It’s the little things, isn’t it? For example, listening to Brian Michael Bendis’s recent three-hour Q and A podcast the other day while on my way to work, I heard him announce that he is a massive fan of “Gilmore Girls”. All of a sudden, all of my previous dislike of Bendis’s work? Gone. Entirely. Because I, too, am an enormous fan of the show, despite Rory’s face, which looks like some weird Manga drawing come to life. But, hey! Arguably the most popular writer in comics likes the same shitty TV shows as me! I feel vindicated. While I’m talking about podcasts and everything, did anyone else listen to Lene Taylor’s interview with Rory Root? I think I have a new comics crush now.
ACTION COMICS #837: Hey, where’s the “One Year Later” comment at the start of the book…? Kurt Busiek and Geoff Johns continue their rehabilitation of the Superman characters, and in the process, make this book feel like the team-up Superman book again with the big name guest-stars. There’s something about this current take on Superman that feels fresh despite the fact that it’s just reusing lots of old Cary Bates (or earlier) ideas - Superman powerless? We’ve never seen that before! Lex Luthor claiming to be over Superman? I give it five minutes! – which is both unusual and pleasant to see. Even the cliffhanger at the end of the book has been done before, I think. It feels as if the books are moving forward again, in some way, and even if the final destination of some of these particular plots are obvious, it’s the execution that’s making me come back. If that makes sense. Good.
ADULT FRANKENSTEIN: You know, I knew that this was going to be bad. But nothing prepared me for just how bad this actually is. I mean, Jesus, this is really, appallingly, your-brain-may-leak-out-of-your-ears bad. Never mind any “Hey, how kitsch can something called Adult Frankenstein be?” type of thinking because, Holy Mother of God, this is so bad it goes beyond kitsch and out into some kind of quality wasteland where kitsch is the fairy tale that bad stories tell to their children to make them stop crying. When the porn content – you know, the actual fucking - is potentially the one redeeming quality of a book, then hopefully you get the idea of just how bad it is, especially considering that the porn itself is really shittily done porn. The stories are just the worst horror fan fiction ideas ever; you can imagine the writer’s thought process being “What if Frankenstein’s monster met [Insert other famous horror character of choice]? Well, they’d fight. And then some woman would appear and fuck one of them! Done!” Almost every single story in this book is exactly like that, and the ones that aren’t only have variations like “And then some woman would appear and fuck both of them!” or “What if we really shake things up and have the woman fuck someone and then they fight? GENIUS!” Ignore Jeff’s cruel attempt to convince some of you that this has its charms because of the John Buscema rip-off art; he’s just trying to trick you into wasting your money. What’s the worst rating that we can do here? Ass? This is Ass to the power of infinity. And then some.
ALL STAR SUPERMAN #3: Everything is in place here: Grant Morrison is bringing his “Silly ideas that I play straight and magically become great stories” game, Frank Quitely’s art is as good as ever – and I loved Jimmy’s Signal Watch and want one for myself – and it’s another well-done one-issue-story that also moves the larger plot forward. But it really didn’t do it for me like the first couple of issues did. There were bits I really loved, sure, but I felt as if this was Morrison on auto-pilot at times in the dialogue, and there were was something about his portrayal of Lois that bugged me (I think it’s that she still thinks that Superman was only pretending to be Clark – It makes her seem willfully dumb, you know?)… It’s Very Good, sure, but a disappointment after the earlier issues of the book. Next issue has Jimmy Olsen as Britney Spears, though, so I have high hopes.
BLUE BEETLE #1: Excuse me while I go off here, but for the love of Pete: HOW HARD IS IT FOR PEOPLE AT COMIC COMPANIES TO REMEMBER WHAT THEY DID IN THEIR OWN BOOKS THREE MONTHS AGO? In the middle of this issue, we get a flashback to Jaime, the new Blue Beetle, finding the scarab for the first time. Sadly, we’d already seen Jaime find the scarab for the first time in Infinite Crisis #3, and it’s not the same scene. Yeah, yeah, I know, Superboy punched something. But still, it was only three months ago, people. Don’t be so sloppy. Apart from that, this worked for me despite itself – the opener with Guy Gardner attacking Jaime seems forced, as if there had to be an action sequence somewhere in the first issue so it might as well be with another hero to create “excitement” and “mystery”. The rest of the book, which is much slower in pace and mostly domestic world-building, is much more enjoyable and oddly reminiscent of the first few issues of Milestone’s Static, if anyone else besides me remembers that one… Right now, it feels like an Okay “teenager as rookie superhero book” that’ll be worth checking out every now and then, albeit one with amazing art from Cully Hamner, who hopefully won’t be signed to a Marvel exclusive and leave the book now that I’ve said that.
