Monday, November 14, 2011

Wednesday Is Not-So-New 2+2 #126

Aquaman #2 (2011)
Legion: Secret Origin #1
Stormwatch #2 (2011)
Uncanny X-Men #1 (2012)

Aquaman #2 (DC, 2011, $2.99)
This is a gorgeous book, and clearly the best visual rendition of Aquaman ever seen. The writing also respects the character, even if the metatextual defensiveness is a bit of a self-defeating turnoff. Show, don't tell. Cool villains, and I approve of the dark fantasy direction, but it sucks to read an issue inside five minutes.

Legion: Secret Origin #1 (DC, 2011, $2.99)
I've had a lifelong interest in the Legion, beginning with the fantastic art and character designs seen in DC Comics house ads for books that never reached the newsstands in my neck of the woods. Years later, I read some occasional Legion back issues, but the property is notoriously convoluted, so those tastes were not enough to help me wade into a continuity that served as the basis for the X-Men soap opera. I finally jumped on in 1994, when the entire franchise was rebooted in the wake of Zero Hour: Crisis in Time. Mark Waid wrote a strong introductory #0 issue, and writers like Tom Peyer and Tom McCraw kept me buying the book for the rest of the series' run. I also dove into back issues, reading nice fat chunks of the esteemed Paul Levitz and controversial Keith Giffen runs.

Beginning in 2000, DC launched a series of renumbering schemes intended to introducing new readers to the Legion. In eleven years, there have been two volumes of Legion Lost, one of Legion Worlds, one of Adventure Comics and three volumes of Legion of Super-Heroes (one top-billing Supergirl,) plus the animation tie-in The Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century. I spent six years happily collecting at least two Legion series a month, and sampled every single offering since for various durations, but have yet to buy more than thirteen consecutive issues.

Legion: Secret Origin will not change my mind. I already gave the 21st Century Paul Levitz a chance on Adventure, which I thought was terrible. This book was just mediocre, but as a jumping-on point for new readers, it's the pits. There's nothing but soldiers, bureaucrats, and scientists talking for seventeen of twenty pages. Much of what is said is vague or of no great importance, and the only characters truly introduced were Brainiac 5 and Phantom Girl, but not in such a way as to inspire anyone to want to read more. The Legion origin adventure takes place off-panel, and we're instead stuck with a boring contrivance tacked on to the already burdensome Legion continuity. The only good thing I can say about this book is that it's some of the slickest, smoothest work I've seen from Batista, which may be the influence of inker Marc Deering. In truth, the only reason I ordered this book was to get a free Legion flight ring, and my supplier didn't send me mine, so I got nothing I wanted out of this purchase.

Stormwatch #3 (DC, 2011, $2.99)
DC must be going for some kind of record in soliciting the most comic books using cover art that doesn't actually appear on the book. I made a bit of a stink over the announcement that the tonally appropriate Miguel Sepulveda cover art used to promote #1 was supposed to be replaced by an atonal Chris Burnham one. It wasn't that I disliked Burnham's art, but that I didn't feel it worked as well as a debut image. I also loved Sepulveda's cover to #2, which was replaced by an unannounced (Al Barrionuevo? Sepulveda?) replacement. Now here's Sepulveda's #3, which looks nothing like Burnham's solicited #3, which doesn't bode well for his #4. Are they trying to push exclusive artist Sepulveda, are they keeping the book's tone consistent, or heaven forbid, actually using the Martian Manhunter's presence to help sell the book to a DC audience? DC isn't even doing variant covers for this series, so I guess the trade paperback will just have a killer pin-up section.

I talk a lot about the cover because there isn't that much to say about the issue. I liked it as I was reading it, but after those few minutes was up, I once again felt gypped. For frig's sake Cornell, slow down and take a breath. I know a bunch of these characters, but a large portion of New 52 readers do not, and as introduced over the past three issues they might as well be Itchy & Scratchy. "They fight! And bite! They fight and bite and fight! Fight fight fight! Bite bite bite! The Stormwatch (not Authority) Show!" Which would make J'Onn J'Onzz Poochie, I suppose, unless Poochie is a gestalt of all the new characters (Adam, Harry and the Projectionist.)

