MIA, Post #3: FC: Rage of the Red Lanterns #1, Ghost Rider #27, Hellcat #2

Change of plans! Guess what I swapped out for Marvel Apes #1 and 2?

FINAL CRISIS: RAGE OF THE RED LANTERNS #1: You know, what this reminded me of, and not in a particularly good way? Todd McFarlane's Spider-Man #1. (There's a good way to be reminded of Todd McFarlane's Spider-Man #1?) It's trying really, really hard--too hard, in fact--and yet the only parts that really stuck with me were the clumsy bits.

First off, Rage of the Red Lanterns is kinda funny, because it sounds enough like Raise the Red Lantern as to get images of Sinestro screwing Gong Li, who's one his five wives. Second, I know Geoff Johns has had a lot on his plate these last twelve months, but I'm sorta shocked the Red Lantern oath is such weak sauce:

"With blood and rage of crimson red, ripped from a corpse so freshly dead together with our hellish hate we'll burn you all-- that is your fate!"

Really? That's what you've got? Like I said, I know the dude's been busy but you'd think half the fun of launching a color spectrum of lantern corps would be really sweating out the details of your oath, particularly since Green Lantern's oath, while not being mistaken for T.S. Eliot anytime soon, at least has an elegance to it. This really seemed like Johns went: "Hmm. Red...dead. Hate...fate? Eh, why not?"

Third, the Red Lanterns, like, vomit blood or hate, or (more likely) blood-hate on the green lanterns, destroying them. So you've got guys who can create anything they can conceive of, versus a bunch of pissed-off bulimics. Despite that set-up, the fight scenes are incredibly dull.

Fourth, around the main Red Lantern, Atrocitus, there's usually (but not always) a 'BaBUM' sound effect that the character describes as a beat like a war drum, but which I'm sure, what with all the blood-barf, is the beat some giant heart. It reminds me of the jungle drums onomatopoeia which were overused in McF's Spider-Man #1: it is supposed to be ominous, but it's really just impressively annoying.

Fifth, there's double page-spread in this where all the Red Lanterns vomit blood. There is a cat Red Lantern, puking blood. There is a jellyfish Red Lantern. It is not shown puking blood. I spent more time thinking about the jellyfish Red Lantern and what it must be puking instead of blood, or how it could in fact puke, than any other piece of information in this issue.

Sixth, a Blue Lantern shows up at the end and his name is Saint Walker. He recharges Green Lantern's ring to 200%. (Unfortunately, we do not hear his oath.)

I have three theories. The first is, that this comic was written by Geoff Johns with the specific goal of making Alan David Doane suffer a brain-exploding stroke, and we're watching the first-ever attempted murder by comic. The second is, Geoff Johns is a very, very busy guy and someone needs to sit his shit down and tell him he's overextending himself. He knows where the big beats are supposed to go, but something's short-circuiting when he goes to put those beats in place. The third is, this comic is awesome and I am now completely inured to what is awesome, and my grasp on what is awesome was always somewhat shaky to begin with. (Because Spider-Man #1 was, in fact, awesome.) That could certainly be the case but in any event I found this to be a surprisingly Awful comic.

GHOST RIDER #27: I've been picking up Jason Aaron's run on this title for a few issues now, and find it frustrating in how close to being incredibly awesome it is. It reads like a book written by a guy who loves the character, the idea of a dude who rides a motorcycle and has a flaming skull for a head, and knows an an aesthetic to go with it--unapologetic pop trash, specifically the just-passed revival of a '70s drive-in culture with its strong roots in unapologetic Southern trashiness. (I mean, the first page of this issue has kung-fu nuns, for Christ's sake.) I think this is a frankly brilliant choice.

And yet it has yet to gel for me. If nothing else, the artist Tan Eng Huat is going in an entirely different direction. For one thing, Huat's tendency to draw every male character with a gaunt elongated faces undercuts the visual punch of a hero running around hanging skull. I know some people dig Huat's work (I think Tucker Stone wrote recently it's the only interesting thing about the book) and with Villarrubia doing the coloring, the book has a sumptious, vibrant appearance but it's the wrong kind of sumptiousness: you don't want Vittorio Storaro doing the cinematography for Two-Lane Blacktop.

That's not entirely the reason, mind you. For whatever reason, Aaron's work really hasn't clicked with me (short from that one admittedly spectacular story about Wolverine in the pit being shot full of bullets 24/7) and it's probably more my fault than his. I feel like we both have an appreciation for vulgar panache but somehow I just can't get my taste in line with his. It's vexing. This should be better than OK for me, I keep thinking.

HELLCAT #2: Hellacat #1 is around my apartment somewhere but I can't seem to find it, so I figured I'd dive in with issue #2, thinking, you know, how lost could I possibly get?

The answer: lost, lost, lost. I have a general sense of the who, the what, and the why, of course, but the specificity of why Hellcat and a group of shaman bicker for that majority of the issue I wasn't able to entirely entangle. The art is so damned lovely I don't really care, mind you, and Immonen has such a confident swagger to her dialogue I'm sure the fault is all mine. In some ways, the book reminds me of the first few issues of Finder (or, if you want to get even more old school, Thriller), where not getting everything that is going on somehow seems to be part of the fun. I don't think that means we'll see an uptick in readers by the end of the mini, however. Good stuff, though. Maybe even more so. I'll really have to find that first issue and see.

(Oh, and it's kinda shameful the way Immonen, a relatively new writer, is so easily able to beat Wolfman in portraying an impulsive character who doesn't want any help while avoiding making that character come off like a jerk. While Supergirl in Brave & Bold #17 was incredibly annoying, Hellcat in a slightly similar situation is much more justifiably impatient yet still charming. On the other hand, Wolfman has been writing comics since I was ten or so--just the fact the guy can turn in something that doesn't smack of exhausted hackery is an accomplishment.)

Tomorrow: Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen one-shot for sure, and maybe Iron Fist #19, Marvel Apes #1 & 2, and Wolverine: Roar.