Monday, December 03, 2007

Quick Comic Reviews: Week of 11/28/07

I haven't done a quick review post in quite a while, and I've been reading a ton of stuff each week (to balance out my lack of moviegoing, apparently), so I'm overdue. Here goes, in no particular order...

Ultimate Spider-Man #116: I'm getting used to Immonen's new Shadowcat costume, and, honestly, Immonen is about 10 steps up from Bagley in the artistic-quality department. Bendis does his thing, and it's good. This comic is the best Spider-Man title out there, and I know that's not saying much right now, but it's pretty much everything Spider-Man should be.

Batman and the Outsiders #2: I can count on zero hands how many Chuck Dixon comics I've actually enjoyed (although, he was involved in the Batgirl: Year One series, wasn't he? That was good stuff), and I'm not all that impressed with this title, either. Conceptually, I like Batman leading this kind of dirty-jobs type of team, but this issue felt like a way for Dixon to clear the deck and abandon the Five of a Kind team that was handed to him. That's not necessarily his fault, but it doesn't make for good reading.

All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder #8: I still don't know what the point of all of this is, but I have to admit that I put this issue on the very top of the pile when I came home from the comics shop. I can't wait to see what Miller and Lee try to pull off each month or three. I like Miller's take on the Joker, even if it just sort of appears out of nowhere eight issues into this series. And I like the Green Lantern appearance, even as a fan of the character--he is kind of a goof. How does any of this add up to an actual story? 8 issues in, it doesn't. But it's certainly not dull.

Black Panther #32: Remember when Hudlin abandoned his own revamp of continuity and reconnected to the Marvel Universe through a global road trip of wife-seekery? Then the married couple traveled around diplomatically during Civil War? Then Black Panther and Storm joined the Fantastic Four and hopped around the universe with them? Doesn't the Black Panther ever stay in one place for more than a month? Apparently not, as he jumps to some Skrull-mockery of an Al Capone world from some previous FF story that I probably read years ago. The best thing about this book is Francis Portella's art. Next issue: Gladiatorial Combat! We've seen it before, frankly.

Casanova #11: There are good monthly comics, like Ultimate Spider-Man, and then there are comics like Casanova. Fraction and Moon's work will stand, decades from now, as an example of how to do great comics. Why? Each issue moves forward, swiftly. Each issue is full of insanity, allusions, and humor (like All-Star Batman and Robin) but with a coherent plot structure both within each issue and within the overall story arc (unlike All-Star Batman and Robin). Casanova is even better than you think it is.

Crime Bible: Five Lessons of Blood #2: I'm usually more interested in the contents of a book than the way it's marketed, but doesn't the name The Question have any kind of cache? It does in my house. Yet, no mention of the character anywhere in the title or caption. And the cover art is so stylized, a reader could be forgiven for interpreting the blank face on the cover as a visual metaphor. Seems a bit unnecessarily abstruse for a straightforward superhero detective story. The contents do little to rise above what might be expected.

Lord Havok and the Extremists #2: This, on the other hand, is better than you might expect. I expected absolutely nothing from this series, and it's decent. It's fun to see the Marvel analogues twisted into a mockery of a post-Civil War malaise, and this particular issue delves into the fractured psyche of the Doc Ock analogue, Gorgon, in a story that unfortunately ends with bathos. The ending is ridiculous, both in pacing and content (as Gorgon learns the "truth" about his life in a series of expository panels), but I was enjoying the comic quite a bit until those final pages. I do like the final image of the comic, with Lord Hovok (aka Dr. Doom) giving the symbolic metal finger to Monarch.

Teen Titans #53: McKeever has quickly righted this particular ship. I love the direction of this arc, and if the trend toward maximalism has become a bit played out (Justice League UNLIMITED, Injustice SOCIETY, and here: Titan ARMY), at least it's amazingly, freakin' awesome. I'll take awesome over dullness any day, and that's what McKeever brings. Eddy Barrows art looks sharper here than it did on Countdown to Adventure, and any comic which has Blue Beetle facing down an overwhelming horde of evil Starro-infected Titans is worth the cover charge.

Superman/Batman #43: Mike McKone has become one of the best superhero artists of the decade, and this issue showcases his work nicely. Unfortunately, the story is nothing special, although it's a step above the previous arc, which felt like a quickly burned off inventory story (DC clearly doesn't want Fourth World stuff sitting around once the Death of the New Gods ends--hence we get overloaded with stories about the New Gods like we saw in this series and Superman Confidential). A pretty comic, though.

Green Lantern Corps #18: This whole Sinestro Corps thing has gone on too long, honestly. And I don't like how DC justifies it by saying things (I'm paraphrasing), like "we didn't expect it to be such a hit, so we allowed the creators more time to tell the story," instead of honestly saying, "we're milking it." The expansion of the story has killed its momentum, and since we know how it ends, basically, because of Kyle Rayner and Superman-Prime's appearances in Countdown it all seems kind of silly at this point. Yet, and issue where an Ion-powered Daxamite throws down with a Kryptonian can't be all bad. Too bad the story has been deflated by external DC events.

Superman Annual #13: I really could not care less about this "Camelot Falls" arc. What a waste of talent.

