Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Week of Nov 10 in Review

This week is all comics all the time. Oh sure I have a little commentary, but it is comic book related also. The big news from last week was about JMS dropping the Superman and Wonder Woman books. Greg did a nice snarky piece on it last Thursday and I thought it was pretty funny. My take on it was with the sales of Earth One Superman Volume One being so high a commercial medium was going to demand that the next one come out a lot faster. I’m willing to bet Volume Two will not be the hit Volume One is, but that should not discourage DC from moving forward with Volumes Three and Four. I have always thought that the graphic novel format has strong potential and this on the surface seems to be proving the point. Of course it could be a once in a lifetime thing also. As for JMS abandoning the Superman and Wonder Woman stories I’m sure his story notes will lay out the major beats and the new writers should be able to conclude his story. Actually they may have a better chance of getting it done in a timelier manner. Another plus I’m anxious to see Chris (IZombie) Roberson write Superman and hope he gets a chance to helm the actual title after JMS’ story concludes.

The week has started off great with my first reads being Batman The Return of Bruce Wayne #6 (of 6), Thanos Imperative #6 (of 6), Thunder Agents #1 and Amazing Spider-Man #648. I enjoyed all of them, each one for different reasons.

Batman had tons of stuff going on and I read one review where the guy said it was a challenging read that rewarded the reader with a big payoff once he understood what was going on. A second reviewer said it was an incomprehensible mess. I don’t fly through my comics but I also do not sit down with the thought process that I’m going to be doing a lot of deep thinking either. My review falls somewhere in-between glowing and trashing the book. It is interesting and has some incredible cool moments. I liked when Wonder Woman said the New Gods are self-aware ideas and that they use concept weapons to fight. It is one of those things that make you have to re-think your viewpoint on the Fourth World of Jack Kirby and is a nice touch. The problem is that much of what was going on did lose me here and there, but I want to one day sit down and read Morrison’s run on Batman. The way the story has been published is sort of all over the map. What this has done is driven home that Final Crisis was a Superman story in ways, but the end game was Batman versus Darkseid. I feel like I get part of the story Grant has been telling but I’m also missing some of the concepts and ideas he is attempting to express. I go back to his New X-Men run that reads better when read over the course of a week or so and without months of interruptions, various artist drawing it and a story that jumps from series to series. I still have no clue where Bruce’s Insider suit came from in the series of one shots about Bruce’s return.

The Thanos Imperative was a great ending to a great run DnA has done with the Cosmic side of the MU, but the ending seems to have killed any continuation of the story. Thanos appears to betray everyone but pulls a fast one and defeats the Cancerverse. In order to save our universe from Thanos Star Lord and Nova stayed behind to keep Thanos inside the collapsing Cancerverse as it died. Nova and Star Lord are now dead. I know comic book dead is not dead, dead, but besides an ad for the epilogue it appears the cosmic side of the MU is being put back on the shelf. Still from Giffen’s Annihilation event and then DnA running with it from there we got a lot of entertaining comics and a bright spot for space adventure that lasted a few years.

A book that made me happy was Amazing Spider-Man #648. Marvel books got me into comics and over the years my love for many of the characters has been destroyed. I’m a big proponent of moving forward and letting characters age and eventually another person taking the mantle. That is not going to happen for the most part so I try to find entry points to get back into a character. When JMS was writing the character I got back into Spider-Man and fell off the book and got back into the character and then One More Day came out and I swore off the character. I hated the whole retro-con and knew I needed some time away from the character, this seemed like a good jumping back in spot and it was perfect for a lapsed fan. I was brought up to date on all the stuff going on in Spider-Man’s life, Peter is presented as the genius that he was suppose to be and he was still dealing with the crap real life threw at him and yet being a hero. I love this guy. Gone is the “Charlie Brown” of the MU universe who instead of being a guy that makes jokes, he was somewhat of a joke. Between his portrayal in the Avengers and the crazy things Marvel did with him in Civil War and One More Day I could care less about Peter Parker. This incarnation still has issues but he is being shown as a super smart guy and some stuff is going his way. Of course he will still have villains to fight and problems in his personal life, but that is what he always was to me. He is a person who despite the brains and the powers does the right things and is a hero no matter the personal sacrifice. A book that has made me want to follow the series again and here is hoping that the book just gets better from here. Two quick remarks, Aunt May is married to Jonah Jameson’s father, are they kidding, Aunt May needs to be dead, oops never mind that never worked and second the “Death of Spider-Man” being teased makes me sad, I hope it is for the Ultimate Universe version.

