Thursday, October 19, 2006

comics! 52and counting!

My extremely young friend Elmo spends a great deal of his time with alien species. He betakes his sylphlike form to the nearest open parkland and slowly, by ineluctable stages, he VANISHES from the human-view of all the living things around him. Those living things then proceed to pay Elmo the highest compliment they can: they completely ignore him.

They cavort in front of him, they scamper all over him, and they let him into their own perceptions of the living world. Elmo loves to play games with his own perceptions in this way - it's his particular drug. It's a drug-habit he shares with, among many other people (including innumerable anonymous British bird-watchers throughout the ages), David Attenborough - and a habit entirely unknown to various crocodile hunters of recent vintage. Buff, married, obviously gay nature-jumper Jeff Corwin has spent innumerably more hours around innumerably more species than Elmo ever will, but he's a pathetic, complete stranger to the interest, the joy, and especially the exhilaration Elmo can find in a walk in the park.

So when it's Elmo supplying me with a batch of current comics, instead of his roommate, my nemesis Pepito (theirs is a marriage of convenience, I assure you), I know to pay attention.

Five issues this time around, an uneven batch. Starting thing off are the Wildstorm relaunch of Wildcats and the Authority.

This is ominous stuff, this sudden reappearance of Wildstorm titles like pesky super-villains you were sure were dead and buried. Wildcats has always been a crappy concept, and we all know the Authority was only ever a two-arc wonder.

So imagine my surprised happiness when both these debut relaunches turned out to be really, really good.


No, they stink, both of them, a whole lot. Wildcats is the worse by far, despite Jim Lee's technicaly adept pencils. The main point of this first issue is that cool people smoke. They smoke cigarettes when they're down on their luck, they smoke cigars when they're kicking ass, but in either case, they're NEVER loser enough NOT to smoke. Geez.

The Authority #1 had a little more complexity to its crapitude. It's unbearably slow-paced and clogged with cliches, but Gene Ha's artwork is genuinely interesting. I'll never look at another issue of this turgid piece of poop, but that artwork was interesting.

Luckily, the rest of the batch didn't suck. The latest issue of X-Men had fantastic artwork by Yanick Paquette and a fairly snappy story besides, although can I just say I HATE this big blue kitty-cat Beast? The movies were a success - can't we dial back this 'secondary mutation' crapola to the classic Kelsey Grammar look?

The latest Ultimate Fantastic Four continues the God War story arc, and it's incredible - Mike Carey's writing is better than the vast majority of sci-fi short stories that appear in Asimov's and Analog, and Pasqual Ferry's artwork is the best of his career. The only irritating thing about this whole story arc is that it IS a story arc. I'd be happy to buy the grapic novel it was obviously designed to be NOW, instead of waiting for the whole process to run its course.

Wrapping up batch in question is the title by now guaranteed to get a totally ambiguous reaction from the crack staff at Stevereads: 52.

Every issue, there's stuff I really like and stuff that really irritates me, and this issue is certainly no exception. So let's go through it categorically, shall we?


Well, of course a comics veteran such as myself not only likes but LOVES the whimsical gesture of having Elliot Maggin as Oliver Queen's campaign manager.

*In the days before comics grew up, Elliot Maggin provided readers with an endless stream of good stuff, wiry, witty issue after issue. I don't know that he or any of his colleagues in those simpler days could write a comic today - and I'm not sure they'd want to. But this little invocation was a nice squirt of nostalgia.

*the look of Super-Chief - great size, great buffalo-mask.

*Judging from the memorial sculpture carved by the Martian Manhunter in this issue, it seems that Maxima is finally dead. And so our long national nightmare is over.

*the continued fascinating and well-done characterization of Black Adam - now accompanied by Isis and this new character Osiris.

*the hilarious way Ambush Bug infiltrates the 'next issue' banner at the end of the issue.


*Um, week 24? At the end of Infinite Crisis, Oliver Queen was a pin cushion, two arrows through his lungs and a convicted killer standing over him. Not only does this opening sequence not jibe with the story being told in flashbacks over in Green Arrow (I predict this is going to happen a lot), but it doesn't make sense on its own.

*the unholy resurrection of Keith Giffen's weird, apparently unappeasable fetish for loser-supergroups. Note to Keith: they weren't funny then, and they aren't funny now.

*Osiris? Did I miss an issue? Where did this kid (however entertainingly written) come from? Did I miss an issue? Wait ... Elmo, Pepito, you izquierda ... DID I miss an issue?

*Uh, the DEATH of Super-Chief? After one friggin issue? Geez.

*My usual complaint about 52 in general: the basic concept of this whole series - in addition to showing us the events that took place in the 'missing' year after Infinite Crisis - is to show us what the super-hero (and super-villain) world would be like without Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman in the picture. And this opportunity - it's unlikely there'll be another - is being hugely wasted.

Put simply, we shouldn't be reading stories about a bunch of losers (and Super-Chief, sniff) trying to be the Jutice League.

