It's not that bad: Hibbs on CIVIL WAR #7

Unlike Grimmy over there, I'm not going to go all the way to "ASS" on CIVIL WAR #7 -- mostly because I think "ASS" needs to be saved for very very special occasions, and probably should only be trotted out once or twice a year, if that. I mean, don't get me wrong, I certainly didn't like CIVIL WAR #7, but it is far more from execution rather than concept

See, and this is the thing you HAVE to give them, here we have a universe-spanning intercompany crossover that does, in fact, "change everything". Some of it may change back, sure, given enough time, but there wasn't any reset button being hit, and the status quo of the Marvel universe is CLEARLY very very different than it was before CIVIL WAR #1.

Now, this puts aside the questions of whether these are GOOD changes, or LOGICAL ones; nor are these changes simply cosmetic ones -- the basic dramatic under-pinning of the Marvel U are now very different, and it certainly will provide a reasonable amount of fodder for stories, depending on how they handle things.

Let's also put aside the question of whether you LIKE these changes. I mean, *I* don't want to read about the Adventures of Super-fascist, the friend-killing, villain-working, two-faced lying liar, but like it or not, "Civil War" fundamentally changed the very idiom of the super-hero in the Marvel Universe. And, really, that's kind of exciting.

No, what's really wrong with CIVIL WAR #7, and, for that matter, #2-6, is that it doesn't actually tell a story. In a story, or at least in a good story, there's forward movement in both event and character. And with the possible single exception of Spider-Man's arc, that simply doesn't exist throughout the bulk of CW

Think about it this way: in CW #1, Stamford blows up, and the Superhero Registration Act is rammed through. But (basically) nothing that happens afterwards changes anything from that premise. Further, nothing COULD change that premise -- Cap and IM can punch each other all they like, but the laws been made, and unless Marvel starts publishing MIGHTY PARLIMENTARY ADVENTURES #1, there's nothing about that that will change.

I think "Civil War", as an idea, was probably a great one, really -- by all means, let's mix things up; let's have characters who believe they're doing absolutely the right thing, but who are wrong; Let's deal with fairly complex issues of freedom and identity. C'mon, admit it, even if you didn't like it's execution "Civil War" was an EXCITING concept. That's also why it sold so well. ANd why people are talking about it.

The problem is that CIVIL WAR, as a series, bobbled the execution by putting the focus on an "event in seven parts"; and COMPOUNDED that problem by HOLDING UP the actual story from unfolding in the monthly line of comics in order to wait for the "event" to get produced!

Even the "big events" of the CIVIL WAR mini-series (Spidey unmasks, Reed & Sue break up, the punisher returns, and so on) were pretty much uniformly handled much better in the individual bits of the titles then they were in CIVIL WAR itself.

One of the crossover's most dismissive memes is the "red sky" crossover. This dates from the original crossover, CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, which had issues cover-billed as COIE crossovers, where the extent of it was someone pointing upwards and saying "Look, the sky's gone red". And here's the thing, CIVIL WAR #2-7 were basically ALL "red sky" books. I haven't learned anything new OR RELEVENT from them. The things I *did* get that I could ONLY get in CW -- and is there really much more than Reed and Hank building a robot thor which kills Bill Foster? -- are kind of logically objectionable.

Its really really easy to MOnday Morning Quarterback these things, but I had me a Time Machine, I'd probably have structured this more as a stand-alone special that kicks the whole thing off, and sets up all of the threads. I would have made sure that the KEY books (IRON MAN and CAPTAIN AMERICA) were in-synch and contemperous with the launch date for the story, and were diriving the individual battles of the war. I would have probably doubled the frequency of FF, and put the "mystery" of 42, the clobothor, and Sue begging Namor all in there. I would have also done the IM/Cap conversation, and the "Criminals react" specials much as they did, and FRONTLINE becomes the spine that moves the backstory of the story, rather than being perceived as the spin-off of the main book, it would have BEEN the "main book". But issues #2-7 wouldn't have been published, nor would I have stated an "end" to the "story", because that creates a false expectation in the audience.

Because, in point of fact, the story DID NOT "end" in CW #7. And the ways that it did felt both forced and commercialized.

(parenthetically, because I'm flashing on it now, and will forget later, Breevort's interview says Sue is returning to Reed in that scene, and I TOTALLY read it as "Sue came back to get her things to go for good")

What's funny is the Joe Quesada text piece I liked so very much in CW #1 ("new Marvel reader? Dude, you totally need to read such AND such, they rock!"), just gave me the raging skeevies as the "last pages" of CW #7 ("We like money, please buy these other 47 things!!!!")

So, look, really, for the IDEA of "Civil War", and for the storytelling possibilities (if not actualities!!), I kind of have to give "Civil War" AT LEAST an OK, and maybe possibly even a GOOD. There's not a person amongst you who reads regular mainstream interconnected comics who doesn't really wish for change and forward movement in in the "universe". That's precisely why we love those universes, after all!

Even us black-hearted grinches here at the SAVAGE CRITIC have to admit that the Possibilities of a "Civil War" is, in fact, exactly and precisely what we want. OF COURSE it is.

And we cry because the execution lets us down.

Before I get into CW #7 specifically, let me do some of my purported "retail intelligence", and let me try to explain my big fear in the next six months.

I have this really deep fear that "post-CW" Marvel is going to pan out to be "One Year Later", where there's an initial burst of sampling, but then the audience wanders away if its not WOWED. The good thing is that, unlike OYL, we have FOC on Marvel books, so exposure is really only limited to 1, maybe 2 issues max. But I have to tell you (after reading CW #7) feeling the let-down (as a reader) that there's no there, there, I'm inclined (as a retailer) to assume the worst. My initials are, I think, leaning high, but this is mostly still from fear over Marvel's (former) no re-order policy.

