Sunday, September 30, 2007

52 Problems, Etc. (Volume Lance)

Wrote this earlier today for the school paper, the University of Windsor Lance. Very cursory, but it hits the main points.

52 Vols. 1-3
By: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, Mark Waid, Keith Giffen and various artists
DC Comics
302 pgs., $23.99 (each)

Last year, the comics published by DC all jumped ahead one year in their stories and to fill in that missing year, the publisher put out a weekly comic told in real time. Weekly comics are not new ideas, but by telling the story in real time as well as tapping four of the industry’s top writers, 52 managed to capture the audience for the entire year. Now, the year-long saga has been collected in four trade paperbacks (volume four available in November) for easy-reading.

The tagline for 52 was that it was a year without Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman as all three recovered from the most recent intercompany crossover event, Infinite Crisis. This means that 52 focuses on a cast of lesser known, often looked down upon characters with varying results.

In one story, the time-travelling Booster Gold is a superhero only so he can get corporate sponsorship and his costume is plastered with company logos. In another, Lex Luthor has found a way to give the average person superpowers and the hero Steel has to figure out what he’s up to before it’s too late. In the most poignant story, the anti-hero Black Adam goes through a startling transformation as he builds a family, turning his back on his former hard-line stances.

However, while these stories are among the better ones, there are also clunkers like the plot involving former police detective Renee Montoya and the faceless vigilante The Question as they track the plans of Intergang, which is, well, an international gang. A lot of space is given to this story, but it’s highly repetitive and lacks an interesting hook.

Beyond those plotlines, there are easily another half-dozen touched on in these three volumes, so these books could be overwhelming for someone who isn’t familiar with DC’s cast of characters. If there is a fatal flaw in 52, it’s that extensive knowledge of the DC universe is a necessity, but that is offset by the fact that the series is aimed at hardcore fans.

The use of real time is interesting, but sometimes hurts more than it helps. Plots are often dropped for several weeks and then pick up as if no time has passed in between. Having so many balls in the air and limited space means that only a few stories can be touched on per chapter, but leaving some stories alone for nearly two months is sloppy.

As well, specific fans of the writers involved may be disappointed as the method of writing comes off as more written-by-committee--and necessarily so to maintain a coherent tone. There are flashes of individual style, but not many. The overall style used, though, is not bad, but may disappoint some who see a name like Grant Morrison on the cover and then fail to see his trademark style.

The art on 52 is provided by various artists as keeping up with a weekly deadline is beyond most, but, to provide a consistent tone, artist Keith Giffen provides layouts for all of the art. The style of art may change, but since Giffen provides a guide for panel placement and the composition of the drawings, the general tone and look remain remarkably steady.

52 may not be the best book for someone not familiar with the various intricacies of the DC universe, but the year-long weekly book was an interesting experiment in storytelling and these collections are worth it just to see the various tricks and techniques used to pull it off. As well, the collections come with creator commentary for each chapter and other bonuses, providing a great look into what it took to make this book work.


I'll do a post on volume three this week along with stuff on the comics I bought on Friday.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Greatest Comics You've Never Read 002: Marvel Two-in-One Annual #7

Sorry about not posting this yesterday. Real life interferred a bit, but things are fine now. To make it up to you all, I've actually scanned stuff this time.

Today's comic, Marvel Two-in-One annual #7 came out before I was born, but my dad had a copy of it and I must have read it dozens of time. Actually, I flipped through it many, many more times than I read it. Marvel Two-in-One was basically the same as Marvel Team-Up, but starred the Thing instead of Spider-Man. It's also the opposite of Team-Up as that title existed so Spider-Man could star in yet another book, while Two-in-One seemed to exist because, well, the Thing couldn't bring in a large enough audience by himself. I could be wrong there, but that's the impression I always got.

Now, the appeal of this issue (as the cover above indicates) is that the Thing doesn't share the book with one hero--no, he shares it with all of the other powerhouses of the Marvel universe (Doc Samson also shows up inside, but didn't make the cover). The plot is very simple: an alien boxing promoter shows up, kidnaps the eight most powerful heroes in the MU and has them train to fight the Champion, an intergalactic boxer who goes around challenging the strongest fighters on various worlds to boxing matches--just for the sheer thrill of it. So, they all train and then they fight.

One of my favourite parts of the issue is the various little alien trainers the heroes each get:

I used to spend so much time just studying those little guys and matching them up with the heroes. I was an easily amused child, apparently.

