Here’s the story, and you may know it already: I used to read ALL the comics — and write reviews of a bunch of them every week — and now I read a few comics every once in a while (which is still waaaaay more than most humans). I read Anya Davidson’s “School Spirits” last week, and it was like an Archie comic by way of Johnny Ryan but not really like either of those things, so I liked it a lot. And I read Chris Schweizer’s “Crogan’s Vengeance,” because I roomed with him at Baltimore Comic Con and hadn’t actually read any of his stuff, but I knew he was good. To no one’s surprise, he is, in fact, good, and “Crogan’s Vengeance” is a fast-paced historical action book, with plenty of pirates and reversals and intelligence.
But it’s not like I have anything insightful about either of those comics. They speak for themselves as distinct works of artistry.
I do, however, still have a few things to say about some schlocky and/or pretty good superhero comics. And this is CBR, and you’re reading this column at CBR, so you are probably more interested in my opinions about David Finch than Anya Davidson. I could be wrong. Please tell me how wrong I am on the message boards, but be specific. General wrongness is just the norm.
But I’m not wrong about these two superhero single issues I recently read. Nope. I’m exactly right about these. Did you read them too? If so, play along by shaking your head or nodding as appropriate.
“Forever Evil” #1, by Geoff Johns and David Finch
Lex Luthor gets beat up. Nightwing gets abducted. The Justice League is dead. Long live the Crime Syndicate and the Legion of Doom!
That’s the comic, and David Finch draws enough lines to make sure you know that this is serious business. If someone like Kevin Maguire drew it, you might be able to laugh it off and think to yourself, “There is no way that my beloved Justice League is dead. These criminals will get their just desserts!” But you can’t think that. Not with all those David Finch drawings. Nope. This is real-comic-book-life and you are inside it, with a bunch of characters Geoff Johns really liked when he watched the “Challenge of the Super Friends.”
Oh, this isn’t a good comic by any measurable standard. It won’t stand the test of time. It’s basically like that Alex Ross “Justice” comic, but with more pen and ink and less attractive people and slightly less green (I was going to say “less green” with more confidence, but there’s plenty of garish green hues in “Forever Evil” too). But as someone who also grew up with “Challenge of the Super Friends” and an inability to ignore any appearance of the Crime Syndicate, I thoroughly enjoyed “Forever Evil” #1. It’s like a hair metal cover of a Gardner Fox/Mike Sekowsky comic that was made into a TV miniseries. That’s the stuff.
Plus, Deathstorm! The anti-Firestorm from another Earth. I know this is the New 52 and NOTHING HAS EVER BEEN THE SAME SINCE, but Deathstorm is, by my count, the fourth anti-Firestorm in the DCU, if you’ll permit us to reach back in time to look at Not-New Not-52 comics. There was a Dark Firestorm from Paul Levitz’s “Great Darkness Saga.” A character called Shadowstorm from the John Ostrander “Firestorm” run. And a Zombie Firestorm in “Blackest Night.” I think those three should return and team up with Deathstorm and “The Anti-Firestorm Legion” would be my favorite comic. I am not even joking. It would be amazing.
Or better than any recent “Firestorm” comic, anyway.
“Infinity” #2, by Jonathan Hickman, Jerome Opeña, and Dustin Weaver
Now this is no hair metal cover. No, this is Michael Bay’s Super-Avengers in Space.
I couldn’t even really read the first issue of this series. It was a lot of growling and agonizing and setting up some wheels to begin spinning but the story actually starts with this issue as the armada approaches and the heroes prepare themselves for war.
Page 10 — is it page 10? I have no idea how the page numbering works with Jonathan Hickman comics and all the title cards and white spaces and designy elements — gives us Hickman and Opeña’s version of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Avengers-Arrive-in-Born-Again, which is one of the single most influential scenes of all time. That doesn’t stop Hickman from doing his riff on it here: a caption box reads “…the midnight king, Black Bolt, waited for the arrival of the emissary of Thanos” and Black Bolt stands defiant, as we look up at him.
That’s a Michael Bay thing, too. Michael Bay meets Frank Miller. That’s what this issue is, and that’s probably why I liked it more than issue #1 which was an extended prologue for Bay Miller but not the real thing. This isn’t the real thing either, but it does have sexy Medusa and angry Gladiator and Black Bolt laying down the true facts.
You know what would be a good comic-shelf-companion for “The Anti-Firestorm Legion”? “Gladiator and the Superguardians Fight Crazy Space Monsters.” That’s another comic I would buy. And this one almost hints at such a thing. Well, we get a sequence that gives us a taste, however fleeting.
Also, unless you’re following Hickman’s “Avengers” comic, how can you even hope to make sense out of the Ex Nihilo character? I read a bunch of those issues, and I still don’t fully understand what that character is all about. He’s basically a god. But he looks like a yellow devil. So…he’s the Beyonder in cosplay? And he speaks like an undergrad Philosophy major? That’s his hook? Okay. I think I’ll just ignore him, like I used to ignore the Sentry when he’d show up in all those Avengers comics of yesteryear.
In the final scene, Black Bolt pulls his Illuminati-pals into a pocket dimension where everyone speaks in the same tone and therefore his super-shatter-voice doesn’t trigger. That’s not much of a spoiler, since what he actually says is more important than the plot mechanism that allows him to say it. But when I read the scene, I couldn’t help thinking, “So they all sound the same in this pocket dimension? I wonder what they sound like. I bet they all sound like they have helium voices.” And thus my love for this issue increased dramatically.
In addition to writing reviews and columns for COMIC BOOK RESOURCES, Timothy Callahan is the author of “Grant Morrison: The Early Years” and editor of “Teenagers from the Future: Essays on the Legion of Super-Heroes” anthology. More of his thoughts on comics can be seen regularly at the Geniusboy Firemelon blog.