Is it just me, or was San Diego completely devoid of any surprising announcements from either Marvel or DC? I mean, when the most interesting news story is Oni putting out a comic based on Stephen Colbert’s Lady Nocturne 9: A Tek Janssen Adventure, then that says something about the state of the Big Two, right? If you want something else to be said about the Big Two, then you had to look no further than this week’s releases: Civil War! Batwoman’s first appearance in 52! Justice League of America #0! It’s all ground-breaking originality this week!
52 WEEK ELEVEN: Why did it take me this long to realize that Greg Rucka – who I would lay money wrote the majority of this issue, centering as it does around the Renee Montoya/Batwoman plot, although there’s a scene in here that’s very very close to a scene in Geoff Johns’ first arc in the current Green Lantern title, so maybe he had some say in there as well – is the new Chris Claremont? I mean, okay, so everyone and their sister knew that Rucka shares Claremont’s fetish for the take-no-shit strong female character type, but when the main Intergang bad guys here turn out to be half-forgotten characters from Rucka’s Detective Comics run years ago (much in the same way that Rucka’s OMAC Project series was centered around a character and unresolved plot from his Detective run, giving said characters superpowers and a new ongoing series of her own), then it all becomes very clear; he shares Claremont’s self-referentialism as well. Of course! That said, this is pretty much Eh. Batwoman’s appearance isn’t too annoying (although it would’ve been nice if she’d had a personality while in the outfit and Joe Bennett could’ve turned down the posturing when she appeared without the outfit), and there’s some forward motion on both the Montoya and Cult of Conner plots. The best part of the issue may be the last four pages, however – not that the History of The DC Universe all of a sudden becomes good or anything, just that it finishes its run with this issue.
CIVIL WAR #3: I give up. By the time I finished this issue, I have no idea what Civil War is really about anymore, because all this mini seems to do is set up plots for other series to follow up on. It’s not about the destruction of Stamford, because that becomes more and more of a McGuffin (and set-up for the Wolverine crossover issues) with each page; no-one seems to care about dealing with rebuilding the town, or discussing how the tragedy has even really affected anyone outside of “Well, they passed a law because it’s so appalling”. It’s not about the Superhero Registration Act, either, because that too has become a McGuffin, a reason for the characters to fight and little else; any discussion of the pros or cons of such an act was either made off-panel or in crossover books, and the Act passed in the middle of the last issue. It’s not about Spider-Man unmasking, despite the amount of space dedicated to that happening last issue, because that’s hardly referenced this issue – any follow-up happens, of course, in the Spider-Man books. Instead, it’s about… Well, I really don’t know. Super-heroes fighting, I guess? The more I read of this series, the more it feels like it’s been plotted by a twelve-year old. You can almost imagine a kid making the story up (“And then there’s this big disaster and Iron Man wants everyone to, like, sign up to be superhero policemen or something and Captain America says NO! and they fight and Captain America has this thing that switches Iron Man’s armor off, but then Spider-Man beats up Captain America while Iron Man gets his armor working and then THOR COMES BACK FROM THE DEAD AND WINS BY HITTING EVERYONE WITH LIGHTNING! Cool! And get this – Tony Stark used to fuck Emma Frost!”) because everything happens without consequence or context here – characters act out of character to service a plot that’s centered around “the big event” of the issue, as opposed to anything else. There seems to be less and less actual story each issue, just action set pieces that don’t have any dramatic punch because, we know by now, nothing will get followed up on in this book. Crossovers, maybe, but this series? This is where you see the “highlights,” edited in such a way to be meaningless. I know that some people will turn up and again accuse me of anti-Marvel bias, but, really; this was Crap.
CIVIL WAR: X-MEN #1: And this was… Okay, I guess. It’s entirely unnecessary, and I’m not entirely sure what it has to do with Civil War at this point, because it seems more like a continuation of the House of M/Decimation/198 plot than anything to do with this year’s big crossover, even with an Iron Man guest-shot and throwaway lines of dialogue talking about the Superhero Registration Act. Unless there’s some stunning revelation within the next four issues where we discover a real connection to whatever Civil War ends up being about, then this is probably another example of Marvel using mini-series to tell stories that could, and probably should, be told in one of the three ongoing X-Men series. Yannick Paquette’s Kevin-Nowlan-lite art is always nice to look at, though.
THE FLASH: THE FASTEST MAN ALIVE #2: I skipped issue 1 of this revamp, but I’ll tell you this: The title is the best thing about this book. There’s a scene in the middle of the book that perfectly encapsulates what’s wrong with the whole thing: Supporting character Valerie Perez gets a telephone call. The first panel has her saying “How did you get this number?!” The second goes for a closer look (with the legs of her glasses disappearing, for some reason), with her continuing to talk: “No, I told you never to call me again, anywhere…” and then the third panel has her gritting her teeth and anger lines coming off her face, as she finishes with “…I don’t care if you are my father!!!” Yes, three exclamation points. Any comic with foreshadowing that obvious, with dialogue that bad, is not a good comic, my friends. It’s not the worst comic ever made, just clumsy and kind of amateurish. Crap may be the word, in fact, but I’m surprised that I got through that review without fanboyishly complaining about DC getting rid of Wally West without realizing the unique position he had within the DC Universe (The only sidekick to have grown up, assumed his mentor’s mantle and be accepted by the mentor’s peers, more or less) and instead replacing him with a generic conflicted-but-fated-to-be-great-if-only-he’d-accept-his-destiny eponymous lead.
