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While it may be too soon to judge the success or failure of Action Comics‘ Andy Diggle Era, issue #19 (pencilled by Tony Daniel, inked by Batt) was pretty good. In fact, if the other two issues in this arc are any indication, the storytelling burden may rest more with Daniel anyway. Issue #19 opens with a Clark/Lois flashback which shows off her investigative skills, but from there it’s a lot of Superman fighting giant mechas — so big panels, double-page spreads, and characterization in the back seat. The cover’s WTF moment is brushed off rather quickly, but still a little unsettling; and the villain’s behind-the-scenes scheming pays off in a slightly unexpected way. (Personally, I think the “expected way” will materialize before too long.) It’s a shame about Diggle leaving, because I was really looking forward to the super-vampire in his second arc; but this story could still be good without him.
Although Earth 2 #11 (written by James Robinson, pencilled by Nicola Scott, inked by Trevor Scott) features a little too much running around aimlessly — literally, since much of it has the Flash and the future Dr. Fate fighting a giant monster — it actually made me care about Wotan, a villain I know primarily from an old Who’s Who entry. I have no idea how much Robinson invented for this new Wotan, but he sure gave the sorcerer a reason to hate Dr. Fate. Specifically, it’s because Nabu is pretty much a jerk. He was a jerk to Wotan — who’s still a villain, don’t get me wrong; but Fate treats Wotan rather shabbily regardless — and he’s kind of a jerk to the new Fate. See, the other reason I didn’t mind the running around so much is that Nabu is about as sure as we readers are that Khalid is going to put on that helmet, and he acts all superior about it. Life as Fate isn’t going to be easy, and having a smarmy spirit inside the helmet can’t help much.
Finally, having signed up for King Features’ DailyInk subscription, I’ve been enjoying vintage Alex Raymond Flash Gordon strips, both for Raymond’s meticulous work and — in a pleasant surprise — Ben Oda’s lettering. Ben Oda was one of DC’s most prolific letterers from the Golden Age into the 1980s, and his steady hand always classed up whatever it set down. Seeing “new” work from him again was like hearing the long-lost voice of an old friend. (Well, you know what I mean.)
Thanos Rising #1 was not half bad. A little different in the approach to what the Mad Titan was like in his littler years, but it has a very mythic approach with a lot of potential for grand space opera. And the art is simply stunning! So rich and deep and and dark… this is a very beautiful book people are going to want in that widescreen hardcover size once the next Avengers movie gets closer.
I hate the fact that I’m still reading All-New X-Men, and issue #10 should just have Bendis’ big face, pointing and laughing at me from the last page. There’s something so irritating in the way the series’ core concept (the laws of time and space have been thrown out the window because Hank McCoy brought back the original X-Men to…?) will be challenged in the story by the characters in the book only to be ignored to continue the plot. After Young Warren had a perfectly reasonable nervous breakdown in issue 8, he was “fixed” and things progressed with none of his concerns addressed. This issue, Older Cyclops challenges public belief that he personally killed Xavier and… the plot moves on. It’s like shouting “May God strike me where I stand!” to the heavens and then goign to get some ice cream. I have to think there’s some sort of end game that Bendis is chugging away towards, some big payoff where all the dropped concerns and debates will be explained, laid to rest, at least talked about. I have to, so I keep reading.
Stormwatch #19, the first issue by new writer Jim Starlin, blessedly wobbled space and time to erase the unstable new 52 version of the Authority to return to something more familiar to long time readers and hallelujah, Midnighter’s horrible chin spike is gone! Gone! Costumes aside, it feels more like a Stormwatch book than before with an overarching plotline that retains the texture of the current DC status quo. You have your big alien plotlines, you have a more streamlined origins for more basic characters who seem more like people and less forced caricatures, for lack of a better term. The last page’s cameo should prove interesting.
I went to MoCCA this week, and to prepare for my interview with Darryl Cunningham (coming soon!) I re-read his How to Fake a Moon Landing. Actually, I didn’t finish it, because the guy sitting next to me on the train to New York “borrowed” it for a while; he is a scientist whose wife is dabbling in homeopathy, so the book was doubly interesting to him. And I think that’s the strength of Cunningham’s work–as in Psychiatric Tales, he takes on subjects that are inherently interesting and explains them clearly. His comics aren’t the sort of straightforward nonfiction comics where the pictures illustrate the text; they have more of a documentary feel, with Cunningham himself as the narrator and images that are more thematic than literal. This book is a collection of eight fairly short comics in which he examines the ways that science and human behavior interact to produce bad results, from the (false) vaccine-autism connection to global warming denial. The final chapter is a brief explanation of the scientific method. Cunningham does his research, and while I was familiar with most of these issues (I come from a family of scientists and doctors, and I spent a year studying global warming myself as a grad student at MIT), I still learned a lot from reading this book.
Seeing Ethan Young at his table with a new issue of Tails reminded me that he sent me the graphic novel last year. I had read part of it when he posted it as a webcomic, but the graphic novel, published by Hermes Press, is quite beautiful and I wanted to take another look at it. I wasn’t disappointed. Young has a beautiful line and an amazing sense of composition. He draws people and cats (there are a lot of cats in this comic) with a deft, cartoony style that endows his characters with plenty of life. It reminds me a bit of Dave Berg, but with a stronger, more graphic feel. Tails is the story of a young man who can’t seem to get out of his own way; you can tell he has a good heart, but his life isn’t that great when the book opens (living with his parents, working in an animal shelter, caring for 11 cats) and as he deals with a series of misfortunes, he keeps digging himself deeper and deeper into a hole. I’m looking forward to seeing how the story develops in the second volume, which is due out this summer.
Polarity #1: This comic reads like it would have fit in at Vertigo in its heyday. So to see it printed by BOOM! both surprised and delighted me. Written by musician/Say Anything frontman Max Bemis (with art by Jorge Coelho), it is a plot that details a nontraditional superhero with the superpower of being bipolar. No really. And Bemis (who is bipolar) explores the concept in a quite intriguing way. I look forward to reading more.
Winter Soldier #17: I love how writer Jason Latour and artist Nic Klein are building Buck Barnes’ future while confronting his past. And yet, the story is undermined by gimmicky font choices that letterer Joe Caramagna has made. As much as I love how technology allows us to mix up the kind of lettering and production one can do, sometimes it becomes too much. Maybe I am alone in this opinion but the variety of fonts proved a distraction in this issue. On the flip side, I really love how Klein had Bucky conference with Nick Fury in the field with a giant floating Nick Fury head. At one point, Barnes and Fury are viewing archival footage together (with Fury only there remotely). Klein opts for a POV that has us looking at the back of Fury’s floating head. Meanwhile new cast member amuses readers by flicking off floating head Fury (the obscene gesture pixilated out [not sure if that was a comedic choice or editorial mandate]) while holding a disabled MOPOD (or whatever the MODOK offshoot “Mental Organism Programmed Only Fer Data” is abbreviated to mean). Bottom line: Latour and Klein are having fun.
Indestructible Hulk #6: Writer Mark Waid shows what Bruce Banner can do with an uru sample (hint: a lot). Waid’s approach of Banner/Hulk as scientist/SHIELD agent/adventurer really pays off in this issue. Did I mention Walt Simonson gets to draw Hulk and Thor in the middle of a bunch of Frost Giants. Good lord this book delights the 12-year-old comic reader in me almost as much as the 45-year-old me. This is just plum fun storytelling.
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