I’m not even gonna lie, folks. Yesterday I was on the verge of lashing out at anybody who looked at me the wrong way. Some people said some things that I felt were highly disrespectful, and then they followed up on that by asking me to go out of my way to do something that I am not actually able to do without significant time spent doing so. Why would I do this when I don’t get treated with any measure of respect in the course of my regular comings and goings? All I can say is that luckily the day was salvaged by a date with a beautiful girl and a stack of mostly excellent comics.
Yesterday was really the kind of day that comics were invented for. I was in a foul mood, the rain outside was just nasty, nothing was on TV; it was just a day meant to be ended laying on the couch reading about super powered people in bright costumes punching bad guys in the face. Honestly, yesterday would have been almost a total down note if it weren’t for my weekly pull.
ACTION COMICS #890 3.99
ASTONISHING X-MEN #34 2.99
BATMAN BEYOND #1 (OF 6) 2.99
CAPTAIN AMERICA #607 HA 3.99
DEADPOOL TEAM-UP #892 2.99
DEATH OF DRACULA ONE-SHOT 3.99
FLASH #3 (BRIGHTEST DAY) 2.99
GOTHAM CITY SIRENS #13 2.99
HERALDS #5 (OF 5) 2.99
INVINCIBLE IRON MAN ANNUAL #1 4.99
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #46 (BRIGHTEST DAY) 3.99
JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #40 2.99
SECRET AVENGERS #2 HA 3.99
THOR #611 HA 3.99
WONDER WOMAN #600 (NOTE PRICE) 4.99
And now that my personal bitching is out of the way, let’s do this shit.
Lex Luthor takes over the protagonist duties on Action Comics this week, with former Captain Britain and Doctor Who writer Paul Cornell taking the reigns and bringing us a story that spills directly out of Blackest Night, which most of my readers will recall me as christening a “steaming pile of Geoff John’s diaretic feces” or something similar. And while my feelings on that particularly shoddy mini-series haven’t changed, the fallout here with Luthor, whose power hungry ego was out of control before he got ahold of an orange ring, is actually intriguing and well plotted. I attribute this mostly to the fact that Luthor is one of the better multi-faceted villains DC has at their disposal. I mean, the Joker has a lot of different degrees of crazy he can go in, but he’s still going to be the Joker. With Lex we can get mad scientist Lex or evil industrialist Lex or actually-not-evil Lex, his lack of true definition isn’t a fault of the writers it’s a byproduct of his psyche as a character. Luthor truly does not know what he wants to be. Really, he just doesn’t want to be Superman, despite what Geoff Johns would have you believe.
This particular issue knocks it out of the park as far as I’m concerned. The story is obvious setup, where we learn of Luthor’s plan to quest for the rings (which sounds a little more Tolkien-esque than I thought when I typed that out). But while it’s definitely an issue meant to catch up readers who may be jumping on board as well as giving us a clear direction for where the title is headed, we also get Cornell’s Luthor clearly defined in the span of one issue. We know which Luthor we’re going to be getting. Cornell writes a very compelling Luthor, with his actions making complete sense in the context of who we’re dealing with. The way he treats Lois in this issue (probably my favorite aspect of the series thus far) is probably as good a gauge of character as we’ll ever see.
Oh, and the surprise reveal of the villain at the end made me squee, because he’s a personal favorite and I’ve been waiting for him to pop back up for a while now. But that’s just personal bias.
I only vaguely remember Batman Beyond as a show. I mean, I watched it because I was young and there wasn’t much else on but I didn’t latch onto it the way that I did with Batman The Animated Series. Chris Sims over at ComicsAlliance said that he enjoyed the show because it was basically Batman meshed with Spider-Man but set in the future. I agree wholeheartedly with that assessment. The character is more Spidey than Bats most of the time, and I think that’s an interesting dynamic but it was never something that hooked me. I mean, if I want to watch Spider-Man I’ll go watch Spider-Man. Batman has a specific style and tone that I identify with and Batman Beyond didn’t really hit that note for me.
That having been said, I felt compelled to pick up the first issue of the mini-series because I’ll be damned if I’m not going to at least give it a fair shake to make me a convert. I won’t say that it has, but I think that is because a lot of what did make the show work in terms of style was lost when translated with it’s adaptation to a different medium. I think that regular fans will enjoy it more than I did because they’ll just be happy to see Terry McGinnis back in some form.
