Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Sunday Open: 02/03/08 Books

Goddamn, let's do this thing...

Batman #674

It all becomes clear and those of us who have been saying "Wait for it..." (myself, Tim Callahan, Geoff Klock to name a few) are vindicated as Morrison ties things together and gives a clear lead-in to "Batman RIP." Hell, I'm even digging on Tony Daniel's work here a bit. That's strange.

I also should admit that I was wrong in my assessment of issue 666 as being the conclusion to the "Three Bat-Ghosts" story as here Batman confronts Anti-Christ Batman (unless it's a different guy in the future...) and gets out of his death-trap with Morrison providing some of the best Bat-narration I've read in a long, long time. This is the Batman of his JLA run and if you're not reading this book, you're a fool.

I'm wondering what role the Joker will play in "Batman RIP" myself. He can't be the mysterious enemy... can he?

Goddamn, I am excited about this book. And I missed the Black Glove reference until Tim mentioned it over at his blog. Good eye, mon ami--you're a better reader than I.

Criminal #1

And just to prove that they can do a fantastic story in one issue, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips give us part of Gnarls' past. We all know Gnarls as the bartender of the Undertow(n) in the first two arcs of this title, but, goddamn, his story is good.

Brubaker continues to have an amazing sense of character and motivation. This issue, in particular, is based more on characters acting and reacting than a more artificial, external plot. Put anyone else in the same situation and you'd almost certainly get different results.

And Phillips just continues to be one of the best storytellers in the business. That first splash page is just beautifully done and tells an entire story by itself. Not only that, but his character work is on par with Brubaker's--so much is told through their body language and facial expressions.

Shit, if you're not reading this book, you're a bigger fool than those not reading Batman.

Deathblow #9

And thus things ends with a whimper, not a bang. didn't even know this book was still coming out, did you? Now it's over and no one cares. Hell, I don't. I stuck with this book because it seemed the thing to do. And it wasn't too bad. But, where was the payoff? Was this it?

Actually, this ending is not what I expected at all. Call it a cynical version of Flex Mentallo. A post-9/11 version. Brian Azzarello playing around with the superhero genre like the dark side of Grant Morrison's coin. Just as Marvel is the dark side of DC's coin. Is it odd that Wildstorm is owned by DC, but the heroes we see at the end are obviously Marvel heroes? Is there meaning in that?

Was there meaning in these nine issues at all? Maybe I'll do a post on them to try and figure it out. But, who cares, no one read this book.

Gravel #1

I think my only issue with William Gravel, as a character, is that he's too invincible. I have read every comic that he's been in and I've never gotten the idea that he's ever in any danger. I imagine Ellis and Wolfer will changed that, but it needs to be said. I do love the invincible, don't-fuck-with characters, but after... oh, 25-and-a-half issues, it's getting a little old. Even in past books where it seemed like Gravel was being fucked with, it was all part of the plan and he could get out of it at any time. Let's see that change, shall we?

Kick-Ass #1

Yeah, I didn't like this comic book. Maybe if there was one thing about it that made me want to read the next issue. The central character is a cypher that bores me and the concept isn't new or handled in any real original manner. The art is fine, although I'm not the biggest Romita, Jr. fan--particularly the sketchy, 3/4s finished work we get here. I think I may have just picked up this book so I would have something to bash and make fun of. However, much like Millar's first issue of Fantastic Four, there isn't enough here to do that. Maybe if the book actually did something rather than suggesting things while patting itself on the back for being so clever for suggesting said things. I really need to stop wasting money on Millar comics. I'm sorry.

Rasl #1

This is the first Jeff Smith comic that I've read. Yes, yes, I've yet to read Bone, but such things happen. Have you read Crime and Punishment? Ulysses? How about The Great Gatsby or Moby-Dick? Well, shit, brother, that's just the way life works, isn't it? (And, out of curiosity, would anyone who's read Bone even rank it alongside those books I just mentioned?)


I kind of dug this issue. I have a weakness for alternative realities, particularly any that involved small changes as seen in popculture. Blonde on Blonde by Robert Zimmerman? Sign me up, sir.

