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This Week’s Haul

Due to my vacation over Thanksgiving week, I’m running behind on these. This entry is for comic books I bought the week of 14 November 2007:

  • All-Star Superman #9, by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely (DC)
  • Booster Gold #4, by Geoff Johns, Jeff Katz, Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund (DC)
  • Countdown to Final Crisis #24 of 52 (backwards), by Paul Dini, Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Tom Derenick & Wayne Faucher (DC)
  • Fables #67, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham & Steve Leialoha (DC)
  • Salvation Run #1 of 7, by Bill Willingham, Sean Chen & Waldon Wong (DC)
  • Suicide Squad: Raise the Flag #3 of 8, by John Ostrander, Javier Pina & Robin Riggs (DC)
  • Welcome to Tranquility #12, by Gail Simone & Neil Googe (DC/Wildstorm)
  • Nova #8, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning Wellington Alves & Scott Hanna (Marvel)
  • Thor #4, by J. Michael Straczynski, Oliver Coipel & Mark Morales (Marvel)
  • World War Hulk #5 of 5, by Greg Pak, John Romita Jr. & Klaus Janson (Marvel)
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier HC, by Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill (America’s Best)
  • B.P.R.D.: Killing Ground #4 of 5, by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Guy Davis (Dark Horse)
  • Atomic Robo #2 of 6, by Brian Clevinger & Scott Wegener (Red 5)
Salvation Run #1 Salvation Run is yet another Countdown tie-in – sort of. These days it’s hard to tell what’s a Countdown tie-in (like this) and what’s not (like Countdown to Adventure and Countdown to Mystery, whose lead stories both have nothing to do with Countdown). Score another one for DC editorial in the ongoing fiasco that is Countdown.

Anyway, Salvation Run is loosely based on a decade-old idea by George R. R. Martin, which – believe it or not – has nothing to do with my decision to pick it up. No, instead I was mainly interested in the artwork of Sean Chen (who’s art is the reason I started picking up Nova), and I figured the sardonic writing of Bill Willingham (Fables) might work well with the book’s premise, that being that the United States gets tired of all the super-villains stealing, killing, and generally disrupting society, so it decides to start shipping the repeat offenders out to an alien world, to fend for themselves. A world full of super-villains is sure to be a powderkeg – especially since most villains tend to be men – and the moral question of exiling villains to another world seems worth exploring. Anyway, there seems to be a lot of promise here.

The first issue is okay. Chen’s artwork is dynamic but not as detailed as I think it’s been in the past. The story mainly focuses on the Flash’s rogues gallery surviving on the world for some weeks – it’s a pretty hostile and bizarre place – before meeting up with a large number of second-string villains who have just arrived (plus the Joker). The issue ends with the hint that someone’s been tricked in this whole setup, but leaves open the question of why.

So it seems worth following for a 7-issue run, but I hope they do something worthwhile with it. I suspect it would have worked better in Martin’s original Elseworlds configuration.

Nova #8 Man, does Nova have some of the blandest covers in comics these days? I mean, the renderings by Adi Granov are pretty good, but the designs are bo-ring! (I assume these are designs created by editorial and not by Granov.) If they actually reflected the contents of the book, I think they could really help sales.

Anyway, in the wake of his ill-considered Annihilation Conquest storyline, Nova has ended up at the edge of the universe – literally. Unable to escape, he ends up being stranded on a giant space station, which seems nearly deserted except for a few extremely powerful – and somewhat crazed – super-beings, and a talking Russian dog, Cosmo. Cosmo gets the best line of the series so far: “You have seen end of universe and met space zombies, and talkink dog is what freaks you out? Bozshe moi.”

So there’s something nasty going on on this space station, the station itself has a surprising nature, besides being outside the edge of the universe, and Nova’s powers are significantly diminished because the Worldmind that powers him is still spending most of its energy fighting off the Phalanx’s techno-virus. Our hero looks to be in for a rough time – which means this book ought to be back on track now that Nova’s not dealing with the conquest, which he wasn’t really participating in meaningfully anyway.

