- Countdown to Mystery #7 of 8, by Matthew Sturges, Chad Hardin, Dan Green, Walden Wong & Wayne Faucher, and Steve Gerber, Adam Beechen & Justiniano (DC)
- Metal Men #8 of 8, by Duncan Rouleau (DC)
- Avengers/Invaders #1 of 12, by Alex Ross, Jim Krueger & Steve Sadowski (Marvel)
- Nova #13, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Wellington Alves & Scott Hanna (Marvel)
- The Boys #18, by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson (Dynamite)
Comic books I bought the week of 3 October 2007.
- Countdown #30 of 52 (backwards), by Paul Dini, Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Keith Giffen & Jesus Saiz (DC)
- Metal Men #3 of 8, by Duncan Rouleau (DC)
- Welcome to Tranquility #11, by Gail Simone, Neil Googe & Irene Flores (DC/Wildstorm)
- Annihilation Book One TPB, by Keith Giffen & Mitch Breitweiser, Scott Kolins & Ariel Olivetti, and Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Kev Walker & Rick Magyar (Marvel)
- Ms. Marvel #20, by Brian Reed, Greg Toccini & Roland Paris (Marvel)
- Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus #2 of 5, by Mike Mignola & Jason Armstrong (Dark Horse)
- The Boys #7-10, by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson (Dynamite)
- Atomic Robo #1 of 6, by Brian Clevinger & Scott Wegener (Red 5)
- Modern Masters: Jerry Ordway TPB vol 13, edited by Eric Nolen-Weathington (TwoMorrows)
I feel like Metal Men is getting a little too byzantine for my enjoyment: It’s becoming harder to figure out what time period events are occurring in, and why they’re all part of the same story. There’s the present day, a few years ago, and then quite a few years ago back when Will Magnus was creating the Metal Men. Rouleau’s art is really neat, but I think the story’s structure is essentially reducing the characters to caricatures (Magnus’ final line in this issue – “you jerk!” – ring completely false for him). There’s still plenty of time left for everything to work out, but I wonder if Rouleau’s ambition has exceeded his writing talents here.
Having enjoyed the current Annihilation Conquest event at Marvel, I’m picking up the trades of the first Annihilation series. I haven’t finished this first one yet, but it sure does have terrific artwork. As with the current series, I like how Giffen and company have carved out this space in the Marvel Universe to play in so they can tall big, character-changing stories without needing to tie closely into the main Marvel continuity.
I think Ms. Marvel #20 is the last issue of this series I’ll be buying. There’s just been too much thrash and not enough progress. In many ways I think this series was just cursed by the Civil War, but it also feels like writer Brian Reed doesn’t have a firm idea of the direction the series is going in. After 20 issues, I feel like the story should have gotten somewhere, and it hasn’t. The last page suggests that it might be getting close, but only regarding one of its many story elements. The central theme of the series’ launch – that of Ms. Marvel trying to become one of the premier superheroes in her world – seems to have been lost along the way.
For an opposing opinion, here’s Aaron Glazier’s review at Comics Nexus. It’s like we’re reading different books: I hate how Machine Man is portrayed here, I find the characters weak and the storylines very muddy and directionless. I do agree that the art is quite good, but that’s not enough for me.
The Boys #7-10 comprises the third story arc in the series, and it’s a lot worse than the first two (which are in the collection I reviewed last week). It opens with Tek Knight, a superhero with a severe sexual dysfunction – but this one not only feels gratuitous (and not a little bit ridiculous), but it’s almost entirely irrelevant to the overall story. Here, Butcher and Hughie set out to find some justice for a young gay man who was found dead in the street some weeks previous, taking them on a short odyssey into the personal lives of several local heroes. That part of the story is actually rather good, and it throws some light on a particular dark facet of what superheroes might be pressured to do through their public image as do-gooders. But the Tek Knight elements are just superfluous. It’s like Ennis felt the story wouldn’t be shocking without the sexual deviancy, but even if less shocking, it would have been a much better story had it been shorted and focused to just the investigation of the presumed murder.
Atomic Robo is pretty neat: Early in the 20th century Nikola Tesla builds an atomic-powered sentient robot who (the book’s introductiont tells us) helps shape the rest of the century. This issue introduces the character in 1938, who at that time is not yet considered a free person, but basically the story is an adventure: He’s sent to the Himalayas to stop a Nazi plot. Although the dialogue is full of anachronisms, the book generally taps the same sense of fun and period adventure as Captain Gravity and some segments of Hellboy. Wegener’s art of reminiscent of Michael Avon Oeming’s at its best (Oeming did the cover of this first issue), although many panels are background-free. Overall it’s a fun issue, and there’s plenty of promise here, although there’s definitely a sense that this might just be a frivolous adventure yarn without a greater purpose. But that’s not the worst thing in the world.
