Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Comics! 52 and Action!
After waiting patiently for my archnemesis Pepito to fall asleep (which he eventually did, clutching his ragged Ricky Martin plush doll close to his heart, as always), I crept into his lean-to and snatched up a small selection of the latest comics to read and tell you all about.
(the sequel, the somehow getting them back into Pepito's lean-to without arousing suspiciion, is a trickier matter, but we'll manage it somehow)
The item on the top of the pile aroused some considerable misgivings - it was the second issue of 'Fantastic Four - The End,' and the misgivings came from our awareness that our freakish young friend Elmo seemed to LIKE the first issue.
So we read the second issue with more care, attenae attuned for the WORTH of the thing.
The first worth leaps off the page: this is some of Alan Davis' greatest artwork almost impossibly rich in detail and compositional excellence.
Beyond that, well ... there's always been a certain charm in 'imaginary' stories - plots set outside the normal continuity, where readers get to conjure on might-have-beens.
This present story is set in the future, on an Earth that's become a paradise since all the mutie-scum were eliminated (or not all ... you just KNOW how this thing is going to climax ... and if you don't, let me give you a hint: his code-name starts with 'W'), and it's got lots of interesting stuff in it. It doesn't yet exercise our passion here at Stevereads, but there are four issues left. We shall see ...
A 'we shall see' response is also provoked by the third issue of the new Wonder Woman relaunch, which is the first issue of the run that has the distinct feeling of groping.
We won't nickpick that this feeling starts with the cover itself (as you can see from the accompanying picture, the background - Cheetah and her feline servants hunched menacingly - was added after the fact, and lamentably so, since climbing trees is not among the many talents cheetahs possess) - instead, we'll concentrate on the issue itself, which is frantically nonstop in terms of plot and virtually featherweight in terms of sense or momentum.
In the progress towards the extremely un-surprising climax (the sorceress Circe deprives Agent Prince of ... her powers! Why, THAT plot-device hasn't been used since the early 90s, and before that the mid-'80s, and before that the late-'70s, and before that the mid-'60s ... if we do it often enough, the readers will always remember that FEMALE superheroes don't really DESERVE their powers and must constantly have them taken away and re-earned), we learn one thing above all: writer Allan Heinberg hasn't bothered to sit down at his coffee table and actually PLOT OUT what he wants to do with this title. We'll have to see what comes of it all ...
Luckily, no element of 'we shall see' attends the new Geoff Johns/Adam Kubert relaunch of Action Comics! This is epic stuff, despite its colossal flaws. Kubert's artwork is amazing, and Johns' writing walks the fine line between humanity and iconography.
The flaws creep in around the basic premise of the plot - a boy from Krypton, found by Superman and sought by the rest of the world (including a Bizarro-manipulating Lex Luthor), eventually taken in by Lois Lane and Clark Kent as their 'foster son' ... as Lois herself points out, everybody in the whole feckin world is going to NOTICE the coincidence. Somebody needs to tell Johns that pointing out this fact isn't the same thing as CONSIDERING it, as a writer should.
Still, the issue has one great exchange. When Clark and Lois are hanging around the Kent family farm debating what to do with the little super-boy, Johns gives this neat little bit of dialogue to Lois:
"Clark, people like Ma and Pa Kent were put on this earth to be good parents. We weren't. You're here to save it. And I'm here to find the truth in it." Great stuff, even if the issue's sentimental climax turns things around.
But the pearl of the pickings this time around was the latest issue of '52' - starting with the fantastic cover, certainly the best cover '52' will field this year (and it gets my nomination for best DC cover of year period).
The plot - half of it, anyway - revolves around how the trio of DC's oldest super-heroes, the original Green Lantern, the original Flash, and Wildcat, react to the new wave of Lex Luthor-sponsored young super-heroes. The tone is controlledly bittersweet, and the best part of it is, it's offset by the issue's other plotline, featuring a group of mad scientists. This other plotline is openly and joyously feckin hilarious.
My young friend Elmo (you'll know him by the errant Owl-like tufts of hair emanating at random hours and angles from the top of his head) speculated the other day that this new format - a weekly comic actually done well - might be the future of the genre. If so - and if the quality remains this good - that might be a very interesting future. We shall see.