Posted by: Brian Hibbs on September 1, 2010
I haven’t been writing lately for maybe a million reasons: been lazy; Ben’s started school again, throwing my schedule back into adjustment; Mercury is in retrograde; I fucked up in posting something, and have been gunshy since; trying to focus on my actual business (the one that makes me money); I’m just not feeling oh so much of the current output of my biggest partners; I’m just a very very bad man — take your pick, they’re all part of it.
I’ve actually mused on “shutting down” this site — well, I wouldn’t get rid of it altogether, but maybe it’s time to admit that hoping that people will write for free (since advertising pays about $20/year to each contributor) doesn’t really fit the internet in 2010. I dunno.
(though, Jeff and Graeme’s podcasts are pretty awesome, damn it)
But Spurgeon “called us out” today, and made me feel bad enough about it that I thought I should at least post SOME kind of review while I try and figure out how to get my groove back, so here is a trio of books from this week…
5 DAYS TO DIE #1 (OF 5)
HEROIC AGE ONE MONTH TO LIVE #1 (OF 5)
Ah, here’s to synchronicity: two weekly five issue mini-series that share a common theme spelled out in the titles, arriving exactly the same week (in a five Wednesday month)
Before I talk about content, let me note that weekly almost-anythings are not the greatest sales idea in the current climate — absent some sort of retailer protection (like partial returnability or the like), such things are utterly and completely doomed to have insignificant orders and support, and almost certainly aren’t going to make them up in reorders because of the mechanical realities for most retailers in restocking. Because of how we do reorders, there’s basically no chance of me getting restock on a (theoretical) sellout of #1 before #3 arrives, and FOC (in the case of the Marvel series) doesn’t work either because we’re currently FOCing #4 this week… and #1 has been on sale for (as I type this) 41 minutes now.
Plus, most retailers really don’t like or want mini-series, especially short short ones like 5 issues — we have every expectation that the collection on these is going to come much sooner than later, so why stock any inventory on the periodical? There’s no real way to make any money of it, especially on a weekly series (see previous para)
In the case of Marvel’s, specifically, I also want to call out how the book was solicited — as “HEROIC AGE ONE MONTH TO LIVE #1 (OF 5)”. The actual object that shipped? No HA branding anywhere to be seen, and it is suddenly called “1 Month 2 Live” (thanks, Twitter!), which really scans as a Long-I “live”, and sounds more like a popstar live tour than anything else. When checking in the books yesterday afternoon, I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t find the book on the invoice (alphabetically “1” comes before the letter “o”… let alone the letter “h”) — it took me a couple of minutes to puzzle out what the original title should have been.
Anyway, yeah, same basic premise involved in these two books — a guy living an unhappy life finds out he’s terminal, must figure out a way to deal with that.
In the IDW version, we’ve got a pulpy crime take — Writer Andy Schmidt gives us the hardboiled stuff, and Artist Chee goes all monochrome with it (though, really, the book is in color, just seldom more than one per page), but I found my credibility strained from post-diagnosis moment one — the protagonist is told he has five days to live, IF he stays in bedrest; otherwise he’s likely to die faster. Plus, if that wasn’t enough he has whiplash too. So of course he gets into a physical altercation in under 5 minutes, and is shown in a violent shootout later that day… but to no ill effects.
More generally, I wonder how often someone is told they have a month or under to live when they have no symptoms otherwise — the IDW take at least gives a somewhat plausible explanation of a car accident, but we’re meant to beleive in the Marvel take that he’s had terminal cancer for a while, just didn’t know it. That doesn’t actually happen, does it?
The Marvel version, which will, strangely, have five different creative teams over the five issues (say goodbye to a satisfying TP read, then!) is, this issue, by Rick Remender and Andrea Mutti. Remender’s script is unremarkable, but moves things along briskly, and Mutti’s art is very “Marvel house style”: reminding me of, mm, Paul Ryan, maybe. Because it is a Marvel comic, in the Marvel Universe, of course the protagonist gets superpowers (from, ahem, being force-fed medical waste by central-casting junkie/robbers) — though, in a pretty uncanny bit of plothammering, one of the robbers turns out to be working for the “big bad”, and doesn’t realize he’s hunting for the protagonist…
Both comics were competant, if uninspiring, but I think I liked the marvel one a smidge more — in the IDW one I just couldn’t get past the in-an-accident-gets-up-and-is-fine staging, while that’s a fairly natural superhero trope. Plus the Marvel one was a bit denser of a read. But they’re both, essentially, OK stories.
