Friday, October 26, 2012

Wednesday Is A Zero Month For All I Care #0

Atlas Unified #0
Ghost #0
Stormwatch #0 (2012)
Talon #0

I paid for a minimal amount of December shipping books from my longtime supplier just before their cut-off date. They've provided my comics for a decade, but I got this month's box o'books hours after placing that order. I also placed my first, overdue order with the bigger name competitor, which offered more titles at a better deal with a vastly superior website and hopefully will not sit on my shit with garbage excuses that make me question whether the motherfuckers are going out of business. I tell you this because I've also delayed reading and reviewing the books I did have for months, so this column should feel like a short jump time capsule for a while yet...

Atlas Unified #0 Prelude: Midnight (Ardden Entertainment, 2012, $2.99)
Back in the mid-seventies, after Martin Goodman had sold his stake in Marvel Comics, he tried to create a competitor line by overpaying uncommitted moonlighting freelancers to hack out awful curiosities without any confidence or direction. For a month or two, The Scorpion would be a 1930s pulp pastiche by Howard Chaykin, and the next Jim Craig's doing a contemporary spandex-clad Spider-Man riff. That sort of thing. Actually, everything they did ended up as a transparent lift of a premise another company was already doing better, if only by virtue of the minimum competency required to draft something worth ripping off in the first place. One of their longest lived titles with any integrity was Vicki, mostly because it was reprinting Tower Comics' 1960s Archie wannabe Trippy Teen with clothing redrawn to better match the times. These Seaboard Periodicals lined discount bins of the Bronze Age the way over ordered, undercooked Image/Valiant titles would in the days of Chromium. The Atlas line was similarly derivative, low rent birdcage liner that nonetheless generated nostalgic nerds who mourned its dubious unrealized potential.

Atlas Unified would dearly love to be Unity, but it's more like Red Skies Monthly. If you don't catch the reference, Unity was Valiant's successful event series that managed to connect all their disparate properties from various points in time into one well received narrative. Red-pink colored skies were a simple method DC Comics used to foreshadow the countless, obligatory, tenuous and tedious tie-ins to their Crisis on Infinite-Earths maxi-series. Here, a Borg ship with tentacles appears in the air above ridiculous Bronze Age loser protagonists with amateurish logos and zaps them with a ray across seventeen repetitive pages. Despite being inherently shitty, Tom Peyer goes through the motions with charm and occasionally even grace, despite Jimbo Salgado's art looking like something you'd scrawl on notebook paper during history class. Vicki probably gets the worst of it, once a Stan Goldberg Betty becomes a brunette hybrid of the most inexpensive Marc Silvestri/Todd McFarlane clone hanging out with a dude rocking nu-metal facial hair in an unconvincing representation of 1975. That said, it's a mostly painless, amusing read that yet manages to make an ironclad argument for why these concepts are so worthless as to defy the falsehood that they rate a revival any more than they deserved their initial hubristic launch.

Ghost #0 (Dark Horse, 2012, $2.99)
The most successful property in Dark Horse's deservedly forgotten Comics Greatest World initiative rode the Bad Girl wave into two separate volumes and featured regular interior art by the likes of Adam Hughes, John Cassaday and Ivan Reis while still managing to fail inside of five years. In her defense, Ghost's simple pitch concept of an avenging spirit works fine, and her downfall can largely be attributed to an ill-conceived relaunch involving a complete restaffing and focus on the risible expanded CGW universe. This revival of Ghost keeps the basic look and attitude, even recycling the logo, but appears to offer a new heroine from a fresh creative team getting back to the simple thrill of a hot chick killing the hell out of bad guys. This issue reprints a three part introductory story previously serialized in Dark Horse Presents. Phil Noto's artwork is if anything stiffer than ever, but he does put a bit more effort into backgrounds, such as they are. The individual chapters don't exact flow together either (Where did that second gunman go?) but the new characters work and a reasonable story engine is constructed. Marvel Comics have been kicking a lot of work Kelly Sue DeConnick's way, and while I can't recall being exposed to her scripting in the past, her efforts here were strong enough to ensure I'll keep an eye out for her name in future credits.

Stormwatch #0 (DC, 2012, $2.99)
I decided to use DC's Zero Month version 2.0 as my exit point from following the series, and it served to remind me of all the dropped subplots and missed opportunities the book represents. Besides firming up ties to Demon Knights and introducing a bunch of Century Babies that really didn't need to be named variations on "Jenny," the only reason to publish this was to set up some apocalyptic future that we all know will never come to pass. Will Conrad's art recalls Mike Deodato's better work, and Peter Milligan's script is more palatable here than in his earlier issues. Still, homogenized Authority rendered safe for mass consumption is nothing more than it sounds like.

Talon #0 (DC, 2012, $2.99)
It would take more words than I care to invest to express how little interest I have in reading a spin-off series from a Batman Family event, so suffice to say that this is a high quality product for its ability to overcome this massive obstacle to win my approval. You could draw up a graph to clearly illustrated how by-the-numbers the plot by James Tynion IV and Scott Snyder is in conveying a proven formula to win over audiences. While that level of calculation might have alienated me elsewhere, in the stumbling idiot medium of comics, the effective employment of fundamental storytelling is laudable. Where everyone had been expecting New 52 Azrael, this origin story has all the strength of a classic Kirby character like Mister Miracle, because it's the exact same origin scrubbed clean of any New Gods references. Again, in the world of comics, obvious unapologetic theft is forgivable so long as the end product is worth what was paid for it. As another example, Guillem March is more obviously the child of Joe Kubert than either of his birth sons, both infected by the syphilitic influence of Homage Studios. March's deviations involve seduction by European masters like Jordi Bernet and Guido Crepax, which is to say that March is a better Kubert than anyone bearing that name thanks to his fluidity, more intricate but clear layouts, and sensuality. Talon is in no way shape or form original, but it is so very much better than it deserves to be.

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