Thursday, December 30, 2004

The Joe Rice Media Review

Have you missed me? Do you even bother looking at who posted each entry or have we become some bizarre collective being, like a nerd Voltron? If you're wondering, I am the left arm.

Anyway, back from my holiday trip back to the old country (Kentucky). I'm currently staying at my fiancee's apartment without much to do while she's at work. Unfortunately, she's got this little laptop that I kind of hate. I'm sure it's not too fond of me, either, always making it check email and look at comic blogs. Being the laptop of two girls it probably prefers baking sites or shoe store sites. SATIRE ISN'T FUNNY AT NINE IN THE MORNING.

I'll dispense with the pleasantries and get right to the reviewation. The first comic I read this week was definitely one of the best. This website has sung the praises of Adam Strange before, so there's not too much new to add. The Omega Men have never been more than Who's Who entries to me, but Diggle did a good job of making them come alive. The mysterious evil force has my attention. I'm very bad at predicting things, so you can rest assured it's not my guess: The Anti-Monitor. This Comic Is Good.

I felt a little dirty buying Superman/Batman. The past two issues were really fun, though. This issue went back more to what I expect from this book. Yeah, it was fun to see Kamandi and, um, I guess it was fun to see the DC western characters for brief panels. But there was that idiotic narration again. The art was pretty but I lost interest with this issue. I might hang on because the cliffhanger was slightly better than the rest of this. I said the first two issues of this arc were Nerd Pleasing, not Nerd Pandering. Nerdy Knowledge added to the story but wasn't necessary. Pretty sure it was necessary here. This comic was Not Good.

On the other hand, this could have been my first issue of Invincible and I'd have still gotten it. I probably would have been motivated to go back and get the others in trade form, but I'd have still understood the story. Kirkman does the straight-up superhero story like it was a lost art. One-issue stories that build stories and mythologies to form a greater tapestry while still being satisfying on their own terms. Shit, it's what made superhero comics fun and a great percentage of writers these days don't get the basics. If you love superheroes and you're not reading Invincible, get off your short bus and stop drinking Yoohoo; it's time to join the rest of us. This Comic Is Good.

Kirkman Double Feature Pt II! The Walking Dead is good comics. Again, each issue has enough story that I don't feel my money was wasted. But it also has a compelling enough world, set of characters, and story that I want to continue purchasing the book. This being more of Kirkman's own stuff, he's free to do whatever the hell he wants at any point in time, merchendizers be damned. (Walking Dead action figures?) This is a Good Comic.

Ed Brubaker is very good. I think most people understand that. It's not surprising or news or anything. His Tom Strong arc was solid storytelling that even made me doubt my comic nerd knowledge of how things would end. The false ending was a nice touch. This Comic is Good.

What's that? Brubaker had something else out this week? Oh, I bet it was good, too. What was it? What If Aunt May Had Died Instead of Uncle Ben? Stop your lies! I do not understand this! Brubaker has only written things that I think are either good or great or awesome! He could not have written this! It is freaking terrible! From the humdrum art, to the incredibly incestuous continuity premise, to the comic geek framing device . . .this was a really, really awful comic. I don't understand. What happened? Was this forced upon Brubaker? Did they say "Make this awful"? (If you're wondering what the answer to the title's question is, it's "Things are pretty much the same except slightly worse for a while.)

So, while I'm on the subject, the What If books . . .I got most of them. I got the one I just mentioned for Brubaker. I got the two Bendis ones for Lark and Gaydos. I got the X-Men one to make fun of, I'll be honest. And I got the FF one because it was Kesel and Smith. Holy shit. Lark and Gaydos could not make up for the awfulness of the Bendis writing. The Avengers one was just some more Jessica Jones stuff, almost like fanfic. "SEE! SCARLET WITCH WAS CRAZY! AND JESSICA IS AWESOME AND WOULD MARRY CAP!" Blorg. The Daredevil one was unreadable but pretty. And the device of Bendis sitting in a diner telling these stories was stupid. Claremont's X-Thing wasn't as bad, but it was very Claremont. FASTBALL SPECIAL! PROF. X PLAYING BASKETBALL! WAY TOO MANY WORDS! You are not paid by the word anymore, Chris. Stop it. Kesel's FF story was the only one that anyone could enjoy. Kesel always comes through in these fifth week events. Why doesn't he ever write anything else? Lord knows he'd have a funner FF than Mark Waid's has been. Other than Kesel's, these comics were very bad.

