Axel-In-Charge: Navigating the "Civil War II" Landscape, Bringing DMC to Marvel
Last week a bunch of the DC number ones sold out before I came waltzing into the shop a day late. This week, I decided to be more vigilant. So there I was, totally camped out in front of the comic shop way before it opened, all dressed in my pjs and nightcap, wielding Mister Groofus the Teddy Bear and ordering breakfast pizza via delviery.
End result? FOUR of this weeks crop of DC relaunch books were sold out before the shop even opened.
So it’s up to you guys to review BATMAN AND ROBIN, FRANKENSTEIN, SUICIDE SQUAD and… GRIFTER? Whatcha think?
(Seriously? I live in a world where people care that much about the… *counts on fingers* seventh awesomest WildC.A.T? Can I just assume that everything I know is wrong and reality is a lie? This was totally not worth it. I’m never getting out of bed early again.)
But here’s what I thought of the other nine.
Green Lantern # 1 (Sinestro Part One) by Geoff Johns (writer), Doug Mahnke (artist), Christian Alamy and Tom Nguyen (inks), David Baron (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). 22 pp.
Premise: Green Lantern – the space cop with a magic ring – is already super popular. Let’s just keep on keepin’ on with what we’re doin’, and not change a thing. Oh, except Hal Jordan isn’t (a) Green Lantern anymore, and his arch-enemy Sinestro totally is.
Review: Total cheat. Unfair. So all these other books have to put together a premise, assemble a cast of characters and, hell, build a world in the space of one issue. Meanwhile, THIS creative team (who have already done umpteen issues of GREEN LANTERN) get to cruise along and put out GREEN LANTERN issue (umpteen + 1), except they get to lie and CALL it number one and gain (umpteen * 7 google) copies sold. This dastardly approach does mean that the big pants-on-fire liarbutts have produced the most slickly professional of the # 1s I’ve reviewed, but it also means that this is the # 1 #1 that would most benefit from having read a buncha comics before-hand. Preferably the last 67 issues of Green Lantern. Although I’d strongly recommend the one where Kona: Monarch of Monster Isle fights a giant cat, hint for Silver Age September, Cronin.
Although GREEN LANTERN # 1 does feature a definite demotion-related shift in tone: In the last Green Lantern series, Hal Jordan fought space zombies. In this issue, Hal reads his mail. In the last series, he fought evil space kitty-cats. In this issue he eats dinner with his girlfriend. Surprisingly, I think I prefer the latter approach. This issue completely held my attention, and the dinner date sequence even dragged an honest-t’-God guffaw outta me, which usually requires AT LEAST a video of a giraffe trying to hump a jeep.
Sadly, the more punchsplody-centric sequences don’t work so well. Sinestro kills some dude in space and Hal Jordan beats up his neighbor for being a damn dirty actor (NOT QUITE ACCURATE SPOILERS) but compared to the immaculately designed and paced sequences in MEN OF WAR and ACTION COMICS I raved about last week the action sequences here are short and sweet lacking in scope compared to the World’s May Live! World’s May Die! 6,000 Green Lanterns vs. 6,000,000 space zombies fights of years past. It’s a surprisingly quiet start to a new GL book.
Buy the Next One?
Oh crap, Steve Sunu over at Robot 6 is using the exact same format for his reviews. I didn’t notice ’till just now. Luckily, I’m too lazy to change.
The target audience for this book seems to be people who are already buying GREEN LANTERN, and that exludes yers truly. EXCEPT… The last page has absolutely the best cliffhanger I’ve read from any of the # 1s so far (I heard DETECTIVE was good too and DON’T SPOIL IT!) so I think I’m gonna have to stick around for one more.
Red Lanterns (With Blood and Rage) by Why Peter Milligan, WHY? (writer), Ed Benes (artist), Rob Hunter (inks), Nathan Eyring (letterer), and Carlos M. Mangual (letterer). 20 pp.
Premise: The Red Lanterns are like the heroic Green Lanterns except pissed off all the time. And not heroic. And red. Yuh-huh. And there’s a cat!
