Friday, December 15, 2006

Comics! 52, FF, and more!

Four comics this week, all quite good (proof positive that they must have come from Elmo, since there's not an issue of gay-murderer Nightwing or Super-Linebacker, not a piece of crap in the batch ... hence, Pepito's hand is not seen) - and each yields a fervent PLEA to the funny book powers that be.

The current issue of '52' maintains that title's increasingly incredible run of great issues (those of you who a while ago gave up on this book should pick it back up forthwith ... not as some sort of 'prequel' to the current continuity, but because you'll scarcely read better DC stories anywhere on the new release shelves)(that last urging was aimed pretty much squarely at you, Kevin, ya snobby slug-a-bed!). It can't last, this run - next issue promises more of the idiotic new untrained lesbian Batwoman, and that CAN'T be made good.

But we can savor it while it lasts! This issue's hugely winning highlight is the whining, hapless Ralph Dibny's discovery of the hidden mountaintop city of Nanda Parbat.

I expected to be bored. I expected, in fact, to be FRUSTRATED and bored, since the Nanda Parbat stories I WANT to be reading star one of the greatest DC superheroes of them all, sharing all the elegant simplicity of the Hal Jordan Green Lantern, or the Barry Allen Flash - or indeed Superman and Batman: of course I refer to Deadman. And not whatever stupid-ass relaunch might be out there, but good old Boston Brand, wisecracking circus performer/ghost, who can slip his ghostly form into living bodies and take control of them. THAT character should be on issue #300 of his own title right now, but that's not the plea associated with this issue (well, it IS - I mean, it's always been a plea of Stevereads that Deadman be given the treatment he's due ... and yet, apart from that marvellous mini-series two years ago with its stellar artwork by Jose Garcia-Lopez, he hasn't received it).

No, our plea arises from this issue's amazing portrayal of one member of '52's Chinese super-team, the Great Ten of the Peoples Republic.

When we first encountered the team, we groaned at all the stereotypes herded together in one narrow space. Perhaps unlike the rest of you, we here at Stevereads number among our closest friends a native of China who would cringe equally at all the one-note caricatures it contained.

So imagine our pleasure when, in this issue, we learn that at least one member of the team, the lamentably-named Accomplished Pefect Physician, is revealed to have an actual personality, an individual back-story in which he's NOT just a mindless Communist party drone.

So our plea is this: more, please! Let's have a Great Ten mini-series, with equal complexity doled out to each member. With sufficient googling on the part of our writers, it could prove an educational experience for all the comic readers out there whose knowledge of China starts and stops with the Yellow Claw.

Up next is the third issue of Alan Davis' everything-but-the-kitchen-sink 'imaginary' Fantastic Four story, 'The End.' This is the third issue of six, so there's way too much going on to summarize here. Suffice it to say Davis is continuing to haul in as many characters from the FF (especially the Lee/Kirby era) continuity as he possibly can - Galactus, the Watcher, Ronan the Accuser, Black Panther, and the Sentry this time around. And as with the previous two issues, there's the distinct feeling that he's sending out invites before he counts his chairs, if you get my meaning.

Still, this issue has high points - Davis' artwork is stellar, and John Kalisz contintues to outdo himself with his coloring. And there's an intriguing attempt to explain something that's always confused me - why so many of the Inhumans wear masks (Davis comes up with the ingenious idea that it's done as a sign of public contrition, for still looking human even after exposure to the Terrigan Mists).

(There are low points as well, most notably the 'cliffhanger' ending ... our heroes are attacked by a Sentry! Now let's see ... the original Sentry was defeated by the Fantastic Four; THIS one is facing the Human Torch, the Thing, the entire Inhuman royal family, and oh yeah - the friggin Silver Surfer. Geez - I'm on the edge of my seat over here!)

And the issue features a great action sequence involving Sue Storm and the Sub-Mariner, which leads us to our PLEA for this issue: could we please have a Namor ongoing series again? It's been years since the last one flared out in a burst of incoherent Jae Lee nonsense - surely it's time for one of Marvel's flagship characters to have his own title again? (and while we're at it, could somebody really popular propose renovating the continuity of the original Human Torch? So that he's alive, fully powered, and starring in his own title too? Thanx)

The Justice League shows up twice in this batch - first in the fourth issue of Brad Meltzer's ongoing relaunch. As you-all have gathered, I'm growing a bit impatient with this title - Meltzer clearly mapped out in his head the big storyline he wanted to tell, but it turns out he payed virtually no attention to breaking that story down into individual issues that are compelling in themselves.

The result has been four issues that feel, each one of them, like prologues. This is very annoying - bad enough we all know this run is going to be graphic novelled before the ink is dry on the last issue, but it sucks to have that fact rubbed in our faces.

This issue is a typical mess. There's Starro. There's a new Amazo. There's the issue's big reveal, Solomon Grundy - only dressed in a suit, so you know he's REALLY dangerous this time (where do these size-145 large super-villains get their suits?). But none of it gels at all, and you're left at the end of the issue same as at the end of all the other issues: wondering when the story's going to start.

So our plea? Start the story, already! So far, it looks like the new League membership will consist of Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Black Lightning, Vixen (just as soon as she gets her friggin jewelry back), Green Lantern, Black Canary, Red Tornado, Hawkgirl, and Roy Harper, rather disasterously renamed Red Arrow (it's the color-league!) - but it still feels like we're light-years away from actually seeing them all together.

(the issue also features a little mystery: on the bottom of page 11, the panel where Black Canary is hunched menacingly over Professor Ivor is clearly drawn by Adam Kubert, not Ed Benes ... but he's not credited. What the eff?)

Our last comic this time around is Justice League Unlimited, and there our plea is pretty simple: everybody should read this title! Month after month, it's the happy little antithesis of the 'adult' team books: a jam-packed story, great art, and the whole thing wraps up neatly at the end of every issue. Speaking for those of us who remember when ALL comics were like that, it can be pretty darn refreshing.

And what would a comic entry be without a Kevinator quiz? Let's try two this time around, and see who steps up:

1) The Sub-Mariner and Deadman share, by my counting, three major things in common as characters ... anybody care to guess what they are?

2) Davis' idea about why some Inhumans wear masks is good, but three things in Marvel continuity contradict it ... anybody?


Kevin Caron said...

Okay, okay - I'll catch up on 52. Happy?

As for the quiz, I have no idea what you're talking about this time, so I'll pass.

smellmo said...

You LIKED FF?! I was actually gonna drop it, since it's got, like, NO momentum. You only praised it cause you miss me...

steve said...

NOBODY wants to hazard a guess at the quiz questions? Geez ...

OK, how about a hint? If Davis says human-looking Inhumans wear masks as a public sign of contrition, a PROBLEM with that contention would be any Inhuman who either a) looks human but DOESN'T wear a mask, or b) doesn't look human and DOES...

That help at all? Anybody?

Kevin Caron said...


Okay - Gorgon wears a mask, and doesn't look human, what with the hooves and all... Karnak also wears a mask, and, well - his head is a bit oversized to pass for human (though this hasn't slowed our venerable host). Crystal looks entirely human, yet wears no mask.

steve said...

My head is bigger because it's full of BRAINS! You'd be ENVIOUS if you weren't so JEALOUS!