Wednesday, September 14, 2005

What I bought - 14 September 2005

You know, every once in a while I'm just not that excited when I read the comics I bought. Today is one such day. It's not that the comics are bad, and it doesn't mean when I re-read them I won't get excited, it just seems like the comics I read today, for the most part, were treading water. Yes, it's writing for the trade again, and sometimes it annoys me more than other times. Instead of telling you to wait for the trade, however, today I'm going to explain how these comics could have been better. Because, you know, I'm the greatest writer ever. That's why no one will publish me - because they're too scared of my genius!

Desolation Jones #3 by Warren Ellis and J.H. Williams III
$2.99, DC/Wildstorm

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You see, here's an example. I like this book, and I trust Mr. Ellis to get us through, and the art is staggeringly gorgeous, but it drags. Why does it drag? Because the all-powerful Mr. Ellis, just like the occasionally all-powerful Mr. Ennis (are they one and the same? you be the judge!) feels the need to use his comics-writing ability for things other than writing comics. The most annoying issues of Preacher were ALWAYS the ones in which Jesse and Cassidy shared drinks and ranted about whatever Garth Ennis didn't like about the world. Well, in this issue, which does, I must admit, move the plot forward, Ellis takes about seven pages to share with us the business intricacies of the porn industry. You might say he's trying to bring to light some of the horrors that these people go through, but if he wanted to do that, write a book about it, for crying out loud, don't insert it in the middle of a weird little mystery. It might not have annoyed everyone, and it didn't even annoy me that much, because Williams' art that accompanies it is beautiful and we get a tiny bit of insight into what is going on in Desolation Jones' head, but do we really need it? Really? Maybe I'm missing the point. Someone please tell me what it is.

Fables #41 by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, and Steve Leialoha
$2.75, DC/Vertigo

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Yes, I'm going to explain some things about how to write what is probably the best title you can buy, and I shall call it ... How not to end a major storyline, by Greg Burgas!

Y'see, Mr. Willingham, if you're going to send Boy Blue off to the Homelands to meet the Adversary, that's fine, but shouldn't the story end with more ... oomph? It seems to be a trend with these stories - the climax comes in the fourth act or so, and the fifth is a winding down period. That may work with Shakespeare, I suppose, but we know this title is coming back next month, so some of the resolutions can spill over into the next issue. It just seems like the last two issues, with Gepetto explaining himself to Blue, were anti-climactic. Maybe they were meant to be. This one shouldn't have been, though - it's Blue's Big Escape! Secrets are revealed! Pinocchio faces Sophie's Choice! Oh, the drama!

But it doesn't feel dramatic. It feels slow. There's no danger. Why should we think Boy Blue will escape (which we do, throughout)? Yes, he's well prepared, but the best laid plans ... and all that. There doesn't feel like there's any particular reason why he won't escape. It's a shame. This issue, like the swashbuckling ones with which this story started, cries out for Errol Flynn-like derring-do, and we don't get it. It's a shame.

Gravity #4 by Sean McKeever and Mike Norton
$2.99, Marvel

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Boy, I'd like to tell McKeever how to write a book, but I can't. This is a nice, straight-forward, refreshing superhero book. Nothing too annoying, nothing too revolutionary, just the kind of thing everyone says they want from their superhero books. Okay, the big surprise at the end is nothing great, as anyone over the age of six probably saw it coming, but who cares? If you're not buying this, get the trade. It's fun.

Matador #5 by Devin Grayson and Brian Steelfreeze
$2.99, DC/Wildstorm

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This is one of the more egregious and excrutiating examples of writing for the trade. When I say "excruciating," that's not to say I don't like it, like, say, Catwoman: When In Rome. What I mean is that it seems Grayson and Steelfreeze put together a 132-page graphic novel and then, to sell it, they chopped it into 22-page chunks, not really caring where the breaks came. So we get weird endings to the issues, as if they really weren't supposed to end there and Grayson threw in something random to make it exciting, like a car exploding. However, nothing compares to the sheer pulse-pounding excitement of this issue's ending: a pot of coffee melts down!!!!! I had to go lie down because I was so dizzy!!!!! If you think I'm kidding, go check out the issue. Would I lie to you?

What the hell? Have the writers given up trying to fit any semblance of story in 22 pages? I'm serious - why don't they just release the trade? Anyone who read the first issue of this book, if they were smart (I am not), would have simply waited for the trade. Grrr.

