Thursday, November 23, 2006

Random Reading: Ms. Marvel #7 and Hellblazer: Empathy is the Enemy

Discovered that the 7-11 right by campus sells comics, so I'll probably hit random Marvel titles over the next while that way--what is it with every store selling just Marvel comics? The bookstore, 7-11, the Mac's near my house . . . all Marvel, no DC. How odd.

Ms. Marvel #7

Another "Civil War" book, except it's a pro-registration one. And Iron Man still comes off as a dick. Seriously. I find that funny. In this whole thing, no matter WHAT side is presented, Iron Man is a dick. "Civil War" should be subtitled "Everybody Hates Tony."

Hell, while we're at it, let's look at the pro-registration side we've got here. The last experience I had with Ms. Marvel was back in Kurt Busiek and George Perez's Avengers run where she was drunk off her ass and got booted from the Avengers for trying to save the world drunk. Apparently she's sober now and has, well, no personality as far as I can tell.

She's one of the heroes who's sided with Iron Man, along with Wonder Man and the hero formerly known as Spider-Woman, but is now Arachne, I'm assuming, because Bendis decided he liked the original Spider-Woman and that meant someone had to change their name.

The plot of this issue is pretty boring. Teenage spider-themed hero Arana is brought in by the Amazingly-Named Duo while her father is all "This is America, you can't just arrest people for no reason!" And she decides to register. Yay.

Meanwhile, Arachne is on the run with her boyfriend, Shroud, who she was supposed to arrest (seriously, why would you send the guy's girlfriend to arrest them besides wanting to set up a fugitive story?). They steal some clothes and a car and have an argument about going to Colorado to get her daughter, all the while being tracked by S.H.I.E.L.D. Fools!

And now we get to Iron Man's a dick time: a big meeting is called and Ms. Marvel brings the Spider-Girl chick with her and Iron Man's all like "This is big time classified government business, so if she fucks it up, your ass is grass!" and Ms. Marvel is all like "No shit, asshole." So they're all sent to capture the fugitives in the green car, which means the top secret classified info is suddenly a big fucking fight on a freeway where the trained superheroes cause a bunch of civilian cars to crash. Yeah, the "professionals" sure are great at what they do.

It ends with Shroud all captured and Ex-Spider-Woman riding atop a big rig in a "Dazzler" t-shirt. Oooh, I can't wait for next issue!

For a pro-registration book, I came away thinking that side was full of even bigger idiots than I did going into it. Let's see, they abduct teenage girls, their best heroes are Ms. Marvel and Wonder Man, Iron Man is a dick to his own people, they sent one of their heroes to arrest her lover and are surprised when she decides to take off with him, they claim to be trained professionals but cause just as much carnage and civilian destruction as always, and they can't even catch someone so lame she couldn't even hold onto the name "Spider-Woman."

*claps slowly* Bravo, Marvel. Not too obvious which side you're on.

John Constantine, Hellblazer: Empathy is the Enemy

I've been waiting for this to come out for a while. Usually two or three times a week, I would check the bookstore's website to see if it had come in yet. I blame Warren Ellis for getting me into Constantine and loving to see how different writers do him. Now, I am torn about Vertigo's decision to release the first collection from Denise Mina's run before fully collecting Mike Carey's run--although, it looks like they will be collecting both at the same time, which is odd. But, I do understand why they've done it. It's obvious, just looking at the cover where Mina's name is the biggest type except for the word Constantine. Mina is a well-known crime novelist, so trying to sell the book with her name is smart--and Hellblazer is one of the few books in the mainstream where I could see people picking up more collections (and liking them). It seems in all the rush to give people every other Vertigo book under the sun, people always forget about this one even though, it tends to be one of the best-written titles they have at any given time. Because everyone who grew up east of the Atlantic in the mainstream worships old Johnny boy the way the rest of us cream our jeans over Spider-Man, but with more respect and reverence, the quality never dips too far.

In this book, Constantine has a problem. He helped a guy out by wiping his memory, but that meant taking on the problem himself, which is feeling empathy. So much empathy for everyone that it hurts so much you want to kill yourself. But, Constantine is a bit of a bastard naturally, so he can handle it, right?

Peppered throughout his journey to find out how the guy got his name and what it all means are flashbacks to various points in the past, beginning with 6th century and some monks building a monastery on an island near Scotland. They sacrifice one of their own as part of the custom, but three days later, one of them receives a vision from God to dig him up--and they find that he isn't dead. The not-dead monk tells them about how Heaven and Hell aren't what they think they are and they've got it all wrong, so everyone assumes he's a puppet of Satan and buries him alive.

What it comes down to is that there is a third place that has been taking the souls of the dead and a cult wants to shut it down by creating an empathy engine that will make everyone love one another and they want Constantine to willingly sacrifice his life to make it happen. And the bastard does.

The story is engaging, is well-structured, always giving the reader new information, but not too much. It does jump around a bit near the beginning, but that's to be expected since this is Mina's first comic work and no one gets a handle on the mechanics right away.

The art is also fantastic. Leonardo Manco has long been a favourite of mine and his style is perfect for a horror book like this.

The only downside is that there are a few spoilers of what happens in Mike Carey's run for anyone who has been following that only in trades (like me). Big details that are shocks, but also don't actually tell you WHAT happened, if you get me. In a way, the spoilers just make me want to read the next few collections of the Carey run even more now.

As for Mina's John Constantine, I like him. He's a bit too nice and engaging for much of the story, but that's because he feels empathy towards everyone. The John at the very end is one we all know and love, and makes me want to read the next collection of this run as well.

One problem I saw with this collection is that I'm never told anything about Denise Mina aside from the "Author of . . ." blurb under her name on the cover, nor are there any of the usual promo pages that list the other Hellblazer collections available. If the goal of this trade, as I figure, is partly to bring in Mina's readers, pointing them to specific titles would be beneficial and every other trade on the planet usually has bios of creators, so why not here? The only person who gets any bio is Ian Rankin following his introduction. Odd.

But, it's a good read with a fantastic ending. Pick it up.