Wednesday, November 08, 2006

04/06 thoughts and views on Comics

If you read my last zine, you saw me analyze a bit on the various character assassinations of creations by Steve Ditko. Not long after, it was announced that DC was going to have another go with the Creeper. This time it’s a reboot of the character by Steve Niles, a comic writer known for his horror books. Now, he tweaks with the origin a bit so that it makes a little more sense. No problem there, I admit, when I first encountered the character as a kid, that origin of somehow having an invisible costume on top of another was a bit ludicrous. Especially when it’s something like the Creeper’s. The silver-age Atom has a similar problem in that we’re to believe his Atom costume is invisible when he’s large an is actually on TOP of his street clothes! And at least Niles is keeping in the spirit of Ditko’s origin, no pseudo-boogey men. However, Niles is also going the route that the persona's of the Creeper and Jack Ryder are pretty much two separate personalities. Ryder doesn’t want to be the Creeper. Doesn’t help that the art I’ve seen makes him look the Joker as done by Ted Turner’s movie colorizing team.

Have you noticed that in all the new comics spinning out of all the mega-crossovers by DC, they are all takes on
pre-existing characters? And somehow, most of them aren’t actually starring the heroes long associated with that name but someone else. Gail Simone and John Byrne will be doing a new Atom, not anyone we’ve seen beneath the mask before but still clearly patterned on Ray Palmer. We have new a new Aquaman, two Nightwings, a new Catwoman, a new Freedom Fighters (kill off a bunch of characters not seen all that much to introduce all new characters as the team, explain that one to me). Hawkman is out of his book and Hawkgirl is flying solo. If you back up to IDENTITY CRISIS, we’ve also had Firestorm and Manhunter, Seven Soldiers of Victory (including new versions of the Guardian and Shining Knight and a non-Scott Free Mr. Miracle)

Byrne’s forum, he compared it to DC’s Silver-age. However, DC’s silver-age also included a plethora of new characters and concepts: Doom Patrol, Metal Men, Angel & the Ape, the Creeper, Metamorpho, Secret 6, Adam Strange. At Marvel, we had the Fantastic Four (which included such characters as Doctor Doom, the Inhumans, Black Panther, Galactus & the Silver Surfer), Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, Spider-man, X-men in addition to bringing back Namor, Captain America and creating a new Ka-zar.

Not really seeing that looking at the new line of titles. What I’m seeing is more along the 90’s when DC decided to replace Green Lantern, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman,
Hawkman and Green Arrow with different people in the roles though first arranging to get rid of the various characters for different lengths of time to make it seem permanent. We also had various other minor characters killed off or sidelined to make room for new ones with their names and some, the whole motif: Starman, Dr. Mid-nite (twice), Manhunter, (Commander) Steel, and even the female Wildcat (her replacement never came to fruition, I think the Titan Panthra is who the new Wildcat was supposed to be, but it might’ve been the bear dude in the new Outsiders title at the time. Heck, it could’ve been that both of them were planning on doing a new Wildcat and ended up going different directions with new characters all their own. Panthra is dead, and that version of the Outsiders hasn’t been referenced in ages). A few others got strange and Vertigo’ed with little semblance to their earlier selves: Shade, Black Orchid, Kid Eternity It’s when Marvel gave us a teen Tony Stark and then later gave the whole team to Image to remake in their, ahem, image.

Have to say the Ms. Marvel first issue had promise.The only part I really
didn’t like was her talking with a publicist. It’s taking the idea of superheroes as celebrities a bit too far. While I can see that being done with some heroes such as teams in the public eye ala the FF and Avengers; corporate heroes like Iron Man and Booster Gold, or heroes needing good PR like the X-men, for the most part, I’d think superheroes would avoid that kind of exposure. There’s a reason they wear a mask, why would they want to make it easy for enemies to get intel on them? Hawkeye, I could see hiring a PR man, but he’s always been a bit of a showman, that’s his background. Carol Danvers’ background is the exact opposite, she’s ex-military. Hiring a PR person seems like the exact opposite for that type of person to do.

Comics Stuff that’s good: SPIDER-GIRL remains a fun read, slated for the chopping block. Ditto for Dan
Slott’s THING. Can’t say I cared much for his recent Starfox two-parter in SHE-HULK, otherwise the title is often fun and light-hearted yet laced with commentary about the industry and fans.

Busiek’s AQUAMAN: SWORD OF ATLANTIS is an intriguing read. Only two drawbacks. One, I usually am a big supporter of Butch Guice’s artwork, but I find it hard to follow at times here. And, the text of Busiek’s story implies this guy to be fairly young, yet Guice draws him looking fairly old. Two, I kinda wish we could have had this book AND a regular superhero Aquaman book by Busiek with art by Tom Grummett.

If you’re tired of superheroes by the big two, I recommend BLACK COAT which is sorta taking the Scarlet Pimpernel, crossing him a little with Captain America and plopping him in the middle of the American Revolution. It’s in b/w but a good read.

