Posted by: Graeme McMillan on April 17, 2006
Well, that was a surprisingly dull week. Well, in terms of single issues, at least – There were some good trades and graphic novels released, and if this was the world where I had more money than Donald Trump, I’d have been able to buy the lot of them. As it was, this is the world where taxes were due, so what can you do? Besides share the following, which has nothing to do with comics but may be the best thing SNL has done in years…
CRISIS AFTERMATH: THE BATTLE FOR BLUDHAVEN #1: There are parts of this that are so bad, you immediately start hoping that maybe the entire series is the result of some weird dare from Dan Didio to create make the second Infinite Crisis spin-off the shittiest book imaginable. There’s not even one thing that you can point to that makes it so horrible, because it’s all just so generic, from the way that Dan Jurgens gives everyone the same build and faces – with Speedy of the Teen Titans looking somewhat male in one panel – to the appalling dialogue that characters spout. “For the first time I feel like we’re actually making a difference in people’s lives instead of dealing with our problems.” “Come on, Titans. Let’s save some lives!” The fact that the majority of the characters in the book are brand new and have no introduction at all beyond large panels where they face the reader dramatically doesn’t help, either, especially when they define themselves in terms that make no sense to anyone. “The old Force of July is dead. We’re freedom’s ring.” Do those words even make a sentence that makes sense? The whole thing is made much more interesting – although not any more logical – by the exceptionally unsubtle political commentary running through the book: The government doesn’t care about the common man! Fighting terrorists is more important than freedom! The best way to explain this book is to ask someone to imagine those mid-70s Marvel comics where Captain America found out that Richard Nixon was the head of the Secret Empire, except without any redeeming features. Ass.
DETECTIVE COMICS #818: Meanwhile, over in Gotham City, things are continuing to lighten up. The main story is more or less filler in James Robinson’s reintroductory storyarc with only a couple of plotpoints, but it’s the back-up story that brings old-school Detective character Jason Bard into the thick of things that makes the whole thing worthwhile. Given the way that this issue ends, it looks like Jason’s going to be a mainstay of the Batverse for awhile – Hopefully Paul Dini’s got plans for him in his upcoming “detective stories for Detective Comics” run. Good.
EX MACHINA #19: Between this and last week’s Y: The Last Man, I can’t shake the feeling that Brian K. Vaughan needs to take a vacation. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with either series right now, more that there’s nothing special about them, either. Vaughan’s a very talented writer, but I feel that he’s gotten himself into such a rut with these two books that I could write an issue of either one right now: Opening scene should be something tangentally connected to the main storyline allowing for some exposition, before cutting to the main characters talking about someone or something from history. Put in some kind of dream sequence where the hero of the piece reveals some hidden piece of history in surreal form. Have another conversation between main characters where they argue because they’re both stressed and don’t really mean it. End with a cliffhanger full page splash. Repeat next month. And the month after that. And the month after that… Ah, well. Tony Harris’s art is nice, at least. Eh.
INFINITE CRISIS #6: Wait, so that’s it? Both of the bad guys were taken out by Superboy crashing into the tower and it explodes? I know that there’s another issue to go, but you can tell that issue #7 is going to be full of hugging and crying and everyone coming to terms with what’s just happened (Well, that and writing Earth-2 Superman out of continuity again). Given the year-plus of build-up that led to this issue, a feeling of anti-climax was all but guaranteed, but the action scenes in here were badly-paced and unclear, making it feel even more disappointing than it should have been. The more I think about this series as a whole, though, the more I like it, in particular the way that Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman have been dealing with their particular issues – Batman’s breakdown in issue 3 leading him to try and be a team player this issue, for example, or Wonder Woman’s confrontation with Earth-2 Wonder Woman last issue. The death of Superboy is a cheap ploy, and an unnecessary one – all of the heroes get to have more guilt, even though it’ll remind them what it means to be a hero, yadda yadda – because the quieter scenes have been the more effective ones here all along. The problem with this series, I think, has been that it’s been trying to do too much (the Spectre scene in this issue doesn’t advance the larger plot, because it has nothing to do with either the emotional or dramatic core of the series; it’s just there to justify the Day of Judgement miniseries) and not sticking with what Geoff Johns really seems to want to write. Or maybe I’m just reading into things based upon what I like. Okay, anyway.
