Sunday, February 01, 2009

What I'm Reading: Black Jack, Crisis, Legion

Taking a break from "Dororo," which I like a lot after one volume, I've been delving into another Osamu Tezuka classic: "Black Jack." I've finished Volume 1 and Volume 2 of this series -- about a mysterious super-surgeon who demands exorbitant fees, but takes jobs no one else can handle -- and I have a few thoughts:

1. It's very good overall, but some of the individual stories don't work at all, and others are quite profound given the short space.

2. That's really the charm of the series -- it's the accumulation of rapid-fire stories of great tragedy and moral dilemmas. Each story is super-simplistic really. The complexity comes from the bigger picture, the stories stacked one on top of another.

3. There should be more (any!) American medical genre comics. It's a big genre on television, but when was the last time you read a comic about a world-class surgeon saving a life? Black Jack is basically a superhero -- he's the Six-Million Dollar Man of surgery, with more than a dash of the Man with No Name -- but it doesn't have to be a Doc Midnite comic (although I would totally read that). How about a Vertigo series?

4. Tezuka's style is very different here than in "Dororo," and since I'm not an expert on his work, I'll leave it at that. But I wonder how much it has to do with the era -- "Black Jack" is from the 1970s, if I'm not mistaken, and "Dororo" is from the 1960s, I think -- and how much it has to do with adapting his style for a different genre. (I guess I didn't leave it at that.)

5. I'm interested in reading more "Black Jack," but I'm not particularly compelled to. I expect it to be more of the same. Anyone know if it get radically more complex or less formulaic?

Moving on...

I also reread "Crisis on Infinite Earths" and "Infinite Crisis" for my big buildup to "Final Crisis" #7. I don't have much to say about the former two, and I've already said a lot about the latter (with more to come maybe by Monday), so moving on again...

I didn't read anything else substantial this week, besides the usual stack of floppies (too much "Doctor Who" to watch!), but I just have to point out HOW TERRIBLE THE FINAL ISSUE OF "LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES" WAS.

Just to recap: Jim Shooter took over as writer of the Legion with issue #37, and as much as I complained about his writing, at least he was setting up a complex plotline that was building to something big. He may have overdone the future slang, and his characterizations may have been a bit odd, but his plotting was decent and the last few issues -- leading into #50 -- had been the best in his run. But then it was announced that the series was canceled. And then Shooter mentioned that his plan to wrap everything up by issue #54 had to be condensed to wrap up in issue #50. And, then, issue #50 actually comes out, and it's not written by Shooter.

It's written by someone under the ha-ha-it's-so-funny pseudonym of "Justin Thyme." I could go into an analysis of why it's obvious based on character dialogue that it's not Shooter writing under that pseudonym, but the issue isn't worth any more time than I've already given it. As published, "Legion of Super-Heroes" #50 is a disgraceful conclusion to the Threeboot, and a work of hackery far more egregious than even "Countdown." Greg McElhatton gave the issue a half star review on CBR, and I think he was being generous. The comic is really a giant "screw you" to everyone who's been reading this incarnation of the Legion.

What an inglorious way to go out.

What are YOU reading?

15 comments:

Vanja said...

>There should be more (any!) American medical genre comics. It's a big genre on television, but when was the last time you read a comic about a world-class surgeon saving a life?
I think that you've just answered your own question. People are used to go to comic and read about superheroes, which they can't get in quite the same way anywhere else (films withstanding). Theoretically, there could be a creatively successful law procedure comic, or a medical drama, but how long would it last, even if it employed a superhero-oriented approach, ala Gotham central?

Anonymous said...

In media res: Star Wars: A New Hope did the same thing. It was great the first time I saw that ship go across that screen, with no idea how it got there.

Tim, any thoughts yet on how "Joe Chill in Hell" plays into the Final Crisis/RIP narrative? I'm thinking of both that and the Third Batman shooting the Joker as relating to Batman's using a gun on Darkseid.

