Wednesday, November 16, 2005

What I bought - 16 November 2005

Interesting choices for my superhero trade paperback, people. I'll let you know what I'm going to buy soon - I know you can't wait!

Anyway, this week's purchases. Of course it's all going to be overshadowed by the certain Superman comic book, but other stuff was good, too.

Batman & The Monster Men #1 by Matt Wagner
$2.99, DC
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Here's an idea: why not let Wagner do this in the regular Batman book? I know that would violate one of the directives of the Absolute Overlord, but why does this have to occur in the past? I mean, it's essentially a rehash of Batman #1, isn't it? Do we really need a rehash of Batman #1? Couldn't there be Monster Men in the present? I'm somewhat sick of this "Let's revisit Batman's past" thing DC has going on. If Batman stories are too dark and depressing in the present, write Batman stories in the present that aren't dark and depressing. Don't write Batman stories set in the past that aren't dark and depressing (I should add, this is kind of dark and depressing in its own right, but it's "goofy" because of the Monster Men, who don't appear in the issue). There's no reason for this to be set in the past. It's good, though, and pretty. But still.

Fables #43 by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, and Steve Leialoha
$2.75, DC/Vertigo
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Brian's friend Stony said he was dropping this title, which mystifies me. It's his choice, I suppose, but that's just weird. So much going on, moving forward, intrigues brewing, the Arab Fables are plotting, Sinbad is becoming westernized and his advisors don't like it, and a djinn gets released. Bad news there. Whenever a new issue of this title comes out, I zip through it and can't wait for the next one. It's a great book. Come back, Stony!

Hero Squared #3 by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Joe Abraham
$3.99, Boom! Studios
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Yes, it's jokey and goofy. But it's a very interesting book. It's interesting because the strength of the book is based on human relationships and how people in those relationships play mind games with each other. We're getting into murky waters with these characters, because the Evil Stephie is telling Milo things about Captain Valor that he's not sure are true or false. Why should he necessarily believe Captain Valor? And the Good Stephie is unsure what's going on with Milo. And she's unsure about her feelings for both Milo and Captain Valor. Very interesting. It's funny, but in an obvious way - Giffen and DeMatteis can do this in their sleep, so it's somewhat on autopilot. The dialogue between the characters when they're discussing what's going on, though, is good.

Local #1 by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly
$2.99, Oni Press
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We did a group review of this a while back. Read it here. I have nothing further to add. I'm going to buy issue #2. We'll see about it from there.

All-Star Superman #1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
$2.99, DC
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Apparently the gang is going to do a big ol' roundtable review of this, like we did with Local, so I'll withhold judgment. If you didn't buy it, I will say this: Leo Quintum is wearing Joseph's Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat for no discernible reason. Excellent.

X-Men #177 by Peter Milligan, Salvador Larroca, and Danny Miki with Allen Martinez
$2.50, Marvel
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Here's what I don't understand about "Decimation." All these mutants are no longer mutants. Okay, I get that. But does anyone really believe that they'll stay that way? And why won't people just come up with new ones? If they really wanted to have fewer mutants in the Marvel Universe, they'd do the smart thing: cancel all the freakin' mutant titles!

Okay, so the story isn't bad. Why does Lorna want to hide her power loss, if that's what it is? Is being an X-Man really that fulfilling? Isn't she with Bobby now, who is also powerless? Can't they just go off to Switzerland (or somewhere) and pump out some babies and be happy? Her life has gone so well with the X-Men, after all. And why haven't we gotten beyond the superhero theme of attacking anything without asking whether it's a bad thing or good thing? Milligan tries to make it interesting, but it's still the Sentinels saying "We don't want to fight" and the X-Men fighting them. Sigh. You may ask why I'm still buying this, and how if it's not good I should cut it off. I want to see how Milligan resolves the "What did Lorna see in space" story, which is coming up soon. That will make or break it. This story doesn't really interest me all that much. I'm also sick of anti-mutant "leagues" in the Marvel Universe. When I write the X-Men the government and the public will embrace mutantkind. Trust me.

Have a nice day, everyone!

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Blogger kelvingreen said...

If they really wanted to have fewer mutants in the Marvel Universe, they'd do the smart thing: cancel all the freakin' mutant titles!
I'm not entirely sure what the point is, as I'm sure we're not going to see any fewer extraneous X-Men miniseries and spinoffs.

Presumably they wanted to restore some validity to the "opressed minority" theme, but they don't seem to have realised that it was worn out from being overused because no one else had any other ideas for twenty years, not because there were too many mutants. Gah.

11/17/2005 02:26:00 AM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

Also, this "no more mutants" thing is awfully badly defined.

Did Wanda just depower people, or did she rewrite the rules so that no more mutants could ever be born? What about Franklin Richards? Is he still a mutant? Why did most of the X-Men retain her powers? Why am I btohering to ask questions I know will never be answered?

11/17/2005 02:29:00 AM  
Blogger Pól Rua said...

And Dazzler's still active?

11/17/2005 04:57:00 AM  
Blogger Mark Fossen said...