They've never stated it out loud, but, yeah, Marvel DOES overprint these days -- you can reorder CW #3-6 from them, even today. But because they're far from the "open taps" of DC (Dig it, EACH AND EVERY [42 right now] issue of 52 is inprint and in-stock from DC right now), we've still got the Battered Wife thing going on where we've been trained to order on the side of caution. Like, how, say, I can't reorder NEW AVENGERS ILLUMINATI #1 because Marvel has none. Despite #2 coming out on Wednesday.

So, CW #7 itself.

Obviously, it lets us down with a conclusion that's not a conclusion. "Cap gives up, and here's the trailers for our next year" isn't an ending. But here's some specific questions:

Am I supposed to believe that the Super Soldier of WW2 doesn't know what Acceptable Losses are?

Who is Peter Parker actually on the run from? He's a fully Registered super-hero, right? How can he possibly be with the (expressly) anti-registration (new) Avengers.

With all 50 states covered by super-teams, what possible mission can the (mighty) Avengers have? Global operations? Atlantis, Wakanda, Latveria, almost certainly umpty umpty others are against America's reaction.

Honestly, where's the American dissent to civil liberty abrogations? I kinda feel like "Civil War" is Fox, and we never get to see what CNN, let alone an actual liberal perspective. The series portrays the general populace as lock-step with fascism.

Right, so, 50 teams for 50 states. What are 32 of them going to be doing day-to-day? Most of the major villains are now Thunderbolts. Almost, how can there be crime? Is thre anyone left in the MU TO strive against?

Ugh, it's 11:30, I need to end this, but sure, CW #7 was bad, probably up (well, down) to AWFUL; but the concept was good, damn it.

Just what I always wanted: Graeme reads Civil War #7 and gets depressed.

Here's the worrying thing about CIVIL WAR #7: The possibility that this really was the best that they could come up with. The problem with the issue isn't that it's bad - in a world where Spider-Man's loving can give her cancer, "bad" has almost been redefined, after all - but that it's so amazingly underwhelming. There are no surprises, no shocks, no nothing; it's as if even the creators lost interest in the book by this point and were just going through the motions to complete their obligations. You get the "big fight" you would expect, the one character realizing that maybe they've gone too far, and then the extended close that really pushes the idea that everything has changed. Except that it doesn't feel as if anything has changed at all. There's nothing revolutionary or new or changed about this book at all, and the end of the issue doesn't carry any extra weight that such a conclusion (or even a beginning, as Tony Stark says) should have; there's no release of tension, perhaps because there wasn't really any tension to begin with. If it wasn't for the fact that I knew how many issues were in the series, I wouldn't be that surprised to see Civil War #8 on the stands next month - Well, okay, three months from now - if only because not only has nothing been resolved, but the final issue actually brings up new things to be unresolved in order to make you want to buy the books that Joe Quesada pushes in his column at the end of the issue. Not that I expected anything different, but... I don't know. Maybe I was hopeful? Stupid? Both?

It's Ass, as you'd expect, but not in an entertaining way. It hits exactly the points you knew it would, including Mark Millar's five-year-old sense of what "cool" is, as filtered through his mid-30s brain (Hercules does the "I knew Jack Kennedy" speech? Who read that and thought that it was (a) in any way in character, or (b) not a really shitty idea that doesn't deserve a page and a half? Other than those who found it offensive, of course). Captain America's surrendering doesn't really make any sense when you think about it - "My God! This fight has caused some property damage... I've never thought about that before, ever! I have to give up!" - and cutting from that to weeks later looks entirely like the dodge it is: What happened to everyone else who was fighting at that point? Did they just stop fighting? It's not explained at all, even in the embarrassing Mr.-Fantastic's-Love-Letter-To-His-Wife scene that follows. Did the anti-reg heroes just give up (with the exception of the New Avengers, who somehow escaped and went back underground, but we don't know how)? And if they did, what the fuck is that? "Hey, Cap's quit. This isn't cool anymore. We give up." I don't think that anyone at Marvel really knows, or cares. The ending happens purely because it was time for the series to finish, as opposed to... well, any other reason at all. Not that it's really an ending of course, but what could be more fitting for a series that wasn't really a story but a collection of scenes to set-up other comics?

Never was the "And this is a new comic we're doing!" theme of the series more obvious than in that horrific closing montage that accompanied Reed's equally horrific letter to Sue ("I cried for exactly ninety-three minutes"? I'm sorry, Mark, but that's just bad writing, even if you ignore the "You've never (a) read any Fantastic Four comics ever, or (b) met another human being" things). Here's a hint how to make this kind of thing more subtle in future, Marvel: Closing montages generally work better when they have some thematic connection to the story you're closing, are not full of characters who have never appeared in the story previously ("Some heroes have moved to Canada, to star in our new Omega Flight book. I know that none of these heroes were in Civil War, but look. We have a new Omega Flight book, Sue. Come back to me and we can read it together."), and if they, you know, aren't being used as a rushed attempt at exposition to tell you how DARING and NEW and DIFFERENT Marvel comics will be from now on. That sequence also contains some of the most self-congratulatory writing ever seen, when Millar speaking as Reed complains about how hard it has been to recreate the superhero dynamic (even though he, well, hasn't) and nobody knows the trouble he's seen, just deepening the weird navel-gazing quality of mainstream Marvel these days. I'd put my traditional "Where are the editors?" question here, but they're over at Newsarama saying things like "[A]t the end of the day, Civil War is a story, and a story about some very specific ideas, so the ending needed to revolve around those ideas and the two heroes—Cap and Iron Man—who had come to represent the dueling ideologies. But I can write the reviews right now: 'That’s it? All that hype for nothing? Nobody died??!!' I know where everything is going down the line, though, so I’ve got a bit more excitement for it than perhaps the average reader does right this second."

