Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Spoiler Reviews for Comics from May 23, 2012

ASTONISHING X-MEN #50. The gimmick of the week is here...

Ignoramuses are likely none too pleased with this turn of events, but Marvel Comics is making a bold and timely move with the gay interracial marriage of Northstar in the next issue of Astonishing X-Men.  The lead-up to it (oddly out of synch with "regular continuity" but understandably so) involves the corruption and eventual murder(?) of long-standing X-person and mind-dominator Karma, and the fifteenth death of The Marauders.  Overall, plot pacing is standard and the art is at times oddly discomfiting, but this series, kicked off by Joss Whedon and John Cassady, then carried by Warren Ellis for a time, is now in the hands of writer Marjorie Liu and artist Mike Perkins, who seem more than capable of handling this hodge-podge stable of mutants.  This issue stands out because Jean Paul proposes.  Interesting that the choice to make the subplot of Northstar's lovelife brings it to issue 51 rather than the more milestone-ish 50th issue.  Whatever happened to the days of silver foil fold out 50th issues? Ah, budget cuts.

PROPHET #25 - Hints indicating an interesting new take on an Image throwback.

Remember the early days of Image Comics?  It's possible you don't recall the first appearance in Youngblood #2 of a certain John Prophet, headgear-sporting quasi-religious fanatic with strangely disproportionate physical features, who went on to carry his own series for a time.  Well, he's back.  And with new issues, it would seem that the direction, in terms of storyline as much as art, has gone in the proper direction.  Issue 25 is part two of the new reboot, apparently being co-written by Brandon Graham, Giannis Milonogiannis and Simon Roy, with Giannis Milonogiannis taking a hand at the art, bearing hints of Barry Windsor Smith's good old days thrown in with something entirely new and different.  I'd long since written off Prophet as a goofy junket from the days when Stephen Platt's art was raging and crashing in useless storylines that involved no substance whatsoever. The story here is still a lot of scenery chewing and Heavy Metal type fantasy tech, but it has a surprising depth, intriguing enough for what it is.

THE MIGHTY THOR #14. Why is it that this happens EVERY time Enchantress makes you breakfast in bed?

When you see a writer in mainstream comic books working with characters that he loves, you have to wonder where he will head with the next step, and when he will run out of steam.  Matt Fraction, who spanked the whole planet with FEAR ITSELF, seems most invested in Iron Man (his run with Invincible Iron Man stands as one of the best Marvel's had for old shellhead) and Thor.  The Mighty Thor has been for some time running as the sidequest of Thor returning from death.  With the official return cleared up, we can see that he's exploring Donald Blake's character, apparently a construct by Odin to house the essence of Thor.  Bereft of these godly energies, he's gone in league with long-standing villainess Enchantress to regain his deity status.  As with every single bloody time that someone falls under the sway of Enchantress, he's going to suffer dire consequences.  Meanwhile, Thor is trapped in a dream by nightmare creatures that might take the world tree Yggdrasil by force.  Matt Fraction writes these characters with a steadfast love, and that lends the stories a strong sense of presence.

BATMAN INCORPORATED #1 : Sometimes, Grant Morrison's humor bleeds out all over the floor.

You would think that eventually Grant Morrison would run out of ideas for the dark knight. But here, years after reintroducing his son Damian as the new Robin, overseeing Batman's death and Nightwing's attempt at the mantle, and ongoing hints of a world-wide "Batman Incorporated"... we have, at last, Batman Incorporated. It's not immediately clear if it runs in pure current continuity on the "New" Batman comics (it doesn't tie into the Court of Owls), but that doesn't matter. Leviathan, a villain fit for a board room full of nervous supervillains, has set his/her/its sights on Gotham, and that means, in classic Morrison style, a lot of detective work, dramatic battle sequences, and dramatic cliff-hangers.  Keep this series going for as long as Morrison has the ability to write it. 

TEEN TITANS #9: Blah blah blah blah.

I swear to God, I'm not sure why I keep picking Teen Titans up.  Nostalgia? False hope? Stupidity? If you developed a drinking game for the comic where every time someone said "Culling", "Harvest", or "Ravagers" you took a drink, you'd be drunk in two pages.  I get that there are divergent writing styles and even divergent readers (perhaps the main audience for this title are teenagers who need plot points repeated ad nauseum), but the storyline in this new run of Teen Titans is abysmal (and the art, while flashy, is uninspiring).  Somehow a government agency has been co-opted by Harvest, a megalomania-flavored supervillain with zero common sense or character-depth, and superpowered teens are being collected and pitted against one another in "the Culling" to create a team called The Ravagers (coming soon).  There are few, if any consequences to actions in the comic, not counting the introduction and pointless death of Artemis.  A brief hint at certain elements of Vertigo's Doom Patrol (remember the Men from N.O.W.H.E.R.E.?) lured me in, but this exposition-addled constant slugfest (drawing in the conversely more interesting Legion Lost into its mess) has lost me for good.  I feel nothing for any character or action in the series, and the break-neck pacing and unnatural dialogue hardly gives a reader time to.

JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK #9: Don't say the s-word.

This issue does a fine job of old-school comic book pacing mixed with the hard edge one should expect from Justice League Dark.  Steve Trevor enlists the aid of John Constantine and his occult friends in undoing the mystic dowager Jack Faust's schemes.  This issue also introduces Black Orchid to the team (last seen being brutally murdered in the pages of Swamp Thing long long ago), and reintroduces the Books of Magic to the DC Universe.  Jeff Lemire's script gives each character a distinct voice, and Mikel Janin's artwork lures us into re-evaluating each page over and over.  Still a solid comic book, despite a brief bump in the cross-over of previous issues, it seems like this title could outstrip many others in the universe in terms of captivating audiences with unexpected twists. Just don't call it "a superhero book" to its face.

IRREDEEMABLE #37: The final issue and a metaredemption.

Mark Waid is evil. He said so himself. He plastered a comic book convention with the words.  The final issue of his interesting twist on heroes and villains, Irredeemable, was unpredictable but not in an upsetting way.  The villain of the story, once the world's mightiest hero The Plutonian, saves the day with assistance from his supergenius friend Qubit (now modified with Modeus), and in the end, after brutalizing the planet for issue upon issue, is somehow redeemed.  The manner in which this happens is reminiscent of the series penchant for metanarrative and lo-cal social commentary.  So far as superhero genre-busters go, this was a fine run for Waid, who when he finally got to the point (destroying city after city along the way), proved why he's an industry heavyweight who can stand apart from the mainstream and still genuinely love and invest in its tropes.

Remember when Grant Morrison had a similar scene in All Star Superman?

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