Thursday, July 14, 2005

What I bought - 13 July 2005

There was actually a lot of good comics this week, overshadowed, unfortunately, by the one big craphole that came out from DC. But after that, stuff was good!

All-Star Batman & Robin the Boy Wonder #1 by Frank Miller, Jim Lee and Scott Williams
$2.99, DC

Pól did a quite funny and spot-on review of this, but I'm going to examine why this is horrible, rather than pointing out its horrible-ness.

This is soft-core porn. This is as if Steven Spielberg directed Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in a porn movie. It's big-budget comic-book porn. Do we really need that?

Pól points out the lingerie model on page 3. For those of you who (smartly) didn't buy this, here it is:

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See? There's no reason for Vicki Vale to be hanging out like that, except Lee wanted to draw a hot chick in lingerie and fanboys wanted him to. Sad.

Kevin says Miller isn't taking this seriously, and neither should we. Well, I have to disagree with him. There's a difference between "not taking something seriously" and "putting no craft into it at all." Giffen and DeMatteis in some of the Justice League stuff they did - that's not taking it seriously. However, the craft is still there - they're trying to make a good comic, even though they don't take the concepts all that seriously. Here, Miller is, as Pól says, sleepwalking. Here's the idiotic things in this book:

1. Vicki Vale's apartment. Yes, it's fantasy, but she's not Lex Luthor.
2. Alfred calling Vicki Vale "love." WTF?
3. The reworked origin of Robin. Kevin, again, says that if we want "grim-n-gritty"®, we should watch the movie. Well, Dick's parents take two bullets in the head, so that's pretty "g-n-g," if you ask me. It's just stupid. The whole point of the murder in the first place was that it didn't look like a murder, because Zucco didn't want it to look like a murder. What's the point of the bad guy shooting them in the head?
4. How stupid is Vicki Vale? Bruce disappears after the murder, and she never asks about him! Not even the obligatory, "Where did that Bruce go? He must be a coward!" That's just laziness on Miller's part.
5. The cops. Yes, the cops are dirty in Gotham, blah blah blah. But for a ridiculously decompressed piece of crap, lots goes unexplained here, like why Vicki knows that the cops are involved and are going to kill Dick. Why does she know this? There's no reason - it's just Gotham!
6. Batman calling Dick "soldier." It worked in Dark Knight. It's stupid here.

I have no issue with Lee's art. I know some people don't like it, but I do. However, he has turned into Adam Hughes and should probably stick to pin-up covers. That's all he's doing inside anyway. It's pretty, but, well, pornographic.

I'm glad this sucked from the beginning. Identity Crisis was good for a while, and I kept buying. Now, I can quit buying this with a clear conscience. For that, I thank Miller and Lee.

Fables #39 by Bill Willingham, Lan Medina, and Dan Green
$2.75, DC/Vertigo

Now we can move on to the good comics. Boy, Fables is a good comic. This is an interlude as we return to Fabletown to catch up on what's been happening since Boy Blue was having his adventures. It's a typically excellent issue. Mowgli is the main character, as he returns to Fabletown after years in the "real" world. He wants to free Bagheera, who is being held at the Farm for his involvement in the rebellion a few years ago. He's willing to do anything to help, so Prince Charming enlists him to find Bigby. Now, in a comic book written by certain writers, that would be the whole issue. Actually, the conversation between Mowgli and Bagheera would be the whole issue. But Willingham adds the plot of a traitor being discovered and punished. Holy cow! And, as usual, we get nice character moments and some more information about the relationship between the Homelands and Fabletown. And the fill-in art by Medina is nice. I wish I could say something bad about this book, but I find it difficult. Buy the trades, please!

Gravity #2 by Sean McKeever, Mike Norton, and Jonathan Glapion
$2.99, Marvel

Here's another fun comic. It's the kind of thing that Marvel and DC should be publishing to bring in kids - it fits into Marvel continuity, but it doesn't use "square" superheroes that lame-o parents like. Of course, it won't sell, which is a shame. If you like fun superhero stuff, don't buy ASB&RtBW, buy this. Much more fun.