Dear Tom Brevoort, I really like you and all, but if you really thought that this issue resolved an ideological conflict, you are high and need to calm down. Also, I think you'll find that a lot of fan complaints about this issue are based in more than just "No-body died??!!" Just sayin' that you might want to not get lost in Strawmanargumentville. Love, Graeme.

In the end, I think it's fair that I (like many others) went into this with lowered expectations and yet somehow still found myself disappointed. But it's still going to massively outsell everything else this month - and maybe this year - so really, what does my opinion matter?

The Intervention: Jeff's Review of the 1/21/07 Comics.

You know the deal. Your friend calls you, makes plans to meet them at a bar for a few drinks and, when you show up, you realize that not only did they get to the bar early and begin drinking without you, they showed up five hours early. Now, your friend keeps making out with the stranger next to them (who is toothless and looks like Curly Joe Besser in a platinum wig) and, after trying to start a fight with you when you point out they have what you think might be vomit in their hair, you realize your friend has a problem. And if you're lucky you can make your friend realize it too, before they drive away everyone who cares about them. Obviously, in this case, I'm talking about Marvel Comics and their releases this week. But I think I'm getting a little ahead of myself... Read on and you'll see what I mean.

Oh, and there are spoilers and stuff, so don't read if you don't want 'em...

52 WEEK #38: Kind of a time-waster, in some ways. I think it's already well-established that Nanda Parabat pops up just when you can't go any farther and are right on the edge of collapse, so maybe we could have just opened with that? Also, what fun is the Crime Bible if they've got the same stuff as the regular bible, but with just slightly more absurd details? Give me the the Four Second-Story Men of the Apocalypse any day!

Ooo, and that plea by Eddie Berganza to read Supergirl was uncomfortable, wasn't it? "We're so concerned about making this a book for women, I even asked my assistant--who's a woman--for advice!" And "We wanted Supergirl to be more like a real girl and have a little more weight on her bones!" (Does the tits and ass really count as "bones"?) Sadly the subtext--"ladies, we failed to successfully pander to men, so we're ready to try pandering to you!"--is pretty apparent and sorta amusing in a depressing kind of way.OK.

CIVIL WAR THE RETURN: There's a few things in Civil War--Nitro being part of the instigating event, the prison's location in the Negative Zone--that tie in nicely with the original Captain Marvel (who, to make things more confusing, isn't the original Captain Marvel, but is Marvel's original Captain Marvel) so it seems like this was planned from the start of the event. But, if that's the case, why is "The Return" both unbearably lame and done with so little cognizance of the actual character? I'm not even a big Captain Marvel fan and I found enormous continuity flaws with this (they show Captain Marvel putting on his Nega-Bands, but the dude wasn't able to take 'em off; also, where the hell is Rick Jones? Back in the past, on fire, clanging on his bands, screaming "Why? Why aren't they working??"). If you're gonna bring a character back, shouldn't you bother to at least read the Marvel Handbook entry on him? Plus, why make him the warden of the prison? "We need someone to sign guards' request for overtime, Mar-Vell, and you're the only one we can trust!" Slapdash and hackish, but, to be fair, should I really be surprised when Paul Jenkins can't even do justice to a character he's created? That Sentry story was arguably even worse. This was a really ASS book, and suggests Marvel has already dealt their good shit with regards to the Civil War--it's all rat poison and baby laxative from here on out.

CONNOR HAWKE DRAGONS BLOOD #3: I didn't bother with the first few issues, but probably because they didn't show Connor making out with his smoking-hot Ninja stepmom on the cover. Hopefully, this mini will do the trick and we don't have to read Chuck Dixon's Connor Hawke: The Dragon's Totally Straight, Okay? where Connor really has to overcompensate. OK.

CRIMINAL #4: VERY GOOD stuff, although, you know, some quibblage. Would Leo really leave Greta the recovering addict with access to tons of high grade junk right after he buries his mentor with whom he's made the same mistake? Apparently he would, and I bet it's essential to the "coward" nature Brubaker is observing, but...I dunno. As I said, quibblage. Well worth your time and coin, though.

DAMNED #4: This is also highly GOOD crime stuff which I've been enjoying. I'm not entirely sure on the cosmology--obviously, the creators don't want me to get all the angles yet, but the hardest part about writing magic and fantasy stories is making the reader feel like they know enough of the "rules" to think they're being treated honestly. I suspect we won't know if it all hangs together until the final issue, but I have high hopes.

DOCTOR STRANGE OATH #4: What with all the puns, it's thisssss close to being a high camp self-parody of near Joel ("Ice to meet you, Batman!") Schumacherian proportions, but compared to nearly every other book Marvel put out this week, it's practically Watchmen. OK, is what it is, and probably about as good as Dr. Strange is gonna get anytime soon.

ETERNALS #6: You know, San Francisco is a very difficult town to convey visually, which is why almost everyone falls back on Golden Gate Bridge/Transamerica Pyramid/Gate of Chinatown imagery, but jeez. Thanks to John Romita Jr's apparent disdain for photo-reference (or detail), an average episode of Full House feels more convincingly San Franciscan than this miniseries. Sadly, that's not the worst of its problems, as top-name talent Neil Gaiman sheepishly drags his cosmic superhero tale through its paces with all the verve of a hungover dad at Disneyland. Parts are definitely charming, and Gaiman is one of the few guys who bothers with the idea that superheroes can (and perhaps should) be super-compassionate, but barring some ultra-mega-cosmic finale in the last issue, I kinda feel like an idiot for spending so much buck on so little bang. EH.

