Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Week of October 27 in Review

So when I went into semi-retirement from the posting regime Lee said I should stop doing commentary also, but you know I can only shut up about stuff for so long, so before we get to the capsule reviews, a few remarks.

September sales are down and the woe is me is sounding throughout the internet. The main reason sales are down; the cape stuff has been very weak lately. The current trend of making every story a freaking mystery and dragging out stories forever is boring. Let me know what the story is about and then tell it. I know what Echo is about, I know what Scalped is about and I’m not waiting for a big reveal. I want to see how the characters get through what is happening to them. Also stop thinking that because a movie is being made I need to see 550 series about that character. It gets to the point that I have no clue what book to follow and why. Next stop being so cute, you are not that clever, tell a good story and I will want to read your book. The final complaint regarding cape books, learn how to schedule something and make the damn schedule stick whatever it takes, the gaffs and problems is embarrassing to watch and makes the comics I try to read less enjoyable.

A second comment is about Irredeemable. The last issue jumped the shark for me and it is painfully obvious that Mark Waid is totally making up crap and has no firm long term direction for this title. I always thought this was a great limited series concept. Whether the limit was 12 or 50 issues, it is a limited concept story. By making it unlimited the book has gone from one of my favorite books to being off my list. The solicitation copy for the January issue seals the deal for me. It reads “IRREDEEMABLE #21 Written by Mark Waid, art by Peter Krause, covers by Diego Barreto and Federic Piatti. The merciless alien race know only as the Vespa have invaded Earth and proven that even the Plutonian can't stand in their way. With Modeus' true nature revealed and the Paradigm outnumbered, global hysteria reaches a fever pitch and the stakes have never been higher. After last issue's shocking ending, nothing will ever be the same for Plutonian again! When I saw the nothing will ever be the same again I realized we are now covering the same ground Marvel and DC do all the time, soft or hard resets of the character to try to make a concept fresh and new again. This is like watching Michael Jordan play for the Wizards, sad to see the mighty fall so low.

Okay after that happy and cheerful opening onto the reviews.

Oddly enough the first book I read this week was Green Arrow #5. The covers for this book are excellent, the story a prime example of what I was talking about above. The book is treading water and slowly going nowhere. We are on issue #5 and we still have established nothing except the magical forest can do magical things. It all keeps tying back into Blackest Night, which I enjoyed, but after it is over I want to move forward. We are 100 pages or more into Green Arrow’s new story and have not moved the character even one step forward or backwards. I still have no clue what is really going on with the forest, I have no clue why Ollie’s mother (I think) is back and running the old Queen Enterprises, who exactly is Mary, who is Nix, who is Sir Galahad or almost anything. I mean this is ridiculous, how long does it take to build a foundation for your character. They had cleaned the slate and we have yet to really get to establishing Ollie’s new foundation. The only thing saving this book for me the fact that I still have an interest in Brightest Day and the book is only $3. The funny thing is the same writer (who I’m starting to think can’t cut it) started up as part of a new creative team on Teen Titans and set the foundation for the characters and the group in his first issue. Bottom line Green Arrow is close to being purged.

The last Avatar book I was getting has come to a conclusion with Gravel #21. The actual story and battle was well done. The conclusion was a cop out of sorts. We had followed Gravel as he rose to become one of the major seven and then rose to become the King of Magic for England. Now after he gathered his own minor seven all those characters are killed and Gravel is back to being a “combat” magician, which is how he started. I understand the full circle bit, but it also says that they had no clue where to take the book anymore and just went for the cheap ending. All the work to build up a new minor seven is wasted and it feels like investing in this series was a waste. This notes the end of any series that I’m reading by Ellis and to the best of my knowledge he is not writing much in the way of comics right now anyway. Probably more money to be made in video games or other venues anyway and Warren would certainly know how to write a cool action game.

One thing that was amazing this week was Teen Titans #88. It was not the best book or anything, it was just amazing that JT Krul, whose work has failed to impress, could do such a good job establishing the foundation for his run on this book in one issue. In Green Arrow he is spinning his wheels going nowhere; in this book he sets the team and characterization of the group in one issue. Of course it doesn’t hurt that we have Nicola Scott on pencil art, as I love her work and think she is still getting better and better. The characterization was solid, the setting up of the group was solid, it was even fun seeing the current Robin be introduced to the group by Batman. The problem with the book was the lame villain being set up for this arc and the faux vampires being made by him. It just stunk of going for the “Twilight” crowd as Marvel has done in the latest X-Men series being launched. At least I’m onboard to give this book a look for a few issues.

