Thursday, August 24, 2006

Tap tap is this thing on?

I got a variety of stuff this week. For the first time in a long time I even got some superhero/genre stuff that I was pretty sure would suck. But, since I'm kinda writing reviews it gets boring if everything is "WOW! GREAT!" and I wanted to see if and how they'd suck.

Sometimes I wish the word "retcon" never got made. The latest issue of Daredevil sparked some readers to whine about a story IN THIS ARC being retconned already. No, you numbskulls, that's not a retcon. That's called "not revealing every secret on page one." Anyway, it's funny what Brubaker's doing here. I was getting bored with his Cap A, unfortunately, around the time his Daredevil started. But, hey, this was the guy who did Sleeper and the good parts of Gotham Central, so I gave it a whirl. It was good. But the first few issues . . .I just felt like I was on the verge of dropping it. But then, every issue afterwards SOMEthing happened. Something crazy in each one, but that made story sense and progressed everything. Every time I thought "I see what's going to happen" BOOM something nuts happened. And, not to toot my own horn (that's later), but after years of screenwriting and writing training, it's really, really easy to predict this shit. Not so with this book. Excellent stuff.

I'm surprised by how much I like The Eternals. If you were to list things that tend not to go so well it would be something like this:
Middle East Peace Talks
Kirby revivals
My excitement over Neil Gaiman's works
Religious discussions at CBR
Throw in a "we've all forgotten that we're heroes" bit and you've got quite a recipe (with 2 and 3) for disaster. But the Romita art is gorgeous, the writing flows interestingly, and Gaiman seems to have a handle on Kirby's scope AND is reigning in his flowery goth poetry side, thank Christ. Beautiful cover, too.

On to the first of the embarassing books I got this week. G.I. Joe Declassified is the story of the GI Joes I grew up with, the ones I really liked (the first ones, that is), written by their classic writer in a story set before the Marvel comic. The Marvel version is the thing that got me started on comics. The toys were my favorites growing up. But I do realize that everything outside of the toys is pretty awful. I just couldn't resist. In this book, you get some extremely uneven art, some clumsy exposition, and some unrealistic combat situations. This is a bad comic book. But I like it. See, enjoyment and quality are not the same thing. This is hitting my nostalgia buttons directly in my cerebrum and I can't help but like this crap. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, not even the guys I played with back in the day. I'll never re-read it, not even the "Snake Eyes makes coffee with a landmine" scene. It's just nice and reassuring in a way to see my old favorites that never got any face time in the comics. Ah, well.

Got an early reader of Bryan Wood's Park Slope issue of Local. Another strong short story in the life of Megan. Fun seeing a neighborhood I love in it, good reference work. Well, duh, the writer lives there. This is a comic book issue that all of CBR should buy. There's a pin-up by one of your favorite Brooklyn CBRians who's on vacation now. I think this comes out next week. Get it and enjoy the story and admire your fellow poster's work.

Hey, might as well do the other Wood comics I got this week. DMZ featured the end of the current storyline, "Body of a Journalist." There was a point where I thought this was falling into the "Vertigo trap." Interesting premise, great first arc, then a fall-off. No, this book is actually getting stronger with age. Wood flexes his political and satirical muscles without forgetting to tell a compelling story of a reporter caught in the DMZ of Manhattan. The politics aren't in the forefront and they're even-handed on both sides . . .nobody really comes off as angels here. Good, intriguing stuff. I'm still not a fan of the art, though.

Supermarket also comes to an end this week. Are you guys reading this? Slick art, and Wood's having a lot of fun here. In a future city where the suburbs are full of unbelievably rich familes and the city is one giant shopping mall run by two organized crime families: the Yakuza and the Swedish Porno Girls. Our main character is the daughter of a Romeo-Juliet paring between the two, and upon their murder, she's on the run. Fun action stuff. I enjoyed the hell out of this book. I'd be sad to see it go, but I remember that more comics should actually end rather than deteriorate over time.

I got my first issue of 52 yesterday. I feel kind of dirty. Yeah, I know it's not as bad as you think. You're right, it really wasn't. But, while still competently done, it's kind of What I Don't Like. We've got the Marvel Family, including Black Adam and Isis and they . . .talk. And talk. And talk. And talk. About feelings. About love. And, while I think it might be really interesting to see superheroes talking naturalistically about these things, these characters are still spouting dialogue, real speech. Also, if Black Adam's really killing all these people, what the fuck are the rest of them doing just letting it happen? The Montoya/Question stuff seemed stupid but whatever. Alex had me get the issue with the Great Ten, and they were neat, but that was another pointless series of pages and people in tights talking at each other. I just don't get why anyone is supposed to give a shit other than the book tries to tell you to. IT'S SO IMPORTANT! Yeah, but why?

But that's not my deepest shame this week. No. My deepest shame is that I actually bought that stupid Justice League of America book, knowing the writer's never impressed me and that the artist really creeps me out. But I figured people would go nuts over this and I wanted to judge with my own brain. On page one we get the narration and the chests! OH YEAH! NARRATION WITH CAPTION BOXES! We really see how well Meltzer "gets in the head" of our characters. And it's the kind of "tell don't show" stuff that hallmarks lazy fan fiction and cheap paperbacks. A choice quote, from Superman, PAGE ONE: "His heartbeat tells me it's the truth. And at forty beats per minute--that's fast for Bruce--he's actually excited. It still doesn't calm me down. Not that I'd tell him that." What the fuck? We also get a lot of WHO GIVES A SHIT Red Tornado scenes setting up future stories. Benes draws the worst Metal Men ever. The "Big Three" (ugh) discuss various other superheroes and whether they're "in" or not. Arsenal and Hal take out their peckers and swordfight. And Black Lightning is in with the bad guys. He's undercover. He's black, so crooks love him. Also blah blah blah Luthor blah blah blah continuity wank blah blah blah. Vixen apparently always stands with her ass shooting out. And says the names of animals she's using. I'll admit that Dr. Impossible could be neat. He probably won't be, but the idea isn't bad. And, of course, you get plenty of ass and boob shots throughout. Christ. Are superhero fans liking this or do even they say "Naw, bullshit." They like it, don't they? All they do is talk, and in hackneyed ways. And this ART! It's so ugly. All the women have the same face, if the face is actually in the panel rather than a naughty part. Ugh. I feel pain and sadness.

BUT WAIT! What's that? You say another superhero book came out that was actually good?!?? NO WAY! Yes way. Batman. I was disappointed with the first Morrison issue of Batman and then with the second Dini issue. My spirits were down. I was ready to quit. But here we go. Here's some good stuff. And with some actual artistic (not just drawing) density and meaning, too. First off, we'd all heard about the ninja Manbats before, but nothing can quite prepare you for legions of Manbats with Katanas. Awesome. There's more first-person caption narration here, but it's different. It feels more like actual speech/thought. We get a feeling for what Batman thinks about while he's kicking ass. It's not all Miller-style badassery, either. He jokes to himself (darkly, mind you), thinks of memories, etc. It's interesting, believable, and human. Batman's trying to help people here, he's being a hero. And we knew the big reveal at the end, but it's still satisfying. But I was most impressed with the art. Strange, as Kubert's work really turned me off last issue. And his figure work isn't necessarily better this time, it's his use of artwork in his art. Anyone who's read the issue knows what I mean, as Morrison had him place various "comic book pop art" pieces in the background that corresponded with various story points. It's a small touch but adds so much artistically . . .the kind of thing not everyone will really get into or dissect, but took plenty of time to do. That's craftsmanship, that's interest in the form, and that's the Grant Morrison we've been seeing lately but was absent last issue. Great, great stuff.