Friday, August 6, 2010

Brightest Day is Atomic For All I Care #76

Adventure Comics #516
Brightest Day #5-6
Brightest Day: The Atom Special #1
R.E.B.E.L.S. #18 (2010)

Adventure Comics #516 (DC, 2010, $3.99)
A few years ago, Jim Shooter returned to writing The Legion of Super-Heroes after decades of absence, offering new characters and situations, thinly veiled futuristic expletives, edgy subjects, and the first hint of a forward direction this goddamned franchise has seen since Legion Lost. Well, fuck all that. Geoff Johns finally debooted the Legion back to the pre-Five Years Later period, and got Paul Levitz to return to writing them from pretty near where he left off decades back. I'm not reading the main title, but the Adventure Comics side project is about as backwards looking as could be. This is the latest recitation of the legend of R.J. Brande, incorporating a host of familiar retcons and some seemingly new ones I don't care for, most specifically Brande's now speaking in the broken English of an early 20th Century Jewish immigrant. Oy vey, indeed! Reading this again was tiresome, and the telling so annoying and lethargic, I can't imagine it roping any new readers. Utterly pointless waste of time for all parties.

Then there's the new Atom strip, which sucks. I liked Jeff Lemire's Sweet Tooth well enough, even if an issue could be read in seconds. Then the guy started giving interviews for this serial, talking up his love for Silver Age comics and science heroes. When I hear that, it sounds like a respect for history, intellectual scripts, and compressed storytelling. Well, Lemire was just giving a stroke job, because this strip is just as shit as your average DC Comic. Ray Palmer's estranged father just had a stroke, and he feels bad about it. That's two pages, both of which are essentially splashes, devoted to Ray's newly acquired daddy issues. I remember Ray's father previously turning up in the early '90s Atom Special, and I think he was on some kind of death bed then, but suddenly he's this hugely important part of Ray's life.

Next, the Atom pays a visit to Oracle, because he knows the Calculator was behind his recent troubles. There is no explanation as to why he would jump to this conclusion, and I guess we're supposed to be impressed that the Atom is going to be the guy to finally bring the Calculator down. You know, after Oracle and... um... I guess somebody else sometime cared that the Calculator exists and failed to bust him. Cue two page spread of the Atom flying through a phone signal, another page to his bouncing between connection points, until finally confronting the Calculator. You know, the guy who looks like an accountant, who used to have giant calculator keys on his costume? So we have three pages of Atom holding a CPA by his white collar, until he's gassed, and a final page of the bookkeeper stepping on his neck.

In summary, fuck you Jeff Lemire for proving all of Ray Palmer's detractors right by portraying him as a boring nerd who battles plainclothes dorks in boring ass stories. Also, fuck Mahmud Asrar for taking on a couple dozen different assignments for several publishers after his nice work on Dynamo 5 so he can phone-in this weak art job-- peppered with cover art from Brightest Day to make this crap seem relevant.

Brightest Day #5-6 (DC, 2010, $2.99)
By gum, this is the prettiest book on the stands that doesn't really matter! Aquaman and Mera look hot drawn by Ivan Reis for three pages dealing with the BP oil spill. Hawk, Dove and Deadman look swell trying to resurrect related dead Dove and Hawk avatars for two pages. Switch two three pages of Aquaman battling evil guys from Mera's home dimension. Ardian Syaf's nine pages of Hawkworld stuff is a bit raunchier, with the sloppy black hentai kiss and the flat human faces, but his beasties are good and jacked-up. Two more pages of Lifeman, two pages of Mera spilling a big revelation. Everybody bow, and those not tossing in their speckles can wait for the easy recap online.

New issue, promised to answer the question "Who Is Martian Manhunter" that three years of his ongoing series failed to provide. No such thing will occur. Instead, more gratuitous violence from the renegade Martian chick. Is she J'Onn's reanimated daughter? Is she the Typhoid Mary of H'ronmeer's plague? Does she rock the same MPD shtick as Miss Martian? Only affirmative seems to be the latter. Meanwhile, J'Onn J'Onzz seems to be getting his nails done where the Hulk used to go in his Goth period.

Change partners and do si do! Fake Black Lantern versus Liveman and Hawk and Dave, among the least popular trio of heroes DC could throw together without involving Brother Power. Say, which corps would the Geek join, anyway?

Aw shit-- it's the Firestorm defamation project, back in full swing! Jason blows off hotties pushing up on him, while Ronnie is too drunk to see straight, puking on a helpless bystander. Maybe now that they both know there's a Black Lantern between them, the pair has finally bottomed out and can stop alienating whatever fans they could potentially gain here. Of course, the art by Scott Clark remains filled with cgi/photo backgrounds and the figures are mostly lousy, so good luck with that.

Oh yeah, Mera dropped a big continuity bomb last issue that casts a pall over her entire history. It's hard to validate if you read the original stories, and I doubt the world needed another carbon copy evil sibling, but alrighty then.