Jack Hawksmoor is the God of Cities, which developed over time from the funky guy who communed with cities, but it pretty much all happened under creator Warren Ellis. Now we have the Projectionist, the goddess of media, and Harry Tanner, the Eminence of Blades Lies? It's getting a little fan-fic in here, like Cornell is building a "bleeding edge sci-fi" JLA by reworking the same Ellis riff. Even Jenny Quantum is explained this issue as a sort of goddess of theoretical science who can do pretty much anything, unless a theory is disproved*. Jeez, instead of operating out of a ship called the "Eye of the Storm," maybe they should rechristen it the "Gods out of a Box?"

There are some cute moments, including Jack having tea with the personifications of three cities (including a Paris with stereotypical "oui-oui" accent.) Not to get spoilery, but if Harry Tanner doesn't turn out to be the Tao of the team at some point in the near future, the red herring is glowing like a traffic light. If there were any remaining doubts, let it be known that Adam One is a terrible team leader. J'Onn J'Onzz remains a glorified walkie-talkie who gets jobbed this issue to make up for his de-jobbing last issue, although the rest of the team suffer a double jobbing. Sucks to be them, but each issue reenforces an increasing likelihood that this book may end up being "Midnighter and Apollo's Breeder Friends!"

Again, the book isn't bad, but it's kind of like a Jeph Loeb comic with half a brain (as opposed to none.) Lots of action, slight characterization, all to the glory of Superman/Batman stand-ins. So long as he doesn't get nailed for any more swiping, Sepulveda's art looks sweet, like a star in the making (just hopefully not the Rob Liefeld of the Perez/Hitch influenced set.)

*I thought I was having trouble with spell check, but instead learned that "disprooven/disproven" isn't actually a word. That sounds familiar actually, but my real education started right here. That's one to grow on!

Uncanny X-Men #1 (Marvel, 2012, $3.99)
Remember X-Men #1? The one from 1991 with four different covers and a fifth that combined the other four into one gatefold Jim Lee mini-poster? That shit sold fucking MEEELIONS of copies, and was like the be-all, end-all of comic books. I believe it's still the bestselling single issue of all time.

Remember a couple of years ago when they relaunched X-Men with some creators nobody ever heard of and an asswipe team with Spider-Man and goddamned vampires? I don't. Seriously, I forget that shit happened all the time. I still think the mega-millions X-Men comic is out there, but you can now have a complete run of that title and totally ignore this other dogshit adjectiveless X-Men. In fact, so many people ignore the X-Men now that they cancelled the original X-Men title that was the only book left at Marvel to publish over five hundred sequentially numbers issues under (basically) the same title that didn't involve (him again) Spider-Man. That's a big deal, right? Major talent and a heavy push, right?

Last month, a new Ultimate X-Men #1 was better than it had a right to be, especially while pairing Iceman and the Human Torch. It hit pitch perfect notes to recall the past, while offering twists enough to reflect our present. This? Look at that cover. That is not a Jim Lee gatefold. That isn't even a New 52 Rob Liefeld, which is at least excitingly revolting. That is the most pedestrian image for an X-Men cover in, like, ever. It's barely fit for #545, which makes me wonder if this scam wasn't decided after the fact in a pathetic bid to steal DC's thunder.

Open the book, and there's a splash page of all the main characters in the book with tiny little caption boxes relating their names, secret identities, and powers. I think they count that as an introduction to new readers nowadays. That stinkin' thinkin' insures that there are no such beasts. The next two pages establishes the locale of San Francisco and the current status quo of Marvel mutants. That helps, I guess. The next two pages reintroduce the villain Mister Sinister. They're pretty good. The next two pages tell readers that Scott Summers is fucking that evil whore Emma Frost, so if you grew up with Cyclops as a cretin, he totally still is. He's also leading the single worst X-Men team I can think of, according to a splash page. Let's look at this for a moment.

