Wednesday, January 9, 2013

These Are The Comics That Try Men's Souls

Well, it's that time once again, friends and neighbors, that time when we once again address my most recent haul of comics in our usual terms--typically hateful and hurtful ones, in most cases, and then we sometimes say something positive and it's so weird because well, we just don;t usually do that and then it's totally this odd kinda thing and yeah I better get on with it already.

 JUSTICE LEAGUE #15--There are people who say that the big success story of the new 52 is the new take on Aquaman, and these people are of course utterly wrong because of the following two reasons:

 1) People should, at their bare minimum, aim higher than "a take on Aquaman." Unless they're taking a piss on Aquaman comics. That's cool--I bet they're really absorbent.

 2) It's not that new or fresh a take on Aquaman, guys. Here, let me drop some science on you: There are two basic takes on Aquaman as a character, and the fact that there are only two should tell you something right there. The first (also known as DC's standard operating procedure, which is "do the same thing over and over again and hope that it comes out this time and HOW do you define 'insanity' again?") involves wading into Aquaman's brain-meltingly dull backstory, his stupid mise-en-scene, and the passel of ciphers called his supporting cast.

 When that (inevitably) fails, they go with option 2, which is to turn him into the Sub-Mariner. Again. And that's what the new take is, essentially--Aquaman's an asshole, and he knows all your Aquaman jokes. There. I saved you reading fifteen issues of a book I also did not read because it's freakin' Aquaman and we all have better things to do, even those of us with nothing to do.

 So, why all the Aquaman bile? Very simply, this issue begins the "Throne of Atlantis" story, because the only thing more exciting than reading about Aquaman is reading about Atlantis declaring war on the surface world. Only this time it's lead by Aquaman's dumb-ass brother Ocean Master and he's trying to drown people with tsunamis.

 It's a great big bland bowl of gruel that's as blank as a fart. Subplots tick over--Cyborg tries to convince us that Geoff Johns had an idea beyond "so they can't all be white? All right, stick Cyborg in. He's black, right?"  By giving him a whole page of him chewing over his daddy issues by talking to a TV screen (did you remember he had daddy issues? I know, I forgot too! Also I did not care!) and oh my god seriously Geoff Johns be more I hate you.

 Oh, and Superman and Wonder Woman continue their relationship--which I remind you is written with all the passion of a five year old stripping his sister's Barbie and Ken doll's doll-ass nekkid and grinding them against one another, as Superman explains why he wears the glasses as Clark Kent and holy shit I did not buy this metaphor when Mark Waid did it in Kingdom Come and I am not buying it here.

 But god dammit, this being a Geoff Johns Joint, I guess we HAD TO HAVE the Secret Origin of Clark Ken's Glasses in the New 52. I would like to think that Roy Thomas would have had more self-control than this. I would like to think that.

 In the name of saying something positive about this issue--and there is--Ivan Reis steps in as the new regular penciller. I like his stuff a lot, and he acquits himself well with the action and character moments. The weaknesses here are primarily at the writing and conceptual levels.

 Meanwhile, in the never-ending and never-interesting Shazam backup, Billy Batson finally manages to do some good in the most dickmosnterish way possible because of course he does. How many years has this backup been going on? Six issues? It feels like the halfway mark with Cerebus--the back Dave-Sim-is-wayyyy-off-his-nut half, only that was more exciting and more even-handed with regards to gender politics.

 Geoff Johns ends the story the only way he knows how to end stories going back to JSA--with a full-page reveal of the last page with Black Adam finally finding Shazam and Shazam getting a goooooood look at Adam's junk. Seriously, this is like his thing--every damn book, it seems he does this--full page splash, hero on the ground or looking up, villain looming as the focus of the page and saying one or two words that are supposed to be ominous and cliffhangery but . . .aren't.

 I don't care for this comic, but it's fascinating in a way that it takes the white light of everything I hate about big two superhero comics and prisms it out into a neat rainbow of joyless mediocrity where craft is insignificant, talent elusive, and the overall feeling is one of sadness.

 EVAN DORKIN'S HOUSE OF FUN--I enjoyed the "Broken Robot" strips and "Least Beloved Ultraman Monsters (According To Some Very Agitated Men On An Internet Message Board)" way more than I probably should. I also chuckled at the Milk and Cheese strips because, well, I would, wouldn't I? Didn't really care much for the Eltingville stuff, which seemed to go on a bit too long at the end, but in all, a lot of good zany, occasionally angry fun. It's not Tales Designed To Thrizzle, but it will do in a pinch.

 BATWOMAN #15--Well, this issue doesn't move the plot ahead one iota, the join between J.H. Williams III's framing sequence and Trevor McCarthy's interior pages is very plain despite McCarthy trying to keep it in line with Williams' "gritty" line style, buuuut . . .I still kinda liked this one. It's mostly told from the perspective of Maggie Sawyer, Kate's love interest, and while there are some bits where the notes ring a little shrill, if the overplot for the last year and change is not really fussed with making a lot of sense, then this kind of more interior story is less grating, if you ask me.

 J.H. Williams is leaving Batwoman soon, (as with the banana stand, there's always money in Sandman) and while that's sad, I've felt quite a bit lately that I want to like the book more than i actually like the book. Stylistically it's very interesting, but not much else. So I'm intrigued to see how (and if) it continues with some fresh blood added to the equation.

 Unless it's Jim Balent, in which case I can only imagine the amount of stroke victims that will be checked into our nation's hospitals following the announcement.

 GLORY #31--Heading towards the finale, and while the expected outcome of all this would be a prolonged fight with Glory and Nanaja's father, Keatinge subverts our expectations and the main conflict takes places over a rather contentious (and hilarious) breakfast.

 Ross Campbell does his usual wonderful job with it all, drawing powerful people in really expressive ways, and I really like Ulises Farinas' guest turn in this issue--his art has some similarities with Campbell's (most notably the "heft" he gives the action scenes) but the work is blockier, more illustrative, and he is quite a find.

 I will really miss this book when it's gone.

 PROPHET#32--I wonder if the reason people keep falling back on comparing Prophet to Heavy Metal is because it's very difficult to encapsulate what it's trying to evoke in terms other than that--Prophet tends to tell these expansive, quiet, lonely existential stories with mind-bogglingly weird images and makes no effort to ground it in any sort of identifiable reality the reader might recognise but has this identifiable logic that a reader can get into, with a little effort.

 It's a very strange book, but quite enjoyable.

 HARBINGER #7--People have said that this book is far more decompressed than the original, and to an extent, they're right--measured against the original, we're on issue #4 or so versus #7 of the new version. But two things make this OK here--for one thing, we're getting much more character with team members as we add them along--this issue, it's Flamingo, who got pretty short shrift in the original (her character was hastily sketched in as "promiscuous bad girl trying to be good") and how they relate to themselves and the group.

 Also, the bits with Zephyr in the strip club were damned funny.

 This felt like it was still moving forward--subplots tick over, and Kris has taken full charge and has a plan to create a resistance force against Harada. Shes more overtly Machiavellian in this version, and it's far more interesting as opposed to the original version--greying both sides like this makes for an intriguing story.

 I have no real ending for this, but I suppose if I were Geoff Johns, this post would end with me floored while Per Degaton or someone floated above me saying something horrible like "I have no pants on under my uniform and you will stare at my time-tossed red man-bush," but really, that is not a thing I would do to you. Plus, I think it's more clever and post-modern when these posts just stop abru

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