Thursday, February 12, 2009

Good Old-Fashioned Comics

Avengers-Invaders #8: Well, cannot complain about this issue's cover being too dark. The art by the two teams are stronger this go around as well, although the switch between the two is haphazard. I really do enjoy Sadowski's rendering of Namor.

The two plotlines are apparently resolved but seem to raise more questions than answers. Ultron is behind the LMD uprising, that somehow his possession of them and their drinking of what passes for Hammond's blood will give him life. What also doesn't make sense is how he took control of the LMD's, how he knew Hammond had returned from the past and ultimately he already knows Hammond's body inside and out, he used it to create the Vision.

Likewise, the revelation that D'Spayre was only using the cube (as I had surmised) and wasn't responsible for it bringing the Invaders to the present, it means that the cube had pretty much just zeroed in on one random person's desires to make a reality. Huh? Imagine a world where a random nutso anywhere could cause an atomic bomb go off just by wishing it and increase the danger exponentially. If the cubes were that easily taken control of, Marvel U. would have reality constantly shaping and reshaping itself. The inclusion of the GA Vision is a nice nod, but it doesn't really make much sense or add anything to the story.

Amazing Spider-Girl #29: The penultimate issue before the series cancellation and it will continue for awhile in Spider-man Family. For how long though? DeFalco has recently mentioned on one of the news sites that he thinks his time at Marvel may be nearing an end as calls go unanswered and there's no new work coming in. Not a surprise though. His style isn't really in keeping with the books Marvel writes these days. They are too straight-forward without having a self-deprecating self-mocking tone such as Slott writes, and not cynical enough of heroes and superheroes as the rest of the Marvel faire. It has been a great ride though.

Not normally a fan of Kevin Nowlan's artwork, but this is a wonderful eerie and fantastical cover. I often complain about the modern colorists and coloring in books. Yet, take a look at BPRD or Hellboy or the work by Tom Smith. The coloring works with the art, it doesn't overpower it. Your attention isn't grabbed by photoshop effects. Here the artwork supports the story, the scenes in the snow are colored subtly with cool colors as opposed to the moody and dark colors of the interior temple. It all works together and upholds Guy Davis' pencils.

Captain Britain and MI13:
Then here we get where stuff is over-colored, colors are too intense. In some places it works, such a the scenes on the moon. But the pub scenes, everything is too saturated, all of the faces look as if they are glowing as the artist tries to give everyone a 3-D painted look in the coloring. It doesn't work, it's too much. I like the idea of Dracula having an army and him becoming a major bad guy/super-villain. It works in the context of the Marvel U. He'd make a good player among the arch-villains. The book continues to suffer from uneven writing, stuff included because it comes across as being cool but that ultimately doesn't work, text claiming one thing but actions and subtexts something else. Such as what is this book really about. The title says Captain Britain, but he's hardly in the book at all, a figurehead at best, constantly upstaged by whatever other character he's playing off of.

However, I read the discussion with Doom several times and frankly, the conversation doesn't flow well or make much sense such as Doom accusing Dracula of racism. What did he say that was actually racist? His parting comment to Doom was more of a challenge, that would make more sense if he was playing on Doom's undying need to prove his superiority than if he was trying to broker a treaty with him. And, then I got to thinking about the whole conversation and Dracula on the moon. I can understand Doom walking around on the moon and I like the scenes of him exploring the lunar module. But, how are they talking? Specifically, Dracula. Sure, he's magical and already dead and doesn't need air to breathe, but talking does require certain physical laws to be operating. And, then I started thinking about the moon in general and how it doesn't work that Dracula would have a base there. See, on the side of the moon they are on, it's daytime 24-7. It is getting unfiltered sunlight, it just doesn't have that glow because there's no atmosphere. Dracula being on the moon is the exact opposite than what one would first think if you give it five minutes of thought. We end up with a kewl scene that is not well played and completely ludicrous as you linger over it.

The pub scenes. Funny, but despite the central character being called Captain Britain, he's hardly the coolest or central character to the book. Constantly being upstaged by Peter Wisdom, a character I still don't have a handle on. Just as this version of Spitfire remains a mystery to me she really doesn't seem like any version from before just as no version before ever had her being part vampiric. There doesn't really seem to be any reason for this character to BE the Spitfire of old in terms of characterization. It's almost the Geoff Johns style of characterization, write the character as you need it to be to serve the plotlines and not letting the character itself suggest storlines.

I had given up reading Black Panther some time ago, but this issue does reconcile the fact that Hudlin had a completely different Black Knight with an ebony blade running around. And, simply done as well. I like that. However, the conversationg between Dane and Faiza in the plane, again there seems to be a subtext to it that isn't coming across. What was Faiza hoping for as being a steward from Dane, a romance? She starts off complaining that being a steward seems to cast her in being a subserviant role and ends up by suggesting that there's more to their relationship.

Ok, we see what happens to Dane's plane, but what causes Captain Britain's car explode?

Doc Savage: The Lost Radio Scripts of Lester Dent. A nice hefty book. Cover by Bob Larkin who did some of the later covers as well as some painted covers for Marvel in the 80s. There are some wonderful interior illustrations by a pulp fan and artist ironically named Tom Roberts. I wonder if these were originally in color or in color in the hardback edition.

