Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hornets, Spiders, and Vampires, oh my.

Green Hornet Remastered: There are really only two things to recommend for these books. One, the wonderful covers by Joe Rubinstein that capture the Green Hornet in the middle of a dangerous situation. However, the Hornet is rendered with a simple domino mask and not the gangster style mask that covered the lower half of his face that he wears inside the comic. It also shows off just how minor of a character Kato was at the time, barely appearing in the majority of the stories. There's no doubt that the hero and star of the book is the Green Hornet. Otherwise, these stories are painfully dull and the artwork is either heavily damaged during the remastering stage or/and is really on the low end, even for GA standards. And, this is coming from someone that is generally a fan of the comics from this time. Stick to the radio shows and serials to get exciting adventures of the Green Hornet of this time.

Green Hornet: Year One #7: Not sure how long this comic is going to last and continue being called "Year One." The last issue brought together all of the various threads and backstory of how Kato and Britt Reid would find themselves coming together to fight crime as masked men and how it would result in them being thought of as rival mobsters. This issue picks up on that status quo and continues the story, but it no longer has that feeling of an extended origin tale of neophyte characters. The only change in creative staff seems to be the colorist, the new one going for more traditional color palettes. It's still a good comic, full of atmosphere and mood and feels like an honest attempt at being faithful and true to the source material while being readable by modern audiences. It feels authentic and should have DC kicking themselves for not doing something similar with the Crimson Avenger.

Hellboy: The Sleeping and the Dead #1 of 2: Written by Mike Mignola and painted by Scott Hampton, this is a beautiful little comic. Like most of Mignola's writing, it is basic and bare in the plotting and storytelling, going for creepiness, mood and the visceral experience. Hampton's artwork with Dave Stewart's colors elevate it into something that's darkly beautiful and romantic, like an old Southern mansion falling into disrepair.

Justice Society #45 and 46: If there was a book that screamed it was the right time to stop getting regular monthlies, this title is it. When the day comes that the Justice Society is so bad that I want to stop getting it as a mercy killing, then the comic companies really have passed me by. This comic isn't merely bad but just plain stupid.

It was bad enough suffering looking at pictures of the Captain America movie and reading posts by fans about how faithful and accurate it is, but then I open up #45 and see The Flash and Green Lantern on some secret mission, dressed in military versions of their costumes, complete with grenades and various packets and straps. Words fail me in just how wrong minded this is. Then, the whole mission is a black-ops one, sent to destroy a secret weapon which turns out to be a baby. Why would you send two (and only two) JSA members on a mission like this? 

Then, we have the writer telling us that Drachen (the name of the Nazi project) means "Scythe", the name of the super powered terrorist. Of course, Drachen doesn't mean that at all. It means Dragon, kite and even a vixen or harpy.

We're also asked to believe that a politician from the 1950s still holds office some sixty years later. Impossible? No. But, highly improbable and like everything else in the book, it shows the hand of the writer demanding things to be so for the sake of the story he's writing with little logical extrapolation.

We also have over the course of two issues, three instances by different characters using the term "gallows humor". When a unique phrase gets used that often in so little space and by different characters, it sticks out. Again, it shows the writer behind the scenes as it becomes obvious that the dialogue by different characters are coming from one mind.

We get an appearance by Superman and Blue Devil which is fine. But, there are a whole lot of JSA'ers and hanger-ons that would be better served. Then again, interviews have indicated that Blue Devil is going to be a member for some bizarre reason. Because, there aren't enough JSA and Golden-age related characters that could be used or team members we haven't seen.

Obsidian gets all violent and dark. Again.

Dr. Mid-nite finally gets called in for a consultation on Alan Scott's condition. He claims it's taking too much energy to just keep the Starheart in check for him to heal despite his being an energy being he only sustains physical injury because he thinks of himself as human. Thus, if he's conscious and able to think at all, then his body should become normal without actually having to "heal". And, if it takes that level of concentration, then what the heck is he doing fighting crime when a slip in concentration could cost lives or letting loose the Starheart? What happens when he falls asleep? And, where does he get the power then to build himself a godawful new costume AND GROW HAIR as we've seen in previews?

In both issues and one coming up, Dr. Mid-nite is said to have "ultra-SONIC lenses". What the heck are those and what do they do? Make his eyes able to hear? Allows him to SEE sounds that people cannot hear? Apparently this comes from the Matt Wagner mini that introduced the character, as I've never read it.  Just seeing in the dark and outside of the normal vision range just not good enough I guess. It's something best left forgotten unless we are actually going to see him use said "ultrasonic lenses". Otherwise, it just comes off as sounding stupid when thrown out with nothing to back it up or explain it as in these issues.

I'm not a fan of Kolins artwork, generally the opposite. To give credit where it's due, other than the military styled Flash and Green Lantern (and GL's upcoming new "costume"), the artwork has been good and easily the best thing regarding the book. But, I miss the days of the real JSA when it wasn't a team of legacies, but the original heroes.

