This Week’s Haul

  • Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns, by Geoff Johns, Shane Davis & Sandra Hope (DC)
  • Legion of Super-Heroes #47, by Jim Shooter, Rick Leonardi & Dan Green (DC)
  • Madame Xanadu #5, by Matt Wagner, Amy Reeder Hadley & Richard Friend (DC/Vertigo)
  • Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes #1 of 2, by Warren Ellis, Alan Davis, Adi Granov & Mark Farmer (Marvel)
  • The Immortal Iron Fist #19, by Duane Swierczynski, Travel Foreman & Russ Heath (Marvel)
  • Nova #18, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Wellington Alves & Scott Hanna (Marvel)
  • Thor #11, by J. Michael Straczynski, Oliver Coipel & Mark Morales (Marvel)
  • Hellboy: In The Chapel of Moloch, by Mike Mignola (Dark Horse)
  • The Boys #24, by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson (Dynamite)
  • Project Superpowers #7 of 7, by Alex Ross, Jim Krueger & Carlos Paul (Dynamite)

Aside from this week’s spotlight reviews, I can recommend Nova as I always do – it’s a pretty satisfying Secret Invasion crossover – and Madame Xanadu, which is getting a little more interesting with each issue. I don’t think it’s selling very well, though, so I don’t know how long it will last.

Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns Final Crisis: Rage of the Red Lanterns really has nothing to do with Final Crisis – which seems to be the case for many comics labelled as tie-ins – although it does state that it takes place between Final Crisis #1 and #2. It’s really an issue of Green Lantern, and is a prologue to the next storyline in that series. Having recently picked up the first three trade paperbacks of the current Green Lantern series, I’ve decided to start buying it regularly. Unfortunately, I’ve missed at least the last two major story arcs, which included “The Sinestro Corps War” and “Secret Origin”. The latter is yet another retelling of Hal Jordan’s origin, which seems pretty unnecessary at this point, but the Sinestro Corps stuff was pretty important. As far as I can tell, there are now both Green Lanterns and “yellow lanterns” who have been at war, and the Green Lantern Corps won, but at some cost. Apparently there are also red lanterns which we see here, and other colors of the spectrum who were implied by a two-page spread in DC Universe #0 a few months ago. While it’s a rather obvious idea, what matter is what writer Geoff Johns does with it.

The main Red Lantern is the ugly dude on the cover, who has the improbable name of Atrocitus (you’re kidding, right?), but he has a whole bunch of help, including a former Green Lantern, and they’ve all gone through some nasty ritual to become wearers of the red power rings, seeking to avenge themselves on both the Green Lantern Corps and the Sinestro Corps. Motivations are thin here, so I presume either they’ll be explained in the coming months, or were explained in a storyline I missed. So I’m taking that on faith. (This is an object lesson of why it can be hard to get into ongoing series well into their run; I’m a pretty smart guy, and I’ve been reading DC Comics for over 30 years, so I’m very familiar with the universe, but there’s a lot here that I can’t figure out. A recap would have been nice.)

The different corps each have a different insignia on their uniforms; the Red Lanterns have their lanterns turned on their sides, like a stylized “H” (for “hate”, presumably). I’m not sure what the Sinestro Corps’ insignia is supposed to symbolize.

Anyway, I enjoyed it enough that I’m sticking with my decision to read the regular series. I’m not sure what I think of Shane Davis & Sandra Hope’s artwork. The characters’ poses are pretty strong, but backgrounds are few. Something about the linework evokes the sketchy Image Comics/Rob Liefeld look, which isn’t a good thing, but overall the art is much better than that. I think it’s a step down from the series’ earlier artists (Carlos Pacheco, Ivan Reis), but I don’t know if Davis is going to be the new series penciller. Guess I’ll find out when the next issue of Green Lantern comes out.

Legion of Super-Heroes #47 The big news in Legion space this week is this widely reported interview with writer Jim Shooter about the end of his run on the Legion – the series is cancelled as of #50, but he’d intended the story to run through #54. While I’m a little suspicious of the dirt about his relationship with DC – whether it comes from Shooter or anyone else – because of Shooter’s somewhat strained reputation (deserved or not) within the industry, Shooter’s frank statements about his work on the series are interesting:

“But let’s focus on the real culprit – me. I guess what it really all comes down to is that my work wasn’t good enough to overcome all the small problems further down the line. If you’re out at first base, it doesn’t matter if you slide in at second.”

