A week of extremes: Graeme's reviews of 1/25 books.

Oh, Jonathan Kent. If only Clark had listened to the exceptionally unsubtle warning that Terrence Stamp gave him about “Listen, son, if you do this going back in time, nature will just find someone else anyway, and then what’ll you do?” But, no, Clark had to celebrate his 100th episode by turning back time, didn’t he? And look who paid the price: Senator Jonathan Kent. Father of selfish Superboy. On the plus side, somewhere the people who do those Dukes of Hazard reunion TV movies will probably be getting a phone call about more availability for one of their leads, so there is that. Comics, anyone?

GANGES #1: Add my voice to the growing choir about the wonder that is this comic; it really is that good. Not that that’s really a surprise to me, considering that I’ve been into Kevin Huizenga since just before Or Else started over at Drawn and Quarterly after Shawn Hoke slipped me a copy of his Supermonster mini, but still: this book feels like his strongest overall work yet, a focused collection of everything that makes him someone worth reading. There’s more of the “deconstruction of the comics format” that made Or Else #2 so good going on here, particularly in the first story, but it’s done in a less obtrusive way than before, in a more playful manner that doesn’t distract from the rest of the book in the way that OE #2’s middle section did there. There’s much more emphasis on story in this book, and Huizenga’s writing manages to capture the small moments and the big subjects at the same time, leaving enough space and silence for the reader to add their own thoughts so that the book becomes a conversation while still being intensely personal and retaining Huizenga’s voice. The book ends with a story that it feels like only Huizenga could pull off without sounding trite: Main character Glenn Ganges lying awake in bed, thinking about lying awake in bed and listening to his wife sleep. When I explain it like that, it sounds terrible – something at best sappy, at worst pretentious and sappy – but Huizenga manages to make it into something sincere, heartfelt and beautiful. This is very, very Excellent.

And I didn’t even mention that the indica says that it was printed nine months from now.


GODLAND #7: I think that my snarkometer was on too high when I read this. On the one hand, I could recognize that this was intended, on some level, as more than just pastiche of old Marvel Comics, but on the other, it’s a book that’s drawn by a man who looks like he’s aping not Kirby himself, but really early Barry Windsor Smith, when BWS was aping Kirby, and written to follow the early Marvel formula exactly: Hero faces menace, defeats it through improbably-named Deus Ex Machina, and is shunned by the general populace who doesn’t understand what he’s done; meanwhile, villains plot. The dialogue by Joe Casey, a man who walks the line between knowing irony and sincere intentions all the time, slips in some nice touches (For some reason, the bad guy singing “Subterreanean Homesick Blues” made me smile), but I finished the issue with the same feeling that I get from Dan Slott’s Thing series: Yeah, sure, it’s nice and all, but why bother trying to recapture the past with so much effort? Eh, and somewhat surprisingly so as I really love my Kirby normally.

JLA CLASSIFIED #16: Are you ready for the Justice League versus Saddam Hussein?!? Because that’s what Gail Simone gives you here, dear readers. The JLA deposes a Hussein counterpart (“Even forgetting that this palace has solid gold bathroom fixtures, there’s another problem with that story… I found your killing fields.”) and he immediately turns into Doctor Doom, unleashing speeches about keeping the superheroes under control before they depose you, fellow despots, as well as unleashing familiar JLA terrors. It’s not the most original of plots, but there are two things in the execution that stand in its favor: Simone’s dialogue, which hits all the right spots and is reminiscent of Grant Morrison’s JLA run of the ‘90s, and the art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Klaus Janson, which hits all the dynamic but kind of scratchy points that you’d expect from such a collaboration. Fun and Okay, but I’m hoping that the next issue has more to it.

LOCAL #3: Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly’s short story series continues with a one-shot that also manages to be an anthology of four shorter stories all about what happens afterwards, while Wood also has a character talk about creativity for an issue, giving people like me the opportunity to wonder if he’s really talking about his own creativity with lines like “To be really blunt, we were growing up. That hardcore stuff was just getting old – Or rather, we were just getting too old to be doing it… As artists, as any kind of creative person, you progress. You adapt, your art grows up with you, and to me there’s nothing sadder than musicians who’re still cranking out the same stuff 20 years later.” So, no more Channel Zero any time soon, looks like. Despite that, it all holds together well. Good.

NEXTWAVE #1: Who knew Warren Ellis could just be silly? I mean, I didn’t doubt that he could do mean funny, but this is dumb funny, with more throwaway lines of comedic genius than you’d expect (My favorites are either the page long introduction of Fin Fang Foom, or what happened to Monica’s mother, and why). Stuart Immonen’s art is chunky and pretty and the right mix of cartoony and dramatic for a story about characters that someone used to take seriously who now fight giant monsters in underwear. I was kind of looking forward to this, but it’s Very Good and more than I expected.