Magneto: God, this character sucks. He had an arc, where he started out as a dyed in the wool world conqueror, but then he became sympathetic as a Holocaust survivor and fallen friend of Professor X. He tried to make good in Xavier's absence, backslid, and ended up a hard villain again. That's a great tragedy. He's done the same thing half a dozen times since, plus died repeatedly, and now he's a joke. I don't care if there are only two hundred mutants left-- you've got to keep killing this guy until it keeps. If I were among the last 200 humans on Earth, and I glanced over to see Osama Bin Laden still kicking, there's be 199 humans and a bloody rock. In fact, it would be a bright spot to that whole "everybody else is dead thing." We're all crying for lost family and the weight of our shared responsibility, and then we'd roast marshmallows over Magneto's corpse. Maybe one of those mutants could turn him into the marshmallow even.

Danger: Joss Whedon completed the "Professor X is an irredeemable monster" course begun with Onslaught by having him knowingly enslave a sentient life form and use "her" as the training ground for his team. Can't come back from that, and the end result is a lame ass robot x-person.

Colossus: Created to be the star of the All-New, All-Different X-Men, he ended up being the Potsie to Wolverine's Fonz. Hell, he was the Arnold to Nightcrawler's Potsie. Nice visual, cheesy Cold War accent, personality void. Plus, now he's in danger of losing his soul while exploiting a new Juggernaut power-up. How much cliche can you strap onto a character before he collapses in on himself?

Magik: Colossus' sorceress little sister, who like him used to be dead, and for all I know still has a soul compromised by demons. Her costume remains blah and she was created for the New Mutants, one of those teams that existed for years for no apparent reason beyond launching Bill Sienkiewicz's abstract style.

Hope: She's Jean Grey. Look at her! It's Jean Grey, re-raised by the son of her clone, watching Scott fuck Emma. She totally skeeves me out.

Storm: She's awesome, and a way better team leader than Cyclops. I hear she's joining the Avengers, which is a perfect place for her and makes her an ideal role model for mutant kind. She should be on that team with her husband, the Black Panther. Of course, that marriage is now on the rocks, because it was a stupid idea in the first place, and helped lead to T'Challa becoming the poor man's Daredevil instead of the African Batman. Anyway, why is Storm associated with this riff-raff team? It's like Obama rolling with the Weather Underground. Who needs that headache?

Namor: Aside from his Leisure Suit Larry costume and his letting a little bitch like Cyclops tell him what to do, the only interesting aspect of this team. I hope he fucks Emma while Scott and not-Jean watches.

Am I the only person who looks at a team like that, and thinks of Saved by the Bell: The New Class? Did you know that at seven seasons, that show ran almost twice as long as the old class? I only just found that out on IMDb. I can't name any of those actors, and I'm certain I never saw a single episode. Okay, maybe this is more like ER. After so many seasons, all the guys you like are long gone, and the ones left have been thoroughly exhausted as characters through countless arcs of life/death/marriage/divorce/entire seasons being a dream. I should have referenced "jumping the shark" and the later seasons of Happy Days, right? Damn it, I totally had that set up earlier in the review. I blow.

Moving on, the new team spends pages talking about how the reason they exist is to swing the mutant dick around, and they even try to have Cyclops play Billy Badass by mocking Wolverine's starting a new school. Actually, that is kind of wimpy. Fucking neuterboy Wolverine. I do remember when he used to be cool. Ended sometime around Kitty Pryde and Wolverine. Anyway, on page thirteen a Celestial poses a threat, and a team member with one of those powers that insures it won't matter loses a limb. It's all really dull (I did mention the Celestial,) so I didn't care that it lasted twenty-seven pages with a final spread that just made me shrug. Kieron Gillen has done work that's gotten him some hype, but I don't see it here. Carlos Pacheco now draws in a style reminiscent of Paul Smith, which means he's way better and more graceful now. Still, I don't do not can't give two shits in such a potent manner. If "meh" were a liquid, I'd be swimming in it. It'd probably be brown. No, gray. Definitely gray.

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