Originally, I was planning on leading off tonight’s post with the shot of Negative Spider-Man kicking the White Rabbit in the face–because, you know, it’s Negative Spider-Man and the White Rabbit–but then I saw a panel where a werewolf kicked a vampire’s head off while quoting Human Traffic…
…and that’s not the sort of thing a guy like me can really pass up.
And with that, we turn to another Thursday night of the Internet’s Most OTT Comics Reviews! Here’s what I bought this week…
And here’s how they made me feel… on the inside.
All-Select Comics Anniversary Special: Given my affection for the comics of the ’30s and ’40s–which didn’t so much break the rules as exist in complete isolation from them–I’ve been pretty interested in the 70th Anniversary Specials that Marvel’s been putting out to celebrate their long-ignored Golden Age properties, and this is the one I’ve been looking forward to the most. Not because of the Blonde Phantom, although I do have a lot of affection for the Nerd Hot adventuress who pretty much fights crime with the power of being sexy, although her story does feature the always beautiful art of Javier Pulido. No, my excitment comes because this issue marks the return of the single greatest character of the Golden Age: MARVEX: THE SUPER ROBOT! And even better, it’s written and drawn Michael Kupperman.
Kupperman, of course, is the guy behind the truly fantastic Tales Designed to Thrizzle, which, thanks to bits like Jesus’s Evil Half-Brother Pagus, 4Playo the Foreplay Robot, and of course Snake ‘n’ Bacon, is probably the funniest humor book on the stands. But the best thing about his story here is that even though it’s hilarious, and even though it’s a perfect example of the style he employs in Thrizzle, it is still exactly like the original Marvex stories that ran in Daring Mystery back in the ’40s, right down to Marvex, who is clearly made of metal, constantly disrobing to prove that he is in fact a robot. Plus, both of the Golden Age Marvex stories that appeared in the incredible Daring Mystery Masterwork are also included, and that alone makes it worth the four bucks if you haven’t already got them. It’s good stuff, and well worth picking up, if only to support the idea of Marvel going to independent creators to have some fun.
Blackest Night #1: I made a very solemn vow about only reviewing comics that I bought, but for this, I’m making a once-in-a-lifetime exception.
A friend of mine actually gave me a copy to read, and I’ve got to say that I’m glad he did, because this is hands-down one of the most hilariously awful comics I’ve ever read. And in case you forgot, I’ve read every single issue of Tarot.
I don’t even know where to begin with this thing, but I suppose I’ll start with the plot, which–despite all my grousing about how it sounds an awful lot like an attempt to cash in on Marvel Zombies three years after it would’ve been relevant–is actually not a bad idea. The idea of dead characters rising from their graves for revenge is certainly one that could lead to some enjoyable stories, and I’ve got to confess, if I wasn’t thoroughly burnt out on Green Lantern and his Amazing Technicolor Dream Corps, it’s something that I’d probably be very interested in as a big summer punchout. Of course, it’d probably make more sense for it to revolve around, say, Nekron, an actual pre-existing Green Lantern villain that rules the Land of the Dead rather than an embarrassingly gritty revamp of the Black Hand that feels like a leftover throwback to the early ’90s, but it’s got the right amount of continuity-heavy fan appeal and action-oriented potential to be enjoyable. I get that.
Which makes it a real shame that it’s written so poorly.
For one thing, it just don’t make any sense, and considering that I’m willing to accept that it’s about a guy with a magic green wishing ring who went gray because there was an evil yellow space-bug that’s more powerful than God living in his brain, that’s saying something. To start with, it seems a little disingenuous that the world would celebrate dead super-heroes on the day that Superman didn’t actually die. I guess that could be as much of a comment on the fluid nature of super-hero mortality as Superman saying “We’ll all miss him, and pray for a resurrection” at the Martian Manhunter’s funeral in Final Crisis, but considering the lengths that Geoff Johns is going to in this script to make a ham-fisted point, I doubt it.
