Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Week of August 4 In Review

It seems that at times you are waiting for a comic to do one thing or another. The fans demand for a certain direction or pacing to occur, this week we saw Brightest Day #7 move the plot forward in a significant way. The demand from the fans was met. Over the years it seems like when the fans are vocal and when you talk to other fans and something is wanted the companies almost shy away from it. The mentality seems to be if we give the fans what they want then we are being predictable. The marriage of Dick Grayson to Barbara Gordon is one example. DC teased it then pulled it back. Sometimes writers and editors need to heed the fans desire because if it is a natural outgrowth of what has been going on then there is nothing wrong with that occurring. After it happens you can left turn it, but ultimately the fans are the audience you are playing too and if we aren’t happy your book should not be selling. Of course there is the theory that comic book demand is inelastic and we will show up no matter what. An individual title may not make it, but in general sales will be there.

This week is a rarity as I finished reading all of my comics well in advance of my deadline of Sunday. The weekend is when I type of most of the work I do on the blog and then put together packages for the people I send my comics too. Also this week I decided to writer my commentary after reading everything. Finally I shuffled what I thought was worth commenting on, so without further ado the week in review.

Rebels #19 was another good issue in what has to be classified as a damn good series from DC. Tony Bedard has seemed to have had a plan from day one where this book was going. This issue is part two of “The Sons of Brainiac” and how can you not like a good Brainiac story. We have Brainiacs #1 to #4 in this story and I’m just holding out hope that Brainiac 5 can somehow show up. From the beginning this series has rebuilt the 21st Century Legion and kept Viril Dox (Brainiac 2) as the manipulative SOB that he has always been. Seeing the battle between them on Colu is pure comic book fun. The art is strong and it appears that Claude St. Aubin has settled in as the main pencil artist and it doesn’t hurt that they have one of the strongest inkers in the business with Scott Hanna. Scott has been already for a lot of years and I think (as with many inkers) he gets taken for granted. For people who enjoy groups like Secret Six, Agents of Atlas, Thunderbolts and want a more chaotic LOSH, this book should be on your list.

Wow, so when I shuffled what I wanted to comment on seeing Hit Monkey #2 (of 3) show up second was a surprise. Daniel Way is doing a terrific job of making this book feel “real” within the context of the story and not being a total joke, which Hit Monkey could be done as. He never makes the monkey truly human and he never has a line of dialogue or a thought balloon, yet we know his emotions throughout the entire story. I loved how he outsmarted Bullseye in this story and took out the bad guy. Then we see Bullseye say to the other henchmen how upset he was to be outsmarted by a monkey. The henchmen being Japanese think Bullseye will commit seppuku and of course he kills them to cover his shame, funny in a Bullseye sort of way. The art has a great feel to it and while I’m not familiar with Dalibor Talijic he is among a slew of artists that Marvel has been tapping to do work straight from their pencils I believe. Of course it maybe everyone is just drawing straight into the computer, but he has a nice almost indy style that suits the book well. Of course it does not hurt when Jose Villarubia is the colorist as he is enhancing the work. A small side note Jose has a ton of credits out there and I believe he teaches at the Maryland Institute College of Art and I wonder if he in facts supervises some of the work with students or is he that fast. Either way seeing his name is a sign of quality. The net result is we have a fun fast paced story that is entertaining and playing a straight story with a character that could be just a one note joke.

