Actually not this week’s haul (which came out today), but the last two weeks’ hauls. You know how it goes…
Two Weeks Ago:
- American Vampire #7, by Scott Snyder & Rafael Albuquerque (DC/Vertigo)
- Madame Xanadu #27, by Matt Wagner & Celia Calle (DC/Vertigo)
- Secret Six #26, by Gail Simone & Jim Calafiore (DC)
- Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom #5 of 6, by Peter Hogan, Chris Sprouse & Karl Story (DC/America’s Best Comics)
- Captain America: Forever Allies #3 of 4, by Roger Stern, Nick Dragotta & Marco Santucci (Marvel)
- S.H.I.E.L.D. #4, by Jonathan Hickman & Dustin Weaver (Marvel)
- Incorruptible #10, by Mark Waid, Horacio Domingues, Juan Castro & Michael Babinski (Boom)
- The Boys #47, by Garth Ennis & Russ Braun (Dynamite)
- Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #5 of 6, by Grant Morrison, Ryan Sook, Pere Pérez & Mick Gray (DC)
- Green Lantern #58, by Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke & Christian Alamy (DC)
- Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors #3, by Peter J. Tomasi, Fernando Pasarin & Cam Smith (DC)
- Knight & Squire #1 of 6, by Paul Cornell & Jimmy Broxton (DC)
- Superman #703, by J. Michael Straczynski, Eddy Barrows & J.P. Mayer (DC)
- The Unwritten #18, by Mike Carey & Peter Gross (DC/Vertigo)
- Victorian Undead: Sherlock Holmes vs. Jeckyll/Hyde special, by Ian Edginton & Horacio Domingues (DC/Wildstorm)
- Casanova #4, by Matt Fraction & Gabriel Bá (Marvel/Icon)
- Echo #25, by Terry Moore (Abstract)
- Irredeemable #18, by Mark Waid & Peter Krause (Boom)
I’m not entirely sure what to make of Paul Cornell. He’s a very inventive writer, but his plotting is rather scattershot, and more portentous than meaningful. I had this feeling when I read his novel Something More, and the first episode of Doctor Who he wrote, “Father’s Day” (though he did get the emotional center of that one right, even if the story didn’t make a lot of sense). His current run on Action Comics is in a similar vein. In a way he seems like Grant Morrison lite: An idea man, but his execution can feel haphazard and unsatisfying.
In fact, he’s picking up a couple of Grant Morrison creations in this new mini-series, Knight and Squire (okay, they first appeared in the silver age, but Morrison basically recreated them from whole cloth, since it’s not like “the English Batman and Robin” is a concept with legs all by itself), and Cornell reintroduces them here in a pub where heroes and villains gather to hang out, compelled by the magic of the place not to fight. It’s not a bad idea, but it’s an awkward way to introduce the main characters, throwing them into an Alan-Moore-esque “let’s introduce a hodge-podge of British heroes and villains all at once” story, characters that the reader really has no investment in. It’s more of a neat concept than a story – which again feels very Morrison-like.
So, it’s an okay beginning, but felt kind of inconsequential. Broxton’s art is nice, sort of Alan Davis crossed with Ed McGuinness. If this series is just going to be six cute vignettes, though, then I think it’ll be a disappointment. Hopefully Cornell’s got something larger planned, and something that focuses on the main characters.
Last month Mark Waid tweeted:
While it was a pretty good cliffhanger, honestly I’d kind of seen it coming. Partly as a result, I think both of Waid’s cliffhangers in this month’s books are better than that one: Incorruptible sees our villain-turned-hero and new sidekick rescuing (after a fashion) the Plutonian’s former girlfriend, and learning what her captors had planned – a plan which they apparently execute on the last page. Irredeemable builds a new plot thread out of whole cloth – plausibly, since it revolves around the world’s Batman-type character – with truly world-changing consequences (even by the standards of a Superman figure turned evil) on the final page.
