Stuff I Read This Week, 5/19/2013-5/25/2013

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NEMO_HOI_FC_PromoNemo: Heart of Ice, written by Alan Moore, art by Kevin O’Neill

I enjoyed this book more than I did the last two or three League of Extraordinary Gentlemen books.  It’s definitely a more straightforward adventure comic than those books, which is only one of the reasons why I liked it so much.  I never had any real problem with the metatextual bent taken by later books, but it’s always nice to decompress once in awhile.  The other reasons include it being refreshingly devoid of both rape and petty sniping at modern-day creators.  For the most part, anyway–Moore keeps it to one in the latter case, with an exceptionally mean-spirited dig at Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett.  Oh well.  It is a modern-day Alan Moore work, after all–he’s not not going to take a cheap shot at somebody.

All that aside, with this book Moore seemingly remembers what it was about this series that people liked in the first place–that is, taking elements of Victorian genre fiction and spinning them into something which, while not quite new, is still very entertaining.  Moore turns his attention to H.P. Lovecraft this time around, which after the fiasco that was Neonomicon was enough to set my teeth on edge.  Thankfully, my fears proved unfounded, Moore being content to tell a story of Janni Nemo and her crew visiting the Mountains of Madness.  Only a few make it out alive, which makes Janni…not a sociopath anymore?  Yeah, that part’s a bit weird and underdeveloped.  Still, this book’s enough of an improvement I don’t have any problem recommending it.  O’Neill’s art is magnificent as always, capturing both the spirit of the ripping yarn and the essential brutality of the Victorian mindset.

JLJustice League (New 52) vol. 2: The Villain’s Journey, written by Geoff Johns, art by Jim Lee

AKA The One Where Superman And Wonder Woman Finally Hook Up In-Continuity.  You might be expecting me to bitch and moan about this, but no.  You’re crazy if you think the concept has legs, and the idea’s never really worked in the zillions of Elseworlds stories where it’s been tried, but I just don’t care enough one way or another to pick it apart or kick up any kind of fuss.  It’s fine.  Really.  Whatever.  Believe me, this volume has far, far larger problems.

I cheated my way out of properly reviewing this shart of a series the first time through, but this time I’m going to take my suddenly-soiled Underoos like a man.  This is probably the best-selling New 52 series, even as it exemplifies everything wrong with the relaunch.  There’s the usual focus on plot, with nary a thought for characterization–Johns just made everyone (except for Flash and maybe Superman) a complete douche-nozzle and called it good.  This might be slightly tolerable if the plots were any good, which they aren’t.  There’s the illusion of spectacle here, but in reality half the damn series happens off-screen, with constant references to fight sequences it might have been fun to, you know, see.  It’s like a good comic is happening ten feet away while we’re stuck reading this crap.

This relentless self-abridging works to the book’s especial disfavor when it comes to this arc’s villain, who you refuse to accept as any sort of credible threat even as he makes the League look like chumps.  Had we gotten to see him methodically pulling his plan together, rather than be stuck with the offhanded single-page wrap-ups we get here and there, it would have been a lot more plausible.

Lee does his typical nice job on art, but even he’s hamstrung by questionable inking practices.  Having more than one inker on a single issue is seldom a good idea–it plays hell with the consistency–but no one appears to have told DC editorial this.  The final issue in this collection has eleven credited inkers.  Eleven.  How the hell does that even happen?  I assume scheduling conflicts, and lemme tell ya, when a publisher can’t even get its ducks in a row for its flagship title, something has gone pretty seriously wrong.

 

RHORed Hood and the Outlaws vol. 1: Redemption, written by Scott Lobdell, art by Kenneth Rocafort

“Just about the perfect book…with solid action sequences, and intriguing plotlines involving high adventure.” –Popmatters, from the cover

HA_HA_HA,_OH_WOW

I’m always amused to see my more visible peers embarrass themselves so thoroughly.  I don’t expect everyone to share my tastes in comics, but to suggest Red Hood and the Outlaws gets anywhere near screaming distance of “just about perfect” demands more justification than most folks are physically capable of.

In truth, however, i didn’t find myself despising this book as much as I thought I would.  Don’t get me wrong, Red Hood still sucks like it’s trying to make rent.  Scott Lobdell is pretty much the Michael Bay of comic-book writers, and his growth as a creator since the 1990s proves slight at best.  Amazingly, all this turns out to have its upsides.  You may, for example, have heard about how this book turned Starfire (a character whose best-known iteration is from a children’s show, mind) into a scatterbrained fuck-puppet.  While this is indeed a turn for the worse–Lobdell clearly had only the vaguest notion of what the character was actually like–I will say things do get slightly better on that front as time goes on.  Slightly.  There are at least signs of character-building and development, unlike with Justice League.  Bringing Jason Todd back from the dead was a terrible idea, and he’s a completely ridiculous character here, and more than a bit of a sexist douche to boot.  And he’s YET ANOTHER character whose power is “shoots people”.  (PROTIP: If you’re writing a superhero comic, and your protagonist uses conventional firearms and isn’t The Punisher, stop and reconsider.)  His teammates aren’t much less absurd–Speedy is an utterly generic smartass slacker, and Starfire is…well, you know.  Still, at least some thought appears to have gone into their reimagining, along with how they play off one another.  I can just picture Lobdell sitting up late into the night, feverishly rubbing his two brain cells together.