I will say that Beechen gets kudos for surprising me with the villain, if they do in fact go where they suggest at the end of the issue. He’s not my favorite villain by any means, in fact I hate the living hell out of the story that introduced him while a lot of people hold it up as some paragon of Batman lore, but given that this is an alternate reality maybe they can fix him in some small degree, although any progress made won’t resonate in the regular titles and so I’ll likely end up dissapointed either way. As you can tell, I am still harboring some residual pessimissm left over from yesterday.
Spoiler Alert – Dracula dies in this issue. Yeah, I know some people will actually complain that I mention that. Despite having the central premise of the book right there in the title. Though Marvel has thrown swerveballs at us in regards to titles and events and covers that bely my point, but this is my blog so deal with it.
Anyhow, all I have to say about this issue is that it is a damn fine little vampire story that follows the logic and style I prefer in my vampire fiction. I was hoping for a Blade cameo, but no such luck, this one is all about the fanged dudes. The clear definition that Gischler gives to the vampire sects is refreshing rather than having a catch-all group of undead with no real regard to locale or backstory. I particularly liked the hot dominatrix female vampire sect. (The fact that I almost typed that as “Sext” seals the deal. Hot vampires for the win. Good job Gisch!)
I have to appreciate Marvel’s recent revival of their vampire community. The upcoming trade reprints of Tomb of Dracula have me positively giddy as I can finally replace my Essentials. Cornell’s Vampire State arc of Captain Britain was phenomenal and every time I see a copy at the shop I get really angry that the book got cancelled because it truly was a gem. But luckily Marvel has good, talented writers like Gischler handling their vampires because they seem to understand what makes them work. Vampires are supposed to be creatures of horror. There is a lamentation in the book that humans don’t fear vampires the way they should, despite being creatures of fear by nature. And that’s the crux of this. There is a regal fearsomeness to the vampires presented in this issue. I want to thank Vic Gischler for righting the wrongs brought on by vampires like this:
Yeah, seriously. Read Death of Dracula. It’s not lame.
First, let me state how awesome it is that Matt Fraction was able to throw in a nod to Immortal Iron Fist in this annual. I think that was wicked awesome, especially for those of us who loved that book unconditionally. I will say that for the five bucks I paid to pick up this book, I got about as much content as your average trade paperback. Fraction knows how to give his readers bang for their buck, and here we got an interesting look at the life story of the Mandarin through the eyes of the director he shanghai’d to film his biopic. It’s filled with fabrications and lies mixed with fact. Kind of like a White House press conference (BA-ZING!).
It’s a hefty book, with a sprawling story that weaves itself around Iron Man without ever being about him. Which is both a good and a bad thing I suppose. I did like how Fraction essentially updated Tony’s origin to mirror the one in the film, with the terror sect from the first movie being utilized and the escape sequence recreated almost identically. We knew it was going to happen eventually, I’m just glad it was done in a way that was organic and didn’t feel forced. Like some stupid mini-series launched simply to cash in on the movie. I get tired of that. Quickly.
This annual has a lot going for it the way that Action Comics did. We get a character who is well known but not defined in any real manner. Fraction plays with that a bit to create a character who is defined by the smokescreen created by his own illusionary presence. The Mandarin is a villain who needed an issue like this to give us a reason to care about his existence. I can’t wait to see what Fraction does with the character in the pages of the book proper.
Christ on a cracker, Robinson. You’re killing me here.
JLA has turned into a solid gold turd. I mean, it started off pretty bad with Meltzer, and McDuffie’s run was a mediocre bore, but now it’s just a walking joke. Bagley’s pencils are great and all but they cannot salvage this dreck. It’s poorly written, poorly plotted, and doesn’t feel like a JLA book at all to me. There’s none of the gravitas of Morrison or Waid’s run, and none of the fun that was so prevalant in the cartoon. JLA is supposed to be big and bombastic, it’s supposed to be all that’s great about the DC characters in one book but instead I find myself reading this issue and wondering how anyone could enjoy it. It’s full of faux importance but everything rings hollow. If it weren’t crossing over with JSA, which I’m loving, I never would have put money down on this title. It’s sad to see how far Robinson has fallen since Starman, it really is.