Irredeemable has been consistently solid, but it felt like it was marking time until artist Peter Krause returned, and now it’s kicking into high gear. Incorruptible has been thrashing a bit, trying to find its voice and purpose (and it hasn’t really done so yet), being somewhat overwhelmed by the events in its companion title that the main character hasn’t really had much of a chance to shine, but it’s still got some good stuff, and I think it still has a good chance to improve – I’m just not quite sure what I want to see it do that would make it better. I think I’d like more of a focus on Max and the implications of his decision to turn good, since so far it mostly seems like a lot of adventuring and those implications are dealt with almost incidentally.
- Brightest Day #7, by Geoff Johns, Peter J. Tomasi, Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason, Ardian Syaf, Scott Clark, Joe Prado, Vicente Cifuentes, David Beaty & Mark Irwin (DC)
- Secret Six #24, by Gail Simone & Jim Califore (DC)
- Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom #3 of 6, by Peter Hogan, Chris Sprouse & Karl Story (DC/Wildstorm)
- Captain America #608, by Ed Brubaker, Butch Guice, Rick Magyar & Mark Pennington (Marvel)
- Captain America: Forever Allies #1 of 4, by Roger Stern, Nick Oragotta, Marco Santucci & Patrick Piazzalunga (Marvel)
- Casanova #2, by Matt Fraction & Gabriel Bá (Marvel/Icon)
- Hercules: Twilight of a God #3 of 4, by Bob Layton & Ron Lim (Marvel)
- S.H.I.E.L.D. #3, by Jonathan Hickman & Dustin Weaver (Marvel)
- Irredeemable #16, by Mark Waid & Peter Krause (Boom)
- Hellboy: The Storm #2 of 3, by Mike Mignola & Duncan Fegredo (Dark Horse)
- The Boys #45, by Garth Ennis & Russ Braun (Dynamite)
Roger Stern was a workhorse author at Marvel Comics back in the 1980s, and he wrote a lot of excellent stuff (I especially remember his West Coast Avengers mini-series with fondness – it was recently collected in hardcover), but by the end of the 1990s he’d largely disappeared. He teamed up with John Byrne on the nifty mini-series Marvel: The Lost Generation a decade ago (worth seeking out), and now he’s back writing a new Captain America mini-series, Forever Allies, which I picked up partly because I’m enjoying Ed Brubaker’s Cap series so much and this spins out of it, but mainly because Stern’s one of those comics writers whose stuff I’ll always check out because he’s a good solid writer.
The premise here involves Cap – who is currently Bucky Barnes, having skipped over most of the last 65 years thanks to suspended animation – attending the funeral of one of his friends in the Young Allies team during World War II, and reminiscing about their days together. But at the funeral he spots a woman who resembles a mind-controlling antagonist from that era, Lady Lotus, herself having aged not a day. Investigating, he learns that she’s listed as being in prison – only she’s actually escaped. And so the hunt is on – as is Lotus’ master plan, hinted at on the final page.
As I said, Stern’s a fine storyteller, and he handles the shifts between the 1940s and 2010 quite well, aided by some nice classic-style artwork by Nick Dragotta (in a style that feels like Jack Kirby crossed with Darwyn Cooke) and modern-style art by Marco Santucci (sort-of resembling the main Cap series art by Butch Guice and others, but not quite up to their level). I’m not familiar with either of these guys, but they’re both quite good in this context.
It looks like this one should be fun, and I hope it opens the doors to more Stern stories in the future.
In the category of “comics I don’t really get”, there’s Casanova, which is clearly trying to be particularly bizarre and offbeat and which might gel with time, but there’s also Jonathan Hickman’s S.H.I.E.L.D., which I was skeptical of from the first issue. The nominal main story involves a man named Leonid in the 1950s being inducted into the order of S.H.I.E.L.D., the secret organization which protects mankind from extraterrestrial (in all senses of the word) threats. This story is moving at a glacial pace, as it’s been consistently preempted by flashbacks to the organization’s history, which includes Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, and various other historic figures (one of whom is still alive in the 20th century and has taken Leonid under his wing).
