Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Comics! Three Number Ones!

Comics this week included three first issues spanning two thousand years of super-heroics. First issues don’t mean as much these days as they once did, but I can’t help but get a little excited about them even so – they represent such potential to be squandered!

The first issue of DC’s new limited series “Legacies” takes us back to the very beginnings of that company’s super-hero scene: World War Two is about to break open, and gangsters are running the streets of America’s cities. Suddenly, ‘mystery men’ are appearing – The Crimson Avenger, the Atom, the Sandman … swathing themselves in mist, using their fists and guns to bring crime-waves to a halt. The artwork is done by Andy Kubert (with inks by his legendary father Joe), but that’s the only reason to check in with this first issue (apparently, different creative teams will handle different issues). For better or worse, the ‘dawn of superheroes’ story-bar was set incredibly high by “Marvels” - hell, even Marvel’s own “Marvels Project” hasn’t been able to equal that earlier classic, and despite having a much, much grander story to tell, “Legacies” doesn’t even come close. Yet, at least.

The first issues move into the present day with “Avengers” #1, a confused, over-talky jumble of an issue that was probably supposed to compensate for its glaring weaknesses by brandishing the fact that it’s written by fan favorite Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by fan favorite John Romita Jr. (although the JRJR cover is easily the worst he’s ever done in his entire career). It starts with Steve Rogers solemnly telling about thirty super-heroes that he needs them – they all have slightly different reactions, but that’s OK, because we don’t see most of them again in this issue. Instead, we cut to a dinner/reception where Steve Rogers is again christening a new Avengers team, but this one is much smaller, a core team that makes almost no tactical sense at all (there’s Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Spider-Archer, Spider-Wolverine, Bucky … and, in case the team encounters any, you know, super-villains, Thor and Iron Man). This team is attacked in the middle of their first meeting by Kang the …

…. sorry, I nodded off. Yes, this new Avengers team is attacked in their first issue by Kang the Conqueror, in a gambit that seems insane even for Bendis. To put it mildly, Kang is over-used as a go-to Avengers bad guy (he was even the inaugural villain for the young Avengers, for pete’s sake). He tells our heroes that their ‘children’ will be responsible for unleashing an untold horror on the human race, and he enlists their help to come forward in time and prevent that from happening. This is obviously a job for the aforementioned Young Avengers, but that doesn’t seem to occur to Bendis, so we’re off to the races next issue. Fans of Bendis and JRJR will continue to buy the run – Bendis will be on it for about six issues, and if history is any guide, Romita penciled his last issue before this one even went on sale (this issue has a prose backup feature describing the origin of the Avengers …. It’s violently uninteresting, so we’ll skip it for now).

We jump forward thousands of years for our third first issue, a new #1 for the venerable Legion of Super-Heroes. The draw here isn’t the fairly good artwork by Yildiray Cinar (which certainly sounds like a Legion name – it’s not revealed in this issue what U.P. planet he’s from – my bet is Bismoll) but rather the return to Legion-scribing duties of Paul Levitz, who wrote some of the team’s greatest adventures about fifty years ago and is therefore presumed to have a solid grasp of what makes the Legion tick. There are two drawbacks to this theory: first, this Legion is composed of ragged-looking adults rather than the sexy teenagers Levitz last wrote about, and second, this series springs directly from a story-arc over in “Superman” a couple of years ago, which makes this issue feel just about as heavily c0ntinued as “Avengers” #1 did. Needless to say, good first issues shouldn’t feel heavily continued from something else – their whole point is to clear the clutter from the stage and start things fresh. Instead, the plot of this issue mostly revolves around the potential rehabilitation of the villain of that Superman mini-series, a xenophobic bigot code-named Earth-Man.

The issue was largely uninteresting despite two distinctly high-octane surprises, but DC’s background strategy here is certainly working on this long-time Legion fan: I’m perfectly willing to stick around and give Levitz the benefit of the doubt.

Still, for not one, not two, but three first issues to have this little oomph between them …


Kevin said...

"which certainly sounds like a Legion name – it’s not revealed in this issue what U.P. planet he’s from – my bet is Bismoll"

...Sprockin' hilarious.

Steve Donoghue said...

why thank you, you squadj!