I read a huge pile of today's comics, and it's probably because I've been listening to too many podcasts lately--Bendis, then Loeb, then Fraction on Word Balloon, most specifically--but I'm continuing to feel the pull of the Marvel books at the expense of the increasingly lackluster DC output. I grew up as a DC guy, but even when I was a teenager, I didn't think so much in terms of companies as I did creators. I liked Chaykin, so I read American Flagg, and I liked Steve Rude, so I read Nexus, and back in those days Marvel didn't have much of interest to me, except when Miller or Sienkiewicz (or both) came back to play. The DC icons always interested me more, as characters, as visuals, as concepts, and clearly DC put out far superior comics than Marvel in the 1980s. It's not even close. But this Quesada-era Marvel has something special going on. Say what you will about Quesada raping your childhood, and pretend that you're going to boycott something that you really won't, but Quesada has not only turned Marvel into the best mainstream company this decade, but he's brought in creators who are just beginning to heat up. Jason Aaron is sure to impress on Wolverine and Ghost Rider, Fraction will be on half a dozen titles by the end of 2008 (and my guess is that one of them will be the Young X-Men with Yanick Paquette--if the preview art is to be believed. EDITED TO NOTE: The April solicits, just posted, confirm my guess about Paquette, but Guggenheim, not Fraction, will be writing. That just gives Fraction the freedom to write more Thor!), and Brubaker is writing the best super-hero stuff of his career. Brand New Day has convincingly turned the main Spidey titles around, and even stuff that seems like it has been bled dry, like the Marvel Zombies and Ultimate Universe "franchises" continue to amuse me.
Countdown, on the other hand, even now that it's reaching its climax, still feels life-draining. By the way, why is the Ion trade paperback out of print? That seemingly inconsequential miniseries is the DIRECT lead-in to Countdown-- it establishes Captain Atom as the new Monarch, and it also ties in to the upcoming Tangent Universe stuff. If DC REALLY cares about Countdown as much as they seem to, why not keep that series in print and promote it as the "road to Countdown" or whatever the hell Marvel seems to do so successfully? Seems like a missed opportunity that would have helped sell books and make more sense out of the admittedly still poor Countdown title. I don't know why I even care, but I do, because I want DC to be better than it has been lately.
You know what is good at DC, though? You guessed it! Blue Beetle! The newest issue (#23) might be my favorite of the entire series thus far, and I've been raving about this book for over a year, so you can imagine that the newest issue is, in fact, really damn good. As I read it, I realized that John Rogers would be a PERFECT choice to take over the Legion of Super-Heroes once Jim Shooter completes his run. (I have no clue how long Shooter plans on sticking around, but if he leaves anytime in the next year or so, PUT ROGERS ON THAT BOOK!) Rogers mixes super-hero science with aliens with a kid learning to use his powers in an unconventional way with family drama and makes excellent comics out of it. Rafael Albuquerque could come along as the artist on Legion too. He's pretty great already, and I have a feeling he's going to get even better.
Teen Titans was also quite good this week, showing that Marvel did make a huge mistake in letting Sean McKeever slip away. Marvel never gave him a shot on a big book, and here he proves that his ability to write meaningful characterization can carry a story even without a billion guest stars punching eachother (which is what happened in the previous arc--and I liked the previous "Titans Army" stuff that he just completed, but in issue #55 it's all about the characters and it's GREAT).
But those two comics, as excellent as they were (and Shooter's new Legion comic wasn't bad either--although it had about eight times too many "future swears" which seemed silly in their use. If you read it, I'm sure you found them annoying too), they can't stand up to the barrage of Marvel quality: Fraction and Kitson's The Order #7, a series that's cancelled just as it's hitting its stride--and this new issue is a great example of the way Fraction uses spectacle (aka super-hero punching) as backdrop to the main conflict, which is the intellectual face-off between Henry Hellrung and Namor. Brubaker uses spectacle in a similar way in the first issue of the Young Avengers Presents Patriot, as the story centers on what it means to carry on a legacy, but it still has enough punching and kicking to keep the kids coming back to the comics shop for more. The strategy seems to be: lure them in with the punching, but keep them with the characters. That's the real Marvel Method, and Fraction and Brubaker do it as well as anyone. I even enjoyed Ultimates 3 #2 this week (Marc Caputo, are you still breathing?) with its super-exaggerated spectacle at the EXPENSE of character. The coloring is still ugly as hell, but at least Loeb filled in some of the "huh?" gaps that we were left with after issue #1. He explains why Thor acts differently all of a sudden, and you may think the reason is stupid, but at least he had a reason. And, really, the new issue isn't about logic anyway. But it does feature THREE big guest stars, one being a fun interpretation of Ultimate Spider-Man, one being a certain mutant badass, and the other being an even bigger mutant badass (you can judge which is which if you've read the book). It was fun in its excess.
Marvel: even their crap books are good today. DC: still a whole lot of counting down to go.