Reviews And A Lot Of Other Mental Detritus

Graeme McMillan

I know, I know. I’ve been gone for far too long again. What can I say? I’ve been busy. But just as my last appearance here was to tell you 50 things I love about comics, I’m giving you another list this time: 25 Entirely Random Thoughts About Comics From My Past Week. Feel free to rip apart any of these in the comments; that’s what they’re there for.

1. The Minx closure is just depressing, for reasons that Chris Butcher puts his finger on, in part, here. I’m nowhere near the target market for this line, but I enjoyed almost all of the books to varying degrees (including Clubbing, which seems to get beaten up in almost all write-ups for some reason. Yes, the art was on the sterile side, but I loved the writing. Also, despite what Johanna thinks, the line did have at least one person who loved it: my wife, who eagerly devoured each new release), and think that it was a wonderful balance to the genre-heavy rest of DC’s output (Also, format-wise, I loved the $10 for a small OGN price point). I hope that everything that was already in the works for the line ends up at a new home somewhere.

2. Again to agree with Chris Butcher, the early closure of Minx has got to make Vertigo Crime editor Will Dennis very nervous about how his imprint is going to perform. That can’t be fun, knowing that your line may have less than two years to prove itself.

3. While I’m talking about Minx: The second Plain JANES book, JANES IN LOVE, was much better than the first, even though I’m not sure I could coherently explain why. The writing was tighter and had a much stronger narrative arc, the art was – I don’t know… weirder? More individual? More Jim Rugg-y? It felt more honest, less attempting to be generic, if that makes sense – and the book as a whole had a much greater sense of purpose than the first. Me, I thought it was Very Good.

4. On the other hand, THE NEW YORK FOUR disappointed the Local fan in me. That’s not Ryan Kelly’s fault (if anything, his art in this was stronger than in his Local issues), but Brian Wood’s, and for the same reason that The Plain JANES disappointed: the book just stopped, as opposed to finishing. Obviously, a sequel was planned – and is being worked on as I type, I believe – but it doesn’t stop this otherwise enjoyable (The guidebook commentary in particular is a nice touch, and Wood manages to bring some humanity to what could’ve otherwise just been a bunch of stereotypes) book from slamming on the brakes so suddenly at the end that you probably hit your head off the metaphorical dashboard. A high Okay, sadly.

5. My favorite new series to have appeared recently are both Vertigo books – House of Mystery and Air. Does this mean that we’re headed back to a period where Vertigo is putting out a lot of good, surprising work again, or just that I’m getting old?

6. AIR’s second issue is better than its first, by far (A high Good compared to an Okay, if you’re going by that scale); I got sent previews of the first five issues from DC just after the first issue came out, and the fourth issue in particular just made me a massive fan of the series – which made me somewhat sad, because how many people will stick around to the fourth issue in this kind of market? Nonetheless, if you’ve bought the first two issues and feel like you’re still on the fence, stick around until the fourth before you make a decision.

7. No, I can’t tell you what it was about the fourth issue that I liked so much without ruining the surprise. Sorry.

8. The comic I’m most looking forward to read that’s currently in my (growing) to-do pile? Andy Ristaino’s massive The Babysitter, which just blew my mind leafing through the oversized, densely-packed, pages.

9. Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s FANTASTIC FOUR #560 just continues their lackluster attempt at being imaginative without, you know, actually coming up with anything new. When The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine reads as if it’s stolen its plot from Heroes, which in itself stole its plot from “Days of Future Past,” then that’s not a good thing. It’s such a… dull book, now. Not just in the sense of being boring (although it is; it’s slow and unsurprising and unamusing, all of which the ideal Fantastic Four comic should never be), but also in terms of the visuals, with Hitch’s overly-rendered, awkward figures buried under coloring that seems like sludge. I’d love to be a fly on the wall in Marvel’s offices to see discussions about this run – it’s not in the top 20 best selling books, generating next to no buzz, and has roughly the same readership as Dwayne McDuffie’s run. Is it a failure, considering what was expected? Oh, and Awful.

10. I’ve been reading a lot of Essentials lately, so part of my mind is convinced that it’s not really the FF unless Joe Sinnott is inking, admittedly.