FLASH THE FASTEST MAN ALIVE #8: After eight issues, the creative team has clawed all the way up to an EH rating. Flash goes to Vegas, gets laid, and traps an intangible electrical being behind him on his slipstream. The End. New scripter Marc Guggenheim starts in next issue and I wish him all the best because this book is nine kinds of screwed, already.

HELMET OF FATE IBIS THE INVINCIBLE #1: So, I guess this Helmet of Fate thing is, like, DC's old First Issue Special but with Fate's helmet as a joined linking device? As Brian points out, this'll probably do little more than hurt the upcoming Dr. Fate series and that's a bummer because I thought this wasn't a bad little book--lovely art by Phil Winslade and Tad Williams manages to cover in 20 pages what it took Gaiman 6 issues--if a little glib and unnecessary. But as I grow nostalgic in my dotage, I think I prefer the "let's throw shit at the wall and see what sticks" trademark retention to "hmmm, who can we rape and unmask now?" crossover events. Like I said, kinda GOOD.

HEROES FOR HIRE #6: I can't fully hate any book that has both the Headmen and a Doombot trying very hard not to bond with its precocious kid savior, but it didn't really fry my burger, either. Between this, Dr. Strange: The Oath, Punisher: War Journal and (to a much lesser extent) X-Factor, there's a lot of comedic shtick, as if people writing for Marvel are just trying to keep themselves amused for as long as the checks clear, and hoping that enough old-school shout-outs will keep the audience from noticing how embarrassed the creators are to be workiing on the material. Considering the creators have some talent to them, and it's not quite as bad as the cynically serious-faced money-grab Millar and Jenkins spend more and more of their time at, it's struck me as the lesser of two evils up to now. So, OK, kinda, but Marvel, what's that in your hair, dude?

MOON KNIGHT #7: Moves like a greyhound doped up on horse tranquilizers--slow and kinda stupid (apparently every hero in the Marvel Universe is okay with murder and slaughter when the plot requires them to be (or until the plot requires them not to be)). And if this really got delayed because of Civil War, I'd really like to know why since it's nothing but the most generic of tie-ins. Still, the creative team here has created a superhero who continues creeps the fuck out of me in a way that's neither out of line with the character nor particularly common in the marketplace these days. So, OK, even though I guess it's gonna be draggy-ass all the way through this team's run.

PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL #3: Maybe Fraction is just making the best of the hand he's been dealt, but this was so badly paced, I really have to wonder--The Punisher stumbles out of his interminable Civil War scene (complete with what I assume is an intentional paradox of a flashback) and ends up in an, exactly? One scene ends with crazy scientist guy in an elevator and the next starts with him and Frank in the armory... it's as if an entire scene in the middle dropped out (I actually flipped through the pages twice to see if I'd missed something). The first point I can kind of forgive (the scientist has a doo-whatsit pinned on Frank with which he can track him down) but the second is such a fumble of basic pacing, I was kind of mystified.

Also? Establishing shots? They're not just for hacks. Really.

So between all that and the plot-hammering, and the OOC stuff, is it enough to have real pretty art and the re-appearance of the Satan's Claw? I wish it was, but really, this was AWFUL, and I'm really, really hoping that's just a fluke.

ROBIN #158: Brought back those fond days of yesteryear, when two unlikely heroes teamed up and fought an even more unlikely villain, and yet you could read it and pretty much believe it because the creators showed a certain respect and affection for the characters. It wasn't showstopping, even with such lovely art, but it was GOOD.

SILENT WAR #1: Sorry, Marvel: I have successfully made my saving throw against your pretty looking unlikely miniseries. I just couldn't buy The Fantastic Four--humanity's first contact with The Inhumans, mind you--being told by the government to fuck off and being okay with that. I'm starting to feel like Helen Lovejoy from The Simpsons: "Won't somebody please think of the characters?" EH.

SUPERGIRL AND THE LEGION OF SUPER HEROES #26: Sweet art, a strong story, and even a sense of peril in a story where three of the superheroes have Superman level powers--which, if you think about it, is a pretty hard trick to pull off. GOOD, although there's really no way to do an LSH book without it being crufty as hell, is there?

TRUE STORY SWEAR TO GOD #3: A strong little issue, even if the ending might be just a little bit too pat. GOOD stuff, though, and one of those books I'm always glad to see on the stands.

WOLVERINE #50: The final sign that Marvel might need help is this horribly hacky over-priced issue. Not only is it bad enough that an artist like Simone Bianchi is wasted on this dreck (although, to be honest, he's not that great here. Does "Wolverine" mean "make the fight scenes too dark and show a bunch of knees and elbows flying out at the reader" in Italian or someething?), not only is Jeph Loeb at his most scattershot "I'm having a flashback--or a dream! That's it, a dream of a flashback!--and it inspires me to start a fight--or maybe it doesn't! Yeah, maybe I'm really upset about this flashback, instead! Or maybe not!" But we don't even get a full story (yes, I know that should be in quotes, and yes I know I'm echoing Hibbs' earlier "and such small portions!" complaint) for our $3.99. Instead, we're expected to underwrite Loeb's fellating of former boss Damon Lindelof in the form of a "tribute" to Len Wein and Herb Trimpe's first appearance of Wolverine (where Wolverine says Wein's dialogue and thinks, "Like I'd ever say crap like that if I wasn't told to," and "those whiskers on the costume were humiliating and I begged Mac to take 'em off," which, as tributes go, lacks a certain something) that suddenly morphs into the infamous double-page spread of Ultimate Wolverine Versus Hulk for no reason. I think it's meant to be cute, but the unintended message--"I can suppress my gag reflex if you can get me paying work"--is really off-putting. And that's why Marvel needs an intervention: it's not just that Wolverine #50, like Civil War: The Return, is an ASS comic, it's that it's an ASS comic that Marvel presents like the most amazing comic you're going to read all month and really seems to believe it. We're all used to hyperbole from Marvel with the books it publishes but there's a wild-eyed desperation to the shit Marvel is putting out on the market--"Isn't this girl awesome? Show him your teeth, honey!"--that makes me deeply, deeply afraid and, obviously, cranky. Blow Damon Lindelof on your own time, Loeb!