Batman #671: This was my least-favorite Morrison issue of Batman thus far. It seems like exactly what it is, a Bat-family crossover arc that hits all of its marks, but has none of the inspiration of Morrison's usual work. It's a solid issue, but nothing more.

Madman Atomic Comics #5: Mike Allred is one of my top five favorite comic book artists ever. Okay, maybe not top five, but he's definitely in the top seven. And, as I blogged about last summer, his metaphysical, quasi-religious exploration continues in the Madman universe. This issue features the Atomics, zombie-beatniks-turned-fashionable-superheroes, and it looks amazing. The pacing has picked up now that Frank Einstein has returned from his metafictional space jaunt, and I have nothing bad to say about this comic. It is what it is, and what it is is very, very good. (That was not the best sentence I've ever constructed, I know.)

Blue Beetle #21: This has been an excellent monthly series for DC. Like Ultimate Spider-Man, it mixes humor with adolescent drama and a young man trying to figure out how to be a hero. Both comics have interesting supporting casts, tight dialogue, and dynamic artwork. Unlike Ultimate Spider-Man, however, this series doesn't rely on decades of past stories for its foundation. Blue Beetle exists in relation to its past incarnations, but it doesn't retread old ground--it moves the Beetle legacy forward, and it does so with style. This issue, a fill-in, maintains the quality of the series admirably, as Jaime Reyes confronts issues of justice and vengeance in the form of the Spectre. It's the type of comic I can read aloud to my son (and I do), and enjoy fully as an adult as well. Blue Beetle won't break any artistic ground, but it is an excellent superhero comic.

Daredevil #102: Brubaker is hitting his stride on this title now, and with the appearances of the Enforcers, the Wrecker, and Razor Fist, I really couldn't be happier with this issue. Daredevil has become one of Marvel's most tortured heroes, and as much as I like to see him struggle in his own web of lies and hubris, I like to see him kicking supervillains in the face. Brubaker balances both nicely.

Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #36: Tony Bedard was clearly brought in to set the table for Jim Shooter. Bring back the superheroics: Check. Get rid of Supergirl: Check. Keep it dramatic but less political: Check. Introduce Wildfire: Check (although Shooter apparently dislikes the character--so was that something Bedard did just to screw with him?). Anyway, I think this Legion Threeboot has been a reasonably interesting take on the team--Waid and Kitson's run read much better as a single story, and Bedard and Calero have illuminated new corners in the Threeboot universe. I would have been perfectly happy to see where Bedard and Calero would have taken this series over the next years, but after seeing Manipul's designs and covers for Shooter's upcoming run, I'm actually excited to see what will happen next. Shooter's Legion might be a failure--last time he came back to write the series, he was the epitome of blandness--but maybe he's hungry, maybe he's going to shock us all. I'm looking forward to issue #37, I don't know about you.


Marc Caputo said...

When it comes to the "Sinestro Corps War" or any extended story in the post-Infinite Crisis DC landscape (including "Camelot Falls", which I've enjoyed - I'm behind on the last chapter, which is to say, I need to re-read the damn thing from scratch), I find it's just not worth it to deal with how it fits into continuity with the shared universe around it. Due simply to the fact of different stories taking different lengths (actually, it's really not the GL story's fault - it's these frakkin' weeklies!), I'll let some time pass before I try to fit it all in.

Having said that, I'm not crazy about some things with the SCW:
1. Reis' art - which IS awesome, was looking a little rushed on the last GL (24) - despite the fact that it was one of the most stand-up-and-cheer-fanboy! things since Gl:Rebirth 4.
2. The art on GLC also is slipping. I never mind when different artists take different scenes to preserve artistic integrity, but it's a bit messy.

On the other hand, I think the story will stand as a highpoint for Johns' career, the GL mythos and and this post-IC DC landscape, which has been poor. To fold in your comments on "Camelot Falls", I am just PRAYING for Busiek to put this book into gear and give us a run to rival his Avengers, v.3. I have this nagging feeling that DC was so much better off before Identity Crisis. Look at the years 2000-2004 with the Superman books - the fresh revamp, stories like "Godfall" and "For Tomorrow", runs like Seagle/McDaniel/Owens - and look at now. They're trying and I give them that, but DC needs to give their flagship character some classic storylines. It's the same thing with poor Spidey over at the House of Q...I mean, ideas.

And when it comes to ASBARTBW, I find it very interesting that any praise that this book receives comes in the form of "It's never boring!". Let's face it - Miller's in the pantheon, fine. But, he struck out here. He hates superheroes and he hates superhero fans. Emperor's got no clothes - move on, Frank.

Also, and this is picky, when comic fans talk about the order of the books they read, they put the books they want to read the most on the "top of the pile". I read "up": I read my books to end with my "I'm-so-psyched-for-this!" stuff. That way, I don't come down unfairly on books that just can't measure up.

Finally, I'm taking a hard look at my pull list for the new year. I'm getting to the point where I'm not enjoying new books as much as I used to. Since I don't want this to become a chore, which I know may lead me to quit again, I want to re-adjust my focus. I mean, I think I'm smart enough to realize, "Hey! I'm not likely to re-read "The Battle for Bludhaven" EVER AGAIN, nor am I going to find anything worth blogging/discussing/defending, so WHY AM I BUYING IT?"

