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Sky-Blue But Stinking of Vinegar: Jeff’s Opening Reviews for the 04/04 Books.

Jeff Lester

Writing comic book reviews on Easter Sunday morning? I cannot tell if I am to be admired or pitied on this, one of our more deeply confusing holidays [cue the whole Jesus/Easter Bunny/salvation/colored egg thing, done to death by thousands of stand-ups, here). Hats off to Dave Robson, who told me he was going to spend Easter morning watching Grindhouse. I can only hope this will become a trend that will transform the face of the holiday, and 100 years from now parents will have to explain how looking for Easter eggs and watching “Hobo With A Shotgun” ties in to the story of Jesus….

52 WEEK #48: Montoya becomes The Question and it’s highly OK but I was really underwhelmed. I find that especially troubling because I’d argue that Montoya’s story arc has been the most solid one in 52, overall: the character beats are there; the motivation is there; verbal and visual metaphorical use of the Question motif, etc. In talking about it with Hibbs, he suggested that maybe because it was a foregone conclusion it didn’t have the “oomph” it might have, and there’s something to that.

But I still blame the ’80s. Yes, that’s right. I blame an entire decade for my general listlessness to the Montoya/Question storyline, because if there’s one thing that decade taught me to be wary of, it’s a woman in a fedora.

As you young whippersnappers probably know from history class, MTV started back in the ’80s and in those early, pre-Real World days they actually showed music videos. Music videos in those days were infamous for showing you unreal things filmed cheaply out in the real world, and leaving it to you to sort out what was real and what wasn’t. I think it took me over ten years to realize that if you drop a rose on a checkered ceramic floor, it doesn’t shatter like glass. Also, if you are in the water with a woman–say, at the beach or a tropical lagoon–and the two of you come out of the water at the same time, you have other options than gripping each other at the arms and screaming. Even if you are in slow motion. Also, no matter how much you clean it first, a sexy woman is not going to dance all over your car. It’s just not going to happen.

So whenever I see a woman in a fedora, I find myself getting anxious. It’s true. Up until she became the Question, every scene in which Montoya tugged on her hat led me to believe she would next be in a shoving-dancing match with her pimp, rubbing herself all over her hair-metal boyfriend’s car, or dancing with a suspendered cartoon cat. I think this may have hampered my enjoyment of 52 #48 which was, as I said, probably a pretty OK issue, overall.

ALL NEW ATOM #10: I wonder if something got changed in the drafting process–you know, another pass to tighten up the plotting that changed the character’s relationships, maybe–because I really, really can’t buy that (a) Ryan is still going to be friends with the woman who married the dude who savagely beat him before her eyes and would have murdered him if fate hadn’t intervened; or (b) that woman would have married the dude who savagely beat her friend almost to death before her eyes. And maybe it’ll pick up next issue, but I also wish it was a little less Sometimes They Come Back and a little more Chinese Ghost Story (parts 1 or 2). Still some stuff to like, but lower end of Eh for me.

AVENGERS INITIATIVE #1: I wasn’t fond of the death scene, partly because it seemed pretty telegraphed, but more than that I found the book kinda muddle-headed. Here, the Initiative is being an extension of the military whereas the other Civil War comparisons I’ve seen liken it to police firefighting service–which I think really affects the tenor of the thing. If registering your superpowers is like registering a handgun, and you have to pass some sort of very basic training in order to be licensed, that’s one thing. But if it means you’re shipped off to a base where people holler at you and you crawl in the mud and get accidentally killed, then that’s essentially a draft and I think there would be a very different national reaction to it. (I know there are lots of factors in play, but I think a huge difference between the current war and the Vietnam War is that there is no draft hanging over the head of today’s college kids and, as a result, a lot less protesting.) Considering half of the book’s hook is the Initiative, it’d be great if, now that Civil War is over and there’s not as much tightly-knit deadline sensitive cross-continuity going on, Marvel might take the time to really iron out all their ideas on it. (And considering the other half of the hook was the Avengers in the title, it’d be great if we got to see more than Yellowjacket.) Slott does a an okay job with what he’s got, but instead of war movie cliches with a superhero gloss, we got some deeply wonky military nut who could use the previous history of our armed forces as a basis for the behind-the-scenes drama of military men who need to figure out standardized training for people with non-standardized powers. To paraphrase the great bluesmen, “Well, the men don’t know, but the Tom Clancy fans understand.”

Anyway, for those who prefer their reviews without so much Monday (or, in this case, Sunday) morning quarterbacking: deeply Eh.

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER #2: I agree with the G; this was much stronger than the first issue (which I liked just fine) and so like this even more. Another thing that I think Graeme nailed in his review is his reference to Joss’s “swagger.” A couple of people on our comments and elsewhere have protested that they don’t understand Whedon’s popularity, and I’d say it’s precisely this swagger that makes Whedon stand out. It’s not that he’s especially great at any one thing (although his sitcom training tends to give his dialogue both a lot of zest and a tendency to sound all the same, sometimes) but more that he’s good enough at a lot of things to know how the rules of how they work and how to break those rules when it suits him. (For example, he’s done that sudden change-up to a dream or fantasy sequence several times before but he nailed me with it here because of how he plays with the page pacing.) The high level of craft plus that extra bit of zing is what can make him a very entertaining writer and, when he’s on, you get Very Good work like you do here.

More tomorrow, most likely. Happy Easter!

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