Review: So what I really want from a RED LANTERNS comics is a big two-page spread of Puss-Puss, the Hangry Kitty Cat all causing havoc and playing “ball of string” with someone’s kidneys and ‘testines, and page two and three of this book delivered exactly that! So I can’t absolutely hate this comic.
No matter how much I’d like too.
The rest of it…. Christ, what can you DO with this book? The Red Lanterns are a bunch of one note characters who are – by definition – one note in exactly the same way. I called BATWING a helluva hard book to write last week, but the Batman of Africa guys have a walk in candy park compared to trying to make the Red Lanterns interesting. Here’s the plot: There’s this Red Lantern, and he’s the boss Red Lantern, and he kills some guys, and then he’s not that angry and he’s all “damn, am I angry enough to be the boss of the Red Lanterns ohshit angst!?” , then he looks at a dead guy, then he gets All ANGRY LIKE REALLY REALLY UP-THE-BUTT ANGRY again, and then he’s gonna fight another red lantern the end. And that HAS to pass for character development because that’s all you freakin’ got to work with! (Also there’s a fight on earth and a flashback which makes Red Lantern into the Punisher in space. Both of these are dumb.)
But, really, how is it even possible to write this book and make it un-horrible? I was playing the fanfiction game all day at work, and I have a couple marginally vestigal ideas for how y’might make a Red Lantern comic work.
But I’d like to hear your ideas. So
Challenge of the Day: Pitch a RED LANTERNS comic that isn’t terrible.
Buy # 2? I might be tempted if there’s a Puss Puss the Hangry Cat variant. Otherwise… Peter Milligan is, no lie, my favorite living comic scripter and there’s always a chance he might pull something interesting out of this mess. But I’m not dropping three bucks on a maybe.
Legion Lost (Run From Tomorrow: Part One: Present Tense:)Fabian Nicieza and Pete Woods (By. That’s what it says in the credits. “By.” They either wrote and drew the book, or they’re coming out of the closet.), Brand Anderson (Colorist), Travis Lanham (Letterer). 20p.
Premise: Teenage superheroes from the future, lost in the present.
Review: Wellllll now. Isn’t this the “picked-last-for-kickballest team of Legionaires you ever saw? Wildfire’s cool. Dawnstar’s okay. But then you got Timber Wolf, Chameleon Girl, freaking Tyroc? I guess Matter Eater Lad and Bouncing Boy were busy or somethin’. But if this is a first issue aimed at new readers, they might not know how much Tyroc sucks ( a lot) and approach it with an open mind.
I had a good feeling about this coming in, but… no. It’s not the weak roster that hurts the book, it’s the fact that the book isn’t very good that hurts the book. I figured this would be a fairly traditional fish outta water superhero story, but it’s not even that – it’s not really anything. I really dig the slightly-erring-on-the-cartoonish-side look of Pete Wood’s characters, and there are a couple great scenes (Love the little girl with the pink bear!) but at the end we have a bunch of undefined characters (two of which are killed or at least “killed” for no reason by the end), wandering around an undefined setting – Red Lake Falls Minnesota, but we never get a sense of what it’s like to live there or what the town is like when it isn’t being ravaged by a giant spacemonster – for reasons that took me three readings to piece together.
And I know this is the nitpickiest of nitpicks, but it really bothered me. There’s one panel where Dawnstar throws up, and it took me a good couple minutes to figure out if the panel was showing puke or if she was throwing up behind a bush. (Spoilers: Puke. Green, bushy-shaped puke. I’m pretty sure.) I believe it was Art Spiegelman who said “The first rule of comic storytelling is to make sure your puke doesn’t look like your bushes.” And that’s completely violated here.
Purchase the Next One: Nuh-uh.
Mister Terrific ( Software Update) Eric Wallace (writer), Gianluca Gugliotta (penciller), Wayne Faucher (inker), Dave Sharpe (letterer), 20 pp.
Premise: Genius superhero Michael Holt fights evil… with science! And has a bunch of girlfriends… with science!
