Busiek Red - Busiek Blue

I gave away a big, big bunch of Superman books this week.  It took no small amount of reading back and I was actually conflicted about what to put out due to some suggestive content issues with the Superman line.  I get the feeling this is going to be an ongoing concern.  Read on to get my extended take. In 2005 I was established as a young idiot with a local comic store, disposable income, and THE INTERNET.  So, it’s not really surprising that I found myself extremely excited at the prospect of one Kurt Busiek signing a DC exclusive contract and taking over Superman.  In hindsight, we can throw all the shade one cares to at the “exclusive” and DC’s perceived lack of success with it, but at the time it really struck a tone of excitement and anticipation.  I, of course, loved the nostalgia and overall vibe of Marvels.  Throughout his career, before and after, I don't think you could ever make the accusation that Busiek lacked “the feel” for his characters and material.  Today we lament stories where characters all read as one person speaking through different avatars.  I can honestly say that I've never had that sensation with a Busiek comic.  Another nice component is that his stories also “moved” and didn't take long getting there. Marvels, as a complete work, was in and out in four issues.  Can you imagine what path that series would take today?

Anyway, back to the DC exclusive. Coming out of Infinite Crisis the mandate was to update and reinvigorate the core line.  “One Year Later” had been, to outside eyes, a total crapshoot with results all over the board.  DC needed to lock things down and get a vision going forward.  While they'd tapped Geoff Johns and Richard Donner to kick start the greatest of them all it was the Busiek work – for me – that really gave the standout performance.  However, he would walk down two separate paths to get there.

Two Busieks?



On the illustrative side, Kurt was truly blessed.  For his initial “Up, Up and Away” arc Pete Woods completely smashed it. Fluid, confident, and willing to give Superman a “bend” that he had been lacking for some time.  His Superman was rarely posed or locked but rather relaxed and comfortable – an easy grin always at the ready.  When you pair that style with his mercurial eye for background depth you’ve got a versatile artist with skill for days.  When Johns / Donner (and Kubert?) fell behind by three months almost immediately - Busiek stepped into the gap, brought Woods along, and delivered a pocket masterpiece in 3 issues of Action Comics.

No Worries

Over in the Superman title Carlos Pacheco was delivering fine work as well but in a different vein.  Lots of arched backs and physiques a poppin’ over here.  Heavier line, solidly built.  Pacheco works so hard here to develop a firmness in the world.  Unfortunately, the first issue I have of the run is #654.  That issue is book ended by a couple pages of Lois in various stages of undress.  I’m no prude but it kinda puts me in a spot setting it out on the give away stand, right?

Oh my...


Continuing in this vein #655 starts with a depiction of the newly re-surfaced Arion post three way (or ménage a trois if you’re feeling faux classy).  Nice strategic sheet placement, Carlos!  All kidding aside, as I was giving this block of Superman and Action issues the flip test for potential kiddy consumption, I noticed how Busiek’s writing took on a certain character for each series.  You can tell that the Superman arc was to have more consequence and be more “important” in terms of long-term development.  This was going to be "his" book and his long-term plot.  The narrative asks a supposedly big question of Superman, introduces new villains, re-introduces elements of his past, and fleshes out his returning abilities.  There’s a great deal more blunt violence as well.  However, Busiek also manages to seed in really adorable Silver Age stuff.  One fine example is when Superman pretends to read some mainstream bestseller but in the periods of that text he’s hidden microdots loaded with science, mathematics, and all manner of “super knowledge.”

We sense Busiek working very hard to make us believe the threat of villains Khyber and Arion is real.  Arion says some variation of "damn" at least five times in one word balloon.  HE'S PLAYING FOR KEEPS!  It’s gotta be over a dozen issues of this thing perking away.  Is Superman a threat? Savior? Both? Questioning, questioning, from this angle and that angle.  Throw in a Prankster appearance?  Sure, why not?  The problem here is that it’s just too obvious an answer.  Put Superman in any situation and he’s going to fight and think his way out of it.  We know that as sure as we know he wears an S on his chest.  It felt manufactured that Superman would need so much self-analysis and be so, frankly, indecisive.  It's a mistake we'd see Straczynski (half-assedly) make years later.   Still, it was a nice chance to see Zatanna’s / Lana’s / Callie’s / Lois’ chest almost fall out of her corset / dress / jumpsuit / lingerie like seven times.  Yes, those all correspond.  Yes, it’s also safe to say Carlos likes to draw well-endowed and scantily clad women.