Thor #4 Thor is now officially combining the world elements of J. Michael Straczynski’s comic book writing: Not only is the story moving at a glacial pace, as Thor gradually tries to reconstruct Asgard, but it’s got Straczynski’s tedious tendency to try to highlight real-world problems through a brief encounter by his larger-than-life protagonist. In this case, Donald Blake goes to a war-torn African nation and ends up in the middle of a civil war. Ya-a-awn. This book went horribly wrong when it became a “visit a problem area somewhere in the world” travelogue, and I’m rapidly running out of confidence that Straczynski can salvage it. Honestly, there’s just not much story here. Coipel’s art is still pretty, though.
World War Hulk #5 Well, I was a little off in my prediction of how World War Hulk would end, but it’s still be a fun ride – a big smash-fest. There was a nifty little surprise regarding what exactly happened to send the Hulk back to Earth looking for revenge, and the Hulk comes to a certain closure at the end of the story. It basically ended the way it had to, but of course this being a superhero comic it’s not really the end. We’ll get back to the status quo sometime.

I do wish that this book had been used to show Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic how wrong they’d been in their treatment of the Hulk and that they were on the wrong end of the Civil War, but Marvel is inexplicably committed to casting two of their long-standing heroes in the roles of villains, so that was clearly too much to hope for. Oh well.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier The Black Dossier is the third volume in Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series, and it’s easily the worst one to date. The problem is that there’s not much story in it, and what there is is both dull and not much fun.

Volume 1 was the best volume to date, because it seemed primarily inspired by the Justice League, assembling a group of 19th century heroes to tackle a threat. The characters and setting made it very different from a Justice League story, but it still had a solid narrative with a lot of tension and a concrete resolution. It also had a lot of little asides referring to other Victoriana, but they were just bonuses and not central to the story.

Volume 2 was enjoyable, but was a big step down from Volume 1. The core idea of the League dealing with H.G. Wells’ Martian invasion was nifty, but it took a turn into the no-fun zone with its rather explicit sex and its brutal resolution. Plus, while the first volume had a text backup story featuring Alan Quatermain, Wells’ time machine, and some H.P. Lovecraft creatures, this volume had a very self-indulgent and tedious travelogue of the League’s world, filled with lots of references to extremely obscure people and places. Little bits of it were entertaining, but mostly it didn’t really add anything.

The Black Dossier goes for the clever references in spades, with extended text sequences featuring characters like Orlando, Fanny Hill, and various other historical background for the League. And most of that stuff is very, very boring, not least because this is supposed to be a graphic novel, and nothing takes the edge off a graphic novel like throwing big blocks of text into it. Honestly, I didn’t even read the bulk of the text sections for that very reason. Snooze. I agree with Johanna Carlson’s observation that the book feels too much like homework much of the time, and that’s no fun. It feels very self-indulgent.

The core story involved Allan Quatermain and Mina Murray – who have both become young again – capturing the Black Dossier from post-Big Brother Britain (the 1950s) so they can learn just how much their government knows about what they’ve been up to for the last decade or two. The Dossier contains the backstory of the League dating back for centuries, and it is reproduced within the main story and accounts for the text segments of the book. The main story has its moments mainly as our heroes are pursued by James Bond, Hugo Drummond and Emma Peel as they try to escape from Britain, but the end of the book is extremely disappointing, making the whole thing feel rather pointless.

I wonder whether this will be the last LoeG book. It’s hard to imagine the series getting much worse from here, though another festival of clever references would probably do the trick. The series has fallen an awful long way from its promising beginnings, so I can’t say it would be a great loss if this is the last installment. This was pretty mediocre stuff.

Anyway, if unlike me you really enjoy all the references – obscure or otherwise – Jess Nevins has posted his annotations for the book so that should keep you busy for a while. I think the joke is long past its sell-by date, personally.

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