Shooter enjoyed writing scripts once again for a team he has become synonymous with over the years. “I’ve trained myself to think of [my scripts] as the end product, and I am content that I did the best I could.”

In some ways I’m sorry that he wasn’t able to execute his arc the way he’d intended, but honestly his tenure has been quite frustrating due to his approach to characterization. In past era characterizations of the Legionnaires have been his strength, but in this go-round we’ve seen some re-hashes (Lightning Lad’s shaky self-confidence as leader, Saturn Girl cheating on him with an edgier Legionnair), and a several characters who just seem embarrassing. Projectra has been at both extremes, with some interesting bits where she adjusts to life without her destroyed homeworld, but also her rather pathetic requests for Phantom Girl to read an old comic book to her. It seems like Shooter’s been trying too hard, especially to make the characters seem hipper and more futuristic, which seems at odds with Mark Waid & Barry Kitson’s strong run on the title.

This particular issue is a fill-in focusing on the long-dormant Brainiac 5/Dream Girl storyline from Mark Waid and Barry Kitson’s run: Dream Girl had died, but Brainy has been set on reviving her, and she visits him in her dreams. Here they consummate their relationship before it all goes wrong, mixed with a perplexing turn of events involving another member. I guess it was intended to be a 2-parter, but the second part got axed due to the cancellation. Nonetheless, Brainy’s characterization just doesn’t ring true to me, and I’m still trying to figure out what exactly Dream Girl’s status is, as she’s not alive, but then, where is she?

The issue also features the fill-in art team of Rick Leonardi and Dan Green, two artists who made their names at Marvel Comics in the mid-1980s. I’ve never been a big fan of either one, though. Green’s inks always seem to stiffen the pencils, and here over Leonardi the characters seem to resemble Frank Miller’s more recent work, with broad lips and flat noses, and occasionally some expressions that seem either flat or out-of-place. It doesn’t really work for the book.

I was pretty excited about Shooter’s run when it was first announced, but very little of it has worked for me, which has been quite disappointing. Well, only three more issues for him to fit in what he’d planned to do with the story. Maybe he’ll pull it out.

Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes #1 Warren Ellis’ Astonishing X-Men run has been merely okay so far, and now there’s a two-issue series spinning out of the current story. A “ghost box” allows people to move between dimensions, and this series explores what some other dimensions’ encounters between the X-Men and the mysterious Subject X have involved. The first story herein provides insight into what Subject X is up to, while the second shows a steampunk X-Men (“The X Society”) confronting the character.

It’s obviously mainly an opportunity for Ellis to play with multiple dimensions, but it looks like it could provide some insight into what the X-Men will be dealing with in the main title. And I’m always a sucker for parallel worlds stories. So this one gets a thumbs up, and makes me a little more enthusiastic about where Ellis is going with this.

Project Superpowers #7 Project Superpowers has been Alex Ross’ latest project, but boy, it’s sound and fury signifying nothing. A bunch of old-time heroes are brought out of limbo into the present day, where they confront the one who imprisoned them (who thought he was doing the right thing), and also encounter a shadowy society who wanted them removed so they couldn’t interfere with it. The bad guys use reanimated corpses as soldiers to attack the heroes, but the whole fight – which spans three issues – really makes no sense at all. The ongoing redemption of the hero who imprisoned the others is trite, and overall the characterizations are extremely thin. The characters are many of those who appeared in Alan Moore’s Terra Obscura stories (they’re in the public domain), but Moore did so much more with them in those stories.

Moreover, this issue marks the end of chapter one, rather than being the conclusion to a complete series as I’d expected when I started buying it. I definitely am not coming back for chapter two.

I’ve enjoyed Alex Ross’ work when he’s been paired with a strong writer – Kurt Busiek or Mark Waid on Marvels and Kingdom Come – but I haven;t enjoyed any of the projects he’s done with Jim Krueger. Avengers/Invaders has been pretty good, but all of the pair’s series are paced very slowly and are so dark that they’re downright bleak. I think it’s time for me to accept that the pair write comics that just aren’t interesting to me.

J. Michael Straczynski has been working similar territory in The Twelve, and it’s much better than Project Superpowers. As maddening as I sometimes find Straczynski’s comics writing, The Twelve has been intriguing and character-driven, really the polar opposite of PS.

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