Evan-JOE-Lical Comics Club: Experience Points

Reviewed today: Annihilators Volume 1 and Prophet #21

Back again, ladies and gentlefolk. Hope all is well. This week we have a slight change of pace. Today we've got two readers again, but both of these have some proper previous comics experience. On our most recent outing, we were joined not only by comic book novices, but by some other folks, as well. First off we have Frequent CSBG commenter and all-around dude-of-words, Michael P. Take it away, Mike!

Name:  Michael Pullmann

Age:30 Occupation: Paralegal/writer/super geniusPlace of Origin: Astoria

Website/Project/twitter/whatever you'd like to plug: My updated-when-I-fell-like-it blog is talestomildlyastonish.blogspot.com. I'm also writing a book, but given that I don't have an agent or a finished draft, plugging that would be premature. 

What sort of history do you have with comics? Did you ever read? Do you sometimes read?: I've been reading comics since I was 6. 

What would you say you nerd out for in life? (Football, cooking, porcelain miniature houses) Any particularly nerdy lengths you've gone to/stories to tell?: Comics, sci-fi, fantasy, books in general, video games... I'm basically the exact opposite of the kind of person Joe was looking for. I tagged along in hopes of meeting new people, providing expert recommendations, and maybe increasing the sales on X-Factor a bit. (This did not happen.) I can't think of a supremely nerdy story off-hand, but I did go to midnight showings of all the Lord of the Rings movies. Even got my brother to come on the last two. 

What comic did you choose? Annihilators, Vol. 1. For those of you playing at home, it's a sci-fi superteam made up of some of Marvel's heaviest cosmic hitters. Imagine that the Silver Surfer has five friends who are just as powerful as he is, and they fight bad guys on a galactic scale. Because a telepathic Russian dog tells them to. How could I not want to read that? 

Why did you choose it? I've been following Abnett & Lanning's cosmic stuff in trade form for a while now, and this was the next thing in that. I'd been planning on buying it when it came out, and lo and behold, that's exactly what I did. 

Now here is the meat of the piece, which I hope might involve some back-and-forth questioning. What did you like and what didn't you like about: 

the story: There are two stories, one about the Annihilators team and one about Rocket Raccoon and Groot. The Annihilators story was pretty much what I expected, which is to say, good. I like how the writers admitted the massively clashing egos of these characters up front and made that part of the emotional core of the story. Ditto the fact that they're kind of a walking nuclear option. The story traded heavily on material from the old Rom series, which I've never read, but the exposition kept me up to date without choking the action to death. It's not great literature, but I wasn't really expecting that from a story whose antagonist is named Doctor Dredd. It was big, exciting, action, and that's what I came for. Plus, I loved the ending. The Rocket/Groot story was kind of like a bizarre combination of a buddy comedy and a David Fincher mind-fuck. The opening bit with Rocket in an office job was a hoot, but I felt the stuff on Groot's home planet was mostly just killing time. The last half of the story was all kinds of weird, but the kinds I like, so it definitely made up for the flaws in issue 2. I also liked the device of the postal sorting machine as a handy font of exposition. (It makes sense in context, I swear.) 

the art: Two stories, two artists. Tang En Huat did a good job on the Annihilators stuff, mostly. He does tend to draw everyone with Jay Leno's chin. And the staging on the climax of issue 2/opening of issue 3 was off; Silver Surfer is looking at Quasar when he unmasks a traitor in their midst, but then we see the traitor reveal herself, and it's not Quasar, and it wasn't supposed to be Quasar. So that was odd. The combat scenes were badass, though, and I liked the designs of the various wraith-monsters. Timothy Green II drew the Rocket/Groot story. He did a really good job with the body language and facial expressions of the various non-human characters (which is pretty much everyone in the story). All of the design work -- the aliens, the planets, the tech -- was really great, too. I'd buy a Rocket ongoing series with this team for as long as Marvel wanted to publish it, which would probably be about three issues.the format: No problems there. I got two complete stories for $20. I would have enjoyed it in singles as well, but I'd committed to getting the cosmic stuff in trades. It makes sense if you live in my head. the dialogue: Pretty good for the most part on both accounts. Ronan, Gladiator, and Beta Ray Bill all had kind of the same speech pattern, but that's sort of built into the characters. I liked Ikon's inappropriately-timed passes at Quasar. I didn't care so much for the schitck of people "translating" what Groot was saying by repeating it back to him. Best line: "You have just had twenty-four fusion warheads fired at you. You have two seconds to live." 

the characters: Character took center stage more in the Rocket/Groot story than the Annihilators one, which was kind of to be expected. The subplot in the Annihilators story about Quasar's confidence issues didn't really work for me. It's a cliche, it doesn't really fit the character, and it's resolved pretty superficially. Then again, given the massive egos of the rest of the characters, I can see why they felt they needed to give the token human feet of clay. 

the concept: See above. Sci-fi action-adventure and goofy buddy comedy. I like both those things.  

