Posted by: Graeme McMillan on September 4, 2006
Is it wrong of me to be completely hooked on HGTV’s “DesignStar”? The reruns are on this morning, and Kate and I have just watched three in a row, and would probably happily watch the rest of the marathon if it wasn’t for the fact that we should, you know, leave the house and get some fresh air or something. I blame the end of Who Wants To Be A Superhero and the terrible gap it has left in my life. Project Runway just isn’t enough, as much as it tries…
Oh, wait. This is a comics review blog, not “what reality shows I waste my life on,” isn’t it? Okay, have some comics.
ALL-STAR SUPERMAN #5: Dear DC, apparently you forgot to finish the cover for this issue, because the copy I have is somehow missing a speech balloon from Luthor that says “Stand back, Kent! This is a job for Lex Luthor!” and I know that there’s no way that you would’ve missed that opportunity intentionally. Mind you, it was just the first in a series of disappointments this comic brought, so maybe it’s just me. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the idea, but with the execution… Grant Morrison’s script doesn’t really put a foot wrong, but it’s too slow and so much exposition for what we already know that it drowns the action. Frank Quitely’s art is technically perfect, but it’s not right for this story, somehow… It’s too good, if that makes sense, too beautiful for something that needs a higher, more pulpish, quality (Just imagine a Curt Swan take, and the same story being told in fourteen pages, for example). I know that this is probably the best thing I read this week, and yet it still only felt like an Good book to me.
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA #1: Except, of course, this is really issue 2. It doesn’t even offer a “story-so-far” for those who missed issue zero, just to emphasize the point, so pity the poor souls who pick this up expecting the start of a story. Quality-wise, this suffers from the same problems as the previous issue: Writing that comes so close to being pitch-perfect to the television series, before blowing it with something so offkey that it leaves you soured on everything that comes in the next few pages, and art that – while occasionally catching likenesses – is staged and definitely colored in a way much closer to your average superhero book instead of the very particular aesthetic of the show (The cliffhanger at the end of this issue is still unclear to me, and I think it’s an art thing – It feels as if there’s something in particular that I should’ve been able to tell from the double page spread, instead of just “Well, that doesn’t look good.”). Things aren’t helped by the scope of this storyline – it’s obvious that the returnees aren’t the real thing back from the dead, because there’s no way that if the dead son, brother and lover of the show’s three main characters had come back to life, that would’ve been reflected in the TV show at some point, and so the whole thing has a feel of “Well meaning but ultimately just Okay,” sadly.
THE BOYS #2: As Robson was saying to me in the store, this really should’ve been the second half of a double-page first issue – if not the first issue in and of itself, considering how much of that first issue feels wasted insofar of everything that was repeated this time around – in that it brings some humanity and attempt at subtlety that was lacking in the real first issue. Not that much, though; this is still a completely cynical book full of stereotypes and cheap humor, and still Crap for me, but at least this time it feels closer to a good version of what it’s aiming to be.
CIVIL WAR: YOUNG AVENGERS AND RUNAWAYS #2: With the introduction of Marvel Boy as a mind-controlled killing machine, does this mean that we can add this series to the long line of undoing Grant Morrison’s contributions to Marvel (even Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men seems to be getting into the act with its most recent two issues, depressingly)? This is Awful, which is kind of a shame, because there were parts of Zeb Wells’ script that were quite enjoyable (Especially where the two teams discuss their similarities); it’s just that the plot is entirely forced and unnatural – Why is SHIELD going after the Runaways now, when they’ve not done anything to draw attention to themselves anymore than all other illegal superheroes? Shouldn’t they be focusing on the actively anti-registration heroes? – and the art somehow both appealingly cartoony and lazily ugly, something that isn’t helped by the murky coloring. The end result is that I’m curious to read something Zeb Wells writes that he has some level of control over, and preferably a different artist, and I doubt that was the intention…
CSI: DYING IN THE GUTTERS #1: Wow. Just wow. Ignoring the procedural and murder mystery (because, surely, the murderer intended for Joe Quesada to be the victim?), this is a fascinating book just to see the axes that someone has to grind within the comic industry. Ed Brubaker portrayed as Joe Quesada’s minion! Chris Ryall as a paranoid angry editor-in-chief! And, much more interestingly, Joe Quesada as an asshole! Seriously, I have no idea what’s going on with the Joe Quesada in this book, but it’s worth picking up the book for just for his appearances, saying things like “Hey, the no-smoking thing in our comics is strictly for my image and public sympathy. Wolverine can’t smoke, but I can” while his arms around two silent smiling bimbos. Are they the TVs that he keeps on telling people he has to spare? Is writer Steven Grant trying to tell us that Joe is a transvestite pimp? Yes, I read the disclaimer that “characterizations in this story are dramatic embellishments and are in no way supposed to represent the actual people,” and I get that everyone is being portrayed as the Lying-In-The-Guttersverse version of themselves, but still, come on. There’s some crazy axe-grinding going on here from someone, whether it’s Steven Grant or someone else, and I’m going to keep reading the next few issues to see what else we’re going to see before this is done. Good, but for all the wrong reasons; if you’re going on the quality of the book instead of the strange carcrash feeling, then it’s low Eh – The set-up takes too long, the script has some very clunky “comics are cool” exposition to get the characters to the convention, and the art relies too heavily on the photo reference. That said, it has to be seen to be believed.