Honestly these flashbacks seem like just sequence after sequence of historical wankery, touting the merits of science and discovery, showing some of the group’s accomolishments (like the defeat of Galactus in the 16th century), and not-quite-clever integrations of Marvel figures into the story (the use of the Deviants here is rather gratuitous). It’s all rather dreary, never focuses on any of its scenes long enough to truly evoke a sense of wonder, and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. So I don’t really get what the appeal is.
A good contrast is the series Annihilation from a few years back; while also rather downbeat, it explored its themes and situations at length and is one of the most sense-of-wonder evoking stories that Marvel’s published in recent years. It was also strongly character-driven, something that S.H.I.E.L.D. decidedly is not.
The bright spot in this series is Dustin Weaver’s artwork, reminiscent of that of Barry Windsor-Smith, but the finishes a bit more polished (Smith’s inks always looked uncomfortably rough to me). He gets both the period looks and the effects down, although his characters’ faces are sometimes hard to recognize when the people are different ages.
Overall, though, S.H.I.E.L.D. seems at best disappointing and at worst unnecessary. Maybe it will all come together in the next couple of months, but I’m not sure I have patience to wait longer than that.
Peter Krause is back on Irredeemable, and boy has he been missed! The interim artists have been okay, but Krause really set the look for the series and it’s not the same without him. It feels like Mark Waid took the opportunity to kick the story into a new gear with this issue, too, with revelations about several characters and a surprising proposal on the final page.
Carrying the “Superman-gone-bad” premise for an ongoing series is tough to do, and the story feels like it’s gotten sidetracked over the last few months, but hopefully this is a sign that the next arc will be more satisfying.
(I wonder if Waid has an ending in mind, and how long he expects it will take to get there?)
The longest-running story in Astro City came to its end after 16 issues and almost half a decade of sporadic publishing. I’m going to write a separate entry on The Dark Age since it’s a pretty meaty story, but that’s been obscured by its slow release schedule.
Meanwhile, fans of cartoonist Charles Addams might want to check out the recent publication The Addams Family: An Evilution, which covers Addams’ development of the family in his comic panels years before they appeared on television (never mind the silver screen), but which mostly consists of scores of cartoons of the family, including many which have never appeared before. If you’re a big Addams fan like I am (and if you’re not, then you should be!), then this is a fine addition to any cartoon library.
- Astro City: The Dark Age book four #4 of 4, by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson & Alex Ross (DC/Wildstorm)
- Batman and Robin #12, by Grant Morrison, Andy Clarke, Dustin Nguyen & Scott Hanna (DC)
- Brightest Day #1, by Geoff Johns, Peter J. Tomasi, Ivan Reis, Pat Gleason, Ardian Syaf, Scott Clark, Joe Prado, Vicente Cifuentes, Mark Irwin, Oclair Albert & David Beaty (DC)
- Secret Six #21, by Gail Simone & John Calafiore (DC)
- Echo #21, by Terry Moore (Abstract)
- Incorruptible #5, by Mark Waid & Horacio Domingues (Boom)
- Irredeemable #13, by Mark Waid & Diego Barreto (Boom)
- Hellboy in Mexico, by Mike Mignola & Richard Corben (Dark Horse)
- The Boys #42, by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson (Dynamite)
- Dreadstar: The Beginning HC, by Jim Starlin (Dynamite)
- Ghost Projekt #2 of 5, by Joe Harris & Steve Rolston (Oni)
The first issue of Brightest Day is an improvement on the zeroth issue, but not by a lot: Giving each of the characters (and there are a lot of them) just a few pages to advance their individual stories doesn’t make for very interesting reading. Green Lantern and some of the other rainbow lanterns investigate the mysterious white lantern that’s appeared, and no-longer-Deadman continues to monitor the other resurrected heroes.
The two action sequences are the best ones in the book: Aquaman commanding dead sea life, and Hawkman and Hawkgirl trying to recover their unearthed original bodies (although the fact that Hath-Set is the one who recovered them has an air of, “What, this again?” to it). But otherwise this is the first chapter of not one but about 6 different stories, and none of them are very compelling.
