Infinite Crisis is killing comics: Reviews of 11/30 and 11/23 books.

The terrible thing about catching up on everything after taking a week off is that there’s always much more to catch up on than you thought. Take this week: I wanted to read the two holiday books that the big two had put out (Marvel Holiday Special and Teen Titans Go), but instead I figured, why not leave those until closer to the actual holidays? And then I read other books and realized that the answer to that question was, Because almost all of this week’s books suck. So now you know.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #646: Let’s face it, there are probably some stories that just don’t need to be written. For example, Mister Mxyzptlk’s losing his powers and memory as told in black and white and first person narration by Mxy himself. Especially when the narration is along the lines of “Oh, this is gonna hurt. A lot. Shouldn’t complain. Feeling something’s better than feeling nothing, right?” The first of this week’s “Whatever Happened to Greg Rucka?” comics, this is just a mess. When we’re not reading Rucka giving Mxyzptlk narration that’d make Frank Miller think twice, we’re getting the pay off for two long-running subplots, one of which is almost entirely reliant on readers having also read Wonder Woman and The OMAC Project for it to make sense (It’s also a subplot that doesn’t really resolve as much as say “Hey, there’s going to be a Checkmate series next year!”). Karl Kerschl’s weird and wonderful art aside, there’s nothing here to make this comic any more than an Awfully misguided experience. You know the comics that Geoff Johns is complaining about in Infinite Crisis? I think Greg Rucka is writing things like this on purpose to give Geoff more grist for his mill.

EX MACHINA #16: Okay, so this came out last week, but I didn’t review anything then, so you’re getting it now. Normally I’m a big fan of this book, but everything seems off this issue – Brian K. Vaughan’s dialogue seems forced (especially the awkward, heavy-handed “everyone lies” climax), the plot feels entirely artificial, and Tony Harris goes through the motions without his usual flair. I’m guessing that this current storyline is foreshadowing for later events, because otherwise, the revelations about Mitchell Hundred’s parents gets dealt with remarkably quickly and without as much weight as you’d expect it to have. It’s OK, but hopefully the book will get back to former glories now that the characters are back in New York.

THE FLASH #228: Does anyone remember when Val Semeiks could draw? There was awhile there, back when he seemed to be DC’s “Well, if we need someone to draw JLA special projects” guy, when his work was… well, not as horrendous as it is on certain pages – the opening four, for instance – in here (Since when did Mirror Master become the Joker with worse teeth?). Maybe it’s the inking? Storywise, there are some nice ideas here that are buried by the execution and overall crapness of the larger plot – I’d have been more interested to see a story where Wally has to deal with his neuroses about being a superhero and a new dad for real, instead of finding out that he’s the victim of an evil plot that involved him being thrown into illusionary possible worst case scenario futures. Also, any plot which relies on the main character being a complete and utter fucking idiot (“Someone’s tried to steal this incredibly dangerous weapon, you say? And we don’t know who that is? Well, I don’t have time to think about that – I have to give it to these people that I met yesterday who say that they want it for nice reasons even though I know nothing about them!”) gets my dander up at the best of times, so it’d be fair to say that I’m finding these last few issues of the current Flash run to be Crap. The fact that this book, and JLA, are ending their current runs with fill-in creative teams headed up by DC editors (or Bob Harras, who was always a fan of the editorially-mandated storyline back in the day), is probably some kind of sad comment on where DC’s head is at, these days.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #12: Just like Ex Machina, something smells foul in this particular state of Denmark these days – Maybe I’m just being cynical, but the fact that both this and last issue of the current version of DC’s “Teens Go Wild – In The Future” book have had pointless back-up stories, that this issue doesn’t start with the usual “We were so sick of it, we could scream” opening, and that the big storyline doesn’t finish until #13, which just seems strange in this day and age of six-issue-long trades, that suggests that there may be deadline problems going on in the 31st century. Or maybe I’m just being ridiculous, and upset that the pacing of the series – one of the strong points of the book for me so far – seems to be losing focus with the last couple of issues. All of that said, the main story in this issue steams towards the big finish with a couple of unexpected moments resolving plots and injokes from the run so far, and the dialogue still sparkles when needed. This issue’s back-up, the first not written by series writer Mark Waid (Firestorm’s Stuart Moore handles the writing chores, instead) misses the lightness of touch that Waid’s brought to the book so far, as Lightning Lad spends some time explaining why the Legion exists in a very worthy and dull manner, apparently with the aim of getting into Saturn Girl’s pants. Which is an interesting seduction technique, to say the least, but you know kids these days and their dedication to democratic ideals. Overall, the book is OK, but if I were you, I’d skip the back-up and have fonder memories of the whole thing.

SEVEN SOLDIERS: FRANKENSTEIN #1: Yes, this is from last week as well, and I’m sure you’ve all read it by now. But, still. It’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer meets Dan Clowes meets that Frankenstein book that the Matrix people are doing. But better than all of those – There really was something kind of disturbing about the book that I didn’t expect, which was kind of the point, and at times it seemed like a mainstream version of ideas that Morrison was using in The Filth and The Invisibles. So, you know, it was Excellent.

