Sunday, October 17, 2010

Wednesday is Veteran's Day For All I Care #85

Captain America: Patriot #1
DC Universe: Legacies #5
Freedom Fighters #1 (2010)
R.E.B.E.L.S. #20 (2010)

Captain America: Patriot #1 (Marvel, 2010, $3.99)
Wow-- someone with a perfectly logical and contextually reasonable excuse to wear a silly costume and punch people? All done with WWII moxie? Hells yeah, I can read me some of that! Bugle reporter Jeff Mace was doing the "get paid to write your own adventures" shtick long before Spider-Man, and he does it in a joyous newsreel hyperbole. There's heroic period action and some affecting melodrama, plus light cast on an area of continuity I think has been discussed more in Marvel handbooks than in four color works. Karl Kesel is clearly enjoying himself, and Mitch Breitweiser is in his element (especially in this Ed Brubaker day and age.) Good stuff!

DCU: Legacies #5 (DC, 2010, $3.99)
In the '90s, Image Comics was the artists' company, Marvel the X-Editors company, Valiant the Bronze Age fans company, Dark Horse the licensing company, and so on. DC indulged in its own editorially-mandated cash grabs, but it also quietly developed a reputation as a reader's company. DC was a good place for super-hero geeks to get their fix of traditional long underwear action with a side of mature readers fare, mostly driven by the imaginations of their writers. I fell hard for this universe in that decade, and have boxes full of Who's Who/Secret Files/RPG reference to prove it.

Under Didio, DC has become Marvel in the '90s, always chasing after attention and steamrolling over creative. They've so thoroughly alienated writers, they can't even keep former editors(-in-chief even!) turned freelancers from a bunch of the previously named companies working for them. They're now at the point where they're letting their second-rate artists write their own books, or in this case, calling in old timers that couldn't get work for much of the '90s.

Legacies is the kind of continuity porn I'd have spit in my palm over a decade or so back, but I just do not give a fuck today. In the old days, you could knock this kind of timeline-as-plot crap out in a couple of books ala History of the DC Universe, but in the decompressed Final Age it takes a dozen issues of fatty fatty boom Balatty to get this off. Worse, Marvels made the bystander narrator the go-to device for these stories, and suffice to say, for every Phil Sheldon or Norman McCay there's a dozen Guy Incognitos or Jack Shits to make a muddle of the tired technique. I won't trouble you with the name of the ex-cop employed here, except to point out that he must somehow manage to live through seventy-five years of DC continuity and half of it involves Batman, so forget "realism."

Ex-cop whines about how awful it is that the Joker and everybody else stopped robbing banks and started killing people. Never mind that the Joker got his start killing people, and he only turned pussy because of protectionist scapegoating in the 1950s because people were to stupid to realize access to transportation and excesses of free time had more to do with juvenile delinquency than EC horror stories. Writer Len Wein is sucking off the same teat as most coddled baby-boomers who get misty for the good 'ol days, not realizing they were born a few years removed from sweatshops, child labor, and a pre-union "disposable" workforce. I guess it was kind of swell to beat/rape your wife with impunity if she got out of line, just like in those old Superman comics.

Where was I? Oh yeah-- a page is devoted to how horrible the Spectre became in those demented Adventure Comics stories that Harlan Ellison got sued over, while making sure to faithfully depict the twisted vengeance meted out. Then the newly Van Dyked Oliver Queen was shown on the news right after the freshly hirsute Green Arrow, reminding us that maybe people really were stupider back then. Ex-Cop and his overly opinionated daughter bitched about how dark and icky the remarkably naive but progressive Green Arrow had become, even ranking on his bad ass Neal Adams costume in favor of that baggy shit he'd worn since the Roosevelt Administration. For serious? But wait, then the Ex-Cop (er-- just cop in these flashbacks, but already crotchety) shows up at a parole hearing for his freckled Irish brother-in-law looking to turn over another leaf. That cliche is so dated, it's almost fresh again from decades of disuse. It's vintage store hackery.

Next, the Cop offers his thinly-veiled take on illegal immigration by pointing out that the "good ones" were far outweighed by the filthy wetgreenbacks who were always getting into spaceship collisions without insurance, and like fifty lizards haul ass from the scene before the cops arrive. I don't know Len Wein's politics, but his characters got on my pinko nerves damned quick.