It’s really hard to tell an ongoing story with an ensemble cast like this, and that 52 did it well was probably a fluke. Brightest Day is not off to a good start in either its plot or its characterizations. It’s got about 2 more issues before I decide it’s not worth it, because after getting burned by Countdown to Final Crisis, these sorts of books are on a short leash with me.
Both Incorruptible and Irredeemable have guest artists this month, coincidentally. (Or, maybe it’s not a coincidence.) Irredeemable fares better, as Diego Barreto’s art is pretty good (though it’s still a step down since Peter Krause has done such a strong job of establishing the look and feel of the series that his are just huge shoes to fill). Besides which, this issue largely flashes back to the days when the Plutonian went bad, which feels like ground already covered (even though it’s been covered haltingly and piecemeal); Mark Waid’s done such a good job suggesting what happened that actually showing it doesn’t really feel necessary, and this issue doesn’t really advance the story very much.
(That cover, by the way, looks like it could have been from an issue of Miracleman. Which actually makes me realize that the Plutonian started off as a Superman-like figure, but his darker, cape-less costume resembles that of Miracleman. Intentional?)
Incorruptible doesn’t fare any better, as Horacio Domingues’ cartoony style and heavy ink lines felt like they clashed with the heavy subject matter. The story is okay, involving Max Damage recruiting a young woman to stand in for his missing sidekick, Jailbait, to prevent his enemies from learning she’s left him. The notion of the main character needing to be near his sidekick to keep her safe is an interesting twist on the premise (I’m not really clear on what Jailbait’s powers are, if any), but the issue ends up being a series of dark humor moments as the reluctant stand-in is overwhelmed with the realities of Max’s life. It seems almost like a gag-a-day approach to writing a very dark story, and it felt awkward.
These are both very good series, but they both had an off-month.
This week’s “true comics geek” issuing is Dreadstar: The Beginning. This is essentially the prologue to Jim Starlin’s Dreadstar comic, most of it originally printed as a series entitled “Metamorphosis Odyssey” in Marvel Comics’ Epic Illustrated magazine back in the early 1980s.
Epic Illustrated was essentially aimed as a competitor to the artsy European mag Heavy Metal, and the content often felt similar. “Metamorphosis Odyssey” certainly fits right in: First of all, the art is painted rather than drawn, and about half the story is in black-and-white, with no apparent point to which pages are in color and which aren’t. (The collection faithfully reproduces this, which seems even quirkier in this format.) Second, the story is often told in the distance, circling around its characters and not letting us see them act in the moment very much until the second half. It’s a very self-conscious story, but one which is also trying to feel very spiritual. While Starlin has often written stories with a spiritual component, he’s never been very good at selling that aspect, and it feels awkward here.
Fundamentally, the story is one of loss, as the war-loving Zygotean race terrorize the Milky Way galaxy, and the last of the Osirisians, Aknaton, recruits three unusual individuals to trigger the Infinity Horn to end the Zygotean threat, but at great cost. He also recruits Vanth Dreadstar, a warrior wielding a powerful energy sword, to help him defend the three until they can do their jobs. It’s a simple story elaborately told, and it’s clear that Starlin quickly found himself won over by the battle-weary yet strong-willed Vanth, which is why Dreadstar ended up being the one to go on to his own series.
The volume includes two other prologue stories, he first being “The Price”, in which the bishop Syzygy Darklock receives tremendous power on his way to becoming Dreadstar’s greatest ally, but must pay an equally tremendous price to acquire it. The second is an epilogue which sets up the ongoing Dreadstar series, and introduces the telepath Willow, and feels like a side story other than that introduction.
As you can guess from my tone, I don’t think Dreadstar: The Beginning is a very impressive volume, even though it’s the lead-in to the best work of Starlin’s career. Starlin isn’t a very accomplished painter, and his brushwork seems to accentuate the flaws in his art style, making some of the quirky compositions and beefy figures look even more exaggerated; his style is much better suited for dynamic action sequences than for the more contemplative material here. And “Metamorphosis Odyssey” itself feels very experimental, but I don’t think it really succeeds in being a deep or satisfying story. Although I don’t think it was intended to be, it feels like backstory to the real tale. “The Price” is a genuinely strong story, one of the best Starlin’s done, but it’s hard to recommend the whole hardcover on its back.
