Friday, March 8, 2013

DC New 52 Dark and Intriguing Titles, Projections


The real trick of introducing old characters as new in a parallel universe is to find a new world mythology to alert the reader to the primacy of the plot. Earth 2 does this, to an extent, and best serves when it breaks away from tropes of the DCU. Art is fantastic, and while we get scant traces of backstory, that isn't what drives a title such as this. Origins wrapping up, the next phase is establishing more world boundaries. Likely what will come of the world is we'll see more cross-pollination (or the illusion of such) and the introductions of new/old villains with their own spin.


The establishment of the New 52 Universe left a few interesting continuity gaps or contexts, not the least of which are centered in the Green Lantern mythos. The larger brush-strokes of the content can be secured in Geoff John's legacy in the series, and with the latest rush of removing Hal Jordan from his standard duties or adventures, we see the man actually confronting death, while his erstwhile proxy of Muslim heritage attempts to grapple with the intersection of their will and destiny. A new standard of art for Doug Mankhe's work seems to have taken root in the Green Lantern series, which is welcome and fitting. The stories have a flow, a richness given by the layouts.  One cosmic catastrophe after another may become tiresome for the average reader. No breathers, even in death.


The retrofitting of the Alec Holland story into his role as Avatar of the Green climaxes with the death of his true love, the Avatar of the Rot. The weaving of storylines that brought us to this point had our green champion cross over the retrofitting of Animal Man, the Avatar of the Red.  What comes next will likely be a let-down after so much development, jump scares, and the occasional resurrection, There can be a stronger development in the relation of the different arenas of existence, and that could be what is to come. 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

One-Line Reviews for Recent Titles

Written by: Geoff Johns
Art by: Paul Pelletier and Art Thibert
Variant Cover by: Paul Pelletier, Art Thibert

Steadily, the New 52 DC Universe has carefully hedged its bets with Aquaman, a bad joke given good substance, and the results come through in the story by Geoff Johns and the beautiful care taken by Pelletier and Thibert. 


Written by: Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti
Art by: Moritat
Backup Art by: Staz Johnson
Cover by: Bill Sienkiewicz

The DC New 52 has given new life to the Jonah Hex franchise (and the western comic genre) with All-Star Western, but the real treat comes in the expansive unfolding of DC's old west universe, under a variety of talents.


Written by: Grant Morrison
Art by: Chris Burnham

Though this issue moves at a break-neck speed, marking the death of Damian Wayne, Batman's sidekick/son, the scenario seems too contrived and falls flat, a rare bad note in Morrison's symphony, nonetheless beautifully rendered by Chris Burnham.


Written by: 
Francis Manapul
Brian Buccellato
Art by: 
Francis Manapul

Since he reshaped the entire DC Universe by running really fast (again), Barry Allen has been having establishing shot adventures in his hometown, most recently concluded here in his battle against overly intelligent primates (again), but the stale material of pre-chewed storyline is competently handled by Manapul and Buccellato, while the art shows new potential in the formalities.


Writer: Dennis Hopeless 
Cover Artist: Dave Johnson
Artist: Kev Walker  

The second-rate villain Arcade has redesigned Murderworld to thin out the Avengers Academy by forcing them into mortal battle with one another, which seems like a tired premise and would be if not for clever character development by Dennis Hopeless and near-perfect visuals by Dave Johnson.


Writer: Rick Remender
Penciler: John Cassaday
Inker: John Cassaday
Colorists: Laura Martin and Larry Molinar
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Editors: Tom Brevoort and Daniel Ketchum

The extension of the Red Skull's plot to pit humans against mutants presents the first major threat to the newly integrated team of Avengers that include Havok, Rogue, and the Scarlet Witch; the solid script by Remender and award-winning artwork by John Cassady make this book a high-quality treat. 


Writer: Brian Michael Bendis 
Penciler: Chris Bachalo 
Cover Artist: Chris Bachalo 

With the new relaunch of Uncanny X-Men, we see a disgraced and power-fragmented Cyclops attempting to assemble a school for wayward teen mutants in the hope of defending themselves against the various threats of humanity, given weight by Bendis and sculpted by Bachalo.


Writer: Kieron Gillen 
Artists: Jamie Mckelvie with Mike Norton

Kieron Gillen delivers a no-frils superhero team comprised of a younger generation of interesting characters, and Jamie Mckelvie and Mike Norton are having a good time with narrative design, in terms of asethetics, making this a surprisingly impressive exercise.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

DC's Green Lantern comics: Wrath of the First Lantern

Written by: 
Geoff Johns
Art by: 
Doug Mahnke
Christian Alamy
Cover by: 
Doug Mahnke
Mark Irwin
Variant Cover by: 
Doug Mahnke

