Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Looking ahead and backwards

The Marvel Project: Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting will be doing a GA project for Marvel, an eight issue mini-series chronicling the early adventures and stories of the Timely characters. On the surface, it sounds good. Epting has really grown as an artist. It will be weaving in real world history around little to never seen characters. The GA Angel will be a narrator. But, it will also reveal "the true origins of the Marvel Universe". You know, like how Simon & Kirby got everything wrong about Bucky and his true origin is that he was a trained assassin to do the dirty jobs that Cap couldn't and was foisted upon him as a partner by the government? I plan on checking it out, but I just don't have much faith in Bru as a writer or the editors at Marvel these days to keep the characters "true" to their concepts.

Final Crisis: I haven't read this, I gave up on Morrison a while back. However, it has been funny to read the various reviews and critics and watch the die-hard Morrison apologists bend over backwards trying to show why it is actually good and the rest of the readers are just too dense to get it. Steven Grant in his weekly column gives about the most even-handed view and even claims to liking it, or rather liking his interpretation of it. Much like my review of the play "Almost Blue", what he likes is what he is able to bring to it, there's too little substance actually there to go one way or the other with what is intended. One reviewer says the comic is ham-stringed by it being just too big to be able to be contained in a comic Another columnist brought in literary criticism and theory to shore up the interpretation of the comic and Morrison's writing in general. There's interesting stuff in there, but much of it really misses the mark and the point, even if you don't toss out the writer he cites on his ear as being just plain full of BS which he is.

Morrison isn't writing a novel or even a comic featuring his own characters and concepts. He's writing a shared universe title with characters created by others. If he cannot get his story contained in the comic, that's a flaw, not a strength. He's the one that chose the story, medium and characters. As he is writing a comic story featuring known characters and a shared universe and prominent parts of it and not just a little corner of a little seen and known character as in Animal Man, there are expectations and those are justifiable. It's not the readers fault for expecting a story that is supposed to be a crossover mega-event of a superhero universe to conform to basic conceits of the genre, to make story-telling sense, to not require being familiar with much of the writer's ego and opus. Morrison may be the James Joyce, Thomas Pynchon of comics but there are times and places for that. Watchmen was great in part because it was not set against the DCU and using the original characters. Even Miller's Dark Knight Returns achieved a greatness by removing it from those constraints. In a sense, the All-Star line allows that kind of fan-boy egotistical writer wanking. When you start writing an actual shared universe title, then your self-importance and ego has to be checked at the door somewhat. While you may be the shaper of this particular story, you have entered into a contract with the creators and readers that came before and that will come after. It's not just about your vision.

Daredevil redux? Looks like the GA Daredevil will be popping up in an upcoming issue of The Savage Dragon. I'm not a huge Erik Larsen fan, abhorred his art until he started doing his own title and stopped reading a while back, it just got too confusing for me with all the earth hopping he was doing. But, I will give him credit for trying new things such as the current issue where each panel of the comic covers a period of time, allowing him to catch up on his "real time" of the book. He recently brought in all those public domain GA heroes into his title's continuity and it's cool to see that's not been forgotten, that he's keen on playing with them some. I don't expect very deep characterization, but I don't expect a hatchet job either. Be worth checking out.


Agents of Atlas #1: I didn't get this title. I leafed through it at the store, looking for something that would make me optimistic after the way the mini had left off. But, it's just more of the same. Somehow, they are believed to be heroes or believe themselves to be despite being traitors to their government, heading a terrorist organization that was responsible for murdering people to just draw them in. Their chief ally? A dragon that eats helpless prisoners that they are basically feeding to it and don't bat an eye when he eats one right in front of them. This is a superhero team?

Avengers-Invaders #7: This title still continues along its schizophrenic way, heightened this month by bringing in a second artist. There's no real rhyme or reason as to which pages that artist does and which Sadowski does, the two have completely different inking styles so the switches are quite jarring. Sadowski has some nice touches, especially with the scenes with D'Spayre, but then the final page doesn't look good at all. The cover by Ross is way too dark... is it his painting or the printing as colors and covers in general have been a little off the mark over the course of this title? The interior colors are at least normal this month.

The story seems to be a bit of all over the place with more changes coming up. We have the Human Torch realizing what he should have to begin with, the reveal of a villain that doesn't really fly with what we know so far and is so over used anyways, the result is more "him again?" D'Spayre is an interesting choice at the least and fits in with what we know, though how he got the cube and whether he's truly behind it or just a side effect, drawn in by the circumstances are mysteries. The same with the villain behind the LMD uprising. There is a feeling that these are all side effects to the central story, but that central story is lost somewhere in all of this. The diversions have diverted not just the heroes but the writer as well. Maybe it's because at the core of the comic is the conceit that there are two teams of Avengers who cannot even work together when they agree on their mission and are after the exact same thing: bringing in the Invaders and returning them to their own time. So, much of the story has to exist to keep the teams fractured and at odds with each other and becomes a subplot in its own right, detracting from the main story.

Toro and Bucky just need to get a room already.

War of Kings - Darkhawk #1: The cover sums up almost the whole book. Why is it a "War of Kings" book? Who knows. Colorful, but almost too much so, the color and photoshopping overwhelms the central figure who is not really doing anything beyond posing for a generic cover. Inside. Artwork overwhelmed by all the gradients and cool glowing effects. The story has to recap much of The Losers, excuse me The Loners, a concept that really didn't make any sense unless you buy being a superhero is like an addiction and that every character under 20 but Franklin Richards has aged over the last 8 years in almost real time. So, Chris Powell, who was a high school student, is now a 20-something chief of security(!) of a top secret superhuman research facility, has anger issues, and seems to still be generally clueless about the nature of his powers and where it all comes from Project Pegasus must really be hurting or having sliding standards. At least when Quasar was head of security he was SHIELD trained and extremely powerful. What's really sad is they reprint the first issue of his original series. It's hard to see why Cebulski has a fondness for the character when the character he writes has almost zero in common with the character in the back. In fact, it's more as if he's just peeved he has to write Darkhawk and not Nova so he's turning Darkhawk into Nova. And, while Manley's art is cruder, it's easier to follow and read with the flatter but no less colorful coloring.