Thiago FLS said...

As someone who actually liked the "threeboot" Legion, I felt absolutely insulted by this final issue.

It's not like LoSH had to end with issue #50 by all means. Sales weren't that low, and Adventure Comics #1 hasn't even been solicited yet. If they couldn't give Shooter four more issues to wrap his plotlines, they should have given him a double-sized final issue at least.

Justin said...

I finished reading the Jan. 2009 issue of Asimov's, read all of Legion of Super-Heroes: An Eye for An Eye (ah, the days of Lvitz and Lightle on the Baxter series), and started on Jeffrey Ford's Memoranda.

Drew said...

I'm reading Ender's Game, finally, and loving it. Doctor 13 by Azzarello and The Lies of Locke Lamora are next.

I too have a strange love for Black Jack. It really pushes a lot of good buttons, even the creepy ones (his assistant/wife).

Chad Nevett said...

Began rereading Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis this evening. Haven't read it since it came out back in 2005 when I read it in a day. No idea why I feel the need to reread it now.

Bill Reed said...

Working my way through Italo Calvino's Cosmicomics. Damn, this is excellent.

Volt said...

Note quite a medical comic, but Dark Horse has a series called "The Cleaner" coming out right now that's a mix of mystery, horror and medical (more mystery, but still a fair amount of authentic medical terminology). I'm not sure if it'll end up being any good, but it's at least got a unique tone.

andy khouri said...

Chad -

I'm a huge fan of Ellis' previous books, but Lunar Park sounded way too out there for me to try. I guess if you're reading it twice you must think it's pretty good. Think an old school Ellis fan would dig it?

Chad Nevett said...

An old school Ellis fan would no doubt dig the first chapter where he recounts his past. The rest of the book is pretty good, a bit different from his previous work (one chapter devoted to a novel the fictional Bret Easton Ellis is working on called "Teenage Pussy" is pretty damn funny) since it's more in the tradition of Stephen King than his first four novels. But, I enjoyed it back when it came out and, a hundred pages in, I'm enjoying it now.

Kris Krause said...

I'd pass on a medical comic. It's a genre beaten into the ground on TV along with cop shows and lawyer shows. I won't deny that all three have a high potential for drama and some of these shows have been good, but I had my fill of them a long time ago.

Their realism chains them down in my opinion far too much to make a sustainable genre out of them. I don't dislike realism in stories when appropriate, but the problem with it is that if real life was so exciting, we'd be reading only history books and watching only channels like The Discovery Channel instead of creating stories.

But one of my favorite comics right now is The Unknown Soldier: a doctor in the middle of a real crisis going on in the world who isn't doing much doctoring right now but isn't doing anything out of the realm of possibility yet either. Here, I think Joshua Dysart is working with realism appropriately by exploring a less covered aspect of the real world. And to come back to your original point, there's a good chance Dr. Lwanga's medical skills will come into play throughout the series. Are you reading the current Unknown Soldier series, Tim? If so, what do you think of it?

Malpractice said...

still have to read Lunar Park (bought it in 05, but still haven't got around to it). I did re-read Less Than Zero this past weekend though. Young Liars got me in the mood to read Ellis since i think Lapham takes a similar approach to his characters.

Chad Nevett said...

I could see that... although his are far less passionate most of the time. I'd probably compare Young Liars to The Rules of Attraction more than Less than Zero--if only because of the contradicting perspectives and multiple voices.

Anonymous said...

Invincible. I read issues 25-50 over the weekend. I really enjoy the series. Aslo, Umbrella acadamy and Batman Black and White volume 2

Malpractice said...

Chad, I wasn't necessarily saying that the characters in Less Than Zero were like the ones in Young Liars just that reading YL got me in the mood to read an Ellis book. I would definetly agree with you that Rules Of Attraction is probably the best comparison of the two (maybe parts of The Informers as well).