Review: See, now this one has a bunch of cool ideas all floating around. I like the idea of a science-based superhero without a fetish – Mr. T’s got no suit of armor or black-out bombs or power gloves or what-have-you. He’s a pure unfocused gadgeteer, which is both rare and cool. (All my Iron Man pitches I have never shown anyone have Tony sans armor.) The villain’s plan to turn regular schlubs into raging, evil, super-geniuses is likewise inspired. And I dig the idea of superhero romantic comedy – it’s a nice antidote to the Bendis Avengers or Johns Green Lantern style comics where superheroes only interact with other superheroes. There’s a lot to like here, or at least I liked it. But there’s a but…
PAUSE FOR CONTINUITY QUESTIONS: Hey, does this comic take place on Earth-Two. If not, is that the Earth One Power Girl? Is the rich CEO thing completely new? Didn’t she used to live in an apartment with her cat? Also, what the hell is the green stuff in the bowl in front of her on page ten?
…… and I just can’t shake the feeling that the craft isn’t quite there yet. Artist Guglotta makes me think that his stuff could look really cool if he just tightened it up a little bit and gave his characters just a little more neck. And there are some strange pacing decisions – I can’t believe I’m arguing for more decompression, but there’s an origin sequence that’s the centerpiece of the story and it’s blown through in just a couple pages and it needs more. Let’s get some reaction shots, establish a mood of desolation and new purpose, don’t just blow through the symbolic rebirth of your main character in four pages! This is important! Give it some room to breathe!
Aaaaaand then there’s the racey dialog. I’m fine with the idea of a superhero book that’s about racial and class consciousness… I honestly think that superhero books can be about anything. But when dealing with potentially touchy subject matter you’ve gotta have (A) a capacity for subtlety that runs contrary to the genre’s usual bombast (B) a facility for using symbol and metaphor and (C) you gotta write really good.
In other words. “I get it. It’s because I’m a white girl, isn’t it.” “And I’m a black woman which means I’m built to handle things you can’t even imagine, or never had to. No, it’s because you’re rich. A corporate worth of over three hundred and forty million according to Forbes.” Just ain’t gonna cut it, dialog-wise.
Get the Next One: I might, but the upcoming artist roulette turns me off. If DC could keep the same couple guys on schedule and let ‘em build up a head of steam this might get good, but instead we have three different artists on the next three issues. Pass.
Demon Knights IN Seven Against Death Paul Cornell (writer), Diogenes Neves (Penciller), Oclair Albert (inker), Marcelo Maiolo (colorist) amd Jared H Fletcher letterer
Premise: There are these knights. And one of them’s a demon. This book doesn’t really have a history, so I know just about as much it as you do.
Review: I went in expecting to really like this – honestly, due to the novel premise this was just ’bout my most anticipated of the new 52 – and I did like it! Or maybe I should say that *I* liked it, ’cause it’s hard to argue that this is a spectacular example of narrative craft.
Mostly I responded to the tone. It wasn’t all emo Superman crying again or post-Watchmen grim and gritty. Demon Knights is friendly, afable, and British.
“Holy kippers, you lot like barbarian invasions, right! Here’s a barbarian invasion for yez! Bangers and mash! And ‘ow bout some dinosaurs! You blokes is quite partial to dinosaurs, innit! I’ll give you some dinosaurs! And a demon baby! And ‘ere’s a centaur! And Merlin! And some cross-dressing! Bloody good show, wot! Let’s haf a soccer riot!”
(What? I totally know a bunch of British people! I am a world traveller! I used to watch British shows on the telly all the time when I was in the Domican Republic!)
Another plus in it’s favor: Neves does a really good job with the art, giving the Demon Knights a sense of “living in a fully realized world” that BATWING or LEGION LOST lacked. Backgrounds! I love you!
And, oooh, on this page there’s a map! That’s so fantasy novel great!
So the problem is the writing: It toes the line between a series of vignettes and an actual, narrativey narrative without comitting to either. Which means. That. This. Book. Is. Chop. Op. Ppy. Start in Camelot. Jump forward a couple of hun’ret years. Stop the plot. Introduce Vandal Savage. Stop the plot. Here’s a centaur! Stop the plot. And so on.
So I guess I’m arguing that, modern comics being what they are, that this is potentially a really good 1/6 of a trade or 1/47 of an extended run.
