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A life code: It pays to talk to no-one.

Graeme McMillan

Hey, Wondercon this week! There’s a sign that there won’t be that much sleep happening anytime soon…

BOOSTER GOLD #0: Wow, this really does take me back; ignoring the guest-shot from Parallax and Extant (Just to remind you just how unusual supervillain names got in the early ‘90s. Was there ever one called Ennui, or was that a missed opportunity?), using the issue to give a recap of Booster’s secret origin before setting up the next storyline captured the tone of the Zero Hour “zero issues” far too well, right down to the fact that it left you feeling as if you should somehow find it a lot more interesting than it actually was. Despite the metatextual shenanigans, though, it’s still Good.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #3: Meanwhile, over at the House of Ideas, everybody’s Skrull-Fu Fightin’. Maybe I’m missing something, but following the reveal of the alien sleeper agent conspiracy, the individual reveals that we’ve seen have all been incredibly underwhelming. “You mean this formerly-dead character that no-one cared about is really an alien?!? Now no-one is safe!” Even the hint that Mar-Vell himself may be a little bit Skrully disappoints, and makes you feel as if this series is entirely pointless outside of leading in to the next big crossover. Did no-one learn from Millennium? Eh.

FANTASTIC FOUR #554: Depressingly, pretty much exactly what I’d expected from the pre-release hype, right down to the stylized dialogue that –like a lot of Mark Millar’s work – reads not like the characters themselves, but like Millar has been told what the characters are supposed to sound like by someone else. Yeah, Johnny’s a jerk and Ben is lovable and Reed is the Big Brain, but none of them seem like themselves; they’re all the Mark Millar Unpleasantverse versions of themselves, instead. Like Doug, I was bored by the lack of new ideas and simultaneous sense that the creators thought that these were new ideas, and scenes like the schoolteacher talking about wanting to fuck a super-hero were just embarrassingly bad attempts at making the book “relevant” from someone who has their finger on the pulse of pop culture from last year. I fully expect Mark Millar’s take on Britney’s Meltdown – but she’s a superhero! – before the end of 2008. Bryan Hitch’s artwork is pretty, but also flawed; his anatomy is getting odd in the rush of the work (What happened to Sue’s arms on the cover? They seem too short), and feels very static and lifeless in all the rendering and crosshatching. It’s depressing; I really wanted to like this, for some reason, but there’s just no sense of either wonder or family there for me. Eh.

FANTASTIC FOUR: THE LOST ADVENTURE: God, for an Interesting, But Essentially Distressing rating. On one level, this is a fascinating book because of all the process stuff included – Kirby’s unfinished pencils (with margin notes), the reprint of the previous attempt to complete the story from the ‘70s – but the finished story itself is (perhaps necessarily) like listening to “Free As A Bird” for the first time; there are glimpses of what made you dig them in the first place, but it’s kind of like unintentional self parody at the same time. Okay, I guess?

GREEN LANTERN CORPS #21: On the one hand, I’m sure there’s an interesting story to be done about the dehumanizing of the Alpha-Lanterns, but on the other, this really isn’t it. There just aren’t really any sympathetic (or even reader-friendly) characters here at all, and so the whole thing is just flat. Crap, worryingly, just when I was getting into the book.

NEW AVENGERS #38: I know that Brian liked this, but it just seemed to confirm every stereotype about Bendis’ writing being meandering and driven by dialogue schtick, especially the cut-aways to the New Avengers finding a new headquarters, which were very Venture Bros for some reason. Also, if Ms. Marvel lets the unregistered super-heroes escape one more time, they might as well give up on this whole “living underground” thing anyway. Eh.

NOVA ANNUAL #1: An annual that recaps the hero’s origin while advancing the plotline of the main series? I can’t believe that that feels so much like a throwback, but still, this was an Okay primer for those who aren’t following the regular book, albeit an amusing one to someone who just finished the Essential Nova collection recently.

WONDER WOMAN #17: Goddammit, I really wanted this to be less frustrating than it was, even though I know that I’m frustrated because I got so involved with the story. The Etta Candy resolution feels like I missed something – She’s Wonder Woman’s alibi? So it is the same Etta Candy as before, and not a post-Infinite Crisis reboot? – and The Circle plot doesn’t so much resolve as get derailed by the Nazi invasion, some fighting, and then get pushed out to some later date. There’s still a lot to like here (Unlike Diana, I think it is a Good), but it doesn’t really fulfill the promise of the previous three issues.

WOLVERINE #62: Reading this and X-FORCE #1 back to back is an unusual experience. Both have essentially the same set-up – Cyclops sends Wolverine (and others) out to kill a bad guy because he just don’t done take no shit no mo’ – that I have a hard time buying because, come on, it’s fucking Cyclops. I know that Messiah Complex was supposed to change everything, but still; it’s as if writers can only ever play him in two modes: Neurotic tight-ass or Bad-ass tight-ass, and we keep swinging between the two. Anyway, getting back to the two new books – which seem to share a set-up with Young X-Men, as trailed in the back of this week’s Marvel comics; apparently “variety” is the watchword of the post-Messiah Complex X-franchise. That and “death” – the difference between the two is that, well, Wolverine is actually pretty Good, whereas X-Force is a steaming pile of Crap. Your mileage may vary, of course, but Wolverine sees an attempt to build a story onto the “Wolverine goes out to kill someone!” set-up, complete with retconning motivation in there, putting in an unexpected reversal at the end of the issue, and generally staying within character for the book’s stars, all wrapped up in some nice Ron Garney artwork. By comparison, X-Force does away with character pretty much altogether (Wolverine’s hilarious “You don’t want to do this. Bein’ a killer is tough. Your friends will look at you funny. You ain’t gonna cross this line unchanged, bub. Okay, let’s go and slaughter lots of people” monologue aside), substituting it with X-trivia (Bastion?!?) and muddy, emotionless artwork to give it the feel of being the comic read by nerds who want to feel very, very serious about their hobby. It’s humorless and kill-friendly, and the fact that it has a “Bloody Variant” cover pretty much sums the whole thing up. If you want to see X-Men want to kill someone, read Wolverine. If you’re fifteen and like the idea of lots of people dying, read X-Force.

But what did you think?

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