Posted by: Graeme McMillan on November 13, 2006
Kate’s watching Good Eats, where Alton Brown is currently telling everyone how to fry a turkey for Thanksgiving. What’s with the frying of the turkey? Does it taste good? For some reason, I’m not convinced about the whole thing. Considering Kate and I generally have small Thanksgivings – what with me not really being American and therefore not really “getting” Thanksgiving and all – that consists of the Macy’s parade, dinner and watching Christmas movies, even the idea of going to all the trouble of setting up a turkey to fry seems like a bad idea, so I don’t really see the potential joy of the whole thing. But nonetheless, Kate is hypnotized by the idea.
(Kate’s just turned to me and said, “I wish the turkey had been our national bird. I mean, the eagle’s cool and all, but the turkey looks better.”)
Which is to say, comics!
PHONOGRAM #3: I’m doing this out of alphabetical order because, well, this book is evil. You may not expect it by looking at Jamie McKelvie’s clean and polite artwork, or by reading Kieron Gillen’s Hellblazer-but-without-the-history script, but it is. It’s not even the way that this issue in particular speaks to that particular part of me that’s still a popkid who’s somehow grown older but pines for a decade ago when the clubs were better and full of smartly-dressed people listening to music that wanted to be the music it’d grown up listening to, and does so in a way that feels true despite the magical framework (Maybe I’m missing the point, but I would enjoy this series more if it had less magic and more pop culture; the former feels too familiar in a bad way – which is to say, bordering on the cliched – and the latter familiar in the good way, personal and honest). No, this book is evil because, after reading the text pieces at the back, I’ve had Britpop also-rans Shed Seven’s “Dolphin” in my head all weekend. “Would you give blood, if you had annnnnnnnnaaaaaaaay,” indeed. Okay, but for those who like the pop music, well worth it for the essay in the back.
AVENGERS: EXPOSITION’S MIGHTIEST HEROES II #1: See what I did with the title there? I am so funny. But, sadly, that’s what this issue felt like – a fill-in “slice of life” issue instead of the start of an eight issue series on its own. I’m sure that Joe Casey intended it to read like a love letter to Roy Thomas’s Avengers run, but it does that too well, coming off as pointless as anything other than twenty-odd pages of advertisement for Essential Avengers volumes 3 – 5. It’s a very dense book, as well – not in terms of plot, because there isn’t really much of an independent plot outside of continuity porn (Did anyone really need to see that T’Challa met with the government to create a secret identity when he came to the US?), but in terms of dialogue; there’s just so much to read here, more than necessary. It’s overwhelming, almost, and when combined with the slowness of plot and exceptionally close ties to continuity from thirty-plus years ago, really doesn’t help new readers get into things. Which is a shame, because Casey’s clearly got a good handle on the characterizations, and has probably been dying to write some of these scenes since he got into comics, so strong is the fanboy feeling of the book. In terms of art, Will Rosado’s pencils are fine, but I’m not sure that Tom Palmer is the right man for the inking job – the inks kind of muddy up Rosado’s normally cleaner line, leaving something that looks more uncertain than either man’s usual work, which is a shame but indicative of the wasted opportunity that this first issue feels like. As something to make you think, “Wow, those early Avengers books were awesome!”, this does a Very Good job, but taken on its own, this is just Eh. Nice cover by Dave Johnson, though. If only the book itself had half of its sense of urgency.
BATMAN #658: Um… what? There are some nice touches in this conclusion to Grant Morrison’s first arc – the rocket part and Robin’s first words being “…s’okay… I stopped the bleeding…” being the main ones, for me – but did Grant forget to write a story for this issue or something? Nothing really felt organic, and the story just kind of stopped at the end without any attempt at resolution; it read as if it’d been plotted by Grant when he was five years old (“And then Batman finds the bad guy and flies there in a rocket and then they fight and then they blow up! The end”). Really, depressingly, unsatisfying, even if it’s not actively bad or anything. Eh.
