Sunday Morning: Reviews of 11/9 books

Welcome back, my friends, to the show that never ends. Remember when Hibbs always used to start his Savage Critics that way? A fairly dull week for me, this week – I didn’t even manage to pick up a copy of Decimation – House of M: The Day After to read properly after quickly scanning the first half, so that I could make uncomfortable fun of a non-fat Blob. I’m hoping that next week brings some kind of relief in the form of some really, irrideemably terrible comics. DMZ #1: Yes, the ongoing comic adventures of the rapper and star of such hit movies as “Coach Carter” begin with this double-sized origin iss… No, wait, I’m getting confused. This is the “New York City is a warzone, no, literally” book, isn’t it? The one by Brian Wood? I’m convinced that there are two Brian Woods. One writes Demo and Local and likes his ambiguity and subtlety, and the other writes Channel Zero and Couriers and his characters tend to be all “FUCK YOU, THE MAN!” attitudes. Sadly for me, DMZ seems to be the work of the second Brian right now, which was especially disappointing considering how much I liked the first issue of Local (out next week from Oni, fact fans). This is the set-up issue so lots of things go wrong, but I’m still wondering why I’m supposed to care at this point. Right now, an Eh, but I’m going to stick around until the end of the first arc because I have the feeling that it'll get better.

FANTASTIC FOUR 40TH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL: The cheap shot review of this would be something along the lines of “Now this is one celebration that I should’ve RVSPed and said that I couldn’t attend”. But snappier. I should’ve liked this a lot more than I did; Karl Kesel is a writer who normally gets the Fantastic Four for me, and I’m a massive sap for romantic stories, so a special one-shot about the relationship between Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman should be what you Americans call a “slam” “dunk”. Sadly, this is just OK, as we get flashbacks (and –forwards) to the courtship of Marvel’s premier couple, including the not-entirely-settling thought of the Richards spending their honeymoon in The Watcher’s house. What we don’t see is what makes the two of them such a good couple, apart from a couple of throwaway lines. As if to make up for the disappointment of the main story, the book closes with a reprint of FF Annual #3, the issue where Reed and Sue tied the knot in the first place, in a tale that calls itself “The most sensational super-spectacular ever witnessed by human eyes!!” Okay, it’s not that good, but still: It’s almost the entire Marvel Universe circa 1965 trying to save the day for true love! Why can’t today’s Marvel Superhyperepics be about that kind of thing, I ask you. Burt Bacharach was right.

GOTHAM CENTRAL #37: A crossover-that’s-not-really-a-crossover with Infinite Crisis, as Allen and Montoya deal with Gotham going to Hell when the Seven Deadly Sins drop in for a visit. Greg Rucka deals with everything from their perspective, so there’s no explanation about what’s going on and, surprisingly, it doesn’t really feel that you’re missing half the story without one. Steve Lieber does his usual fine job on the art, and the only thing that ruins the book for me is the end of the next issue blurb: “From here on, all roads lead to THE SPECTRE: DEAD AGAIN!” Because that’s what this title needs: to be the launchpad for a new Spectre title. Good for the issue, but Awful for the apparent plan to take the book away from its original idea as a ground-level view of the DC Universe.

INFINITE CRISIS #2: Maybe it’s just me, but Phil Jiminez draws really weird people. They have these really strange, over-emphasized and out of place muscles, and their faces are overly-rendered. It’s very distracting. Meanwhile, Geoff Johns continues to write the most fanfic-esque comic the world has seen since Green Lantern: Rebirth. Earth-2 Superman gets all “Kids these days are so glum” and might be setting himself up as accident fallguy for the villain of the piece, Crisis On Infinite Earths gets recapped in about eight pages, one of the dual Lex Luthors has a headache, and Booster Gold returns from the future to save the world. Yes, Booster Gold. I still have no idea what this series is about apart from Geoff complaining that DC Comics haven’t been any good since he was a kid (although, if the preview pages for Paul Levitz’s JSA arc are a hint, it looks like Earth-2 is coming back in some form or another at some point), but I’m still enjoying it. Good, but your mileage may vary depending on your DC fanboyishness.

JLA #122: Oh, just make it stop already. I don’t know whose idea it was to turn this book into mid-90s X-Men, complete with subplots from other books (Flash is sick? Why? Who is Manitou Dawn and why should I care about her?), bad dialogue (“Did we choose to forget that human beings are fragile things, no matter where we come from?” You tell ‘em, Black Canary) and barely competent art, but I’m hoping that it’s all just some cunning way to make us all miss the real JLA so that their inevitable return seems better in comparison. Completely and utterly Awful.

MICHAEL CHABON PRESENTS THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF THE ESCAPIST #8: Or, as I call it, Brian K. Vaughan and Philip Bond with some back-up stories for an extortionate nine dollars. Vaughan and Bond launch their ongoing “The Escapists” series, and it’s really rather good – a spin on the Kavalier and Clay story from Chabon’s novel, with two wannabe creators trying to relaunch the Escapist comic book. The art is amazing, with Bond’s usual stumpy greatness supplemented by amazing coloring by Dave Stewart (he of the equally amazing coloring in Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier last year. And, yes, I am pathetic for noticing the coloring in a comic. Thanks for asking.), so it’s a shame that Bond’s gone from the strip already next month (Steve Rolston is taking over). The line up of talent contributing to the rest of the issue – Andi Watson, Harvey Pekar and Dean Haspiel, Jeff Parker and Paul Hornschmier – sounds impressive, but the whole thing feels fairly throwaway, with Pekar and Hornschmier’s stuff in particular being really disappointing. Overall, it all just feels kind of underwhelming for nine dollars, which may just be my stereotypically Scottish stinginess coming into play. “The Escapists” on its own is Good, but the whole package? Kinda Eh.

Y THE LAST MAN #39: And talking of Brian K. Vaughan, here’s the book that made it all happen for him that isn’t called Runaways. I’m a fan of Vaughan’s, in general – He writes stories that keep moving and have great cliffhangers – but I’m not sure if he’s making everything up as he goes along on this book. Everytime it feels as if we’re getting close to some kind of closure or something major happening, something ridiculous happens to mess things up again. Like, for example, Beth going to Paris for some mysterious reason just after everyone’s gone to Australia to get her. Bah. Mind you, this is my wife Kate’s favorite book, so here’s what she has to say:

“I’m getting a little tired of him in the burka and they’re heavy on the eyebrows in this episode.”

Hear that, Vertigo? That’s your audience speaking right there. There’s also a preview of The Exterminators, a new series by Simon Oliver and Tony Moore, which screams “You know how you were interested when you heard about the idea about this series? Well, just save your money.” Y itself, though, is still pretty Good.

So, I’m saying that Infinite Crisis #2 ends up being the PICK OF THE WEEK for me, because I’m a massive DC geek who really liked Booster Gold when I was twelve years old. PICK OF THE WEAK ends up being JLA #122, because it was balls. I have no idea what the TRADE OF THE WEEK is, because, well, not only didn’t I get any new trades this week, but the list of everything released this week seemed kind of weak (I did get Scott Pilgrim versus the World, though). Me, I spent the time catching up on The OC on TiVo, instead. That Sandy Cohen, man. That’s who I want to be when I grow up.