Boom! Forgot about Martian Manhunter, din'cha? Dude's playing with a squirrel and killing plants. There are worse pastimes, yo. J'Onn confirms that the JLA arc "Trial By Fire" didn't kill all the White Martians, while speaking in overly formal manner, and being drawn way less well by Pat Gleason than I'd have thought. That brow is insufficient sir, and I suspect you still haven't recovered from Green Lantern Corps with the lack of detail and over-reliance on shadow here. Finally, Martian in a Refrigerator and peace out!

Two books. Too many plots. Too much inertia.

Brightest Day: The Atom Special #1 (DC, 2010, $2.99)
Brightest Day is bringing sexy back with pretty boy Aquaman and skintight Mera. Brightest Day is putting pants on Martian Manhunter and giving him his nineteenth ultimate nemesis. Brightest Day is advancing race relations through drunk fratboy Ronnie and uptight Oreo Jason as the new Firestorm. Brightest Day is mending the marriage of the Hawks. Now, what can Brightest Day do for the Atom?

About the same thing it's doing for Deadman, Hawk and Dove-- foist them on the buying public without perceptibly improving on this pack of failures. I've had to tolerate months of shit talking from Ryan Choi fans about what a boring whitebread creep Ray Palmer is, and this book wholeheartedly supports that opinion. For starts, writer Jeff Lemire clearly never bothered reading the All New Atom, or he might have known Professor Hyatt was revealed to be senile in that series. Where that series made Ivy Town a completely oddball place offering myriad story possibilities, Lemire's Ivy Town is Dullsville, in which the only action piece takes place in a fucking library. With Palmer arguing that while Green Lantern rules space and the Flash an entire city, he rocks the fucking library. Jesus Ray, you suck at winning friends and influencing peep-holes.

Lemire also doesn't seem to have read any Totally Old Atom adventures, since he takes a big steaming shit on the entirety of Ray Palmer's continuity. I've been reading Ray's earliest adventures, which backs up my impression of the character from later stories, being that Ray's an athletic asshole with a superiority complex ironically saddled with a semi-bullshit power. The reason why shrinking people stories work is because they're about normal people surviving against adversity. Nobody aspires to get really small, but Ray's so good at what he does, he makes little cool. Lemire's Ray, however, is another weaselly Peter Parker who, despite being a divorced university professor, still looks like he's a first year student. This Atom makes rookie mistakes, and is still hung up over an abusive brother and overbearing father I barely recall ever seeing before (or never, in the brother's case.)

In Lemire's world, Ray Palmer was a little pussy who wore glasses and was inspired to heroism by personal tragedy. Instead of working under his own initiative, Professor Hyatt directed him to find the white dwarf material. Instead of being trapped in a cave activating his Atom powers through ingenuity, Ray saw the news of a cave-in and happened to already have a makeshift super-hero costume. Jean Loring? Never heard of her! All of the original Fox/Kane stories? Never happened! No, this is the Hank Pym version of Ray Palmer from '70s Justice League of America stories, who struggled with an inferiority complex and questioned his usefulness to the team. Basically, the same kind of shit that turned me off to Ryan Choi, except without the humor, the innovation, and with some X-Files conspiracy bullshit grafted onto Ray's entire friggin' life.

I've pre-paid for two more issues of Adventure Comics after the one reviewed here, which is the length of rope Lemire has to turn around my intention to never read his work again. I don't care for Mahmud Asrar's bland art either, but he'll have ditched this paycheck project even before I will make it out

R.E.B.E.L.S. #18 (DC, 2010, $2.99)
It seems a little late to be doling out an introductory issue, but I guess someone's banking on the new old Brainiac bringing new eyes in. There's a tweaked version of Vril Dox's origin to accommodate the most recent Brainiac revamp, a brief reacquaintance with the seemingly forgotten current R.E.B.E.L.S. and even a quick revisitation of Captain Comet's origins. Speaking of the latter, space sex with Starfire clears him of my many charges of homosexuality, though the jury's still out on my follow-up accusation of bi-dom. Not content to play solely in the Silver Age (Bronze if you count the nod to Secret Society of Super-Villains,) a Grant Morrison creation also turns up. It's all alright, but the steady course is only that.


mathematicscore said...

Since I'm too lazy to write reviews of my own, here's responses to yours.

I've never really given the Legion a chance, and have been sucked in to the Johns version thanks to fidelity to both Superman and Final Crisis (no wonder I'm poor...) I'm digging it, but you're right, RJ Brande does sound like a stereotype of the lowest order.

I thankfully paged through the Atom one shot and realized this would be a waste of money. I enjoyed the hell out of the Sword of the Atom stuff I found in quarter bins, and have a general good impression of him from a few "Twixt crisis" issues and specials. This is clearly not the same dude, and as you note, ignores Ryan Choi, and arguably more importantly, Gail Simone's whole run. Whole lotta weaksauce going on.

