We all have a tendency to complain about creative teams so constantly changing on our favorite titles. But when I stepped back and took a look at some of the titles I've bought recently, I wonder if we're overlooking a number of workhorses on some titles.
Chuck Dixon and Scott McDaniel (with inker Karl Story) just wrapped up a 40 issue run on NIGHTWING. Dixon, at the same time, continues his run on ROBIN, coming up to almost 75 issues, albeit with a slightly more revolving art team. Jim Balent just ended his run on CATWOMAN after drawing something like 60 continuous issues, whatever you think of his talent.
Erik Larsen is just about at 75 straight issues of SAVAGE DRAGON now.
Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson have been doing TRANSMETROPOLITAN for 31 issues.
Kurt Busiek has put in impressive runs on ASTRO CITY, THUNDERBOLTS, and increasingly AVENGERS. (I can't include IRON MAN, since it ended at two years and has had lots of help from Roger Stern lately.) In all three cases, the art teams have stayed the same, too: Brent Anderson, Mark Bagley, and George Perez. Bagley also put in an impressive run on THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. Heck, David Michelinie wound up an impressive run on that title at the same time.
Peter David and Leonard Kirk have been going on SUPERGIRL for thirty issues or so now. Before that, David lasted ten years on THE INCREDIBLE HULK. Chris Claremont and Salvador LaRocca have worked FANTASTIC FOUR for just about two straight years without a single fill-in issue.
James Robinson has written 63 issues of the STARMAN regular series, plus plenty of spin-offs and one shots.
I'm sure there are more. These are just the ones that roll off the top of my head. The list of creators who don't seem to be able to stay on a book longer than six issues is long enough to make my hair hurt.
I've been enjoying a return to the Batman family of titles these past couple of weeks. They've been generally very good. BATMAN #575 is the first to disappoint, though. Larry Hama writes and Scott McDaniel and Karl Story draw the story of Yet Another Extremist Terrorist. It's so repetitive that it makes my hair hurt even more than the aforementioned list of creators. They wrap themselves in the flag, spout clichéd nonsense about superiority and act like terrorists. Yay! The super-hero du jour cracks wise at them, saves a grateful populace from this dreaded menace, and guns are the enemy. Blah blah blah
Part of the problem is one of plotting. For one thing, the plot never escalates. It seems to stay at the same level throughout the entire story. When the big crashing finale comes around, you're complacent and sit idly by while it happens. If you aren't in suspense, the thrill is gone and the story is going to be useless.
Second, I just don't care about the characters, most notably Special Agent Leary. She seems ready to give her life to save her country and her fellow officers, but why? Is it just to represent the other side of the patriotic coin that our Standard Terrorist De Jour, The Banner, occupies? Maybe, but Leary spends so much of her time spouting the narrative that she never has a chance to make herself into anyone we care about.
But the absolute stupidest moment of the story comes on story page 11. Yes, the following is a minor spoiler. Don't sweat it. The Banner, our deranged lunatic with a gun, fires at Batman from point blank range, nailing him with two bullets straight to the temple. Batman is barely phased by this because of the "kevlar cowl" The Banner presumes he wears. Then McDaniel goes the extra mile to show two smoking circles coming from Batman's head for the rest of the page. That's right - not only does Batman not get knocked silly from two gunshot wounds to the cranium, but he's smoking! I saw something on one of those Real Life FOX television shows a couple of weeks ago where a motorist shot a cop in the chest at point blank range. The kevlar vest saved his life, but the bullets still left a nasty wound on his chest. I can only imagine that two gunshot wounds to the forehead would do more than make you wince for a panel or two.
The sad thing about all of this is that the action sequences are fairly nifty. They're nicely paced. McDaniel does an excellent job in laying it all out in a clear manner. His art style is even nice to look at. It's just that between that one broken law of physics and anatomy and the overall lack of "oomph" to the plot, I just don't care all that much.
Maybe next month…
WIZARD set out to create a comic to match the style of its magazine and succeeded.
Sorry, this is Gareb Shamus' comic publishing company and has no relation whatsoever to WIZARD.
Yeah, right. You can't tell the two apart. But let's stick to the comic itself.