The reason Batman & The Monster Men is set in the past is that this is a Batman who has never fought supervillans or monsters, and how he deals with starting to take on things besides petty criminals. I agree there's too much Untold Tales for Bats, but this one seems cool.

It's Journey Into Knight I don't get.

11/17/2005 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger T. said...

Part of the reason this depowering of mutants is so stupid is that we still have the same amount of X-Men and supervillains, except for maybe a handful. Yes the worldwide population is severely reduced.

That means that where before maybe 1% of the mutant population was a superhero or supervillain, now about 1/3 to 1/2 are a superhero or supervillain or have one degree of separation. Now mutants suck as any type of real-life allegory. First there's way too few of them so you can't do any real-life minority parallels like the Mutant Town thing. What minority group has that few members? Even Native Americans have way more. And to have so many people within one supposedly oppressed group have so much importance is also unrelatable. It'd be like if half the existing blacks were Civil Rights legends.

I just think they ruined a lot of possibilities for telling stories with social commentary by making them so unrelatable.

11/17/2005 11:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

1. Of course they're all going to get their powers back, and when they do it'll be the Best Story Anybody's Ever Pitched To Joe Quesada Ever Trust Him.

2. I didn't read it, but there's a big, BIG difference between "X-Men run out and fight rival superhero team without asking questions" and "X-Men run out and fight Sentinels without asking questions," in that Sentinels are, after all, Sentinels, and were expressly created for the purpose of tracking down and wiping out mutants.

3. Why would people care more about oppressing mutants now that there's less of them?

4. The key strength of the "millions of mutants" world was that there were plenty of "normal" mutants - mutants with kind of crappy powers, mutants who were just living their lives in Mutant Town, mutants who didn't want much of anything to do with the Great Grand Dream Of Professor Magzavio. There were mutant celebrities and mutant fashion designers and mutants whose only mutations weren't crazy superpowers at all, but in fact were just born looking weird - like most mutations in real life. In other words, it gave context to the X-Men - it showed that they were fighting over something other than themselves, over a world that was bigger than the question of "who can thump the guy with the penis helmet this week?"

5. The Scarlet Witch, of course, is pretty much completely fucked as a character. Killing Hawkeye? Fah! She's a lunatic villain on a planetary scale now, and all because she's just so crazy about not being able to have babies. I've never been a fan of the character myself, but as characte-trashing goes, this has to hit the top of the heap.

11/17/2005 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Good point, Lungfish. Best mutant power EVER: Kylun in Excalibur. he could reproduce ANY sound he heard exactly. Second-best? Doug Ramsey. There should be more mutants with less obvious powers and more interesting ones.

11/17/2005 01:03:00 PM  
Blogger Jeff R. said...

I guess it'll make me a heretic here, but I think that Batman works better, story-wise, in his early career. A Batman with no robin, but working with the one trustworthy cop and a rogue D.A. against an entire city consumed from crime, from the streets to the police force to the highest offices of government...much better than Batman's army of vigilantes and most of the GCPD against a few flamboyant mobsters.

I'd love to see them move one of the regular bat-books to Year One, permanently...

11/17/2005 01:03:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

That's a great point, Lungfish. When there were million of mutants not directly involved in the "civil rights" struggle, it made the leaders of the movement more memorable. Both Charles and Magneto were two characters fighting for a world of nameless, faceless mutants. It was very ennobling. Now that the X-Men side and the Evil Mutants side comprise most of the existing mutants, they are basically just two gangs fighting a turf war for themselves. The cause really isn't that much bigger than the Xavier side and the Magneto side, is it?

11/17/2005 01:42:00 PM  
Blogger markus said...

Quesada explains his reasons for the Decimation here:
Interpreting it a bit, I'd say his goal was to move away from mutants as a concrete minority back to mutants as symbols for a minority. Obviously the latter case will be a poorer fit if one tries to draw point per point analogies and it doesn't really gel with the publishing strategy. OTOH, it does make identification easier (e.g. you don't have to worry about ending up as Beak if you want to be a mutant) and allows for clearer "revenge of the outcast" fantasies.
Ultimately, I think it was about a reset button and a big event/change that can be milked for stories for some time to come.

11/17/2005 02:12:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Mark makes a good point about Batman & the Monster Men - I forgot about that. And Jeff R., I don't mind the Year One stories, as long as they're good stories, but why don't they just return to that status quo in the present? It wouldn't take much. it just seems like any "big name" who wants to write Batman these days wants to write nostalgic stuff. That's a shame.

11/17/2005 03:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

Greg, if memory serves that was the point of "War Games" - to set up a new status quo where Batman is hunted, on his own, and without his vigilante peeps. Granted, bringing in Zombie Jason Todd, Spoiler-killer Black Mask and Infinite Crisis into the picture over the last year made it kind of impossible to do those kinds of archetypal stories.

The Moench/Jones run, I thought, had a nice Batmancentric focus to it, which was one of the things I liked about it. While Robin, Nightwing, Huntress, Oracle, etc. were all still around somewhere, they were all pushed to the relative background. It was most certainly Batman's book, not "Batman and his army of Bat-themed superbuddies."

