Anthology of Scattered Thoughts Somewhat Related to Comics (and a review of Morrison's Batman so far)

I have a lot of thoughts about comics. None of them deserve their own post. But together, they may not be great, but they're... well, less superflous. Sort of like the Outsiders, or the Defenders, or whoever your favorite third string superhero team is.-Here's a test to see if playing the Marvel: Ultimate Alliance video game would be akin to a religious experience for you, or at least something you'd be interested in checking out. The first boss in the game is Fin Fang Foom. And you fight him on the SHIELD Helicarrier. Later on, you fight MODOK. And you have to answer basic science questions from him before you can beat him up. If that alone doesn't have you reaching for $50 to get yourself a copy, then you have failed the Marvel Nerd Test. And that makes me cry a little. On the inside.

-I've mostly avoided 52, because, well, it's a DC comic not (entirely)written by Grant Morrison, and I've been doing my best to stay away from those lately. The first few issues of Mark Waid and Barry Kitson's Legion is pretty much the only exception. But somehow, this review, from Jeff Lester at the Savage Critic, has finally aroused my curiousity.* Now that it's over half over and would be really expensive to get into. Thanks, Jeff, for your crappy timing!** I guess I could wait for the trades, although I have no idea how they're going to collect it. Also, I may lose interest in it again if I have time to think about it. That happened to me with the new Hulk Hogan DVD set today. I was all set to buy it, and then I was like, "Oh wait, I don't even like Hulk Hogan! I'll go buy the Samoa Joe DVD instead!" I'm not sure what the DC Comics equivalent of Samoa Joe would be. I'm open to suggestions on that one.

-Speaking of Grant Morrison, which I did at some point back there, as much of a fanboy of his as I am (which you have to be to write here; it's a rule. Even Greg Hatcher had to be able to at least pretend he was before we let him in), I was sort of underwhelmed by his first arc on Batman. So much so that whether I dropped the thing or not was dependent on how good the last issue of the arc was.

Well, I can say that my faith in the God of All Comics*** has been renewed, as I thought Batman #658 was a lot of fun, and am happy with his first arc as a whole. Really, other than the third part, I liked all the issues individually. There were enough little touches along with the big plot twists and really unsubtle signaling of a direction change (although I was amused by the Joker being tossed in a dumpster) that I found it to be a satisfying Batman story, which I'm pretty sure was all that Morrison was going for. Hell, Batman got more funny lines in these four issues than he has in... ever? Certainly more than I can remember in recent years beyond Morrison's own JLA work, although my monthly Batman reading has been kind of spotty since Alan Grant and Chuck Dixon were on the books.

-I could talk about Batman writers all day, and how Morrison fits in to that pantheon. For the record, I loved his take on the character in JLA, which is more or less continued here, but was less impressed with Arkham Asylum, possibly because almost all the symbolism went over my head, and Gothic, his Legends of the Dark Knights arc, although Klaus Janson's art may have something to do with that.

-Speaking of art in a Morrison comic(Holy Akward Transition, Batman!), Andy Kubert's work has recieved it's fair share of criticism, from what I've seen. Tim O'Neil has my favorite:

Both Kubert brothers' work has always possessed superficial similarities with that of their father, but in terms of storytelling sense -- you know, the actual nuts-and-bolts of cartooning -- the apple could not have fallen further from the tree. So much so that based on the evidence of these books I'm halfway tempted to suspect that Rob Liefeld built a time machine to go back and seduce Mrs. Kubert way back when.

As funny as that is, I don't entirely agree. I thought this issue, in particular, told the story well, although it was mostly "nice pins-ups of Batman scowling or kicking things", as O'Neil put it, which do play towards Kubert's strength. While I found some scenes early in the run incoherent (I'm still confused by the two Batmen at the beginning of the first issue), I thought Kubert had better moments than people are giving him credit for. although I may be giving the Man-Bat fight with all the pop art mixed in more credit for the idea than the execution. I'll allow for that.

The most interesting thing about all this is that Morrison's work has, at times, suffered because of the quality of his artists, or at least been diminished, because he lets them tell a lot of the story. Unlike Alan Moore, he hasn't always had the best storytellers working with him. Think about how much better JLA could have been with someone who had better storytelling skills than Howard Porter, for instance. On the flipside, I do have to agree that J.H. Williams basically made Seven Soldiers #1 what it was with the way he played with the form. That alone made it a hell of a reading experience, and helped make up for how compressed and, well, messy, it was. Given how books like the Invisibles and New X-Men had so many different artists of wildly varying style and quality, I think books like Seven Soldiers and All Star Superman have kind of spoiled Morrison enthusiasts, and someone like Kubert suffers by comparison. And also possibly from being fathered by Rob Liefeld via time travel. That's gotta be rough.

-Another comic I wound up picking up this week was Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four #18. It's a nice done in one story written by Zeb Wells and drawn by Kano and Alvaro Lopez about the Invisible Woman becoming an Agent of SHIELD. This is really the kind of idea that works best in this kind of book. It hits all the points it needs to, elicits some laughs, and wraps everything up in one issue. It's also the kind of story that justifies this kind of book, as you really can't do this sort of thing in the "real" Marvel Universe, or even the Ultimate one, anymore. Not without it being a 6 part story tying in to Civil War that also has to reconcile 40 years of continuity or reintroduce dozens of concepts, in the Ultimates case. It's nice to have the entry level books around for stuff like this. And this. I'd reccomend picking it up if you're in the mood for a good, light superhero comic. Or conversely, have always wanted to see Sue Storm: Agent of SHIELD.

This comic also contains what looks like the last part of the Guiding Light/Marvel crossover. The New Avengers come to Springfield, wackiness ensues. That's your plot right there. To be fair, it is only five pages. I got a weird fanboy kick out of Iron Man bitching at Alan Spaulding (who would make a great Iron Man villain, come to think of it), and Spider-Man and Mallet quipping. Being intimately familiar with Guiding Light and Marvel Comics almost never overlaps, and for a story that's serving as some bizarre form of corporate synergy in backup strip form, it does a pretty good job. Man, I'm like the anti-Savage Critic. I'm going to have to really tear the shit out of some innocuous mainstream comic soon or they'll kick me off of the blogs and I may have to actually talk to people at the comic shop or go on message boards to share my opinions on comics!

-I still have Absolute New Frontier and you probably don't.****

*Not sexually. Only fighting Fin Fang Foom gives me a nerd boner.*****

**I like to blame people for not thinking of every possible way their words can have an effect on me.

*** I use that sarcastically, which I'm pretty sure is how Greg Burgas intended it when he coined the phrase, although you'd have to ask him. I'm not a comics monotheist. I do think he's in the pantheon of foreign people who can still make superheroes interesting, along with Ellis, Moore, and... let's say Milligan. This isn't a hard and fast thing.**** I end all conversations this way now.

***** Don't you love that phrase? Nerd Boner! I will trademark it soon.

Stjepan Sejic Shares Art From Unnamed Black Label Batman Comic

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