It's pretty. It's also an interesting story. It's just slooooooowwwwwwww.

Of Bitter Souls #2 by Chuck Satterlee and Norm Breyfogle
$2.99, Speakeasy/Relative Comics

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Well, this series could go both ways with me. Like I said last week, I love Breyfogle's art, and that's the real draw of this series, but the premise was interesting enough - fighting bad guys for God! The problem is when the preaching overwhelms the story - remember what I said about Desolation Jones and Preacher? Sure you do - it was just at the top of the post! If Satterlee keeps the Christianity subtle and allows it to be part of the story and doesn't bash us over the head with it, then this has a very good chance of being an excellent book. If, however, he decides to use every issue to say "Look! Jesus can save you!" then it will get old. So far, he's walking a fine line. It's obvious what he wants to say, but it's still subtle enough. The story, about Turkish ghosts haunting a New Orleans house, is fine and makes the point Satterlee is pushing - sometimes fighting isn't the best way - but it's nothing special. I'll be interested to see if Satterlee works Hurricane Katrina into the story.

Ultimate X-Men #63 by Brian K. Vaughan, Stuart Immonen, and Wade von Grawbadger
$2.50, Marvel

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Now, I like comics with literary aspirations. I like comics with subtle allusions, metaphors, allegories, murky moral waters, and Big Ideas. I also like kick-ass superhero comics - they're like Snickers bars - they're bad for me, but I can't get enough of 'em! But you know what - in small quantities, they're excellent. Ultimate X-Men is my "empty calories" comic of choice. Fine, fine stuff. Ah, the angst! Ah, the manipulation! Ah, the goofy emotions of Lorna Dane, who melts completely into Magneto's arms (for comfort, nothing more, you sickos!)! Ah, the mutant-on-mutant violence - can't they all just get along?????

Vaughan is just fine at this kind of thing - all the pieces of the puzzle doing their things, rather transparently (no attempts at hiding anything here!), a cataclysm coming with such inevitability, and everyone beating on each other. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

The Winter Men #2 by Brett Lewis and John Paul Leon
$2.99, DC/Wildstorm

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Okay, here's my advice for Brett Lewis: MAKE SENSE! Yes, this is a beautiful book to look at, and the story is intriguing, but it's all over the place, and I was seriously confused. I don't like being confused. Let's look at an example: on page 4 a girl dressed only in a trench coat (a poorly draped one at that) shows up at Kris Kalenov's Brooklyn hotel and offers to have sex with him as well as tell him where he can find the man he's looking for. Being the swell guy he is, he declines. Fine. He finds his contact, all is well. She shows up again on page 12 in a taxi with Kris, for no discernible reason!!!! Where did she come from? Why is she there? What is her point? On the very next page, Kris is hanging out with the crime lord he's trying to ingratiate himself with, and there's an assassination attempt. Out of the blue! From a taxi - the same taxi Kalenov was in on the previous page? Did he set up the assassination attempt to get in with the crime boss? If so, why isn't that just a little clearer? And everything happens so fast - Kris makes contact, gets into the inner circle, betrays the gang (he's only there to find the girl from the first issue who was kidnapped, after all), and gets captured. Man, it's tough to follow. I'll pick up issue #3, because like I said, the story is intriguing, but if it's like this one, I may have to stop. I'll let you know.

Well, I don't mean to be bitter. I didn't hate any issue I bought this week, but I didn't love any either. Comics should be good, damn it. They should not be frustrating.

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Blogger Bill Reed said...

If I didn't know better, I'd say Walt Simonson drew that Wintermen cover. Totally.

Leon am good.

9/14/2005 07:54:00 PM  
Anonymous GreyGlobe said...

See, this is where the people on this board are so high and mighty in their opinions of what they read. Buy JLA this week, folks. Sure, sure...JLA-how low-brow. Guess what? It's EXCELLENT. However, no one here will get off their holier-than-thou attitude to enjoy a good old-fashioned action and great characterization romp. There is something to be said for a comic that entertains from start to finish. This blog is called,"Comics should be good", but everyone acts as if it should be titled "Comics need to enlighten our very way of thinking and acting". Guess what, folks? Comics are just another form of entertainment. They don't have to be earth-shattering to be good. Comics ARE good in many, many ways. I just picture everyone on this board in berets at the local cafe bemoaning the fact that nothing is original or meaningful anymore. Get over yourselves and remember what made you enjoy reading these pieces of pulp in the first place.