Buying the next issue: Yeah, I have to reward the most original concept in the line, and the good outweighs the bad in my mind. I’m not recommending it to YOU, mind. But I dug it.
DeathStroke (“Back to Basics”) Kyle Higgins (writer), Joe Bennet (Pencils), Art Thibert (Inker), Jason Wright (Colors) and Travis Lanham (Letters). 20 pp.
Premise: Mercenary killer kills people to death with comically large swords, and miraculously does not get mocked to tears with constant mastrubation and/or Billy Squier jokes. So much for realism.
Review: So I’m going to start this review off by saying a nice thing before I get to the part where I say “threw up in my mouth a little bit.” Here goes! This is the most “done in one” of the 52 I’ve read so far, and it’s nice to know that it’s still possible to tell a full story in a single issue.
On the downside Ugh. Ugh, ugh, ugh, ugh, UGH. I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.
Now, a concession. I really like comics with the tone and originality of Demon Knights. I really, truly hate comics like this, all ’90s grim ‘n gritty, so it’s hard for me to put aside my natural bias against…. things…… like….. this (that are horrible!) and figure out if it’s done well.
But I really don’t think so.
The initial tip-off was in the first three pages, wherein Deathstroke is referred to as “the scariest Badass on the planet” and “A major damn badass.” (OOOOOhhhhheers. You said TWO swears. Wow, you must be serious. Damn bitch balls serious!)
Instead of listing his accomplishments (“He snuck into the top of the Empire State Building to kill the visiting Prime Minister of Namibia, slice ‘n dicing his way through 36 American Policeman, 73 bodyguards, 2 police dogs and, somehow, an elephant” “Certain Americanized Hindu sects recognize him as an avatar of Kali and believe that to merely cross his path shortens one life-span by ten years”) Higgins tells-not-shows us what a, well, badass (A MAJOR DAMN BADASS WITH GRITTED TEETH!) the title character is. Having other characters talk about the coolness of the lead character is the worst way to establish said coolness, and repeatedly saying “badass” is the worst way to do that. It’s dog crap mountain, squared.
What else we got? A visual sequence that’s similar in conception to, but nowhere near as over the top (or interesting) as the one in last week’s HAWK AND DOVE #1. An ending that precisely recalls a scene in Ennis and Dillon’s Punisher (first mini-series) that reminds me that I could be reading some decent comics. Even the logo is one of the very weakest of all the # 1s.
Y’know, I wash my hands of this. I’m just gonna leave this one to you guys in the comments. If there’s something good about DEATHSTROKE, can ya tell me?
Buy the next one: I might be showing my age here, but wasn’t it the Lemonheads who sang “Great Big No!” Oh, (I can’t remember the name of the singer of the Lemonheads) how you understand me.
Resurrection Man (“Pronounced Dead” OR It took MarkAndrew five tries to spell Resurrection right.”) Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning (writers), Fernando Dagnini (Art), Santi Arcas (Colors), Rob Leigh (Letters). 20 pp.
Premise: Mitch Shelley can come back from the dead. And every time he does, he has a new super-power. Neat!
Review: I dunno. This is another one I wanted to like, but I’m pretty sure it would be more effective as storyboards for a movie than as an actual comic. There’s a lot of “Wow, cool!” scenes contrasted by a a lot of “Why is the evil woman with comically misplaced breasts doing ballet poses during a hostage situation? While sitting down?” scenes. Well, fine, there’s only one of the latter but it’s still far too many. The book LOOKS great – beautifully, abstractly colored and inked – until you start paying attention to the pencils and the anatomy (‘specially the female anatomy) which is just weird and the people who don’t move/act/interact with the world around them like flesh and blood humans. My recommendation? You’ll enjoy the book a lot more if you don’t pay attention. Oh, and ANOTHER plane based action sequence, but at least it has somebody sucked into a jet engine. So THAT’S alright, then.
I don’t want to force anybody into life-changing decisions here, but this really would have been a killer movie. Which is a serious improvement over “mediocre comic book.”
Buy the Next One: No. I’ll flip through the trade to see if there’s a huge improvement, but I can’t commit baby. I’m free as a bird!