Did I just type "Mark Waid"? OH MY GOSH! I DID! What a perfect segue! I thought I'd try out his new Legion of Super Heroes book. Some of the ideas are interesting, and though he's been in a slump, I've liked Waid's work in the past. I have to be honest, I'm picky when it comes to the Legion. I loved it growing up. And just when I was coming into understanding mature storytelling and not just "WILDFIRE AND TIMBER WOLF RULE!" along came Tom, Mary, and Kieth's "5 Year Gap" Legion, or, as I call it, "A Pinnacle of Monthly Superhero Work." It was brilliant, it was daring, it was funny, it was moving, it had emotional realism and fantastic stories. Ever since then I've shrugged off the Legion stories. Some of them were OK, but none of them came close to Giffen brilliance. Well . . .neither does this. It's got some strong points . . .it's fresh, it's recompressed, and it's fairly fearless so far. But it's got some weak points. Kitson's art is still boring. I feel no reason to give a shit. Middle Aged men do not make the best writers of teenage behavior . . .too many layers of observation, memory, and subjectivity. I'm sure the Legion fans will keep this afloat for a while, like they do every other incarnation. It's better than some stuff . . .but the Legion story has been told for me. Giffen and the Bierbaums told it. This comic, though not awful, isn't quite Good enough.

So, after a storyline that threw a lot of fanboys into a tizzy, JMS is back to more usual stuff in Amazing Spider-man. As you probably know, I don't get the uproar, especially among fans that seem to not be the crazy continuity types. Sometimes nice girls sleep with nasty guys. That's not a condemnation of them. It happens. I've slept with some folks that I definitely regret, and I know most everyone has. But I'm not talking about the previous storyline, compelling as I found it. We're talking about the new one. We get some more good classroom stuff with Peter (sue me, the teacher likes the teaching stuff). Some flashbacks to the new kid who was so geeky it took the attention of Peter for a little while. And now he's an adult trying to make a supersuit for the military. This was fine work, but nothing to shout home about. I trust JMS (on this title), though, even if I still don't like Deodato's work on this title. This is a good comic.

Do I just love characters with red shirts and yellow lightning bolts? Hmmm. Perhaps that would explain one of the reasons I liked Warlock so much. (But I don't give a shit about any Flash!) I guess it was just the solid art, excellent story, neat characters, and . . .ah, hell. It's already cancelled. Thanks Marvel. Mini-series my ass. Get Pak and Adlard more work. This comic was good while it lasted.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to admit that I've always had a weakness for What If? So, I picked them up and have to agree with your assessment. Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap and more crap. What bothered me most, especially with the Bendis ones, was that recap of what actually happened in the MU felt like it took up half of the issues--at least with the original What If the individual issues were double sized. Maybe I will end up picking up the What If Classic TPB to get the bad taste out of my mouth.

On the question of Karl Kesel, didn't he write those Challengers of the Fantastic Amalgam issues? And now he's writing the FF What If issue? You would think that somebody would get the hint. Give him a FF title or even a Challengers of the Unknown title. Sheesh.

Adam Strange was as good as ever, but that I have to admit that Mysterious Evil Force felt a bit tacked on. Got to hype the Crisis 2 supermegacrossover event, I suppose, like all of the Monitor appearances in the various DC titles back in the 80s.

Speaking of Crisis 2 supermegacrossover events, one must be coming if DC has shaken the cosmic etch-a-sketch when it comes to the Legion of Superheroes. I picked up the first issue, another comic book related weakness, and got bored halfway through it.Two thoughts went through my mind as I read it:

1) Why in the world is this being published as the LSH? Other times when the cosmic etch-a-sketch had been shaken it felt like a LSH title. Didn't Waid have enough confidence in the concept to have it as an original idea without using the LSH name and the built-in audience?

2)I sure don't see this lasting more than 50 issues. The last time I was excited about the LSH was the 5 Year Later era, I knew that ther that was enough potential for years worth of storylines. Then came the dreaded cosmic etch-a-sketch.

One last thought...that panel in Superman/Batman in which Darkseid was holding Etrigan on a leash was the most thought provoking than either character has been for me in decades. Lord knows we probably won't find anything nearly as intriguing out of the upcoming Byrne Demon title.

Oh well, back to reading the Superman Adventure and Batman Adventure Digests.