PICK OF THE WEEK: CRIMINAL #4. Go get it now.


TRADE PICK: Just this week, I was rounding up a bunch of books on my shelf that I'd read and realized I was never going to read, and the first two Penny-Arcade volumes were in that round-up. I'd enjoyed them, to be sure, but was I really going to re-read them? So of course, along comes PENNY ARCADE VOL 3 WARSUN PROPHECIES and I tore halfway through that thing yesterday afternoon. I'm sure it's not for everyone, but Tycho's prose style is utter fucking catnip for me.

And, hey, this is a trifecta right here. Howzabout that? Please read my savagely critical colleagues below if you haven't already, and lemme know your thoughts in the funny little comments box when you can.

It's not you, it's... No, you're right, it's you: Graeme's letter writing to the book of 1/24.

Dear Marvel, I believe that the acronym that the kids today would use today to describe my feelings about your much-hyped one-shot addition to the whole Civil War "event", CIVIL WAR: THE RETURN, would be - if you will - "WTF?". I have read your comic in question multiple times by this point, admittedly because the first time I read it, I was kind of stunned by it. I read it, and my mind kind of locked up. And not in a good way, Marvel. Not in a good way.

Here's my thing, Marvel: I don't understand what you're doing. I don't get why you're bringing this particular character back, or why you're bringing this particular character back in this particular way. If this were not really a letter that I'm writing to you, but instead a post for an online review blog, I would feel compelled to tell anyone who really cared that it's time for a Spoiler Warning right now, so that we could talk openly, Marvel. I feel that we should talk openly, don't you? Good. So, Marvel, here it is. I don't care about Captain Marvel. And I don't really think that anyone else really does, either.

I mean, seriously. When was the last time that anyone was screaming for the revival of Captain Marvel? Or, for that matter, that anyone really talked about Captain Marvel outside of the context of the fact that he died? That's been the entire value of the character, for the last twenty-odd years - That he was dead, that he was staying dead, and that he died in mundane circumstances that brought a gravity and realism to the Marvel Universe in a way that exemplified the whole "world outside your window" Marvel thing in a way that had never really been done before with one of the main characters before - much in the same way that Barry Allen has been much more worthwhile as a sacrificial Crisis lamb over at DC. So, you know, bringing him back for no immediately apparent reason and in such a dumb, pointless manner (Never mind a manner that was done last week in 52, and in a much more fitting manner, which has really got to hurt, especially considering Steve Wacker, editor of this book, was also editor on 52 when that storyline started... Hey... wait... Does that mean that this could possibly be a more deliberate reference to the Booster thing...? And, now that I've mentioned Barry Allen, dude! This is exactly the way they always have Barry guest-star to be the Silver Age icon in Flash or Green Lantern or whatever! And it's cheesy even then, even when it's very clearly temporary!)... I don't get it. What's the point?

It hasn't been a good couple of years for death in the Marvel Universe, let's face it. Bucky is back, Colossus is back, hell, even (an) Uncle Ben is back, so perhaps this is some kind of weird post-modern self-commentary thing. Are you trying to make some kind of point about the revolving door, worthless nature of "death" in ongoing superhero narratives, Marvel? Is the fact that Captain Marvel returns to us not as the character that he was before, but instead as a buff depressed Emo kid who wants to listen to Evanescence who just happens, is that meant to represent the insecure overly emotional loner that each comic reader is, and... Oh, no, wait, never mind. I forgot, Emo is in at Marvel again. Especially in Paul Jenkins books, where he's overloading on the "To be a hero, I must feel pain" thing (Sentry: "To be a hero, I must be schizophrenic and deal with the fact that I could accidentally destroy the world!" Penance: "To be a hero, I must pierce myself with spikes!" Captain Marvel: "To be a hero, I must use my super-bracelets that give me special mutated cancer!"). Never mind. Maybe I should just go and get some eyeliner or something so that you'll be my friend again.

Don't get me wrong, though, Marvel. The Captain Marvel story, as shitty as it is - and boy, am I glad to know that he's going to be seen in an all-new Captain Marvel #1 real soon! - still wasn't the worst thing about the book. I love that you keep giving work to Paul Jenkins, because who else could make the second story in a oneshot, a story that's been advertised by the editor of changing the entire status quo of the character and making the new Mighty Avengers series possible in the first place, such a non-event. Any hack could've made that half of the book dull, but only Paul could've made it center around a decision that most readers of Civil War thought that he'd made months ago. I mean, how is there any dramatic tension in wondering if the Sentry is going to register with the Superhuman McGuffin Generic Political Act of 2006 - 2007 when we've all already seen him team up with Iron Man and fight people who don't want to register for the last couple of months? There's something to that kind of thing, Marvel - Call it balls, call it gusto, hell, call it laziness that betrays a disdain for the fans who have shelled out money for this bullshit - that's just impossible to ignore.