NIGHTWING #119: Jeff and Brian handed me this book on Friday with a warning that the last panel was so incredibly disturbing that it single-handedly took what was already a slightly disturbingly bad book to a whole new level of ick. I believe the phrase “sloppy seconds” may have been uttered by Lester, in fact. Surprisingly, though, it wasn’t the tired “Jason Todd is trying to be Dick Grayson so much that he’s coming onto Dick’s one night stand-turned-boss!” non-cliffhanger that left the taste of vomit in my mouth as much as it was Bruce Jones’s general misogyny; all the women in this book either fall of Dick Grayson’s feet or else try to fuck him in a basement after giving him a job, while spouting dialogue so realistic that NBC’s popular sitcom “Joey” looks like a hard-hitting documentary about the sordid life of today’s actor elite in Los Angeles. I’m beginning to suspect that Bruce Jones may have some blackmail material on editor Nachie Castro that makes sure that some of this stuff sees print. Ass, and offensively so.
THE OMAC PROJECT: INFINITE CRISIS SPECIAL: In which Greg Rucka doesn’t just get to write one version of his traditional hard-assed hyper-capable woman who is in some way emotionally wounded, but two – Sasha Bordeaux, I expected considering her role from the OMAC Project mini-series, but the retcon that Fire from the comedy JLI was actually just pretending to be a bimbo for no immediately apparent reason back then and is, in fact, a highly-trained killer makes me think that Rucka has forgotten how to write any other type of female character (I’m not sure if Amanda Waller, who’s here to set up the new Checkmate series, counts, as she’s more or less reduced to a Barking Orders Generic Authority Figure for this issue). Money-making properties aside, I’m not sure why this book exists; the plot is as simple as “We have to switch off Brother Eye before he sets off an international incident!” “Okay!” “Phew, that was close!” with a side of “Hey, do you know we’re doing a new Checkmate series?” and the undoing of Sasha’s cyborg status, which was the one thing from the OMAC Project that seemed to be long-lasting… So… Okay? I guess someone probably liked it, somewhere. Eh for me, though.
SUPERMAN #651: Still One Year Later, and Kurt Busiek and Geoff Johns continue to impress with their take on where everyone in the world of Superman is at these days – The cliffhanger from last month’s Action leads to a couple of character beats that seem to throw a couple of potential future wrenches into where we all know the story is going, future bad guys are introduced, and the larger plot zigs instead of zags (Or maybe I’m the only one who expected Metallo to join in Lex’s army of supervillains). And that’s not even going near the return of the Prankster, who didn’t even annoy me as much as he normally does, so someone’s obviously doing something right (and not just Pete Woods, who is still putting out some great stuff). Good, and if anything, I’m even more curious now as to how and why Clark is going to get his powers back.
SUPER-SKRULL #1: Again, plot-mechanics take priority here as certain people act wildly out of character – Reed Richards would learn about a threat to the Earth and be content to let the Super-Skrull go into the Negative Zone on his own? Really? – just to get everyone where they need to be for the purposes of the story. Art that’s too cartoony for the story and cliched narration (“Because of the way I use my power, some consider me a villain. Others call me a hero.”) don’t help things any, and the net result for your worries turns out to be something entirely Crap.
YOUNG AVENGERS #11: I know that Jeff liked the way that this issue ties in with the rest of the Marvel Universe, but this issue felt like uncomfortable exposition central to me. This book has gone from being tied to Marvel history to being tied down by it, with all the potential of the first six issues being lost in a mess of continuity retcons and House of M tie-ins, and the shift to bimonthly status has shed whatever remained of the initial momentum. Just as the first arc of this book was the most promising launch of a Marvel book since Astonishing X-Men, so has the second arc been the biggest letdown. God, that’s depressing. Crap, sadly.
PICK OF THE WEEK is Superman, because Kurt Busiek wins, of course. PICK OF THE WEAK is Nightwing, because it’s one of those comics that you read and immediately wish that you could scrub your brain clean afterwards. The Showcase Presents Teen Titans collection was supposed to have come out this week, even if I couldn’t find it, and there’s no way that Bob Haney could’ve let me down with his 500-odd pages of desperately-trying-to-be-hep 60s lingo. That said, Brian Wood’s The Tourist graphic novel came out from Image this week, and between Toby Cypress’s incredible art and a story that takes place close to where I went to college, I find myself drawn to giving that my vote for Trade of The Week.
Next week: All-Star Batman #4 is due out, only four months since the last issue, and NBC finds themselves in a lawsuit from Disney based on the video linked above. I, for one, can’t wait.