here's my theory: Frank Miller wants to make Jim Lee draw stuff that makes my eyes bleed and he wants to make me even more thankful for the really great Morrison work on the character. Why else would he so strategically time the slow-release of this title to coincide with Morrison's run? Think about it.
I also lied about All-Star Bats being a "second tier" comic. It's not. It gets a tier all to itself. A very, very low tier. Right between Liefeld's X-Force and Bilson and DeMeo's Flash.