Greg is making the moves on Lauren, the girl he met at the end of last issue (and first of all, I actually remembered what happened last issue, which doesn't always happen, another mark that the book is good, and second of all, Lauren is Indian, and it's nice to see that she's Indian without anyone making a big deal about it), when the Rhino shows up. He tells her he "wants to watch" (eeewwww!) so he can go be all superheroic. He beats up the Rhino and all is well. She suspects - oh yes she does! - but that revelation will come later in the series, I assume. Greg teams up with another hero you've never heard of (or at least I haven't - I assume Greenwich Guardian is made up for this issue), but the Guardian isn't as great as Greg thinks he is. It's nice how McKeever makes us see this, but Greg remains starry-eyed. It still doesn't feel like Greg is an idiot - he's just a guy who wants to be a hero and overlooks some of the darker things that are going on. He breaks a date with Lauren to go on patrol with the Guardian, and she of course thinks he doesn't like her. McKeever puts a great line in the book here - "Spider-Man never had problems like this." Again, the kids will ignore the line, but old-timers like me can appreciate the nod to history. Finally, big bad guy Black Death shows up at the end. Next issue: SHOWDOWN!

The nice thing about this book is the characterization. Yes, the fights are nicely done, but Greg is interesting because of his pursuit of fame. I assume the arc of the story will be how he learns it's not all about fame, but his journey is interesting, because we know that he should go out with Lauren, she knows he should go out with her, but he doesn't. It's a good book because if you take away the superhero trappings, it's still a story about a young man learning how to live life. And that's a good story.

Desolation Jones #2 by Warren Ellis and J.H. Williams III
$2.99, DC/Wildstorm

I took Ellis to task last week for the last issue of Ocean, but he's still a good writer. This book is why I want him to do something different than the standard "the hero is a bastard with a heart of gold who has to kick people in the balls and there's weird crap involved" story. Pages 5-12 - the scene with Jones and Emily - are beautifully written and painful yet wonderful to read. Ellis could write a great romance comic, I bet. These are two people who have, in different ways, been fucked over by life, but they can come together (and not have sex!) and be there for each other when they need it, even though they know nothing will come of it. The rest of the book is good, but every once in a while, Ellis pulls this shit out of his ass (the final scene of Lazarus Churchyard, parts of Transmetropolitan, the cemetery scene in StormWatch vol. 2) and you wonder why he hasn't written a straight romance. It would be great.

The Middle Man #1 by Javier Grillo-Marxvach and Les McClaine
$2.95, Viper Comics

This is one of those books that might be hard to find, but I highly recommend tracking it down. It's a very fun book about a mysterious fighter of evil who recruits a no-future temp with a gay boyfriend (okay, maybe not, but everyone thinks he is). We meet Wendy as she's working as a receptionist at A.N.D. Labs - "Rescrambling Your DNA!" Something bad happens and a huge, nuclear-waste vomiting monster appears, apparently made up of the scientists who were working on it. Have no fear, though, because the Middle Man appears and destroys it! The cool thing is - no one knows he exists! According to the tag line on the back of the book, he fights evil "so you don't have to." He disappears, but apparently he liked what he saw of Wendy, because she eventually gets a call for a job in his business. Will she hold up under pressure????

This is, as I mentioned, fun. It has an intriguing premise and a roller coaster ride attitude, and there's a subplot involving the Mafia. The art is cartoony without being obnoxious. It's chock full of action and funny lines and is just what you should be reading. Go buy now!

Mnemovore #4 by Hans Rodionoff, Ray Fawkes, and Mike Huddleston
$2.99, DC/Vertigo

Things take a decidedly weirder turn, and in this book, that's saying a lot. When I asked why people weren't buying this last month, someone said the first issue didn't do it for them. That's fine. I would greatly encourage you to get the trade if it comes out, because this is shaping up to be one of the best mini-series of the year. I actually like the monthly issues, because each ending leaves me more creeped out than the last, and reading the resolution right away wouldn't have the same impact. Kaley finds out things are even less certain than she thought, and the one person she thinks she can trust might be the person behind it all. Meanwhile, Mike continues to be creepy and weird and doing awful things to his family. This is a great series.

Seven Soldiers: The Manhattan Guardian #3 by Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart

Nope, I didn't read it again. I just thought I'd mention that I bought it.

