The Defenders #1 (2012)
Valen the Outcast #1
Witch Doctor: The Resuscitation #1
Defenders #1 (Marvel, 2012, $3.99)
16--18-- yeah, that's twenty pages for four bucks. I thought I'd at least get a few extra pages for the dollar difference against all those DC New 52 titles, but nope. See, I think most of those DC books suck, but I'll at least try them for a few months. That dollar has made the difference in my not trying a Marvel book I thought I might like so many fucking times, I can't tell you. I did try this one though, and it was the umpteen jillionth time for me and the Defenders.
The best thing about the title historically is that it's usually this really weird, off-flavor team-- kind of like blue cheese. I was actually traumatized by an issue of New Defenders as a kid, and what the hell was that thing Joe Casey did a few years back with Colossus? Anyway, the book's tended toward ookie and even spooky, which hasn't made it particularly profitable over the years, but it has been a neat footnote and the inspiration for some truly awesome WTF Handbook entries.
I don't get that impression here. Matt Fraction, despite his reputation for out there stuff like Casanova, has produced the most mainstream Defenders book of all time. You could have told me Bendis wrote this, and I'd have taken you at your word. The opening chaos was cliche to begin with, but it still reminded me of the relatively recent Xombi #1, without being a fraction (zing!) as inventive. Then we find out David Duchovny will be playing the part of Doctor Strange, which is WAY better casting than Doctor McDreamy, but still only serves to remind me that the Defenders lacks Californititties. It isn't enough for Namor to be an asshole with horrible taste in fashion anymore, so he chops people up with a scimitar, which only serves to remind everyone of how Aquaman swings a trident these days. Silver Surfer can become snow now, I guess, so okay. I've happily stayed away from Hulk stuff for many years, so I don't understand the nature of the threat that brings the new team together, like what the fuck it is and why Hulk isn't on the team to clean up his own mess. Who needs to keep new readers when there's lint to pick out of the Incredible Navel?
Speaking of Hulk shit, there's now two She-Hulks, the one here is red, and it's an out of character Betty Ross-Banner. I never liked Betty in the old days, but she was pretty cool when Peter David wrote her. Here's, she's kind of like old school Savage She-Hulk, but comes off as dumber and more unnecessarily aggressive. I guess this is female empowerment? What is it with Marvel watering all their properties down with doppelgangers, anyway? Don't they notice they're the shark-jumping point of franchises that often never recover, like Ghost Rider?
I didn't read Fraction's Iron Fist solo series, so I didn't know that he was one of those dilettante technologist comic book nerds that only appear in fan wankery. I never cared much about the guy, even when Claremont and Byrne were doing him, and this doesn't help in the slightest.
I bitch, but this wasn't a terrible book or anything. The dialogue was poppy, the art by the Dodsons was pretty, and even the coloring was attractive. It's just that the Defenders were always the "un-team," the leftovers thrown together in awkward but intriguing ways. In their matching costumes and tepid temperaments, the Defenders now seem like another Avengers line-up. It'll probably do well. Meh.
Valen the Outcast #1 (BOOM!, 2011, $1.00)
I have to be honest-- I read this comic on the toilet when I was really sleepy and one good bowel movement away from a wipe and a snooze. I don't remember much about it. Decades ago, I read a comic called Stalker #1 about a peasant who trades his soul to a devil to become the most badass swordfighter in the world. Stalker was struck by his existential emptiness, and decided to use his new abilities to get his soul back. Faustian deals are nothing new in fiction, but the premise was so simple and effective, I suspect it directly influenced later hits like Spawn. It was also written by Paul Levitz when that was a good thing, and featured the remarkably curious combination of epic art talents Steve Ditko and Wally Wood.
Valen is kind of like that, except he was a king who is now an undead zombie and he's got a mission of vengeance something something. A person wrote it and then another person drew it. It's leagues better than Wulf the Barbarian or Iron Jaw, but nobody is going to remember this in ten years like I remember Stalker, and Stalker fucking flopped.
Witch Doctor: The Resuscitation #1 (Image, 2011, $2.99)
Robert Kirkman is no one-hit wonder, but for every inspired work, there's a slew of mediocre shit that deserves its spot in the quarter bin. Kirkman came up from Image fandom, so I figured his Skybound publishing initiative was a way of paying it forward. That's a nice way of saying he would help a bunch of guys less talented than him fill a few more discount bins. For instance, when Witch Doctor was announced, the only thing I found noteworthy was that the cover artist did a nice old school Berni Wrightson pastiche. Still, the book received a reasonably positive reception online, with Hannibal Tabu dubbing it a House for the supernatural set. Given that I'm sufficiently sick of recycled big two garbage and a one shot was being offered, I gave it one shot.
The House parallel only works in the broadest sense, as Vincent Morrow is an egocentric doctor who condescends to his staff while offering brilliant analysis. Given that Morrow has one primary aide, Sherlock Holmes would be just as fitting. I suppose Morrow also has a sharp tongue, and the humor throughout is sardonic. I guess if you like House, you'll like this, but I don't think it's a requisite. The book reminded me as much of an updated Mr. Monster, just as that Wrightsonesque artist provided detailed interiors that owed just as much to modern talents like Phil Winslade. It's a very entertaining book that is well crafted, with fun characters capable of starting and ending a story in just twenty-two economical pages (meaning Marvel can go fuck their mothers some more.) Never underestimate the power of the quality entry point, as I intend to follow Brandon Seifert and Lukas Ketner's creation into trade paperback...
Friday, January 27, 2012
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