I'm a bit of a nut over copyrights and copyright law. Old Time Radio was/is an interesting loophole. Back in the day of the original broadcasts, your general public had no way of copying shows and no one really thought there'd be interest in them after initial broadcasts, so radio broadcasts were not covered (a state of affairs that remained true until about the time that tape recorders became commercial commodities). The only way to copyright a radio show was to actually copyright the script, not something always done. The Shadow often had further copyright protection in that some of the radio broadcasts were worked into the novels or vice-versa. It's part of the reason why the Shadow pulp was created, his radio show was so popular that people were asking for it on the stands and anyone could have come out with a Shadow magazine if Street & Smith didn't do so first.

So, getting the book, one of the first things I checked was the copyright information. So, it's curious that they are actually copyrighted in 2009 by the Estate of Norma Dent. I'm not sure how that works legally. These things were written over 70 years ago, it doesn't seem right that they can copyright them NOW. And, then there's the whole matter that they were written as "work for hire" and thus would first be the property of Conde Nast. Even if uncopyrighted, the fact that they were actually used in the broadcasts would mean that the scripts were already paid for.

Green Arrow & Black Canary #17: A well done story following on the heels of last month's, so we see more of Merlin, the new crazy villain on the block (although she seems a little too much in the vein of Joker crazy or the demented villains that Gail Simone writes so well). The backup gives some ominous foreshadowing for the happy couple and hinges a little too much on implying that Black Canary is not really in control of her powers as there's a new villain in the works an innocent by-stander of her using more power than the situation demanded. Bad superhero writing there, one of the conceits that make superheroes work is that there are no innocent bystander victims due to the direct action or mis-use of power by the superheroes. Gwen Stacey dies because she's thrown from the roof by the villain, not because Spider-man accidentally knocks her off while fighting the villain. The writer has set up a huge task for himself, this is the leader of the Justice League directly responsible for a crippling injury, there has to be more ramifications than just giving motivation for a new supervillain. This is more than Lex Luthor losing his hair while Superboy saves his life.

Hellboy: The Wild Hunt
#3: See above about the use of color and storytelling. Duncan Fegredo is a natural substitution for Mignola on the art chores of Hellboy, a lot of the same feel but not as abstract. And, we have the wonderful Guy Davis on the back-up story. I would love to see these guys tackle some of Robert E. Howard's stuff. Or characters like Carnacki and Jules de Grandin. I have been tempted to just get these in trades, to have the whole stories in single volumes. Might still do that to weed out the comic boxes.

Masquerade #1. Best of Dynamite's Superpowers books, looking at the character formerly known as Miss Masque as well appearances by Black Terror, Fighting Yank, Green Lama, and Pyroman. This mini chronicles the events and her career leading up to her imprisonment in the urn, BEFORE she got the lame disguise powers and was still known as Miss Masque. Nice character bits that define her as a woman that would become a mystery woman. A few mis-steps along the way, a twelve year old girl is able to completely bite off a man's thumb in one bite? The Black Terror is portrayed in a less than sympathetic light as he is completely dismissive of Miss Masque without her guns and Tim suggests they are all glory-hounds, and the little cutesy ending.

I opted for the Cho cover on this one. One thing about Alex Ross, his women tend to look very man-ish, like Kathleen Turner on testosterone or steroids. The interiors - well this is a good example of much of Dynamite's line it seems, the painted colors overwhelm what is otherwise solid artwork. On-line glimpses showed this to be the strongest of the Superpower books art-wise, but this style of coloring just muddies everything up from the pencils to the layouts so that you have to study each panel just to understand what's going on.

Men of Mystery Ahh, the first casualty of Diamond's new policies and there's a notice inside the book explaining it all. A few titles being canceled. Bigger page count, but a hefty price increase too. This issue features reprints of several Fawcett characters: Spy Smasher, Minute Man, Bulletman as well as non-Fawcett heroes Man O'Metal and Music Master (if there ever was a truly bizarro lame GA hero, this one takes the cake).

The Phantom #0. A thin retelling of the Phantom's origin, serving as a relaunch of the series. Why? No idea.

The Spirit #26. Found this to be a marked improvement writing wise over recent issues. Artwork while a bit cartoony in places at least doesn't feel bound parody Eisner's caricaturistic style. A good, done in one story. And a wonderful Brian Bolland cover.

Vixen #5. This has been a great read, refocusing the character and her heritage. You get a story that works for the character and refines her. It seemed a bit strange to have this mini doing pretty much the same thing that McDuffie was doing in the Justice League, recentering the character. But, where his story was making her into something cosmic, a pawn of some god while fixing her powers, this story was more personal focusing more on her as a character. This melds the plot and story more fully. The only sad part of this mini is if you didn't read McDuffie's tale, the last page probably makes no sense as it doesn't really tie into anything revealed in these pages. It should have been left out, let Vixen have an uncompromised victory.

The painted style here works, giving the book a lush and open feel while letting the power of the artwork stand through.

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