9/14/2005 08:15:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

This is why I love GreyGlobe. Did he even read what I wrote about Ultimate X-Men? I guess not. Sure, comics can be meaningful, but they can also be goofy. I happen to like Ultimate X-Men's goofiness, and that's good for me. I hope I'm not too highbrow. Maybe I am. Fine, buy JLA if you want. I just don't.

9/14/2005 08:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

Vaughan lost me on Ultimate X-Men a while ago. His stuff might be fun if it weren't a point-by-point rehash of the same damn Claremont formula the X-books have done for the last umpteen years (with the brief exception of Morrison's New X-Men and Milligan's X-Force). It's bland soap operatics padding out slow, very decompressed action over a "mutants-as-oppressed-minority" shtick that could probably qualify for Social Security at this point. I've read these stories before a dozen times, only back then the pacing was better and the characters weren't as boring (oh, excuse me - Ultimate.)

In general, Vaughan doesn't do "dumb fun" all that well; his best books are relatively high concept (Ex Machina, Y the Last Man), while he's pretty much at a loss dealing with pre-existing characters. Whoever takes over this book next, I hope it's a writer who's interested in big ideas, because the small-scale soap opera stuff really isn't enough to cut it anymore for a series that's ostensibly about the evolution and transformation of the human race.

9/14/2005 09:08:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Reed said...

Okay, so I was unduly harsh in my earlier comment which is now gone.

But I'm still an elitist bastard, and I don't necessarily have a problem with it. I don't think JLA is lowbrow, it's just not within my current reading pile, as it's awash in continuity and I've no idea what's going on.

But I wouldn't mind if comics enlightened my way of thinking and acting. I mean, a few have. Those were Good.

9/14/2005 10:37:00 PM  
Anonymous GreyGlobe said...

Actually, I did read what you wrote about Ultimate X-Men. My comments weren't directed solely at you, but more as a general posting to the members of this board. You are actually willing to give most things a fair shot before passing judgement. In fact, I'm sure you send a collective shudder up the members' spine by even mentioning an Ultimate book at all. It just seems that people on here love to complain about what they've read a lot of the time and a simple solution to that is to try books that you might not normally buy. Take a chance, go outside, get some sunshine and ENJOY your comics!

9/14/2005 10:41:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

I agree with you, GreyGlobe. Did you notice how I didn't buy the Miller/Lee concoction? I hated issue #1, and rather than buy #2 and rant about how it sucked, I skipped it. Life is too short to whine about lousy comics. I do take the books I buy to task, however, because I have taken some time to choose ones I think I will like and get disappointed when I'm wrong. I'm moving away from superhero titles like JLA not because I'm an elitist bastard like Bill (okay, I am, but that's not the reason) but because it seems like both mainstream DC and Marvel are A) making it WAY too difficult (and expensive) to follow what is going on; and B) continuing to miss the point of what Moore and Miller and their ilk were doing with the "darkening" of comics, with which I have no objection, but when it becomes shorthand for "Kill anyone who isn't Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman," it's just stupid.

Phew. Sorry for the rant. Like I said, I enjoy a "good old-fashioned action and great characterization romp," as you put it. I hope you check out Livewires or Gravity (see? TWO straight superhero books among this week's purchases!) for more of the same.

And speaking for my fellow bloggers (if I may), I think we all want to enjoy the comics we buy. Cronin is snotty in his Wednesday list, but I think his tongue is planted firmly in his cheek. Some of them don't like superheroes, and that's cool. That's why comics are groovy - you don't have to like superheroes to like them! You can even like (shudder) James Kolchaka! (Oh, I'm kidding - spare me the righteous indignation!)

9/14/2005 11:52:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

All my comments in the comic reports are just me reciting what the Lord told me to tell you.

And the comic reports are LONG, so you won't believe how many bushes he needs to burn to tell me!

9/15/2005 12:15:00 AM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

No no no, greyglobe is a lunatic. Don't buy JLA. It's stinky arse. Buy JLU. Much, much better, and probably selling a fraction of the amount of its continuity-bloated and unnecessarily dark "parent" title.

9/16/2005 01:16:00 PM  
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