So, yeah. I don't know what to tell you, Marvel. I was kind of impressed that you'd managed to get some kind of fan expectation about this obviously-last-minute-addition-to-the-schedule oneshot, especially considering the general apathy that's settled into "fandom" about Civil War in general, and to see the book itself be something so breathtakingly worthless and naval-gazingly, cringeworthingly Ass... It kind of brings a lump to my throat.

Oh, no, wait. That's bile. Sorry. Very easy to get the two confused.

Best to the kids. See you this summer!

Love, Graeme


Dear Internet,

I'm sorry that I don't have time to write anymore reviews this week - especially considering that Wolverine #50 proved once and for all that, as nice a stylist as Simone Bianchi is, a Wolverine comic that has art that looks like Heavy Metal and a script that reads like it's been produced by a computer fed with Mark Millar and Chris Claremont comics for years on end is still pretty Crap - but it's been an endless fucker of a week - The one highlight of which was the "She's Such A Geek" reading last night at City Lights, headed up by Charlie Anders and Annalee Newitz (who were both very nice to meet, even if I was sick and potentially just talking shit endlessly because I was nervous. If so, I'm sorry, the two of you. And also sorry to Devin Grayson, who was one of the authors doing the reading, and whom I probably bored to tears even though she hid it very well). For those of you who are free next Thursday night and in San Francisco, they're doing another reading at Modern Times on Valencia, and if it's anything as good as last night's, is highly highly recommended - and the Savage Critic illness curse has struck again, so I'm on reduced Criticing for a week. If you want non-reviews, though: PICK OF THE WEEK is probably Criminal #4, PICK OF THE WEAK is easily Civil War: The Return, and TRADE OF THE WEEK is Bryan Lee O'Malley's Lost At Sea, which I finally read this week after months of meaning to do so.

Okay, now I'm going to finish preparing the house for the arrival of my mother-in-law, and also to make a Theraflu and feel sorry for myself.

What did the rest of you read this week?

Hibbs has an hour & talks about 1/21 books.

I totally don't have time for doing reviews.... like ever, which is why I hardly ever post, but here I find myself with about an hour and I don't feel like doing any REAL work (or playing a brief bit of MARVEL: ULTIMATE ALLIANCE -- jeez, I suck hard at "traditional" video games), so let's try to pretend that I post content to this blog, too -- shall we? 52 WEEK #38: A downer of an issue after the last page of last week (I'd probably be happy if the last 14 weeks were ALL about the yellow aliens, to be honest), but at least it does seem like some of the threads are starting to come together. This issue is at least OK. I think I'd rather comment on the "DC Nation" page, and Eddie Berganza's plea for women to pick up SUPERGIRL.

I'm kinda disturbed by the "We want her to be a 'real' teenage girl" when the CONTENT is "Act like Paris Hilton, loath yourself, and try to kill your male role model", because all of that, to me, makes it sound like no one in the DC offices has ever MET a "real" teenage girl. This kind of bothers me even more in the context of DC cancelling THE BOYS, resumably for content, because I think garbage like the current SUPERGIRL comic is far (FAR!) more harmful to the souls of people, or to the "mythic value" of the superhero genre, than Garth & Darick's dirty little minds.

Y'know, even IF "real girls" ARE like that (and I think most aren't), maybe JUST MAYBE its because of messages in the media that encourage those kinds of feelings/behavior. And comics ARE part of the media. I certainly wouldn't give this highly sexualized version (look at the skirt! Look at her body proportions!) of Supergirl to a young girl precisely because its the wrong kind of role model. It's pretty shameful stuff, if you ask me.

CIVIL WAR THE RETURN: ....the fuck? Well, I think we have our first contender for The Very Worst Comic of the 21st Century. What a horrific cluserfuck this is. It's not only totally out of left field to have Captain Marvel be the warden of the Civil War prison, but its hamfistedly done at that with exactly the kind of awkward "DC plot" that Marvel usually strenously avoids. It's not even so much a "return" as much as "Oh, look he's been standing here for a while" And, then, as the old joke goes "...and such small portions, too!" The Sentry story just ate up pages that could have been summarized in 2 panels, max, but it didn't even feel "Sentry-like". Man, I am so glad I didn't take a significant position on this one -- this dog isn't going to hunt. It's worse than CRAP -- it's ASS.

CRIMINAL #4: This, on the other hand is EXCELLENT in all ways, shapes and forms. I have nothing more meaningful to say than that, but I wanted to have at least one great comic in this week's pile.

ETERNALS #6: I absolutely have to criticize this for the artistic depiction of San Francisco, which has been an ongoing problem (again, from ground level, you simply can't see the Golden Gate Bridge from Golden Gate Park), but reaches new heights here as we pull back for the wide shots, and it appears the only reference used was maybe a geologic survey map.

Golden Gate Park is yes, about 50 blocks long, but it is only about 6 blocks wide, and on either side of the park is houses. Lots and lots and lots of houses. The way these scenes are drawn, there'd be horrific casualties, in the thousands, if not tens of thousands, with billions of dollars of property damage.

Ignoring that, the story was fine, if a little awkward from the inclusion of the Civil War elements, but I just couldn't get past the staging at all. AWFUL.

FABLES #57: Neat, Mike Allred draws this issue. Solid issue otherwise, too. GOOD.

HELMET OF FATE IBIS THE INVINCIBLE #1: This issue, in and of itself, is fine -- introducing a new Ibis, who probably won't appear in another DC comic for a year, but, unfortunately, making him way too much like Captain Marvel in doing so. The actual execution is really pretty decent, I might even give it a low GOOD, but this is an obvious go-nowhere character introduction that also doesn't really move the "Dr. Fate" part of the plotline forward. All in all, this is bound to hurt the introduction of the DR. FATE monthly book upcoming -- you'd have thought that DC would have learned from the virtually identical marketing mistake made on POWER COMPANY.

PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL #3 CW: Wow, really disliked this issue. Like virulently hated it. Everyone seems totally out of character, or moving to the dictates of the Plothammer. (yeah, as if Luke Cage would let Castle walk with a "he won't forget a punch from Captain America anytime soon!" after he just murdered two guys in front of them). The art is really lovely though, which saves it by giving it an AWFUL.

WOLVERINE #50: I was kind of surprised that the story ended where it did, given this was the double sized issue, and the backup was (while also fun to look at), basically fluffy filler. So, basically, eye candy, no meat. I'm going to go with OK, but feel free to raise that if you're good with just eye candy.

So, I think the PICK OF THE WEEK should be obvious -- CRIMINAL #4 was a fine piece of work, with a lot of solid backmatter, too! I just wish #1 had gone back to press is all...

PICK OF THE WEAK should also be obvious -- CIVIL WAR THE RETURN, which shouldn't have, and isn't really.

For TP/BOOK OF THE WEEK, I think I'm going to go with two left field choices, which your LCS probably doesn't even have anyway. Either the COMPLETE NEMESIS THE WARLOCK BK 1, with the early eyeball-bleeding work of Kev O'Neill, or Paul Chadwick's underlooked WORLD BELOW TP, which I remember as being seriously strange, and gorgeous to look at at the same time.

That's what I got in my hour -- what did you think this week?


I don't want to live in a War that's got no end in our time: Graeme's reviews of the 1/10 books.

First of two sets of reviews this weekend - I got sent a couple of previews that I want to write about tomorrow, but right now, let's deal with the books that actually appeared in stores this week, shall we? 52 WEEK THIRTY-SIX: This is a really good issue to show what works and what doesn't about the whole series. The big action scene that ends with the death of a beloved character? It just doesn't work. The execution is underwhelming; rushed, with art that just doesn't sell the action at all (partially, interestingly enough, because of the coloring, I think. Imagine the same artwork in darker colors) and a weird lack of sincerity - It feels as if the creators decided that they probably needed a fight scene, but couldn't really bring themselves to care about it that much. But just a few pages later, when it's dealing with the ongoing mysteries of Rip Hunter (making his first appearance in the book, only half a year after first being mentioned), Supernova and Skeets and dealing with easter eggs for longtime DC fans, it's really enjoyable. Is that proof that the book is just more cerebral than action-based, or midway exhaustion kicking in for the writers? Okay.

BLADE #5: What with the cover having not only the "Casualties of War" banner, but also a caption saying "A Civil War tie-in featuring Wolverine", you kind of get the feeling that this is a book that really wants you to know that it ties into Civil War. Problem is, it doesn't. Oh, sure, there's a McGuffin that SHIELD recruits Blade to capture Wolverine for some reason or another, but ultimately, it doesn't really matter. This is pretty much a fill-in issue, and a really old-fashioned one at that, going with the once-familiar idea that two heroes had met in the past before either of them were heroes. As much as it's a Red Skies book in terms of Civil War importance, it's still nostalgically enjoyable, Good, and feels like good Chris Claremont in a strange way.

CIVIL WAR #6: This may be somewhat blasphemous, but does anyone really care anymore? The announcement that issue 7 will ship three weeks later than the last ship date (which was two weeks later than the ship date that it was originally announced for, which was two months earlier) elicited little more than shrugs and bemusement from all but the most hardcore Marvel zombies, and the online news cycle has already moved on to who the New Avengers are, post-CW. Somehow, this series already feels as if it should be over already, that it's outstayed its welcome, which can't be a good thing for Marvel. Part of that may be because this series doesn't really have a plot, as such; I'm sure I've complained before about the fact that this is a book that's all about showing "shocking" events with no context, which completely undercuts any and all dramatic tension, rendering the cliffhanger ending of this book kind of meaningless: There's about to be a big fight, but as a reader I don't feel as if it's "the final battle" no matter how many times I'm told that it is by the characters (who're showing a really unusual self-awareness by referring to this as their "finale", bringing me out of the story as I read it), because it doesn't feel any different from the big fight in #3-4. I don't believe that the stakes have been raised, because nothing that I've read has actually given me that impression. Crap.

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #2: I dread to think what people who aren't really familiar with DC continuity would make of this book, which seems to be entirely based around the books that Geoff Johns read in the mid-80s - the Detroit League and Levitz Legion get the somewhat unexpected shout-outs in this issue - while marrying 1990s-style plotting with 1980s-style dialogue. Me, I am familiar with DC continuity, so I kind of enjoyed it, even the new Nazi supervillains who are kind of ridiculous, but it just seemed like the most insular superhero book imaginable. Okay.

POLYGLOT AND SPLEEN #1: I admit it, I picked this up because of the title and the advertisements on the back: "The Romanti-Goth A to Z Coloring Book is an alphabetical trip through the aesthetic world of our favorite Victorian house dwelling," reads one, while the other tells us that "There's a huge difference between a corset and a SINched corset". Who knew? Those ads give you a good idea of what the comic itself is like: Overly romantic and melodramatic in the most Goth-y (as opposed to Gothic, if you see the difference) way, with narration like "At times, I saw through the eyes of a mother, a brother, a lover. Had I truly swapped with another?" and art that makes Emily The Strange look detailed. Pretty Crap for me, but I'm at least ten years outside of the target audience, I think.

