Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Sunday Open: 17/02/08 Comics

One of the reasons why I've avoided making weekly treks to the comic shop is that I spend more money that way. Where I'll only buy books I normally pick up and the odd take-a-chancer when I hit the shop once a month, I find I'm much more willing to just buy whatever looks good if I'm there every week. Now, that's bad news for my wallet, but it also means I'm checking out a whole lot more. So, let's jump into it:

Fantastic Four #554

Wow, what a boring comic. I have zero to no interest in books that simply revel in the typical, which this book does. But then again, others would simply call that showing us these characters as they were back in the glory days. My last experience with the title was the Waid/Wieringo run, which I got in hardcovers... and, yeah, why has Johnny Storm reverted back to his pre-teen self? How fucking boring. And look at Reed being actually boring! Or Ben being fun! Normally, I enjoy books with little action and lots of character development--except there is no character development here, it's all just character re-enforcement, which is all well and good, but why am I spending three bucks on a comic that's telling me things I already know?

Not a huge fan of Bryan Hitch's art here, if only because of last week's ClanDestine where Alan Davis shows up his imitator. That, and Hitch tries to make every panel look so unique as far as facial expressions go that they become almost parodic at times. Something about Johnny's face on page five just seems wrong...

I don't know, it seems like a comic more intent on recapturing old FF stories/moments than actually doing something new (aside from Sue's charity project, which is a fantastic idea, honestly). Even the so-called "cliffhanger" doesn't do anything for me, because there isn't enough information there to create an interest or any tension. (And, seriously, "Nu-World"? "Nu"? How utterly modern.)

Fantastic Four: The Lost Adventure

Remember when this was announced and everyone was all "OMG! NU KIRBY! KEWL!" and then everyone promptly forgot? That's probably for the best. This is a book for scholars, Kirby obsessors and... well, not many other people, because it isn't that good. But, don't worry, because everyone involved seems to recognise the lack of quality in this "lost adventure" that was meant to be Fantastic Four #102--Stan Lee ran #103 as #102 and then cannabalised this story in #108. It isn't bad, it's just utterly mundane. The way Marvel has put this book together, though, is pretty nice. They include a reconstructed version of the original #102, Kirby's original pencils along with his border notes and then #108 so we can see how his art was used. Not much entertainment value, but there's probably an essay or two's worthy of material in this book.

Ghost Rider #20

Tim Callahan hyped this book up so much I couldn't not get it. I don't think I've ever picked up an issue of Ghost Rider before in its various iterations. Never had much interest. But, Tim said it was all kinds of awesome and I tend to listen to Tim.

While it doesn't live up to his hype (what could?), this is a very impressive debut for Jason Aaron on the title. He establishes the book firmly within the horror/grindhouse genre and sets up the overarching story of Ghost Rider trying to get to Heaven to take revenge on an angel who was really responsible for his condition. Throw in some nurses with guns and tearing up a church and it's a lot of fun. Worth picking up--if only for Aaron's text piece at the end of the issue where he both bashes, but condones the previous creative team.

New Avengers #38

Now, this is what I'm talking about. After months of mediocre issues, Bendis finally delivers with an issue-long fight between Luke Cage and Jessica Jones after she's registered in order to keep their daughter out of harm's way. Is it a coincidence that Michael Gaydos does the art in this fantastic issue? Probably not.

I can understand that this type of issue isn't everyone's cup of tea as nothing "happens" except the breakdown of a marriage between two characters we're supposed to care about. What I find especially intriguing is that Bendis doesn't try to take sides, he simply presents the characters' points of view and the reader can decide who is right and who is wrong. As well, this is the first time I've really seen the fallout of Civil War in an emotional way (okay, maybe the death of Captain America, too). Yeah, we've had the New Avengers square off with the Mighty Avengers, but who cares. This was the first post-Civil War switch that actually means something (sorry, Spider-Woman, but who cares about you when you switch sides the way most people change underwear?).