By contrast, Action Comics #841, #842, and #843 delivers an ultra compact and completely BOSS version of this very similar – practically identical – narrative arc.  It’s a stock Superman idea: People are wondering whether they should trust Superman and he’s got to overcome all the doubters.  Now, you give ACTION COMICS Superman three issues to do the aforementioned and he is going to leave no doubt you’re dealing with the real issue.

Let’s start with the Dave Gibbons newspaper covers.  How casually amazing is this stuff?

action 841 action 842 action 843

On the interiors you’ve got Kurt’s usual grace and note perfect writing for the supporting cast.  Young Firestorm sounds that perfect balance of bewilderment and put on nonchalance.  Nightwing trusts his gut about Supes right from the word go and is played to his strengths throughout the three issues.  One of the villains and fellow abducted, Livewire, has never been more interesting as a character.  He delivers not one but two great cliffhangers and a satisfying conclusion! It’s economical comics and it is BEAUTIFUL to behold.  I guess what I’m getting at is any and all of these issues are a note perfect introduction to a great character and one I’m proud to get into someone’s hands.

In both Superman and Action Comics Kurt Busiek (Red and Blue) went looking for answers close to the core of Superman. In one case he took a circuitous and seemingly forced route to an obvious truth. In Action Comics he let the truth speak for itself.




Wait, What? Ep. 83: As Good As A Feast

Lovely Hoo boy.  Did not think I was going to make this particular deadline.  I won't bore you with the blah-blah-blahs, but let's just say: papa needs a new microphone and he needs one bad.  I apologize in advance for all the not-especially-discreet cracking and popping going on at various points in the background of this.  We are maybe two weeks away from a solution to both it and the mild echo chamber effect that's afflicted us ever since Graeme managed to transcend this corporeal realm.

Buttttttttt, anywayyyyyyy... Gotta keep this short and snappy so lemme just say this:  Wait, What? Ep. 83 is two hours and twenty-seven minutes long, and Graeme and I do not spend all that time trying to remember if the boss at the end of Crazy Climber was a gorilla or not!

No.  Instead, we do our best to cover a lot of lost ground by jawing about Iron Muslim and Zombies vs. Fanboys from Boom Comics, Kirby: Genesis, the current state of comics and the comics internet including Chris Roberson quitting DC and David Brothers' amazing article over at Comics Alliance, Before Watchmen, Grant Morrison, Brian Bendis and Avengers Assemble #2, as well as the Oral History of the Avengers.

Also?  The eighth issues of Wonder Woman Justice League, OMAC, and Batman, Casanova #3, The Shadow #1, The Boys by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, Alabaster Wolves, Saga #2, Archie Meets KISS, Prophet #24, more issues of Glamourpuss, and much, much more.

This show was pretty late making its way to iTunes, but if it's not there yet, it will be there soon.  But even so!  You can also listen to it here and now if you would prefer.  Behold:

Wait, What? Ep. 83: As Good As A Feast

As always, thanks for your patience.  I gotta go jump through hoops for the next ten hours or so, but we'll have more for you next week--and, of course, thank you for listening!

Wait, What? 56.2: Let's Go Backwards When Forward Fails

Photobucket As our old pal Reid Fleming used to say: "Ungawa!"

We've got the gripping ninety-two minute finale of Ep. 56 available for you, with Graeme and I talking Action Comics #1, G. Willow Wilson's Mystic, the Wolverine: Debt of Death one-shot, IDW's G.I. Joe: Cobra series, Kirby Genesis #3, our worries about the conclusion to X-Men: Schism, and a pretty sustained discussion (which will come as no surprise to long-time listeners) of Casanova #3 by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba.

In case you have no need for this thing puny hu-mans call "iTunes," you are hereby formally invited to listen to our fine audio programme right here, should you so choose:

Wait, What? Ep. 56.2: Lets Go Backwards When Forward Fails

And as ever, we thank you not just for listening, but also for the fine comments you contribute here at the website and at waitwhatpodcast [AT] gmail.com.  It is greatly appreciated!

Four ones and a sixty-seven: Hibbs on 7/13

Comics, comics, comics! I'm dancin' as fast as I can!

CAPTAIN AMERICA #1:  Well, the McNiven art is pretty, and Brubaker's story zips along just fine from WW2 to today (probably a smart move for audiences walking out of the WW2-set Cap film), but I have to say that this issue didn't work on the balance for me. Part of it is the "Wait, when is this happening in continuity" aspect -- Steve is Cap again, but not even a mention of ol' Buck... and, especially that graveyard fakeout means this is happening at least "three months" "from now" (Post FEAR ITSELF), but the other part is the TWO different (if related) continuity implants of the issue -- Jimmy Jankovicz  ("Jimmy Jupiter"), and the other guy, who I *think* was named "Codename: Bravo"... though maybe he's JUST named "Bravo", since what moron would have "codename" before his name? It's hard to say, really, either way -- neither of whom is really properly introduced or explaining their motivations in any significant way.

