Oy to the World, Part 2: Jeff Looks at the 12/19 Books.

Wow. Thank goodness things picked up there at the end.

MARVEL HOLIDAY SPECIAL: This year's story by Andrew Farrago and Shaenon K. Garrity had some really cute moments, like the jingle noises on Santa's Sentinel, but seemed forced in a way last year's story by them (the AIM holiday party) did not; the Loners story by C.B. Cebulski and Alina Urusov made me interested in characters I've never read about previously (and had really lovely art to boot); and the Mike Carey and Nelson story about a reporter asking Marvel characters about the meaning of Christmas was, like the Hembeck reprint and the Irving pin-up, well-intentioned filler. It's high EH, particularly at that price point, but it doesn't make you feel like a total chump for indulging in nostalgia and buying it.

MIGHTY AVENGERS #6: It's amusing to pick up a title you dropped six months earlier and notice you've only missed two issues, although probably not as amusing for Brian Bendis, Tom Brevoort and retailers: crafted to be a quick-read of an oversized adventure, the ending wouldn't have felt as lame, I think, if it'd come out on time. And it'll probably be pretty decent as a trade. But disconnected from the momentum of the story, watching a hairy guy play Fantastic Voyage, then the shock-ending from six months ago makes this extraordinarly EH. If I hadn't quit on the title first, I'd probably drop that even lower as these are the kind of hijinks that actually punish readers for buying periodicals and not waiting for the trade.

SHADOWPACT #20: First issue I've read since issue #2 (which I didn't much care for) and thought it was highly OK. Kieron Dwyer's art looks crude (deliberately so, I think) but always has a lot of vigor and the storytelling is clear. It's particularly well-suited here, as the Shadowpact are trapped in a grimy, devastated landscape. I also liked Matthew Sturges' economical script which set up situations (Jim's lack of faith in himself, Blue Devil's cliffhanger) and then resolved them neatly. The characters are straightforwardly drawn--maybe a little too much so--but if the book always has this much forward momentum, I could see its appeal. Like I said, highly OK, particularly for a new reader.

SUPERMAN #671: Had me at that first Superman scene, which I thought was a fine updating of the Silver Age "Superman does cool show-offy shit for charity" trope, and the rest of the issue had a similar "how can we take classic bits and update them?" vibe to it. I'm fussy, so I can't give it more than a high Good, but I thought it was quite fun.

SUPERMAN BATMAN #44: Not perfect, but I thought this issue did a nice job of setting up an interesting story in a dramatic way, and it even involves an event that previously happened in the title. I'm more than a little leery--I'm not 100% onboard with the characterization, and there's a lot of stuff you have to take on say-so because the DCU's history is now about as stable as Lindsay Lohan's electrolyte levels--but considering I picked up this issue with genuine dread and I'm now curious as to where the story may go next, I think it's deserving of a high OK.

THE ORDER #6: First issue of this I've read (although I picked up the first five issues the other week and haven't read them) and Kitson's art and Fraction's dialogue make for an appealing book. I'm kinda shocked nobody thought the black band running behind the interview panels wouldn't screw up the way people would read those first two pages (ditto for the panels at the bottom of that tidal wave spread, now that I look at it), but, y'know, it happens. It may be paced a bit too quickly--I'm not sure if I really like anybody, except the character interviewed in the first few pages--but that's far from a sin these days, and I assume the back issues will flesh the characters out. I'd call this pretty GOOD.

UMBRELLA ACADEMY APOCALYPSE SUITE #4: Not particularly big on action, but this issue was well-packed with great visuals, a brisk wit, and a ton of charm. As a bonus, the editorial page lists Rocketship owner Alex Cox and Cade Skywalker as heroes (I think Cox is a far bigger hero than Skywalker, even if Skywalker wasn't packing a hair-metal mullet). I may be falling under the sway of the book's brio, but I'm gonna go with VERY GOOD and hope the miniseries lives up to its potential.

WOLVERINE ORIGINS #20: Having not kept up with this title, I read the text page intro and, wow, what a weird metastatement Wolverine's origin has become: "The mutant Wolverine has spent a century fighting those who would manipulate him for his unique powers..." If you think of "those who would manipulate him for his unique powers" as the creators who are always retconning more convoluted backstory bullshit into his history, you could maybe make the case that Wolverine is an utterly post-modern superhero, a figure whose struggle outside the comic--to retain his iconic power and relevancy (his identity) no matter what is foisted on him--is more or less the same one he faces inside the comic. For that matter, that struggle taking place outside the frame is the same one faced by every superhero with more than twenty or so years under his belt.


