Friday, February 15, 2008

Wed. Is Any Day For All I Care #1

Northlanders #1 * Herc Brown #0 * The Mighty Avengers #1 * The End League #1 * Infinity Inc. #1 *

From 1994-2002, I worked as a comic book retailer. You'll note, those were pretty much the worst years after the bust through to the slow ascendency of the trade from near ruin. I figured I did my part, and moved on. Every Wednesday morning was like Christmas. On the plus side, UPS would (eventually) deliver boxes and boxes of fresh comics, toys, and other goodies to be opened and relished. On the minus side, I was often too busy counting and distributing that shit to overanxious geeks, feeling like a dad trying to get that bike built before the kids woke up every damned week. Alan Moore teels the story of how nightmares about hands clawing at him, demanding attention, led him to quit making convention appearances. I've always tended more toward social irritation over anxiety, but it paints a picture, right? Prior to retailing, I tended to skip Wednesday and by my books later in the week to avoid crowds and get in quality time with my dealer. After retailing, I've tended to forego the comic shop entirely. For several years now, I've been getting my books in one monthly shipment from Mail Order Comics out of Nebraska, usually at a savings of about 40% off the cover price or better. I only receive this shipment once a month, but being a grown ass man with other interests, I'm comfortable with that. If I ever descend to the level of those irritating fucks on "The Stack," I assure you I my crappy Rambler in the garage can still emit enough carbon monoxide to put me out of my goddamn misery.

That said, I gots reviews. Some are currentish. Some are mighty damned dated. See if I care.

Northlanders #1 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99) I've yet to be wowed by a Brian Wood book, and why is he so often paired with shitty artists? Colorist Dave McCaig is doing all the heavy lifting when it comes to backgrounds, and does a wonderful job of setting the mood and selling the world of shit these people live in. The book's artist seems to be going for a retro 70's Eurotrash style, and accomplishes that low rent and sometimes vague look. The issue itself reads like the first trade of Azzarello's "Loveless," except with only lip service given to rape and a sort of racism. I have to give Wood credit for the pacing, but he faces the same problem as "Loveless" with this reader: What do I care about an unsympathetic asshole fucking up the business of other unsympathetic assholes in some shitwater burg? This all comes out of noir, but part of the appeal of that genre is showing what happens to common men with common issues who decide to take the blacker, bloodier road less travelled. When you change the milieu to increasingly less relatable and relevant times, you alienate the reader, and rely on a historical curiosity about days best left in the dust to drive their interest.

Herc Brown #0 (VLE Comics, $0.99) Comics ain't cheap no more, so when a publisher gambles with an introductory price that's obviously below their cost, I try to give them a shot. I'm rarely hooked, so I suppose it's like a pretty girl being nice to someone completely out of their league, but you never know unless you try. The basic premise is very familiar to fans of Greek myth, but transferred to the hood with good humor. The art style of Wesley Craig is very appealing, but by page 8 he's lost all interest in drawing backgrounds, and the flat coloring does nothing to fill the dead space. Stephen L. Antczak's script is amusing, and the hook is classic, but it degenerates into cliche at about the same rate the backgrounds vanish. So basically, they had me, then lost me. Don't bother paying for high grade glossy stock if the colors only bring out flaws, and don't waste money on 16 of those pages in a story that would have fit better in 8-10 with a little compression.

The Mighty Avengers #1 (Marvel, $3.99) Frank Cho's art is so pretty it makes me want to make sweet love to the pages, if not for it being a loaner copy and the quasi-vagina dentata of staples. Brian Michael Bendis allows the book some much needed action spectacle, and his chatty style is appropriate to most of the team's members. Sadly, Cho moved on, and I could give a rat's ass about most of the aforementioned super-heroes. Same is true of New Avengers, actually, though I do like the play on current polemics between the two teams.

The End League #1 (Dark Horse, $2.99) One of my favorite super-heroes is the Ray Palmer Atom, and Pat Oliffe is one of the very best artists I can think of to capture that character. Sadly, he'll be working on the Ryan Choi version, with Rick Remender, and that's a deal break. It's not that Remender is in any way a bad writer, but he's one of these frustrated screenwriters who for some reason produces comic books. For him, it's always about selling the high concept pitch with the crowd pleasing formulaic follow through, and it absolutely leaves me cold.

"The End League" reads like Remender is now frustrated by his middling profile in comics, which would hinder his inevitable transition to Hollywood, so now he's worked out the perfect pitch to attract Mark Millar's audience. A Superman analogue accidentally causes a nuclear winter, so he forms a team of additional analogues to help mankind survive in the post-apocalyptic wasteland. The character's are stock and shallow, as is the plot, from which all interest is drained once the first person narrative flashback progresses to limp dialogue driven "current" inanity. There is the requisite shock value, as when two female teammates suddenly make-out after a Danger Room session. A character tries to mock the obvious attention play with the line "Yeah, okay, you're gay, I get it... Maybe save the public displays for a parade?" Yeah, okay, but you're story starts in 1963 and follows the sudden collapse of civilization into 1975. What exactly is the frame of reference for the comment, then, as Stonewall wouldn't have needed to happen in this climate? Also, given the setting, why is everyone dressed like Rob Liefeld characters? Is this all Matt Broome's fault, notorious for his liberties taken with scripts? Did he decide every female character must dress like they were auditioning for the Barbarella remake?

The worst part is Remender's editorial, defending his deeply cynical view of the depths humanity would descend to if given super-powers. As a firmly entrenched mysanthrope, even I recognize self-involved apathy is the sin of modern existence, so that the most likely outcome of masses of people receiving super-powers is the waste of those gifts, or at worst their ineffective exploitation. Comics shouldn't be as bankrupt as this, but of course, the book is a hit. Self-involved apathy and its dimminished expectations aren't just for post-nuke mutants.

Infinity Inc. #1 (DC, $2.99) Totally unplanned, but what a perfect segue from my lengthy review of End League! I'm seriously just pulling from a stack here, but II is exactly the result I'd expect in an End League scenario. Normal people get super-powers, crawl up their own asses, and bemoan their terrible fate while crying about the nature of their powers not being to their liking. See, this is the manner in which humanity sucks, not the armies of thugs Remender imagines. That said, I don't know why anybody would want to read this emo crap, and I'm kind of pissed to see the Infinity Inc. name and the John Henry Irons character sabotaged by this shoddy handling. Did you ever read Priest's "Steel" run? Or check out the art on the old II when guys like Ordway and Bair were handling it. Now them's good comicing.

Finally, in case you do care, the new review section is intended to reference the line from Nirvana's "Lithium," which I know goes, "Sunday morning is everyday for all I care." My way read better. Also, next time, comics I actually liked...

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