Wonder Woman was not only the most powerful woman in the world but an ambassador and de facto friendly face on the superhero community. Superman, despite his extensive rogues gallery, spent most of his time averting natural disasters. And Batman kept the most viral assortment of stone-cold psychopaths under constant control.

In addition to figuring out everything that happened in that missing year, this series should be about what happens to the world when none of those things is true anymore. What happens when the only person between UN sanctions and the superhero world is, for instance, Black Canary? How does Catman handle a Richter 7 earthquake in northern China?

How the hell does Captain Marvel handle the Joker?

Alas, we'll never see that storyline. 52 seems intent on a more soap-opera theme instead. Guess we'll have to take the good with the bad of that, and I'll just have to silently (well, metaphorically, you undertand) regret the path not taken.


Kevin Caron said...

I have a few issues with 52 as well... A lot of it has to do with the art - it's definitely unimpressive. Especially when you see the layouts that Giffen is doing (they're published online at 52's official website) - They're really quite good, all by themselves. I don't understand why they couldn't get 3 or 4 GOOD artists to bang that thing out - considering that the layouts are done for them.
Especially when the series is dealing with some pretty B-list characters - with good art, we could start liking these guys more, but with mediocre art, they just stay second-tier characters, visually.
And I couldn't agree more with the "world without the big 3" ball that's been dropped. When you think of it that way, the book is a pretty big faliure - like you said, that's a terrific story concept that should be driving all of this - instead we get a weekly soap opera of the B-list.

'Course, I stopped reading at around week 10 (my own personal Pepito hasn't been to the comic book store in a while), so maybe its all improved since then.

Doubt it.

That said, it's probably better than 3/4 of the superhero books out right now.

steve said...

well of COURSE it's better than 3/4ths of the superhero books out there! After all, the mere fact that something IS a superhero book makes it crap right out of the gate, right?

What I want to know is this: what do you comic book snobs do about the new female Speedy having AIDS? According to your snob bylaws (section 18 paragraph 9, I believe), you have to read AND praise all comics that feature socially relevant diseases - but the victim here is a ... eww ... superhero!

Has it caused dissention in the ranks? Your own little Civil War going on over there at the Android's Dungeon?

Kevin Caron said...

Oh, pooh. Who's the real snob here - I read BOTH superhero & non-superhero comics, you closed-minded CapeZombie! That, and I betcha the last character in a comic I own w/AIDS was Jim Wilson, Hulk's sidekick. So there.

I've got more superhero geek-cred than most of the fanboys on reading this blog - if I don't enjoy a superhero comic, it's cause it isn't doing justice to a character/concept I love, not 'cause it ain't socially relevant enough.

I say 52 is better than 3/4 of the Superhero comics out there 'cause it's at least about telling a story, as opposed to shock-mongering.

No leave me alone while I read this Graphic Novella about the plight of transgender Japanese Americans in Relocation Centers.

Kevin Caron said...

Check out
52: Giffen Layouts

steve said...


I'm chuckling over here.

You just earned yourself a graphic novel, buckaroo. Point taken.

(and no, you don't get to pick WHICH graphic novel ... I may have been over-hasty in my slurs on your character, but I am, still, Gawd)

Be sure to email me your address.

Kevin Caron said...

Whoo hoo!

Thank you, Gawd!

Anonymous said...

I was interrupted earlier when I was starting to post a response to Steve's snobbery-snobbery. Fortunately Kevin took care of it, but I'll reiterate the point anyway: no one can claim that Kevin Caron is any kind of comic book snob. The man is hardcore into comic books AND graphic novel. "What would your superpower be if you had one?" is one of the first questions Kevin asks every stranger. The only reason he hasn't asked you, Steve, is we all already know what your superpowers are.

As a side note, I just received Frederick the Great in the mail. Very exciting and many thanks. I'm going to read it just as soon as I finish Iron Kingdom, of which I'm on already on page 71.

-Jeff E.

steve said...

Take note, all ye disbelievers! Jeff the snob-defender was promised a free book and did duly RECEIVE said book! This is the blog that truly gives!

So Chloe, you need only recover from your entirely predictable past-John bout of self-recrimation to send me your snail-mail address - and you'll receive your own unlooked-for gift!

Ditto you, snob-Kevin!

Angus said...

Ya see thaht bridge? I built thaht bridge with me BARE HANDS! But do they call me Angus the Bridge-Builder? No!
Ya see thaht snob over there? I defended thaht there snob! But do they call me Angus the Snob-Defender? No!

But you fuck one sheep...

Kevin Caron said...

This blog rules.

1moreslogger said...

The blog had it all including "Pysch" which worked plus mucho comments and views. Inho comic is a strange name for paper book with art and words that tells and shows a story.

The beginning of this blog is worthy on it's own like a verse sets up the chorus - this setup was enjoyable on its own. Neat concept and extension - reading gifts - and then reviewing them - not many gifts have that honor.

Stevereads blog mensch.

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