Comics - 27 July 2006
As has already been noted here, my friend Pepito is an odd duck. A classically trained ballet dancer, son of two world-renowned nuclear physicists, but with all the comics-sense Gawd gave a farty basset hound. Every week, he dutifully goes out and buys a ton of crap, dutifully reads it, and then dutifully tosses it aside. Not that I'm not grateful, since he allows me to read everything he tosses aside. But you gotta wonder what enjoyment he gets out of all the bilge he buys.
Take this week, for instance. True, he bought Robin #152, "It All Comes Back Around" - and it was really good, including a great father-son type exchange between Bruce Wayne and Tim Drake. But geez - just LOOK at all the rest of his weekly haul:
Supergirl and the Legion - crap
Ion - crap
Checkmate - crap
Flash - crap
Aquaman - crap (but with cool artwork)
Ultimate X-Men - too-cool-for-school crap, although the 'Masked Marvel' backup feature deserves kudos making it obvious that the Marvel's schlubby best friend is erotically in love with him. Who of us hasn't been there, huh? With a slab of casual muscle and effortless beauty relaxing on our couch, soul-searching while absent-mindedly cupping their cueballs? Jimmy Olsons of the world, unite!
Fortunately, I bought some comics myself which acted as a kind of antidote to all the crap I borrowed from Pepito:
Acion Comics #841, "Back in Action" by Kurk Busiek and Peter Woods - featuring the great little idea to make the cover of the issue look like the cover of the Daily Planet. The best part of the issue? All the in-joke references to the Legion of Super-heroes (I counted 15, and I defy anyone to find one I missed). The worst part of the issue? The persistence of the new super-gay Nightwing.
Batman #655, "Batman & Son Part 1" by Grant Morrison and Andy Kubert - a great jumping-on point despite the stupidly manipulative opening sequence. The writing is fantastic, refreshingly lighthearted (Alfred on monitor duty: "Why, just the other day I had a rather formidable nun down as the Penguin, sir"), the artwork is operatically fantastic, and the scene where Alfred is attempting to tie Bruce's tie should go in the annals of great bat-scenes. This is great stuff.
Amazing Spider-Man #534 by J. Michael Straczynski and Ron Garney - Another great issue, but it's got a huge problem. It takes place directly after Civil War #3, which ends with THOR showing up, apparently to enforce the Registration Act. Assuming (hoping?) it's not the real Thor - or even assuming it is - that's Marvel's most powerful character weighing in against a handful of resistance fighters whose heaviest hitter appears to be Hercules (and, um, can somebody explain why he's on Cap's team? Hasn't his identity been public knowledge for 3000 years?). And yet, in this issue everything appears to be hunky-dory, with no sign of or allusion to Thor. Leading the reader to think that Civil War #4 will neatly dispose of the whole 'Thor' cliffhanger. Leading said reader to assume his chain has been yanked in vain. Which would be bad.
But the issue's great, except there's lots more that's bad in it. Like the fact that Peter Parker first gets suspicious of Iron Man's motives when Iron Man mentions his spider-sense even though Spidey's never revealed it to him - except he has, like a dozen times, but even if we accept it for dramatic purposes, there are three problems: 1) would Peter Parker really be such a dim bulb? Somebody gives science-whiz Parker a costume loaded with advanced technology, and he doesn't spend an idle afternoon examining it? 2) what ABOUT that spider-sense? If the suit is feeding Iron Man (or whoever) vital info and attempting to do so without detection, wouldn't that in itself trigger said spider-sense? and 3) this is great, intense high drama, but have we really stopped for a minute to see where it leads? It leads to Iron Man being a frickin super-villain who puts bio-sensors in grown men's jammies. Has anybody run this by Stan the Man?
Anyhoo, the centerpiece of the issue is the fight between Captain America and Spider-man, and of course it bugged me. Why, you ask? Is it the fact that Captain America, having been smashed through a brick wall and pummelled by Iron Man in Civil War #3, shouldn't be up for a brisk game of chess, let alone a massive throw-down? Well yes, but there's more. The thing is, we're not in the Ultimates universe here (although for the first time Cap has Ultimates-style belt-pouches) - in the Ultimates universe, twerpy little Spider-Man would be horking on Cap's Sword of Liberty in about fifteen seconds. But in the normal Marvel universe, Cap is an Olympic-level special op with an indestructible shield - and Spider-man is a mutated metahuman who can lift ten frickin tons, move at super-speed, sense his opponant's every move, and also DRENCH said opponant in thick, unbreakable, viscous goo. In other words, he'd win. And he wouldn't need mechanical arms to do it - he'd need about fifteen seconds to beat a guy who's nine-and-a-half tons weaker than he is and who's moving in slow motion.
But there's a deeper problem than any of these, one that's been cropping up on the peripheries of the tie-in issues and shows up directly in this issue: the crowd reactions. When Iron Man originally advocated that the super-community come out in vigorous defense of the Registration Act, he justified it on the grounds that he could accurately envision the future, and the future would WANT the Act. He and Reed Richards gave it all the air of inevitability, like they themselves might prefer it otherwise but they were going along with it because it was bound to happen anyway.
But the crowds in this issue - and in lots of other tie-in issues - are shouting AGAINST the Act. Hell, even the Yancy Street Gang hates the idea! So what's become of the 'look, this is gonna happen anyway' defense? Let's hope the writers have this all figured out ....