Jonathan Hickman has been a disappointment to me with much of what he has written for Marvel but Fantastic Four #584 was a very good issue as was the last issue. I have no real desire to pick up the earlier part of his run as it was putting me off the book with tons of concepts, but no payoff. It appears that we are moving towards a big payoff, of course we have the promise of one of the FF biting the dust, but there appears to be many layers to what is happening. Plus, cynic that I am, I see the numbering is approaching issue #600 in little more than a year and I sense a resurrection maybe in the works. Of course we could just have Reed bite the dust and Valeria take over that role after some sort of accelerated aging. The great thing about comics is that a character like Valeria can go be trapped in some time thing, age while away from the group and be returned to present day as her older self (see Layla Miller in X-Factor). This actual issue was a sentimental one and showed the Thing cured for a week and Johnny taking him on the town to enjoy his restored humanity. The other sup plots were advanced and we had a nice cliff hanger with Galactus. I’m not sure why but it feels like Reed is the one who will be killed off and for some reason I get the sense that he and Galactus are intertwined in some way. Again another series I used to love has my interest again, which is a good thing.

DC has screwed up royally with the Return of Bruce Wayne #6 (of 6) still not out and we have already concluded Bruce Wayne the Road Home, but the Road Home series of one shots were well done. I enjoyed almost all of the books and this week’s Ras As Ghul one shot was very very good. I have always loved Ras being the main counter point to Bruce Wayne and this issue presented the relationship in an interesting fashion. Fabian Nicieza has started to be a name I look upon with favor and for years I was neutral to negative on his work. I’m curious as to how much of the “Road Home” was DC running with Morrison’s idea for bringing Bruce back and how much was DC just cashing in on Bruce coming back. The “Battle for the Cowl” never felt like Grant was involved in that and it was just DC cashing in on the interest of what Grant was doing with the Bat books. This feels like he may have been more involved, either way it was an entertaining read.

I’m not a big Acuna fan, so seeing him come onto Captain America #611 for the “Trial of Captain America” arc was not making me jump for joy, but the story was very strong and Acuna did a decent job. I still wish Marvel would drop the Nomad backup and bring the price to $3 again, but I won’t hold my breath waiting for it. Bucky has been a very flawed Captain America and it has not felt like he ever took over the role I’m enjoying that he is facing major consequences given his past and that all the people who supported are being called into question. At the end when Bucky turns himself in I can see this as being a cool drama whereby we examine how much redemption should be allowed for a “hero” especially given how his past was covered up. One minor quibble I’m tired of the Nazi bad guys and constant use of “white supremacists” being the only bad guys in this book. It makes it seem like this is prevalent everywhere in America and I certainly don’t see in where I live or where I travel too.

I’m a sucker for good LOSH stories and Supergirl Annual #2 was the best Legion story I have read in a very long time. I have no clue what version of the Legion this is, but I didn’t care it was a blast seeing a classic type of story being done with a modern updating. Sterling Gates should be writing the LOSH and not Levitz. This was a nice updating of the Brainiac 5 and Supergirl relationship. I loved the foreshadowing at the end where Brainiac states he will try and change the future and prevent Supergirl’s death, but with Gates leaving who knows if that thread will ever be picked up again.

Surprisingly the best book so far this week is GI Joe Cobra #9. This almost fill in arc was done because IDW was not ready to continue the series with Chuckles, but did not want to lose momentum on a series that had caught on. I have had mixed feelings on the arc, but ultimately the ending was fantastic. Leonard was captured by Cobra, feed mind control drugs and subjected to various brain washing techniques. He escapes from Cobra this issue and tries to expose the Coil. As would be expected everyone thinks he is a lunatic. In despair he goes back to the Coil who has been waiting for his return. They wanted him to join based on his own free will. At the end Leonard gives his life the cult. It is a good study of what it takes to break someone and was a good examination of how the general public views someone who is saying stuff outside of accepted belief. It reminds me of the way people look at someone who says the economy is going to collapse at some point. Even if it does and that person is right they have already labeled that person as a crackpot. Leonard was telling the truth but everyone took him for being crazy, so he went to the only place that appeared to want him because he needed a home. I still can’t believe how much I’m enjoying a GI Joe book.