CAPTAIN AMERICA 65th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL: I ended up reading this one twice, because the first time, I’d just read Adult Frankenstein and it made me not only hate this book, but all comics ever, and possibly myself as well. A day later and with things in better perspective, I took another pass at it, and what do you know? It’s not that bad after all. Not that it’s that wonderful, either, mind you. Despite the title, there’s no real attempt at celebrating any kind of anniversary in here; it’s just Ed Brubaker writing a Cap and Bucky versus the Nazis story, with Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos as guest-stars, but played straighter (and, to be honest, kind of duller) than you’d expect from Brubaker. You’d want a story where the Red Skull has a giant 500-year-old robot that fights Cap to really focus on that, instead of the lead up to said fight and Bucky fancying a German resistance girl, wouldn’t you? But you’d be disappointed here, considering the robot only gets a few pages and turns out to be worse in a fight than me. You’d also end up being disappointed by Javier Pulido’s art, which continues his slump into a simpler style that’s not as effective as his old stuff (Marcos Martin, who co-illustrates the book, does some great stuff, though). Okay, but it could have been so much better.
CONTINUITY GN PDF: Did anyone else end up downloading the complete PDF for AiT’s next graphic novel this week? It’s an odd promotional tool, I think. Sure, potential customers get to try the whole thing before they pay for it, but that also means that people who were on the fence have the opportunity to read the whole thing for free and spend their money on something else… Being a behind the scenes geek, I really want to know what the orders are going to be like as a result of this, and see if any other publisher follows Larry’s lead if it’s shown to “work”. As for the graphic novel itself, it’s as interesting as the promo; if most AiT books are movies like Armageddon or something, this is Minority Report - There’s definitely a Philip K. Dick quality to it in terms of plot, but with a more mainstream execution than Dick’s own writing (the ending, which admittedly confused me because I am a dull and simple lad, is more upbeat than something Dick would’ve written, for example). It’s something that sticks in your head (which may explain why Larry released the full PDF preview, because it’s not as simple a sell as the high concept books like Astronauts in Trouble or even Demo); when I read it first, I didn’t like it, but the more I think about it, the more it grows on me. Good although I may end up at Very Good if I keep thinking.
FANTASTIC FOUR #536: Finally, an FF book for people who want to read a badly-paced, mean-spirited story featuring the characters. For anyone who picked this up, did you notice the really strange stretch of three pages in the first half of the book where every page ends with a stilted line of dialogue that’s clearly meant to imply that bad things are about to happen (“That’s where you’re wrong, Ben - - Dead wrong.” “S.H.I.E.L.D. can’t get here in time… Same for conventional ground forces… But I’m not sure it would matter, not against them - - Not against Doombots.” “We can deal with that later, Sue. Right now - - I’d say we have bigger fish to fry.”)? You can tell what JMS is trying to do, but it doesn’t work; instead of building tension, you end up being bored and just wanting the big reveal already. Except that the big reveal is already on the cover, so there’s no tension whatsoever. When the last page of the book comes, the full-page panel of Thor’s hammer is entirely anti-climactic, just like the return of Doctor Doom – Wasn’t he dead? No-one seems that surprised to see him running around again, and the terrible dialogue (“Doom! But, it’s - - It’s not possible!”) is entirely undermined by the lack of expression in the corresponding art, which just has Mister Fantastic looking slightly bored, so maybe everyone knew he wasn’t dead. That’s what I get for not reading all of Mark Waid’s run. In fact, this may be one of the most boring “event” books I’ve ever read. It’s not all JMS’s fault, though; Mike McKone may be many things, but something he’s not (at least, not here) is dynamic. His action sequences seem very static, and his characters hardly emotive. I seem to remember his Teen Titans work being better than this, so maybe he’s just been anaesthetized by the script. Awful, and not a good sign for Civil War, if this is part of “The Road” to it.
(Oh, and the Thor revamp? Set up on the second page, fairly obviously.)
GREEN LANTERN #10: My pet theory that Geoff Johns has been playing for time and waiting for the One Year Later jump since around issue 3 of this series seems to be paying off, as the series stops with all the generic plots that could’ve been done elsewhere and starts doing Green Lantern-centric stories again. There’s perhaps too much going on in here, and the storytelling is slightly muddy, but Johns gets his subplot on here, laying groundwork not only for future GL, but also 52 (An international Superhero “Freedom of Power” treaty? The Global Guardians, apparently with Jet, the dead New Guardian from the ‘80s on the team? Sure looks like her. The Sinestro Corps?) while also establishing a new status quo for Hal Jordan as former prisoner of war and current military hero, bizarrely enough. Surprisingly Good, but that may be colored by my relief that things are finally happening again.
(Also interesting – Hal Jordan, like Dick Grayson, is introduced in his OYL book the morning after a one night stand with someone who he doesn’t know the name of. It felt odd when Nightwing did it, but now that it’s happened here as well, I wonder if this is some strange DC-wide “Let’s make our heroes seem more masculine – Women throw themselves at them” meme. I find it somewhat misogynistic and it makes me think that the characters involved all seem kind of dickish, but I’m a fan of Gilmore Girls, so what do I know?)