Now, the training was fun as a couple of heroes are eliminated. Namor refuses to train and fight, because he's a pussy, so they kick him to the curb. Doc Samson is so bad at fighting that his exercise machine beats him up and his alien trainer deems him too incompetent to actually fight.

Thor acts like a jerk and uses his hammer, while the others all train following the rules--even the Hulk. Of course, in a line-up of Marvel's biggest and brightest, it's interesting that because it's Two-in-One, the Thing is automatically seen as the best of the bunch:

Now, is this simply because it's his book or because the people of the Marvel universe trust him the most? Look at the other heroes: Colossus is a mutant; Sasquatch is Canadian; Wonder Man is an actor; Thor is a viking; the Hulk is a monster; Doc Samson is a therapist; and Namor is an invading asshole. While you may argue over who is the strongest of the bunch, there's no doubt that Earth would look to the Thing as the best bet as he is a member of the Fantastic Four and best friend of Mr. Fantastic. While he may look like a giant rock-guy, he's proven himself not only a hero, but also an average guy. This guy was a fucking astronaut basically. In fact, this issue has a strange subtext that suggests that the Thing should be an American hero and celebrated as such. By this point in his life, no one would see him as a monster, they would just see a guy just like them who suffered a terrible accident and now does what he can to do the right thing.

The fights take place in Madison Square Garden in a ring surrounded by some sort of alien forcefield.

The first hero: Thor. He's disqualified for using his hammer, which he would put down, but if he's separated from it for more than a minute, he'll revert to Donald Blake. But, he just looks like an asshole.

The second hero: the Hulk. And, he, uh . . .

The third hero: Sasquatch. He tries his best, but is knocked out quickly.

The fourth hero: Colossus. He also tries his best, but is beaten so badly the ref stops the fight.

The fifth hero: Wonder Man. He tries to fight, but gets his ass whooped, so he freaks out and tears up the ring. He's one of the Avengers now, you know.

That just leaves . . .

And he does is best. Up until this point, no one has EVER lasted a single round--on any world. The Thing last three complete rounds. He gives it as good as he gets and the only reason the fight doesn't continue is because the ref is concerned for his safety. The Thing, though, just won't quit . . .

The Champion then admits that he could never truly defeat the Thing as his spirit and will can never be crushed. He leaves, praising the Thing's courage and then the Thing falls over. The final panel is all of the heroes (not just the fighters) in in the ring, embracing him as the sold-out crowd goes nuts.

Okay, so maybe it rips off Rocky a bit, but it's still a great read. It's also the issue that made me love the Thing, because this sums him up: he may never be stronger than the Hulk or Thor, but he'll fight them with everything he's got and never give up. The Thing's real strength lies inside with his determination and motherfucking grit.

No idea what comic I'll do next or when I'll do it. A lot of the books I want to discuss are back at my parents' house in London, so maybe when I'm back for a visit, I'll grab what I can. In the meantime, I'll look through what I've got here.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Greatest Comics You've Never Read 001: Avengers West Coast #102

I tend not to give a fuck about autographs. I think I've purposely gotten, maybe, ten at most. Those were cases where I wanted to show my support to smaller presses (like getting Paradigm #1 signed in Chicago four years back), buying something from the creator and having it signed automatically, or when a work meant a lot to me and I wanted my copy of it to be all extra-special and shit.

That's why two years ago at a convention in Toronto, I had Dave Ross sign my copy of Avengers West Coast #102, which he drew. This comic has been one of the biggest influences on my own comic writing and how I view comics.

And five bucks says you've never read this amazing issue. Actually, it's not that amazing, but when I got in a twenty-five-cent bin when I was 13 or 14 or whatever, it was. Blew my fucking mind oh yeah.

AWC #102 is the final issue of the series and the lead-in to the new Force Works (which I never read). The issue details exactly why the Avengers West Coast sucks and should not be allowed to continued. The issue actually begins with Vision declaring the team is dead, so let's all get on with new business, while the Scarlet Witch tells him to go fuck himself, because four members of West Coast are sitting right there and they say the team is still active. And that's the entire issue: the Avengers trying to shut down the West Coast branch, because they're fuck-ups.

I love it.

The West Coast members present are: Scarlet Witch, War Machine, USAgent and Spider-Woman. The Avengers: Vision, Captain America, Hercules, Crystal, Black Widow, Black Knight, Sersi and Giant-Man. Gee, why would anyone think the West Coast team is kind of shitty? Could it be that Mockingbird just died, Hawkeye fucked off and the remaining members have been useless recently?

