This Week’s Haul

Hey, it’s my 150th comic book haul entry!

  • Booster Gold #24, by Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund (DC)
  • Green Lantern Corps #40, by Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Rebecca Buchman, Tom Nguyen & Prentis Rollins (DC)
  • Secret Six #13, by Gail Simone, Nicola Scott & Doug Hazlewood (DC)
  • The Unwritten #5, by Mike Carey & Peter Gross (DC/Vertigo)
  • Wednesday Comics #10 of 12, by many hands (DC)
  • The Incredible Hercules #134, by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, Reilly Brown & Nelson DeCastro (Marvel)
  • The Marvels Project #2 of 8, by Ed Brubaker & Steve Epting (Marvel)
  • B.P.R.D.: 1947 #3 of 5, by Mike Mignola, Joshua Dysart & Gabriel Bá (Dark Horse)
  • Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #6 of 8, by Mike Mignola & Duncan Fegredo (Dark Horse)
  • The Life and Times of Savior 28 #5 of 5, by J.M. DeMatteis & Mike Cavallaro (IDW)
The Unwritten #5 An interesting twist to The Unwritten this month: Rather than starting a new story (the first one having ended on something of a double cliffhanger) with Tom Taylor, instead we’re presented the shadow history of Rudyard Kipling, who seems to have sold a bit of his soul for his successful fiction and poetry, but eventually turned against the people he bargained with, and they brought him low for it.

If this sounds like a dark twist on the bargain Shakespeare made with Morpheus in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, well, other folks have noticed this too, only in this case the bargain seems to be with a secret cabal – who may or may not be human – who are using fiction and writers thereof for their own purposes. So there’s more to this secret history than Kipling’s story, he’s just how we’re getting our first direct exposure to it. Tom Taylor’s father clearly knew something of them as well, so I expect we – and Tom – will be learning more about them in the months to come.

Peter Gross does some excellent work with his period art for this issue, less cartoony than his usual style, which is a good thing.

Wednesday Comics #10 My old bud Jason Sacks (whom I know from my APAhacking days) wrote a thoughtful piece about the different creators in Wednesday Comics, with particular attention to Paul Pope on Strange Adventures. There’s a lot he says that I don’t agree with (the statement “We can’t expect an auteur approach from Busiek” I think shows a fundamental misunderstanding of Busiek’s career; and as I’ve said before I find Ben Caldwell’s Wonder Woman strip to be truly terrible, making the least out of the series’ format), but it’s still an article well worth reading.

(By the by, the “Unhand me, you pink furless thing!” panel Jason lauds in Pope’s page this week looks like a direct homage to the famous Charlton Heston line in Planet of the Apes. And inasmuch as Pope has taken Adam Strange back to his roots as a twist on the John Carter of Mars premise, I think Pope’s showing his influences rather clearly rather than being a straightforward auteur as Jason sees him.)

Deadman reaches its climax this week, but it’s something of a routine thing (“That’s it?”). On the other hand, Green Lantern and Metamorpho are both aiming for their climaxes next week, and they do so in different ways, with a darkest-before-the-dawn moment in Metamorpho, while GL defines the dawn through sheer bravado. And Karl Kerschl draws a gorgeous Flash page this week (which Jason reprints in his aforelinked article), though the story has fragmented a bit and I hope he can pull it together into a big finish.

And as for Pope’s Strange Adventures, well, it also reaches its climax this week, and it’s a rather clever one. I almost lament that Pope wasn’t given a larger canvas (in number of pages, not page size) to play out the ideas he’s presented here, as it’s perhaps the most interesting take on Adam Strange in decades. With two pages left to go for the denouement, I’m curious as to what other gems Pope can present in this milieu.

The Life and Times of Savior 28 #5 I nearly stopped buying The Life and Times of Savior 28 after last issue, but #4 was just interesting enough to make me buy another issue. I guess that’s a good thing, as it turns out it was a 5-issue mini-series, which I didn’t realize; I’d thought it was going to be a longer-form, ongoing series, and that this was still essentially the prologue.

I’ve never been a big fan of J.M. DeMatteis’ writing, as it tends toward the portentious while being simultaneously quite shallow. Savior 28 meets both of these criteria, being a retrospective of a Superman-like figure who strode unevenly through the 20th century before being killed by his former protege, just when he was trying his best to unify the world peacefully. Savior 28 was a sometime-drunk, once had a nervous breakdown, never quite left the ideals he fought for in World War II behind, and thus seemed utterly obsolete and ineffective – despite his great powers – in the 21st century. All of this is presented without any subtlety at all, right down to his uplifting speech to the United Nations being cynically dismissed by the world at large. Realistic? Perhaps, but it’s as unmoving a portrayal of superheroes brought low by real-world concerns as any I can recall, made all the less effective by the larger-than-life, Kirbyesque art of Mike Cavallaro, which seems appropriate to this story only in that it’s as unsubtle as the writing.

While I can see what DeMatteis was going for here, I think it ended up as a simple hodge-podge of ideas, with heavy-handed presentation right down to the series’ grace note on its last two pages. This territory has been worked much better in series like Astro City (with the Silver Agent storyline), Kingdom Come, or even the largely-forgotten Doctor Tomorrow from Acclaim Comics. If this had been merely the set-up for a longer form story, then there could have been some promise here, but as it turned out Savior 28 was a pretty simple, and not very fun or insightful, series.