The last of the four books I read first was Thunder Agents #1. I have a soft spot for these characters and six Archive volumes of their original run. They have a kind of classic appeal, but I’m glad to see DC has given a new writer a shot at updating them and making them relevant for today. Nick Spencer made Jimmy Olsen work, so maybe he can make this concept work. The first issue was a little too complex in its set-up. We start with “the salesman” who apparently recruits people to be Thunder Agents. Then we jump to eleven months later as some sort of riot is occurring and two women are dining on top of a hotel watching the riot on the streets. Then we jump to one year ago and see a group of Thunder Agents in action. We then watch them blow up, jump back to the hotel, back to a year ago and it is too much. Time jumps are fine, but keep it clean. On a new series invite us, don’t get too cute with your own writing. Nick did that in Existence 3.0 and I dropped it after issue #1. 2.0 was interesting but he went too far with 3.0. Nick is a talent and with Cafu on the art this book has a chance. If I had not read that this book is about people being given a chance to be a super hero, but it will eventually kill them I would not have gotten that from the first issue. Make it cleaner to start and invite the audience in introducing the characters. Twist, time jumps and all are okay if you don’t overplay them. This issue needed to be reigned in a little, but still a decent first issue.

Thor #617 is my last issue of the main Thor book. Matt Fraction is being too cute for his own good. He has Thor bringing back Loki after he just destroyed the New Asgard and it makes no sense. Plus the depiction of Thor as the slight unshaven hero is annoying. Again we have a writer being too clever for their own good. The base story had my interest, the annoying supporting character and the other characterizations are not working for me. At least I still have Thor The Mighty.

Atomic Robo The Deadly Art of Science #1 (of 5) hit the stands. This appears to be the only comic that Red 5 publishes anymore, but considering we are on the fifth mini-series it must be doing well. What I love about Atomic Robo is the energy and joy that emanates from each page. Robo is pure comic book joy that evokes the fun of the silver age, but maintains the sophistication of today’s books.

Another book that is very different from Robo, but exhibits the same quality of pure energy from the creators is Cowboy Ninja Viking. Issue #10 hit the stands and I have to say I forget who the heck is who at times and forget what the heck is going on with the plot, but by the time I finish the book I have the main thrust of what is happening and enjoyed the carnival ride getting there. Since I send my books on, this is one series that I get the trades on because I will be re-reading this baby one day in the future. Lieberman and Rossmo have crafted one of my top ten books for the year.

Chew #15 could be in the same category as CNV and Robo. None of the books are a true genre, but all are creator owned and obviously labors of love. Chew expaned the cast by more than double and I have no clue where we are going next. Alien fire writing in the sky is how we end the issue that served to introduce us and Tony’s girl friend to his very large and complex family. I love the fact that this series is set to be 60 issues because as much as I love the various plot threads and now rather large cast, knowing it has an endpoint makes it easier to commit to the book for the long term.

The Titans is a book that many people seem to be down on and I can see that the book has issues but issue #29 was still good for why I like it. Number one having read millions of super-hero comics and stories the super villain material can always be interesting. Plus Deathstroke’s mysterious agenda is something that has my interest as does the extremely flawed cast that is calling themselves the Titans. The art is hard to take at times as at times it comes across very rough and appears to be given to the colorist to finish the product. One day I will have write what I have seen how the computerized artwork works and why it is both good and bad. Overall having Roy (Arsenal) Harper hanging around this group is interesting, as is Jade and the rest. I especially enjoyed Batman fighting Deathstroke as I like seeing Dick moving up in his abilities and the way DC classifies him. So, Titans is not a perfect book but it is more interesting than many of the straight super hero books.

