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Please Be Nice: Reviews of 11/2 books from the newbie.

Graeme McMillan

You know what would’ve been great? If I had somehow managed to post something immediately after Brian’s “Countdown” post, as opposed to hours later when I’m not only at a computer, but have already written a lengthy post, only to have it eaten by Blogger. And yes, I know that I did my own blog for a couple of years and should therefore know about very basic things like that. What you all need to know to explain this is that I am, apparently, very stupid indeed.

Anyway, hello. My name is Graeme, and I’ll be your Savage Critic in Training for this evening (text color pending). To start with, might I recommend a review?

HOUSE OF M #8: Remember when Joe Quesada compared House of M to Infinite Crisis, and said that the difference between the two series was that you wouldn’t need to read a lot of books to understand House of M? That’s obviously the kind of thinking that led to the only double page spread in this final issue getting split in two by a four page ad insert making sure that you have the complete checklist to all seven new books and five currently ongoing series that will be spinning out unresolved threads from the book you hold in your hands. And, boy, do those books have a lot of unresolved threads to pick up on. Wanda’s “No more mutants” thing has depowered thousands of mutants worldwide, but we don’t know how – something that Emma Frost brings up in the book itself, which suggests that it’s not something that is supposed to be swept under the carpet. We also don’t know if it’s supposed to be permanent or not, but the fact that Magneto is one of those depowered suggests that, hype to the contrary aside, it’ll probably only last until X3 comes out, whenever that is. We also don’t know why all mutants weren’t affected, although it may have something to do with Doctor Strange, who appears to feel guilty about everything being his fault, which must make him fun to be around at parties (“My duties as master of the mystic arts are simple. Protecting your dress from your ‘gimlet’ is one of them. I failed. Completely.”). We also also don’t know if Hawkeye is really back from the dead – and if so, we don’t know how that happened, which isn’t really a surprise by this point – or whether someone else is going around pinning his costume onto walls with arrows. Perhaps most importantly, we don’t see anything about Pietro, the guy whose fault this whole House of M thing was supposed to be, in the entire last issue, so there’s that whole “resolution of overarcing plot” thing out the window. We do get to see Wolverine threaten Magneto again, though, and that’s never been done before.

What the whole series ends up being is an eight issue McGuffin – six of which were one long What If? – all created with the purpose of depowering a whole bunch of mostly-forgotten characters (Magneto aside, the only named depowered mutant that we see is Iceman. Iceman, for God’s sake. Clearly, nothing will ever be the same again) to create a false sense of shock new status quo under which lots of new series can be launched. Business as usual for the X-Books, then, and fairly Awful business at that.

JONAH HEX #1: Ah, the Western. Where men are men, women wear big puffy dresses, and plots are telegraphed from a mile off. The latest relaunch of DC’s weirdy-faced cowboy arrives under a decieivingly pretty – well, as pretty as Jonah can be – cover by Frank Quitely, hiding the static and Greg Land-ish artwork of Luke Ross within, a man who’s quite clearly been watching a lot of spaghetti westerns to research just how closely he can get Jonah’s good side to resemble Clint Eastwood in his prime. The story centers around kidnapped children, cardboard bad guys and dog fighting, and spends most of the time reading like a censored Vertigo pitch (“And then the bad guy gets eaten by his dogs! While the doctor watches!”). If I liked westerns as much as the next man, I’d probably have dug this more, but as it is, it all felt pretty Eh to me.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #14: The “Please Buy My Image Book, Invincible” issue. It even ends with “Invincible’s story continues in INVINCIBLE #33,” just in case you missed the earlier footnote plug for the same issue. That said, the issue ends up being a lot of fun, as Robert Kirkman uses his creator-owned character’s guest appearance as an excuse for lots of jokes at Marvel’s expense (Iron Man on the Avengers’ recent exploits: “When’s the last time we did something even remotely cosmic? I don’t even remember. Does the Kang stuff count? We were in space a little bit for that.”). There’s not really a story in the issue – Invincible shows up, meets Spider-Man and the Avengers, and then leaves, more or less – but it’s all done with speed and humor, and even has me wondering what’s going to happen in Invincible #33 after all. That’s what I get for reading something Good, I guess.

(Interestingly, the indica for the issue still says that “All characters featured in this issue and the distinctive names and likenesses thereof, and all related indica are trademarks of Marvel Characters, Inc.” Kirkman, fire your lawyer.)

OPTIC NERVE #10: Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Adrian Tomine sure does draw purty. Shame that his book is full of self-obsessed whiny bastards, really. Even though it seemed like Tomine was working out all his misogynistic issues through his… interesting portrayal of women at first, by the time you get to the end of the book it’s clear that the one male character in the entire thing is just as much of an asshole as everyone else. There’s probably some kind of artistic genius at work here that I’m somehow managing to miss, but right now, the whole thing seems more than a little Awful to me.

That sound you hear? That’s the death of any indie cred I once had.

SEVEN SOLDIERS: BULLETEER #1: In which Grant Morrison returns to the theme of the zero issue of the whole shebang: What’s the difference between a hero and a wannabe with a superhero fetish? This wins the Seven Soldiers title most likely to be mistaken for an issue of The Ultimates Award, given the unfortunate Millaresque quality of the set-up and characterization as well as Yannick Paquette’s Bryan Hitch meets Kevin Nowlan art, which might not be the negative in your book that it is in mine. For me, it’s OK, but here’s hoping that it picks up next issue when we find out what happened in Miracle Mesa.

STRAY BULLETS #40: David Lapham, fresh from his sell-out success on Daredevil/Punisher (as in, the success he got from selling – Oh, okay, you were there before me), returns with another Public Safety Announcement for the world at large. This time, we learn that, while it may seem like a good idea to keep your hearing aid turned off around crime scenes both known and unknown, there may be the occasional drawback to that theory. In other words, more of what you’d expect. It still feels like Dan Clowes doing some European crime comic, so if that’s your bag, you’ll find it all well and Good.

I know what you’re thinking – Just what else have I been reading this week? Tom DeHaven’s new novel, It’s Superman, turns out to be well worth however much a reputable bookseller would charge you for it; for those who need more of a comic context than “It’s Superman in depression era New York, with Lex running for political office and Lois in journalism school”, there’s a Chris Ware cover for your troubles. I also finally read SCOTT PILGRIM’S PRECIOUS LITTLE LIFE this week, because I always find value in being 18 months behind the zeitgiest, and Goddammit if it really isn’t as good as everyone said it was. It’s an easy, if somewhat cheating, pick for my TRADE OF THE WEEK. My non-cheating pick would be ESSENTIAL MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE, purely because it teams the Thing not only with Luke Cage, but also the Guardians of The Galaxy and Black Goliath (Yes, I do loves me some not-even-second tier Marvel characters from my childhood, why do you ask?). Marvel apparently own my soul this week, as MARVEL TEAM-UP wins my first ever PICK OF THE WEEK, and HOUSE OF M my PICK OF THE WEAK. Somewhere, Joe Quesada is laughing maniacally.

But then, he does that anyway.

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