Charles Soule has busted onto the comics scene with a fiery vengeance. His name is popping up all over the place. Last week I lauded his Superman/Wonder Woman # 1 as being one of the best books of the week and a huge surprise in my eyes. He’s slated to write a new She-Hulk book for Marvel and this week his creator-owned book from Oni Press, Letter 44 hits shelves. How does it measure up when compared to his other work?
I will say that the premise is interesting. The idea is that the incoming president recieves a letter from his predecessor outlining the fact that upon taking the job he learned of the existence of an extra-terrestrial craft within the solar system. This of course freaked the man out somewhat hard and his response was to send a team into space to intercept the craft. All of this seems like a great premise for a book. It could really sing if handled correctly. The stumble comes in this instance when Soule insists on making the book an obvious parallel to Barack Obama’s entry into the oval office. The departing president is a not-at-all veiled pastiche of George W. Bush and the book posits that the wars in the middle east were an attempt to battle-harden our troops in the event of hostile alien contact.
Revisionist history doesn’t work when you don’t have the stones to actually utilize history’s characters in a fictional manner. This book could have been really great satire if Barack Obama were the protagonist. But the problem is Soule is writing this book several years too early to utilize his term as president effectively. Better still would have been if Dubya had been our protagonist. Instead we get these effigies that don’t necessarily have the weight we would like for this story.
Now, the art is gorgeous and Albuquerque’s pencils on the page drawing the stars makes me pine for the days of Blue Beetle, but on the whole the first issue fails to live up to the weight of its own premise.
I think I may have bought more books this week than I did all of last month. My box got flooded with books, a lot of them new titles that I decided to pick up not realizing they would all be dropped on my broke ass in a single day. Curse my undying love for Booster Gold and Birds of Prey!
MAR100190 BATGIRL #10 $2.99
MAR100185 BATMAN #699 $2.99
MAR100178 BATMAN RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE #1 (OF 6) $3.99
MAR100169 BIRDS OF PREY #1 (BRIGHTEST DAY) $2.99
MAR100222 BOOSTER GOLD #32 $2.99
MAR100171 FLASH #2 (BRIGHTEST DAY) $2.99
MAR100165 JUSTICE LEAGUE GENERATION LOST #1 (BRIGHTEST DAY) $2.99
MAR100201 SUPERMAN WAR OF THE SUPERMEN #2 (OF 4) $2.99
MAR100499 AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #631 $2.99
MAR100473 ASTONISHING X-MEN XENOGENESIS #1 (OF 5) $3.99
MAR100526 BLACK WIDOW #2 HA $2.99
FEB100427 DARK AVENGERS #16 SIEGE $3.99
FEB100436 FALLEN SIEGE $3.99
MAR100540 HULK #22 WWHS $3.99
MAR100542 INCREDIBLE HULK #609 WWHS $3.99
MAR100551 IRON MAN LEGACY #2 $2.99
FEB100435 NEW AVENGERS FINALE #1 SIEGE $4.99
MAR100590 NEW MUTANTS #13 XSC $2.99
FEB100421 SIEGE #4 (OF 4) $3.99
FEB100426 SIEGE EMBEDDED #4 (OF 4) $3.99
MAR100610 X-FACTOR FOREVER #3 $3.99
MAR101102 FRENEMY OF THE STATE #1 (OF 5) $3.99
And I actually read some of them. And here’s the reviews…
BATMAN RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE # 1
You know, the general consensus on the work of Grant Morrison seems to be that he deals in the utterly cerebral. The subtle hints dropped throughout his Batman run that led up to this mini-series being a perfect indicator of how he works within the confines of Bruce Wayne’s mind. He understands characterization better than just about anybody, and a good number of people miss out on this because they’re too eager to shoehorn him into an all-encompassing category, usually that he’s “weird” or some other descriptive adjective that doesn’t do his work justice.
If there’s a way to describe this particular mini-series, it’s simply a true high-concept piece. The idea of Batman interjected into different time periods and forced to deal with his situation in the manner that Batman would. It’s really quite brilliant. We begin with Batman in the caveman era, seemingly confused to the point of being rendered unable to process speech. So we get what is essentially the basest concept of the Batman dealing with the basest form of humanity. It feels like something that Kirby would have done if he had a shot at the Dark Knight.
I won’t delve too deeply into the book, because in all honesty you could write a thesis on Morrion’s take on the bat. I will say that this issue indicates, to me at least, that we’re going to get a damned fine miniseries out of all this.
