Posted by: Graeme McMillan on January 13, 2007
First of two sets of reviews this weekend – I got sent a couple of previews that I want to write about tomorrow, but right now, let’s deal with the books that actually appeared in stores this week, shall we?
52 WEEK THIRTY-SIX: This is a really good issue to show what works and what doesn’t about the whole series. The big action scene that ends with the death of a beloved character? It just doesn’t work. The execution is underwhelming; rushed, with art that just doesn’t sell the action at all (partially, interestingly enough, because of the coloring, I think. Imagine the same artwork in darker colors) and a weird lack of sincerity – It feels as if the creators decided that they probably needed a fight scene, but couldn’t really bring themselves to care about it that much. But just a few pages later, when it’s dealing with the ongoing mysteries of Rip Hunter (making his first appearance in the book, only half a year after first being mentioned), Supernova and Skeets and dealing with easter eggs for longtime DC fans, it’s really enjoyable. Is that proof that the book is just more cerebral than action-based, or midway exhaustion kicking in for the writers? Okay.
BLADE #5: What with the cover having not only the “Casualties of War” banner, but also a caption saying “A Civil War tie-in featuring Wolverine”, you kind of get the feeling that this is a book that really wants you to know that it ties into Civil War. Problem is, it doesn’t. Oh, sure, there’s a McGuffin that SHIELD recruits Blade to capture Wolverine for some reason or another, but ultimately, it doesn’t really matter. This is pretty much a fill-in issue, and a really old-fashioned one at that, going with the once-familiar idea that two heroes had met in the past before either of them were heroes. As much as it’s a Red Skies book in terms of Civil War importance, it’s still nostalgically enjoyable, Good, and feels like good Chris Claremont in a strange way.
CIVIL WAR #6: This may be somewhat blasphemous, but does anyone really care anymore? The announcement that issue 7 will ship three weeks later than the last ship date (which was two weeks later than the ship date that it was originally announced for, which was two months earlier) elicited little more than shrugs and bemusement from all but the most hardcore Marvel zombies, and the online news cycle has already moved on to who the New Avengers are, post-CW. Somehow, this series already feels as if it should be over already, that it’s outstayed its welcome, which can’t be a good thing for Marvel. Part of that may be because this series doesn’t really have a plot, as such; I’m sure I’ve complained before about the fact that this is a book that’s all about showing “shocking” events with no context, which completely undercuts any and all dramatic tension, rendering the cliffhanger ending of this book kind of meaningless: There’s about to be a big fight, but as a reader I don’t feel as if it’s “the final battle” no matter how many times I’m told that it is by the characters (who’re showing a really unusual self-awareness by referring to this as their “finale”, bringing me out of the story as I read it), because it doesn’t feel any different from the big fight in #3-4. I don’t believe that the stakes have been raised, because nothing that I’ve read has actually given me that impression. Crap.
JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #2: I dread to think what people who aren’t really familiar with DC continuity would make of this book, which seems to be entirely based around the books that Geoff Johns read in the mid-80s – the Detroit League and Levitz Legion get the somewhat unexpected shout-outs in this issue – while marrying 1990s-style plotting with 1980s-style dialogue. Me, I am familiar with DC continuity, so I kind of enjoyed it, even the new Nazi supervillains who are kind of ridiculous, but it just seemed like the most insular superhero book imaginable. Okay.
POLYGLOT AND SPLEEN #1: I admit it, I picked this up because of the title and the advertisements on the back: “The Romanti-Goth A to Z Coloring Book is an alphabetical trip through the aesthetic world of our favorite Victorian house dwelling,” reads one, while the other tells us that “There’s a huge difference between a corset and a SINched corset”. Who knew? Those ads give you a good idea of what the comic itself is like: Overly romantic and melodramatic in the most Goth-y (as opposed to Gothic, if you see the difference) way, with narration like “At times, I saw through the eyes of a mother, a brother, a lover. Had I truly swapped with another?” and art that makes Emily The Strange look detailed. Pretty Crap for me, but I’m at least ten years outside of the target audience, I think.