Many years ago, when Grant Morrison was writing a brief successful title for DC Comics called "JLA: Earth 2" the antimatter Green Lantern's ring said a word echoing from ages past and total obscurity, which has now emerged, center stage and super powerful. Volthoom, the First Lantern. It feels weird knowing that Hal Jordan is so very unsuccessful in his own title. He's practically dying to get back into it, since he and Sinestro found their way into the space between life and death that house the spirits of the Black Lantern Corps, well... here's the thing. Our "First Lantern" Volthoom is a psychotic cosmic sadist. Conceptually possessing the power of a god, the ability to tweak reality via different individual's "lifeline constellation" and feed on the emotional spectrum that it triggers within each character. This will no doubt as the series continues (alternating between each title until it exhausts itself with Volthoom's inevitable undoing via his own hubris/sacrifice of one for the many/etc.) be an opportunity for the characters proper timelines (since the reboot) to be explored. Doug Mahnke needs more awards for his work on this title. Geoff Johns would appear to be heading out (leaving the Green Lantern title soon) with a bang or two.


Written by:
Peter J. Tomasi
Art by:
Fernando Pasarin
Scott Hanna
Cover by:
Andy Kubert
Variant Cover by:
Andy Kubert

Guy Gardener has gone through enough phases by now that the human centipede 4D creature featured on the first major splash-page of this issue is more freaky in some ways than any other of the First Lantern's visits. This all calls to mind the spirit of Grant Morrison, who briefly touched the Green Lantern mythos (which has for so long been Geoff's baby) with Final Crisis, years ago, and also in the aforementioned Earth 2, which mentions Volthoom in passing (certainly other instances of this name arising have occurred, but with this run of the Green Lantern books we really get to see what he does). But specifically, the end of Morrison's fantastic series The Invisibles reaches a point at which the main character Dane acheives a heightened awareness of dimensional superstructures. This runs parallel to the power of Volthoom the First Lantern. With this particular issue of GL Corps, he feasts on the emotional spectrum (he prefers pain and despair) of the oddly effervescent Guy Gardner. It's worth noting that this veers into his brief time as a Red Lantern and focuses on the red herring of death and doom (in store for Jon Stewart next issue). Overall, a pretty decent issue. Fernando Pasarin has a quality to his detail-work that serves the wordy but worth-a-reread script by Peter J Tomasi.  Story flow works, and this doesn't feel especially "tacked onto a crossover", which is the risk run with such events.


Written by:
Tony Bedard
Art by:
Aaron Kuder
Cover by:
Aaron Kuder
Variant Cover by:
Aaron Kuder

In the constellation of titles that compose the Green Lantern sector of the DC Multiverse, it is Green Lantern: New Guardians that tips the hand of the editors in terms of their long-term plans. Aaron Kuder's art is fantastic and fractured, and Tony Bedard clips the back-and-forth between Kyle and the First Lantern into something more natural than the concurrent GL Corps and also more intriguing. Since the reformat of the DC New 52, Kyle Rayner has been removed from the planet at large (barring a brief crossover with Blue Beetle, R.I.P.) and spends a good deal of his time galavanting about the galaxy willy-nilly or dealing with Artificial Solar Systems or the Rainbow Brigade of Emotion he's been gathering up and helping to develop a back-story/character(pointing to the title without explicitly labeling the group as such). Volthoom seems to have more trouble with Kyle than the other characters he's been poking with a sharp stick. Certainly this will all lead somewhere. Probably a near-miss on cosmic extinction and a heroic sacrifice. And probably new guardians. The old ones rotted through.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

On the Nature of the Industry: Free Association.

Where Mutantkind's Utopia has produced a GMO seed to wipe out world hunger, you can bet Monsanto's watching.

Remember, Comic Books are Big Money now. 

It's gotten to the point that it's lazy to even allude to the tag line ("Comics are not for kids anymore") so frequently and freely repeated as an introduction by lazy journalists over the years for their hum-drum research of the new mature themes expressed by the once-chemically-castrated medium. It's an industry joke to just say comics aren't for kids.  When were they last for kids? Unless you're talking baby goats, there are no more kids. The Internet is raising this new batch as the Television raised those of us born into the ad-blasted 80's, and none of them are children. Even the simple reference parenthetical presented here is simply to conjure the final nail in its coffin, on a tapestry of blog blubber. 

Nobody gets to use that term which shall not be repeated.  Anymore. Ever.

Your average mainstream comic book is for two kinds of people. Teenagers and people with the same interests as teenagers (though, in Reality a divergence of sex and age and status ever-expanding, providing a common watering hole of nerd culture expressed in 10,000 neon Pokemon balls of media, much of it becoming interactive in a new and initially awkward way, most meeting the aesthetics ranges expected from medium to major overweight/out-of-shape/ malformed/ mutated service industry hopefuls). Intangibles emerge immediately. The service of these forms is exemplified in the minute variance of theme available  (many notable exceptions notwithstanding) in mainstream comic book media. The Gangster Ethics that Alan Moore describes prescribes a thuggish glare to the industry that often accompanies fame for these age-old standing standards of character, or lack thereof. These are stories that most often struggle with the idea of the Hero's Journey, attempting to subvert or integrate it through the use of panels and script.  

