Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wednesday Is In A Sorry State All I Care #90

Astonishing Thor #1
Batman Incorporated #1
Brightest Day #13
Brightest Day #14

Astonishing Thor #1 (Marvel, 2011, $3.99)
I've read some movie reviewers who claim to go out of their way not to hear any criticism of a flick before or after seeing it until their pure, uncontaminated views are committed to text. Personally, I like to read a bunch of other reviews before writing one, because I like to have perspective, and I hate to bother writing something if I'm just going to repeat the same observations as another guy. I'm much more likely to just shoot from the hip on comics though, because I feel I'm naturally more acerbic than most, and I frankly come from a pretty goddamned learned place on these matters. Still, for some reason I felt the need to seek out other opinions on Astonishing Thor, because I really thought more people would be wowed by the production values of this beast. The few people who felt like talking about it seem in consensus on it kinda sucking, and for once, I don't feel much need to wade against the tide.

The first problem with this book is that it's dull. The opening splash page is some blond pretty boy who by the title must be Thor looking mistily into a rainstorm. It's really not the face one would be pulling while leaping across a city skyline while lightning flashed from a mystical hammer, which is the scene in the two page spread that follows. I was so busy being unimpressed that I totally missed that there was supposed to be a tidal wave several miles high about to crush the city until I read the text. In the following splash page, Thor stops the wave by throwing a hammer at it. This is one of those brazenly stupid moments you need someone completely insane like Grant Morrison and an artist capable of channeling Kirbyesque magnificence (paging Ed McGuinness) to sell. Instead of Kirby, we've got Mike Choi, who renders with all the detail and stillness of the renaissance. Choi commits the cardinal sin of comic art, which is to produce artwork that makes you want to stop reading the comic and just look at it, which is pretty much all you can do with this many splashes and spreads, but he's still not the guy to punch waves into submission.

So anyway, some random shit happens from there, typically on pages with three panels or less. There's a brief sequence that teases a Conan outtake in a bar involving five (5!) panels per page (not to mention some clear photo referencing of upcoming Thor movie star Chris Hemsworth,) but that gets pushed aside quick to get back to more excuses for double page spreads. Choi draws sentient planets with giant faces on them like nobody else, and it really makes you want to stop and appreciate the grandeur of these single images without being bothered with any reading.

Oh dang, this motherfucker's got words n' shit. It's funny, because there are just these tiny little word balloons and captions floating in a sea of unobstructed art, and yet reading them still manages to be a chore. Stan Lee's pseudo-Shakespearean dialogue from back in the day was so much fun because of how ridiculously and obviously a put-on it was. There's no good reason for a millenia old Norse god to speak like a 16th century English playwright in 20th century New York, but Stan did it with a charm and humor that made you want to run around saying crap like "verily" and "forsooth." Nobody let Robert Rodi in on that, because the pages where he tries it are a joyless slog, and he isn't even trying to Shakespeare. Rodi is just writing stilted, boring ass dialogue that drones on.

In summary, the most astonishing thing about this book is that its something of the anti-comic, with art that has no business being employed for sequential storytelling, and a script that may as well have been produced by a frigid old English minor for a Sunday school class. Even the logo is a snooze.

Batman Incorporated #1 (DC, 2011, $3.99)
How about a comic with a dopey premise and overtures of a forthcoming plot that can be read in minutes for four bucks? Okay, what if we throw in an extra shimmery heavier stock cover? Shit, you aging readers are getting so demanding!