SQUADRON SUPREME: HYPERION VS. NIGHTHAWK #1: It’s a strange world where “Well, that wasn’t nearly as offensive as I was expecting” is a compliment. But that’s more or less the best that you’re going to get out of me for this book, that takes Marvel’s Ultimate Superman and Ultimate Batman to Darfur for an adventure that takes place against a backdrop of real life genocide. The whole concept still strikes me as tasteless, but the execution avoided any obvious “With our powers, we can save the world!” well-meaning yet meaningless posturing, and writer Marc Guggenheim’s final page text piece (where he admits, “it’s not the kind of thing that you’re supposed to write escapist fiction about,” before going on to explain why he made the choice to) goes someway towards lessening the nasty taste in my metaphorical mouth. It’s still only Eh for me – I just can’t get into this “gritty” Squadron Supreme – but that almost feels like a win, compared to what I was expecting.
THUNDERBOLTS #110: Warren Ellis goes broad in his first issue of Marvel’s now-with-more-Suicide-Squad villain book (Speaking of which, is anyone else as excited as I am about the announcement that DC is doing a new Suicide Squad series with John Ostrander?); the good guy is ridiculously “good”, the main characters are charismatic but without morals (Something that’s even in the dialogue, in case readers miss it: “You, on the other hand, have neither morals nor ethics”) and there are jabs at America’s news media. Ellis is clearly slumming it, but you get the idea that he’s enjoying himself doing so, especially with the exceptionally obvious way that he’s positioning the Thunderbolts in the Marvel media as the old Gerry Anderson “Thunderbirds” series – Tracy Island becomes Thunderbolts Mountain, complete with the scenery rolling back to let vehicles launch, and he’s even as unsubtle as to include the slogan “Thunderbolts are go!” F.A.B., Warren. I can’t tell if that shows contempt for the work, the audience, or just a writer who’s wondering how much he can get away with on what his publisher clearly considers a much more important franchise than he does. For all the unoriginality, however, it’s very readable, and I’m sure that the Marvel fans that this is aimed at will eat it up and declare it revolutionary. Eh for me, though.
WELCOME TO TRANQUILITY #2: I was surprised, upon checking, to see that this wasn’t a creator-owned book. It feels like one, for some reason, in the same way that it also feels like a twisted version of Alan Moore’s ABC line from a few years back, especially in the opening that switches formats to suggest different media two times before actually starting “the story”. Moore’s ABC isn’t the only thing that this reminded me of, though; it’s also similar in the treatment of superheroes and styles of superhero comics to The Intimates, Joe Casey’s sadly-forgotten series of a few years back. None of this is to slight Gail Simone, because this is clearly her story – there’s something to this that feels like the snark and sex from Birds of Prey given freer reign, perhaps because the main character’s narration is very close to Black Canary’s from that book – but it’s a book very aware of its predecessors as well, if that makes sense. I’m still not sold on Neil Googe’s art, entirely, but there are parts where he’s spot on as often as there are where his style overrides the content. It’s not entirely successful, yet, but nonetheless it’s probably the most interesting of the books released this week. Good.
PICK OF THE WEEK is Welcome to Tranquility, because it’s ambitious and it’s different, and that’s more than can be said for a lot of superhero books these days, let’s face it. PICK OF THE WEAK is Civil War, because with each new issue, it becomes more clear that there’s not really any there there. TRADE OF THE WEEK has me torn; of the books that came out this week, I know that SHOWCASE PRESENTS JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA VOL. 2 will be awesome even though I haven’t read it, but I’m still working my way through the ESSENTIAL FANTASTIC FOURs – I’m midway through volume 4 now – and those really are some amazingly good comics, daring in way that almost all superhero comics have forgotten to be.
Tomorrow: Dynamo 5 and First Moon. But for now, what did the rest of you think of this week?