Anyway, in this issue, Captain America clenches his teeth and beats the shit out of Wolverine just like he did the last time I read this lousy fuckin' book. AWFUL stuff, and apparently how Steve Dillon wants to make a living which I find horribly depressing.

WORLD OF WARCRAFT #2: It makes sense. World of Warcraft has something like an estimated nine million subscribers: if you can get 1% of that base reading your book, you've got a very healthy 90,000 readers. But I can't imagine these people want to read about Walt Simonson's characters any more than I wanted to hear about somebody's fourth level Halfling thief back when I was playing D&D. I would think an illustrated "World of Warcraft for Dummies" where the "story" like a fancy, tip-filled walkthrough for noobs and munchkins, would probably have a better chance at gaining that audience. As a fantasy book illustrated in the Rodney Ramos manner, it's highly EH. As a tie-in to one of the great gaming successes of our times, I think it probably ranks far lower.

X-MEN FIRST CLASS VOL 2 #6: If the proportions of this were reversed, and it was a sixteen page story with Marvel Girl and Scarlet Witch illustrated by Colleen Coover and a six page "to be continued" story with depowered X-Men and attacking Sentinels, I would've given this sucker a high Good: Coover's work has so much charm, and Parker really seems to enjoy working to her strengths. Sadly, I gotta go with OK because I find Roger Cruz's art very dull and it's the larger part of the book.


And since this week has (nearly) all of my favorite manga:

DRIFTING CLASSROOM VOL 9: Just when I thought this book was getting a little off-track with its creepy mutants, it brings back the Lord Of The Flies backbeat and gives us some underage knife-fights and senseless life-taking territory wars. And, just because it loves us, there's also an appendectomy performed without anesthesia and giant carnivorous starfish. I read this at a breathless clip and think its VERY GOOD material in its startling, go-for-broke way.

GOLGO 13 VOL 12: Probably my favorite volume so far, as it's got Golgo versus his Russian counterpart in the first story, and a nifty piece of Southern exploitation trash ("Shit, they make you a Colonel for fryin' chicken down there.") in the back-up. GOOD stuff, although it looks like we won't be getting any of the truly batshit crazy stuff in this collection.

NAOKI URASAWAS MONSTER VOL 12: Like the previous volume of Beck, the only drawback for me is that the length of time between volumes means a longer time for my involvement with the material to ramp back up. While I appreciate the recaps and character flowcharts Viz uses here, it's just not the same: I can't imagine how engrossing it would've been for this stuff to unfold on a weekly basis. VERY GOOD material, though.

OTHER SIDE O/T MIRROR VOL 1: Jo Chen's artwork is so lovely, I had to pick this up. And while there are dozens of effortlessly sensual illustrations, both the narrative flow and the story itself are pretty amateurish stuff. It's not so much the lack of drama--on the contrary, for a few pages, it almost seemed like we were going to get Barfly as drawn by Ai Yazawa and I was downright giddy--as much as Chen doesn't have the chops to bring any depth to her lead characters and so give their struggles any resonance. I hope her talents continue to develop, but this deeply EH volume suggests she's still got a way to go.

PICK OF THE WEEK: IMMORTAL IRON FIST #11 and/or UMBRELLA ACADEMY #4. Good work by new(ish) talent. That's encouraging, isn't it?

PICK OF THE WEAK: I only brought down the CRAP hammer on FOOLKILLER #3, but that may be because I'm building up a slight immunity to Countdown related events.

So. Since next week's books come in on the 28th, and I work both the 29th and 31st, I think this will be my last "what the hell is he thinking" mega-roundup for the month. I'd like to figure out a proper way to work this kind of thing into my schedule, but posting may be a little spotty for the next month or two as other parts of my life get busy. Again, lemme thank everyone for taking the time to read these and throw in their two cents, and sorry I didn't get a chance to respond to everyone who commented in the detail they deserve (particularly in that thread where there were many fine comments from old-schoolers like gvalley and Heinz Hochkoepper). Hope everyone has a fine ol' set of holidays and, should I not get back to here before 12/31, a most excellent New Year!