And then, Iron Man shows up, seemingly to defend the West Coast. Arguments are made on both sides. USAgent hates Cap, War Machine hates Iron Man, Scarlet Witch hates Vision, Hank wishes everyone would just get along, and Spider-Woman is sorry for being fertile.

Eventually, the decision to disband the team goes to a vote and things are tied up when it comes to Iron Man. His vote will be the one that saves the West Coast team--

So, naturally, he votes to disband it.

The end of the issue has the West Coast members quit the Avengers (including Iron Man), USAgent toss his gear into some water and Wonder Man show up to the abandonded, destroyed West Coast mansion only to have Iron Man tell him the team is no more.

Okay, it doesn't seem that great, does it? Well, trust me, it is.

What hooked me in was that here we had two groups of Avengers, characters that should, by all rights, get along--and they fucking hate each other. The cover depicts Iron Man holding USAgent back from punching Captain America (a scene in the book); War Machine quits right after Iron Man shows up; and they all eat lunch in between. This isn't how superheroes are supposed to act--I mean, yeah, some of the newbies look shit (War Machine, Spider-Woman, USAgent--but also Sersis and Crystal), but the Scarlet Witch qutting the Avengers? Iron Man following suit? What the fuck? This is the Avengers! What's happening?

By all rights, this issue should be shit. It's a quick one-off to shut down this book and set things up for Force Works, but Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning manage to make so much more of it. It's the sort of dark realism you would expect from a book dated January 1994, but it doesn't just go down that route for the sake of it, it raises questions of differing motivations and what being an Avenger means.

One of the issues raised is the events of Operation: Galactic Storm, which I guess was some mega-crossover involving the Kree and a decision to kill its leader, the Supreme Intelligence. That decision nearly tore the Avengers apart because of differing views. Except, the thing that they all seem to miss is that it wasn't the West Coast team that decided to kill the SI--it was a mixture of both teams, just as a mixture of each team decided not to participate. But, the West Coast team takes the blame. There's something below the surface that could destroy the team and they seem to think getting rid of the West Coasters will solve everything. Nevermind the fact that of the four Avengers we see prepared to defy Captain America and kill the SI, three of them are sitting on his side of the table. (Although, on a side note, why was Captain America against it? Oh yeah, it was during that time when everyone seemed to forget that he's a soldier and would kill when necessary. Whoops.)

This book also has a very familiar set-up: Cap on one side, Iron Man on the other, but with the roles reversed. Cap is the conservative authority figure, while Iron Man is the defiant rebel who won't let "The Man" keep these guys from doing what's right.

In another way, the book is very self-conscious in that the Avengers explain exactly why AWC is ending, why the group and the book doesn't work anymore. In a way, Abnett and Lanning are recognising that if they are going to push these characters into new and different places, it's almost wrong to use the Avengers name, because the darker, harsher 90s approach doesn't fit with that tradition. Ending the book is almost a sign of respect and a subtle jab at those who darken the iconic books when it doesn't fit.

Now, I got Dave Ross, the artist to sign my copy mostly because he was at the convention, but also because his work here is really quite good. Everytime I look at it, I'm amazed he isn't more well-known, because while the art suffers from the horrible costumes of many characters, he draws crisp, clean characters that are distinct and have realistic body language. His storytelling is fantastic and despite being a dense, text-heavy comic, it never feels cluttered--even with so many characters.

I'm not sure Avengers West Coast #102 is as great as I like to think it is, but it was an eye-opener for my younger self and much of it still holds up. Give it a look when you can.

Tomorrow, I'll discuss another comic--one that's not quite so brilliant, but I still love: Marvel Two-in-One annual #7.

Friday, September 21, 2007

52 Problems etc. (Volume Adam)

Today, allergies or a cold or SOMETHING has decided that I should not be able to do anything except sneeze and blow my nose. In the meantime, I figured I'd just pass along my roommate Adam's thoughts on the first volume of 52: giant pile of shit. He hated it, particularly the Montoya/"guy with no face" story.



Thursday, September 20, 2007

52 Problems, Etc. (Volume 2.714285714285, etc.)

Okay, so I'm a horrible blogger, you've got me. I quit in the middle of the post to watch a DVD of a TV show I've already seen. However, in my defence, I offer two words:

Denny Crane.

I've still got two plots from 52's first two volumes to look at plus maybe a few words on various minor bits that technically tie into the main plots but are still worth noting.

Evil Genius, Inc.