NEW AVENGERS: ILLUMINATI: There’s really too much text on this cover, you know. It makes it look like the book’s title is THE ROAD TO CIVIL WAR: THE NEW AVENGERS: ILLUMINATI. There’s probably a “Well, it is a Bendis book, and he’s really wordy” joke to be done now, but I’ll let you have that fun yourselves. As someone who has a problem with Bendis’s dialogue – it reads as overly writerly and unnatural to me; people don’t talk with the rhythm that he uses, and his hand is obvious too often, as characters become mouthpieces for whatever plot point he’s trying to reach – this book was never going to be my favorite thing, but I really didn’t expect the awkwardness of the last six pages of the story here. As Jeff says, it comes across as a tacky way to show how this book is supposed to lead into Civil War by having Iron Man predict the opening of Civil War in amazing detail (Something that Marvel hammers home by then running a preview of those Civil War pages immediately after the end of the story. And how many times can I write Civil War in one sentence?); it’s entirely unnecessary and overplays what otherwise might have been a more subtle lead in. And what’s with the characters referring to comics by their titles? When Iron Man starts reeling off recent Marvel comics (“House of M, Nick Fury’s Secret War, the 198…”), you almost expect him to turn to the reader and say “And the trades of each of those stories are available where you bought this very comic, true believer!” It’s Crap. Alex Maleev’s art is nice, though.
Two bad lead-ins to Civil War in one week. That’s not a good sign.
OR ELSE #4: In which Kevin Huizenga goes insane in a good way. I have a sick wrong love for the Monkees movie Head, and this issue of Or Else, I’ve convinced myself, is the comic version of Head. It has the disjointed and disorientating quality of the movie, as well as the satirization of media and corporate cultures that, in the 1960s saw Jack Nicholson writing a movie where Frank Zappa and a talking cow tell the Monkees that they’re part of the machine, man and now has Huizenga remixing drug ads with comic culture (“Ask your doctor for more information. See our ad in The Comics Journal. Side effects may vary: difficulty breathing, heart attack, nausea, angst, schaudenfreude, rabies, reactionary politics, or shyness.”). It’s a break from the feel of his previous work, but not the technique, and it makes me worry for how Huizenga’s doing at the same time as marveling at what he’s doing. Excellent.
SUPERMAN/BATMAN #24: Just like Or Else #4, a stunning attack on corporate… Oh, okay, not really. There was an interview with Jeph Loeb somewhere where he admitted that the death of his son Sam hit his work hard, and that really shows in the current run on this book. It’s entirely lacking in the joy of the earlier issues, and instead just goes through the motions of “Well, they’d never expect this!” without any heart to back it up. There was, despite what many people will tell you, a plot and internal logic to the book up until the return of Ed McGuinness, but since then, it’s been people hitting each other and shouting and things happening for no reason, with unexplained plots apparently headed towards “Well, the Joker had godlike powers, so that’s why nothing makes sense” resolution. Sadly, Awful.
X-STATIX PRESENTS DEAD GIRL #3: I think I’m immune to Peter Milligan. Everyone I know seems to love this book, and I really get nothing from it. I don’t even dislike it, it just leaves me entirely cold. The most interesting thing for me about it is wondering why all the art seems so blurry. Go with Jeff’s review; he doesn’t have the same malady of Milliganitis that I do. For me, though, the very definition of Eh.
PICK OF THE WEEK is Or Else #4, because Kevin Huizenga’s pain at the way the world is is my entertainment. Cheap holidays in other people’s misereeeeeeee! And, yes, I know it’s under Books/Mags/Stuff on Bri’s list, but I’m still picking it, Goddammit. PICK OF THE WEAK is Adult Frankenstein, because, well. Just because. Trade of The Week that isn’t Or Else is probably the Trailers book from NBM that I haven’t finished reading yet but am enjoying greatly (Ignore the terrible cover and take a peak inside; it’s much better than the cover implies). Continuity doesn’t count because it’s not officially released yet, and the other trades I’ve been reading this week – Supreme Power volume 1 (which, despite Bri’s attempts, I still really dislike. I just don’t get the point of it. Why bother with “What if the JLA happened in the real world?”? What’s the point?) and the first hardcover Nexus Archives, which I’m loving much more than I’d expected – aren’t new releases… I’m apparently in a collections frame of mind these days and freely admit it; I’m pissed off that someone got those cheap secondhand NewXMen hardcovers from Green Apple before I had the chance to get back to the store with enough money to pick them up myself. If you’re reading this, whoever did it, then you should take them back to the store right now and tell them that they should only resell them to me. You know it makes sense.