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Swiss time running out: Douglas quick-hits some pamphlets of 5/29

Douglas Wolk

Once again, the SavCrit hive-mind has failed to cohere. I tried to avoid spoilers this time, so no cut…

FINAL CRISIS #1: No, it’s not a slam-bang opener like the first World War Hulk or Infinite Crisis or Secret Invasion; nobody punches anybody through a building. The tone is more of a slow slide into hell, the tipping point where the whole system becomes too badly screwed up to salvage. Morrison’s described FINAL CRISIS as a take on the eschatology of this cultural moment, which seems about right. It’s also true that the character who gets killed doesn’t get a heroic exit, or much dramatic context for it: this is about a world where all it takes is some stupid with a flare gun to ruin everything. The story’s full of stuff that rewards repeated looks and consideration, and it keeps circling back to the distinctions between gods and men, between enormous powers and the people they crush for sport or advantage. (The missing kids aren’t just smart, they’re poor, and I bet that’s significant.) I pretty much loved all of it except for the tedious scene with the Monitors–which is, I think, the only part whose sense is directly contingent on Countdown. Jones and Sinclair’s artwork is exquisite, too: body language, details of color (the rippling water reflecting the red sky!)… This isn’t quite what I was expecting, but after a few readings, I’m finding it Very Good indeed. (I’ve annotated it at length over here.)

BATMAN #677: Wow. Drastically altering the premise of a series in the space of eight pages or so is a pretty impressive trick; when that series is Batman, it’s really impressive, and I got a nice solid jolt from the plot twist this issue, even though it can’t be entirely what it seems. Very Good, in a distinctly different way, although I agree with other people that Tony Daniel’s artwork isn’t quite working here–I don’t know if the problem is his basic approach so much as that Morrison doesn’t seem to be writing for him the way that he’s writing for Jones and Quitely.

ALL STAR SUPERMAN #11: And, weirdly, I thought this one was just Good, and that’s following on the heels of last issue, which was my favorite superhero comic I’ve read all year. Solaris never really seems like much of a threat, or even like much of an entity, and the overarching plot of the series barely advances–Morrison spends too much of the issue going for cute lines and throwaway gags that don’t add up to much. Hard to complain too much when Quitely’s this on point, though, and I imagine it’ll read differently after next issue, too.

ACTION COMICS #865: Blatantly a breather-between-arcs issue, but a pretty Good one, with the best work I’ve seen from Jesus Merino; I really like his fine-line/ink-wash technique on the flashback sequences. A neat little premise, too: the Toyman tells us his side of the story and explains his tragic history and his motivations–and he’s so delusional that even the tragic history is almost completely lies. Also, that’s a fine cover by Kevin Maguire, but it’s too bad Maguire drew a totally different version of the character than Merino did.

NEW AVENGERS #41: I have no idea if it’s the case or not, but I can imagine that the breakdown for Secret Invasion’s story distribution between Bendis’s three series allotted one significant event per issue, and this issue’s was “Ka-Zar explains what happened in the Savage Land sequence early on in New Avengers, from his perspective.” The problem is that that’s only a few pages worth of exposition, and the rest of this issue seems like marking time: wasting lots of cycles deferring the cliffhanger until the end, and repeating stuff we’ve already seen in Secret Invasion #2. And as classically jungle-hero as Billy Tan’s Ka-Zar and Shanna look, his Spider-Man seems really off. Eh.

DAREDEVIL #107: It’s mighty Good to see the Brubaker/Rucka/Lark/Gaudiano Gotham Central team working together again, and they’re clicking just like they always did: crime story/ensemble soap opera is a mode that fits them well. There’s a lot of character business packed in here, though, including the idea Brubaker’s been playing with that Matt is in really terrible psychological shape and not really in condition to deal with the A-plot. Still, the “save the bad guy from being executed for crimes he confessed to but didn’t actually commit” gambit is maybe a little too familiar, especially after that last arc with Melvin in it. If I’m reading it correctly, the guy Matt’s going to be defending in this story is in fact a disbarred lawyer–although that’s only mentioned in a single panel, and you’d think it’d be a bigger plot point.

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