Superboy In (The Clone) Scott Lobdell (writer), R. B. Silva (artist), Rob Leon (inker), the Hories (colorists?), Carlos M. Mangual (letterer). 20 pp.
Premise: A vat grown stem-cell baby is developed by the government and given super-powers from presumably nefarious purposes. Hilarity ensues!
Review: So, check my work you guys. Am I right? Was this actually really good? I hope not, ’cause when I wrote my first 52 piece a few weeks back I made snide comments about Scott Lobdell and his writing skills and it would be … unfortunate… if I had to eat some crow.
But, nah, sometimes a fella has to man up and admit that he may have been slightly mistaken due to circumstances conspiring against him and the incompetence of his secretary and the increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere. This was really, really good. And, *sigh* worse yet, it’s really, really good and based on an extremely difficult-to-write around premise. It’s the adventures of a boy floating in a tube of green amniotic-fluid type stuff – Which, honestly, makes all the rest of these books look bad. RED LANTERNS might be a difficult concept to put to page, but at least they can move around and vomit blood and stuff. It helps that the other characters – Superboy’s scientist “parents,” if you will – are given actual motivations and unique dialog patterns and generally well written. Heck, this whole book has a degree of clarity to it that lots of the other # 1s are lacking – Lobdell and Silva will do things like give the most important character on the page a big panel all to themselves so that we know they’re important, or color-code the backgrounds so you can tell both the location and the tone of the action at a glance.
The worst thing about this comic? It makes the REST of the number ones I’ve read look a little like amateur night at the old-run-down-theatre-cum-strip-club-eight-blocks-from-the-Apollo.
I won’t spoil it – I’m only spoiling the bad comics out of spite, really – but my favorite part of the issue is the “everything you know is wrong” fake-out towards the middle of the issue. It’s the kind of thing you can only do in a first issue when you’re establishing the status quo. But it’s the kind of thing that nobody else is doing! They’re all just trying to establish the characters and what they’re doing, and quite a bit of ‘em fail at that simple task.
Buy the Next One? Helluva shock here, ’cause this was one of the titles I was least interested in. But yes. Absolutely.
Batwoman: (Hydrology Part One: Leaching) J. H. Williams III (co-writer and artist), W. Haden Blackman (co-writer), Dave Stewart (colors), Todd Klein (letters.)
Premise: Batman inspired lesbian crime-fighter vs. truly, truly bizarre bad guys.
Review: Let’s get the obvious outta the way first. I think J. H. III is the best artist working in mainstream comics today. In terms of overall page design skill, that he’s the best artist to work in mainstream comics ever, and I’m not quite sure who’s second. ( George Perez? Steranko? Toth, because I assume there’s nothing he can’t do?) And there are some holy-God-above Just B-r-e-a-t-h-t-a-k-i-n-g scenes here. J. H. gives us Batwoman’s origin in just one corner of a two-page spread, sums up the events of the last Batwoman serial in the other corner, and uses the rest of the space to illustrate a verbal sparring match between Bats and her dad, which explains everything you need to know about Batwoman while establishing the character’s relationships and motivations. One page. And it’s beautiful.
But, well, that’s what I expected and that’s what I got, and I was slightly underwhelmed. I guess I expected the book to cure thyroid cancer or do *CENSORED* to my *CENSORED* or something, and it didn’t happen. I think the core problem, like the BATWOMAN serial in Detective, is that this book is fairly meticulously plotted. Which is probably, in the long run, a good thing – But it means that this book is gonna read a hell of a lot better in collected edition. (I had similar problems with the last J. H. Batwoman story. I dragged the single issues out of the dollar bin and said “That was okay” and bought the hardcover collecting the same issues -and said “Wow. That was the greatest thing ever. That just _____ my __________. Dag!”) So it wasn’t like I’m gonna miss the first issue of BATWOMAN, but
Buy the Next One? No. But I’ll get the collected edition the week it comes out. Promise.
This week’s Rankings:
9) A stanky, stanky, puddle of stanky, stanky platypus vomit.
8) Red Lanterns
7) Legion Lost
6) Resurrection Man
5) Mister Terrific
4) Green Lantern
3) Demon Knights
And I’m probably doing this again next week.
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