BIRDS OF PREY # 1
I quickly got tired of Birds of Prey after Gail Simone left a few years back. Everything that came afterward felt like a car spinning its wheels in a pit of mud and never being able to find any traction. With Gail back however, it seems like whatever element was missing after her exodus is tossed back in and the book is able to find its footing with a real sense of authority. We get the whole old crew back together again, interacting in a way that feels realistic and human and recent Blackest Night resurrectees Hawk and Dove find a spot in the book as well, giving us a reason for that Brightest Day banner splashed across the cover.
I’m glad that aside from the characters themselves appearing in the book that the issue seems more focused on moving forward from the point the old series left of rather than turning this into a de-facto spin off of Brightest Day. While I am forcing myself to continue that series out of some sort of literary masochism, (I should read that book wearing a ball-gag, I swear) I have no desire to read about the event anywhere outside of the main title. I read Birds of Prey because I like Birds of Prey, not because a Green Lantern event forced me to.
Let me say that I did love the book. And if Gail is reading this she should know that I am eternally grateful for giving us a book that has strong characterization placed alongside a tightly plotted narrative. The writing is not decompressed or padded, and everything moves along in a way that feels appropriate. That having been said, where is Misfit, Gail? Her exclusion gives me the sads. BRING BACK MISFIT!
Aside from that quabble, great book all around.
NEW AVENGERS FINALE
I want to say first and foremost, that the idea of calling the a “Finale” seems odd in the face of the book continuing with a new number one. It’s actually more of an interlude, I guess. But it does seem like a finale in the regard that it caps off the last few years of the book and makes the series seem like a self-contained entity. I think this is perhaps to differentiate this incarnation of the book from the next, which doesn’t seem to bare much similarity to this one aside from Bendis’ name on the cover. It will have an entirely different tone, from what I’ve seen and it makes me wonder why they didn’t choose a different title.
The book itself feels like a mixture of an unofficial fifth issue of Siege as well as an epilogue to the series itself. The scope of the book is great, and the action contained within the book feels like classic superhero storytelling with the stylistic flair of Bendis’ modern age. It’s a book that if it were a movie would have people cheering as the bad guys finally get their comeuppance and the world is set right again.
Simply put, Bendis got this one right.
FRENEMY OF THE STATE # 1
Oni Press does some good work. They put out entertaining books that don’t fit the mold of other publishers. This in particular feels like something that JJ Abrams would have put together as a spinoff from Alias. The meshing of social media and the inner circles of celebrity madness with undercover spy action seems like something that would make for really great television but it also comes together really well as a comic book.
The book is notable for being written at least in part by utterly adoreable Rashida Jones, which is partially why I picked the book up in the first place. I’m going to admit that it makes no sense for me to do so because it’s not like her presense is really in any way tangible. I didn’t know she had ever written a word of anything in her life before this, I just think she’s cute. Now I know that she’s talented beyond what I’ve seen on Parks & Rec. Who knew?
That’s it. I’m not reviewing the Hulk books because I don’t really think I can say anything without ranting about the identity reveal in Hulk 22. Jeph Loeb inspires many emotions in me, and this one brought out the bad ones. Bad, bad emotions!
So, next time, then…
May 13, 2010 | Categories: Blog Posts, Reviews | Tags: Amazing Spider-Man, Astonishing X-Men Xenogenesis, Batgirl, Batman, Birds of Prey, Black Widow, Booster Gold, Brian Michael Bendis, Brightest Day, Dark Avengers, Flash, Frenemy of the STate, Gail Simone, Hulk, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man Legacy, Jeph Loeb, Justice League Generation Lost, Misfit, New Avengers, New Avengers Finale, New Mutants, Oni Press, Rashida Jones, Reasons Why Batman Is Amazing, Red Hulk, Second Coming, Sentry Fallen Sun, Siege, Siege Embedded, Superman War of the Supermen, The Return of Bruce Wayne, X-Factor Forever, X-Men Second Coming | Leave a comment
CCQ Top 5 of 2009:
Alright, the year has ended and thus it’s time for me to round up the year and present my top 5 picks for the best stories of the year. Now, this being comics we’re talking about, some things get a little tricky when it comes to if a particular story should be eligible. For example, I will not include BLACKEST NIGHT on this list, no matter how many people claim it as the best of the year, because it hasn’t ended yet. (That and I don’t go ga-ga over it the way some people do. It’s an okay enough story, but it hasn’t given me the unending nerdgasm everyone has told me I should be experiencing over it.)
So here we go!
5. “Invincible Iron Man : World’s Most Wanted” (Marvel)
[Buy It At Amazon]
Matt Fraction has done something that I didn’t think was possible in the comic medium; he wrote an Iron Man story that people will actually remember. Do you know how many of those actually exist? To my knowlege the only two story arcs anybody can name as being of any lasting quality are “Demon in a Bottle” and “Armor Wars.” Perhaps the stuff with Doom, but I really only love that one because I love me some Doom. Seriously, that guy does not get the treatment he deserves. How many GREAT Doom stories can you count? He and Tony should totally hook up and make little underappreciated babies.