Tiring of Judd
Winnick’s writing and the general theme of DC’s One Year Later titles, I dropped OUTSIDERS. Also going were CATWOMAN and HAWKGIRL nee Hawkman. On the cusp is GREEN ARROW (more Winnick) and THUNDERBOLTS. The latter because I realized that I find the writing to be above average and I love the art when Tom Grummett is doing it, but I really just don’t care about these characters. I basically find them tiresome. Or maybe it’s Fabain’s writing style which has that quality of being a literary equivalent of sea sickness. I think what tends to bother me about the series is what he is deliberately trying to do which I applaud him for. But, understanding and praising him for something on an intellectual level doesn’t translate to me really wanting to read about it every month. I think the problem is that the concept is really better suited to a novel format and not ongoing serialization thus he wouldn’t have to go for a money shot moment in every issue no matter how well or shoddy that he has set it up.

ve praised Gail Simone in the past, and I held up her VILLAINS UNITED mini as the best of the IC bunch. So, to be fair, let me say how disappointed I was in the VU one-shot. It suffered from what all the other mini’s had suffered from, it wasn’t allowed to really tell the story. It’s all set-up for the last issue of IC. If this was IC 6.5, I’d probably have said it was the best issue of the whole mess. What it wasn’t, was a comic you could read if you weren’t reading IC and it doesn’t even have an ending. It’s more like, “we got you again, if you want to read the ending of this story, you gotta go and buy IC.”

I picked up BATTLE FOR
BLUDHAVEN mainly because I heard the Atomic Knights were going to be in it. And, I liked THE MONOLITH series. The art’s quite good too. The book as a whole is a mess though. It suffers from two many characters and no character development. Part of that is the editorial edict that everything must have big changes in the past year. That means that even though it has the Teen Titans, it’s the OYL Teen Titans which means they are about as much new characters as the rest and the writer cannot really tell us anything about them because that’s up to the creators in their own book. Likewise, we have the debut and more or less origins of the new Freedom Fighters, but like many of today’s characters, their origins are mysteries to be revealed later on. Sigh. Which means what would make real sense would be to focus on the Monolith and Firebrand group OR the Atomic Knights. But we don’t. Several issues into this and we have less an explanation of who the knights are than what we received in their 8-12 page debut originally. There’s a good story here, but it’s not really being told.

And a big part of me suspects this is going to end: To be continued in Freedom Fighters #1.

Then there’s the other stupidity. In interviews
Winnick talks about how he had all of this stuff planned for GREEN ARROW about he destruction of Star City, a wall, people being displaced, all before Hurricane Katrina as well as going to meeting about INFINITE CRISIS, OYL plans and such.

So, who’s screw-up then to have the basic plot behind BATTLE FOR
BLUDHAVEN to be about a destroyed city, corrupt/inept government, displaced people, a wall, etc? At least they were smart enough to bring up the fact that people keep going on about this radioactive leak that’s keeping people out but Chemo, who destroyed Bludhaven, isn’t radioactive, he’s toxic. It’s one of those details that if you had faith in the writer, you’d figure it would feed into the storyline at some point. However, these days, writers have done precious little to earn such faith.

Then we have this story introducing a new group of Freedom Fighters though they don’t carry that name yet. Which means that about half of the characters introduced are all new versions of the old group that was made up of Quality characters. So, what are the odds that a character independent of them in the same story just happens to develop powers that leads him to taking a name of a guy who also was a member of the Freedom Fighters? You going to tell stories skewing to an older readership, then don’t include stupid juvenile writing type coincidences.

Another badly done book: SABLE AND FORTUNE. The mini-series started out promising with painted art that gave it a bit of a different look than what is mostly out there though Silver Sable looked a bit too out of the 80’s with the big hair. Part of the problem rises out of the format. It’s a mini-series. In my book, this means self-contained, don’t raise big questions you don’t want to answer. It’s fine if you have more details and stuff slated for any following sequels, but all major plot lines and such should be done in-story here. However, we never find out any details about just who this new Dominic Fortune is and why he uses the identity, including costume, of the original. The very fact that he’s in the book raises the questions to anyone who is remotely familiar with the original character and it’s bad writing to not address it in some concrete manner other than a few lines in the first issue that are more dodging the question than addressing it. The second problem also rises out of it being a mini-series. The mini was marketed partly on the strength of the painted artwork. There were promos of the first issue and interviews and such. However, when I got the last issue home, which had the same painted style covers as the others, I found a completely different art-style inside, more of the modern illustration style with simple lines and computerized coloring to provide shape, depth and detail. At first I though it was a flashback or some other story-telling element. Leafed through the book. Nope. It was the art through the whole book.
Couldn’t even bring myself to read it. If I had known at the beginning they were going to pull this bait & switch, I wouldn’t have bought the mini-series at all. It would not have bothered me near as much if the switch in art was comparable in terms of style. Or if it was part of a regular series, I can forgive guest artists from time to time there. But, in the last issue of a mini-series? Would you want eleven issues of CAMELOT 3000 to be Brian Bolland and the last issue to be by Herbe Trimpe? The last issue of WATCHMEN to be by Rob Liefeld? If you have to discard the painted look, at least as a gift, get a good penciller for the last issue. One of the few times I felt like grabbing all of the issues and mailing them back to the publisher asking for my money back.

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