Next issue promises the truth about Echo, which should, I hope, clear up how a deaf woman can read the lips of people wearing masks... or not actually facing her...

Spider-Man Family #7

The Mike Wieringo tribute story by Mark Waid, Todd Dezago and Karl Kesel--who also draws the story in a cartoony style similar to that of Wieringo. I'm actually surprised at how overlooked this issue is--and a little bothered that they'd stick the tribute story in this comic, mostly filled with reprints of old, bad Spider-Man comics (I'm talking stuff from the '90s--like the first issue of a Venom mini-series). When I heard about it, I made a mental note to keep my eye out for the issue and, thankfully, I remembered.

The story itself isn't anything worldshattering, but it's a lot of fun in the best ways. The Looter wants to find the twin of his beloved meteorite and this leads Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and Dr. Strange on a wild goose chase to the Savage Land and a few other places. The Looter is a great character: a man in love with a green shard of rock that he actually talks to--and there's a moment when Spider-Man has it and he talks to it and I immediately wondered if maybe the Looter isn't so crazy and the rock can talk to whoever holds it. Probably not, but a cool idea.

What impressed me the most about this story is how some of the heroes see that the Looter is a man who needs help and treat him with compassion as such. They see a crazy guy who isn't really bad, just a little deranged and take steps to subdue him in non-violent ways.

The rest of Spider-Man Family is, as I said, reprints and I didn't read any of them. I may read the Spider-Manga reprint since I've never read one before.

Wolverine #62

Shit, this is the 7th issue of Wolverine I've gotten in a row--the first being Jason Aaron's excellent one-off story with Howard Chaykin. Marc Guggenheim's run wasn't that great, but since I did enjoy Aaron's take on the character so much in that one-off issue, I figured I'd give this a look. I mean, Wolverine hunting down Mystique... hard to fuck that up, eh?

This is a solid issue with a few cool bits, especially the way Aaron makes it seem that Logan has gone over the edge in his hunt for Mystique--a shapeshifter, which would cause a lot of problems no doubt. The end of the issue is nice, too. I'll be picking up the rest of this arc.

Fantastic Comics #24

The first "next issue project" release from Image where creators do the next issue of a Golden Age title. It's a nice idea and good gimmick for an anthology. But, like most anthologies, the results are not always the greatest. Most of the stories in this issue are mediocre. Erik Larson's "Samson" story is serviceable, but nothing special. As are Tom Scioli's "Space Smith" and Andy Khun's "Yank Wilson." Those three stories read like bonus features for the main events, namely Joe Casey and Bill Sienkiewicz's "Flip Falcon in the Fourth Dimension" and Ashley Wood's "Sub Saunders."

Big surprise, I know, me digging on the Joe Casey and Ashley Wood stories--but there's a reason why I dig these guys' work... they deliver some killer stuff. "Flip Falcon" has Casey play around with the idea of time travel in a cool way, while also having the character transcend his old boundaries. It reads like a very well-written preview for an ongoing series where the Golden Age character is a jumping off point. It seems that reusing these public domain characters is the current "thing" and this is the first time I've seen someone do something new and interesting with one. None of this "wake up in the modern world and show us how it's done" bullshit--it's take one of those cool mindfuck concepts and push it into the 21st century. Fucking right.

Ashley Wood's Sub Saunders story is obtuse and difficult to understand since it features mostly black panels and German dialogue, but when you figure it out, it's a fun little ending to the issue. Especially the introduction of an android named... AUTOMATED KEATS! Okay, I may as well explain it: Wood makes fun of using these old characters instead of creating new ones. He referneces Automatic Kafka as that was a character he and Casey took off the board to avoid things like this project. At least, that's what I took from the story.

The only other story of note is the "Stardust" one with Mike Allred on art. It's a pretty typical "the modern world sucks and the old heroes knew how to do" story that I'm surprised Alex Ross didn't have some involvement in.

I will probably pick up future volumes of the "next issue project" because it is a fun read, even the bad stories. Although, after that Wood story, can I really do it with a clear conscience? Hoo-ha.