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This Week’s Haul

What does a mediocre week at the comics shop look like? A lot like this.

Fables is an A-list title whose story isn’t really exciting me, and The Marvels Project feels like a well-done re-hash of any number of Marvel history navel-gazing series from the last 20 years. All the rest are solid meat-n-potatoes titles which I enjoy but I don’t necessarily look forward to. The best series here is probably Booster Gold, whose ongoing storyline is quite interesting, but it fights against Dan Jurgens’ awkward storytelling and dialogue.

So why do I buy all these books? Well, honestly they are all entertaining “enough” to keep reading. Green Lantern Corps and Secret Six are relatively new additions to my list so I’m still trying them out, but neither is yet rocking my world. (GLC‘s early issues, which I read in collection, were quite good, but the series has lost its focus because of all the damned crossover events.) The Unwritten has a lot of potential, but is only starting to explore it, and I fully expect it’ll be a year or two before I decide whether it’s worth it. And I am honestly running out of steam on the Hellboy/B.P.R.D. line, and am really hanging on at this point because apparently it will be reaching a climax within the next year.

Still, even mediocre comics are better than no comics!

  • Booster Gold #25, by Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund (DC)
  • Fables #89, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham & Steve Leialoha (DC/Vertigo)
  • Green Lantern Corps #41, by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Rebecca Buchman, Keith Champagne & Tom Nguyen (DC)
  • JSA vs. Kobra #5 of 6, by Eric S. Trautmann, Don Kramer, Neil Edwards & Michael Babinski (DC)
  • Secret Six #14, by Hail Simone, Nicola Scott, Carlos Rodriguez, Doug Hazlewood & Mark McKenna (DC)
  • The Unwritten #6, by Mike Carey & Peter Gross (DC/Vertigo)
  • The Incredible Hercules #136, by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, Reilly Brown & Nelson DeCastro (Marvel)
  • The Marvels Project #3 of 8, by Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting (Marvel)
  • B.P.R.D.: 1947 #4 of 5, by Mike Mignola, Joshua Dysart, Gabriel Bá & Fábio Moon (Dark Horse)
  • Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #7 of 8, by Mike Mignola & Duncan Fegredo (Dark Horse)
Secret Six #14 Secret Six wraps up its latest story arc, “Depths”, in which the team was hired as muscle for a maximum-security prison and slave trading operation by a shady character named Mr. Smyth. The prison has imprisoned Artemis (the former substitute Wonder Woman) and a group of Amazons who attacked the US a few years back, and is operating with the blessing of governments who want to get such dangerous individuals out of their hair. There are some other nasty secrets around, too, as the team learns when Wonder Woman shows up to rescue her sisters and is defeated by the Six, leading to a schism among the team as to whether they should fulfill their contract or not sell their souls quite so cheaply.

Gail Simone’s script is pretty intense: The Six are all mercenaries with their own sense of morality, but who often find the people who hire them or fight them are a little too nasty for even their hardened sensibilities. As the Six one-by-one turn against the man who hired them, you get a sense of how callous each member is – or how much a sense of obligation outweighs a sense of morality for each one. As he was in John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad, Deadshot is usually the most entertaining character, as he seems utterly amoral most of the time, but every so often (perhaps too inevitably) he says “fuck it” and changes sides. He’s given a run for his money in this series by Ragdoll, who seems equally amoral but less intense.

Simone does a good job navigating the plot and unstable characterizations, but it feels like something’s missing from the series. Unlike Suicide Squad, these characters are unlikeable to a man; a few are perhaps borderline admirable in their convictions, but it’s difficult to see them as “heroes in their own minds”, and honestly if they all got killed off it would be hard to shed a tear for any of them. Maybe it’s the fact that the series works so hard to keep all six in the gray area between good and evil, the lack of a sense that any of them are moving in one direction or another, makes it less satisfying than it might otherwise be.

Incredible Hercules #136 This month’s Hercules is pretty funny – a welcome change for a series which often tries to be funny, but isn’t really all that funny. For instance, the set-up to get to this issue was pretty uncomfortable at times. But the payoff is hilariously silly: Hercules pretending to be Thor fights Thor pretending to be Hercules in a big fight scene filled with great facial expressions (penciller Reilly Brown does a bang-up job on the art) and very silly sound effects (helpfully scanned by Greg Burgas for his own review – go take a look).

This issue is a high point in a series which has been dragging lately (by contrast, Chris Sims thinks it’s “the single best comic on the stands today”, although it’s unclear whether he means the series or just this issue): It started out a couple of years ago as a quirky “two buddies against the world” series, but it’s become progressively more lighthearted and this difficult to take its dramatic side seriously. Currently it’s alternating issues between Herc and his sidekick Amadeus Cho (the seventh smarted person in the world, also a teenage boy), which doesn’t work so well when you’re only reading an issue a month. The series feels directionless, and this issue an aberration in being so entertaining.