Greg Burgas liked it, though, as did Rich Johnston.

This Week’s Haul

Not only did I somehow miss Iron Fist #22, but I still haven’t found the first two issues of Legend of the Blue Marvel. Still, a pretty big week:

  • Booster Gold #18, by Dan Jurgens & Norm Rapmund (DC)
  • Ex Machina Special #4, by Brian K. Vaughan & John Paul Leon (DC/Wildstorm)
  • Fables #82, by Bill Willingham & David Hahn (DC/Vertigo)
  • Sandman Mystery Theatre: The Mist and The Phantom of the Fair vol 7 TPB, by Matt Wagner, Steven T. Sagle & Guy Davis (DC/Vertigo)
  • Top 10 Season Two #4, by Zander Cannon & Gene Ha (DC/Wildstorm)
  • Adam: Legend of the Blue Marvel #5 of 5, by Kevin Grevioux, Mat Broome, Roberto Castro, Sean Parsons, Álvaro López & Lorenzo Ruggiero (Marvel)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy #11, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Wes Craig (Marvel)
  • The Immortal Iron Fist #23, by Duane Swierczynski, Travel Foreman, Tonci Zonjic, Timothy Green II, Tom Palmer & Mark Pennington (Marvel)
  • B.P.R.D.: The Black Goddess #3 of 5, by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Guy Davis (Dark Horse)
  • The Life and Times of Savior 28 #1 of 6, by J.M. DeMatteis & Mike Cavallaro (IDW)
Sandman Mystery Theatre vol 7: The Mist and The Phantom of the Fair The latest collection of Sandman Mystery Theatre features a lot of fun little bits for fans of Golden Age DC characters. “The Mist” involves a threat by the villain of the same name, but before he became the crime lord we’re familiar with; it also guest-stars Ted Knight, before he became Starman, when he was one of several scientists competing in a contest for government funding. Then “The Phantom of the Fair” has an appearance by the Crimson Avenger, and mention of Hourman and the Flash. Sandman at one point remarks with a little awe that he’s no longer the only masked man trying to bring justice to the pre-World War II American cities. It’s an effective touch reminding us that the world of 1939 is changing in more than one way in the DC Universe.

(“The Mist” is also referred to in the story “Sand and Stars” in James Robinson’s Starman series. It’s my favorite story of that series, and was recently reprinted, so it was neat to see where one element of that story came from, here.)

The stories are effective thrillers, as usual, drawing more from the inspiration of the pulps for their adventure and the British mystery novels for their character. They’re more adventure yarns than mysteries, though, which is occasionally disappointing, as if they’re not quite reaching their full potential. Still, it’s good stuff. Just be braced for some brutal scenes, especially in “The Phantom of The Fair”, in which a disturbed killer mutilates his victims – all homosexual men – before dumping them on the World’s Fair ground.

The stories also spend a considerable amount of time chronicling Wes’ relationship with Dian Belmont. Here Dian is fully aware of Wes’ extracurricular activities, and supports them and even helps him, but she’s still a little jealous that the Sandman has such a hold on him.

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying these collections of this series from the 1990s as they’ve been published this decade, having only read the first few issues when they came out. Fans of noir thrillers should enjoy them, too.

The Life and Times of Savior 28 #1 The Life and Times of Savior 28 is the latest superhero comic by J.M. DeMatteis, who’s been working the genre for over 30 years, with a fair amount of acclaim. Myself, I tend to find his stories overly wordy and expositive, with complicated set-ups and characters whose behavior and emotions never seem to quite ring true to me. I think my favorite thing of his is his abortive series Abadazad, but even it I thought had the same general flaws as the rest of his work.

In this series, Savior 28 is a hero who emerged just prior to World War II (don’t they all?) as part of some government experiments. The 28th subject, only one other survived – Savior 13, who became a twisted, evil, Bizarro-like figure. Both men lived through the 20th century until Savior 13 was finally killed. Some years later, having turned over a new leaf following the destruction of the World Trade Towers, Savior 28 is himself assassinated. The story of his life is narrated by his former sidekick, who like his mentor is long-lived, and the first issue ends with a surprising twist.

The story covers familiar ground, so I presume this issue is mainly set-up. The notion of an iconic superhero from the dawn of superheroes living to the present day and facing his end is hardly new (to pick one extremely obscure series which I enjoyed, there’s Magna-Man: The Last Super-Hero). That Savior 28 is more flawed than most such Superman analogues makes it a little stranger, but not (so far) very different. The issue follows the patterns of DeMatteis’ writing I described above: A complex set-up with a lot of exposition, but not a lot that resonates emotionally. I’m curious about where it’s going, but the first issue didn’t exactly work up my enthusiasm.

Mike Cavallaro’s art is okay. The anatomy often seems a little off. It’s very evocative of Jack Kirby, although like most art evoking Kirby it gets the trappings right but the soul of Kirby isn’t there. It’s not quite my sort of thing.

Greg Burgas (at Comics Should Be Good) is more of a DeMatteis fan than I am, and he likes the book a little better than I do. Marc-Oliver Frisch (at Comiks Debris) has an opinion similar to mine, although he enjoys DeMatteis’ work generally more than I do.