And brother, does he reach. The prose in this thing is so purple that it oughtta have its own set of rings powered by schmaltz. The scene with Damage and Atom Smasher at the cemetery where they talk about how he’s not turning his back on his father is amazingly awkward, but it reads like Shakespeare next to Hawkman’s hilarious “She made the Atom feel small” line, a pun that surpasses even Peter Davidian levels of smug, aren’t-I-clever self-awareness. And of course, Johns continues the trend of having Barry Allen and Hal Jordan stand around talking about how much it sucks to be super-heroes, which doesn’t do a whole lot to make me want to read about them. Seriously, between this and Cry For Justice, these guys are whining way too much, and I say that as a Spider-Man fan.
And then there’s a litany of assorted smaller annoyances, like this panel, which made me laugh and laugh, or the fact that a good number of the resurrections are just nonsense. I understand why you’d go for Martian Manhunter or Firestorm, but Golden Glider and the Top? I mean, Golden Glider?! You’ve got access to anyone who has ever died, and you bring back a bank-robbing ice-skater?! That shit is Amateur Hour, for real.
And the real shame of it is, Geoff Johns is fully capable of doing better than this. I think Douglas Wolk said it best in his column on ComicsAlliance:
There are two different Geoff Johnses, it sometimes seems. One of them is the watertight plotter and pinpoint character writer who comes up with huge, fantastic ideas and builds toward enormous fist-in-the-air moments for months or years; the other one obsessively lingers over gross-outs, dismemberments and violent slaughter and works in what Wikipedia calls “a primarily in-universe style.”
I don’t dislike Johns as a writer–or at least, I don’t all the time. Long after I’d written that guy off, he did stuff like Booster Gold with Jeff Katz and an extremely entertaining run on Superman, but like Wolk says, this thing reads like an entirely different person wrote it. Someone who is not very good.
To be fair–and I’m sure you know how much it pains me to say that–it’s not all bad. Ivan Reis turns in some fantastic art that’s really deserving in being in one of the company’s biggest titles, and while I don’t like a few of his effects, like Barry Allen always being in two places at once, it’s just because it’s not my cup of tea. Although there is a scene where Barry looks like he’s pouting super-hard, but, well, he is pouting, so it’s pretty appropriate. Also, I liked… well, no, Reis’s art is pretty much it. Everything else is pretty much overshadowed by the fact that it’s Not Very Good.
Dark Avengers #7: A few weeks ago, someone asked me in the comments asked if I was planning on picking up Dark Avengers during the crossover with Uncanny X-Men, and–in an uncharacteristically rational moment, I responded with a simple “No.”
Of course, that was before I realized that the Dark Avengers tie-ins were going to be written by Matt Fraction, and therefore fall under the agreement we have where I buy everything he writes, and he makes sure that everything he writes is totally awesome. Thus, we have this issue, where Cyclops is given not only one of his rare but enjoyable badass moments, but also a jetpack.
Because everything’s better on a jetpack.
Doctor Who #1: This issue launches ongoing Doctor Who series, and while I’m what you might call a casual Who fan–there’s a good chance I’ve read more issues of Doctor Who Magazine than I’ve seen actual episodes of the show, since the mags have Dan McDaid’s comic strips in them–I’ve been looking forward to it.
It is after all scripted by Tony Lee, who turned in a pretty amazing job on Doctor Who: The Forgotten, a story that was steeped in the history of the show without being so complex as to turn off a relative neophyte like me. Plus, it’s got covers by Paul Grist, and we all know how I feel about him. In practice, though, it’s… well, it’s not bad, but it’s strange.
And not in the way that Doctor Who stories are usually strange either. For one thing, there’s the Charlie Chaplin stand-in that the story’s based around, whose name is–and I am serious here–Archie Maplin. Not that using an analogue for a famous person is a foreign concept for comics–who doesn’t love that issue of Firestorm where he has to save Curt Holland, the ersatz Burt Reynolds, from Killer Frost?–but transplanted into Doctor Who, which has stories based around undisguised versions of Agatha Christie and William Shakespeare, it feels a little off. But then again, I’m also reading Sunnyside, Glen David Gold’s novel about Chaplin, so the comparison might’ve stuck out more because of that than anything else. But beyond that–and the oddly confrontational catch-up description of the Doctor on the inside front cover–the story’s fine.
