Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Weekly Chain Reaction: February 4, 2009

Still up: My review of Final Crisis #7.

Do you need another review of Final Crisis #7? Of course you do, because this one is unlike all the other ones you’ve read. It doesn’t have the word “but” in it.

* * *

Adventure Comics #0, by Otto Binder, Geoff Johns, Al Plastino, Francis Manapul, et al. I used to be under the impression that publishers released low-priced loss-leader comics as a means of attracting new readers, but evidently that’s some crass misconception on my part. Consider Adventure Comics #0. The book starts off with the reprint of a 12-pager from 1958, by writer Otto Binder and artist Al Plastino, in which the Legion of Super-Heroes debut. The Legion are taking Superboy to the future to compete in various “super-feats.” This involves Superboy catching an invisible eagle, which he accomplishes by picking up an iceberg and carrying it through the sky until “frost formed on the eagle, making it visible … just as frost covers a transparent window pane!” It’s a neat, inoffensive piece with some sweet ideas—by the standards of the 1950s. The remaining six pages, written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Francis Manapul, are diametrically opposed to that. They’re taken up by a Lex Luthor vignette in which the necks of two security guards are broken on camera; and which means nothing to me because it doesn’t give me any context for what is happening and why I should care. At regular price, this package would have been bizarre. As a primer created for people who aren’t already invested in the characters, it’s a disaster.

(DC Comics, 18 pages, $ 1.00)

Grade: D-

* * *

The Amazing Spider-Man #585, by Marc Guggenheim, John Romita, Jr., et al. One of the story’s two big shockers is the identity of last year’s big new mystery villain, Menace. Because it’s a character who’s been barely present in the series, however, the impact is nil. There has been a successful and admirable effort on Mr. Romita’s part to provide some subtle foreshadowing in his rendition of the Menace’s alter ego, but it can’t salvage the story. Mr. Guggenheim advances his various plot threads at a snail’s pace and in a manner for which “serviceable” is the kindest term that comes to mind. A Spider-Man who’s been through the meat-grinder and still feels obliged to save the day is a classic trope that offers all kinds of dramatic potential. Unfortunately, the chief impression I take away from this is that the guy who’s composing the script is as close to passing out as the guy who stars in it.

(Marvel Comics, 23 pages, $ 2.99)

Grade: C-

* * *

Invincible Iron Man #10, by Matt Fraction, Salvador Larroca, et al. Arguably, the plot hinges a bit too much on a coincidence at one point (what if Pepper hadn’t thrown a hissy fit at a convenient moment?) and the two final pages could have been laid out more elegantly; but that’s peanuts. As it turns out, Invincible Iron Man doesn’t suffer from the superimposed “Dark Reign” storyline at all. Mr. Fraction simply uses the new status quo to heat up the existing conflicts and themes. The result is a fast-paced action thriller that doesn’t attempt to string its audience along, but gets right to the point. These characters don’t deliver lines of dialogue, they actually talk to each other. And—at last!—they have sex, too. The year is still young, but right now, Matt Fraction is the better Ed Brubaker of 2009.

(Marvel Comics, 22 pages, $ 2.99)

Grade: B+

* * *

Youngblood #7, by Joe Casey, Derec Donovan, et al. When Mr. Casey is on form, he writes delightful things like Wildcats, which approach the superhero genre from refreshing new perspectives and are bursting at the seams with creativity. His work on Youngblood hasn’t quite been on that level, unfortunately. There’s a good premise here: Reality shows are popular for a reason, and I have a lot of time for the notion of distilling their appeal and repackaging it as fiction. But Youngblood to date has been operating precisely like you’d expect a generic superhero book to operate, with window-dressing. The creators are all competent enough, and there is the occasional goofy idea that elicits a chuckle; overall, though, the book is mostly concerned with plot. And that’s your problem right there: Reality shows aren’t about plot. They’re about characters who say and do things that are vaguely embarrassing but also uncomfortably close to home; and who seem—quite paradoxically—fake as well as ultimately authentic in their affected faux-authenticity. If Youngblood could capture that—and it seems like it should—it would be quite unique. Right now, though: not so much.

(Image Comics, 20 pages, $ 2.99)

Grade: C

* * *

I was interested in the debut issues of Marvel’s Agents of Atlas and Secret Warriors last week, not least because of the involvement of writers Jeff Parker and Jonathan Hickman. The $ 3.99 price point seemed a little steep for trying out something I’m likely to buy the paperback editions of anyway, however, and so I ended up buying The Mighty #1 and Soul Kiss #1 instead; reviews should be up in a few days.

In the meantime: Jersey Gods #1.

1 comment:

Jason said...

I too, liked this month's Invincible Iron Man.