Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Wed. Is Any Day For All I Care #28

Captain America Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1
Invincible #60
R.E.B.E.L.S. #2
Solomon Grundy #1

Captain America Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1 (Marvel, 2009, $3.99)
Cap is one of my absolute, all-time favorite super-heroes. He is one of the purest and most inspiring examples of the archetype. What should be a strength for the character is too often treated as a flaw, especially since the deconstructionist '80s, but evident even in Stan Lee's '60s tales. James Robinson had a nice little run salvaging the second half of the Heroes Reborn experiment, and is beloved for his thoughtful modernist interpretations of DC's Golden Age heroes. Captain America remains one of the few greats Robinson hasn't been able to play with in depth. I find that a national tragedy, as he once again proves his clear vision in presenting classic super-heroes in a manner that engages readers while retaining the brilliant spirit of the character. Steve Rogers spends 18 of the story's 23 pages without the Super Soldier Serum in his veins. However, unlike fellow Brit Paul Jenkins' bloodless Mythos: Captain America special, Robinson makes his pre-origin tale jump off the page with all the excitement of the original Joe Simon tales, plus nods to the best cinema of the time. Robinson once again makes clear why it's the man who makes the legend, not just some Vita Rays.

Marcos Martin's work is similarly stunning, evoking the most powerful Kirby imagery without ever crossing the line into nostalgic, derivative "homage." Marcos pays tribute to Kirby's artistry, but never yokes himself to an imitation of his style, recalling Paul Smith and Matt Wagner as much as The King himself. Martin offers an emaciated Rogers who breathes on the page as never before, his soulful eyes projecting intellect and passion that indicate a spirit that cannot be contained by his frail frame. Greatly aided by the sumptuous colors of Javier Rodriguez, you could be forgiven for picking this book up simply for the pretty pictures.

Also included is a cute baseball-themed reprint from 1941 by Simon & Kirby.

Invincible #60 (Image, 2009, $3.99)
I keep giving this book chances to impress me, and it just keeps failing. The extra-length anniversary company-crossover-in-one-issue is a racket. Three pages are devoted to picking up a thread from previous issues involving the surprise resurrection of a villain completely unknown to me. Next is a two page spread of an army of evil Invincibles from alternate dimensions, taking a page from raggedy old copies of Claremont Excalibur. There's a page of shouted exposition, a page establishing the status quo, and then things really go off the rails. This time might have been better spent getting me up to speed with who these people are, what they do, and why I should care. Instead, most of the issue is wasted on individual panels for the excessive number of creator-owned properties guest-starring in this issue. Few of these characters, who typically rate their own titles, are given much in the way of dialogue. They are instead cannon fodder, ultimately exploited to prove Kirkman's own creations' superiority. Nevermind that Kirkman sacrifices a few nobodies of his own to the crossover alter, this is ultimately fan service to his followers and the worst aspects of "event" comics served in a bite-sized package. Violent, vague, and worthless to the uninitiated.

R.E.B.E.L.S. #2 (DC, 2009, $2.99)
After a shaky start devoted to set-up, this second script from Tony Bedard finally begins to build the story some steam. With the basic introductions made, there's room to relish Vril Dox's smugness, his schooling Brainiac-5 (his original model, now exposed as a knock-off by revision,) and the cutthroat turns that are a Dox hallmark. There are much stronger callbacks to the Legion and L.E.G.I.O.N. this time, but more importantly, the scenario doesn't weigh down the stand alone entertainment value of the given issue. Andy Clarke's art here remains an opportunity to spy a superstar in the making. My once-diminished enthusiasm for this relaunch is being rekindled.

Solomon Grundy #1 (DC, 2009, $2.99)
Well, that was... what the fuck was that? Could this book be any more new reader hostile? I'm up on the histories of every character featured in this issue, and there's far more than you'd expect, but even I'm at a loss as to how they're all meant to relate to each other and the story here. Scott Kolins reminds me of the many horrible neophyte artist-turned-writers of the 1990s, and it seems the cues he took from '80s Keith Giffen on his art style now extend to his scripting. This books is messy, cryptic shit with rough, ugly artwork. In other words, a typical DC comic these days.

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