Out With The Old, In With the 01/04 New Comics...

Aw, I feel sorry for you. Hibbs and I shot the shit for a couple hours on Friday and even though he was far more engaged, critically sharp and emotionally invested in the week's comics, he probably won't be posting because he's got the kid, the family and the store. On the other hand, I will be posting because I've got potentially a free hour or two on my hands even though I'm kinda indifferent to this week's releases. But I'm gonna be in NYC with Edi next week and that's definitely gonna keep me from posting then, so... 52 WEEK #35: If you ask me, somebody flinched and made the book's first real cliffhanger a non-event. At the end of issue #34, Luthor pushes a button so that all his manufactured superheroes will lose their powers in mid-fly-by parade. Silly me, I figured this would mean that: (a) Luthor would have to take it on the lam so as to escape tremendous public outrage (and leading to the events we see at the beginning of Superman: One Year Later); and (b) that Steel story would finally get going because what's-her-name would be toast. But, nope. Luthor fields a single inquiring phone call by saying, "Yeah, gee, hmmm. There must've been some kind of problem, howabout that?" (Yeah, like pacemaker manufacturers could get away with that if everyone wearing them suddenly dropped dead...) Plus, it turns out that big red button Luthor pushed was marked "everyone I gave powers to except Infinity Inc." so that storyline drags on as well. Plus, wasn't that Brian Bolland Zatanna back-up last week awesome? And last week? An Eh start to Act III, I think.

ALL NEW ATOM #7: See? If Hibbs was writing reviews, he would be telling you why this was his second-favorite book of the week. Whereas I thought it was OK--possessing a certain loopy charm, certainly, but still a little uneven. Also, my default reaction to "cowboys in comic books" is "dull," and my default reaction "superheroes who shrink" is also "dull," so the idea of cowboys versus superheroes who shrink? It's a testimony to Simone's writing that I didn't find it "deathly dull."

ALL STAR SUPERMAN #6: By contrast, this story also lays on the loopy charm but it couldn't be less dull. It helps that you've got an artist who's going to make the most out of a panel like a young Superman and Krypto sitting on the moon looking at Earth, but there's also a lovely little bit of prestidigitation by Morrison so that the nostalgic feelings one gets in reading an issue like this actually dovetails nicely with the feelings of one of the character's. It's an Excellent issue, and worth reading if you've got even a sliver of appreciation for DC's Silver Age.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #537: As I've said for the last six issues or so, I prefer JMS's take on the Civil War to Millar's: there's a nice little speech here by Captain America (well, by Mark Twain, really) that has the character's actions make sense (more or less). Unfortunately, dear Jesus, the plot hammering! Spidey goes to meet up with the fugitive heroes, and rather than immediately using them to put his wife and dear aunt in a safehouse, he gets all carried away and is off to raid the Baxter Building with everyone and leaves his wife and aunt in a motel in a cheap motel at the corner of Crack and Hooker. Attaboy, Spidey! Eh, because it made me apoplectic, but probably OK for you.

BATMAN #661: This was so by the numbers, I read it in two minutes while taking a leak. (Yes, it was kind of a long leak.) Sorry to see Johnny Karaoke go, though. Or, wait, am I happy? I still can't tell. Eh.

BONEYARD #23: I read it and liked it, as I always do. But it's been so long since I read the last issue, I still don't have much idea what's at stake. (Come to think of it, maybe I missed last issue.) Tell you what, I'll give it a No Rating if you promise to hunt down one of the trades and try this, okay?

BOYS #6: So violent and perverse you'd think Geoff Johns wrote it!! No, not really, but, hamster aside, last week's entrailicious 52 was much more shocking (and cynical) than this issue, I thought. I liked the character interaction at the end here, I guess, but thanks to a recent post over at the Newsarama blog, I can put my finger on why it also bothered me: the "you touched my stuff" motivation on the part of Butcher is, gruesome little twist notwithstanding, pretty standard shorthand for how you tell the anti-heroes from the villains in an exploitation film. If the superhero medium is getting to the point where a Geoff Johns fight scene reads more like a Garth Ennis fight scene, Ennis is going to have to bring a little more genuine sentiment to the game than that. OK, but it's not shoring up as strongly as I'd like. I'm still willing to give it time, though.

BULLET POINTS #3: Maybe I wasn't paying attention but, unless JMS lays out how the bullet that killed Doc Erskine and Ben Parker ended up causing the death of Nick Fury, Mr. Straczynski has cheated even further on his own "all it takes is one bullett.." premise. So I guess this is just an exercise in the alter-ego equivalent of wife-swapping, then? Bummer. Drops to Awful.

CIVIL WAR #6: Yes, I read it. No, I'm not going to tell you about it. I will say that our last copy left the shop at the very end of my shift, and the sub who got it looked about as thrilled as if I'd handed him a dead bird with his books. (The three people who hung out and read the reader's copy at the counter seemed pretty stoked, though.) Parts of it were competently done, I thought, but they're still kind of outweighed by the retarded parts. Eh.