While committed fans of Starlin or people curious about where Dreadstar got started might enjoy this volume, I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, and in fact would suggest that people who haven’t already read Dreadstar start with collections of the regular series, as The Beginning is really not going to give you a good feel for what the hoopla was about.
- Astro City: The Dark Age Book Three #4 of 4, by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson & Alex Ross (DC/Wildstorm)
- Wednesday Comics #5 of 12, by many hands (DC)
- Irredeemable #5, by Mark Waid & Peter Krause (Boom)
- Sir Edward Grey: Witchfinder #2 of 5, by Mike Mignola & Ben Stenbeck (Dark Horse)
The third part of Astro City: The Dark Age comes to a close this week. The whole series leaves me with a bittersweet taste, and not just because of the story; The Dark Age is a 16-issue story (I thought it was originally going to be 12 issues) which has come out v-e-r-y slowly, largely (I understand) due to Kurt Busiek’s health issues. While I’m sympathetic to the reasons for the delay and I enjoy Astro City enough to keep with it despite the scheduling issues, a 16-issue story unfortunately suffers more than most from such delays, especially when it’s chock-full of teasers and questions that would be difficult enough sit through a monthly comic waiting to see resolved, and with a year or more between 4-issue parts, well, my enthusiasm has waned greatly over the life of the series.
And alas the story itself has not been one of the series’ best. The emotional center of the series is the pair of brothers, Charles the cop and Royal the small-time crook, who struggle with their relationship as a result of their divergent paths even as they’re united in looking for the man who killed their parents when they were children. Their story takes a significant step forward in this part as they each have cut ties with their previous lives and infiltrate the organization where their target works. Of course, since it’s an underground revolutionary group, that means the stakes are high. They make significant progress here, but with one more part to come, naturally it’s not over yet in this issue.
The problem with The Dark Age is that it’s also chronicling the history of Astro City through the 70s and 80s, so it casts its net widely with a huge cast of characters, and many of them just don’t get the time they deserve. The ongoing Silver Agent story is playing out fairly well, but the superhero group the Apollo Eleven see their story reach its climax in this issue, and honestly my reaction was something of a shrug. Usually Busiek has a deft touch when it comes to working superhero battles into the background of the main story, but something about his approach here makes the battle overshadow the brothers’ efforts, yet the battle itself isn’t satisfying.
I wonder whether The Dark Age suffers from being too ambitious a story for the series’ structure (never mind its schedule). But for whatever reason, I don’t think it’s been a standout moment in Astro City‘s history. On the bright side, artist Brent Anderson’s work is as powerful as ever, filled with a wide variety of character designs and page layouts, and doing a fine service to the various emotional tones that the story paints. If I have a complaint, it’s that I find the nature of the grimaces and shouts that his characters’ faces exhibit get to look a little too much the same one issue after another.
On the bright side, Busiek recently announced that Astro City will be going monthly thanks to positive developments in both his life and Anderson’s work approach, which has to be one of the brightest bits of comics news in years. Given the series’ track record I’m cautious optimistic that they can pull it off, but honestly even if they “just” go bimonthly or quarterly, a regular schedule would be an improvement.
On the other hand, Busiek’s Green Lantern story in Wednesday Comics is pretty dull, and this week’s page is just a flashback to Hal Jordan’s rivalry with the pilot who started turning into a monster a few pages ago. I think we’ve seen Green Lantern for about 3 panels so far, and none of the Hal Jordan stuff has been particularly interesting. Disappointing.
The Superman page has some memories of Superman being rocketed from Krypton. It always bugs the hell out of me when I see – as we do here – Superman’s ‘S’ shield being used on Krypton, and it has ever since the first Christopher Reeve feature film. The shield to me has always been a symbol of Superman’s humanity and heritage as an Earthman, that he’s Kryptonian by birth but that’s all in the past. It’s an indication to me that the writer or editor Just Doesn’t Get It where Superman is concerned. But that’s been the case for the whole story here so far.
