Friday, April 12, 2013

Wednesday, all my troubles seemed so far away, now it looks as though they're here to stay, oh, I believe in Wednesday #172

Hellblazer #300
Infestation: Sketchbook
Justice League of America #1 (2013)
Justice League of America's Vibe #1
John Carter: The Gods of Mars #1 (2012)
Sex #1 (2013)
Star Trek Countdown to Darkness #1
Star Wars #1 (2013)
Threshold presents The Hunted #1

It's been 2½ months since I did a review column. I had to move and my work schedule got shitty and I was tired and then I got better but I wanted to catch up with other blogs and the material to review wasn't all that engaging but it kept piling up and look just fucking live your life and I'll live mine, okay?

Hellblazer #300 (Vertigo, 2013, $4.99)
I seriously haven't followed this book since Ennis & Dillon left a decade and a half ago, so it's no great personal tragedy for me that DC just canceled its longest running title on the post-New 52 publishing slate so that they can relaunch a sanitized mainstream version that won't last 1/12th as long. It's just another reminder that DC isn't home for me anymore, and I'm increasingly casting my lot elsewhere, which is why there'll be a lot more Dirty Trader paperback reviews and less floppies 'round here. It doesn't help that John Constantine went out like a pussy. It isn't all Peter Milligan's fault, as there was at least a decade of Constantine mellowing, developing healthier relationships, getting de-clawed and spayed. Maybe him and the missus would have popped out some kids, and become house-proud, and after that exceptionally lengthy wind-up the whole family would have been raped and murdered by demons. That would have served Constantine right, and he could have descended into a properly irredeemable bastard, but who needs a hundred issues of set up for all that? This book touched on oodles of supporting characters and storylines, many involving hero-worshiping of John, and it's hard not to see him as a washed up rock star who hasn't had anything to say in ages and should have long ago choked on his own vomit for the sake of his legacy. Giuseppe Camuncoli's artwork is perfectly fine for crime comics, but seems incapable of arousing the sort of dread required of "contemporary horror," or whatever marketing buzzwords DC were trying out in 1988. The extra length final issue doesn't have a celebrity afterward or send-off pin-up gallery or anything. It's just an extended wimper, a Bridges to Babylon when we'd all have druthered leave things at Voodoo Lounge. It's sad for all the wrong reasons.

Infestation: Sketchbook (IDW, 2011)
I think that this was some kind of incentive book that I picked up cheap sight unseen and regret a little bit. It's nothing but uncolored sketches of licensed characters zombified, like browsing through a Comic Art Fans gallery in 2006. Lame.

Justice League of America #1 (DC, 2013, $3.99)
As usual in the modern age of decompressed storytelling, there was a lot more sizzle than steak. Most of the book is two people having a meeting in an office while looking at photographs. Did we learn nothing from the Brad Meltzer debacle other than to condense seven issues of this stuff into one extra-sized edition? It doesn't help that one of those people is the anorexic New 52 Amanda Waller, "The Pole," the "Non-Supporting Wall," "Weight Watchers Waller." Everybody in the New 52 is a fucking supermodel.

I have to say that one thing set right by the reboot was the restoration of Steve Trevor. It's okay for Batman to have a James Bond type of impermanence with regard to his love interests, and even Superman shouldn't necessarily be tied down to Lois Lane, so long as she remains prominent in comics in general. Steve Trevor though is arguably as central a figure in Wonder Woman's origin as Diana herself, since he's the impetus and ongoing motivation for the Princess' abandoning Paradise Island to combat the evils of Man's World, and remained so until the 1970s. For nearly a quarter century, Wonder Woman didn't quite make sense as a character because Steve Trevor had been cast aside for past sins with nothing more than vague altruism and wanderlust left in his place (DC strongly squelching any emphasis on that "lust" part.) Returning him to prominence fixes a broken element of the DC Universe, and his being the rejected party in a past affair humbles and humanizes the once abusive figure. Further, that element of romance, even lost, enlivens Wonder Woman and ensures that Trevor won't join the long list of Nick Fury proxies. I'm hardly in love with Geoff Johns these days, but I think I'd be buying the Wonder Woman comic if he were writing it.