The next book maybe the best book of the week as Doom Patrol #13 is a revelation. This is a classic retro-con where the writer is fixing either an unexplained event or just having fun turning something on its head. Keith Giffen is channeling Arnold Drake and Grant Morrison on this Doom Patrol. It took awhile for me to finally zero in on what Giffen is doing with this book and I think it took Giffen awhile to get into a groove on this book. This issue we learn Elasti-Girl, Rita Farr did die all of those years ago and the chief cloned her to bring her back to life. Of course since the chief is a mad scientist he “fixed her” and got read of all the internal organs and bones and such stuff that just made her too vulnerable. Rita has to study pictures of her to put herself back into shape when she wakes up as she reverts to a blob of protoplasm when she sleeps. Oh yeah the chief fixed her by turning her into a shape shifting blob. She is now truly one of the freaks on the Doom Patrol. In addition we find out that her ex-husband Mento used to always look into her brain to figure out what she wanted and take care of it for her. On one hand he was caring husband on the other he is a creepy and manipulative bastard. The creator of the series Arnold Drake never intended for this group to be anything that a bizarre band of misfits fighting villains that appear to be created from the fevered dreams of a drug addict. He did this back in the sixties when most comics were these straight laced creations handcuffed by the comics’ code. DC during revivals has often tried to make them a super hero group which is not what they were in reality. Morrison took them back to their bizarre roots during a different era. Giffen is doing the same thing, but the book is being drawn like a traditional super hero book which I think kept me from appreciating what he has been doing until a month or so ago.

Neal Adams’ Batman Odyssey #2 (of 12) was better than the first issue. I was probably more attuned to the writing style and the book filled in some of the odd blanks from the first issue. I think in hindsight releasing the first issue as a double sized book would have made more sense as issue#1 may have scared off some people. There was a fourth wall thing where it appears Bruce is talking to us, but could just have easily been talking to someone off panel. It is shaping up as a decent story, but boy does this book have Batman acting a little differently then what we expect. Still the whole set up for Batman appearing to be dead was well done. Plus the art is just great looking. Neal Adams, George Perez, Joe Kubert and others I’m sure I’m forgetting still know how to bring it. Neal’s art is detailed and the panels are jammed with details and have complete backgrounds. Comic fans from today will almost consider it to be too much as they have become accustomed to sparse or almost no details or backgrounds. I was hesitant to sign up after issue #1, but I’m enjoying this book now.

I watched the cartoon version of the Red Hood’s origin and enjoyed it and Judd Winick wrote that as well as this book, Red Hood The Lost Days #3 (of 6). If ever a revival of a dead character needed a retro-con it was Jason Todd. It is funny because his first origin was almost an exact replica of Dick Grayson’s origin, so DC did a retro-con and made him a street kid with brains and talent. Now his revival was lame and we have done another retro-con on how he came back to life. The mixture of reading the comic and watching the cartoon is odd as they are both running together, but essentially they give us a comic book logical reason (comic book logic is sort of an oxymoron) for how Jason got from point A to point B. I know appreciate Dick, Jason, Tim and Damian and think that the Robins are all great characters in their own right and show how who is under the mask is very important. I just wish the editorial staff of DC and Marvel could see this and move the rest of their characters forward. Anyway this issue was a nice touch seeing Jason get re-trained in being more of a killer and yet still maintains his own moral code. It is like a Bruce’s training only going further down a darker path.

I’m enjoying the shuffle arrangement of my reviewing this week’s books as after I write my commentary I flip the book and find out what is next and it is Irredeemable #16. Mark Waid knows how to write a comic and welcome back Peter Krause whose art saves this book. When I skim read some of Mark Waid’s remarks from CCI and it said he was essentially making it up as he went I along the whole book fell into place for me. This is not so much about what made Superman (Plutonian) go nuts, it is more about what happens when he goes nuts or maybe that is what this has become in order to make it an unlimited series. This is a book where I believe the vast majority of the fan base wants answers and to see a resolution to the story and they are right. As a writer of a commercial product sometimes I think you need to give into those demands and take the story to where it is naturally going. I don’t think I can hang with this book much longer and if I’m thinking about dropping the book I’m guessing sales on this book are declining. It just feels like it is vamping. We are at issue #16 and still do not know the Plutonian’s complete origin or where his powers come from, we have the JLA (Paradigm) still fighting him and their stories are taking over the comic. This issue we see Kaidan’s powers ramp up and will make her a worthy opponent to the Plutonian, but we just did the story with Survivor. In the span of sixteen issues it feels like the book is falling into the same stagnation pattern that many super hero books fall into since the true goal of the book is to keep publishing it forever. I understand the publisher’s goal and hopefully new readers will jump on, but I can’t see hanging on much longer hoping for resolutions that will never come. The story works with a beginning middle and an end of the Plutonian. The rebuilding of the world and working back into a society that would accept superheroes can be the next phase of the book and the title could still work as it could be about the world feels all super powered people are irredeemable.