DOCTOR STRANGE: THE OATH #2: First off, yes, there are a shitload of adverts in this book, and yes, it’s very offputting when you’re reading and have to skip every second page (if not more) – Joe Quesada’s reasoning for this on Newsarama this weekend (Essentially, “I wanted to change it, but we ended up selling more ads and people wanted to advertise so what can you do?”) was a surreal moment where you realize that, really, the people in power at Marvel don’t care about how the original comic reads like – but more than enough people are already talking about that. Enough people, in fact, that I’m almost worried that this comic will end up being remembered as “That one that has lots of advertisements in it,” and not “That really rather Good book that manages to have its cake and eat it by treating Doctor Strange as a character with respect while having other characters point out the more ridiculous parts of the way he’s been portrayed in the past – “By the hoary #%*-ing hosts!” – all the while spinning out an interesting story and being easily the best looking Marvel book out there right now,” as it deserves to be. Brian K. Vaughan, you may be slipping with Ex Machina these days (Am I the only one who read the last issue and felt as if the series has completely lots its way?), but this is much more than anyone deserves from a Doctor Strange comic.
GEN 13 #2: There have been times, in the past, where I’ve gotten the idea that there’s something really twisted about Gail Simone. Sure, she can write and snark with the best of them, but every now and again, there was something else – kind of perverse – that kind of peeked out and then disappeared again just as quickly as it’d appeared. Apparently, there’s something about this revival of Wildstorm’s grunge teen titans that’s brought that side of Simone out to stay: The plot may be fairly generic in some respects (Teenagers with superpowers on the run from adults with nefarious designs on them), but there’s something deliciously… off about the execution. What are the internet voyeurs really after…? Superhero snuff? Porn? It’s not made clear and, to be honest, probably unlikely to be made any clearer. And what about the evil adults, who give metacommentary on what’s they’re doing that’s detached and bizarrely reminiscent of Dave Eggers if he was an evil supervillain (“Did you hear that? That was us breaking the morality barrier. Boom, boom, oh my God, boom.” “It was inevitable. I just felt a chill of remorse. There now, forgotten already.”)? The forms of degradation that the kids are put through are interesting and well-considered, as well – Scary, but revealing about their characters, and revealing about the thinking behind the book as well. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes here, and I’m wondering if the series can keep it up now that the main characters have escaped into the real world. Right now, though, it’s surprisingly Very Good. Yeah, I know, Gen 13, very good. Who knew?
SUPERMAN #657: As Jeff said at the store on Friday, it’s “Days of Future Past: The Superman Edition”. And as good as it looks – and it looks amazing, with the opening double-page spread showing off the coloring and lettering skills of the team as much as the linework in particular, I think – it’s a really odd thing to happen so soon in the Busiek/Pacheco run. The fairly traditional stories of the last three issues find themselves replaced by an exposition-heavy flash-forward that lays groundwork, I presume, for the next year of so of the book (if not a future crossover; Kurt is leaving Aquaman for some big DC event,” after all), centering around a bad guy that we’ve never seen before and killing off the title character midway through the book before bringing him back as a zombie at the end. I can’t quite work out if it’s ballsy or just disorientating, but it’s definitely an unexpected direction to take a Superman book. Good, I think, but I’m really not quite sure.
WISDOM #1: Even if you didn’t know that the writer of this new “mature readers” version of the X-character was one of the writers of the new Doctor Who series going into the book, you’d be able to guess as much once you’d finished it, because this is just like an episode of Doctor Who: the dialogue, the structure, the attempts at mysteriousness (“Don’t you tell me to – – !” “Mo, I know.” “You know, I get the feeling you actually do.”), all that’s missing are the shitty special effects and David Tennant mugging for the camera (And I say that as someone who really likes the new version of Doctor Who). Surprisingly, it really works – This was much more enjoyable than I’d been expecting, perhaps because it doesn’t come anywhere close to taking itself seriously, especially with a climax that’s definitely, well, climactic, and more than a little piss-taking. There’s even a thought-balloon in the middle of it, for cheap comic effect, and who can ask for more than that? Very Good, and I’m getting worried about the number of Marvel books I’m enjoying these days. What will happen to my reputation…?
PICK OF THE WEEK is Gen 13, because once you get the idea of Dave Eggers being a villain in your head, it’s strangely persuasive. PICK OF THE WEAK is Batman, which breaks my little Grant Morrison-lovin’ heart, but it deserves it. I’d say something about the TRADE OF THE WEEK, but I still have to write reviews of Fables and American Virgin, so I probably shouldn’t say anything, but – hey – Project Romantic sure looked pretty, didn’t it?
Next week: More dental surgery for me, thanks! But Absolute New Frontier apparently really honestly comes out on the same day, so at least I’ll have something to bleed and drool over later. What did the rest of you read this week?