However, there isn't much here to really make a judgement. This is obviously a part of a larger story and reads as such. We're (barely) introduced to the concept of a guy who uses technology to steal for others and finds himself in a parallel world where things are just a little different. This is framed by our protagonist looking beat up and walking in a desert. What is going on?

The art is clean and evocative, but a little static at times.

If I see the second issue, I'll probably buy it because I'm curious to see what happens next.

Thor #6

Six issues done and we now find ourselves at the end of the first storyarc (kind of) and facing my judgement:


Actually, yeah. This issue was really well done. Straczynski devotes the first half to stories from regular people about their encounters with the Asgardians, and it's good stuff. Volstagg not knowing what indoor plumbing is, Hogun helping to change a tire, and Kelda quite possibly hitting on a local... I almost wish the entire issue was stuff like this, because it's very interesting--but JMS is smart to limit it as these three stories are very well done and get the idea across.

The rest of the issue is Thor and Donald Blake debating if Thor should "reactivate" the rest of the Asgardians--in particular, Odin as Thor wants to move forward, beyond the old cycle and the old ways, and Odin won't understand. In the end, he does it and then falls to the Earth.

I'm looking forward to what Odin is/does and how he and Thor deal with their differences. As well, Oliver Coipel's art is growing on me. His work in this issue is pretty good--particularly his facial expressions. Much like Phillips' work on Criminal, Coipel's art does a lot of the heavy lifting as far as characters go here, particularly the regular people.

So, yeah, I think I'll stick with this book for the time being. We'll see how the next two issues go since that's a two-part story.

Ghost Rider: Trail of Tears

Another $10 Marvel hardcover, this one written by Garth Ennis, drawn by Clayton Crain and dealing with a Civil War-era Ghost Rider (the American Civil War, not the Marvel one). Actually, if you've read Ennis' work concerning the Saint of Killers, or even something like Punisher: Born, you won't find much new here. There are good people, there are bad people who fuck up the good people, and then there are good people who damn themselves to get vengeance on the bad people. It's not that this book isn't good, it's just that I've seen Ennis do this story a few times before and there's not much new for me here.

The only new area he really gets into is the issue of blacks in that time period, but he doesn't do a whole lot with it. Honestly, this book feels like The Saint of Killers 2, except with a different ending (albeit, not by much). It certainly didn't require six issues, but also wasn't a waste of my ten bucks.

Crain's artwork is very inconsistent as he uses a lot of computer effects to deliver a pseudo-painted book that only works depending on the panel. It's not bad, but it's not good either. I think if he spent some more time working at it, he could deliver a solid book.

Ennis fans won't find much new here, and I'm not sure people who aren't Ennis fans would want to bother as this is really one of those books only Ennis fans buy because they buy everything he writes. (Does that make sense to anyone other than me?)

Hellblazer: Joyride

Finally, the first trade collecting Andy Diggle's (still-ongoing, I believe) run on Hellblazer arrives. A new writer on Hellblazer always has me a little excited because each one brings such a unique perspective to the character. Despite being very well-established, John Constantine is really quite versatile in where writers can take him. Compare, oh let's say, Brian Azzarello's run with Mike Carey's... same title character, but very different books in their own way. You get that on other books, but not to the same extent. Constantine's world is so open and big that writers really can go in their own directions.

Diggle's first four issues here seem a response to Carey and Denise Mina's runs as he works to build Constantine back up from the hole they'd dug and thrown him into. Thankfully, Diggle's "restoration" is slow and organic, going far back into John's past. I could see where some would have a problem with him just putting John up like that, but he'd been in a pretty bad place for around three years by this point, so you could say he was due for some good news. (And, sure, he saved the world once or twice, but only with some hefty costs.) As well, he only makes John okay with John--he doesn't repair any of his personal problems or anything (yet), so it's not the biggest victory.

The last four issues set up a new nemesis for John and have some social commentary in them, which fits the book. These issues also deal with vengeance and how far you'd go to get it. The answer is, pretty damn far apparently. Lots of fucked up shit and John only getting by through luck and a little skill.

Joyride is a really good read and Diggle is a great addition to the book. I can't wait for the next collection. (And, shit, I really do need to go back and get the Delano and Ennis collections.)