Only slightly less well-known than the Wild Agents of Marvel (or W.A.M.) was the House of Ideas’ most obscure official fan-club, an oddly specific group started by Artie Simek in 1964: Friends Of Ol’ Marvel’s Pants…
And that’s tonight’s history lesson. But now we move onto more recent history, as we take another round of the Internet’s most Long-Lasting, Semi-Permanent Comics Reviews!
Here’s what I picked up this week…
…and this is the last part of the intro that nobody reads! Suckers.
Batman and Robin #2: The second issue of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s new Batman series dropped this week, and surprising absolutely nobody, it was totally awesome.
The standard disclaimers apply here, of course: I am, as the kids say, “totally in the tank for Morrison.” Then again, that probably has a lot to do with the fact that the guy routinely turns in amazing comics that I absolutely love, and this one’s no exception, as he’s in top form here. The whole thing’s fantastic, from the great action of an evil super-circus troupe attacking police headquarters to the throwaway continuity nods, but the best bit comes in Alfred’s conversation with Dick.
Instead of laying on some melodramatic line about “the mantle of the bat” or whatever, Morrison offers up the idea of Dick–and that’s the second time I’ve typed “Nightwing” and had to go back and erase it–playing the role of Batman, which is not only a great way to distinguish his character from Bruce Wayne (and further reaffirm the contrast of having a lighthearted Batman and a super-serious, anger-driven Robin), but a great acknowledgment of what we all already know. Dick’s not Batman. He’s just Batman right now, and in that one scene, Morrison not only addresses the characters’ concerns, but all but tells the readers “Hey, we all know how this is eventually going to go, but for now, let’s have some fun with it.”
And speaking of fun, Quitely is killin’ it on the art. I mentioned last month that while his layouts were dynamic (see this issue’s double-page spread of jagged panels during the big fights) had the seemed to be cutting down on the distinctive cutaway-style shots that he used in All Star Superman (and especially We3), but the more I look at his art in this issue, the more complex it gets. The level of detail is incredible, to the point where I’m noticing new stuff (Nightw–Dick jumping over the desk using two fingers, the separate sound-effect smoke trails for the rocket launcher) even on the fourth time reading through it. It’s just gorgeous.
The only thing I don’t like about this issue is the last panel on the penultimate page, where the scene suddenly cuts from Robin at the evil circus to some of Pyg’s doll-people suicide bombing a different part of Gotham City, which seems like an abrupt jump to a scene that didn’t previously appear in this issue. But for that being the only flaw I can see, I’m willing to look past it and to the scene where Batman fights kung fu acrobat triplets.
Captain America Reborn #1: The much ballyhooed return of Captain America starts here, and again, it’s not really going to surprise anyone that it’s good. Not just because Ed Brubaker is a fantastic writer–which he is–but because it plays to one of the greatest strengths, which is to take the most ludicrous aspects of comics and play them straight enough that they seem perfectly normal.
In this case–and this is a spoiler, so if you haven’t read the issue yet, I suggest you do that before you read any more, you know, reviews–it turns out that Cap was shot with time bullets. Which, considering that it was all orchestrated by an immortal Nazi who lives in a businessman’s imagination and a guy with a face where his chest should be a and a camcorder where his face should be, doesn’t really seem that strange after all. Point being, as loopy as it sounds on paper, Brubaker pulls it off with his usual excellence and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all pulls out.
The art side of things, though, was a bit of a letdown. I like Bryan Hitch and Butch Guice both quite a bit, but this issue seemed rushed in a lot of parts. There are some great pages, but then you’ll suddenly get something like the odd, emaciated Sharon Carter on page twelve that’s only made more noticable by the fact that it comes right after a pair of very-Bryan-Hitch close-ups. I suppose the tradeoff for getting rushed art by Hitch is that there’s a chance this book’ll come out on time, but between that and getting yet another redesign for Golden Age Cap (and no, I don’t know why it bugs me so much, but it does), I think I would’ve really preferred it if we’d gotten Steve Epting to draw it instead. I mean, I like Epting enough that I’d prefer most stuff if he drew it, but the same part of me that wanted Steve Dillon to come back to close out Garth Ennis’s run on Punisher wants the symmetry of the team that “killed” Steve Rogers (with time bullets!) to come back for his resurrection.