The return of Death in Action Comics #894 was enjoyable. It was a fun turn of events seeing Death stop by and play with Lex Luthor. The entire Lex storyline has been well done and Paul Cornell and Pete Woods are spinning a great story examining Luthor and his own deluded view of himself. I think the Lois Lane android being Luthor’s confidant and gal pal is one of the more amusing aspects of this story. Even better the backup story with Jimmy Olsen was well done and just an amazing piece of work taking this essentially archaistic character and making him fun and new again. I know DC is dropping the backup stories so we can have $3 books again, but I hope the end of this story finds a home.

I understand deadline pressure, I understand the talent pool is thin, especially when it is a rush job, but Superman #704 is an embarrassment. The artwork was atrocious. The work was generic and had the feeling of people being cardboard cutouts, plus the artist needs to learn how to draw hands. The story itself was alright but this is just shows how boring what should be one of DC most exciting titles has become. The “Grounded” story needs to end sooner rather than later. I did appreciate getting inside Lois’ head for an issue as Superman’s supporting cast has been ignored for too many years.

Scalped is just an amazing series. Scalped #42 has to be the best book I have read this week. The exchange between Dash and Carol is fantastic. What is left unsaid between them is said via caption boxes showing their thoughts (which looks better then thought balloons from days of yore). Carol is pregnant with Dash’s child and doesn’t tell him. Dash wants to run off with Carol and forget everything that is going on. The additional sub plot regarding Dash’s Dad and Agent Nitz was great, as was the little “what if” scene done to start the book showing a happy Dash and Carol raising their child. The emotions, the feelings, the fully developed characters, the intertwining of so many lives just continue to make this one of the best series being published. In fact I think that right now I would give this book the nod over Walking Dead for best series of the year.

It was nice to see Incognito Bad Influences #1 on the stands. Brubaker and Phillips are almost reprising the types of stories they did for Sleeper years ago at Wildstorm. I think Incognito is a little stronger and you can tell it is a labor of love for Brubaker. This issue was well done, but essentially a lot of set up. It was especially enjoyable seeing Zack deal with being a good guy now and trying to have a secret identity. Given Zack’s hardcore attitude and criminal background pretending to be normal is total bullsh*t for Zack and it has its amusing moments as Zack narrates this tale. The end game is Zack is being sent back to being a bad guy to infiltrate an organization, can he be trusted? I’m looking forward to next issue.

We are slowing come to the end of Remender’s best work with the publishing of Fear Agent #30. Inside this issue Rick gives us the full scoop of what has been going on and who is behind what. I was totally lost. This series has had a sporadic publishing schedule and apparently is a true labor of love as I’m guessing sales are not as good as one would hope. I guess that means I will have to pick up the trades and hope Dark Horse published the entire series as trades. Anyway even without following of what was “explained” the series rocks as always and is an enjoyable ride. I’m glad to see Remender has gotten the chance to complete the series the way he wanted to all along.

I opened Justice Society of America #44 with trepidation and hope. Hope won out and Guggenheim and Kolins gave us a great opening as the new creative team. Scott Kolins has once again changed styles and the art feels like it is heavily computer generated or special effects are being used via computer tools. It is different and took a few pages to get used to, but Scott knows how to layout pages and tell a story and given Kolins talent level I’m sure the art will improve as each issue comes out. Marc gives us a new menace, a focused cast, a nasty cliff hanger for Green Lantern, some personal issues for Flash and Mr. Terrific along with some solid characterization. All in all I have to say the JSA is back to fine form. For whatever reason this book has been in a little bit of a slump and I’m happy to report this was a shot of adrenaline this book needed.

Well although I have yet to read everything, this is the end of this week’s column. If something else creates the need I will do a solo spotlight or something else to let you know what I thought. If you are reading this early go out of vote, unless you did it early which is an option now. I’m waiting for internet voting, that would make voting easy and I’m sure ripe for more fraud.

1 comment:

  1. First off, there is a mystery in Scalped. It's been hanging around for quite awhile, too. Who killed Gina? Dash has been too addled to do anything about it, but now that he's clean and Wade is pushing him, maybe he'll turn in that direction. Then again, maybe Nitz will interfere with that, given his "arrest" of Wade. It's a mystery that's going on for quite some time, but there's so much going on in the book, and it feels authentic that this mystery not be solved right away, that it works. It's not contrived, which I think is your actual objection to the mysteries in various capes books.

    Second, GI Joe Cobra. I haven't read it, but I think you just said you've been tortured and brain washed into believing there's an impending economic collapse (apparently in addition to the one we've already had from '07-'09). And here I thought you'd reached that conclusion of your own free will.