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This plastique valentine: Douglas on 2/14

Douglas Wolk

Well, okay, then–the consensus seems to be that reviews of older stuff are perfectly OK here. So… here’s some quick notes on this week’s books! (Actual graphic novel reviews will be coming soon…)

NEW AVENGERS #38 re-teams Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos, so it’s effectively a new issue of Alias, which is just fine with me. This is an all-conversation issue about Jessica Jones and Luke Cage falling out when they land on opposite sides of the registration divide, and… yeah, I admit it: Civil War was a much better idea than I’d have guessed for opening up story possibilities in ongoing series. This is the kind of conversation-based, stage-play-ish story Bendis hasn’t done in a while, but the other reasons it works better than most of Bendis’s recent Avengers books mostly come down to how good Gaydos is at facial expressions and character-acting: Luke, more exhausted than angry, pointing his fingers and crossing his arms a little less intently than usual; Danny lifting his hands up around his head when he talks about the Leader; Spider-Man hanging upside-down from the ceiling like it’s the most comfortable place for him. (And the next issue is “The Truth About Echo,” which I’m hoping will explain how a deaf lip-reader can hear somebody with a full-face mask who’s facing away from her. Skrullity-skrullity-skrull.) Very Good, although does it bother anybody else that even Luke and Jessica almost never refer to their child as Danielle, but “the baby” or “our baby”?

The first few pages of BOOSTER GOLD #0 are cleverly executed–a callback to a 14-year-old miniseries could fall flat, but actually pretending it’s an official tie-in to Zero Hour is pretty funny. (Extra points for the silver fifth color on the cover.) But that’s mostly undermined by the extended “flashback” to the 25th century. I know it’s hard to imagine what the future’s going to look like–40-year-old Legion stories look like 35-year-old photographs of Tokyo–but the idea that Gotham University would be playing a football game against Ohio State in 2462 is like imagining 20th-century versions of 15th-century academies playing highly publicized games of closh. You’d think that Johns and Katz and Jurgens would try to get around that, but instead we get pages on end of locker rooms, sportscasters, Booster’s sister in high-heeled boots… it doesn’t look like the 25th century, it looks like the ’80s with some extra fashion disasters. Eh.

FANTASTIC FOUR #554 seems to be more about demonstrating how impressive and audacious Mark Millar’s approach to the series is than actually doing anything impressive or audacious–the magazine-style front cover, for instance, was clever on Trouble, but it doesn’t work here. This reads a little like the proposed-but-unmade Fantastic Four movie idea that was floating around a few years ago, which was supposed to be about them as the objects of a cult of celebrity, except that they’re all acting like parodies of celebrities, as if Millar’s trying to to show how impressively X-Treme everyone is. (As for the music industry making Johnny a millionaire, has Millar been paying attention to newspapers in the last few years?) The “Old West” sequence at the beginning is blatantly tacked onto a story that doesn’t seem to have anything to do with it but doesn’t have any other action scenes. For that matter, if the Richards family had access to a functioning time machine, the miserable first day of Disneyland might not be the most fun destination. Hitch is using a lot of photo-reference here, it looks like, especially for faces, but that means a lot of the characters don’t look quite consistent from panel to panel. (And is the Marvel Boy in the Fantasti-Car meant as some sort of tweak at the Morrison/Jones version?) The best bit of the issue is Hitch’s double-page spread of Nu-World at the end–and even that doesn’t tell us anything about it, just that it looks like a cross between Pac-Man and the Death Star. (That “nu”-as-in-nu-metal, as opposed to “new,” is a good symbol of what’s not quite right about this issue: it needs to announce that it’s cool, which means it’s sort of not.) It’s Okay, but I suspect half the fun of this run is going to be finding things to get irritated about, so I’m on the fence about continuing to read it.

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