Hey, Guys, What's With All This About The Comics? Jeff On Some Old Stuff

Man, oh man. Am I out of shape with this writing review thing... that Firefox extension I added? The one that's supposed to write them for me while I play flash games? It totally doesn't work! But when Douglas announced he was going to be writing reviews during 24 Hour Read Comics All Day day, a bunch of us Savage types figured we would also post so...


After the jump: stuff so old, the newest thing is like two weeks old. Woo! Hang fire!

BLACKEST NIGHT #3: My significantly atrophied critical faculties fail me here—I can’t figure out whether to give Geoff Johns not enough credit or too much credit. If I go for the former, the gruesome bathetic murder scene in this issue rips off of the death of Tim Drake’s dad in Identity Crisis in a very ineffective way. If I go for the latter, it, and the appearance of Ralph and Sue in issue #1, suggest Johns is doing a weird riff on Identity Crisis so as to—what? Comment on that mini’s ‘opening of the way’ for death and debasement in the DCU? Bite Didio’s hand while seeming to praise his work? Tweak the noses of blood-&-circus style fans who thrive on this stuff? (It doesn’t seem accidental that the power of the Black Lanterns, like the sales of superhero books today, grow with every death.) And if so, isn’t that like Michael Bay decrying shaky cameras and shit editing?

I don’t know. I just can’t figure it out. Certainly I think Johns was better served by promising, as he did with The Sinestro Corps War, to kinda bring the awesome and then totally bringing the awesome as opposed to here, where he totally promises to bring the awesome, and then brings the “yeah, it’s okay if you think Pet Semetary was Stephen King’s best book.” A depressing lack of zombie sharks—and an obvious misalignment with the zeitgeist on my part—makes this an EH.

CAPTAIN AMERICA REBORN #3: Brubaker continues to be the victim of his own success as his attempts to reconnect me with Steve Rogers remind me how the character is always toeing the line of whininess with his big red boot: “Here I am in space watching men die, far from bleaty-blahhty-bloo-blah-blah.” It kinda me wishes Brube had bit even more from Slaughterhouse Five and put Steve on Mars where he coulda had mad sex with a Montana Wildhack-analogue. All the Bucky stuff I liked just fine—as action setpieces go, it was a little calculated, maybe, but fun. Also, am I only the one who feels like this issue felt like a Butch Guice issue inked by Brian Hitch rather than vice-versa? Either way, averages out to an OK or higher.

CHEW #1-4: Is this book really that popular, or am I just falling for Rich Johnston’s line of favorable BS he scatters for valued former sources? Don’t get me wrong, I like the book—Layman’s really crafted his chops on all kinds of licensed material and it’s great seeing them turned on such a ridiculous premise, and Rob Guillory’s art is both appealingly wonky and admirably disciplined—but its wild success seems odd, if not without precedent. I guess Chew could be to Fell what Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was to X-Men and Frank Miller's Daredevil comics: a blur between homage and parody that because of talent and zeitgeist (and investor greed?) is suddenly vaulted into the realm of its own odd thing, a duck-billed platypus of a comic book, in a way.

In any event, my food issues and appreciation for the craft at work put this work in the GOODish range and I’m curious to see how Layman spins the premise next. I was gonna talk this issue's neat little use of photocopied panels into the ground, but I'll spare you.

Fantastic Four #571: I think this, better than any other book, exemplifies my currently conflicted feelings about the state of mainstream superhero stuff.

Because, on the one hand? It’s really quite good. The story—in which Mr. Fantastic is enlisted into a cadre of alternative dimension Mr. Fantastics intent on rewriting reality for the better—is suitably epic; the characters are recognizably themselves without being simple cardboard cutouts of themselves; and I’m really loving the art by Dale Eaglesham (with fantastic coloring by Paul Mounts) which feels very full, very polished. (In fact, it almost feels too polished which, since the polish Joe Sinnott brought to Kirby on FF is where the title really ‘began,’ works for me.) Really, just about everything you need to know is summed up in the double-page spread in this ish, where an army of Reeds dispatch a Galactus on Earth 2012, all waving about Ultimate Nullifiers like they’re boomers at a Stones concert—in fact, Hickman and Eaglesham even throw in Gold and Copper Surfers in addition to the Silver one (a nice nod to our current Gradation Age of comics).

So, yeah. Awesome. And yet, reading it just makes me feel like Marcello at the end of La Dolce Vita, a sullen hedonist staring gimlet-eyed at the proceedings: “Right, right, you go there; when’s Doom going to show? Oh, there he is. And the undercurrent of questionable ethicality?” It’s pretty easy for me to imagine a pie chart for a lot of superhero comics these days, something like:

And you know, that’s okay but I feel like I see this formula all over the place now (even in Morrison’s Batman & Robin) and it dulls my enthusiasm a tad.

It is worth pointing out, by the way, that it’s Hickman’s second issue (if you don’t count the Dark Reign mini—and since I haven’t read it yet, I don’t) and he’s already worked in Doom and Galactus—presumably the same way Prince might do ninety seconds of Purple Rain early on his show and get to the shit he’s really got up his sleeve—so I’m probably jumping the gun here. But when there’s something this GOOD, and my reaction to it is so muted, it’s probably just as well I haven’t been bombarding the site with reviews…

INCOGNITO #6: Again, I chalk up me being underwhelmed by this as Ed being a victim of his own success. Because if you look at this as a superhero story, it does everything a superhero story should: gives you a character with a costume, a sense of the universe he works in, origin story, arch villain, dramatic final fight (and with a mirror image to boot, so as to underline the character’s internal conflict and everything). I all but heard the closing soundtrack song performed by Aerosmith, ‘(Love Won’t Go) Incognito,’ that would play during the closing credits of Stephen Sommers’ film adaptation.

But if you look at this as a crime story, it falls short of the mark set by Criminal, or even the first volume of Sleeper. For one thing, because the tone of the ending feels so different from the first two-thirds, it doesn’t even feel like an ending (or else an out-of-place one) and crime stories—particularly the ones we’re used to reading by Brubaker—end.

It was a GOOD issue and a highly GOOD mini and let’s face it, getting Sean Phillips art month in and month out is nothing to complain about. But, wow, am I looking forward to the return of Criminal, I really am.

STRANGE TALES #1: Amazingly gorgeous, but apparently I’m still such a Marvel fanboy deep in my soul that I was a little stung by how mocking the tone of everything seemed. Even Paul Pope, the guy who regularly pulls the sublime from the ridiculous, decides to play Kirby’s Inhumans for laffs, with a story hook that feels copped from a Harvey comic. I got the feeling the cartoonists involved in the project (except Peter Bagge, who did his Hulk story roughly five or six years before everyone else) dearly love the design work of the characters they’re worked on but find some other aspect—be it superheroes or work-for-hire or fan culture—deeply repugnant. While Bertozzi’s MODOK story did kinda tug my heartstrings in its deeply fucked up way, the first half of Bagge’s story was the only thing that seemed to have anything to say other than:

I can’t help but give it a GOOD for the art, though, and admit I’ll be getting the next two issues. I'll just have to armor up my tender fanboy heart before doing so.