(Why is it that I can enjoy a book, and yet lament that it doesn’t feel like something that will be cohesive in the long term, or have some ultimate direction or destination? Can’t I just enjoy it for what it is? Well, I can enjoy it, but it’s the books that deliver more than their basic narrative that end up sticking in my memory.)
Lastly, if you’re a fan of comic book art in general, I do recommend TwoMorrows’ Modern Masters series. These slim paperback volumes consist of extensive interviews with their respective creators, and a large collection of often-previously-unseen-or-rare artwork by those artists. So you learn a lot about the artist’s career and philosophy, and get to see a lot of art you might not have seen before. I’ve been cherry-picking the volumes of the artists I’m really interested in, which means I’ve picked up about half the volumes.
Comic books I bought the week of 1 August 2007.
- Countdown #39 of 52 (backwards), by Paul Dini, Sean McKeever, Jim Calafiore & Jay Leisten (DC)
- Justice Society of America #8, by Geoff Johns, Fernando Pasarin & Rodney Ramos (DC)
- Metal Men #1 of 8, by Duncan Rouleau (DC)
- Welcome to Tranqulity #9, by Gail Simone, Neil Googe, Leandro Fernandez & Francisco Paronzini (DC/Wildstorm)
- Ms. Marvel #18, by Brian Reed, Aaron Lopresti & Matt Ryan (Marvel)
- Thor #2, by J. Michael Stracyznki, Oliver Coipel & Mark Morales (Marvel)
- World War Hulk #3 of 5, by Greg Pak, John Romita Jr., & Klaus Janson (Marvel)
- Elephantmen: Wounded Animals HC, by Richard Starkings, Moritat, and others (Image)
Usually I find “special character spotlight” issues to be tedious: exposition and incidental adventure which mostly feels just-plain-obvious. But this month’s JSA is better-than-usual: Although nominally spotlighting Liberty Belle (the former Jesse Quick), it’s more interesting for its handling of Damage, one of the more tragic characters in recent memory, whose face is so badly scarred that he wears a mask like the original Atom’s to hide his appearance. After the predictable flashbacks to Belle’s early life, Damage confronts Zoom, a recent Flash villain who’s responsible for his disfigurement, in which we get to learn both something about both his character and Belle’s. Pretty good stuff.
Except for the cover. The Alex Ross “pose” covers got boring a long time ago.
So who exactly is Duncan Rouleau and where has he been hiding? I picked up Metal Men #1 because I liked his clean, dynamic artwork when I thumbed through it, but it’s an all-around fun comic: A mix of action and adventure (the Metal Men take on a nanotechnological menace), danger (then they’re confiscated by the government), drama (a flashback to Will Magnus first unveiling the Metal Men and what it meant to his career), and mystery (a familiar-looking figure apparently ready to wipe the Metal Men from the timestream). That’s a lot of stuff for a first issue, but it should be plenty to keep the series busy and enjoyable for 8 issues. If it delivers on even half its promise, then it should be lots of fun.
Oh, and Rouleau’s art is just as good as it looked at first glance.
Ms. Marvel introduces a couple of new superhumans to her S.H.I.E.L.D. unit, including the current revision of Machine Man who both (1) looks really boring, and (2) is a stuck-up, obnoxious prig. Which is really annoying since Machine Man’s hallmark has always been that inside he’s as human as any of us. He’s a lot like Brainiac 5 from the current Legion of Super-Heroes, except that Brainy’s always been a little annoying that way, while for Machine Man it goes completely against character. Gah, what a waste.
Thor #2 is mostly a lengthy sequence with Thor returning to Asgard (sort of), and talking with the locals in the middle of nowhere. Nothing happens, really. Didn’t I mention that Straczynski’s comic books drive me up the wall? Get on with the story already!
Man, World War Hulk sure is fun, and #3 has about four times as much story in it as I’d expect: Doctor Strange’s plan comes to fruition, the Hulk fights the US army, Hulk’s warbound comrades take down a while slew of Marvel heroes, and the last page promises some serious ass-kicking next issue. And there are still two issues left!
It takes a lot to make a big slugfest worth reading. Admittedly “Planet Hulk” tried a little too hard to give the Hulk’s fury a sense of righteousness, but plopping it on top of Civil War made it just effective enough.
(Comics Should Be Good thinks World War Hulk is the second part of a Hulk trilogy, which raises the question: What the heck would part three be?)
I have no idea what Elephantmen is going to be like. It’s gotten good word-of-mouth and the art style has always intrigued me in the previews. I wonder if I’ll miss a lot because I haven’t read the earlier Hip Flask material?