When it comes to “World’s Most Wanted,” (hereafter refered to as WMW because I think that acronym looks cool) Matt Fraction gives us a breakneck paced thriller that would work as a James Bond or Jason Bourne film. The protagonist being up against the wall makes for some great character moments, showing just how Tony Stark deals with such things, as well as forcing the narrative forward in ways that wouldn’t work with the hero on level ground.
I cannot recommend this one enough. Even if you don’t normally read Iron Man, this one is definately worth checking out. It’s as good as it gets in modern Marvel comics. No joke.
4. Filthy Rich (Vertigo Crime)
[Buy It At Amazon]
The Vertigo Crime line kicked off with a bang with Brian Azzarello’s “FILTHY RICH,” the story of an ex football star turned car-salesman who gets suckered into a job as a bodyguard that quickly devolves into some of the girttiest noir this side of a Raymond Chandler novel.
Azzarello cranks up the noir to eleven and artist Victor Santos utilizes the stark black and white pallatte to create a world that positivly drips with dirt and grime. It’s a harsh reality filled with harsh people and as a reader you can’t help but be drawn in by the intricacies of the story, and believe me when I tell you that this is not a simple book. Don’t judge the book by it’s size, the scope and content contained within this graphic novel is mindblowing and it’s something you’ll want to go back and read again just to pick up on new details.
3. INCOGNITO (Icon)
I want to punch Ed Brubaker in the trachea. Or maybe in the kidneys. I dunno, somewhere painful. As a writer who labors to write even the most trite of a narrative, I hate Ed Brubaker for being able to consistantly and constantly put out such great material, and the fact that he does so mutliple times a month is enough to drive me into a seething rage not seen outside of a Tea-Party protest. Seriously, Bru, you suck.
“Incognito” re-teams Brubaker with Sean Philips, his collaborator from the equally amazing “Sleeper” and “Criminal” series. The art is perfectly suited to the world that Ed creates, it’s a sort of murky realm where people like this seem natural and organic, like they were born out of the scenery to play out the story that their God, Ed Brubaker hath destined them to partake in.
As a sort of flipside to the world of superheroics, much in the way “Sleeper” was, “Incognito” delivers familiar ideas viewed through a different lens. It’s basically the logical grandchild of the Watchmen era. And just as readable.
2. CHEW (Image)
[Buy It At Amazon]
If you were one of the lucky few who picked up CHEW # 1 when it first hit stands, congratulations not only were you in on the ground floor of one of the best new comics in years, you also struck gold because that first edition is going for mucho money right about now. It went back to press another three times and now if you haven’t read it, you’re just doing it out of spite because this book is what finally allowed me to say I read Image Comics out loud with no shame. Yeah, “Walking Dead” is amazing and so is “Invincible” but those are both written by Kirkman, so I was previously just saying “I read Kirkman comics” because I’m still not too keen on much else being published by Image but this is certainly helping.
Would you like me to tell you what the book is about, just in case you’re completely in the dark regarding what I’ve been rambling about for the last paragraph? Lemme just give you the official synopsis:
Tony Chu is a detective with a secret. A weird secret. Tony Chu is Cibopathic, which means he gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats. It also means he’s a hell of a detective, as long as he doesn’t mind nibbling on the corpse of a murder victim to figure out whodunit, and why. He’s been brought on by the Special Crimes Division of the FDA, the most powerful law enforcement agency on the planet, to investigate their strangest, sickest, and most bizarre cases.
Chicken is also illegal in the book.
Yeah, go read it.
1. Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe (Oni Press)
[Buy It At Amazon]
I cannot put into words how much I love Scott Pilgrim. Seriously, it’s awesome. So awesome that it had to be imported from Canada. Who knew, right? Anyhow, the series has been balls-to-the-wall cool since it’s inception but the lastest volume (being 5) seriously nails the emotional notes that it aims for and really provides us with solid development for the characters that has been slowly building since the first page of the first volume.
I can’t really do it justice, so here’s an actual page.
Nom Nom Nom, indeed.
January 13, 2010 | Categories: Best Of, Blog Posts, Reviews | Tags: 2009, Best Of, Brian Azzarello, Bryan Lee O'Malley, Chew, Ed Brubaker, Filthy Rich, Icon, Image Comics, Incognito, Iron Man, John Layton, Marvel, Matt Fraction, Nom Nom Nom, Oni Press, Reviews, Rob Guillory, Salvador Larroca, Scott Pilgrim, Sean Phillips, Top 5, Vertigo Crime | 1 Comment