SEVEN SOLDIERS: ZATANNA #4: You know what I enjoyed more than Frankenstein, though? This. Sure, it didn’t really make that much sense and it’s, what, two months late or something? But I loved it as I would love a curiously forbidden ugly child that I loved dearly. In one fell swoop, Morrison explains more of the entire Seven Soldiers mythology as well as tying up the mystery set-up from the start of the series, curing Zatanna of her powerlessness, and making the whole thing seem like stupid amounts of fun. New bad guy Zor, alone, would’ve made this book one of the greatest things ever published with dialogue like his response to Zatanna’s “You have a stupid beard” comment (“Liar! It’s a magnificent beard and I know you want one! Hahahaha!”). As with the other Seven Soldiers minis, we get a definition of what makes a hero, but it was what made Zatanna a more believable character throughout the series – the mistakes, the sense of humor, the love of dressing-up – that made the series so enjoyable. In a perfect world, Morrison would get to write an ongoing Zatanna series once everyone’s done with this Infinite Crisis nonsense. Another Excellent book.

WONDER WOMAN #223: Now that we know that this book is getting cancelled in February (only to get relaunched later in the year with Adam-Hughes-lite Terry Dodson on art chores, thereby reuniting the Amazon feminist with cheesecake fans the world over), people like me who picked up the series when Greg Rucka took over as writer can finally accept the fact that none of the long-running subplots that Rucka has set up will get resolved to any degree of satisfaction, now that the series has been completely overwhelmed with fallout from The OMAC Project miniseries. Veronica Cale, the odd-apparent-new-nemesis for WW? Disappeared into the background with Circe, apparently to plot something about six months back, before Wonder Woman killed Max Lord. Zeus being deposed by his daughter as ruler of the Gods? Hey – OMACs are attacking the Amazons, so who cares? Amazon Island being dropped just off the coast of the United States, thereby making America paranoid that there was going to be an invasion, leading to a military stand-off with the US about the attack the Amazons? Didn’t you hear what I said about the OMACs? Ferdinand the Minotaur being in love with the doctor whose name I can’t remember? Well, that’s way too minor to deal with now, unless he’s a Minotaur OMAC. To see almost everything that Rucka had spent two years building up being thrown away with almost no thought purely to service DC’s mega-crossover - and knowing that the series will end before there’s a chance that any of it will be dealt with - is more than a little frustrating.

Now that I’ve gotten that rant out of the way, I can tell you that this issue, like the last, and the one before that for that matter, is full of action and melodrama that feels entirely uninvolving. Kyle Baker’s Plastic Man is currently taking the piss out of this kind of writing marvelously, with captions like “What comic book this month contains more shocking revelations and cataclysmic permanent changes to the DC Universe?”, and it’s probably a bad thing that Plastic Man had more dramatic tension than anything this book has seen for months. Really, sadly, Ass.

X-MEN #178: Does anyone remember the first page of Grant Morrison’s run on this title? It was Wolverine on top of a Sentinel, clawing away at it, with Cyclops standing on the ground, saying something like “You can stop doing that now.” It was a fairly clear message from Morrison to everyone, saying that all of those old X-Men stories that you’d read a million times before were going to stop, because, you know, they were old and done a million times before. The cover of this issue of X-Men is remarkably similar to that first page, except this time the message seems to be “All of those old X-Men stories that you’d read a million times before? We’re doing them again!” It’d be depressing, if I wasn’t more depressed that I can remember what the first page of Grant Morrison’s run on X-Men was like even though I haven’t read those books for two years or something like that. And don’t even get me started on this whole “Deadly Genesis will explain who the third Summers brother is!” thing that Marvel are doing right now, either. Ass, anyway.

YOUNG AVENGERS #9: Has no-one even done a Kree-Skrull War 2 before? Wasn’t there one in Steve Englehart’s Silver Surfer, waybackwhen? And wasn’t the unfortunately-named (and soon to be reprinted) crossover Operation Galactic Storm all about a Kree-Skrull rematch as well? The reason I ask is that Allan Heinberg is gearing up for some kind of Kree-Skrull War 2 (or possibly 3, or maybe 4) over here, and starts off by bringing back the Super Skrull. God, I love the Super Skrull. I love Young Avengers, as well, when Jim Cheung’s drawing it – Andrea Di Vito filled in on the last couple of issues, sadly forgetting what people look like as he did so – so everything that happened in this issue was fine with me. Heinberg keeps up his good balance of over the top soap opera – My mom isn’t really my mom! And she’s an alien! – and old-school superhero action, making this feel both contemporary and old-fashioned at the same time, which is Good for me. Who would’ve thought that this would be Marvel’s best title when we were all making fun of it at this time last year?

PICK OF THE WEEK is cheating, because it’s from last week: Seven Soldiers: Zatanna. Please add your own “talking backwards” joke in here, because I’m fresh out. PICK OF THE WEAK is Wonder Woman, but that’s purely because I’m cranky and annoyed that the first couple of years of Rucka’s run has been unceremoniously dumped to make way for more OMACs. As for TRADE OF THE WEEK, I can’t help you – The only trade I even looked at this week was the Maximum Fantastic Four Omnibus thing that Marvel put out last month, where they print a panel to a page for no immediately apparent reason other than showing that Marvel’s designers should consider things like page binding and composition much more often.

Next week, I’m going to be reading holiday comics, and there will be caroling and much jollity. Just you wait, ‘Enry ‘Iggins.