11. Also from reading so many Essentials: Ed Brubaker’s CAPTAIN AMERICA #42 is both Good and completely influenced by Steve Englehart’s run on the book from the mid-70s – He even brought back crazy 1950s Cap! It’s not just the cast (The Falcon, Sharon Carter, Red Skull and Arnim Zola? Come on); there’s something about Bucky’s character and the constant questioning himself about whether he’s worthy enough of Steve Rogers’ legacy that’s 100% Englehart-esque. All of which is a good thing, in case you were wondering.

12. In fact, between Brand New Day, Brubaker’s Captain America and Dan Slott’s plans for Mighty Avengers , Marvel’s really going for a return for the 1970s these days. You could even argue that things like Secret Invasion and even Civil War are just longer, slower, versions of the kind of quasi-political things that Englehart and co. were trying to do back then, only taken much more seriously and to greater extremes. This can only mean one thing: Dark Reign is what happens when America is taken over the elf with a gun.

13. That said, four ongoing mainstream continuity Avengers books is insanity. Especially when you know that they’ll all end up coming out on the same week. Which’ll also be the same week that Invincible Iron Man and Captain America come out.

14. Completely random observation: Marvel events are all about bringing the books together and setting a coherent tone and overall plot for the universe going forward, but DC events are all about trying to launch different plots and tones – Look at One Year Later or all the different titles that have the Final Crisis branding.

15. DC’s variety is never played up as the strength that it should be. The Batbooks aren’t like the Superman books aren’t like Wonder Woman, Flash (which is, admittedly, a bit schizophrenic in and of itself right now) and Green Lantern, etc. etc. – Why isn’t this seen as a good thing by fandom at large? When a Marvel book comes through that is genuinely different and not smothered by the frowny self-importance of the Marvel Universe Status Quo Du Jour (like Hellcat or The Immortal Iron Fist, say), it seems much more of a surprise and like it’s somehow slipped through the cracks… why can’t DC play their books up as a whole line full of such happy surprises?

16. I just realized: Kathryn Immonen should write Fantastic Four.

17. TRINITY (#17 of which came out this week) reads really well in chunks – It’s the DC event book for people who think that Final Crisis makes them think too much – but really poorly in single-issues (The most recent issue, when taken on it’s own, for example, is just an Eh). When fight scenes last more than an issue, even with the shortened page-lengths of the split book format, then you should know that something’s wrong. Also, is it just me, or does it feel as if the Busiek/Bagley strip is taking up less and less of the book as the series progresses? I don’t think that it actually is, but it always seems to give the impression of being over too quickly.

18. If I were in charge of collections at DC, I’d put Trinity into a series of quick and cheap trades immediately, so people can realize that it really does read much more smoothly when you read a month or so at once.

19. Also, Mike Carlin? Page 7 of #17 isn’t a third of the way through a 52 issue series. That’d be page 7 of #18. 17 x 3 = 51, remember?

20. My not-so-secret anymore shame: Brand New Day Spider-Man has grown on me. I’m sorry, but I’m a sucker for Spider-Man Done Right, and if you can get over the whole “they invalidated Peter’s marriage and continuity oh no,” this comes pretty close to it being done right in my eyes (It’s not perfect, mind you, but it’s enjoyable). New Ways To Die is almost undoing that, however, so there’s still hope for my cynical side to win out.

21. Talking of New Ways To Die: A six-part story told in a comic that comes out three times a month and we really have to wait four weeks for the last part? How did anyone let that happen?

22. Why the hell is the internet suddenly bothered about whether or not Peter Parker slept with Betty Brant thirty years ago?

23. You know, it’s kind of hard to argue with this year’s Harvey Award winners. Congratulations, Doug! (And also Bryan, Brian, Darwyn and everyone involved in All-Star Superman.)

24. I want an Absolute All Star Superman collection already.

25. I have felt so guilty about not writing for Savage Critics for so long that I have just spilled my mind onto the keyboard and forced all of you who’ve made it to the end to read the above. I’ll try and post more regularly and more coherently in future. Honest.

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