Another plot that didn't do much for me until it got going was the whole Will Magnus visiting Professor Morrow in prison, which lead into mad scientists all being kidnapped. My lack of interest could be that I've never given a second thought to the Metal Men. Wow, robots made out of a specific metal, colour me don't-give-a-fuck. I did like that Magnus visited Morrow, though--and that the fact he did it once a month allowed for this story to only show up every four issues without people wondering where it went. A smart little technique that worked with the format of the series.

When Magnus is finally kidnapped, I wish they had had the room to push his mental breakdown further and have it more drawn out. I love the part where he accuses his kidnappers of trying to unhinge him and they respond that they only want MAD scientists. Given more room to breathe, this plot could have been far more interesting.

Where volume two ends, we're not entirely sure what's going on, just that the scientists are on an island and given the freedom to do as they will--well, and the funny as hell scene where a woman scientist arrives. That scene is made by the exchange between Magnus and Morrow where Morrow says he knew a woman once, Magnus responds "...and?" and Morrow goes "...I just knew one, once..." I love it.

Really, this is a story that could have carried a series. The first four issues detailing the kidnappings and Magnus' breakdown and then just a monthly book of mad scientists doing fucked up shit on an island. I would buy that.

August General in Iron on Black Adam: "Wwwhhhhhhhhhhhh-PSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHH!"

Black Adam's arc over just these two volumes is interesting as he goes from extreme, Authority-esque ruler of a nation to an attempt to be Captain Marvel basically--which works now that Captain Marvel is the new Shazam wizard. Again, only half of the larger arc, but an interesting one.

However, one question does come up: is this story a subtle commentary one how women--and, more specifically, marriage--change men?

We have Black Adam, fucking asshole who shows little mercy for evil scum, bent on creating a world that works who then meets a girl, gives her magical powers and is talked into being nicer and friendlier and giving up his coalition of Asian superheroes. What's even more surprising is how quickly it all happens. In, what, three or four months, his entire attitude and outlook changes. All of which is purposeful because they need to set up Black Adam as the patriarch of his own little family so it can be taken away and he can go even further than before.


Is it also a commentary on women?

It sure seems like it, because it does read like one of those overnight transformations we've all seen where a buddy meets a girl and, suddenly, he's an entirely different guy. August General in Iron says that when Black Adam quits the coalition (well, he says something more like "What the hell? YOU started this whole thing and now that you're married, you're quitting? PUSSY!").

I'm not sure how I read this, though. Is it sexist or simply reporting something that DOES happen? Or is it more a romantic take where it's about how family and love can change a person for the better? While Black Adam's buddies are all "You changed! You used to be cool!" he's in a loving relationship, which could very well be an improvement from who he was before.

My only complaint is that, come on, did they have to make Isis' little brother paralysed to DIRECTLY copy Captain Marvel, Jr.? They couldn't have had him seriously wounded in ANY OTHER WAY? It's just a little bit too cutesy for me. Another injury would have had the same parallelism, but not been so fucking obvious.

Please God Tell Me That's NOT the Justice League!

A few thoughts on other bits:

* one of my favourite parts of the second volume is Mark Waid's inclusion of the script for the Justice League issue where he makes a note that asks Grant about Bulleteer.

* that, and just how shitty that League is.

* The part where Alan Scott gets Mr. Terrific to join the new Checkmate confused the fuck out of me. It wasn't until halfway through when I realised who these guys were. And, even then, why I should care.

* The Martian Manhunter as a presidential aide is an awesome idea. THAT should have been the new series. Leave it to DC to ignore the awesome, mature, complex idea in favour of something typical and lame. (*cough*lexaspresident*cough*)

* Hey, the heroes who came back from space kind of disappeared, didn't they?

And that does it for this round. I'll continue when I get volume three--whenever that is.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I've Got 52 Problems but a Bitch Ain't One (Volume Two)

One of my biggest complaints about the technique used in 52 is that for a comic that takes place in real time, some stories just disappear for weeks without there seeming to be any time passage. Which is, in a way, more realistic as things shouldn't be constantly on the go, because who lives that sort of life? Oh wait, superheroes do. But, then again, if Ultimate Peter Parker was a real kid and the first hundred issues of that series really was JUST a year in his life, he would probably kill himself, so maybe not having these people have such hectic lifestyles is a good thing.

Then again, there's a seven week gap between when the trio of space-heroes (more on them soon) escape from that New God trapper guy and then show up again to escape from the planet. Are we to believe the New God guy didn't do something? Hell, that entire plot is stretched out waaaaaaaaaaaay too much when you look at it in real time.

