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Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I just realized it's been a while since I did a recent comics roundup, so here's some of what's been in my stack of late.


Once again DC re-starts the Scarlet Speedster's monthly book from issue one, this time bringing back Barry Allen for no good reason. When all was said and done in regard to the recent FLASH REBIRTH mini-series, I was left underwhelmed, despite the capable scripting talents of GREEN LANTERN wunderkind Geoff Johns. I like what the guy does, but I very much doubt that even Alan Moore on his best day could make me care one whit about Barry Allen, one of the blandest of DC's Silver Age heroes (a very bland lot, so that's really saying something). I have been a fan of Wally West — Barry's sidekick as Kid Flash, who really came into his own during his stint with the Teen Titans — for a long time and welcomed him taking over Barry's mantle in the wake of Allen's "death" in CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS some twenty-five years ago. His run (no pun intended) as the Flash entertained me, so I really do not see the need to kick him to the curb and bring back Barry. Visually, the characters were virtually identical when in costume, so I doubt the switch was made for any kind of marketing reasons. If anything I would chalk it up to DC caving in to whiny fanboys who have moaned endlessly about “Why won’t you bring back the Flash I grew up with? Waaaaaah! Waaah!!!!” Whatever…Anyway, the first issue of the new series was okay, but there was too little to go on to register any real kind of verdict. The story sets up what looks to be another multi-issue arc, and as this is only the first chapter, it’s impossible to tell if it’s any good yet. I plan on giving this two more issues before I can really pass judgment, but I will say that the script was good and Francis Manapul’s art was very interesting.


The Hickman/Eaglesham FF continues apace, maintaining the high standard of scripting and art (with Paul Mounts continuing to work his coloring magic) set since the beginning of the team’s run, and this latest chapter takes us to the moon’s Blue Area for more encounters with a number of races who appear to be key to some sort of upcoming kerfluffle on a possibly cosmic level, the kind of thing that the Fantastic Four can handle like no other team of heroes in the history of comics. There’s a reason why I love them, and thus far this run only reinforces that love. This is the only Marvel book that goes straight toward the top of my “must reads” when I pick it up each month, so let that speak for itself.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face: SECRET SIX is the best book that DC is putting out on a monthly basis and I fucking love it, mostly thanks to Gail Simone’s always strong and compelling scripting (I’ve never cared for Jim Calafiore’s art and would prefer someone with a less angular style, but I’m not reading this for the art). The latest issue is part two of Cats in the Cradle” and it takes up right where it left off last issue, with Catman being ordered to kill his teammates or a pack of kidnappers who think they have the upper hand will kill the infant son of himself and Cheshire. What the kidnappers don’t count on is that Catman is one very hard motherfucker, and his unexpected reaction to their coercion attempt sets him, one of the world’s master hunters and killers, on their trail. Demanding that the rest of the Six stay out of his way, Catman begins his hunt with a vicious and ruthless focus, first going after Claudio Rinetti, a world-class knife expert Mafioso of such utter wretchedness that the guy killed his own entire family at his sister’s wedding. Catman’s handling of Rinetti is not pretty to witness and may be the start of the character going in a very dark direction, something that is noted by Deadshot, who definitely doesn’t like where his comrade in crime may be headed… If you aren’t reading this series, you should be, so pick up and read the VILLAINS UNITED collected edition, along with the trade paperbacks of the SECRET SIX mini-series and the two collections of the monthly series. No bullshit, this is great stuff.


I’ve been hot and cold on this series since the beginning, and this issue from J. Michael Straczynski and Jesus Saiz knocked my socks off. Featuring one of the least likely super-teamings ever, namely the pairing of Aquaman and The Demon, this story can be summed up as “Aquaman and The Demon thwart H.P. Lovecraft’s Dagon and the Deep Ones from entering the DCU’s dimension,” and with Saiz’s stunning artwork on hand, this issue is a visual treat, especially if you’re a fan of Lovecraftian wigglies like I am.


Cover art by Jesus Saiz. Note: the scene depicted on the cover does note happen in the actual story.

Over the years I’ve watched Cliff Chiang’s art go from merely good to being counted among the best of what is currently out there, achieving that rare Jaime Hernandez-like no unnecessary linework thing that somehow provides all the details and atmosphere one could hope for, yet without the noodly and visually pointless bullshit that too many comics artists fall into. Cliff’s done a lot of really good work, but this issue and its superhero “girls night out” content is my favorite thing he’s thus far given us. The superhero girls night out thing has been done many times, usually providing nothing more than an excuse for the (usually mediocre) artist to draw hot superhero babes in civilian clubbing gear and engaging in behavior that has nothing to do with saving the world (the sequence of this type from Adam Warren’s EMPOWERED being the artistic and comedic benchmark for this kind of thing), but this time around it features Wonder Woman and the Barbara Gordon Batgirl being drafted into a night out at a dance club by an unusually insistent Zatanna. Why? Read the issue and find out for yourself. You will not be disappointed by what I’m naming as COMIC BOOK OF THE MONTH. Well done, Cliff!


Proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that comedy is a field best left to the experts, this would-be humorous non-tie-in to CAPTAIN AMERICA REBORN is a painful waste of time and trees that features various Marvel staffers and creators engaging in allegedly amusing banter as a “dark” version of Forbush Man — yes, Forbush Man, ferfucksakes — takes them to task for ruining comics and excising the fun from them. That tired schtick is there to bookend A psychedelic and apparently intentionally incomprehensible Mat Fraction-scripted “Doctor America, Occult Operative of Liberty” story (lysergically rendered by Brendan McCarthy) and an anachronistic tale of the Golden Age Deadpool, and neither is funny in the least (apologies to Stuart Moore; Sorry, Stuart…). The whole thing comes off as a one-note vanity project that may have seemed funny when the concept was hastily scribbled on a Post-It note, and I’m angry with myself for having wasted $3.99 on this mess. That’s enough to buy a can of Foster’s lager and a newspaper, both of which would provide more diversion than this horseshit.


While I am usually staunchly against Vertigo mini-series that run some of their series’ characters and concepts into the ground — THE DEAD BOY DETECTIVES? Seriously? —, I have been enjoying the hell out of this FABLES side project and recommend that you check it out when it receives its inevitable collected edition (probably about three weeks after it reaches its conclusion in serial form). In FABLES, Cinderella — yes, that Cinderella — was established as Fabletown’s answer to 007 and Modesty Blaise, and in this series she’s given a full-blown espionage adventure with Aladdin as her co-star, with results that blow away anything found in the most recent theatrical James Bond adventure, the wan QUANTUM OF SOLACE (2008). Good stuff.


Geoff Johns’ run on GREEN LANTERN kept me glued to the page — not in the same way that I have found my self glued to the pages of such publications as MILFMAG or MAYFAIR — for the past few years, and after the excellent Sinestro Corps War arc, I was eager to see what he would do with Blackest Night, the event foretold in a TALES OF THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS short story by Alan Moore nearly thirty years ago. Of the many epic and cosmic long-form story arcs and crossovers in comics history, BLACKEST NIGHT had a lot of potential and was one of the most colossal and impressive in its scope. The problem with it was that it was simply too damned long for no good narrative reason, and DC milked BLACKEST NIGHT’s tit dry and left it bruised almost beyond recognition. Its tale of baleful prophecy, a death-toll amounting to billions on an inter-galactic scale, multi-hued groupings of ring-wielding characters, examinations of what the various hues meant, and seemingly endless amounts of multi-issue ring-slinging and in-combat trash talking could easily have been half its exhausting length, and less than halfway through it I began to get lost as to who was who and what was up with what. By the time Sinestro was revealed as the White lantern (for all of around an issue), was only reading it to see how it all turned out, and now that the smoke has cleared and the dust has settled, I have to say I’m greatly disappointed by the end result. The whole thing ended up being a bloated endurance test for the readers. If you’ve read comics for as long as I have, you know that the deaths of major characters are almost inevitably reversible, so when some of the heavy-hitters who were offed during BLACKEST NIGHT were resurrected, I was in no way surprised and did not really care about any of their resurrections.

Heroes resurrected: big fucking deal...

Especially vexing was the non-shock of seeing Hawkman and Hawkgirl (apparently once more Shiera, the outer space cop) back from the grave since their history has been defined since Day One in the Golden Age as one of a perpetual cycle of death and reincarnation, so where was the suspense in that? The only real item of interest to come out of all this over-stuffed mishegoss was Deadman being restored to living corporeal form, but other than that…Meh. Which brings me to the next step in the ongoing GREEN LANTERN chronicles (with, of course, ramifications for the DCU):


BRIGHTEST DAY kicks off with looks at what is currently happening with the resurrected characters and how some new mega-threat will draw them together as a group, while Deadman is transported from place to place while trying to figure out what’s going on. The first issue did not really hook me, which may be residual PTSD in the wake of BLACKEST NIGHT, but it’s still to early to make a call on this one. I’m not very hopeful, though, especially since BLACKEST NIGHT went over quite well, and nothing exceeds like excess…


Though still an example of the direct fallout from BLACKEST NIGHT, this issue of GREEN LANTERN simultaneously settles things back into Johns’ more normal scale groove, and after all that BLACKEST NIGHT sturm undt drang, I welcome it with open arms. This looks to be the start of a new group of Guardians of the Universe, this time culled from the diverse forces of the various ring-bearing factions, and a more uneasy truce and teaming I can scarcely imagine. I’m absolutely on board for this, especially if it means a regular dose of cosmic martinet Sinestro needling his former protégée, Hal Jordan. I’m interested to see how the love triangle between Hal, Carol “Star Sapphire” Ferris and ace pilot Cowgirl pans out, as well as witnessing what’s to become of the Red Lantern Atrocitus now that he’s a team player. But most intriguing of all to me is Larfreeze, the very personification of bald-faced avarice. How the hell can that guy work on as a part of any team, let alone the Guardians of the Universe?


I'm sure it's no surprise to regular readers of this blog, but MADAME XANADU is one of my favorite books currently going, and it's up there with SECRET SIX as an instant must-read. Madame X's troubles with older sister Morgan La Fey continue, and she finds an unexpected helpmate in the form of Detective John Jones, a man of incredible abilities whose mind Madame Xanadu is unable to read, thus cluing her in to him being something other than human. (Longtime DC readers should know exactly who this guy is, but ain't sayin' nuthin.") I'm still hooked by what Matt Wagner and the superb Amy Reeder Hadley bring to me each months, so I'll be here for the foreseeable future. If you missed this when it started as a monthly, there are two collected editions of this series out now and I strongly urge you to pick them up.

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