Take Jimmy J first -- there's a "bum, bah bah!" beat of "I think Jimmy Jankovitz just woke up!", without explaining who he is, or why he is asleep, or, more importantly for a serialization, WHY I SHOULD CARE if he's asleep or awake or even in existence. Jimmy is apparently "our ticket right into the belly of the beast" of some secret french base, despite looking like a nine year old American boy, but then we cut away to JJ being an old man, and nothing else happens with that thread other than him being a McGuffin what gets kidnapped.

Then there's the man who is codenamed as Codename: Bravo (seriously, I can just see... "Ah, what was his codename again?" "He is codename: Codename: Bravo!") who SEEMS to hate Cap because Peggy Carter wouldn't kiss him back in '44, and whom it is also implied somehow is a "man out of time" (jeez, how many of those are running around the Marvel U?), but who, despite saying that he wants to destroy Captain America, takes a shot at... Dum Dum Dugan instead? Allllright, nothing like an incompetent act to get your ideological villain off on the right foot.

There's also a fight that seems to take place on a freeway (rather than a surface street), where a grenade casually goes off, surely killing a civilian (or 12), and no one comments on it for even one second. Ah, what the hell, they're French, it's OK!

I don't know, maybe this will make more sense when we have the entire TP collection, but, at this point, I'm not especially compelled to even pick up #2...

Sadly, this was just modestly OK.


DEFENDERS FROM MARVEL VAULT #1:Most of the "from the vault" books seem to "just" be left over inventory, but this one, as explained in the text page was plotted by Fabien Nicieza a decade back, and drawn back then (by Mark Bagley), but they lost the plot and script in the intervening years, so Kurt Busiek stepped in to try and figure out a new story. That's pretty stunningly "Marvel Method", in a lot of ways, and the resulting comic is far more coherent than you could ever hope that it might be. I enjoyed it in a "goofy fun" kind of way, and give it a big strong OK.


GREEN LANTERN #67: I don't expect a lot out of crossover thingies, but it IS nice when they end up in such a way that mixes up the status quo significantly for a little while. I don't have any expectation that this will stick for more than a few months, and it certainly makes that hastily inserted end-credit sequence in the GL film make a smidge more sense, maybe, but it WAS a genuinely "hoo boy!" moment which made my blackened and jaded heart swell for a moment, so that, all by itself, makes me give it a VERY GOOD. I also liked the half-beat insinuation that there's something really freaky about the Indigo lanterns. The only thing I will say is that the more they try to fill in Sinestro's backstory (between the film, and that direct-to-DVD animated one, and much of this arc), the less sense it makes that he was ever "Sinestro" in the first place, y'know?


ULTIMATE COMICS FALLOUT #1: How is this going to be a six issue mini, I don't get it? More than half of this issue was just various reaction shots of supporting cast members, few/none of which seemed like they needed another page at all? It was "touching", I guess, but as "1 of 6", it was pretty dang EH.


X-MEN SCHISM #1: I dunno, I like Jason Aaron very much, but I don't think he nailed the right "tone" of an X-book here at all? There was kinda too much comedy on one hand, and not enough "weight" on the other. Liiiike... "ooh, Sentinels are scary!", then both Cyke and Wolvie are shown casually taking entire groups out with AOE attacks? Also? Kinda no "schism" on display here at all. Much like Cap, I'm wondering what my motivation to come back for #2 might be -- it isn't on the page. Eh.


That's me -- what did YOU think?



Wait, What? Ep. 46: Sympathy for the Mephisto Analogue

Photobucket So much time! So little to do!

(Wait a minute. Reverse that.)

It's the latest episode of Wait, What? wherein Graeme McMillan and yours truly talk about those comic books what need talking about: Wolverine #9; Flashpoint tie-ins The Superman Project #1 and Reverse Flash #1; James Robinson's JLA; Earth X; Green Lantern Mosaic; Kirby Genesis #1; Steve Englehart's Captain America and much more. You might even discover the true identity of that cute little tyke up there.

It should be available on iTunes by now, and it is also the sort of thing that you could be listening to here and now, if that's the sort of thing that kung-pao's your chicken:

Wait, What? Ep. 45: Sympathy for the Mephisto Analogue

As always, we hope you enjoy and thanks for listening!