Also, the book’s beautifully drawn, and I’m not just talking about Starfire (who Rocafort saw fit to stick in a costume utterly ridiculous even by superheroine standards).  It’s rugged, even seedy when it needs to be, and glitzy when it needs to be that.  Rocafort tries a little too hard on composition–J.H. Williams III he is very much not–but it’s still easy to follow.

At no point should you consider paying money for this book, but it’s still worth checking out.  It’s bad, but it’s the kind of bad that loops back around to entertaining, not to mention funny.  It’s quite a bit like Liefeld’s Hawk & Dove in this regard, albeit with much better artwork.

 

IrredeemableVol10TPIrredeemable vol. 10, written by Mark Waid, art by Diego Barreto

Getting back to Read It ‘Cuz It’s Good Land, we have the concluding volume of Mark Waid’s reconstruction of the superhero genre.  It’s tempting to say “deconstruction”, but clearly the intention here was not to tear down, but rather to build back up.  Irredeemable proved, once and for all. that the twin superhero archetypes of world-saving exemplars of justice and realistic, flawed characters are in no way mutually exclusive.  Hamstrung though the protagonists often seemed to be with their flaws of character and personal failings, they still pull it together enough to save the world, becoming all the better heroes in the process–a sort of ultimate, worldwide trial by fire.  Even the monstrous Plutonian finds redemption, albeit in just about the strangest way possible.  Pretty much my only complaint about this series was the obnoxious way in which Boom! packaged it–only three or four issues per collection, with a full quarter of each trade taken up by alternate covers and previews.

 

SME1v2_HCSuperman: Earth One vol. 2, written by Jay Michael Straczynski, art by Shane Davis

Ugh.  Unnngh.  ERNG!  Waggathurp-BONG!  WEETABIX!  FUCK!!!  Whew, that’s better.  This book momentarily enraged me beyond the facility for language.  I’m better now, though.

The same cannot, however, be said for this book, which remains every bit as breathtakingly awful as its predecessor.  I had hoped this would be a one-time thing, but apparently Jay found a space in his busy schedule of shrieking racist epithets at kittens to write another one.

My god, but has Jay ever even read a Superman comic?  I like to think I have a pretty well-developed idea of what the character’s like, and there’s nary an iota of that to be found here.  Well, okay, I take that back, there’s a little–the whole thing with the cat was genuinely sweet, and is absolutely something Kal-El would do.  But that only takes up two pages.  Other than that it’s pretty much a shit-show.  I have nothing against experimentation, but if you’re setting out to write an already well-established character there has to be something recognizable about him/her.

And cat thing aside, Superman is just a complete and utter douchebag–sulky, needlessly sarcastic, passive-aggressive, and nowhere near as intelligent as the book would have you believe.  Oh, and the way he resolves the situation with the dictator will make your heart sink.  This isn’t Superman, just some clown with roughly equivalent powers.  The result is the sort of Superman comic written by people who think the character is boring.  Of course, in that case why bother?  Just go write a Mr. Majestic reboot or something.

There are some improvements here, believe it or not.  The villain’s better for one thing, but that’s just because he’s a character so simple (Parasite) not even Jay could screw him up.  And I liked the art better this time around, despite it being pretty much the same.  Just trying to look on the bright side, I suppose.  Still, this is the sort of comic that’s just depressing to read, which leads you to dig out and read something really good just to raise your spirits…

 

MAGGIEMaggie The Mechanic: A Love and Rockets Book, by Jaime Hernandez

…Something like this, for example.  A large part of the fun of Love and Rockets is seeing how the Herndandezes grew and developed as creators, with experimentation giving way to clarity of vision.  Jaime had a rougher start out of the gate than Beto, burdening his Locas stories with sci-fi elements that proved to suit the series not at all.  The thing is, Jaime realized this almost immediately and had jettisoned more or less all of that stuff by the end of this volume (H.R. Costigan’s horns weren’t going anywhere, however).  Readers used to the series as it stands now may be weirded out by other things as well, such as a thin Maggie and that Japanese girl still being around because Jaime hasn’t realized she’s boring yet.

That said, the progression still seems perfectly natural.  You can look at these characters and still recognize them perfectly well, only sans several decades of growth.  Jaime’s art didn’t develop quite so much, simply because it was ridiculously good to start with and required only minimal evolution.  First steps are always awkward, but there’s still plenty of greatness to be found here.

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