You know, I rather love Gleason's take on Manhunter. The acting is just dead on to me. His brow hasn't bothered me, though I've never been a stickler about it one way or the other. This weeks issue pulls the tablecloth out much like GLC did with Kyle during Blackest night...killing folks and then immediately bringing them back. Tomasi's bag of tricks in full effect.
The other characters I am interested in but Aquaman aside I wouldn't buy their titles, so It's nice to get all of them for one price... that's how I'm justifying it anyway.

R.E.B.E.L.S. is my "boy" so I'll only say that I think it was the Starlin powered rebirth that brought him to bi-dom. Fiftes straight laced closet case, big time.

Diabolu Frank said...

Seriously-- the first few posts here were straight up cut & pastes from comments I'd made on other blogs. It's just that simple! ;)

Whatever misgivings I have about the Ryan Choi series, at least it was entertaining. This? No.

This was my first week in months without a visit to the comic shop. There's one down the street, but that's a trip, not work-related time kill. I assume reports of Miss Martian's demise were greatly exaggerated.

I had a theory the rebirth messed with Comet's orientation, but while digging up a head shot & logo for DC Bloodlines, I was reminded he had a girlfriend in R.E.B.E.L.S.'95. I'll have to revise my evaluation, but he was just so very gay...

mathematicscore said...

Maybe hanging around Brainac 2 he feels the need for a beard?

And yes, the Atom story isn't in the least entertaining. At least Johns's regressive plot points are coupled with an entertaining style and some genuine new ideas...this story is filled with shit I've seen before, and I've seriously read only a handful of Ray Palmer Atom stories. Fight in Library, travel on phone lines, research missing... Yeesh.

mathematicscore said...

And yeah, you called it on Miss Martian... Although with a semi-new overarching theme, it comes off not as cheesy as it probably is. Plus they're being palsies! Like they actually know each other! You know, since one too her superheroic identity from the other! WHAT A CONCEPT!

I'll stop now.

Diabolu Frank said...

Yeah, apparently they missed the memo about Atom's co-creator finding that crap tired thirty years ago, which was the whole point of SOTA. It's like we've talked about before, I like Ray Palmer as a little prick, not as a 'lil buddy.

Man, it's going to be weird reading Miss Martian and Martian Manhunter interacting. It really has gotten to the point where they're separate properties in my mind. Wonder Woman is the worst super-family head of all time, so I worry that finally forming a relationship will put J'Onn in contention. It would be kind of cool to pair off M'gann with Gypsy, though. I guess I'm finally going to have to memorize the spelling of her name...

LissBirds said...

"still looks like he's a first year student." This is the issue that continuously bothers me. There's NO WAY a guy can get a Ph.D. and do post-doc work (I'm assuming he did) and look 24. It't just not possible and it really pisses me off. To me, Atom should be mid-40's. He doesn't need to be in "top physical form" or whatever because of the mass-shifting punches and all that, so screw the "ideal male" body type and ideal age, he doesn't need it. He barely looked 18 in this story. ARGH.

After that, the father issues, and Professor Hyatt being stuck into his origin story was what bugged me the most.

Where did this Captain Comet is gay theory come from? Or is this just a little in-joke that I missed out on?

"I like Ray Palmer as a little prick, not as a 'lil buddy. " Okay, now I've really got to find the time to read the old Atom stories, because I've got him conceptualized wrong.

Diabolu Frank said...

Liss, the gay Captain Comet came from me reading too much into his early stories and laughing because of it. He's actually had a few beard-- um, girlfriends over the years.

LissBirds said...

lol...okay, so now I have to read his early stories.

So is Starfire the ultimate beard...or is that just so on-the-nose that it starts to look like overcompensating?

Diabolu Frank said...

One of Starfire's unlisted powers is to turn gay men straight, or at least strongly tilt the balance of bisexuality. Just ask Dick Grayson. She's a one woman, two breasted Exodus International.

LissBirds said...

LOL. Suddenly the whole Nightwing/Starfire thing make a lot more sense now.

And now I'm not going to be able to read R.E.B.E.L.S. with a straight face anymore, either. You're right: subtext IS more fun than face value.

The Irredeemable Shag said...

"Firestorm defamation project" - You crack me up, Frank! Hilarious!

And regarding Starfire... worst comic character ever! Beyond cheesecake, she's the most played-out, tired set of cliches in comics. I don't blame Dick Grayson for tapping that, but almost marrying that?!?! Really? We were all made stupider for having read those issues.

The Irredeemable Shag

Diabolu Frank said...

Exactly, Shag! It was still the early '90s, and Dick was all like "Gee, Kory's xenoestrogen manages to get me hard despite her terrifyingly terrestrial flesh pocket, and no state will ever let me adopt kids as an unmarried and uncommonly fit male. I guess if I ever want to be a father, sham marriage is my best shot. It's this or that surrogacy Katana brought up in our last team-up with the Outsiders. I'll just have to man-up and think about Roy... Roy... Oh, Roy..."


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