The ironic thing is that Countdown's big problem from the issues I've seen is that while it doesn't take place in real time, they feel the need to cram every story into every issue. That's a weekly series where devoting an entire issue to one or two stories would work, while it doesn't always in 52.

But anyway . . .

Today, I'm supposed to look at volume two of 52, but I'll discuss volume one as well as most of my problems with the series in general from yesterday still apply in volume two--and while I do love Phil Jimenez's work, it stands out like a sore thumb here and only serves to make the rest of the art look like shit.

So, the plots. Let's address them one at a time:

Booster Gold Sucks Ass

Basic synopsis: Booster Gold tries to be a hero, his sidekick Skeets fucks up, he's shown to be a selfish fraud, is shown up by a new hero called Supernova, falls hard and then dies. Skeets it turns out is evil and he kills Booster's ancestor because he's evil.

If there is a "main story" for 52, this would be the strongest contender, I think, but that's also based on the fact that I know how the series ends. But, beyond purely plot reasons, is it worthy of being called the "main story" of 52?

No. Booster's story in these two volumes doesn't actually progress much. That's definitely purposeful in the sense that Booster isn't supposed to learn from his mistakes or become a better person (especially since this is only half of the story), but it's also strangely stagnant. This is an arc I have a hard time seeing taking place over this long a time period. What we see here is six months and, really, it seems like a month's worth of activity. That is a subjective view, though. We don't see Booster do many heroic acts nor much of his downfall. Because of the nature of the series, we hit the important beats, but skip over the small moments (for the most part) that would give this story more meaning and depth.

The two exceptions are Booster's encounters with Fire and Ralph, especially the former as its only purpose is to develop Booster's character and show what he spends his time doing when he's not out trying to play hero and sell ad space on his costume. The encounter with Ralph does that, but also segues into Booster's public shaming and fall.

The Supernova subplot is interesting, but not really, because you never get the sense that the character actally matters. He's a plot device--which is the risk with a mysterious character like this. We know nothing about him, he only shows up to advance other characters' stories and that's it. It's hard not to perceive him as a plot device. The sad thing is that the design of the character is fantastic and I would have preferred he turn out to be entirely new and become part of the DCU in his own right.

And Skeets being evil is kind of cool, I'll admit.

Irons V. Luthor

Steel once claimed to be Superman; therefore, he and Lex Luthor are enemies. I love that logic. And this storyline is one of the ones that interests me the most, because it's a great idea: Lex Luthor finds a way to turn people into superheroes and looks like a great guy to the public, while the heroes all know he's a douchebag doing it for his own gain.

Playing Irons against his niece is great, because it's another example of the brilliance of Lex Luthor as a character: he is a supervillain who doesn't act like a supervillain. He fights the heroes on completely different terms and he wins more often than not. Anytime I see him in that awful green and purple suit or actually fighting, I cringe, because it's so fucking typical. This is the guy who became president just to fuck with Superman, he does not resort to brawling like a common thug.

There is a big whole in this story (although is may be rectified) is that if this is a year where Clark Kent is just Clark Kent, he should be in there, being the Spider Jerusalem to Luthor's Smiler (which still bugs me about Lex as president, by the way). Obviously not the exact same, but that is how he can fight Lex on Lex's terms. That's the beauty of that relationship, because Lex ony thinks of Superman as the superhero, never realising that Clark Kent is there to counter him in that non-traditional sense. It's how Morrison approached the "Rock of Ages" arc in JLA where it's Bruce Wayne's skills that take down Luthor, not Batman's.

But I digress.

The idea of anyone getting superpowers and using them is really well done--and Luthor creating his own superteam is a classic way for him to give Superman and the rest the finger.

Why Should I Care about Renee Montoya????

As I said yesterday, the Montoya/Question storyline does nothing for me. I don't care. They're fighting Intergang, yay. They stop a suicide bombing, yay. They introduce a new Batwoman who Montoya used to sleep with, yay. None of it grabs me.

Lost in Space

This storyline sucked me in more than I expected. Actually, I expected to hate this story as it's three characters I'm not that interested in (okay, I do love Animal Man like everyone else who's read Morrison's run) in space where they encounter Lobo who I really don't care about. Not much there initially, but, somehow, it turned out to be really engaging.

And yet there's very little character development here. We have Animal Man, Starfire and Adam Strange on a planet, trapped. They have to get off. They find out there's a bounty on their heads when Devilance the Pursuer, a New God, captures them. They escape, use his weapon to power their ship and are then rescused by Lobo, who has found religion. That's actually pretty cool.