CIVIL WAR FRONT LINE #10: (Spoilers, by the way.) Now, I haven't followed this title religiously or anything (I may've missed the last issue? Or two?) but I've read most of it and the Speedball stuff had easily been my favorite part of the book. So one thing that really struck me about his transformation to Penance was that it seemed kinda... off. I can buy that, because of the last ten issues of shit heaped on him, Robbie Baldwin has turned from a happy-go-lucky kid into a toughened, driven bastard. They definitely laid the groundwork for that. But one thing that seemed pretty consistent throughout was Baldwin's insistence that he was innocent. In fact, that was why I followed his story--I, too, thought he was innocent, and I lked that they were doing something with the character than having him succumb to the plot-hammering around the Stamford incident the rest of the Marvel Universe had. So, even though I may have missed an issue or two, I can't buy that he's becoming Penance out of a sudden feeling of guilt, and having the needles that push into his skin to remind him of etc., etc. That's not how the groundwork for the character was laid, or how the story developed. You can almost see the fine seam where the editors joined Speedball's story with this other character someone cooked up for the Thunderbolts book (probably because some plan or other fell through).

If it wasn't for that, and the bullshit of starting a story with multiple first person narration and then dropping it because the writer needs to hide the big secret both characters have discovered (this is in the non-Speedball part of the book), I would've gone higher than Eh.

CSI DYING IN THE GUTTERS #5: Dammit, I didn't read this. Now I've gotta go online to find out who killed Rich Johnston. Ironic, huh?

EXILES #89: This issue of Exiles made me think of Long Haired Hare, that great Bugs Bunny cartoon with the Giovanni Jones, the opera singer, where Bugs disguises himself as the maestro Leopold and makes Giovanni hold one note until Jones is writhing on the floor, blue in the face, and the entire Hollywood Bowl collapses. One would think the analogy is clear--Bedard and Callafiore are normally perfectly dandy, but come on, now. Done is done. Set 'em free, I beg you! Sub-Eh.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #5: Wow, does this arc end next issue? If so, it's like watching a dramatic spacecraft launch--the countdown, the smoke and the noise... and then the damn thing leaves the pad going twenty miles an hour. It's an OK read, but hopefully they can work on their pacing a little bit.

NEWUNIVERSAL #2: Art's fine, Ellis' explanation of the New Universe heroes (and reconfiguring the dream realm as ideaspace) was cool, but, really, there's nothing "new" yet about Newuniversal. There's not anything new here if you've read any of the "heroes in the real world" stories, and there's nothing new here if you've read Ellis: it's the New Leftovers, heated up by a professional cook with other tables to serve. OK, but was I wrong to think there could (and would) be more to it than this?

OTHER SIDE #4: It's far too lovingly drawn to be ignored, and the writing's been fine on an issue-by-issue basis, but I've got the nagging feeling that the story has had very little forward movement--it's really up to the last issue, I guess. Good, but I feel like it may miss its shot to be great.

POWERS #22: Good issue. A fun read, even if it seems to me that Bendis kinda screwed up the punchline to that "You know how tired I am?" joke. (Also, admittedly, I'm a weirdo conspiracy freak but... with those two quotes in the Quote of the Month section of his letters page, Bendis isn't comparing Johanna Draper Carlson to Paris Hilton, is he? Because I think that would be a really, really strange comparison. I dunno. Maybe it's just me.)

PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL #2: Not nearly as enjoyable as the first issue, and it's a little weird that the same scene would appear so differently in both Civil War and here. But I really loved how fast-paced it was (at the end, I felt like I'd read a lot of story) and it's not surprising that Fraction's brand of fun apeshit insanity would have to take a backseat to Civil War's apeshit insanity. Good, anyway.

SCALPED #1: I spent most of the issue fretting becuase I realize I need to be a litte more gentle with first issues, but this book struck me as a little too out-of-control. Fortunately, the last page proved me wrong and so I don't have to fret. This was definitely OK, with the potential to be even better depending on how it plays out.


PICK OF THE WEAK: "...and so, Janet Van Dyne, it is you who must now wield the hammer of...Thor!" BULLET POINTS #3, for its cheating cheateriness.

TRADE PICK: I actually didn't pick up any trades this week, but I read the Carla Speed McNeil interview in COMICS JOURNAL #280 which could've benefited from a bit more editorial acumen (in the intro to the interview, it refers to McNeil as still working on Five Crazy Women which I really don't think is the case anymore [on the other hand, tho, I admit I'll be damned if I could figure it out from visiting the Lightspeed Press site]). When I get back from NYC, I'll probably post about Drifting Classroom, Essential Man-Thing and some of the other trades I've been reading.

You weren't nearly as crabby as I was, were you?