The individual team member vignettes are nice teaser trailers for whoever they're meant to be for the purposes of the book. I'm not sure if the line-up or the rationale of the group was conceived first, but it's hard to imagine someone setting out to build a true anti-Justice League and deciding these second stringers had the mettle. The twisted takes on some of the team members show potential, and Dave Finch's art is a hell of a lot easier on the eyes and storytelling sensibilities than Jim Lee's. The artist has an interesting take on the Martian Manhunter, having nothing to do with the more alien skull seen recently and favoring the classic look. His costume is rendered so heavily in shadow that the sometimes loud purples are agreeably muted, but Finch inexplicably draws a crude flower shape as the Manhunter's chest emblem. His threats just don't hold the same gravitas when he seems to be promoting no-skid shower stickers like a NASCAR driver in need of better sponsorship. I dug the reversion of Ivo back to a petrified man from that thug version seen the last time they decided to name a book Justice League of America. I've always thought that the Secret Society of Super-Villains was a great concept, so I'm happy DC is finally embracing it (without turning it into the Legion of Doom or Injustice Gang, which should be as different as the Avengers, Defenders, and the Champions before everyone became an Avenger.)

I can't say that I'm exactly excited about this book, but I'm not put off by the debut issue either, which is something of a victory with a New 52 offering.

Justice League of America's Vibe #1 (DC, 2013, $2.99)
Have you seen the trailer to the new Saint series? If I remember correctly, The Saint started out as a series of novels, but what most people remember is the 1960s TV series that served as an extended audition for the handsomeness and charm of Roger Moore to succeed Sean Connery as James Bond. There have been prior attempts at a revival, and the world has collectively given them a pass, as they should this new series. It stars some random dude with a British accent (like black people, they all look alike in Hollywood's eyes) in a by-the-numbers story that has its every plot point spoiled in the trailer, and the main twist is that they throw in Eliza Dushku (telling anagram: "Duh Suk".) The bloated corpse of Roger Moore is included in a cameo to punctuate what a terrible development this whole thing represents.

"V.I.N.O." (Vibe In Name Only) works for A.R.G.U.S. in a post-G.I. Joe world where everyone is a fit paramilitary badass with a full head of hair. Dale Gunn used to be a balding middle-aged Vietnam vet who was a surrogate father and all around Alfred Pennyworth to Steel (the white one.) Now he's a hard motherfucking spy with a goatee working for Amanda "Apple Bottom" Waller tasked with turning Vibe into a somebody. 1984's Paco Ramone was a gangbanging breakdancer with more attitude than sense who was tolerated more than liked. Now Francisco Ramone is a polite lad working at an electronics store to save for college who everyone believes is going to do great things. As best as I can tell, the creators are trying to redeem the Vibe name, as he was one of the first and remains one of the few Latino super-hero properties at a time when that's a voting block that can determine presidential elections. Their method of doing this is to whitewash Detroit and smooth out every rough edge, taking with it any semblance of personality. It doesn't appeal to folks who appreciated Vibe for his camp/transgressive value, and there's a desperate air to the effort of trying to make this kid matter on a grand scale, like every other time comics have tried to manufacture The Next Big Thing. It is impossible to like Cisco Ramone, because there's nothing there but a well-intentioned blank where a character should be.

John Carter: The Gods of Mars #1 (Marvel, 2012, $2.99)
The prospect of reviewing this book contributed to my hiatus from doing reviews. Wasn't it enough to just read the damned thing? This civil war guy travels to Mars through a dubious method and fight critters with a Martian dude he knew from another story. There's a scam being used to enslave Martian people, and somewhere in there Edgar Rice Burroughs gets inserted into his own story. I don't know or care whether this is an adaptation, but everything is uninspired, and Sam Humphries maintains his track record of writing shit I have no use for.

