Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Wednesday Is A Holiday For All I Care #92

Brightest Day #15
Brightest Day #16
DC Universe Holiday Special 2010 #1

Brightest Day #15 (DC, 2010, $2.99)
"Whatever Happened to the Manhunter from Mars?" Really? Is that the level of expectation you want to set? Referencing one of the great Superman stories and a well-regarded derivation for Batman, each by a world-renowned comic/book author? This really showed how relatively pathetic Martian Manhunter is by saddling his riff with Pete friggin’ Tomasi, an editor-turned-journeyman scripter.

Hell, Tomasi can't even stick with the titular character's basics, turning him into one of the corniest possible variations on a Green Lantern Corpsman, and offering a thin rewrite of "For the Man Who Has Everything," complete with still living homeworld and the usual Superman-glorifying global offering of ass pucker. This is all a poor fit for humble J'Onn J'Onzz, and I can't imagine he'd ever suffer a statue erected in his honor. Tomasi even has the stones to refer to him as the "Last Son of Mars," and has Superman openly acknowledge that he's ceded all of his Weisinger era pathos to the Martian Manhunter. That sinks below turning metatext as text and goes straight into the realm of fan fiction.

Moving beyond my fanboy kneejerk reaction, the story remains objectively lackluster. There's a look at an idealized future for Green Age Superman Martian Manhunter. Then J'Onn J'Onzz tries to feed chocolate cookies to the family dog on Mars, which is not only entirely left field, but also seems really callous about the pooch's digestive health. Next, the founding members of the Justice League begin to get murdered on Mars in "ironic" fashion. The mystery culminates in a two-page spread that has got to be one of the dumbest and least effective reveals in recent memory. "H'ronmeer-- it's... it's... chickenscratch!"

The art by Pat Gleason was much better than the far below par shit slinging of his run to date, but he’s still no Curt Swan, George Perez or Andy Kubert. Early in his run on Green Lantern Corps, it looked like he was a contender, but he seems to have fallen back into being the poor man's Doug Mahnke. Worse, his graphic killings of the Justice League is right out of Kev O'Neill's Marshal Law, which adds yet another superior artist to compare Gleason to. I did like the last story page splash page though, as that's about the best look I've seen of J'Onn's new threads to date (with purplish blues, solid black pants, and those big billowy Adam Hughes boot's I've always dug.)

Both of the previous “Whatever Happened to…” were about celebrating all of a character’s continuity in a very metatextual fashion, while Tomasi consistently ignores anything that occurred in the first thirty years of Martian Manhunter comics. Nobody, not even nostalgia slut Alex Ross, ever recognizes Pre-Crisis Manhunter history. Most of the current creators are either children of the 70-80s or never cared much about J’Onn in the first place. It’s something I’m well used to, but that cover copy got me twisted up over it. I love what J’Onn J'Onzz evolved in the way he did, but there are only so many times you can beat the dead family drum before it’s too worn out to resonate. I wish folks had an interest in playing with some of his older history, but beyond digging up the Human Flame, it doesn’t seem to be editorially or creatively valued. I can't help but be more disappointed than the material here warrants, but it still comes down to defending mediocrity as not being utter crap.

Brightest Day #16 (DC, 2010, $2.99)
I feel bad for Scott Clark. Fucking Ivan Reis goes and draws some of the loveliest Aquaman art ever rendered for a few pages, then Clark's terrible computer tablet hackery is like getting punched in the face. A few pages later, Reis returns to coddle you with tender loving care, and then she starts biting your ear to pieces, like a Nightmare on Scott Street. It's like getting filet mignon with a side of escargot another patron spat out onto your plate. I know he's capable of better, and hope he was just experimenting and got locked into the aesthetic for this one story. Hopefully, a year of being the worst artist on a group book and being offered ten bucks for full body sketches at conventions will sober him up.

On to the stories, they're both still treading water (ooo, pun-ished!) There's a fucked-up moment where Deathstorm dicks with Alvin Rusch, and the origin we already figured out for the new Aqualad was finally spelled out (not to mention the heightened probability Aquaman's Post-Crisis origin has been retroconned.) Alternatingly pretty vacant and pretty fugly.

DCU Holiday Special 2010 #1 (DC, 2010, $4.99)
Let me first point out the value for the dollar. Five bucks may seem like a lot for a comic, but it breaks down to less than $2.50 for a standard issue's equivalent pages, and the six short stories are all meaty enough to occupy a chunk of time. For a holiday special, the topics are surprisingly heavy and diverse. Still, it's a holiday special, so it relies on seasonal goodwill to overlook amateur hour cock-ups.