The art, on the other hand… well, it’s not great. There are panels that are really well-done, like Maplin being blasted with the laser, but it’s very inconsistent. Between the scenes where the Doctor looks more like Peter Sellers than David Tennant and the simple mistake of relying so much on photo reference that you forget to flip the locomotive engine when it’s reflected in the Doctor’s glasses on the last page, it comes off as strikingly amateurish, and when it’s stacked against Grist’s cover, or his interior work on Lee’s Time Machination one-shot, or even the strips in Doctor Who Magazine, it suffers for the comparison. Lee’s stories are generally interesting enough that I’m interested as long as they’re, you know, readable, if I remember correctly, it was bad art that killed the first IDW DW mini-series and made it such a relief to get Pia Guerra’s fantastic art on the issues of The Forgotten that she did. Hopefully, Davison’ll get better by the time The Doctor has a team-up with Meonardo MaVinci.
Walking Dead #63: John Layman and Rob Guillory’s Chew has been getting a lot of positive buzz lately, but owing to the fact that every copy we ordered arrived damaged, I ahven’t been able to give it a read until this week, when it was reprinted in its entirety for no extra charge in Walking Dead.
I don’t even think I have to say this, but that’s an amazingly cool thing for Image (and Robert Kirkman) to do. Throwing in a preview or a backup story is one thing, but to throw twenty-two pages into a book for free is amazing, and really shows that they want Chew to do well.
And they’re not the only ones, either, as now that I’ve read it, I can safely say that it’s totally awesome. Layman is, of course, the writer that brought us the pure, hilarious genius of Dark Xena, but as much as I love that series in a completely unironic way–as Layman takes care of the irony himself–he’s operating on an entirely different level here. The plot revolves around Tony Chu, a policeman with the unfortunate ability of being a cibopath, which means he gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats, which comes in handy in a world where food-based crimes run rampant owing to chicken being outlawed.
As you might imagine, this is all played with a comedic bent, even when–well, especially when–Chu has to turn to cannibalism to solve a grisly string of serial murders. It’s a fantastic high concept that’s done very, very well, and Guillory’s art is fantastic. There are spots where it reminds me a lot of Sonny Liew, and his exaggerated figures and expressive faces are just perfect for it.
If you missed the first issue and this week’s Walking Dead, there’s a third printing of #1 and a second printing of #2 coming out when the third issue hits, and having grabbed #2 and seen that it does in fact include a battle with ninjas (yes, really), I’m going to go ahead and highly recommend you check ’em out. It’s good stuff.
Werewolves On The Moon Vs. Vampires #2:
So. You should all be reading this.
Solomon Kane v.1: The Castle of the Devil: About a month ago, I had a dream where Archie Comics bought Sgt. Rock from DC, and then put out a three-issue miniseries called Sgt. Rock vs. Dracula. This is, of course, pretty awesome, but what made it even better was that the issues had painted homage covers to the ’60s Gold Key books, complete with a stylized Archie logo in the corner box. I woke up wanting those covers so bad, but unless the shape of the comics industry undergoes the most dramatic change of all time, I don’t think it’s likely to happen.
So I’ll just have to make do with the awesome Mike Mignola cover to Solomon Kane v.1:
Annnnnnnnnd that’s the week! After all, at this point, nobody needs me to tell them how awesome Preacher is (although they might need me to mention that the new hardcover is pretty nice), but if you’ve got a question or concern, feel free to leave a comment below.
As for me, I’ll be contemplating the life choices that have led me to write 856 words about a Green Lantern story that I did not particularly care for. I’m sure the results will be revealing.