12/30/2004 10:38:00 AM  
Blogger Joe Rice said...

What are the chances of DC ever putting the 5YL stuff in trades? Slim to none, right? Goddam, THAT was the Legion. This is faux punk posing.

12/30/2004 10:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I loved most about the 5 Year Later stories is that anything could happen on an issue-to-issue basis. (Spoilers--although it is silly to declare spoiler on a 15 year old storyline) Blok dies? The moon blows up? Lightning Lad had been dead all along? I eagerly awaited each issue--I can't say that happens much anymore with any title.

After reading the Legion Companion that was released from TwoMorrows and discovering how the Superman editorial team mucked with the LSH (like mandating that there could not be any Superboy references even retroactively) it is even more amazing that the title was as good as it was.

If DC didn't release any Legion Lost TPBs (which in my opinion didn't do any favors for the last incarnation of the LSH), then the 5 Years Later will be another Legion Lost. Although, I suppose that eventually the DC LSH Archives might eventually get to that era, but will I really care at that point.


12/30/2004 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Good stuff, Joe, good to see you back.

I'll probably come back to the other stuff later, but I'll address the What Ifs quickly...rather than What If? the question everyone should be asking is What the hell?!?

First off, as my pal Jake mentioned to me earlier, the Bendis issues did not even bother with the nuisance of a plot until literally half the book was done!!!

It read more as a primer for Pulse (Jessica Jones' backstory, all neat for you!) and Daredevil (Here, get caught up on what's going with Daredevil).

In addition, it was silly for him to write himself into the story...but that little piece of ego was no match for the ego being displayed in the actual story. First off, the guy only furthers the absurdity of his Wanda story by positing in this issue that all any of the Avengers needed to do to avert Disassembled was to notice that Wanda was talking to herself?!!?

And of course, only Jessica Jones notices this.


And if you thought Bendis' Daredevil was kinda depressing? Well guess what, kids, if Karen Page hadn't died, it would have been WORSE! So nyah!

Super lame.

Brubaker's issue almost struck me as intentionally terrible. Or at least that's how I'm going to read it. I am going to presume he's just trying to make fun of the concept...because otherwise...yikes.

I found Claremont's one to be pretty lame, as well. A lot of babbling about stuff I don't think anyone except Claremont even slightly cares about. And Raney's art made Vazhin and Xavier look like Herr Starr.

Peter David continues his odd "Look at me, I'm daaaark" writing phase with his Hulk What If. But at least he puts some effort into it, so it's pretty good. And I dig Olliffe's work...although I am still irked that the guy got pulled off a book he liked to go do he "high-profile" The Call...which lasted four issues.

Finally, the best. Kesel has, indeed, always been quite up front about his love for Challengers and the FF. I remember when he used to work the Challengers into his other DC work. And his recent Fantastic Four arc was fairly interesting (he came up with the idea of having the Frightful Four be a mirrored version of the FF), as you can tell he really loves these characters. I am surprised, Joe, that you did not mention the excellent Paul Smith art! Smith is awesome!

12/30/2004 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger David Welsh said...

Teeny clarification on one point: Bendis has said that the artists came up with the narrator bit as a surprise, and he didn't script himself into the issues.

On LSH, I actually thought Waid's work on the first re-boot was quite good, particularly the White Triangle story. (That was Waid, wasn't it?) This one seems kind of... strenuous. And Kitson, while technically proficient, isn't a very energetic or emotive storyteller.

And, shamefully geeky nitpick point on the Avengers What If... based on the group that was gathered when Jessica came out of her coma, this was circa AVENGERS 200. So, in the course of 300-odd issues of time as their liaison, she's still "outsider" enough to be the only one to notice Wacky Wanda? "Blarg" is quite an eloquent summary, Joe.

12/30/2004 03:41:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Heh...that's funny, the one bit of ego that I wasn't that put off by (writing himself into the comic) was the only bit of ego that WASN'T Bendis.


12/30/2004 04:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since I'm apparently the only one here who didn't read the What If books and did like LSH, I'll just say that I, too, liked this week's ASM.

12/30/2004 10:14:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

What the frell? Now it's anyonymizing me?

12/31/2004 10:31:00 AM  
Blogger Joe Rice said...

But . . .but . . .you can't be using Lisa's laptop, Michael. I am RIGHT NOW!!!!!!


12/31/2004 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger Lex said...