NAMOR, THE FIRST MUTANT #1: So, here’s the thing: if you want a monthly ongoing regular comic series to work (and this is billed as a monthly, ongoing book, not a mini), then you need to introduce your protagonist clearly, establish a goal (or goals) for them, and show us thier supporting cast and world so that we have a reason to want to come back for the next issue (and the next FIFTY after that!)
What you kind of don’t want it to do is start off in the middle of another crossover, and spend all of your time dealing with what appear to be unimportant plot points from that crossover while not really establishing anything about your protagonist whatsoever.
Like: what’s all that (in the title) about Namor being “the first mutant”? That’s not mentioned or referenced especially in the text, nor does it seem to be particularly relevent to anything that’s going on in the actual plot. I mean, you and I know what they mean by that, because we’ve been reading comics forever, but I can’t imagine what a theoretical “new” reader would make of the supposed setup here at all.
If you haven’t read X-Men comics in the last few weeks, I’m not sure that you’d get what Namor’s doing, or why it would be important — he’s trying to get Dracula’s severed head? Why? THIS comic doesn’t tell you.
The “supporting cast”, such as it is here (I can’t name one character involved, less than 8 hours after reading it) are generally unlikable, and don’t like/respect Namor at all, who is portrayed, as usual, as a complete asshole, anyway.
While the art by Ariel Olivetti is terrific (as usual), I can not, for the life of me, understand who this book might be aimed at, other than absolute X-completists who will feel compelled to buy it because of the word “mutant” in the title.
(which, by the way, even Marvel doesn’t seem sure what the book is called — the indicia and cover agree on “Namor: the First Mutant”, but the “next issue” page seems to believe it is called “X-Men: Curse of the Mutants — Namor”)
Either way, as a discrete unit of entertainment, this was, well, EH, I guess, since I’m not hot on utterly unlikable protagonists; as the first issue of a monthly, ongoing series? AWFUL.
VERONICA #202: There’s a new cute boy in town… and he’s GAY! That’s pretty much all there is to this, other than lots of characters trying to trick/punish Ronnie for her vapid selfishness. Which is fine.
There’s really not much in the comic about being gay… which is really probably fine, given the target audience of Archie comics. Really, I am more interested in the possible socialogical ramifications of “America’s Most Wholesome Teen” comics having a gay character WHERE IT IS NO BIG DEAL.
It shouldn’t BE a big deal, duh, obviously, but if I had to point to one thing in the whole universe that makes me think that all fifty states will recognize Gay Marraige in my lifetime, I might offer this as Exhibit One — the absolute and complete casualness that everyone (well, except Ronnie, but that’s because she’s frustrated she can’t get at Archie through the new kid) accepts and welcomes the gay character suggests to me that the cultural shift already happened, and it is just a matter of time before the laws of our land catch up to it.
The problem with the comic, to me, is that the New Gay Kid, Kevin Keller, really doesn’t seem to have much going for him characterwise. In fact, they make the really really weird decision to have his most notable characteristic to be precisely that of Jughead — he can eat a whole lot (but, I guess, not get fat) — in fact, he has several eating contests with Juggie to really underline that. Oh, and I guess he likes texting (presumably to his boyfriend, but it is underplayed) Ultimately, I don’t see where this character goes next, or what role he plays that Jughead couldn’t handle just fine.
I’m so not the target audience for this — I’d personally call it pretty EH — but I have to admit that Archie has got me looking at more Archie comics in the last year than I’ve read in the prvious decade, combined, so they must be doing something right Mamoroneck…
That’s what I have for you today, Tom — as always, what did YOU think?