It's pandering to the teenage fanboys in the same exact way the magazine does. It's got high school hijinks; incredibly cute girls wearing incredibly little; the promise of sex on prom night; and a science-fiction plot right out of some summer blockbuster spectacular movie. In other words, you have no idea what's going on, but it looks cool. It's highly reminiscent of STARSHIP TROOPERS, as a matter of fact, as a squad invades the home world of some alien species and is overcome by their numbers.
The back of the issue is filled with character profiles and the ever-so-popular and intelligent WIZARD fumetti strips. Ugh. There are interviews with the creators of the book that revolve around fanboys hitting on the female artist of the book (Amanda Conner) and Mark Waid and Jimmy Palmiotti's adventures into strip clubs.
It would almost be sad if it weren't all so predictable.
But you know what the kicker is? It's not a bad book. It's entertaining. It looks nice. Amanda Conner's art is really well done, and deserves to be seen by a bigger audience. There seems to be enough going on to sustain a series, and the action quotient is high. Production values are good too: Glossy paper, Comicraft lettering, Liquid! coloring.
I hold out hope that the background will begin to be filled in a little better with the next issue. The book has potential.
Don't say you haven't been warned. The rest of the column contains massive spoilers for THE SAVAGE DRAGON #70 and JLA: CREATED EQUAL #1. In a nutshell: DRAGON is one of the best issues of the series in a long time, and the JLA Elseworlds is a sick and twisted little piece of writing by Fabian Nicieza. The rest of the column contains spoilers for those two books, though. We're not talking minor spoilers here. We're talking Mac truck spoilers. You've been warned.
THE SAVAGE DRAGON #70 (SPOILERS)
Erik Larsen pulled out all the stops on this one. The first highlight appears to be Dragon and Nurse Ann, er, "getting it on." Then you turn the page and Dragon blows her away with a machine gun. But it's not Dragon. It's Chelsea Nirvana, who is now trapped in a man's body. Oh, and then s/he takes the Mighty Man powers away from Ann. So, to recap: Mighty Man has gone from a young nurse who turns into a man when she slaps her wrists together, to a woman who's changed into a man who can now change into a man's body when s/he slaps her wrists together. This is one twisted little book.
But that's not all! Remember Amanda Mills? Well, she married Peter Klaptin's drummer, Bruce Love. Amanda's gone missing and Dragon has to find her. Two pages after Ann's death scene, Dragon bursts into a manly bar and shouts out, "I'm looking for Amanda Love," thus effectively clearing the room.
There's more to it than that, though. A little later Santa Claus re-enacts an infamous moment of the "Talk With God" issue. Powerhouse returns. Frank visits a villain some of Dragon fandom has long asked for to make another appearance. And Dragon confesses his love for - someone. I won't spoil it all here. I have to save something for you, if you haven't read it yet.
Erik Larsen's art is stronger here than it's been in a long time. All that loose line work that's been driving people nuts is gone in most of this issue.
JLA: CREATED EQUAL #1 (SPOILERS)
This issue is the first of two parts, written by Fabian Nicieza and drawn by Kevin Maguire and Joe Rubenstein. It is an Elseworlds book, so all bets are off to begin with.
In this issue, all men is wiped off the face of the earth, leaving only the women behind. (And in a sure sign that the planet is about to die a horrible death, Hillary Clinton is left in charge!) Superman and Lex Luthor, for various reasons, are the last men left on earth. The entire issue is a challenge between the two of them to see who can repopulate the earth - being the last two men in a world containing only women. In the end, Superman leaves the earth, but leaves behind a rather large bottle that might help save the human race. That's right - Superman left some samples for use to repopulate the earth. It's never really spelled out, but the even money is on the bottle being filled with, er, "man-stuff."
It's twisted. It's sick. It's over-the-top and hilarious. The art is nice, although I've seen better from Maguire, quite honestly.
The only other thing running against this book is that it's in the prestige format, which means a $6 price tag. Yes, the pages are nice heavy glossy stock, and the cover is cardboard, with a square spine. But you're asking for a whole lot for $6. While this story has a high potential for entertainment, unless it's a highly influential book in terms of mainstream continuity, I'm not sure it's worth it. This is an Elseworlds.
IN THE PIPELINE FOR FRIDAY
Pipeline2 will look at some of the great writer/artist combinations of the past decade, as well as the potential competitors to the ABC line to wear the crown of "America's Best Comics."