Because, you know, I’m an intern; what are they going to do, not pay me less?So, I haven’t bought many new comics lately. I’ve had to make the dreaded choice of comics or eating, and because no one has been bold enough to print a comic on a Fruit Roll Up, food has won.Â I’m still keeping up with my pull list, but that’s just because my pull list isÂ the Spirit, Nextwave, and a bunch of comics that are published whenever the creators feel like getting around to it. I’m always temptedÂ to put twenty titles I don’t even read like thatÂ in there whenever I start a new pull, just for laughs (“Yeah, I’d like Optic NerveEightball, Hate, Peepshow, UltimateÂ Hulk vs. Wolverine, All Star Batman and Robin, Acme Novelty Library, and throw Big Numbers in there, too!”). I may yet, just to see if they’ll publish regularly out of spite towards me.
I generally avoid crossovers on principle, but I’m always interested in the comics that are spun off out of them. Mainly because so many of them are those kind of interesting failures that litter mainstream comics history and line back issue boxes across the country. Even though I would have had to have been paid a pretty hefty salary to read Infinite Crisis, I was intrigued by the whole 1 Year Later concept. Of course, none of the comics I sampled from that particular experiment held my interest, but I still sampled more DC comics than I would have otherwise.
The latest comics to springboard from a crossover to a regular series to my hot hands are the Punisher War Journal and Thunderbolts comics to bearÂ theÂ Civil WarÂ banner. Mind you, I only bought them for the writers;Â Matt Fraction is my favorite new comics writer in ages, based soley on the slim, cheap, and sublime Casanova, and Warren Ellis can you usually be counted on to at least give you something interesting, even when he’s obviously slumming it (and, you know, on a fanboy level, hey, it’s Warren Ellis writing Suicide Squad, but with Bullseye and Venom! That sounds like a formula for awesome to me).
The results varied. I thought Punisher War Journal was a lot of fun. I know Joe didn’t like it, but I enjoyed Fraction’s more light hearted, smart assed take on the character.Â It helps that the only time I’ve ever liked the Punisher was during Garth Ennis’s black comedy take on the character (to be fair, I haven’t sampled much of the current Max run yet); this is in that vein, but without the outright tone of disdain for superheroes that runs through Ennis’ work (at the very least, he parodied the hell out of any supercharacter who was unlucky enough to wander in to a given issue). The first issue, which is all I’ve read thus far, doesn’t take the familiar Marvel Universe faces gravely seriously, but it didn’t outright mock them. That’s the kind of balance that all the great old school Marvel writers, from Stan to Steve Gerber to Chris Claremont, struck, and I appreciate it here (okay, maybe not Claremont, since his melodrama levels are almost always on 11, but he can make fun of himself and the characters). It also was paced well, which I demand from my $3 pamphlet reading these days. Throw in some nice art from Ariel Olivetti (the copy I bought was in black and white, and it looked like something from one of those old Marvel black and white magazines Greg Hatcher is always talking about), and you have a fun reading experience. I’m on board for the first trade, at least.
New Thunderbolts was a less satisfying read, because it was all set up. It was perfectly decent set up; the tone of the book is somewhere between the wonderful lunacy of Nextwave and the shocking blandness of his Ultimate Fantastic Four run. There are some interesting bits of Verehoven-esque (I bet I butchered his name; the guy who directed Starship Troopers and Robocop) satire, but as Cronin pointed out, he played obscure characters like Jack Flag totally straight. It’s a weird mix, and it’s hard to tell where it’s going at this point.Â Like I said, a perfectly decentÂ set up issue; I just happen to be sick to death of the written for the trade set up issue.Â And you know, despite the fact that he was one of the champions of decompressedÂ storytelling backÂ when it first became popular in mainstream comics, EllisÂ has proven on his recent books like Fell, Nextwave, and Desolation Jones (and hell, even the early issues of Planetary and Transmetropolitan)Â thatÂ he can do the old school single issue balancing act of telling aÂ satisfying single issueÂ storyÂ and still keepÂ the wider story arc going, so it was disappointing to see him do something in the Bendis/Millar template.
The art is vanilla superhero story telling; perfectly acceptable, but just kind of there. I remember Deodato being a really exagerrated ’90s style storyteller, so maybe when we get to the action scenes it will be more entertaining, but now it’s interchangable talking heads stuff. He gets to show off a little with the scene at Thunderbolts Mountain, but it didn’t hit the sense of wonder it was going for, at least for me. That could have been because the writing undermined it a bit, but still, I was not impressed by the money shot.
It doesn’t look like this comic will be Nextwave’s spiritual successor, which is a shame, because I think Marvel should publish something like that, just to throw the weirdos like me and Bill Reed a bone. But hey, they got me to buy two comics with the Civil War banner on them, and I will probably keep buying them for awhile, so they win.
These comics kept my attention more than the 1 Year Later material I sampled. It helps that I’m more of a Marvel guy than a DC one; all things equal, I’ll take the X-Men over the JLA any day of the week. It also helps that I like Fraction and Ellis a lot more as creators than the writers whose 1YL work I sampled (it occurs to me that one issue of Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey may be all I read from that particular event, and that I liked it well enough but decided I could be perfectly happy never reading another issue in my life; I’m pretty sure it’s all I bought beyond Morrison’s Batman, which came in after Robinson established theÂ status quoÂ and some stray issues of 52). Also, I have to admit that I like the concept of Civil War a lot, even if the execution is, well, you know.
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