This storyline is actual the most minor one, I'd say, as it gets ignored a lot. Like I said earlier, there's a seven week gap where these characters don't show up at all. Most of the time, this plot gets skimmed over until Lobo shows up and then more emphasis is given--although, still, little development. But, it works.

Ralph Dibny, PI

This story is interesting in that the first half interested me, but the second half didn't. The first half, as Ralph uncovers what the cult of Kon-El or whatever wants with him and his dead wife, culminating in his attempt to bring her back to life is excellent. We see a desperate, depressed man gain a new purpose, given hope and then left a wreck.

Only to have him become the new Dr. Fate maybe? Yawn.

Aaaaaaaaaand my roommate is watching Boston Legal on DVD and I want to join him, so I'll finish this up tomorrow. Until then.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I've Got 52 Problems and a Bitch Ain't One (Volume One)

I can't remember how many issues of 52 I actually read cover to cover back when it was coming out. My dad bought it weekly, but I'm pretty sure sometime within the first month I went to skimming, if not during the first week itself. Honestly, the book didn't really interest me beyond my general desire to know what's going on in every book Marvel and DC publishes (which I usually do--even when I don't actively try to know what's going on).

But, hey, the trades are now coming out, so, fuck it, I'm on board the 52 bandwagon for these four collections. On Friday, I got the first two from the campus bookstore. Although, the bookstore tends to get most trades a few weeks after the comic shops, so no idea when I'll get the third one. May go to the local shop later this week, but that's no guarantee. But, today and tomorrow, I'll discuss the first two volumes of this "groundbreaking" series and judge it harshly because that's just the way I roll.

My first complaint, which is a minor one and not something that annoys me THAT much, but I'll mention it right away as it segues into praise: why no Grant Morrison commentary? After each week, there's a page of commentary by one of the writers, Keith Giffen, maybe an artist or Dan Didio--usually, it's Greg Rucka or Mark Waid, though. But never Grant Morrison, which kind of sucks.

Now, that said, the commentary and bonus art pages are a very nice addition to the trades. Commentary doesn't always work, but for a weekly series like this, it's fantastic to see what was going on behind the scenes a bit, especially once they get past the first month or so and the lead time shrinks gradually.

Another minor complaint is that JG Jones' covers are stuck at the back of the trade, most shrunk down so four can fit on a page. Now, this is probably because DC has (or will) releas(ed) a collection of the covers, but still kind of annoying. It would have been nice to have each cover WITH the text to begin each week--if only because the commentary often mentions the cover of that particular week.

Okay, that does it for the little stuff unique to the trade (oh, and JG Jones' covers for the trades are lovely, too), let's move on to the actual content of the series . . .

It's not that bad, actually.

It's not that great either, but it's not as bad as I thought it was while skimming.

Of course, certain storylines do nothin for me. The Question/Montoya one--who cares? Which is weird because yesterday I hyped this as a follow-up to Gotham Central with Montoya's story. But, yeah, I don't care. I've read two volumes and it really does nothing for me. I don't find any of the banter amusing, the characters engaging or what they're doing interesting.

But, that's to be expected. There are, what, a half dozen (maybe more, maybe less depending) storylines? What are the odds that I (or anyone) would enjoy every single one?

In all honesty, I didn't begin liking any of them until week four or five, at least. Momentum is a big part of the appeal here--which is why I think I'm more into the book while reading it in trade-form than I ever was while trying to read individual issues each week. Because of the weekly format and the inability to explore each story fully each week, reading the series in 13-issue chunks gives each story more depth and draws them out more. Where two pages for Booster Gold one week makes that story look small and lame, drawn out over 13 issues, it seems much more akin to the sort of story you'll read elsewhere.

Which is a strange irony of this book: a series that's whole gimmick was reading it weekly reads better in trade than individual issues.

One of the surprising strengths of the first volume is the lacklustre, medicore, middle-of-the-road art. It's not bad, but it's not great. And despite different artists coming in and out, they're all at around the same skill level with Keith Giffen providing a consistent guide on layouts. The storytelling is clear and does the job. Which, for a book like this, is obviously the main goal of the art. If they wanted showy art, they wouldn't have had Giffen on layouts or used these artists. They do bring in some bigger names as the series progresses, which actually bothers me, because that disrupts the flow. But, I'll leave that for future volumes, because the art in this volume is wonderfully mediocre and workmanlike throughout--one of the few times that will be a giant compliment, I know.

Wow, I haven't really discussed the plots, have I? Well, I'll get into that tomorrow with volume two as I can't really remember what happened in which volume since I read the first one on Sunday night and the second one today.

