Friday, December 2, 2011

Wednesday Is Old New 52 For All I Care #128

Demon Knights #1
Grifter #1 (2011)
Justice League #1 (2011)

Demon Knights #1 (DC, 2011, $2.99)
The characters are a lot more fun in this book than in Paul Cornell's Stormwatch, and the story is clearer, but it seems kind of pointless. This is like a JLA of immortality, meaning that the characters that are best known are perfectly safe, so your reading enjoyment is dependent upon your interest in watching the leads going through the motions. Madame Xanadu is more flippant and sexually adventurous than I recall. The Demon is more amorous and gullible, plus I don't like the wings. Vandal Savage is more thuggish and boisterous. It would be interesting if Al Jabr turned out to be Adam One. I suppose it's cute seeing these characters in earlier days, and the playing with magic as advanced science (dragons = dinosaurs) is nice. With a name like "Demon Knights" and all these Daemonites running around the DCnÜ, you just know there will be some tie-ins to come. I guess that's something to look forward to. Appealing art by Diógenes Neves aside, this seems like a short-lived aside, if not an outright lark.

Grifter #1 (DC, 2011, $2.99)
I vaguely remember reading the original Grifter #1 back in the '90s, which had the misfortune of being a side story in a crossover event. That book failed to impress, as did this one, for somewhat similar reasons. The issue opens on an airplane, with Grifter hearing voices, being attacked, and falling into the clear blue sky. It might have worked to start in the middle of the action in a movie, but it fails miserably as a comic. Since the reader likely knows Grifter is the hero of the story, there's no confusion about his role. His attackers are also obviously evil and something other than human. The scene therefore does not misdirect or surprise the viewer, and as a comic does not need to immediately hook the reader on an action beat (especially a lackluster one,) so all it does is confuse and disengage.

Then the flashback starts, including an extension of the title sequence, which grinds the breakneck pace to a whiplash halt. It's this nighttime office building rendezvous game of nitwits-- con artistry on the level of putting your thumb between your fingers and claiming to have another person's nose. At least Grifter is finally owning the meaning behind his kewl Image name, if nearly twenty years and a whole bunch of John Cusack movies too late. Tension and reveals have to be built up, all to return to the opening sequence of the book, on which a full page of recap is wasted. Worse, the resolution of the "cliffhanger" lasts exactly one panel, and if Grifter has super-powers that would allow him to survive a midair dive from an airplane, that might ought to be spelled out. The grinding gears of shoddy pacing strip the story of traction. What when laid out sequentially seems like a decent introductory episode feels slight as disarranged modules.

The last few pages are spent dumping exposition that a better writer could have worked into the story, including the completely unbelievable notion that the protagonist's military background would lead a Pentagon official to send his brother after him with extreme prejudice. Let's not get a highly capable but personally disinterested agent to track down Grifter, but instead send a blood relative. No massive, obvious conflict there. Old readers will shrug and say "this again?" New readers will just shrug. This is one of those comics written by someone whose knowledge of the world comes from other comics and video games. Part and parcel, it helps to read other "Edge" line books like Voodoo to fully appreciate the extent of the hand-me-down, been there/done that experience.

Given all my complaints about Nathan Edmonson's story, I want to make sure to point out that the book's grace is in the art. I liked Cafu's work on Vixen: Return of the Lion, but it was soft and stiff. His work with Jason Gorder flows better, with tight inks that lend mood and weight. There's a strong resemblance to early Gary Frank, without the excessive detailing that mars his art today. I understand the miserable Scott Clark takes over art chores in a few issues, so hopefully that means the present team move on to a book that could better utilize their talents.

Justice League #1 (DC, 2011, $3.99)
As evidenced by the story title "Justice League: Part One," more thought and originality was put into Johns' spelling of first name "Jeff" than into this story. It's basically a fifth of the plot points of Legends #1 with a fifth of the characters but five times the crosshatching and cover price. My go-to complaint about Star Wars: The Phantom Menace has been that if you asked any random person with a basic knowledge of the franchise to imagine their own Episode I, it would have been a more entertaining movie than what was produced. Ditto.

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