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.


Beepy said...

Super insightful post, Steve. Almost makes me wish that I cared about comics.

Kevin Caron said...

Man, Steve - first you can't get Sebastian reading comics, now Beepy? Do I have to do everything myself?

Okay, Beepy - give me three favorite movies of yours, and I'll see if I can't recommend a comic book you'll love. Mind you, I may never be able to get you to like the stuff Steve reviews here, but you may find yourself enjoying a whole new storytelling medium...

steve said...

Oh, and Beepy? It would help if the movies you mention were about lesbians. Or Serbians. Or cancer patients. Or: lesbian Serbian cancer patients!

Hint: DON'T mention how much you loved the Fantastic Four movie! Kevin's comic-snob head would pop right off!

But wait ... surely there's a one-issue-and-counting 'comic' out there somewhere about a dying kid with leukemia who likes the Fantastic Four? THAT way, it could all be a bleak commentary on the FUTILITY of superhero comics!

Yah! THAT'd work!

Jeff E. said...

Two of my favorite movies are The Secret of NIHM and The Great Escape. So if anyone knows of a comic book about mice in Nazi prisons, let me know.

Anonymous said...

don't take the bait!

Elmo said...

Beepy needs to finish New Frontier... as for Fitty-Two, nothing out there can match the volume of content, quality content, that revolves through those pages. If it was Ultimate Spider-man, after being chopped into bits, each plot would baby-step its way through six all-talk issues.

beepy said...

Unless your mother held a tiny little bundle of double X chromosomes and said "She looks like a Kevin to me", you probably haven't seen my favorite movies. But here goes, "Casablanca", "Enchanted April", lots and lots of Merchant Ivory type dramas and musicals. I love musicals. Girly stuff. Sophisticated story telling trumps car chases. Does that help?

Elmo is right though. I loved the first book of New Frontier, but got lost in the second one.

I'm excited about the idea of you recommending three comics to me. Elmo has recommended several Batman stories which I liked a lot, as well as the New Frontier. Steve recommended a Daredevil one (the blind superhero is Daredevil, right?) and I didn't so much care for that one. I don't remember why.

Kevin Caron said...

What, guys can't like Casablanca?

DC: The New Frontier is a big favortite of mine, but let me see if I can't come up with something more your speed. Gimme a bit to stew about it.

Jeff: yer crackin' me up.
Steve: watch and learn, baby!

steve said...

Beepy! You read - or I should say 'read' that Daredevil graphic novel THIS YEAR!

I submit that if you 'can't remember' why you didn't like something you read THIS YEAR, you disqualify yourself from having read it AT ALL and must immediately START OVER.

Geez. My mother warned me about manatee short-term memory ...

steve said...

And in my own defense (and, of course, in my own attack on Kevin), I should point out, Kevin, that when you suggested 'My Leper Year' to Sebastian, you practically came right out and TOLD him 'you'll like this - it's wicked pretentious!'

I submit he'd have liked anything, if he thought that was the case. If I were a good enough pitch-man, if I could somehow convince him that the ONLY thing talked about in the back-booths of the Cantab is Herb Trimpe's run on the Hulk, he'd have raced out to Comicopia and spent the $3.75 needed to procure all 112 issues.

Kevin Caron said...

Uh... Do you really believe any of that?

Actually, as I told you, Sebastian's one request in finding him a comic to read was that the
characters not wear their emotions so vividly (cartoonishly?) on their sleeves... A curious restriction, certainly - but, I suppose, one that had merit.

Could you call "Different Ugliness Different Madness" pretentious? Sure. You could. But I certainly enjoyed it (you might too, if only for the Milt Caniff/Jack Kirby reminiscent linework), and now Sebastian has read (and read with care, and enjoyed) a comic book.

I'm gonna mark that one in the win column.

Our priorities are different, though - I want to turn folks on to comics, you want to turn folks on to Superhero comics. In this case, the former is much easier than the latter - but it may also be a big step toward achieving the latter.

Jeff E. said...

Hmm, I'd go ahead and chalk that last paragraph up in the win column as well, Kevin.

steve said...

SHADDUP, the both of you!

Or dost thou risk ... BANISHMENT ETERNAL????

locke said...

[Or dost thou risk ... BANISHMENT ETERNAL????]

okay, that was about the funniest thing STEVE has posted on this blog... something about the funny books really brings out the funny in the comments...

(okay, the syphillis jokes were pretty good, too...)

beepy said...

Man, I love you guys. And I'm not just saying that because Steve's drunk.

Kevin Caron said...

I'll have your recommendations for you tonight, Beepy.

And Locke, I totally agree - Steve's hilarious when he's exasperated. So we should all do our part to keep pushing his buttons so that he can maintain this elevated level of funny.

Kevin Caron said...


Here are the recommendations I've come up with. I've narrowed it down to 5, all of which should be available through the Boulder Public Library network (let me know if I've misread your whereabouts).

They are (in no particular order):

Berlin: City of Stones by Jason Lutes
Blankets by Craig Thompson
Cages by Dave McKean
The Speed Abater by Christophe Blain
Age of Bronze: A Thousand Ships by Eric Shanower.

And the Oscar goes to...

Just kidding. Enjoy.

steve said...

Memo to self.

Re: Kevin's suggestions for Beepy

Conclusion: Oh My GAWD.

Beepy said...

Thanks, Kevin. I'm going to check into them immediately, in spite of Steve's derision. I'll let you know what I think.

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