So, tomorrow, I'll discuss each storyline in some detail, covering the first two volumes, plus a few things specific to volume two.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Batman Thinks Your Favourite Hero is a Loser

I have been given a substantial amount of money from OSAP (government student loan). Far, far more money than I should have, really. What the fuck were they thinking?

But, that means I can now buy things. Many, many, many things. Like trades. Hey, look, I bought some trades on Friday and today I will discuss the first of the bunch:

Gotham Central: Dead Robin

The fifth and final collection of the series features three stories over eight issues. The eponymous lead story begins with the body of Robin found in an alley. Oh shit, not again! What is it with Batman and not being able to keep Robins alive? This new one means that only one is still alive and he's not Robin anymore! What the fuck, Batman?

Oh, it's not Tim Drake apparently.

But, the police have no way to know and they don't exactly believe Batman when he tells them that it's not the real Robin and to fuck right off, he don't abuse no kids. Except, of course, it is hard to trust him, because we all know about that girl Robin that died a few months before this story. But, then again, the police don't know that. Oh, the dramatic irony is so thick, you can eat it with a spoon!

That's actually something that I find I enjoy more and more about shared superhero universes: we, the readers, like to see all of these characters living in harmony with one another, knowing everything we know, but they don't. Most of them haven't even met--and if they did, it was just at some big megacrossover meeting where the important people planned stuff and the losers did the grunt work and probably got hurt, because, let's face it, most of these people suck. Like I'm supposed to believe Batman gives two shits about . . . I dunno, Beast Boy or Supergirl? No, he doesn't, because he's Batman and they're losers who fight loser villains that aren't even worth Batman's attention. He only cares about them in that they deal with those loser villains so he doesn't have to. He looks at them the same way he looks at the garbageman (now, don't get me wrong, I respect people who pick up garbage--more than I respect a lot of people like lawyers--but Batman doesn't, see--he's a rich motherfucker who can't help but think those guys are scum).

What was I talking about again?

Oh yeah: Batman only has time for, like, a dozen people and he even hates all of them. Even Superman. Especially Superman.

"Dead Robin" is actually a pretty entertaining story, but the ending left me yawning. It was just so . . . mundane. Dead Robins showing up all over the city (okay, in two places) and that's it? I would have actually preferred it turning out that Batman was training dozens of teens to be his unholy Robin army and a few just, you know, died. It happens. Whatever. Move on.

Then there's a self-contained issue that ties into Infinite Crisis that is about as good as you'd expect an issue that ties into a giant crossover to be.

The final three issues deal with Jim Corrigan, the corrupt CSU officer, killing Montoya's partner and walking, setting up her story in 52. It's a really well done story and ends in a way that leaves a bad taste in your mouth--but in that good way.

One thing I should mention is how great the art is. Kano and Stefano Gaudiano handle the art for "Dead Robin" and "Corrigan II" while Steve Lieber does the Infinite Crisis issue. It's all dark and pseudo-realistic, reminding me of Sean Phillip's art (who provides the covers). It works perfectly with the tone of the series and plots, heavy emphasis on mood and storytelling. Especially impressive is the fact that with a large cast of characters, I was rarely confused over who was who. That's something that a lot of artists can't pull off, but they do here.

Tomorrow, we follow-up Montoya's story in the first volume of 52.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Comics are closer now

One of the best things about Casa de Chadam (my new place) is that it cuts my walk to the nearest comic shop in half. It now takes me around 25 minutes to walk there, which does me just fine. Throw in browsing and stopping to buy a pop and it's an hour trip total. What I'm getting at is: I bought comics today. Strangely enough, I bought mostly comics I went there looking for. Who knew.

Amazing Spider-Man #544

The initial irony of this book is the cover: in the upper left-hand corner, it proclaims "Still only 399¢" . . . and, out of the eight comics I bought this week, it's the most expensive by a dollar. Every other comic is $2.99 US.

Oh, and then there's the irony of the cover asking "What would you do if you only have one more day?!" My answer: not read this comic.

I've always had a soft spot for Spider-Man and figured I'd check out this soon-to-be-landmark storyline and . . . this is it? Aunt May is dying, Peter won't let her be a charity case, so he beats up Iron Man and shames him into funding her healthcare only to run off at the end to find some magic cure to being really fucking old and shot. If the preview for next issue tells me anything, his first stop is Dr. Strange, which makes sense, because the only logical way to cure being old and shot would be magic.

One question: if Peter is in too much of a hurry to put on his costume before fighting Iron Man, why does he put it on at the end of the issue when she's in no better shape other than the fact that her bill is covered? Just wondering.