SOLO #12: I think my mind was melting by the time I finished this, but in a good way. Oddly enough, I think this made me realize what was missing from Mike Allred’s issue of this series – Mike loves pop, but he isn’t pop, he’s really well-done retro pastiche. Not that that’s a bad thing, but you see this and realize what the difference is: Brendan McCarthy, for all his faults, is as pop as they come, and this isn’t so much an anthology of short stories as 48 pages of freeflow pop culture remixed by the best DJ you’ve heard. Or, in this case, seen. Curt Swan meets Yellow Submarine meets Carmine Infantino meets the Bible meets David Lynch meets meets meets… It’s not to everyone’s tastes – if you aren’t a fan of random art poetry pieces, for example, you might have a problem with a few pieces here – but for me, it’s Excellent, and the best way for this series to end because, really, how do you follow this without it seeming like a letdown in enthusiasm at the very least?
THE TRIALS OF SHAZAM! #1: I don’t have the same problems with this as Brian; doing a grim-and-gritty Captain Marvel isn’t necessarily a bad idea, as such. Well, as long as the story is good, and not something that starts with children being kidnapped to be sacrificed for some black magic ritual and then jumps back in time for some exposition flashbacks that don’t really add anything to the black magic ritual plot. The art, too, has some interesting painterly touches matched to some terrible basic errors (Howard Porter, please, please, concentrate on basic human proportions). This is Eh, but hey! There’s still time for it to get better, right? I have no idea what makes me cautiously optimistic about this, but I’m hoping that it ends up hitting the promised mines of wonder and magic sooner rather than later.
ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR #33: Who knew? Mike Carey + Pasqual Ferry = Jack Kirby. But not the Kirby of Fantastic Four, but the Kirby that went to DC and did Forever People and Jimmy Olsen, because this is “What if the Fantastic Four met the Forever People?” in almost every way that counts, making me wonder if the “God War” storyline isn’t just going to be a retread of Kirby’s Fourth World but in the Ultimate Marvel Universe. It feels… awkward, and awkwardly graverobbing, as well. Am I just getting too picky? It’s Good, and potentially better than that if it doesn’t just make you want to go back and read some real Jack Kirby. That said, Ferry’s art is still a thing of beauty, and maybe worth picking up the book for in and of itself.
PICK OF THE WEEK is Solo, because I’m a sucker for Blue Meanies that are actually yellow. PICK OF THE WEAK is Civil War: Young Avengers and Runaways, because I really liked that Marvel Boy miniseries, and would have much rather have seen the character ignored that turned into a generic “mindless deadly assassin” character that completely squanders the potential and ideas that Morrison had left behind. TRADE OF THE WEEK is a tough one; I feel as if I should give it to Lost Girls just because it’s easily the most newsworthy of the books released this week, but I personally wasn’t interested enough to want to spend $75 on it. Is that wrong of me? Probably. So, instead, Showcase Presents Batman Volume 1 wins instead, because even though I haven’t read that one either, how can you really go that far wrong with 500+ pages of Silver Age Batman for $16.99?
What else has everyone else been reading recently?