Project Superpowers: X-mas Carol: This book is merely "meh". It gives us an origin and background of the villain known as the Clown and updates him for the modern age with powers of his own by him taking over the body of a clone of his foe, the hero Magno. It started off strong with a flashback sequence of the Clown before he became the masked villain with his girlfriend, giving him some sympathetic background juxtaposed against scenes with a mother and son Christmas shopping in the modern day as well as the American Spirit propheting that someone was about to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country. But these scenes ultimately go nowhere, serving as little teases to completely different type of tale, one of impending tragedy and sadness. Part of this is because the book is constrained by the fact that it is to follow the construction of Dicken's A Christmas Carol so we have the Clown visited by the ghost of a past associate and then heroic ghosts of the Superpowers line: The Fighting Yank, the Ghost and American Spirit. Each tries to capture the Ghost and relating events from the past, present and a possible future. But, it only has a few pages to devote to each hero. It then ends on ambiguous ground as we are not sure if the Clown has undergone any kind of spiritual transformation in relation to his physical one or not. We aren't sure if we are to take anything from this tale, if there's anything to take. It might be a foreshadowing of upcoming plots, that the Clown may betray the Supremacy and thus avert the disaster that the American Spirit shows him. Or the Clown may bring about that very future.  There's nothing in the ending to really grab hold of, to see a reason as to why to read this story. We understand a little more about the background of the Clown but it's all upset by the non-descript ending, it cannot be applied to the future. It becomes a tale that's unfinished all the way around, imparting little knowledge, truth or emotion.

Spider-Girl #2: Tying the JSA of a book being not merely bad but incredibly dumb. Part of it is the simple fact that it's merely the second issue and yet managed to go so wrong so quickly in so many different directions. Part of last issue's biggest disconnect was the idea that a father would let his teen-age daughter with no powers go out and fight crime. This was a big source of conflict between Mayday and her parents in the DeFalco series, resulting in her just doing it anyway, and she had powers. Arana doesn't have anything other than good training. This is compounded by that Sue Richards, adult and mother, also supports and aids her in these actions. Well, we don't have to worry about that because the writer decided to go for that standard cliche and kill off the girl's father. And, then spend the whole issue of the character dealing with it. I could see this being done somewhere down the road, it's a big cliche but it does up-end the status quo and gives a change-of-pace story. BUT IN THE SECOND ISSUE? And, it's not a villain she can take on, but the Red Hulk. So we have a story where the character is not only sad and depressed for the whole issue but completely ineffectual. Again, this might be fine later, but it hardly makes me want to read more about this character. She comes across useless, her book is depressing, and now two issues in, there's no status quo or regular supporting cast and relationships to draw me back to.

This issue at least shows that the line she swings by is some grappling line although where she keeps it and the mechanisms that control it is a complete mystery. I guess it's in the same place where she manages to find coins to buy newspapers to fling in the Red Hulk's face.

More bad writing: there's zero introduction of just who or what the Red Hulk is. My brother's first question was, "why is the Hulk red?" I could answer a little of it as I keep up with some of the general goings on in the Marvel U, but there is zero in the story to tell us anything about the character, that it's not even the real Hulk just in different Christmas colors. Remember, every issue is someone's first exposure to the characters. Why should I, reading a Spider-man family book, be expected to know what's going on in the Hulk books?

The book tops the JSA with writing characters with the same voice with this bit of dialogue.
Johnny Storm: Did he seem...crazy to you? He's never talked like that before. Let's find him and find out.
Reed Richards: It was...strange. Let's find him and find out."
In the same panel, we have the world's smartest man and leader of the FF simply repeating verbatim what a high school graduate just said, proposing the same action as if it was his idea. My guess for the future death in the FF, Johnny kills Reed for constantly undercutting him like this. Or Reed is already dead and they are hiding it from the world by using a robot.

We are lead to believe her father was this respected journalist and the go-to press-guy for the celebrity heroes the Fantastic Four, yet his funeral is practically empty, the FF don't even show up. His daughter wears plain clothes but not black and her friends wear nice colorful clothes. Instead of a powerful scene, all I can think is "this is supposed to be a funeral?" Bad, bad storytelling.

Thunderstrike #2: At least this title has a teenager acting like a teenager, albeit a surly petulant one, and parents acting and reacting in ways that seem like real human beings and parents would. And, with DeFalco and Frenz at the helm, there's lots of superhero action. If we cannot have the real Spider-Girl or even the real Thunderstrike, this fills the gap nicely.

Victorian Undead: Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula #3 of 5: The story shifts a bit from how I remember the Dracula story going as Mina has died and one of Lucy's suitors has become a betrayer, thus we are no longer following Stoker's script even discounting Holmes' involvement. It sets things up as the conclusion no longer being pre-ordained. Despite that, it's a fun book, pitting the world's greatest sleuth against one of its biggest villains.

Warlord of Mars #3: A switch-up in artists. The new guy draws Carter as being a little too muscle bound for my taste and doesn't have quite the same texture to his pencils but he does a great job at drawing an alien city. In this day and age, I don't think it's too much to ask that an artist be able to draw faces differently, so that the only way to tell the green-skinned martians apart is whether they have both tusks or not. The series seems intent on having them all drawn as four-armed Hulks as opposed to the more lanky, almost skeletal proportions they are generally shown as. These are small complaints though as overall the book has looked very good and it's going to be hard for anyone to really top what Gil Kane and John Buscema could do with sci-fi/fantasy sword fighters.