Burble Burble Burble, Hibbs fufills a promise to review

I said I was going to review, so here's a few quick hits. I've been spending a lot of time this week on the back end of the site, you'll notice some of the real estate has changed. That "uncategorized" number will shrink over the year as I go through the older, blogger-era posts (sheesh, we have nearly 2000 posts here at this point!), but the tag cloud will really only be utilized properly going forward from here.  

If you have any mechanical/aesthetic suggestions for the site, now is the time to do so.


Putting that aside, what stuck with me in the last two weeks?


PUNISHERMAX #14: I wrote up #13, but #14 compels me to speak again. Jason Aaron has found this astonishing sweet spot to tell the origin of the Punisher that neither directly involves 'nam nor that fateful day in Central Park. I had thought that all veins of the Punisher were as mined out as could be, but Aaron has found a genuinely new place to get us into Frank's head that feels resoundingly realistic to this reader. What's great is just how well Aaron has mastered the language of comics here (ably aided and abetted by Steve Dillon) -- at least I'm assuming that all of the awesome scene transitions and juxtapositions are in Aaron's script. The story is centered around what must be Stock Punisher Cliche Story #1: Frank's in Jail! and yet at no point am I thinking "Damn, been here before". This is possibly the weirdest recommendation coming from MY lips, but I think that this book is one of the five best appearing on the stands "monthly" these days, and, certainly and BY FAR the single best title that Marvel is publishing today from a perspective of craft. This is seriously bravura work on this storyline -- Eisner level work, in spite of the character -- and should be selling 4 or 5 times what it is currently. Flat out EXCELLENT.


FEAR ITSELF: FEARSOME FOUR #1: Is really everything that Graeme said in his review, but, damn it, he didn't bring up the fact that half (or so) of the issue is drawn by two wicked awesome illustrators: Michael Kaluta, and Simon Bisley. And each of those sections are gorgeous looking (for wholly different reasons). I mean, talk about two tastes that don't even remotely go together -- soaring, delicate fine linesmanship of Kaluta bouncing against the explosive putrid grunge (and, hm, I mean that in a good way) of Bisley. There's a third artist involved (Ryan Bodenheim) who looks like the same artist that drew the last Howard mini (or was it a one shot? It blurs) in that strange small-bill version, but Kaluta and Bisley are drawing the "real" Howard (mostly). I wonder if it is now more important or less important at Disney HQ that HTD properly looks like Donald? Serously, there could not be a more jarring looking book that makes no visual sense of any kind, but you have to admire the king size stones of an editor that's commissioning pages from such disparate sources and thinking for a second that it might work. It's really and truly an AWFUL comic to try and read, but as a curious-ass artifact of how comics are made? I'll say GOOD. This is something ten years from now you'll kick yourself for not having this issue.


GHOST RIDER #0.1: For a "and this is how Ghosty becomes a chick!" comic, I thought this was remarkably entertaining (even though the chick-ing comes in #1, I think, and this is just a way to get Johnny Blaze to not be Ghosty any longer) (is it just me, or is this a really short second run for JB?) -- even though I wouldn't want to hazard a guess if the series to follow this might be any good or not, since it won't be about these characters. I had low-to-no expectations here, and, yeah, I thought it was a low GOOD.


KIRBY GENESIS #1: As you will recall I was so-so on #0, but I thought this one was a tremendous comic. Part of it is that the Kurt Busiek that is writing it is the "Astro City Kurt", and the choice is made to squarely focus on the human character. I know that Jack Kirby's worst ideas are probably more compelling that many guy's best ideas, but I'd generally suggest there's a reason that most of these concepts on display didn't go anywhere. I mean, the market has had a few chances to decide it didn't want Silver Star, right? I really didn't care much about the JK characters running around, and yet I still thought that KIRBY GENESIS #1 was the best comic I read the week of 6/15 because of the human heart centering it. So, yeah, a strong GOOD.


AVENGERS #14: plot-wise, I dunno, it's really just a bunch of punching, but I thought that Bendis was really smart here by counter-pointing the big stuff with the little-insets-of-oral-history-interview technique that I've previously thought was kind of cloying. This time it worked pretty well, as Romita JR really does excel at the two-big-guys-punching stuff -- it is just wonderfully kinetic -- while the insets let the pacing to work out so that it isn't a 30-second read. I don't find a Worthy-fied Thing nor a Red Hulk at all compelling, and I kinda moaned when the new Avengers Tower came crashing down (plus, like, how does it have force fields that can protect the people inside, but not protect the building itself? Buh?) since that just seemed so cliche, but this was a rare issue of AVENGERS that I thought was (if on the lower end of) GOOD.


OK, I have to get back to editing old posts, and getting ready to go into work... what did YOU think?