Sunday, October 29, 2006
comics! justice and action!
Once upon a time, years ago, when we were both students at State University, my nemesis Pepito came across me rummaging through his midden-heap pile of new comics (if you're a possession of Pepito's, there's a 99 percent probability you'll end up on the floor around his ankles, unless you require some degree of refrigeration). He said 'Why don't chu buy your own comics, puta?'
I apologized gracefully, and I thought the matter was closed. It was only a month later that that Pepito was caught in the lab explosion that disfigured him and turned him to a life of crime and world domination, but I never forgot his earlier question.
In fact, I DO sometimes buy my own comics - always from the good folks at Comicopia (insert hyper/hot link here). The Weekly Dig (ditto) recently voted them the Dig This comic shop of Boston, and I couldn't agree more. The store's owner is funny, wry master of realpolitik, his goateed lieutenant knows that successful retail means smiling at everybody even when you don't feel like it, and best of all, the shop boasts that rarest of subspecies: the FEMALE comic-geek. And the cherry on the pie here is that she's gorgeous - avid, luminous eyes, rings in her lower lip, and a joyfully adept command of the English language. I can't count the number of times I've lingered in the stacks just to listen to her 'geek out' with some customer about some title she loves, just for the joy of hearing passion at work.
The point is, I bought some comics this week. Let's go issue by issue, shall we?
* The New Avengers #24, written by Brian Michael Bendis and magnificently drawn by Pasqual Ferry - this issue kinda-sorta addresses the question of what you do if you create a half-assed knockoff of Superman (in this case, the Sentry) and need him to take a position in the ongoing Civil War storyline.
Make no mistake, the Sentry is a suckass character, no matter how his various writers decide to gussy him up (psychological problems, basically, are the only thing that stop him from being the only superhero the Marvel universe would ever need).
The problem is generational - i.e. company-based. It's only in the DC universe that HEROES have Sentry's kind of virtually unlimited power. Wonder Woman, who's as strong as Hercules; Green Lantern, who can make anything he imagines happen; Superman; the Spectre.
Marvel has always been different. Its heroes have always been less-powered and more vulnerable (even Thor, a god, reverts to human form if separated from his hammer - and not just any human but, of course, a CRIPPLED human). At Marvel, it's always been the VILLAINS who were all-powerful (Molecule Man, the Beyonder, Mephisto, Galactus, etc).
So of course it's awkward that Marvel would invest some weight in this Sentry tool - AND then have no feckin idea how to deal with him when its big crossover event occurs.
The issue finds Sentry on the moon, mooning over whatever. The Inhumans, who live on the moon, attack him and then invite him to dinner. Throughtout the issue, Bendis' writing is wonderful and adult and evocative, and it's nothing to Ferry's fantastic artwork.
The key development of the issue is Iron Hitler's visit to Attilan, where he tries to make the case for his putsch against super-beings who disagree with him.
I like the sense of restraint. I like the fact that the Inhumans aren't portrayed as saints (or simps - the important thing to remember about these people is that they aren't third world refugees: they're older than mankind, ruled by a man who - despite the somewhat disparaging entry in the Official Handbook - 2 tons indeed!), and, simply, I like the Inhumans
Still, you just KNOW that the ramifications of this issue won't be played out. If they were, a character who's able to find and crush any opposition would end the whole Civil War pretty quick.
*Next up is a shame-faced admission of error on the part of the good folk here at stevereads. As you all know by now, we're usually completely infallible - but for some reason, Alex Ross' ongoing Justice League title, Justice, sent a crazyworm up our butt pretty much immediately, and it's stayed there ever since.
I don't know why the latest issue caught my eye at all. Not only was there the aforementioned crazyworm, but there was also the fact that the cover, thought beautifully drawn, features the Flash bearing down on Captain Cold at super-speed. This was certainly not a mark in its favor: the Flash is a boring character. He runs fast! Big feckin deal! So he has the best rogues gallery in the DC universe, so what? You know how he defeats each of them? By running fast! Yawn.
For whatever reason, I bought the issue - and am well reprimanded for the aforementioned crazyworm resentment of the title. This is fantastic stuff, epic and delightfully true.
This storyline, the big, ungainly storyline, is, I now see, entirely under its writers' control (Jim Krueger and Alex Ross). And more than that: this is the great, all-encompassing JLA storyline those of us reading the title in the 70s dreamt of.
Everyone's here. Not just the core magnificent seven, but everybody - the Hawks, Ray Palmer's Atom, fishnetted Zatanna, Green Arrow and Black Canary, the Elongated Man, even the Phantom Stranger ... and there are wonderful additions that we certainly never saw in the 70s: the Doom Patrol, the Metal Men, the Marvel Family, even the hints of Kirby's Third World.
For me, the best single part of this issue was the very first page, a dialogue between Superman and Batman that's as deep, as worthy as anything found in our sacred text, Kingdom Come.
Other great moments?
Batman's interrogation of Captain Cold - again, perfect characterization, in a way we actually seldom saw back in the 70s, when DC was still indecisive about how to 'do' Batman: grim avenger the character started out as, or the happy-go-lucky TV goofball from the 60s TV show who put so very much money into DC's coffers.
Green Lantern's very stirring rebirth, reciting that dorky oath over his power battery
The final sequence girding of our heroes, realizing they'll have to fight their own kin and proteges, and furthering the reader's confidence (some of us belatedly) that this entire thing is under tight control, the ultimate dream-story actually playing out for us every month.
Along the same lines, kinda sorta, was the Geoff Johns/Richard Donner/Adam Kubert relaunch of Action Comics . My hesitations came from three sources: 1) the weird, Freemasonry coincidence of having a Kubert brother apiece drawing Batman and Superman, 2) the fact that arc-relaunches start to get a little tiring when they happen so often, and 3) one of the only aspects of John Byrne's disasterous reconception of Superman (HOW could DC EVER have been that desperate?) I liked was the idea of Superman being the ONLY survivor of Krypton. In recent years that concept has been seriously blurred (the Eradicator, Krypto, Zod, two or three Supergirls, etc) - and this issue gets even blurrier, introducing a little-kid 'superboy' only moments after poor Kon-el's corpse was in the ground. We'll see what comes of it, but I'd rather Johns (and Donner, who I'm sure had about as much a part in writing this thing as I did) found some other plot-device to goose up his new graphic-novel-in-the-making.
Still, this is grand stuff. Mainly that's due to Adam Kubert's elaborately fantastic artwork. It feels wonderful, actually looking forward to both Action Comics and Superman again - now if only something could be done about the Legion, I'd be one happy blogger.
at 5:42 PM