As a proper geek, I got even more upset when the chronology, the whole point of insular circle jerk projects like this, proved fucktop. The Charlton heroes (est. 1958) arrived on the scene en masse after Firestorm (introduced twenty years later.) Then Batman quit the Justice League (his photo on a newspaper headline, so fuck you urban legend angle, unless you mean this thing called "printed media" the kids won't recognize in ten years) before the all-new Doom Patrol arrived (1983 vs. 1977.) There's also painfully unfunny stuff like the umpteenth iteration of "It's a bird--plane--Superman," which makes me want to punch a baby seal in its moist nose.

Things got less annoying from there, and settled into boring. George Perez drew the Crisis on Infinite Earths, again, from a worse camera angle. Nothing about the even was actually explained beyond red skies, wind, and super-heroes catching debris. This segued perfectly into a back-up strip with ugly tossed off art by Walt Simonson. It was just like Crisis in its throwing together random characters to perform the Micky Mouse Club roll call and speak exposition to one another. Adam Strange is the star of a collection of Silver Age sci-fi characters, and for some reason he's an asshole to everyone. Maybe he was as pissed to be involved with this as I was?

Freedom Fighters #1 (DC, 2010, $2.99)
During the Bush years, Palmiotti & Gray's new super group were gratingly partisan and obnoxiously obvious about their strawman arguments. When the issue opened at a Native American reservation casino being attacked by Axis America, I was pretty confident this would be more of the same tone deaf preaching in the O'Neil/Winick tradition. I was right, but after six pages the action blessedly shifted away from the two most awful Freedom Fighters (Black Condor III & Firebrand... um... IV? V?)

I wonder if artist Travis Moore agreed with me, because his work on those pages was rather lackluster, then suddenly become dandy when the Human Bomb begins a space adventure. A few pages later, and a Phantom Lady/Ray team-up looks better still. Just as importantly, the writing shifts to Grant Morrison JLA, allowing the massive scale of threats handled by portions of the titular team dictate how impressive the individual members must be. Avoiding a common pitfall, they don't tell the readers their characters are formidable, but instead show the heroes being kinda spectacular. The new Phantom Lady certainly seems esteemed, and the Human Bomb doesn't look like a dork, which is quite a feat. I miss the Ray's band jacket though, as his current black unitard is boring, and his collar is Disco Elvis hideous.

Someone explain to me why in the DC Universe, instead of Obama/Biden, the President of the United States is some fat mustached white guy with a lady VP. Replacing Bush with Lex Luthor was at worst a lateral move, and made sense, but these people just confused me. Unfortunately, the book kept jumping the shark at this point, from Nic Cage showing up with the real constitution to the Freedom Fighters being pitted against rejected Alpha Flight villains. I can't see continuing the book after these cock-ups, but the creative team have succeeded in making me think twice before spitting on a third or so of the team's membership. That's almost a kudo.

R.E.B.E.L.S. #20 (DC, 2010, $2.99)
There's a certain inevitability to my buying this book now. It isn't great, but it's good enough. The writing is solid, and I'm glad Claude St. Aubin has settled into regular art chores. The book is full of characters I have an interest in, although that's a problem in itself, as it necessitates the spotlight to act more like a disco ball. This issue brings in Lobo with a Dave Finch cover, which is probably a good idea. L.E.G.I.O.N. wouldn't have lasted seven years as just a contemporary Legion of Super-Heroes spin-off, and Lobo gave back to the book that relaunched him as his popularity soared in the early '90s. R.E.B.E.L.S. 2.0 is a lot more relevant to the DC Universe than the previous model, and maybe they could extend that good will to a Lobo who's mostly gotten by on the odd guest spot in recent years.

On the other hand, Lyrl Dox is a fraction of his former patricidal infant self, and I'm over all this Brainiac bullshit. I'm concerned Lobo might take over the book, and I'm still waiting for it to develop its wealth of simmering subplots. I wish the book was as wicked clever as the '90s model, but it feels like one of the B-teams you follow because you're a Justice League fan. I guess what I'm saying is that this book is okay, but frustrating and not as involving as it could be

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