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Super, man: Graeme’s reviews of the 1/4 books.

Graeme McMillan

First off, Arune? Tell me you’re as gutted as I am about the OC’s cancellation.

Secondly, happy new year to those who celebrate it. Or even those like Kate and I, who went to bed early and somehow still woke up at midnight by accident.

Thirdly, comics!

ALL-STAR SUPERMAN #6, SUPERMAN #658 and SUPERMAN CONFIDENTIAL #3: There’s something really strange going on when three of the four ongoing Superman books ship in the same week, and all of them are surprisingly good (Of the four titles, the one that didn’t ship on Thursday is definitely the weakest: Geoff Johns and Richard Donner’s somewhat hyped Action Comics). Interestingly enough, all of them share a theme of Superman’s heartbreak, whether it be All-Star’s death of Pa Kent, Superman learning that his actions (and morality) will, accidentally, lead to the end of humanity, or Confidential’s Lois telling Superman that they can never be a couple. Unsurprisingly, All-Star Superman is easily the best of the three, an Excellent one-off that is full of little emotional moments that ring true even in the middle of the multi-Superman larger plot – The Lana/Pete/Clark scene in particular felt real, and Superman’s despair following the funeral of his father was wonderfully sad even within all the surrounding melodrama. And what melodrama, with the referencing of the mainstream DC Universe crossover DC: One Million and the hints of the hopeful future that awaits (“New Krypton”, and the identity of the golden Superman… Ah, remember when superhero stories were brave enough to have happy endings?), not to mention the reveal of just who the Unknown Superman from the second issue actually is… Grant Morrison manages to write a story that is classic, contemporary and exactly what you want a Superman story to be.

Superman Confidential, on the other hand, has Darwyn Cooke writing a more intentionally old-school take on the character – Less superheroics, more Superman vs. the Gangsters with a little bit of Kryptonite thrown in. But it works, in part because the writing knows when to step back and let Tim Sale’s art (and Dave Stewart’s coloring) shine. Sale carries the book in the best way, here – It’s not that the writing’s weak, but it does seem to have been written with the intention of giving the artist the chance to show off, and Sale rises to the occasion and then some. Not to do the traditional bagging on Jeph Loeb or anything, but there’s something to be said for seeing Sale do a book that’s so intentionally fun. Very Good.

Last but not least, Kurt Busiek seems to get settled into his Superman run properly with this oddly-announced “end of book one” issue that wraps up the Days of Future Past-style flashforward with an unusual moral: In order to keep humanity from being extinct before the end of the century, Superman has to stop fighting evil. Which is… unexpected, to say the least, and definitely something that makes me want to read what happens next. The future storyline works better than it has any right to, in part because it avoids the cliches you expect – The heroes save the day by defeating the villain, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be other villains, or that they weren’t already screwed to begin with. But even in the middle of this depressathon, there are moments of optimism, and there’s something to be said for Jimmy Olsen’s last words. Very Good, even if I couldn’t stop wondering whether any of this has anything to do with the new DC mega-event that Busiek is apparently writing all through the book.

And now, onto less-Super comics:

THE ALL-NEW ATOM #7: As Jeff points out, Hibbs had decided that this was his second-favorite book of the week (after All-Star Superman, I think?), and thus handed it to me to read. And, just like Jeff, I didn’t really see whatever it was that Brian saw. It’s Okay, but I didn’t really get knocked over by it, partially because the guest-art by Mike Norton seemed to be a really weak Byrne rip-off, and partially because I felt as if I didn’t understand what was going on for half the issue, due to all the characters who didn’t really get introduced clearly and callbacks to earlier issues that I hadn’t read. But I did like that the quotations have now moved past science and onto more random subjects. It was fun enough that I’ll end up checking out another issue at some point, at least. That said, when will the name of the comic change to “The Same Atom You Read About Last Month, No It’s Still Not Ray Palmer, Sorry”?

THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST #2: Still more fun than any book called Iron Fist that doesn’t start “Power Man And…” has any right to be, Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction manage to make me smile by bringing Luke Cage in for a guest shot already without it seeming gratuitous, as well as callouts to Night Nurse and Heroes for Hire (and a Civil War reference or two, too). Bizarrely, all of this just makes it feel like a really good Marvel book from the ’70s (and more Marvel Universe-y than all of the various Civil House of Decimation and Annihilations that we’ve seen over the last few years, as well). Or, maybe I should say, it feels like a really Very Good book.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #5: Seriously, how has it taken five issues of this series – Six, if you include the zero issue – to get this far into the story? Shouldn’t this have been, like, an issue three or something? You can tell that Brad Meltzer loves the characters he’s writing, but he loves them too much, I think – There’s no momentum to the story because he’s too reverential to do anything really mean to anyone, and you know it. There’s not even an illusion of tension or suspense. Crap.

THE NEW AVENGERS #26: Yeah, I know it came out last week, but I just wanted to say the following: Brian Michael Bendis, I know that you’re completely excited that you’re writing some of your favorite characters and that you have a ridiculous amount of creative freedom – The kind of freedom that allows you to do something as self-consciously David Lynchian as this one-off that is all about mood and atmosphere (and really rather beautiful art, from Alex Maleev, especially the Klimt infuence he brought to Wanda) instead of, you know, plot or common sense – but still. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. Eh, because as much as the writing was utterly pointless and the characters so out of character that they could’ve been anyone, really, that really was some nice artwork.

NEWUNIVERSAL #2: Hey, look! The head of the secret organization that was created to hunt down superpowered people is actually celebrated stage and screen actor, Rene Auberjois! Now Rene can go and hunt down Sawyer from Lost, in this latest issue of the overly photo-referenced imagining of Marvel’s failed second universe from twenty-one years ago. It’s all very competent, but I found myself not really caring about any of it – It seems as if Warren Ellis is sleepwalking already, which is a shame. Eh.

PUNISHER WAR JOURNAL #2: Goddammit, that’s a second issue of this that I’ve enjoyed, despite disliking the Punisher and disliking Civil War. Good, and I hope this doesn’t keep up. What will it do to my reputation?

SCARFACE #1: So, I’ve never seen the movie “Scarface”. I’ve heard about it, and I know what it’s about and all, but I’ve never actually seen it. What can I say? Al Pachino snorting coke and introducing people to his leetle friend never really seemed like my idea of a good time. But nonetheless, I kind of had an idea of what the movie would be like, and it’s not anything like this comic book turned out to be. Was the movie as broad and trying-to-be-dark a comedy as this is? I really don’t have any idea how to review this, in a strange way, because I feel like my disliking it is because I just didn’t get it, and didn’t know if that’s because there’s no “it” to get, or I just should see the movie in order to understand. A confused Eh, then.

PICK OF THE WEEK is All-Star Superman, because all superhero comics should have this mix of imagination and emotional melodrama and action. Although if they could do that on a more regular schedule, that would be preferable. PICK OF THE WEAK is Justice League, because… well, there’s just no there there, you know? I can’t believe that we’re five issues into the damn series, and we’re still getting what feels like filler with the Vixen scenes each issue. Identity Crisis may have sold well for DC, but that doesn’t mean that Brad Meltzer doesn’t need an editor these days. TRADE OF THE WEEK, for me, is Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 3 – I’ll go on about this more another time, but I’ve been reading through all of the Essential Fantastic Fours recently, and it’s midway through volume 3 where everything comes into focus all of a sudden, and BAM, it really does become the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine.

What did everyone else read over the last couple of weeks? And how were your holidays, too?

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