This is perfect as the next book is Brightest Day #7 and here we are given some answers as to why everyone was revived by the white lantern as the entity needs a replacement and these people have been chosen as protectors of the world until a replacement is found. It advances the story, gives us a reason for what is happening and still leaves a ton of questions to be answered or deciphered. It is obvious to me that this book is benefiting from having a known endgame. The series is only 26 issues long and after this is done some characters may go on to other books or some may just end, but there is a story that is being told that will not go on forever. Brightest Day continues to be my favorite core DCU book and in fact is really the spine of the interactive parts of the DCU, as Batman and others are really in their own worlds for the most part.

Next up on the parade is Shadowland #2 (of 5). I want to try and follow this till the end by getting this and Daredevil, but it is going to be hard. It is very generic in many ways and has characters in it just to have characters in it. Daredevil is obviously possessed or something, people die and are revived with the hand so often that no death in this story line has any meaning and we have random characters that don’t fit at all. I have no intention of getting the book, but really introducing a new Power Man in the midst of this stuff is fine, but a mini-series?? Is Ghost Rider really appropriate or fitting in this setting and now Kingpin trying to join forces with the good guys? I also laughed as the Kingpin apparently used mystical scrolls I guess to call in Ghost Rider. This feels so contrived. Even the John Cassaday cover seemed to be lacking.

Another book that I felt missed the mark and left me longing for better days with the character was Magnus Robot Fighter #1. First off Bill Reinhold’s art was not dazzling at all. It was competent and it was not generic it just lack a certain je ne sais quoi. The story itself was unchanged from what the blueprint was from the Valiant days of the character. I heard some complain that Solar was the same thing also, but I thought it was different enough and the art was better so I’m sold on that series right now, but not Magnus. It felt by the numbers and a cookie cutter approach. Plus Russ Manning’s art for the reprint of the first Magnus #1 outstripped Reinhold’s work, which is not a good thing when trying to revive a character. I like Shooter so I will give this 2 more issues to garner my interest but as a first issue this was a miss.

What was not a miss was Cary Bates and Renato Arlem on Superman The Last Family of Krypton #1 (of 3). I was wondering how Cary’s work would come across to me now as he was squarely rooted into another time frame, but this story was very well done. Arlem’s artwork was great and certainly made it easy on the eyes and Cary’s work read very well. It was a perfect Elseworld story taking one thing and changing it and then letting the story fall naturally from there. The premise Jor-el and Lara made the trip with Kal-el to Earth. We see the conflicts that occur between Jor-el and Lara, the Kents are worked into the equation, Lex Luthor is recruited by Jor-el’s company he set up on Earth, twins are born to Lara and I’m looking forward to issue #2.

Secret Six #24 confused the heck of me, but it was still very enjoyable. The entire gang is now in the old west as Ragdoll’s sister is coming after the group with Deathstroke as her man to take them out. At the end of the story it appears the series is over since they are all dead. Obviously next issue we will learn about how this is some sort of mindscape or its like, but it was another highly enjoyable issue of this series. In fact this series has to be considered Gail Simone’s best work in comics to date. Hopefully DC will get around to recognizing just how good this book is and give it some heavy marketing push.

Next up is Sweet Tooth #12 and this issue was full of revelations and setting the stage for what is to come. I love this series and I believe I read (so much coming out of CCI I can’t follow all of it) that Lemire says all of his stories have endings. I’m hoping that is true as that means Sweet Tooth should continue to build and build. I find stories that have an ending usually read better as they go along. It does not mean that the character has to die or the comic has to stop, it just means that the base premise of the original story idea has an endpoint.

To wrap it up I have to mention Red Robin #15 and IZombie #4. Both series are at different stages, but both continue to be solid well done books that continuing moving their characters forward. If I’m following a continuing series then that is the baseline of what I want from a book.

All in all this was a good week for comics in my view. There were a couple of clunkers and a few books pushing themselves towards cancellation, but for the most part a good week.

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