Sunday, November 05, 2006
comics! the sivana family!
When young Elmo presented me with this week's wopping-big batch of comics, I naturally inquired as to which ones were his and which ones he'd pinched from my nemesis Pepito's plywood lean-to.
In response to this perfectly natural question, Elmo said 'Eh ... snorf' and flitted off. So I pitched the comics all together, shook vigorously, and played a little game: see if I can tell which issues are crappy enough to be Pepito's!
Some of them are easy calls. Only Pepito would still pay good US money for Daredevil, for instance. Likewise only Pepito would think any good could ever come from the current Captain America 'Bucky's back - and Cap's got him!' storyline.
I can understand why Pepito would feel an imperishable flicker of hope about the Legion of Super-Heroes ... I feel it too, the unquenchable hope that this, the single greatest of all comic titles (don't even step up, ya miserable squadges! You KNOW I'm right, for all your Spawns and Magnus Robot-Fighters and Serbian Lesbian Cancer Patients), will somehow turn around and be good again.
Alas, no. This current re-launch (not just its current incarnation, 'Paris Hilton and the Legion of Super-Heroes,' but the entire Waid/Kitson run) was doomed at birth - mean-spirited, soulless characters (and ineptly drawn, needless to say - Kitson has absolutely zero vision and couldn't draw a convincing teenager if his life depended on it), the whole stupid parents-just-don't-understand premise, the weird plotting that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with any kind of heroism. I could kiss Pepito for his undying hope (except for his extensive facial boils, that is), but nevertheless: we should scrap this run of the Legion and start over. For a new premise, how about this: on a routine shuttle-flight, the galaxy's richest man is saved from mugging by three teens using their respective powers out of sheer, spontaneous heroism. The rich man realizes, in a sudden burst of inspiration, that these young people represent something that's sorely missing from the pasteurized, homogenized world of the 31st century (while maybe also realizing the tremendous marketing potential of the concept, being a businessman and all). The idea catches on, and the THRILL of the series is the birth of a new legend.
Wacky, I know. But it just might have some worth to it.
Certainly it was Pepito who picked out the new Midnighter series (great to see Chris Sprouse drawing a comic again, if only for a couple of issues - and you just KNOW it'll only be a couple of issues ... I tell you, I don't give a crap about 'artistic sensibility' - what so many comic book artists lack is just plain DISCIPLINE, the making-themselves DRAW PAGES every day), which is blandly bad. And Pepito probably plunked for the penultimate issue of Secret Six - understandably, I guess, since this title's been getting better with every issue and this issue is pretty good overall. But when all is said and done, all the characters are pretty much losers (like over in Checkmate, except for the occasional appearance by Alan Scott) and nothing in the storyline means anything.
Also certainly it was Pepito who bought the latest issue of Uncanny X-Men, despite the fact that the title has sucked like a sump-pump for about 30 years. This current storyline is just about as bad as it gets - an interminably convoluted storyline so unfriendly to newcomers it might as well have a 'keep out' sign on it, plus boring artwork, plus trite, stupid dialogue ('Die now'? Um, 'die now'? Hmmmm ... I seem to recall a major recent science-fiction movie where a villain uses that exact line; let me think, what WAS it .... Lord of the ... Lord of the something-or-other ...) and one of the most boring mutants ever conceived, a white guy who can throw around unbelievable amounts of nondescript energy with no apparent harm to himself. Yawn.
I guess I'm blaming Pepito for the first issue of the Alan Davis miniseries 'Fantastic Four: the End' - this is very, very familiar territory ... we've seen this exact same motif over at DC, when Alan Davis drew two different runs of 'The Nail.' Put things an undisclosed stretch in the future, have Alan Davis draw it impeccably, and haul in every character in the continuity. It ends up being boring because a) it's just an imaginary story, and they don't interest readers anymore (mainly because the current trend of story-arcs with writers and artists who OBVIOUSLY won't be staying for anything resembling a long-haul), and b) in order to make these things work, you have make virtually all the characters involved act in un-characteristic ways. Pepito was probably just fascinated by all the pretty colors.
It was certainly Elmo who picked out the latest issue of JSA Classified, which finishes up the two-part Bane/Hourman storyline. This conclusion is really good - sharp writing and more of Scott McDaniel's incredible artwork. Every time I see his fantastic work, I harken back to the glory days when month after month we got to enjoy it on Nightwing. Far be it for me to suggest locking an artist forever onto one title - he doesn't have to do Nightwing. As some of you may recall, my own first choice for his employ would be Batman - I thought his stint on that book was paradise itself. But I'd be willing to settle for something else - Adam Strange? Phantom Stranger? Any of you have suggestions?
And speaking of the Phantom Stranger, he makes a delightfully drawn appearance in the latest issue of Justice League of America .... and the sad fact is, it's the most exciting part of the issue. Much as we here at Stevereads had hopes for this relaunch, and much as we like Brad Meltzer personally, surely this issue is a good point to concede that this title isn't working? Or maybe that it's working extremely well for a 180-page graphic novel but not at all for a monthly comic. This current issue has one, maybe two sequences that are worth a single issue's cover price (although at least the Big Three's game of Dungeons and Dragons has been forcibly interrupted).
Luckily, we end things on not one but two strong notes, both certainly attributable to Elmo, not the despicable Pepito. The first is the Batman/Superman annual, which is freaking hilarious and should be read by every comic reader despite its hideous cover.
And even that annual is surpassed - as is every other comic this time around - by the latest 'Beast Who Came to Dinner' issue of 52.
This title is doing more and more wonderful things every week - warping the continuity, complexing everything up, and especially introducing - or more accurately re-introducing great, first-rate new characters.
And best of all, this issue - re-introducing as unlikely a concept as the brawling, uneven Sivana family, the perfect counterpart to the regal, austere Black Marvel family.
This is hilarious stuff, capped off with a beautiful closing scene between the teenage Osiris and a wonderful new character who will certainly be named after the ancient Egyptian crocodile-god.
A weekly treat - surely something Elmo would appreciate ... and something the felonious Pepito wouldn't know anything about ...