This issue has not one but two heroes saving planes from crashing into the Earth. The Supergirl page is a lot more fun than the Hawkman page – the writing on Hawkman is bad and getting worse. Supergirl at least has no pretentions of being more than an amusing little yarn involving her flying pets.
The best stories in the issue are The Flash (as usual), Metal Men (Dan Didio seems to be surprising everyone by writing a perfectly readable story), and Supergirl. I’m intrigued by Adam Strange and disappointed (after some earlier enthusiasm) in The Demon and Catwoman. This week’s Batman page is the best yet, but it’s too bad it took this long for me to find the story more than bizarrely paced.
Mark Waid’s Irredeemable seems to have gotten a lukewarm response from the comics press so far, with comments that Waid isn’t doing anything new with his Superman-analogue-gone-bad yarn, although he’s doing it very well. Personally, I think he’s doing it very, very well, and it’s near the top of my stack to read each week it comes out.
Waid is playing to his own strengths in considering what a character like Superman could do if he decides to go bad. Although there’s been plenty carnage and dead characters (not to mention millions of dead civilians), the Plutonian seems to be playing with his prey, and that allows Waid to consider that such a character can behave like the villain in a horror movie. With his speed, he can suddenly appear and disappear without anyone seeing them. With his superhuman senses he can be aware of what people are doing the world over and bring secrets to light that no one else could know. That we don’t know what the Plutonian’s motives are (Mind control? Parallel-world double? Or just gone bad as the facts suggest on the surface?) make it all the more frightening. He doesn’t seem to be trying to conquer the world, and the notion that he’s trying to get revenge for having been treated badly doesn’t seem believable either.
Although Peter Krause’s artwork is a little sketchy for my tastes – I think he could use an inker who smooths out and solidifies his pencils – his designs and layouts are terrific, with a classic superheroic look but with just enough of an edge to do justice to the premise.
This week’s issue, #5, is only 99¢, and the collection of the first four issues also came out this week, so I highly recommend checking it out. Maybe it’s not a revolutionary comic, but it is a very good comic. And in particular, anyone who enjoyed Waid’s series Empire ought to love this, because it’s even better.
- The Flash: Rebirth #1 of 5, by Geoff Johns & Ethan Van Sciver (DC)
- Justice Society of America #25, by Geoff Johns, Jerry Ordway & Bob Wiacek (DC)
- Avengers/Invaders #9 of 12, by Alex Ross, Jim Krueger, Steve Sadowski & Patrick Berkenkotter (Marvel)
- War of Kings #2 of 6, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Paul Pelletier & Rick Magyar (Marvel)
- Irredeemable #1, by Mark Waid & Peter Krause (Boom!)
- The Boys #29, by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson (Dynamite)
- Star Trek: Crew #2 of 6, by John Byrne (IDW)
I remarked a while back that Green Lantern was looking like Geoff Johns’ best work in comics, going back to his bringing Hal Jordan back from the dead (or the undead) in a clever and satisfying way. Now he’s trying to do the same by picking up the thread of Barry Allen – the Silver Age Flash – coming back from the dead in Final Crisis. This is a much tougher challenge, partly because Flash’s death was a heroic send-off for a character who at the time had seen his series cancelled for cause, while Green Lantern was brought down largely by editorial fiat. But also because Johns doesn’t get to construct the reason for Flash coming back, like he did for Green Lantern, and that makes The Flash: Rebirth a tough sell.
The story is okay: People other than Flash are emerging from the Speed Force, even as Flash takes in the changes in the world while he’s been gone, and watching others celebrate his return. There are some nice touches (Flash approves of how everyone’s multitasking all the time, as if they’re finally catching up to how he lives his whole life), but they’re overshadowed by what a dour sourpuss Barry is through the whole issue, focused on needing to get things done (“I can’t be late.” “Late for what?” “For whatever the rest of the world needs me for.”), without explanation for what that might be.