Batman Inc. is a polyurethane bag full of "are you fucking kidding?" It starts with a villain named Lord Death Man (borrowed from actual Batman manga) torturing the Japanese Zorro to death by melting him with acid. Turns out the hero's secret lair was under a comic book shop, which reminded me of the point in True Romance where the prostitute falls in love with the shop geek during a Sonny Chiba movie and I totally checked out of the proceedings on account of it being entirely too much of a masturbatory fantasy. Then Yanick Paquette starts referencing Adam Hughes, Kevin Nowlan and Dave Johnson to the point where a light box may have been involved. Grant Morrison's ADHD abruptly kicks in six pages into a side story that stops short (complete with freebie bracing grope) because it was interfering with Paquette performing a drafting seance to convene with the departed spirit of George Caragonne in hopes of resurrecting Penthouse Comix as part of the Batman Family. Besides Selina Kyle sliding her panties to one side to fuck Bruce Wayne on a workout bench (seriously,) there's actual reference of tentacle rape porn in a goddamned Batman comic book. We are in the end times of this industry, I assure you, as it eats itself cock first.

Brightest Day #13 (DC, 2011, $2.99)
Now that the title has switched from an anthology to round robin solo series, readers can really get a strong sense for how fully the Hawkman arc sucks. I know Hawkman has always been heavily derivative of Flash Gordon, but his leading an attack on the floating Nth City just isn't the same without a a rockin' Queen soundtrack and a hearty declaration of "Squadron 40! Diiiiiiiiiiiive!" Y'know, we were promised anthropomorphic lions and lizards in violent conflict with bird people, and that gets tossed aside a few pages in for an issue's worth of exposition.

I'm really starting to think this is Peter J. Tomasi's fault, because Peter J. Tomasi is a derivative motherfucker, and you just can't trust people who insist on using their middle initial. Besides Hawkman going all Jack Baur on that Man-Hawk (or is that all Gavin Rossdale on that angel?) there's Hawkgirl bound upright like Hannibal Lecter discussing breast feeding with her antagonist captor (just like in Silence of the Lambs) who is her own remarkably well preserved queen mother out to kill her as part of a bid to create a portal to another world (like Kitana and Queen Sindel in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation,) which also involves Hath-Set licking the helpless Shayera across the face (see Terminator 2: Judgment Day.) Then there are the already established Brightest Day-specific cliches, like the newly introduced villains who always seem to have direct ties to the hero's origin stories that somehow escaped mention for decades of published adventures. As with Batman Incorporated, the face of modern comics is being shaved off in deli thin slices and packed into a double meat subway sandwich for its own brown bag lunch.

Brightest Day #14 (DC, 2011, $2.99)
I'm confident that despite shared credit, this story was written entirely by Geoff Johns, because it sucks somewhat less and with a different flavor than the Hawkman issue. Instead of stringy face shavings, this is more like a nice strip off the breast or thigh of artistic integrity. If you must dine in hell, you might as well use a grill.

Deadman is a nice enough notion of a character, but we all know what comics he managed to sell had a lot more to do with Neal Adams, José Luis García-López and Kelly Jones than Arnold Drake, Andy Helfer or Doug Moench. Ivan Reis holds his own in that company, but he draws a masked Deadman ugly, and we all buy Ivan Reis comics because he draws people model pretty. Further, it doesn't take long to realize that without being a possessing spirit or distracted by a ring quest, Deadman is just another asshole gymnast in a universe where they're literally a dime a dozen if you buy the right Batman title. Speaking of the Dark Knight, this comic marks the second recent example of Batman having an action figure produced based on a cheesy costume variation that lasts only a few pages of a Geoff Johns comic. What the fuck is wrong with you people buying this shit?

Moving right along, Johns proves why he's a better writer than Tomasi by what he chooses to steal from. Johns bases Darkest Night on a relatively obscure Alan Moore short story from a Green Lantern annual, while Tomasi steals something from widely known Alan Moore stories almost every time he boots up his computer. Johns borrows liberal from Stan Lee's beloved "ironic" twist origins for Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, while Tomasi just outbid you on eBay for that Miracleman trade to replace the one he "referenced" until it deteriorated to a fine four color powder. If Moore is the Beatles and Alex Ross is the Eagles, I guess that makes Geoff Johns Journey to Tomasi's cover band. Now take off that fugly mask and kiss Dove like we knew you were gonna six months back, because Ivan draws handsomely and Johns delivers predictably, like the milk man used to.

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