Sex #1 (Image, 2013, $2.99)
I definitely like Sex in general, but I'd rather have a lot of it all at once than an unsatisfying little taste that ends just about the time I finally feel like I'm getting a handle on it. I do have to say that the panels of sheared vulva do nothing but limit the potential audience and waste space (while, most importantly, not being the least bit arousing.) Joe Casey doesn't alienate me for once, and Piotr Kowalski's art has a cool Mazzuchelli covering Guido Crepax thing going on. Please stop it with the colored text highlighting though, which puts emphasis on words for no particular reason and make me read the character's dialogue like Christopher Walken talking to Bill Shatner.

Star Trek Countdown to Darkness #1 (IDW, 2013, $3.99)
Speaking of whom, this is like every other Star Trek comic, which is to say stiff and dull. Spock is still struggling with the shocking twist of the last movie... from 2009. Four years ago, this thing was a modest thrill, and I might have still had some enthusiasm in 2011, but I'm completely indifferent to it now. I haven't seen Abrams' flick since the theater, and didn't even bother to fish it out of the discount bin because it wasn't worth my standing in line to pay for it. This kind of thrill is best found cheaper and easier. For instance, there's oodles more decent-to-good Star Wars books that Trek ones. This is because Lucas' creation is science-fantasy; fairy tale comfort food melodrama filled with familiar themes and influences that are fun to draw and easy to write. Roddenberry's brainchild is cerebral; plot-driven science fiction with relatively static characters serving to observe and comment on situations analogous to real world concerns. At its best, Trek is The McLaughlin Group for dorks, but all that talky-talk bores artists and demands writing craft greater than the comic book industry seems capable of keeping down on the plantation. No matter how hard you try to bring sexy to Trek, its DNA won't allow for the fabulous swashbuckling trash Star Wars trades in. Stupid soap opera doesn't drape properly across a Federation issue uniform.

Star Wars #1 (Dark Horse, 2013, $2.99)
Continuing to segue, and speaking of the devil: Fly in space-- swoosh-- feelings over intercom-- mechanical breathing-- BAD GUYS--- DANGER-- watch yourself-- I'm HIT!-- nosedive-- KRSHH!-- double tap like a gangsta-- evil sorcerer-- dark knight-- conspiracy! C-3PO entertains the Ewoks and we all get down. It's silly shit coloring in the margins of a well worn mythology, but Brian Wood knows his way around it better than most, and Carlos D'anda keeps shit popping. Even Alex Ross, who I'm so very friggin' tired of after years of Dynamite dreck, hits just the right nostalgic uplifting note with his cover. Dark Horse seems hellbound on preemptively making Marvel look terrible before Disney even (inevitably) pulls their hard won and long toiled over license.

Threshold #1 (DC, 2013, $3.99)
The Hunger Games is an extremely popular franchise based in the subgenre of survival action/horror that's been quietly swelling for ages. Keith Giffen is an old man, so he processes that appeal through the prism of an earlier generation, The Running Man. Jediah Caul (a perfectly Schwarzeneggerian name) is a fugitive Green Lantern with trumped up charges against him, because Green Lanterns sell books and he first appeared in a backdoor pilot hosted in one of their annuals. He's stuck on the planet where criminals go to get hunted for bounty and televised sport, which is exactly what happens on a bunch of pages that wouldn't be much use to anyone if Tom Raney hadn't drawn them in that nifty way he has about him. Halfway through, I thought the "co-feature" had kicked in, but it was actually a couple of obscure DC sci-fi characters hijacking the narrative (abruptly, though not unwelcome.) Then the actual back-up story began, which was about Larfleeze, that Orange Lantern DC really thinks you like but let's see how the numbers on his upcoming spin-off shake out. I'm personally not a Scott Kolins booster, and it's Giffen being "funny" in that way he has when not having someone else do his dialogue, which is to say gratingly attitudinal in the street sense of the word. Yes it is too a word. Oh, fuck off why don't you? By the way, did Avatar allow its trademark to pass on their surprisingly long-lived T&Anthology because folks searching for DC cover images will be confronted with graphic depictions of pussy instead? Because that's a pretty sweet consequence, I must say.

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