Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Sunday Open: Superheroes are Fun

Since I'm now doing a weekly column about a new comic, I'm going to have to actually buy comics each week. That means that Sunday is definitely a day for thoughts on the books. Lucky you.

Amazing Spider-Man #549

When discussing this week's column, Tim listed a few books he would be interested in discussing and this was one of them, so I got it. I actually planned to pick up last month's three issues, too, just to provide some background, but the shop didn't have the first one. Ah well, if I can't pick up this issue and follow along fine then Marc Guggenheim obviously isn't doing his job.

Well, the good news is, I can follow along fine. The bad news is, this comic is utterly mediocre. It's not bad, but it's not good either. For every good bit, there's a corresponding bad bit. Like when Peter shows up late for an important meeting and instead of getting chewed out, he's held up as an example of a hard-working employee, always too busy to be on time. It defies expectations and is pretty funny. This is paired with the boss not rembering Peter's last name. Oh-ho-ho, that would have been so funny when I was eight, but I'm not--and neither is the vast majority of the readers. Jackpot's assumptions about the superhero lifestyle (especially calling the Grey Goblin as her arch-enemy) are fun. But...

The Jackpot and Grey Goblin plots frustrate me because they are obviously hinting at Mary Jane and Harry being these people (Harry less so). The Jackpot/MJ connection is so overdone that the writers are left with two options: reveal Jackpot as Mary Jane and have every reader go "Well, no shit!" or reveal Jackpot as someone else, at which point, all of the over-the-top MJ hints make no sense and the audience feels cheated. Maybe they've got something cool planned, but, as of now, it lacks the subtlety necessary to be a compelling mystery. All I'm waiting for is the obvious reveal or the nonsensical reveal. Fun.

I'm going to pick up the next two issues, so I can judge a complete arc. If the quality is the same as demonstrated here, I probably won't buy any further issues. It's just not worth my time or money to read mediocrity three times a month.

Batman #673 (and Batman: Gothic briefly)

Tim Callahan has a nice write-up comparing this issue to a classic issue that served as inspiration for Morrison, so go read that as I won't be touching on any of those details.

Actually, I don't have much to say about this issue since it's just a piece in a larger puzzle. I enjoyed the Joe Chill bit as it shows how far Batman will go, but then stop. He won't kill Chill to get revenge--but driving him to and encouraging suicide? Sure, why not.

I'm struck by how Bat-Mite's words to Bruce seem a guide to readers of Morrison's run: "That bats ain't so bad when you get to know them. / heheheheh / They can even be funny!" and then, he immediately follows it up with a comment that suggests that Morrison may move the book into a direction readers are familar with: "To tell the truth... / the dark ain't so bad when you learn how to make friends with it." The first quote seems a message to the readers that they need to lighten up about how they perceive Batman, that he isn't just a grim, hard-boiled asshole--and the second seems to suggest that Morrison has fought against that purposefully, but is learning that it isn't all that bad either. Weird contradictions there.

The title of the issue, "Joe Chill in Hell" makes me think of Batman: Gothic where Batman talks about Gotham being hell. I picked up that trade this week and reread it yesterday and something occurred to me: would the story in Gothic qualify as an entry in the Black Casebook? It involves the supernatural and occult, the sort of things that seem like they'd be contained in the Black Casebook. It would be appropriate.

The Boys #15

I love Hughie. I defy anyone to read this comic and not love Hughie. What you need to know about him is summed up on the final page when Annie (secretly a superheroine and newest member of the Seven) runs into him, hughs him and begs him to be nice to her (as her life has been pretty fucking shitty lately) and he just responds, "AW, ANNIE-- / WHY ON EARTH WOULDN'T I BE?" I've always hated how people tend to focus on Ennis' extreme elements and just gloss over stuff like that.

This issue is all about degradation. Annie has degraded herself to be a superhero and member of the Seven. Hughie feels he's morally degraded himself through some of his activities as a member of the Boys. The director (whose actual name I totally forget) degrades herself (in her eyes) by having sex with Butcher. Butcher has degraded himself by making himself a superpowered person. Curious to see if this arc continues with the theme.

More interested to see if things go well for Hughie, though. I love that boy.

The Immortal Iron Fist #12

There are, like, 54 things going on at once in this book. But, the big news is that, for the first time ever, an artist besides David Aja has drawn scenes that take place in the present! However, the choice of Javier Pulido is a smart one as his style is similar to Aja's enough that there is an easy to spot difference, it isn't a jarring one.

This issue advances every plot as the tournament continues, as does the revolution and Hydra's attempts to fuck shit up. Did enjoy Fat Cobra's background stuff like him demanding his "wenches in waiting" when Steel Phoenix takes his place in a fight--or the hair pin stuck through his hand when, several panels earlier, he puts his arm around Tiger.

Great book.

Midnighter #16

I haven't read #15 yet. But, I wanted to see what Assassin8 was like and this is it? Maybe things will pick up next issue, but this issue was kind of bland.

The Mighty Avengers #8

Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeah, I read this several months ago in New Avengers. Except then it didn't have the overwrought thought-balloon monologue from Iron Man.

Narcopolis #1

So far, the plot of this series seems really basic (although it fits in with Delano's 2020 Visions--which I picked up this week and I'm halfway through), but the real fun is Delano's language. He really plays with the concept of how people would speak in this future society, much like Anthony Burgess in A Clockwork Orange. Nothing really deep here, just fun to read and get the hang of. The end of the issue suggests the plot will get better in future issues.

The Death of the New Gods #5

So, it's the Source that's killing the New Gods. And Mister Miracle becomes more an agent of the Anti-Life Equation--which is the other half of the Source that makes up a larger being. I wonder if we'll see a similar agent for the Source. Currently, the main suspect for the killer is Orion and I would love it if it turns out he has access to the Source the way Mister Miracle does the Anti-Life Equation, alluding back to where each grew up and being opposites.

I also loved the line that called the events from Crisis on Infinite Earths the "Infinity Crisis." Ah, good ol' Starlin. Looking forward to his reunion with Ron Lim on that Holy War book, too.

Omega the Unknown #5

We reach the halfway point of this book and it's still really fucking weird. I love the hand that grows feet, though. Funny as hell. Not sure what to say about this book. It's interesting, but hard to discuss as much of it will rely on the larger context.

That's it for this week. Until next week.