Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Week of August 11 In Review

Often I try to play editor and/or marketing director of a company. When I read a certain book I will often wonder who green lit this book or I may question what happened to the editor of a book. Since I have been reading comics for well over 40 years, have had a retail store and have an IQ over room temperature I think I’m qualified for the job. Of course most companies seem to go with a lot of younger talent for editors, but hey even anyone wants to offer me the job I’d be happy to consider it. The reason I say this is it apparent that some editors are just worried about the production schedule more than editing some of the books based on what is published. Of course given fill in artists every fourth issue and the amount of books with two artists credited lately managing the production schedule is a full time job, but that is why the big companies have assistant editors I would assume.

The book that led me into this long prelude is Adventure Comics#517. I’m actually mad at DC because they have forced me to cancel a book that features one of my all time groups the LOSH. This is not the original iteration, nor is it the Zero Hour or Mark Waid’s Legion it is some bizarre amalgamation that has been created by Geoff Johns reintroducing the original Legion of Levitz run and then pulling out what he felt were the best pieces. During the Legion of Three Worlds I believe he even establish a base group again. So Paul Levitz is brought back to restart the glory days and I was happy, but also worried when I heard the announcement. The going forward regular LOSH book has been passable but on shaky legs, the early adventures book has been horrible. It has generic super hero art, it has been doing little retro-cons to the beginning of the group and it feels like it is written down to an 8 to 12 year old. RJ Brande was turned into a very ordinary man and somewhat of a con man last issue and this issue Saturn Girl and Cosmic Boy get drunk and screw. Saturn Girl mind wipes the event from Cosmic Boy to save any trouble this may have caused. Why Levitz feels the need to tear down these heroes is beyond me, but also at this point they are suppose to be 15 or 16 year old. Levitz who has stood a moral high ground as publisher is taking the sensationalistic moral low ground as the writer. Heck well written and with a stronger artist maybe I could have dealt with this, but the book is serving no purpose and cost $4 a pop. The sad thing is the Atom backup is decent, but I’m not paying $4 for 10 pages. As an editor I would be questioning this story and asking for more motivation then the fact they got drunk together. Plus once you establish that is the moral fiber of these two characters you are now stuck with trying to redeem them going forward. Sure everyone makes mistakes, but let’s make our heroes better then ourselves and give us something to strive for as opposed to bringing them down to our level. As the editor I ask what audience is he writing for and push him to write it to an older reader. I would also have to fight to make this book a $3 book to keep from losing that portion of the audience that is against the $4 price point. All in all I think Levitz has made poor choices on both Legion books and a better editor would have fixed it before it got started. At this rate the LOSH stuff is doomed, because if a diehard fan of the group is dropping out and another diehard fan, Gwen doesn’t like the book, then who does.

While I’m in a negative frame of mind we can talk about Superman #702, part 2 of the walking tour. I’ll start with saying it is a lovely iconic cover by Cassaday with Superman holding the American flag. The interior artwork by Eddy Barrows is good and I can see he is continuing to make strides; the potential of Eddy is great. One problem I had with the art was Clark looked like he is still in high school, way too young looking. The problem is this book is full of easy answers to serious issues running through this country. Superman can’t solve real world problems, yet we are seeing them done left and right. Straw men are created and knocked down left and right. I get what JMS is saying and they are nice thoughts. Letting the kid left out of the group beat him so his “friends” now like him. A pleasant fantasy and one we all hope could be true, but some kids are always destined to be chosen last or left off the team. Still the biggest and most ridiculous thing was aliens in Detroit and they help safe an older man’s life and Superman has them open up a manufacturing plant and help to reinvigorate all of Detroit. I know the auto industry is in trouble, I know we have a very corrupted government now, I know American is going bankrupt, I know we still have concerns with health care, illegal immigration, education, a bloated tort system, energy independence, consumerism mind set, etc. etc. Superman is not going to solve those problems. Superman can beat the crap out of the parasite. He can be trapped on another world or dimension; he can fight against impossible odds to save the planet. Heck I can solve any problem I want when I have a rabbit I can pull out of my hat. Morbid curiosity is keeping me on this book, like when I slow down to look at a car accident, but not for long.

A pleasant surprise was Route Des Maisons Rouges #1 (of 4). It is an Italian comic translated to English about brothels trying to be the most profitable during one year. Whoever loses is replaced by a casino. I got the book to see hot women in Paris hoping for an “R” rated book that could be a guilty pleasure. It was all that and more. It is a decent story also. We got plenty of girl on girl action and some fun scenes with girls in costumes that left little to be imagined, but we got a plot, some good twists and humor. I admit I thought I would buy issue #1 and drop it, but I’m on board for the whole story. Since I send my comic on to different people I think Lee would get a kick out of this and it amuses me to think an Italian comic, translated to English about brothels in Paris will be mailed to France.