All anyone is talking about is that damned costume redesign. Which basically confirms my suspicions that Wonder Woman is more an image than a catalyst for stories. She’s a fetishized figure that hearkens to teenage masturbatory fantasies whose value as a character is largely ignored. I personally liked every little story in the book, with my favorite of course being the one by Amanda Conner, who may be the most talented working artist around. I mean, come on. You have Power Girl and Wonder Woman teaming up to punch a giant walking egg. Don’t tell me that’s not great!
But all the coverage of this milestone issue has been about the damned costume. It only appears for one of the five stories in the issue and that seems to be the only thing that every article I’ve read since the beginning of this week has focused on. Not the fact that Gail Simone teamed up with George Perez to tell a Wonder Woman story that builds on years of Diana’s legacy for a truly genuine story. One that demonstrates how just about every other female character in the DCU is beholden to Wonder Woman in some way, shape or form. Whether in the context of their existence in the mainstream DCU or in a meta-textual manner that references the way Diana trailblazed female heroes, that story spoke volumes. And it made the message while she was wearing the classic costume. If there is anything wrong with that costume it’s simply that George Perez can’t draw every issue of Wonder Woman as well as her every appearance in every DC book. Between Gail and George’s enormous talent, their worst work would be better than the best work of some other talented creators. I stand by that firmly.
Of the Trinity’s anniversary issues, this one was probably the strongest. There was a respect to the character that was lacking in Superman’s, like the point of Superman 700 was to expose the flaws of Superman and somehow right them. Which felt a little like arrogance on the part of Stracynski. With Wonder Woman, he’s also trying to revise her and bring her some place new. But he didn’t do it at the expense of saying “your personality is wrong, this shall be fixed.”
Still not sold on him as the ongoing writer, but this issue was solid. I just wish people could see the reason why.
I think it’s common knowledge around these parts how much I love the Batwoman driven Detective Comics title. And while a great deal of that love comes from my unabashed love of J.H. Williams III’s wonderful artwork, just as much of it comes from writer Greg Rucka, who has turned a character who could have been a throwaway token lesbian into someone fully developed by subtle characterization and organic growth.
Now the news has broken out of Wondercon that Greg Rucka will be leaving the title and focusing on work outside of the comic industry. I’m not going to rant and rave about how disappointed I am, because as an artist I understand that if doesn’t want to work within someone else’s system, under someone else’s mandate, and would rather let his mind work freely, he should be allowed to do so and commended for having the strength to do it. The main crux of this little article is meant to illuminate what I believe to be a major problem with the DC system, namely, the manner in which their writers are promoted as an entity.
Look at the way Marvel handles their writers. Names like Bendis, Brubaker, Fraction, Slott, etc. are treated like they’re members of some holy pantheon. They put their writers up on a pedestal in such a way that even if we have never heard their names before, the marketing forces us to sit with mouths agape in awe. One only need look at the way Quesada pushed the rotating teams of writers on the Amazing Spider-Man title as an example of how Marvel sells the writer just as much as they do the book itself.
And DC does the same thing, to a point. But my main problem with DC is that at this moment, with Rucka exiting, it’s easy to see that DC doesn’t promote their talent roster the same way that Marvel does. I will be the first to admit that DC has just as many good writers as Marvel, if not more. The difference is the way in which they tier them. DC has Morrison and Johns at the top, with Stracynski joining them after getting little fanfare during his little run on Brave and The Bold. But where is the hype for people like Matt Sturges, who is knocking it out of the park with JSA All Stars? Where’s the love for Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray? People will claim that these names don’t sell books, but that’s my entire point. Marvel has an entire marketing machine built around making their writers, ALL their writers, seem like the cream of the crop. You don’t think people would be consistently buying JSA All Stars if DC ran to Wizard every month telling people how important the work he’s doing there will be at some point? If they splattered editorials all over the internet proclaiming him to be the next Geoff Johns? You bet your ass!
I’m afraid that DC is going to rely on the same “established” writers they’ve had on their books for the last several years, like Winnick and now Robinson, who has fallen so far from his wonderful work on Starman to the point that I can barely read any of his work. JT Krul has been getting a lot of high profile gigs but they’re doing nothing to inspire consumer confidence in him as a writer. The same goes for all the new blood that seems to be working their way into the system. In this regard, DC really needs to take a page out of Marvel’s handbook and start working some marketing mojo.
That is all.