This Week’s Haul

Comic books I bought the week of 28 February 2007.

  • 52 #43 of 52 (DC)
  • Jack of Fables #8 (DC/Vertigo)
  • Justice #10 (DC)
  • Welcome to Tranquility #1-3 (DC/Wildstorm)
  • Eternals #7 of 7 (Marvel)
  • The Secret History #1 of 7 (ASP)

Despite a cover featuring Animal Man, 52 #43 mainly focuses on the Black Adam Family, which is my least-favorite storyline in the series. Bummer.

I’m starting to think that Jack of Fables just isn’t going to get very good. Jack is a one-note character, and not at all a likeable one, and the series has yet to cohere around an interesting plot or supporting cast. I wonder how it’s doing in sales?

Welcome to Tranquility has gotten some good word-of-mouth, so I gave it a try. It’s written by Gail Simone, who’s ended up in my consciousness as one of those “decent wordsmith, nothing in particular to attract me to her books” writers, similar to Geoff Johns and Greg Rucka (and ahead of Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar), but not as distinctive as Grant Morrison. That said, I’ve never actually read anything by her, so it’s just purely word-of-mouth.

Tranquility is a town which serves as a retirement home for old superheroes, but which also houses their children and grandchildren. The Sheriff, Thomasina, tries to hold things together, while a documentary filmmaker, Collette, shows up just in time to see things start to fall apart, as an old-time detective-hero, Mr. Articulate, is murdered. The town is also on edge because it houses the children and grandchildren of the old heroes, and the generations don’t see things the same way.

The book feels in some ways like Alan Moore’s take on Supreme with its nostalgia for these alternate heroes, while they’re still very much among us. But there’s more of a feeling of “days gone by and they’re not coming back” than in that book (which is more about successfully restoring the glories of yesteryear), and a lot of that feel that the characters are stuck in Tranquility and they’re not going to get out. The three issues so far are mainly setup, with some investigation into the basic mystery. There are some nifty characters, especially Maximum Man (a Captain Marvel type character who’s forgotten his magic word and spends all his time trying to remember it) and the Emoticon, who wears a mask which displays smileys.

Neil Googe’s art at its best is reminiscent of Chris Sprouse, but his figures occasionally go all cartoony, which wrecks the book’s atmosphere. It’s right on the edge of being a style I can really enjoy, but I wish he’d nudge it into a more realistic direction.

Overall, it’s not a bad start.

Eternals wraps up Neil Gaiman’s second series for Marvel. 1602 was a lot better. I’m not a big fan of John Romita’s artwork (and his depictions of San Francisco are atrocious), and the painted covers are also pretty bad. It ends up being one of those “character discovers he’s really a superhero and loses all of his personality” stories, so I’m not sure what the point was.

Archaia Studios Press continues to crank out good books, this time The Secret History, written by Jean-Pierre P├ęcau and drawn by Igor Kordley. It’s the story of four immortal siblings who each possess a runestone which gives them great powers and who basically don’t like each other. It’s not a real novel premise, but if it successfully reveals the characters over its seven issues, it ought to be pretty entertaining. The first issue focuses on the events surrounding Moses and the Jews’ departure from Egypt, and is lively with some thoughtful moments, mainly surrounding Erlin, who possesses the rune of the Shield, and who seems like a responsible and philosophical person who regards the mortal Moses as a trusted friend. I’ve seen Kordley’s art a couple of times before, but he really does a great job depicting large battles and realistic landscapes. It’s too soon to call this an unqualified winner, but I enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to more.

As a final note, I decided this week to stop buying the Jack Staff monthly comic, and switch to reading it in the collections. Paul Grist’s storytelling style isn’t well-suited to a periodical, and I’m finding that the overall stories take a long time to get anywhere (and sometimes I’m not sure where they’ve actually ended up). Basically, Grist’s writing just isn’t tight enough for my tastes

This Week’s Haul

Comic books I bought the week of 10 January 2007.

Okay, at this point this is last week’s haul, but I’ve been a little busy!

I think Graeme McMillan’s review of JSA #2 (scroll down a bit on the other side of the link to find it) says everything I could say about it, and more succinctly.

I’m only halfway through the second Manhunter volume, which is (or at least starts with) one extended story. It’s pretty good, better than the first volume. The characterization is still not too deep, but the book as a whole is feeling more fully-realized.

I mentioned Jack Staff last week in connection with Paul Grist’s other series, Kane. Thumbing through this one again, I notice just how disconnected so much of the story is: Threads which seem barely connected, extremely nonlinear storytelling, etc. While I enjoy Grist’s sense of humor, I wish he could streamline his storytelling somewhat. Characterization really suffers, and it becomes difficult to care about all the little plot threads.

I think the fundamental problem with Jack Staff, though, is that its lead character is a World War II superhero (who resembles Marvel’s Union Jack). He’s very long-lived, his secret identity is a general contractor, and his motives and personality are really basically unknown. I keep expecting all of this backstory to go somewhere, but it never really does. I think that’s what makes Kane the better series: Despite being similarly disjointed, Kane is haunted by his past, and it colors everything he does in the present, and therefore despite all the side issues, it works as a portrait of a man trying to overcome the demons of his past (made all the harder by the fact that he feels his actions were justified, even if others don’t). Jack Staff is just this quirky enigma of a superhero.

Either that or I’m really missing something. (If it’s just supposed to be a loving tribute to some old British comic book characters then, well, shrug.)