Small Gods Special #1 by Jason Rand and Juan Ferreyra
$2.95, Image

Another fine book that deserves a bigger audience. This is a perfect story to pick up, too, since it brings in the two main protagonists from the previous two arcs (Owen Young and Bobby Pope) but is a completely self-contained story that doesn't require you to read the whole series. Bobby is in the police station, and Owen is interviewing him. It's after a hostage situation at a jewelry store, a robbery gone wrong that Bobby and his girlfriend, Lucy, happened to get caught in. Owen is part of the force that takes down the bad guys. Rand gives us a little backstory on Bobby, letting us know that he owes someone something (it's explained in his arc, but again, you don't really need to know it here) and he works for this person, who happens to be a dirty cop (we don't know whom). He is ordered to go to the jewelry store and make sure there is a hostage situation lasting at least four hours. Why, he doesn't know, and we don't find out until the end. The whole story is told in flashbacks, as Owen tries to determine exactly what Bobby's role in the whole thing is. It's an interesting confrontation between the two, and as usual with this title, makes good use of the pre-cognitive and psychic aspects of this world without beating us over the head with it. At the end, we don't really get anything new about either character, but we have been told a good story and we understand Bobby's role a little more.

The art, as usual, is beautiful. This is just another book that you could spend your money on instead of ASB&RtBW.

Ultimate X-Men #61 by Brian K. Vaughan, Stuart Immonen, and Wade von Grawbadger
$2.50, Marvel

Another nice book, because ... hey! something happens! Bobby has been secretly communicating with Rogue, and Kitty gets pissed. Oh, the soap opera! Actually, the main story in the issue deals with Emma Frost's school, which is humming along nicely. Some dude named Roberto DaCosta shows up, but soon the head students, Alex Summer and Lorna Dane, are called away to assist with a fire rescue. While there, Lorna's powers seemingly go nuts and she starts killing firemen. Man, that ain't nice. Alex has to take her down, in a nice, brief, emotional scene that isn't overwritten but still packs a punch. Nick Fury gets involved, as the only place they can hold Lorna is currently occupied by a certain master of magnetism ... which was his plan all along!!!! Oh, that Magneto - he's crafty. What I like about the Ultimate Universe (especially the X-Men) is that Lorna is allowed to kill the firemen. I don't want blood and guts and hardcore violence in every comic (there's a time and a place), but in the "real" X-books, the deaths would be off-panel or the firemen would be simply knocked unconscious. If Lorna went nuts, she would kill people. It's a small reason why this is the only X-book I have bought consistently for five years. It has nice characterization and hasn't become too bogged down in continuity (it's getting there), and it's willing to examine stuff like what happens in this issue. And any comic where Doug Ramsey is still alive, even off-panel, is a good one.

See? I can be nice. Stuff happens in these comics, and I appreciate it. I'm just sad that the good stuff might get ignored in favor of the giant suckpit of Miller and Lee. Resist, my discerning comics fans! Reeeessssiiiiisssst!

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Blogger T. said...

Agree with everything in the Batman review except for the idea that Identity Crisis was good at ANY point. Any doubt it would be hackwork of the highest order was dispelled for me in the 1st issue when I saw the cliched "surprise" pregnancy test result laying by her dead body.

That's Sylvester Stallone Cobra B-movie cheesy at best.

7/14/2005 07:18:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

My point was that I had hopes that IC could pull stuff together. Yes, I see your point with the pregnancy test thing, but I didn't mind the murder or rape as much as some, if Meltzer could pull it all together. He didn't, and in retrospect, it was poorly done throughout. But while I was reading it, I had hope. Foolish me.

7/15/2005 02:51:00 PM  
Blogger Stefan said...

You are a much stronger man than I for not reading the Seven Soldiers books until it is done.

Batman stuff? I knew it would be exactly like that from the start. 5 minutes to read then delete. Horrible, horrible. You actually did have issues with Lee's art too from the pinup nature to vale's apartment. ;)

7/16/2005 12:40:00 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Well, yeah, I guess I did have issues with Lee's art. But I know what I'm getting, and it's pretty, so I don't mind.

7/16/2005 02:10:00 PM  
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