There’s a suggestion that Barry feels guilty over his mother’s death, that he somehow wasn’t fast enough to be there for her (especially since his father was accused of the crime), which indicates that Johns is going to be retroactively filling in details of Barry’s pre-Flash life. But the tone of the character feels completely at odds with who he was before his death, and given the commonality of heroes coming back from the dead in the DC universe, his mere return doesn’t suffice as an explanation.
As for the GL relaunch, the artist is Ethan Van Sciver. Van Sciver is a very detail- and rendering-oriented artist, but not the most dynamic of layout guys. Overall I like his art, but I find him a somewhat odd choice for a character as dynamic as the Flash. He evokes a feeling of speed and dynamism through “after-image” effects, copious lightning bolts, and dramatic poses. It’s not bad art by any means, but I don’t think he’s nearly as good a match for Flash as he was for GL.
There’s some interesting stuff here – mostly what’s going on with the Speed Force – but mostly the issue feels like a misfire, not really capturing what it was that made the character interesting. Certainly Barry Allen was rarely a deep character and there’s going to be some updating to give him more nuance for a modern audience, but I don’t think Johns really captured the core of the character here and that makes me wonder why he’s bothering.
Of course, I wondered why DC bothered to bring him back in the first place. But as part of the whole Final Crisis mess, at this point I assume there wasn’t really any sort of planning or intent involved.
Ironically, the other comic I’m reviewing this week is written by the guy who’s probably most associated with the post-Barry Allen Flash franchise: Mark Waid.
So first, a digression: Grant Morrison pens the afterward to Ireedeemable #1, in which he professes surprise that Waid’s reputation is one that seems inextricably linked to nostalgia for the Silver Age and an encyclopedic knowledge of comics history. I profess such surprise myself, since that’s never been my image of Waid as a writer. (A better match for such a profile would be Geoff Johns, actually.) While Waid clearly knows his stuff where comics history and trivia is concerned (he’s noted for being unstumpable in trivia panels at comics conventions), Waid’s actual writing career has been marked by a strong focus on the current characters, and making them into first-rate heroes and villains in their own rights. This is especially evident in the keynote story of his career, “The Return of Barry Allen”, which was all about Wally West living in the shadow of his late mentor, but emerging from that shadow to become his own man.
A better summary of Waid’s career might be that he considers at length what the nature of superheroics means to the heroes themselves, and how they are defined or changed by the experience. In this way he’s not so different from Kurt Busiek – which puts him in outstanding company, I’d say.
Irredeemable seems like a natural step after his series Empire: In Empire, a villain managed to defeat all the heroes and now rules the world. In Irredeemable, the Plutonian – a Superman stand-in – suddenly turns villainous and starts killing off his former allies. Besides being dark stories, what really ties these two series together is that they’re both character dramas, with suspense both in the front-and-center storyline, and in the revelation of how things got to this point. Irredeemable suggests that it’s the little derisive comments and gradual feeling of not being appreciated that pushed the Plutonian over the line, but I expect there’s more to it than that. And what makes it really creepy is that his one-time friends and allies don’t really know anything about him (“Is he even from Earth?” “We don’t know.”).
So at worst I expect this will be a rousing chase in which the remaining heroes try to stay alive, even as they find out who the Plutonian really is and why he went bad. To some extent the artistic success of the series will depend on that revelation being sufficiently novel, although it could certainly succeed by having a strong enough character grounding rather than clever mystery reveals. I’m a little optimistic about it than is Don MacPherson, but his review is worth a read, too.
Artist Peter Krause has that solid, muscle-bound style a la Dan Jurgens, but he manages to pull off the dark scenes as well as the bright ones. He’s a solid artist, although he skimps on the backgrounds a little too much for my tastes.
Bottom line: Irredeemable feels of-a-piece with Waid’s previous work, it’s just on the darker side rather than the lighter side, and it’s an enjoyable thriller and I’m looking forward to see what happens next.
And honestly, if anyone really sees Waid as little more than the preserver of the shiny heroes of the Silver Age, then, honestly, they haven’t been reading his works very deeply.