  • Anthro in "Sometimes a Bear...": Joey Cavalieri's story is kind of cute, and feels like it comes from personal experience. However, the cartoon cel-looking art by Carlo Soriano sabotages his efforts with poor visual storytelling. I often paused during and between panels to figure out what the artist was failing to convey.

  • Jonah Hex in "Guiding Light": I assume writer Seth J. Albano is related to Hex's departed co-creator, so it's a shame the titular character feels so forced in what amounts to a guest-starring role. The main concern here is a saddle sore reworking of the Hanuka story, which makes it play like a Very Special Episode with people getting shot in the face. The story's fine, but I could have sworn Renato Arlem was an inker, which would explain his stiff and unattractive artwork. As it turn out, he's mostly provided full art chores to undesirable titles on their way to the chopping block. Maybe that explains it.

  • Green Lantern in "Holy Day": I want my motherfucking John Stewart series already. He was supposed to play a bigger role in Green Lantern, and he's stuck playing second-fiddle to Kyle Rayner in Corps and I'm sick of it. I'm also tired of Stewart's military background being played up over everything else, but if it were handled as well as Tony Bedard does here, I might be more forgiving. John Stewart busts worldly with a rookie Green Lantern about how a sophisticated individual deals with violent ritual practices that might offend non-adherents. It's a rare occasion when one of these things is potentially enlightening, and handled intelligently. The art is by colorist Richard Horie (along with Tanya Horie.) While not ready for prime time, it's at least comparable to your average indie super-hero comic from the '90s

  • Superman in "Hero of Heroes": I fucking hate "Another Day in Paradise" by Phil Collins, because it's a rich man making himself feel important by guilt tripping everyone else. Saps like me who already throw a couple bucks a bum's way are the only ones affected by the tune, and everyone else just changes the station while averting the street corner beggar's gaze. Kevin Grevioux is a Hollywood screenwriter who wants to remind us that the real heroes are children disfigured while saving their family from a fire, and I want Kevin to know he can eat a dick. Artist Roberto Castro never met a crosshatch he didn't like, so all the characters look like they have schmutz all over their faces, plus he lacks the fundamentals to avoid asymmetrical eyes or Martin Luther King Jr. showing Kevin how one eats a dick (which while unintentionally humorous, really undercuts the intended emotional resonance.) Also, I'm pretty sure the guy in the wig sharing a panel with King owned one of his ancestors.

  • The Spectre in "The Gift": The entirely professional and eye-appealing art of Tom Derenick is such a relief at this point that I hate to point out how clearly the Spectre needs a makeover. That goatee is stupid looming and there's something so wrong with putting a modern African-American ex-cop in bootie shorts, Peter Pan shoes and tuff-girl gloves. Writer Dara Naraghi schools us on New Year's in Tehran while demonstrating our cultural differences through a holiday tale about the Embodiment of God's Wrath In the Face of Murder Visited Upon the Earth. Season's Greetings with Vengeance!

  • The Legion of Super-Heroes in "Holiday": The only all-pro joint, brought to you by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Chris Batista. The premise is belabored over half the running time, including one of those cringe-inducing "in the future, all restaurants are Taco Bell" moments. Still, it looks and reads with the force of six fistfuls of competence, so alright then.


mathematicscore said...

This is the first time I one-hundred percent agree with you regarding Tomasi/Gleason Manhunter; this issue has huge problems. I've enjoyed Tomasi's pop culture references in the past, but referencing comics, and, as you noted, doing so ham-fistedly, just sits all kinds of wrong. I'd have forgiven "For the Martian who has everything." And in fact didn't at all mind the use of psychic/reality headgames being where this plays out. I can even see the argument for where the JLA would play his conscience.

Heck, I'm talking myself out of this.

The novelty deaths aren't where I would go, and I'm never a fan of heroes "pushed to the edge" and compromising their principles. Plus, the statue is a bit much, but even that sort of plays into this being largely D'kay's creation.

I'm onboard still, but this issue had great potential and ends up pretty squandered.

Diabolu Frank said...

Laying the blame at D'kay's feet is definitely the way to go if you're going to walk Tomasi on a misdemeanor. As the prosecution, I "neglected" to offer him that consideration in the review. I'm just pissed that Tomasi remains the likely writer who'll deliver, God help me, Ostrander Lite in another ongoing.

mathematicscore said...

Oh, I'd say we'd get better than Ostrander. I think Tomasi has a better grasp of J'onn's character. That said, his grasp of the best stories for J'onn leaves something to be desired.

Diabolu Frank said...

Your mouth to God's ear. I didn't mind the darkness of Ostrander as much as the continuity snafus, constant guest appearances and New Gods crap.


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