SQUADRON SUPREME: HYPERION VS. NIGHTHAWK #1: It's a strange world where "Well, that wasn't nearly as offensive as I was expecting" is a compliment. But that's more or less the best that you're going to get out of me for this book, that takes Marvel's Ultimate Superman and Ultimate Batman to Darfur for an adventure that takes place against a backdrop of real life genocide. The whole concept still strikes me as tasteless, but the execution avoided any obvious "With our powers, we can save the world!" well-meaning yet meaningless posturing, and writer Marc Guggenheim's final page text piece (where he admits, "it's not the kind of thing that you're supposed to write escapist fiction about," before going on to explain why he made the choice to) goes someway towards lessening the nasty taste in my metaphorical mouth. It's still only Eh for me - I just can't get into this "gritty" Squadron Supreme - but that almost feels like a win, compared to what I was expecting.

THUNDERBOLTS #110: Warren Ellis goes broad in his first issue of Marvel's now-with-more-Suicide-Squad villain book (Speaking of which, is anyone else as excited as I am about the announcement that DC is doing a new Suicide Squad series with John Ostrander?); the good guy is ridiculously "good", the main characters are charismatic but without morals (Something that's even in the dialogue, in case readers miss it: "You, on the other hand, have neither morals nor ethics") and there are jabs at America's news media. Ellis is clearly slumming it, but you get the idea that he's enjoying himself doing so, especially with the exceptionally obvious way that he's positioning the Thunderbolts in the Marvel media as the old Gerry Anderson "Thunderbirds" series - Tracy Island becomes Thunderbolts Mountain, complete with the scenery rolling back to let vehicles launch, and he's even as unsubtle as to include the slogan "Thunderbolts are go!" F.A.B., Warren. I can't tell if that shows contempt for the work, the audience, or just a writer who's wondering how much he can get away with on what his publisher clearly considers a much more important franchise than he does. For all the unoriginality, however, it's very readable, and I'm sure that the Marvel fans that this is aimed at will eat it up and declare it revolutionary. Eh for me, though.

WELCOME TO TRANQUILITY #2: I was surprised, upon checking, to see that this wasn't a creator-owned book. It feels like one, for some reason, in the same way that it also feels like a twisted version of Alan Moore's ABC line from a few years back, especially in the opening that switches formats to suggest different media two times before actually starting "the story". Moore's ABC isn't the only thing that this reminded me of, though; it's also similar in the treatment of superheroes and styles of superhero comics to The Intimates, Joe Casey's sadly-forgotten series of a few years back. None of this is to slight Gail Simone, because this is clearly her story - there's something to this that feels like the snark and sex from Birds of Prey given freer reign, perhaps because the main character's narration is very close to Black Canary's from that book - but it's a book very aware of its predecessors as well, if that makes sense. I'm still not sold on Neil Googe's art, entirely, but there are parts where he's spot on as often as there are where his style overrides the content. It's not entirely successful, yet, but nonetheless it's probably the most interesting of the books released this week. Good.

PICK OF THE WEEK is Welcome to Tranquility, because it's ambitious and it's different, and that's more than can be said for a lot of superhero books these days, let's face it. PICK OF THE WEAK is Civil War, because with each new issue, it becomes more clear that there's not really any there there. TRADE OF THE WEEK has me torn; of the books that came out this week, I know that SHOWCASE PRESENTS JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA VOL. 2 will be awesome even though I haven't read it, but I'm still working my way through the ESSENTIAL FANTASTIC FOURs - I'm midway through volume 4 now - and those really are some amazingly good comics, daring in way that almost all superhero comics have forgotten to be.

Tomorrow: Dynamo 5 and First Moon. But for now, what did the rest of you think of this week?

CIVIL WAR #6 massively allocated on West Coast

LA's invoicing just went up, and it looks like EVERY West Coast retailer is getting massively allocated (to the tune of 10-15% -- I ordered 100 copies, and am recieving 14) on CIVIL WAR #6 this week. We're ASSUMING it's like last week's problem with the DCs, and they didn't, y'know, burn up in a fiery traffic accident or something, but we don't actually know because, as is normal, we found out by looking at our invoices, and not because anyone at Diamond, y'know, told us.

I'll have the shipping list up on tomorrow (or probably Monday), but in the meantime I want your input of how to deal with this operationally.

As I see it, I have 3 options: 1) Fill the subs to the degree that I can. We have (I think) 42 preorders for CIVIL WAR #6, and we're getting 14 copies. I can possibly FIFO the order with which people signed up, or I can give them in the order that people arrive, or I can do what I did with JUSTICE #9 last week and just fill in alpha-order (skipping the staff, skipping anyone w/o current paperwork, and anyone with a week+ of holds on file). Ken Valentin did not like this method last week.

2) Skip the subs entirely, and just make it first-come/first-served to the first 14 people who walk in the door. However, subscribers have signed a legal binding contract to purchase the book from me, many as much as 19 weeks in advance (CW #6 is very late), so this is a crummy plan in terms of risk/reward.

3) Say "fuck it" and just not sell ANYONE the book until I can sell it to EVERYONE. The problem with this concept is that we have 3 other stores in a mile of us. 6 in 2 miles. Now, everyone in the City of San Francisco will be out by, say, 1 PM, and, in a scenerio #2, I can only help 14 people any way, but I'm not so sure that I want to tell the first 2 hours of New Comics Day trade (they being the hardcorest of the hardcore) to go to another store.

What do you think?

Additionally, I want to strongly urge all Blog Critics reading this to please NOT review CIVIL WAR #6 for a week -- at least 1/3 of the country isn't going to be able to read it this week (and all of Australia... they're served from the LA warehouse), and saying anything that could be remotely read as a spoiler is really just Dirty Pool.