I've been a follower of Abnett and Lanning for a while, and this was up to their usual standard of quality. Green's being on a book would make me take a second look at it; Huat, not so much. I will be picking up the next (and probably last) Annihilators collection when it comes out. As for similar stuff, I dunno; do you have anything else where a group of cosmic egomaniacs protect the universe, or a cynical talking raccoon blows shit up with his friend the talking tree? 

Good to hear from one of our own ...I tried the same trade, influenced by Mike's purchase. I didn't like it nearly as much ...the Quasar subplot really bugged me and the art in the main bit seemed stiff and old-fashioned. Now let's move on to a buddy from the college days ...more of a comics guy than our other participants but he's not exactly a message-board level fan, if you catch my drift.

Name:  Al D-- 2012 Oscar Party Winner

Age: 34 Occupation: WriterPlace of Origin: New JerseyWhat sort of history do you have with comics? Did you ever read? Do you sometimes read?

0-10: I’d run around wearing a Superman cape10-14: I moved on to Batman.14-19: Superhero stuff, but never following by the issue.  Always trades and graphic novels.20-30: A progression from superhero stuff to mostly non-superhero stuff.30-34: Don’t read  many comic books anymore.  A handful a year, and generally only after they’ve come highly recommended.  This was the first time I’d been in a comic book store in a long while. What would you say you nerd out for in life? (Football, cooking, porcelain miniature houses) Any particularly nerdy lengths you've gone to/stories to tell?

I’m not sure.  I like art and books and movies, but I also find myself so often disappointed with art and books and movies.  I like odd things, I think.  I respect something that tries to be different and fails miserably than something that is more derivative and ends up mediocre.

I have witnessed Joe Rice chase after Frank Quitely at WizardWorld in Philadelphia in 2002.  That felt pretty nerdy. [Editor's note: I eventually got to pee next to him in the men's room. It was as good as you'd think.] What comic did you choose? .

Prophet #21 (slightly confusingly numbered under an Image Comics logo adorned with the # 20)

Why did you choose it?

A friend linked to a website previewing it.  The art looked cool.  If I have no knowledge of a comic, then the art is usually what attracts me. In this case, the bits of art I saw reminded me of the old video game Space Quest, which my brother and I loved when we were younger. Now here is the meat of the piece, which I hope might involve some back-and-forth questioning. What did you like and what didn't you like about:

the story

I was completely confused.  Admittedly, it was #21 and the first 20 issues, which I have never read, most likely set up the story.  But I believe this was a reboot or there was a long break in between this issue and the previous one and this one has a new creative team.  But maybe not.  Either way, I was confused.

the art 

Like I said, the art attracted me to the book — it reminded me a little of Moebius, maybe a little of Taiyo Matsumoto.  I liked the colors too.  I know nothing about coloring, but I feel like above every other aspect of comic books, coloring has improved the most since I was younger.  Maybe this has something do with modern technology.  Maybe it has to do with coloring just getting its due more recently.  Or maybe I’m completely wrong.

the format 

I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “format,” so I’m going use this header simply as a place to put my largest complaint about this comic book — the writer often does puts text where text is unnecessary.  A number of comics, often older European ones, overflow with text where a simple picture serves the purpose.  For instance, in this comic, there is a panel that says “And his blade is in his hand,” and the accompanying image is… the blade in his hand.  What does that accomplish?  There is no new information, no subversion of information we have.  It’s flat.  There are a number of similar instances in this comic like that.  They are small, but they accumulate.  Since this story is being told as a comic book, wouldn’t the whole thing be better served by telling a story through images?  I would bet that this comic would have been equally as comprehensible--and equally confusing--if the description panels were simply removed.

It’s interesting and disappointing--there are so many outlets for telling stories today and so few that utilize the medium they employ.  So many movies and comics and books and whatever do not actually accomplish anything specific to being a movie, a comic, a book, or a whatever.  They use the medium as a simple vessel.  Watchmen, a comic book that fully utilized the medium, didn’t spawn more comic books that attempted to use comic-book-specific storytelling devices—it spawned comic books filled with childhood characters doing adult things.  And while that’s not a direct complaint about adaptations of one medium into the other (comic book to movie to novel to Broadway musical back to comic book), I do think that the reason so many adaptations fail is that the adaptations ignore that often, what has made the original a success was the use of the medium in which it was written/performed/whatever.  I’ve never understood the fawning over how closely the sequence in a comic-book movie followed its progenitor’s panels.

Would you want to read more from this writer? This artist? Of this book/story? Does this make you think of something else you'd want to try?

I bought a couple other comic books when I bought this one — Age of Reptiles, which looks to be a long wordless comic book about dinosaurs, and a comic book by Jason, whose stuff I’ve loved, particularly I Killed Adolf Hitler.  Both look to have storytelling specific to comic books so I’m excited to read them.

So, words from a couple of dudes with experience in comics ...one got something he was pretty sure he'd like and the other went for a nice looking book with disappointing writing. Not every pick is a winner. Next time we'll get some more newbs and marvel at their hidden wisdom, or make fun of them.

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