JACK KIRBY’S GALACTIC BOUNTY HUNTERS #1: Think that “Galactic Bounty Hunters” is a surprisingly un-Kirby-like name? Well, one of the two text pieces at the back of this first issue about the creation of the book lets loose the fact that they were originally called “the Wonder Warriors,” which is much closer to what you’d expect (it’s also as good a name as Galactic Bounty Hunters, and fits the story better, which kind of makes you wonder why it was changed). Shock of the week: This isn’t as bad as I’d expected. In fact, there are parts where the dialogue (for the most part, atrocious) achieves some kind of comedic zen badness – when the monster is captured at the start of the book, one of the main characters warns another: “Careful, Tyr… She bites!” “And I have rabies!” the monster replies – and the art isn’t as slavishly Kirby-esque as, say, the art in Godland (In fact, it’s similar to what Ron Frenz inked by Karl Kesel – who inks part of this book – would look like)… It’s all just very dated, which is (sadly) to be expected, probably. It’s worth an Eh, at the very least, and if this were twenty years ago, I’d probably be eating it up with a spoon.
GUMBY #1: I met Art Clokey in San Diego, kind of. He was there, behind the table at a booth, looking more than a little bewildered by everything that was going on, while someone – possibly Mel Smith, who edited this book – tried to explain Gumby to me. We didn’t have Gumby when I was a kid, you see, we had Morph, so when someone jumps out and says “Hey, you wanna meet Art Clokey, creator of Gumby?” to me, my first response is pretty much “Who…?” All of which gave a strange context to reading this first issue of new Gumby adventures, because I couldn’t shake Matt Maxwell’s explanation that, even though Clokey was straight, there always seemed to be an LSD influence to the character that I was just experiencing for the first time.
That said, this was a surprisingly Good book. Yes, there are the weird parts about criminal clowns and lines about children should be locked in cages, but there was something sweet about Gumby’s awkwardness around his new girl friend that came from somewhere much more innocent and touching. I’m not convinced that I would ever need to experience Gumby again, mind you, but still…
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #0: I don’t know if I should admit my impure love for Bravo’s camp classic “Project Runway” in public or not, but picking up this to read with its cover line “Who’s In?” while Heidi Klum is onscreen telling the Runway competitors that fashion is a business that you can never tell who’s in and who’s out provided a special pop-culture crossover moment that the rest of this book failed to reach no matter how hard it tried. Ignoring the fact that it kind of ruins Wonder Woman’s “Who will Wonder Woman be?” plot – Diana, and in a slightly revised costume that makes its first appearance here, for those who care – Brad Meltzer just tries too hard to convince us that Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are all pals again despite their past differences. We’ve all read Infinite Crisis, Brad, and they all seemed pretty chummy at the end of that series, thanks. The flashbacks and –forwards are cute, with art of varying degrees of greatness (Eric Wight, you win again), but… there’s no point to the book at all. No forward motion that we didn’t already know about, and the looks back are too short to really provide any new insight. We don’t even really get a feel for what the new series is going to be like, because there’s no real story here. All I can tell you is that it looks like Meltzer will continue to use his narration that makes Jeph Loeb look concise, and new series artist Ed Benes really really likes the 1990s Image artists. So, um, huzzah? Eh.
THE SADHU: I never read any Crossgen books, but this is exactly how I imagined them to be – Generic dialogue filling a slow story with hints of mythology, illustrated by non-descript artists whose work is made to look a lot better thanks to some pretty good coloring work. As with most things this week, Eh.
PICK OF THE WEEK turned out, practically by process of elimination, to be Gumby. Who would’ve suspected that? To be fair, my real pick of the week is also my TRADE OF THE WEEK, and it’s something that has been out for awhile but only just picked up by me in San Diego after meeting the author: Bone Sharps, Cowboys and Thunder Lizards, by Jim Ottaviani and “Big Time Attic” (Really artists Zander and Kevin Cannon, as well as Shad Petosky). If you can imagine a graphic novel about the real life battle between two scientists fighting over the discovery of dinosaur bones in the late 1800s Wild West (and slightly less Wild East), written in a style that crosses Matt Fraction’s recent Five Fists of Science with history nerd goddess Sarah Vowell that guest-stars PT Barnum, Buffalo Bill Cody and President Ulysses S. Grant and not get excited about it, then you’re a stronger man than me (Here's Bri reviewing it when it came out, last year). PICK OF THE WEAK, meanwhile, is Civil War, because even though Flash was probably a worse comic overall, Civil War is more of a wasted opportunity…
What did the rest of you buy this week?