11/17/2005 03:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Scott said...

What I don't get with Decimation is, are they no longer mutants, or are they still mutants, just without powers? Lorna's hair is still green; that dragon dude fell out of the sky but still isn't human, so it would appear to be the latter.

11/17/2005 05:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

I don't really get it either, Scott. They claim that their "mutant gene" is just "gone now, as if it were never there," but this is clearly crap, for at least the examples you've stated.

Another big complaint: by mostly burning third- and fourth-tier characters, "Decimation" wildly breaks my "Use 'Em If You Got 'Em" rule. I honestly believe there's no such thing as an intrinsically lame character concept, and there's certainly plenty of underexposed and consistently poorly-used characters in X-Men; they've introduced dozens and dozens of mutants over the years and they always come back to the same old tired lineup. Chamber was always a cool character in theory, if rarely in practice. Doug Ramsey could've been awesome - he was basically a mutant super-spy. But what we have here is a core of popular, flashy mutants left with a bunch of perennial losers and C-listers among the depowered.

Another thing: "Decimation" has also supposedly cut off the introduction of any new mutant characters for Marvel. So if there are no new mutants, then mutants aren't "the new species." They aren't going anywhere. Nothing's happening with them. They aren't the "children of tomorrow" or the next leap in evolution or whatever they've been for the last thirty years or so. So the scope is entirely gone. So why should I care about them anymore?

11/17/2005 05:55:00 PM  
Blogger Mark Fossen said...

Doug Ramsey could've been awesome - he was basically a mutant super-spy.
Wow, yeah ... I suddenly has a vision of a Ed Brubaker Sleeper-like Doug Ramsey title. How cool would that be?

It's like Claremontian soap-opera stained the mutant ideaspace. Everything is either in that vein or a reaction to it (even Morrison's fantastic run). No one's really tried to evaluate them on their own ... maybe Deadpool's the exception.

11/17/2005 09:05:00 PM  
Blogger Bob Agamemnon said...

Re: Fables. I want to like fables. I've been buying it for like a year. But I just don't think it's that great. I continue buying it because I sincerely want to like it and my wife finds it amusing, but I feel I'm missing something. Perhaps because I didn't start from the beginning?

11/17/2005 09:10:00 PM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

Another thing: "Decimation" has also supposedly cut off the introduction of any new mutant characters for Marvel.
Except Claremont immediately introduced a bunch of new mutant characters in New Excalibur. So that's working well already...

11/17/2005 09:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

Fossen: Ah, but Deadpool is not a mutant.

11/17/2005 11:00:00 PM  
Anonymous aya ayuvara said...

I also don't knoe where Decimation will take us to.

To me it seems a bit like "back to the roots". There are few Mutants now, and the other people hate them.
Anyone remember the 90s? or late 80s? Seems all pretty familiar. Okay, so we're back where we were. (and sadly Illyana didn't make it back from some alternate reality ;) )

I think however it was encessary to do this, because if the people embraced mutantkind, the focus for this kind fo series would be gone. Mutants would be just another superhero team and there would be no further need to distinguish them from the Avengers or the New Thunderbolts or any other team. The X-Men and the Mutant part of the Marvel universe just would not matter anymore.

But the X-titles always were about the angst and oppression. However, now that all is worse than it was before (because before there were many mutants and now everyone knows what that is like, and people strike back) I wonder if the X-Men can keep doing this, or - realistically speaking (which is useless in a comic universe) - if they'd have to turn way more military with less heart and less hope, focused on survival. That's what I think should happen. Magneto here we come. But with the fear of terrorists all around we can't have such story told big time, right? Because that's what the X-Men would then turn to.

Sad. I'd like such a take on the Marvel-Mutant universe. Have a great disaster happen, war erupt between the factions and then, in the end, maybe sum it up and have them (mutants and non-mutants) find a new way together again, because the war didn't work out. Now that would be interesting. But it would take us too far away.

Okay, I better stop here. Got some work left to do.

11/18/2005 09:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Aya Ayuvara said...

Umm... wrong smiley. I like Illyana. Magik. Darkchilde. So it correctly would have to be this "smiley": :(

11/18/2005 09:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

I think however it was encessary to do this, because if the people embraced mutantkind, the focus for this kind fo series would be gone.

Was there ever a danger of humans "embracing mutantkind" at any point in the "millions of mutants" Morrison run? If anything there's no reason for humans to bother hunting mutants anymore, since there's only a handful left. Why weren't humans busting out those giant sentinels back when mutants were cropping up all over the place, instead of now when there's only a couple hundred left worldwide?

11/18/2005 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

I think however it was encessary to do this, because if the people embraced mutantkind, the focus for this kind fo series would be gone.
No, they would just have to have been creative (which shouldn't have been too hard, given that they're supposed to be a creative company) and find a different focus, rather than rely on a hackneyed minority allegory that hasn't worked for years. You know, like Morrison tried to do.

But the X-titles always were about the angst and oppression.
No they weren't. They were for a long time, but that dead horse is well and truly flogged to bits. The House of Ideas should be able to come up with something better than this.

11/18/2005 07:43:00 PM  
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