I do plan on buying the rest of the issues, because I'm a sucker and I do hope things pick up.

Infinity Inc. #1

Hmm, interesting. I really like the idea of a book that explores what happens to people after they lose superpowers. Not just superpowers, but the fame that came with them. Peter Milligan seems one of the best choices to handle this sort of book. I almost wish they'd just let him run with that concept and forget the standard supervillain bullshit that's obviously been thrown in. It's boring and drags the issue down. Damaged people trying to deal with the shitty hand they've been dealt is much more interesting. Hell, for me, the issue ended with Gerome (formerly Nuklon) with a doctor, discussing his obsessive narcisism and then--another Gerome shows up talking about Gerome begged him to pose nude the previous day. Then there's more stuff with the lame leather-clad, long-haired goth-esque bad guy and Natasha's feet disappear.

Max Fiumara's art is good, except for his John Henry Irons, who I think he draws a little too thing and a little too young. Otherwise, his art reminds me of a rough cross between Javier Pulido and Stuart Immonen (although the style Immonen used years ago when he was on the Superman books). (And if you're wondering where I got THAT combination, I don't know. Just the artists I thought of while looking at the art.)

Wolverine #57

I picked this up based on the recommendation of the guy at the shop. As longtime readers of the blog may know, I gave Blade a couple of shots and it failed to impress. But, hey, I did enjoy what Guggenheim did on Wolverine during the Civil War crossover.

This issue isn't bad. It begins with Logan in World War I, killing many Germans. And, then, in the present, he and an Atlantean we met during the Civil War arc, try to save Tony Stark from being killed--except it's a trap and Wolverine is left brain-dead. It's some solid entertainment and Chaykin's art is pretty good. He's a good fit for this book.

The Immortal Iron Fist #8

Writing? Top-notch. Art? Amazing. Concept? Killer. People not buying this book? Retarded.

Midnighter #11

Midnighter was a total dork growing up.

Giffen continues his story exploring Midnighter's past and his odd hometown. It's a solid arc and is actually taking the character out of his usual pseudo-Batman style. There isn't actually much here beyond another issue of introductions, in a sense. Am I the only one who's bothered by the fact that Midnighter (or should I say Lucas) is hanging out with some guy he went to high school with, but his inability to remember any of it isn't an issue?

Also, what the fuck does the cover have to do with anything? I hate generic, boring, bullshit covers like this.

Thunderbolts #116

Ellis has made Penance interesting. The fuck--?

I love how character advancement for Captain Mar-Vell was thrown in here. Apparently, he sucked at running a prison and fucked off somewhere. And then there's the "Who Wants to be Captain America?" one-page gag that doesn't actually fit into the current MU--but who cares. I wonder just how much this book fits into the MU really. The way that one-page bit works is suggesting that the reality show about people trying to become Thunderbolts could lead to a new person taking up the Captain America mantle as a member of the group. Won't happen, of course, but it's a fun little idea.

Another thing that occurred to me--and has bothered me since Civil War #1--is why do people place all of the blame for Nitro blowing up on the New Warriors? Was the team outgunned? Yeah. But, uh, Nitro was a guy who could blow himself up. Honestly, the fact that it took them this long to treat him like a serious threat is sad. He's a human suicide bomber who doesn't die. He could have been fighting the Avengers and still killed a shitload of kids. Just bothers me is all.

But, this is a solid book with lots of dark humour.

Iron Man: Enter the Mandarin #1

The fourth book in the "Joe Casey Fixes Stan Lee's Plot Holes" series. Take that, "The Man." HA!

I missed Eric Cante's art. Goddamn, it's good stuff.

Starlord #2

Heh. This book actually made me laugh. I love this group of characters as they all suck and rule in their own ways. And Giffen killed off Deathcry. Hoo-ha.

Hopefully, I'll get back into a routine and begin updating more frequently again.

Saturday, September 01, 2007


Matt Brady bitch-slapped Mike Carlin in the weekly "counting down" feature over at Newsarama yesterday:

NRAMA: Over in the shelter - Amazons Attack ended this week, with the revelation that the Greek Gods are imprisoned by, if not by the entire forces of Apokalips, at least Granny Goodness, and Granny is impersonating Athena. So - the Athena that's showing up in Countdown, and has established a center to train women....that's Granny Goodness too?

MC: See... Who needs footnotes?

NRAMA: Probably the people reading Countdown but not Amazons Attack who think it’s still Athena. Moving along...