Daredevil #509 was somewhat of a waste of paper. It really felt like a middle chapter that was treading water and almost afraid to advance the plot as the main story is supposed to be in Shadowland. Daredevil is a funny book because I have more Omnibus collections with this title from Marvel than any other book as the Miller, Bendis and Brubaker runs were all enjoyable enough to have me buy them. This event is leaving me cold right now and it feels artificial. I keep trying to drop it, but my curiosity is peaked enough to hang on. One final note I can’t prove this, but I bet Matt Hollingsworth is saving De La Torre on this book as it appears the colorist is doing a lot to keep the feel of this title right and cover what I’m guessing is rushed art.

This week has been rough so far, I have read about half of my book so far this week and decided to get some of the commentary typed up before I read everything, but I need to talk about some of the good titles. One title which is very consistent and a good book came out with Walking Dead #76. Winning the best continuing series award this year is icing on the cake for a book that in many ways has to be considered one of the most successful independent books every done. This book has a TV series from AMC starting soon, won an Eisner Award and just still going strong. The confrontation between Rick and Douglas was great. Veiled threats and strong words with both men doling out confessions of their sins since the apocalypse hit. It was like watching two wolves circling each other, yet both giving the other respect. Rick’s relationship with Carl is hitting some hard times and Rick still pulls out his phone so he can talk to his dead wife. A great read and compelling characters each month pushes the story forward a little more and each month you want to see next month to find out what happens next.

We had another series that is high quality had its penultimate issue come out with Daytripper #9 (of 10). It almost seemed like the end of the series as this issue Bras is dreaming about his life. We skipped around events and everything was surreal since it was a dream. This book hits me on an emotional level almost every single issue. I believe in many ways this book hits on so many truths that each individual who reads it can pull something out it that reflects their life as well as Bras. This particular issue had a lyrical quality to it, truly a series that will stand the test of time. Don’t cheat yourself by passing on this book.

The newest GL series Emerald Warriors #1 got off to a good start. It was a lot of set up as we see Guy Gardner doing business as a GL, petitioning the Guardians to explore the unknown sector, meet with Ganthet and complain about their secret (even to us) pact to do whatever it is they are doing. Then we got a glimpse of the unknown sectors and see there is another GL Corps that exists in that sector with their own Guardians. The series got off to a great start with a very well written script by Peter Tomasi and some excellent art by Fernando Pasarin and Cam Smith. Tomasi has sealed the deal with me, when I see his name as the writer I’m happy to pick up the book, one of DC true stars. The complaint I would have is I want more revealed to us. I think knowing his mission doesn’t kill the story as the story is Guy carrying out his mission. I worry sometimes that writers enjoy leaving us in the dark too much. The problem with the mystery approach is after all the build up the reveal seldom matches the level of anticipation. Trust in your ability to tell us the story and I think you can have longer term success.

Birds of Prey #4 hit the stands and this book already has a great feel to it. Some of the artwork of the fight between Black Canary and White Canary was absolutely stunning, but I’m stilled bummed because Ed Benes can’t carry a monthly load. His work on this book is some of his best. I’m fine with the rumor that Jamal Ingle is coming on the book if Ed can’t maintain a monthly deadline. Gail Simone is doing a terrific job on this book and it is clearly a superior book to Gotham City Sirens, which sort of replaced BOP.

A book that never seems to get enough attention but is one of the best series on the stands had Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom #1 (of 6) arrive last Wednesday. The structure of the series is like BPRD in some ways. Each arc tells great stories but the overall story still continues to unfold, albeit slowly. This issue a new key is found and it turns you into an animal that I guess more or less represents your inner spirit. Bode turns into a sparrow and the bad guy a wolf. This is a very literate series with great artwork and a series more people should check out. This issue includes doing homage to Bill Watterson as the Bode panels of the series were drawn like Calvin and Hobbes. As a huge Calvin and Hobbes fan I loved it and it worked well within the context of the story.

Marvel had Thor The Mighty Avenger #3 hit the stands. I believe we got three issues in the span of one month. This issue Ant Man is brought into the storyline and I’m wondering if this series is part of a larger MU or is just building its own MU. Either way is fine by me, but I was just wondering. This series has a great quality to it as Thor is almost an innocent thrown to Earth as punishment, his memories are fragmented and he is lucky to have Jane Foster to act as his guide. A fitting update to Thor as originally re-imagined by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee.