Speaking of something different from the norm, I was very impressed with the new series Halcyon from Image. The writers are Marc Guggenheim & Tara Butters with Ryan Bodenheim artwork. The artwork is very strong and the story is a great start. Essentially you have a JLA type of group with some various twists such as the Superman character being a woman and the Batman character is in Baltimore (my home town) and they are sleeping together. It appears to be a “friends with benefits” arrangement. The main idea of the story is that violence and evil seems to be disappearing from the world. The group is just noticing it now but further research is showing them that it has been going on for awhile and building almost along a geometric progression so that only now is it really noticeable. The main bad guy of this world came back from a different dimension and he had a master plan, but he also turns himself into the authorities in this issue. A very cool start that leaves some many questions and possibilities I can’t wait to see where it goes. Why is evil disappearing? If the good guys figure it out will they stop it? What does a super hero do without super villains? Is the entire thing a set-up by Oculus (the main bad guy)? I like the idea that maybe the bad guy has done something to make this happen and it is taking away some free will from people. If the good guys figure it out do they stop it? Themes that have certainly been played with before, but not that I recall in this exact mix. Finally almost all stories are twice told tales, if it is told well, that is the key. Get in on the ground floor as this book has serious potential.

The Birds of Prey first arc was a solid one. It set the new status quo for the team and gave us a good story that had a very cool ending with the Huntress going up against Lady Shiva and acting more like Rocky Balboa then Helena Bertinelli. The art on the book was a disappointment as Ed Benes was off the book rather quick and the duo that finished the book was nowhere near as strong an art team as this book deserves. I never understand why companies cannot adequately keep artistic teams together, but especially while launching a series (or re-launching).

Rebels #22 was an good issue in a series that has been outstanding. Tony Bedard seems to have had a plan for this group and from the jump this book continues to move forward. I hope DC finds a way to get more attention to this book because Doom Patrol and this book are far better than many other group books they are publishing. This issue we get a team-up with Starfire and a Psion Green Lantern Gorius Karkum telling a great story about the Psion race.

Scott Snyder is flat out a great writer. American Vampire #8 is another example in a series of examples. This issue the plot moves forward in both expected and unexpected ways. This series reminds me of a great novel where the characters play important roles and as the story progresses we continue to learn more and more about what the ultimate endgame maybe. The battle between Skinner and now Book’s daughter continues to build and I’m wondering what is Skinner’s game. I also enjoyed seeing Pearl’s paramour go to the vampire hunters bargaining for her safety in exchange for information Pearl herself wouldn’t give. A man who loves his woman will do whatever it takes to protect her and this just proves the point.

This was a solid week of comics with a lot of good stuff and only a few books that missed the boat. Lately it feels like comics in general have gotten better, but some of that may be my own attitude. Let’s see what next week brings.


  1. In regards to JMS, I would agree with your assessment if there wasn't a pattern of behavior here. Look at Squadron Supreme (ended in the middle of a storyline on a cliffhanger and also left a major crossover/promotional push with the Ultimate Universe hung out to dry), the Twelve (just stopped coming out), Fantastic Four (which just sort of petered out), and Book of Lost Souls (vanished, although that could be cause no one read it). Even something like Thor, which he supposedly loved and protected, barely came out after its first year. I think the success and prioritizing of Earth One is part of this, but let's not ignore the pattern here: If JMS gets bored he and walks away from his monthly work without bothering to finish it up.

    And I'm with you on the Thanos Imperative. Great finish. That said, I'm not sure its even comic book dead here, as we never even saw them really fighting Thanos. We just know they're trapped in a crappy situation. And they even have a cosmic cube with them. There's an epilogue coming out next month. I wouldn't be surprised if we get some new sort of status quo for the cosmic universe there, even if Nova and Star Lord are, in fact, put on the shelf for a bit.

  2. Sorry to inform you but Thor The Mighty Avenger has been canceled by Marvel.

    Have a nice day!

  3. Shawn, that's not the way for me to start having a nice day! Are you serious?! That book is perfection.

  4. I'm serious. Marvel is trimming books back and they're looking sales numbers NOT quality.

  5. Maybe fandom should go on strike against all other Thor titles (except Thunderstrike)for a month or two until they decide to publish it again! That would give Marvel some numbers to mull over...