Heroes are heroes, but the Big Two share a copyright on "superhero" so that is, for the most part, what they have made a point of presenting over the century or so since the medium was first developed in a Yiddish fever dream, and these garish supergods spilled from our third eyes and onto our experiments in the second dimension, where the ink still boils... but the concept of superheroes is off-limits, technically. If labeling a superhuman creatively,you generally have free reign to call them metas. Or mutates. Mutants has the X connotations, another trademark alley exchange. Superhuman is itself an adjective, it is the act of being super in your heroics that everything breaks down. Superheroes, Heaven forbid anyone get hold of that outside of the rigid patriarchal monotone conditioning of a company in the tender clutches of a media conglomorate

You'd think it'd get tiring after a while, but comic books  draw from and speak to something primal in our psyche and by extension culture and society that no other medium does with quite the same smirk in your mind's eye. As Grant Morrison noted in an interview with the Onion A.V. Club, the combination of text and image on a page presented in a sequential format creates a hologram in the mind of the reader. 

When one reads a comic book, as much as if not more than in the instance of a standard novel, there is a creation of voice and noise where there seems to be only silence, but moreover there is a sense of image and movement that cannot be replicated in any medium, something to do with a thing McCloud called "the gutter". Moore has a great deal to say on the topic as well, in The Mindscape of Alan Moore, but we don't have five hours here to get into the intricacies of that (for now). Let's look at the history first, being mindful that comic books are a wholly unique medium that stand apart and in several cases above all other media, in terms of human collaboration, internal exploration, and general aesthetics.

It's due to the auspices of panicky McCarthyism that the mainstream superheroes we're just now coming to terms with in Megaplex Excursions were born. Developed in this Era of Cold Warriors, the Comics Code Authority was like a vice-grip on the balls of creativity, for the "sake of the children", which immediately infantilized the medium as a whole. A sense of surreality in culture was expressed in the acid-washed sixties of loose hook-ups and rainbows of irony and nostalgic sadness. Nobody even considered what it meant to be Captain America, goodhearted weakling turned Imperialist Liberator, or Superman, the Overman come to life in bold primary colors.  

Here we have an industry with its roots tangled tightly around brightly-lit lurid spandex creatures bred by men of subnormal intelligence, who were underpaid for their futile efforts, vilified at dinner parties, ripped off and bound in a rinky-dink contract that hardly provided for enduring legacy... These are the roots of the current standard of mainstream comics, and though considerable strides have been made this has marked the industry in toto. The current standard? You better be able to write for mainstream television if you write for comics. You don't need to even graduate from high school, though. You better be able to get along with other writers. As an artist, it is really spectacular if you are from another country. Overseas. South America if at all possible. It's also an industry to be flexible in. And careful. The Internet will immortalize your failures and your accomplishments side by side, with robots in the comment section arguing about something irrelevant.

We're past all that now, or so we'd like to think. We have stronger female role models within the story. Women do read comics. A great number of adults read comics and enjoy them on a regular enough basis. THEY TAKE TIME OUT OF THEIR DAY TO SIT AND ENJOY THE MAGIC OF WORDS AND IMAGES COMBINING. Mainstream Comics today are infinitely adaptable while remaining rigid within the Status Quo, insofar as they can resurrect their own characters to fit any storyline (or clone them, or rewrite history itself to nullify marriage contracts, in order to avoid the messy and potentially controversial issues that on occasion come up in the editorial bullpens). In this manner comics become an infinite game, and suffer from the drawbacks as such. So long as collaborators exist to produce them, they will be created regardless of their content, so a fair portion can be considered deadline pap, at best. This is all tangential to the real point. Comics are Big Money, now. 

Since Disney bought Marvel, you'd better believe that making that business investment palatable is a number one priority, but there is also likely a sense of freedom in some manners that have allowed for an interesting progression for different camps, those writers with enough clout in the Marvel pits to have played musical chairs, to some success and some "we'll see". Bendis can still draw everyone into an Ultron Soup.  

And in the meantime, the rise and fall of DC Comics has come and gone. A new Universe with a new set of rules, for the fifth time or more, COIE the only standard for the limitless reboot, conceived by the continuity conscious Alan Moore then retooled as the means to explain how octogenarian superheroes can be translated into the rough trade of the Megamillions post-Star Wars Money Cage. 

In the end, we'll see the law of diminishing returns at times, but the pendulum always swings the other way in the end. Comics will mature as a medium while somehow maintaining a bond with the vox populi by virtue of its aforementioned ingratiating nature. Comics cure an itch in the mind of many, and all the results, fair or foul, are reflected back into the medium immediately. Reflexive containment of a conceptual structure. Word bubbles and snapshots of moments in memory. Let's take it as seriously as we are able, and laugh where it is appropriate.

Even money says this goes down in history as the single grossest Joker scene of all time. Thanks.