I'm so glad I skipped the What If? books. The What... Huh? book was the only one that sounded appealing, but that was pushed back a couple weeks. They've talked about making this What If? event an annual thing, so maybe next time will be better.

I bought the new Legion book and loved it. That was what I wanted in a book about kids living in the future. It was very cool. I was surprised when you said you didn't like Waid's FF, Joe. From the first issue I thought it was really fun and one of the few good books from Marvel lately.

I also bought Teen Titans this week and I thought it was really fun. My only complaint was that they seemed to be hinting at and setting up too many future storylines. With a story like this, I wouldn't have minded doing it a couple of times... but it seemed like Johns was doing it every other page. But, other than that I liked the story.

I didn't see Adam Strange at my store this week (there was a new issue, right?). They might have sold out and will order more.

12/31/2004 05:59:00 PM  
Blogger Joe Rice said...

My problem with Waid on FF is my problem with a lot of his recent work. It's not Mark Waid. It's Mark Waid doing Grant Morrison. I think Waid is a very capable writer. I loved his first Cap run and much of his Flash run. But at some point he started really reading his friend Grant's work and REALLY liking it.

That's not a bad thing. I really like it, too.

But the thing is, it has influenced him too much. His FF seemed like more of a Grant Morrison impersonation than a Mark Waid story. I think Waid is at his best when it comes to smaller, more character-driven action stories. The "big ideas" stuff falls flat too often, as he doesn't ever know how to end it.

1/01/2005 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger alex said...

Amazing Spidey was great.

Tom Strong was awesome awesome.

I even kinda liked Batman/Superman.

The Thing/Doom "what if" book was fun, but the others were sad. Sad and depressing. And stuff.


1/01/2005 09:09:00 PM  
Blogger Eliot Johnson said...

Agreed on Adam Strange. I thought this issue was the weakest, but it's still the best sci-fi comic I've read in years.

But, you're a bad person for not buying SKYSCRAPERS OF THE MIDWEST. That was light years ahead of anything that you read.

My review of said book:

1/02/2005 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

"But, you're a bad person for not buying SKYSCRAPERS OF THE MIDWEST. That was light years ahead of anything that you read."

I'll show you what service you can expect from this place, Eliot...I just ordered the book a couple of minutes ago.

I will tell you how I liked it when I read it.

1/02/2005 02:21:00 PM  
Blogger Eliot Johnson said...

Hey...very cool. I certainly hope you enjoy it. It was easily one of my favorite books of 2004.

1/02/2005 05:10:00 PM  
Blogger Joe Rice said...

Keep in mind, this is the same Eliot that obsesses over a book about a widdle biddy Owl.

I've actually not heard of Skyscrapers of the Midwest, but the title brings two things to mind: that I hate the midwest (I don't trust flat places) and an immortal quote by one "Captain" Edmundo Kirk Diaz, "Pictures of buildings are boring."

Give me a run down on why these great forces of my personality are incorrect in this instance.

1/02/2005 05:15:00 PM  
Blogger Eliot Johnson said..., they're right, really. Fortunately, if you hate the midwest, you'll probably love this book. It's as much an a satire on the lifestyle there as anything.

And there are absolutely no buildings involved in this book, either.

And, everyone loves Owly, man.

1/02/2005 07:04:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Hmmm...I think we should have an Owly referendum at some point in the future.

So many people seem to love the little'd think they'd like some place to discuss him.

1/02/2005 10:26:00 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1/02/2005 10:43:00 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Alex sez: "I even kinda liked Batman/Superman."

Just out of curiosity, what about it did you like?

1/02/2005 10:51:00 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Also, why can't you go back and edit your posts without leaving that "removed" message? BLOGS ARE STUPID.

1/02/2005 10:52:00 PM  
Blogger alex said...

Paul said:

"Just out of curiosity, what about it did you like?"

Well, it was kinda fun. The art is as good as anything out there. That's a huge deal for me.

The story, with the dimension hopping, while it's getting a bit repetitive, is still fun enough and well-constructed enough. And even though I HATE the fucking two person narration, thus far, there has been enough chaos and madness to keep my interest up.

And I feel like there is some forward momentum, and it is building to something cool. I'm probably wrong, but I'll give it a chance.

I like multi-earth hopping stuff. And the climax could be cool. The cliffhanger of last issue totally took me by surprise.

For a stupid comic made for idiot fanboys, this arc isn't that bad.


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