That's why I come here and to a few other blogs and blog myself - I like the discussion and discourse.

Thanks for letting me blather, Tim.

Timothy Callahan said...

I could never "read up." I would rush through the mediocre stuff without giving it a fair chance. I read my favorite stuff first, then slowly get to everything later in the week.

I have no idea why you'd place "For Tomorrow" in the category of "better" than anything, although I guess it's better than the constant interruptions and false starts over the past year.

I don't know that Miller hates superheroes and/or superhero fans, and I don't care. Pat Mills hates superheroes and Marshall Law was a great comic. I'll take hateful and interesting over mediocre any day.

I'm definitely paring down my pull list for the new year. At this point, I'm getting about 30 comics a week, and that's just ridiculous. 10 a week is my new goal for 2008!

Matthew E said...

I wish I had the money to get ten comics a week. I mean, I have the money; I just wish I could justify spending it that way. If I get ten comics a *month* it's a strange month.

Let's say that Shooter has lost the magic. How soon would we be able to tell, and how soon would DC be able to tell?

Chad Nevett said...

I haven't read the latest issue of Batman, but I'm interested in this crossover from the viewpoint of seeing how Morrison works within a crossover like this. I can't remember him doing work in this way before. On Animal Man, he did some tie-ins to "Invasion" but they really had nothing to do with the main plot of the crossover. On JLA, there was the "One Million" story, but he wrote all of the key chapters. Is this the first time he's worked on a crossover where he's only writing 1/4 of the actual story?

I had hoped that the fact that this story seems to be coming out of his title would mean it would have some of that Morrison flair and charm, but it's been lacking from the issues I've read. I'm not sure if I should be surprised or not.

Timothy Callahan said...

Matthew--I think we'll be able to tell after the first issue if Shooter has it or not. If the dialogue is clunky, the whole thing will not bode well. If he gets the characters, then we're in for a treat, because he's a story-structure guy, so the plotting should be fine.

Chad--I can't think of another time when Morrison, in the capacity of an ongoing writer, worked on this type of crossover, but I will say that the whole Ra's al Ghul storyline has been paint-by-numbers thus far in every single chapter. Sad, really.

Richard said...

“Shooter's Legion might be a failure--last time he came back to write the series, he was the epitome of blandness”

In the interests of historical accuracy, that was the heavy editorial hand of Murray Boltinoff at work, not Shooter. The last two issues Shooter wrote for S&LSH (the Time Trapper and Pulsar Stargrave stories) give a much better indication of what Shooter could have brought to the table had he been given the creative leeway. Very shortly thereafter we get his early Avengers issues with George Perez, and we see that he was actually at the peak of his skills right then.

A much more instructive comparison might be to look at those grippingly-written Avengers stories up through the start of the Korvac saga, and then at Shooter’s listless and apathetic return to the book a few years later. It’s tragic to see. The question is, which of those Shooters are we going to see?

(And you're exactly right that the level of the dialogue will let us know the answer right away...)

Timothy Callahan said...

Maybe the Secret Wars II Shooter will show up. Wearing a white jumpsuit.

Marc Caputo said...

Is there any precedent for Shooter's return in comics? I can't think of any.

"For Tomorrow" - I loved all of it. I especially loved the way Azzarello's dialogue really demanded that you pay attention to it. And I welcome any attempt to do something different with Superman, because they usually...don't.

Morrison - yeah, this is not good. And he was really starting to go somewhere. With the DC 1,000,000, didn't he plot all of the books for that month?

There's a quote I find comforting when faced with beloved creators disappointing me. It's from Lester Bangs - I offered it to Klock when Studio 60 let us know it wasn't going to even try and it seemed to help him (LOL) - "Think it's hard being a hero? Try having heroes."

Anonymous said...

I'm actually really enjoying All-Star Batman. I don't think it's gone nowhere at all. It's just very decompressed, and this effect is enhanced by the sporadic publication. But Batman's abducted Dick Grayson, who's now got a Robin suit. Meanwhile, the Justice League's looking to stop Batman, Superman's worried, and Green Lantern's shown up in Metropolis. Not to mention the debut of heroes like Black Canary and villains like Joker. And that's just off the top of my head.

Sure, there are a lot of balls in the air, and many plotlines don't get time in any given issue. But I've gotten over the initial "Batman in Sin City" feeling for the most part. Yeah, it's completely over the top, and in a different way than Dark Knight Strikes Again (which I like). But if you read Miller's script for the film version of Batman: Year One, with a down-and-out Bruce Wayne, it's even more hardcore and far more unfaithful to the Batman mythos. So I'm just enjoying every issue (more than I can say for most comics these days) and looking forward to reading the big, deluxe collection that makes everyone re-evaluate things.

As for everything else, I don't have the money to follow all that much these days. Civil War and Infinite Crisis sort of broke the bank, and I'm still feeling burnt out. So I'm back in "I'll pick it up in trade" mode on almost everything. Including GL but not Morrison's Batman.