Final Crisis - Legion of Three Worlds #3: The sole reason to get this book is seeing George Perez drawing a ton of superheroes in highly detailed super-heroic action. Plot, don't really care that much. I don't know where this Emo sleeve challenged version of the Legion really fits in with the more standard 1980's version that we saw in "The Lightning Saga" or how do we reconcile how that team was deconstructed with several of its members dying in Giffen's adult Legion series that followed it yet who are hale and hearty here. I liked several of the Zero Hour Legionaires though, and I hope a compromise can be reached that will combine various teams and leave us with a full membership. I also wonder for a threat that calls for calling in Legions from alternate Earths, what about the other heroes of the 30th Century such as the Legion of Substitute Heroes, the Wanderers, etc. Not really sure if pulling Bart Allen/Impulse/Kid Flash is really that big of a deal. It's more of a "huh?" moment than anything else. Such as Superboy's over-reaction. I could see him reacting that way if it was Connor Trent or the Earth-2 Superman they were bringing back. But, Bart Allen? Seriously? Nor is it that big of a surprise. C'mon, wouldn't you have been more surprised if it was Johnny Quick? The Jonah Hex from the sci-fi comic of Hex? Kirby's Omac? Ultra, the Multi-Alien? Ted Kord? Pre-Crisis Supergirl (which would have made some odd sense given the involvement of Brainiac 5)?

Guardians of the Galaxy
#9: Nice painted cover, has the Video Game cover feel. Regular artist gone on the interiors and subbed by two different pencilers, both of whom do an admirable job with the switches not being jarring. Other than Cosmo looks more like he's been visited by a taxidermist, but forgiveable. These aren't the days when comic artists are asked to draw dogs very often. Observation, even when cussing is done in all symbols, it's still jarring when every character seems to do it. Gorilla Man of the Headmen is an odd character, but he's still supposed to be a genius, don't get any of that here. He is played off as a thug. This and Darkhawk does make me wonder a bit what War of Kings is supposed to be about as these two titles really don't have the feel that they are tying into anything larger than their own stories. Which is actually a good thing.

JSA #23: A Faces of Evil issue, about Black Adam. This storyline does center about him, but the comic isn't just about him thankfully. This issue highlights everything that is wrong about Geoff Johns and his writing of the JSA. 1) Hawkman throws a tantrum when he's thrown off the team, because of his divisive actions with Magog. In a nutshell, as shown here it really underscores how incompatible this Conan the Barbarian incarnation of Hawkman is with the character that is supposed to have been the most steadfast member and longest serving chairman of this team as well as a dependable member of the JLA. 2) Felix Faust is a loser. And a rapist. And Isis castrates him (really, it's impossible to read those scenes any other way). And, this is the writer people see as being an old school writer? 3) members debating who stays and who goes because of the bad choices they made when the whole reason this team exists as set forth by Johns is to serve as a place to guide young legacy heroes to a better path. The ones they seem to want to keep are the ones that need them the least. And, they are debating all of this WITHOUT their chairperson. If they have a problem with the leadership of the team, maybe that's what they really should be addressing. Because, even Johns cannot keep his characters straight. 4) Billy as wizard is just written badly. If he really has moved on to become the wizard at the Rock of Eternity, he really shouldn't be written as still being young Billy Batson bored, there should be some kind of evolving of the character, his mindset and personality. Otherwise, what's the point of him just hanging out on the Rock when he cannot even keep track of Mary and the rest? It just shows how pointless the changing of his and the rest of the Marvel Family really was.

The one good point, from the Ross cover to the Ordway interior art, it all looks very good, especially the scenes between Black Adam, Isis and Billy Marvel.

Secret Six
#6: A wonderful book. We find out who is pulling the strings. Maybe. A member betrays the rest and with a team of self-interest motivated cut-throats, it's completely in character. And, we get a nice nasty little origin for Jeanette who is NOT a vampire. If there's a mis-step it's extemely minor, the photoshopped night sky at the rest stop, but everything else is pitch perfect.

The War that Time Forgot #9: A wonderful cover by Ladronn, going for lushness and almost fairy tale/pastoral in its style and use of colors while illustrating a couple running for their lives from a pair of tyrannasaurs. The covers alone deserve collecting.

I hate Scott Kolins art, at least what it had evolved to around the time he was doing the Flash, Chuck Austen's run on The Avengers, etc. One of the few artists whose work would actually prompt a gag reflex on seeing it and thus I have an interesting hole in a She Hulk run because he was the guest artist.

I say all of that because he is the artist here and he's changed his style again. Maybe to make it fit a little more into the style that preceeded him on this limited series.There's line variation, weight and fine detail depending on the demands of the panel. Some of it's a little stiff and klunky, but it works overall in capturing the milieu of the book and characters.

As the title enters into its last quarter of issues, more of the whys are getting explained, but the dinosaurs and the war with people from all lands seem to be taking a back seat. While we do get to see vikings this issue, the established DC characters from other times do little. Somehow, we are to expect that a modern pilot is better at breaking a pterodactyl for a flying mount than someone like Enemy Ace who flew very primitive and open air aircraft? Or someone that might actually have experience breaking horses such as Tomahawk or Firehair?

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