This Week’s Haul

The last two weeks, spanning my recent vacation:

Two Weeks Ago:

  • Batman Beyond #4 of 6, by Adam Beechen, Ryan Benjamin & John Stanisci (DC)
  • Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #2, by Peter J. Tomasi, Fernando Pasarin & Cam Smith (DC)
  • The Unwritten #17, by Mike Carey & Peter Gross (DC/Vertigo)
  • Zatanna #5, by Paul Dini, Chad Hardin & Wayne Faucher (DC)
  • Steve Rogers: Super-Soldier #3 of 4, by Ed Brubaker & Dale Eaglesham (Marvel)
  • The Mystery Society #3 of 5, by Steve Niles & Fiona Staples (IDW)
  • Morning Glories #1 & 2, by Nick Spencer & Joe Eisma (Image)

Last Week:

  • DC Universe: Legacies #5 of 10, by Len Wein, Scott Kolins, George Pérez, Walt Simonson & Scott Koblish (DC)
  • Fables #98, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham & Steve Leialoha (DC/Vertigo)
  • The Flash #4, by Geoff Johns & Francis Manapul (DC)
  • Green Lantern Corps #52, by Tony Bedard, Ardian Syaf & Vicente Cifuentes (DC)
  • Legion of Super-Heroes #5, by Paul Levitz, Yildiray Cinar, Francis Portela & Wayne Faucher (DC)
  • Power Girl #16, by Judd Winick & Sami Basri (DC)
  • Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis #3 of 5, by Warren Ellis & Kaare Andrews (Marvel)
  • Captain America: Reborn TPB, by Ed Brubaker, Bryan Hitch, Butch Guice, Luke Ross & Rick Magyar (Marvel)
  • Fantastic Four #583, by Jonathan Hickman & Steve Epting (Marvel)
  • Dynamo 5: Sins of the Father #4 of 5, by Jay Faerber & Júlio Brilha (Image)

The new series Morning Glories has gotten some good word-of-mouth, so I picked up the first two issues to check it out. At a glance, it looks like it’s going to be a thriller story with a dash of horror: The Morning Glory Academy is a private high school recruiting the best and the brightest – but it has some horrific secrets within its walls. The opening sequence shows a pair of students trying to plumb its depths, and one of them comes to a terrible – well, not end, but close. Then we’re introduced to six new students joining the academy this year, who learn a couple of things: First, that when they contact their parents or anyone outside the school, no one remembers them, and second, that they all share the same birthday.

I’m not familiar with writer Nick Spencer, but his writing doles out just enough surprises and shocks to keep this being a page-turner (although the first issue bogs down a bit showing us perhaps more of the six protagonists’ home lives than was really needed – it’s a classic first issue problem, easing into the story a bit too gradually), and certainly there’s a strong sense of “what the hell is going on here?” Who benefits from terrorizing and molding these students, and what are their goals? There’s some sort of supernatural force at work, but I hope there will be much more behind the academy than simple horror film schtick. There’s too much good stuff here for the story to devolve into being just a horror comic (that, ultimately, was the problem with Joe Hill’s Locke and Key – ultimately, it was just a horror comic).

The gorgeous covers to the series are by Rodin Esquejo, but the interior art is by Joe Eisma, whose angular drawings and awkward layouts don’t really do justice to Spencer’s stories. In particular his faces are generic and it’s difficult to tell the characters apart – a fact which left me confused about the surprise at the end of the second issue until I realized the text was meant to be taken literally. I hope he’ll tighten up his pencils and add some more detail and variety to his art as the series progresses, because right now the art sometimes makes it difficult to follow.

So I can see what the buzz about Morning Glories is about, but it’s still very much a work-in-progress. Nonetheless, it’s pretty different from most of what’s out there, and overall it’s professionally executed, so I’m glad I picked it up. I’m just curious to see how high the ambitions rise for this series.

Yeah, I really just wanted to include this issue of Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis because the cover is so terrible. Worst cover ever? That’s probably pushing it, but it’s really awful, and of course has absolutely nothing to do with the story. A waste.

Warren Ellis’ story is both a little more interesting and a little less interesting this issue: Much of it is spent with Cyclops and an African dictator posturing and lecturing each other – the sort of moralizing Ellis always enjoys writing, but it’s terribly tediously done here. Otherwise the story is turning into a sequel the Captain Britain stories by Alan Moore and Alan Davis from 30 years ago. (If you want to plunk down the money for it – and it’s very good stuff, but perhaps not this good – you can read it all in the omnibus edition.) Ellis has already brought back the Warpies – grotesquely empowered children formed by a nearby dimensional breach – and brings back a couple of other surprising figures from the Moore/Davis stuff too. I’m mildly curious as to what he’s going to do with them, although I can’t shake the feeling that he’s just plumbing the depths of yet more ancient Marvel history. What’s the point? Why not create something new? Ellis has done some great stuff reworking old comics themes before, but Astonishing X-Men has been far from his best work, stuttering around the edges of the X-Men universe and not really getting to the point – there’s never any payoff. I understand the book has been plagued by delays, but still.

Kaare Andrews’ art: Okay at best. He has all of the weaknesses of Frank Quitely (somewhat-inhuman-looking people, poor backgrounds) with few of his strengths (his characters look ethereal where Quitely’s look solid, Quitely’s layouts are usually strong if stiff, while Andrews’ seem awkward). Visually, the book is a mess, and particular a disappointment given the artists Ellis has been working with in earlier issues of Astonishing.

If you want to see some great art, look no farther than Captain America: Reborn, the paperback collection of the series from a couple of years ago, which gets me nearly caught up on Ed Brubaker’s run on the character. Well okay, I think Bryan Hitch is a tad overrated as an artist, his figures being a little too perfect, and he never quite sells me on his characters’ emotions, but boy, you can’t fault him for his layouts or renderings, which are truly gorgeous.

Reborn features Brubaker once again attempting the impossible: Having convincingly brought Bucky Barnes back from the dead, he now bring back Steve Rogers, who was shot twice – once at very close range, by his mind-controlled lover – setting off months or mourning in the Marvel Universe. The kicker, of course, is that Steve wasn’t actually killed, something else happened, something that the mastermind behind events wanted to use to bring Cap around to his side, and Cap’s friends have to prevent the bad guys from finishing the job.

Brubaker doesn’t pull it off as well as he did Bucky’s revival, in large part because Bucky’s story was steeped in cold war black ops and shadowy figures, the sort of stuff Brubaker does best. This is an over-the-top fantasy, which doesn’t play to Brubaker’s strengths, and which features a chain of events which borders close enough to the absurd to make it hard to swallow. It is, in short, a Lee-and-Kirby plot written by a noir detective story guy. Brubaker gives it all he’s got, but I don’t think he quite pulls it off. It’s a fun ride, with many good moments, but it feels a bit awkward next to Brubaker’s other Cap stuff.

But really, if you just want some escapist fiction to entertain you for a couple of hours, you could do a lot worse. As a sort of “event” comic unto itself, and carefully integrated into the larger goings-on in the Marvel Universe, Brubaker naturally has some strict confines to work within. So I think this can be chalked up as a good try, which kept the overall story moving forward. Not bad stuff, really.

And man, the art sure is gorgeous.

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