Beyond that, though, it’s solid stuff. But if you’ve been reading Cap for the past four and a half years, that’s probably not much of a surprise.
Fantastic Four: Giant-Size Adventures #1: I honestly don’t have much of a review here, because if you want fun, lighthearted Fantastic Four stories, you’re probably already aware of Paul Tobin’s work, and if that’s not what you want, then there’s a good chance you’re reading the wrong blog. Anyway, all I really want to say here is that Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover’s Go-Go Hydra Girls (as pictured above in the shopping list) are probably the best anything ever.
And that’s real.
Justice League: Cry For Justice #1: I’m not going to lie to you, folks: As much as I was looking forward to this one, it is not very good.
Then again, I’ve had my doubts about this one since those preview pages first cropped up last month, because man, there’s nothing that makes me want to read a comic more than five pages of people standing around being petulant to each other. Seriously, that’s what they put in to sell the book. Five long pages of Hal Jordan standing around whining, and then closed it with “THE BATTLE CONTINUES!” Like Rachelle said, “I don’t want this battle to continue. If I were in the room with these superheroes I would want to leave.”
If that were just the lead-in to an otherwise exciting issue (or a reaction to a strong hook in an introductory sequence) that’d be one thing, but no. The whole issue’s like that, and it combines the worst parts of the Brad Meltzer relaunch with the worst parts of James Robinson’s dialogue. And really, I like James Robinson’s work. I’ve been re-reading Starman lately, and not only was it one of the high points of an era that included Mark Waid’s Flash, Morrison’s JLA and Ennis and McCrea’s Hitman, most of it still holds up really well today. But it is a talky book, and that carries over here, where everyone sticks to Robinson’s slightly stilted “Compared to you, I’m Chris Isaak” speech patterns.
And to make matters worse, these just don’t seem like characters I really want to read about. I mentioned before that Green Lantern comes off as petulant, and that’s even without anyone reminding him that the last time he wanted to be more proactive and crack down on the bad guys, he ended up killing like 3000 people and blaming it on a giant yellow space-bug. And I don’t really need to see the Atom torturing a suspect by stomping around their head, which is, you know, exactly how his ex-wife killed someone.
I hate to be the guy who pulls out old continuity to show how people are acting “out of character” (NOTE: This is a lie. I love doing that. It’s why I have a blog, for cripe’s sake.), but Robinson’s not only a guy who built his career on referencing the past and making it capital-I Important again, he’s a guy who puts flashbacks to a recent Major Event on page three. And even if you get past those guys, there’s the scene with Mikaal Tomas. I mean, I’m glad to see him back, and I’m excited to see what he does here, and I get that he’s upset, but you know who could use some of that justice that he’s yelling for on page 16? The guy whose car he just blew up on page 15. It’s like Robinson’s going out of his way to cast these guys as pretentious, unlikeable jerks who throw temper tantrums instead of actually doing anything, and that’s not really a comic I want to read.
Even if there’s a talking gorilla out for revenge. And believe me, it takes a lot to get me to turn against a book with that in it.
Uncanny X-Men #513: So Matt Fraction totally just did a story featuring an appearance by ADAM X THE X-TREME. Seriously. This is a thing that happened.
And you know what? I’m just gonna come right out and say it: This is the single best comic that ADAM X THE X-TREME has ever been in. I know, I know: I’m like a lightning rod for controversy, but damn it, I’m prepared to stand by that statement. I know there are some of you who are going to point to X-Force #30, and I understand that it says on the cover that things have never been deadlier, but as visceral and heart-rending as ADAM X THE X-TREME‘s duel to the death with Shatterstar was, it can finally lay down its burden. A new champion has been crowned.
Betty and Veronica Double Digest #172: Pop Quiz! Is this the “new look” version of Veronica’s mother, Hermione Lodge, or Pete White from The Venture Bros.?
And that’s the week. As always, any questions can be left in the comments section below, as well as comments about the fun 100-Page Super Spectacular format for this week’s Savage Dragon, or how this month’s issue of Buffy was the best of the recent ones (which is still sort of like being the healthiest meal at the State Fair), or how the latest Classic GI Joe trade just makes me confused.
I mean, the reprint quality gets bad and then gets good again three pages later. How the heck does THAT work?