Saturday, March 24, 2012

Wednesday Is Something Old, Something New 52 For All I Care #139

Aquaman #6 (2012)
The Huntress #5 (2012)
Strikeforce: Morituri- We Who Are About to Die No #1

Aquaman #6 (DC, 2012, $2.99)
Out of all the conservative radio hosts, I have the most tolerance for Sean Hannity. He seems the most genuine, and as far as I know, hasn't kept any illegal aliens confined in his basement as sex slaves or anything. He isn't psychologically unbalanced like Glenn Beck, who could link Nancy Pelosi to the Mayan apocalypse, nor is he an ignorant, loathsome toad like Rush Limbaugh, who is, I believe, really a very stupid person. That said, Hannity traffics in the sane paranoid fear mongering, and is simply the least objectionable of a sorry lot.

Geoff Johns is the Sean Hannity of super-hero comics. If enough people believe Obama is a secret Muslim intent on forming death panels to put Mee-Maw on an ice floe, Hannity figures there must be something to that. Liberal writers like the recently returned Ann Nocenti often strive for ambiguity, as their politics are all about compromises and equality and shit. Meanwhile, the right are big on polemics and absolutes, and man, this comic is all over that. It isn't enough that Mera confronts sexual harassment. She has to break the arm of a guy she just met who was molesting her in a grocery store. It isn't enough that Mera's strained relationship with her father is reflected by a young girl that she rescues. Both their fathers have to be completely unreasonable homicidal maniacs out for their blood. Johns is going to be looked upon like Steve Ditko one of these days, with all his upright white males (and Vic "Cyber-Token" Stone) guiding the DC universe toward violent crusades against pure evil. Evil, I say!

The art? Guys like Terry Austin, Scott Williams, and Richard Bennett are by no means "tracers." These are artists who elevate their pencilers with their energy, detail, and depth. However, just as most pencilers falter when they try to ink themselves (and yes, you specifically, John Byrne,) the greatest inkers are typically pretty mediocre pencilers. See, besides speeding up production, an art team is put together to help tighten up the work and make up for individual weaknesses. For instance, breakdown artist Ivan Reis has a pretty solid command of anatomy, while inker turned guest artist Joe Prado's is fucking wonky. Every character looks decent, but off in disconcerting ways. Asymmetrical eyes, sloped facial profiles, elongated Barbie proportions-- that sort of thing. The book looks mostly the same, but every character has been possessed by Pazuzu or something. Prado is to Reis as Marat Mychaels was to Liefeld (has he ever inked?) or Art Thibert was to Jim Lee. It's not really bad, but Aquaman would not be outselling every Marvel title with Prado on his own, either.

The Huntress #5 (DC, 2012, $2.99)
You know how people have babies, and their kid's a year and some change old, but it's all about their being thirteen months and eighteen months until they're toddlers? I understand there's scientific/developmental reasons for that, even if it is kind of grating. For instance, I spent a few minutes reading the new Huntress, but it seems more precise to mark the time in seconds. This one was 120-180 seconds of entertainment value. That's what, nine cents per second? A rate of $324 an hour? Huntress is nice and all, but I think I could buy a few hookers for that money and get a lot more out of the transaction.

I will say I enjoyed this better than other issues, probably because there's less teasing and the end is in sight. Does she condone murder? Seems likely. Is she Helena Wayne again? Based on solicitations, it appears so. Can she beat the big Arab guy in a fair fight. Not so much, but fair isn't a requisite. Art still good? Yeah, but it's being wasted on a repetitive, overly long mini-series instead of maybe a nice one-shot. Maybe then we wouldn't suffer through yet another cafe scene, this time featuring the Exposition Duo sans Helena. Fuck, that was pointless. Or hey, maybe the leering rapist human trafficker wouldn't feel the need to butcher his own stock, just to up the ante enough to meet the business end of a crossbow. Any one of those occupational titles would have done the trick. When this is collected in trade paperback, I hope they subtitle it "The Belaboring." It works on multiple levels.

Strikeforce: Morituri- We Who Are About to Die No #1 (Marvel, 1986/2012, $1.00)
I didn't know what to make of Strikeforce: Morituri when it came out. It sorta looked like an Epic or New Universe series, but was too super-heroey. My brother's brother bought the first three issues, and ended up laminating the covers. I ended up with them somehow, amd wish I still had them, because that lamination was cool. You also really needed at least that many issues to get into the story. The first, reprinted in this special, is really just a prologue that explains the basic premise and barely introduces one of the lead characters. Curiously enough, it came out the exact same month as The 'Nam, with very similar leads and nearly the same story. Of course, The 'Nam did it more effectively in the one issue, which is why it ran for more than twice as long.

The premise is that aliens invade Earth, and we come up with a defense involving bestowing powers on human soldiers, but with a catch. As soon as you get the powers, you're on a countdown to metabolic meltdown within one year's time. As the series progressed, you got to know the characters and feel for them as mortality creeps up and the window of opportunity to accomplish anything closes. Unfortunately, the first issue is a slow build-up to the big twist, which is right there in the fucking title. There's also a comic-within-a-comic by pre-fame Whilce Portacio which serves as pastiche and counterpoint, but isn't actually very good. It's the human element, the life during wartime, that makes the series. Brent Anderson excells at that sort of thing, as he would later demonstrate on Astro City. Scott Williams is on inks, giving Anderson a crisp, clean line well suited for this fantastical sci-fi. Writer Peter B. Gillis had a good idea, but he doesn't sell it well at the entry point, so it's a shame Marvel didn't reprint a few issues for $3-4 as a sampler for their three volume trade paperback collection, instead of this buck book. It also hurts that they throw in a bunch of handbook style ancillary material culled from later issues, which manages to spoil every death and a bunch of plot points from the first year of the series. I didn't make it past that point myself, mostly because the book was published in approximate real time, so the turnover was a bit too heavy for my taste. Also, the book was eventually passed to other, less apt hands. I can't recommend the sampler, but the first trade might be worth picking up, if you're willing to plop down thirty bucks for a well regarded obscurity.

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