PLASTIC MAN #20: This is obviously the week for well done superhero comedy. Kyle Baker wraps up the book by continuing the upswing of the last few issues and mercilessly taking the piss out of DC’s current superhero line. While the main plot wraps up in the background, Superman confronts Wonder Woman about her killing ways (“By the moons of Krypton! You and Bruce never validate my feelings! And that hurts me!”), Batman fights Superman (“Clark. Here we go again. I’ll slap you so hard your grandchildren will look like me.”), the new new Spectre gets revealed, and Baker gets a fine dig in about where DC has gone wrong in the form of Mary Marvel’s speech. Jeff has a theory that Baker just had too much material to fit into one issue, but shoved it all in anyway, but I think he just went for broke knowing that the book was ending anyway. The series had never really found its level, going all over the place in terms of quality and target audience throughout the run, but the last three issues have been Very Good. I’m not sure I’ll really miss the book – Baker can do better than this, and does, in his self-published books – but it was fun to have while it lasted.

TAROT, WITCH OF THE BLACK ROSE #36: Surprisingly, not just the Porn Promethea it looked like when I was first handed it and told that I had to review it. Instead, it’s like the Mirror Universe Promethea, what happens when someone who’s into magic but has no real talent for writing or art whatsoever decides to do a book all about magic. Ignoring the art for a second, because it can be summed up with “Jim Balent really likes those breasts, doesn’t he?”, “Why does no-one have any pubic hair? For all the nudity we see in the book, there is no pubic hair anywhere. What does this say about Jim Balent?” and “Oh God oh God make it stop please,” the real horror of the book is in the message behind the writing. Take this issue, which theoretically has two plots:

1. Some half-skeleton dude who doesn’t get named goes to Hell to rescue his ex-girlfriend, Crypt Chick. Hell is, of course, filled with lots of naked women, and there’s something called the Great Adversary, which is a giant naked woman, who eats smaller naked women, which you all probably expected. But you probably didn’t expect that we discover that Hell is just a stop on the way to Self-Help Heaven. Crypt Chick, if you could illustrate: “All the moping in the world isn’t going to bring you happiness so get over whatever is keeping you down. Find what makes you happy and pursue it.”

2. Another unnamed character who may be Tarot herself, is soul-searching after killing someone. Luckily, her soul searching involves going to see a giant talking fountain, remembering being naked, and then getting naked again (while the narration gives us such lines as “As he spoke I felt a weight lighten and slip off my shoulders.” No, that’s not a weight, it’s your clothes), all while giving another lesson in self-help: “I love myself for who I am and what I am. I like being me.”

Yes, the entire book is just Dr. Phil for people who are too scared to buy real porn. Luckily for those people, they can get affirmation that they should be loved for who they are, and if that doesn’t work, they should just buy any and all of the merchandise related to the book that gets advertised on five pages at the back of the book, or else pleasure themselves to the pictures of “The 7 Broadsword Girls” who are, indeed, women posing in cloaks and holding broadswords.

Words fail me about this book. All words, that is, except for Ass.

TEEN TITANS GO! #27: So it turns out that the entire reason I like the Teen Titans cartoon may be the theme song. The script here reads like a script for the TV show, but without the frenetic pace of the animation and, of course, the theme song – written by San Francisco’s own Andy Sturmer, fact fans – it all feels rather slight. Eh.

WARREN ELLIS BLACKGAS #1: In contrast to his Nextwave this week, this is Ellis on autopilot and then some. Imagine the start of any generic horror film made in the last fifteen or so years, and then you’ve got a pretty good idea of what this book is like. Depending on whether you have a burning desire to read “28 Days Later After Friday The 13th,” this may or may not be the kind of thing you want to be spending your money on. For me, it’s just Eh.

WONDER WOMAN #225: Sudden Self-Awareness Alert, as Greg Rucka titles this latest issue “Nothing Finished, Only Abandoned”. If nothing else, it lives up to the title, as everything that Greg’s built up for the last near-three years gets abandoned so that Infinite Crisis can continue its merry carnage. Awful, sadly.

It should surprise no-one that Ganges and Tarot are PICK OF THE WEEK and PICK OF THE WEAK, respectively, and just putting both of those books in the same sentence makes me feel as if Kevin Huizenga’s stomach may hurt by some strange magic power of shit. TRADE OF THE WEEK is Dark Horse’s Serenity trade, purely because I’m on a Whedon kick right now. Even though Veronica Mars is currently on in the background, but that’s practically Whedonesque, isn’t it?