One thing I don’t get is how Joe Bennett ends up looking as generic as he does in this week’s Justice League Generation Lost #7. I want to continue getting this book but the art is weak at times and the storyline is dragging. Where Brightest Day has so many stories it is impossible to contain all of it and we get frustrated with a channel surfing mode of storytelling, JL Gen Lost is one story. As one story being told over 26 issues it should have had some strong sub plots and or character development stuff that should have already given us some bang for the buck. As a $3 book my love for the characters and general interest in the Brightest Day material is saving this book from the chopping block at the moment.

The new issue of BRPD hit the stands and we are starting a new long term storyline. The first arc is Hell on Earth. I still feel the overall story arc from before had a anti-climatic ending and I’m disappointed to hear that BPRD is not getting hardcover treatment as one day I wanted to reread the entire saga, still the new arc started well. Abe is investigating the disappearance of an entire small town, Johann is craving the chance to have a body again and Dr. Corrigan appears to be spread way too thin. It is a lot of set-up, but done well and advances the characterization of our cores players. As always BPRD is a very good book and deserves to be called a continuing series as in reality it is on issue #69.

DC has a lot of worlds in the fire right now. We have the Red Circle group represent by this week’s Mighty Crusaders #2 (of 6), the pulp world of First Wave, the forthcoming Earth One with the Superman OGN and Batman OGN and the newest Elseworlds book with Superman. I mention this because at one time DC seemed to be intent on having no other worlds and now that the multi-verse has been recreated they are slowing mining that potential and also integrating Red Circle and maybe the Milestone characters into the DCU at the same time. It is ambitious, but I think a flawed concept in trying to expand the second tier of their market too fast. Marvel is flooding the market; DC can exist as 30% and be second place, especially if their quality outstrips Marvel. I would be trying to win on the per unit basis, not total sales. That was a long preamble to get to Mighty Crusaders #2. I’m one of the few fans of this book I’m sure, but I wish the book would be a little streamlined. I’m enjoying all that is going on, but you need to focus when reading this book because there are a lot of plates spinning and it is text intensive. It is almost European in flavor in that respect and unfortunately most American fans like their books more Marvel like, in that you can read the entire issue while on the john. This issue was very good and I hope the series gets at least another mini-series. Both Trautmann and Jerwa are second tier writers at DC, but I see huge potential and both of them should one day have a break out book that gets them noticed.

The last book I want to comment on is Morning Glories #1 from Nick Spencer (writer and Joe Eisma (artist). It was a book I probably would have skipped if it was not for multiple sources pushing me to try it out. As a first issue goes, it was decent. I never read Runaways so I can’t compare it that and Lost ended so badly that the love I had for that series was pretty well destroyed, so calling this Runaways meets Lost did nothing for my expectations of the book. What I thought the book did was establish a decent premise and heighten your desire to want to know more about these characters to bring you back for issue #2. The art was decent and the coloring was strong, while not a big draw for the book, it also did not hurt it. Solid layouts, good storytelling ability made the book an easy read. As a first issue goes I think it did its job since I want to read issue #2. If I’m playing editor what I would point out is the problems with the book. The first page was not labeled in the past or anything else, just a brief idea a man is waiting at a hospital and perhaps not all has gone well with the birth of his child or something else. We never refer back to the page again. So my question is what purpose that page served in the narrative of the story. Then we have 12 pages showing some shenanigans, a fight scene and some student being attacked by a ghost like figure. Since it is a longer than normal page count, utilizing that much space to establish that the school our central characters are being sent to is dangerous and has mysteries around it is okay, but it reduces time introducing the six characters. Also we firmly establish that the school is creepy with the ending, so the point is redundant. We needed more space for the characters because two of the six are still ciphers by the end of the book. Finally the logic of the school is lost on me. It has only been around fourteen years and has won all of these awards and stuff, yet students are obviously killed sometimes and the parents deny they exist, plus with what happened to Casey’s parents. It all does not add up and therefore lacks a logical coherence. The last point is a minor quibble and my other points are suggestions in how the book could have been structured better. A first issue is critical and since it appears a lot of reviewers are jumping on this bandwagon my criticism will fall on deaf ears, but I think a stronger editor could have helped make this book even better with hopes of a longer term success.

I got a little verbose this week which always seems to happen when I write commentary over the course of my reading as opposed to hitting the entire column at once. I found the overall week to be less than stellar with a few bright spots. In general I would say this was a lackluster week given how many books I got and how much I enjoyed my purchases. It is not a big deal as every week can’t be a winner.

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