This Week’s Haul

  • Fables: The Good Prince vol 10 TPB, by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Aaron Alexovich & Andrew Pepoy (DC/Vertigo)
  • Justice Society of America #16, by Geoff Johns, Alex Ross, Fernando Pasarin & Rebecca Buchman (DC)
  • Tom Strong vol 6 TPB, by Alan Moore, Chris Sprouse, Michael Moorcock, Jerry Ordway, Joe Casey, Ben Oliver, Steve Moore, Paul Gulacy, Jimmy Palmiotti, Peter Hogan & Karl Story (DC/America’s Best)
  • Avengers/Invaders #2 of 12, by Alex Ross, Jim Krueger & Steve Sadowski (Marvel)
  • Nova #14, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Wellington Alves & Scott Hanna (Marvel)
  • The Boys #19, by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson (Dynamite)
  • Star Trek: Assignment Earth #2 of 12, by John Byrne (IDW)
Tom Strong vol 6 Tom Strong was one of the flagship titles of Alan Moore’s America’s Best Comics imprint. It was basically a mash-up of Doc Savage and other adventure heroes, with Tom having been born in the late 19th century, come of age in a high-pressure chamber which made him immensely strong, and lived for over a century thanks to a rare herb from the island on which he grew up. He became the protector of Millennium City and the adversary of the villainous Paul Saveen. It’s far from Moore’s best stuff, but it was often quite entertaining, and was amply supported by terrific art by the too-rarely-seen Chris Sprouse.

The sixth trade paperback collection completes the set, but the series really limped to a halt (mainly because I think Moore cut back on his work once the imprint was bought by DC Comics). This volume includes a lavishly-illustrated but trivial pirate story by Michael Moorcock and Jerry Ordway, and a few episodes which tie up some loose ends for some of the characters. This culminates in the final issue, in which everything gets tied up by Moore in a close encounter with the afterlife courtesy of one of the other ABC characters, Promethea.

So the volume practically screams “for completists only”, and in a way that’s what Tom Strong was on the whole: If you like this sort of thing, then this is the sort of thing that you’ll like. It was less ambitious than either Promethea or Top 10, and never really went anywhere. Just Moore playing around, really. There’s some very good stuff in the series, but more than anything else in the ABC line-up, it seemed to underscore that Moore has long since peaked as a writer and is pretty firmly on the back end of his career at this point.

Star Trek: Assignment: Earth #2.jpg This month’s Assignment: Earth is simply a “shadow history” taking place within the Star Trek episode “Tomorrow is Yesterday”, which takes place two years after “Assignment: Earth” to Gary Seven and Roberta Lincoln, but before that episode to the crew of the Enterprise. It’s a cute idea, albeit not very original, but unfortunately it doesn’t reveal anything about the main characters, or anything about the TV episode, since Kirk and company pretty much covered all their bases at the time. So unfortunately there turned out to be no point except to play around with story structure. I’d rather have had a brand new story which moved the characters of Seven and Roberta forward; this issue felt like empty calories.

(Oh, and the scene on the cover never appears in the issue, which makes it feel like a bait-and-switch!)

Comics I Didn’t Buy This Week:

  • Manhunter #31, by Marc Andreyko & Michael Gaydos (DC)
  • Trinity #1 of 52, by Kurt Busiek, Mark Bagley & Art Thibert (DC)
Manhunter #31 Having read and enjoyed the trade paperback collections of the first 30 issues of Manhunter, I’d sort of assumed that I’d keep buying the regular series when it “relaunched” this year with #31. However, that was before I learned that the artist would be Michael Gaydos, who had drawn Alias over at Marvel. His dark renderings, unexpressive and often indistinct faces and generally gloomy approach made that book a real chore to read, and I bailed on the series after the first arc, mainly for that reason. Thumbing through Manhunter #31 it doesn’t look like his art’s changed much. Although I’d like to support the book, I just really don’t like the artwork, so I passed on it.
Trinity #1 Trinity is DC’s new weekly title, following on the heels of 52 and Countdown to Final Crisis. This one, though, seems unrelated to any corporate events, and is written by the reliable Kurt Busiek. Nonetheless, I decided not to pick it up. Partly I feel too burned by Countdown, but mainly I’m just not that interested in a book about DC’s “big three”, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. I find Superman occasionally interesting, but Batman has rarely interested me since The Dark Knight Returns turned him down the road of being a psychopath, and Wonder Woman rarely interests me. So instead I’ll wait ’til Busiek gets to the next arc of Astro City to get my fix of his writing.

This Week’s Haul

  • The Brave and the Bold #13, by Mark Waid, Jerry Ordway, Scott Koblish & Bob McLeod (DC)
  • Countdown to Mystery #8 of 8, by Matthew Sturges, Chad Hardin & Robert Campanella, and Adam Beechen & Stephen Jorge Segovia, and Mark Evanier, Joe Bennett & Belardino Brabo, and Mark Waid, Michael O’Hare & John Floyd, and Gail Simone, Chad Hardin & Walden Wong (DC)
  • Justice Society of America #15, by Geoff Johns, Alex Ross, Dale Eaglesham & Prentis Rollins (DC)
  • Tangent: Superman’s Reign #3 of 12, by Dan Jurgens, Jamal Ingle & Robin Riggs (DC)
  • Echo #3, by Terry Moore (Abstract Studios)
  • The End League #3, by Rick Remender, Mat Broome & Sean Parsons (Dark Horse)
  • Grendel: Devil Quest HC, by Matt Wagner (Dark Horse)
  • Star Trek: Assignment: Earth #1 of 12, by John Byrne (IDW)
  • The Perhapanauts #2, by Todd Dezago & Craig Rousseau (Image)
Countdown to Mystery #8 We’ll probably never know what Steve Gerber had in mind for the conclusion to his Doctor Fate story in Countdown to Mystery before he died. Four 4-page entries written by four different writers probably wasn’t it, and consequently the story comes to a rather abrupt end (several of them) with none of the delicacy it really required, as Gerber was always walking on the knife-edge of making the thing work anyway. Of the four, Mark Evanier’s version feels most true to Gerber’s style, while Gail Simone’s feels the least. But all of them are too short, too simplistic. Gerber’s writing has always (well, that I’ve seen) had a strong psychological component, not only having quirky characters but exploring what their quirks mean and where they come from. Although this facet of his work was often the most uneven part, it’s also a tack that few other comics writers ever take, and unfortunately what there is of that facet in these four endings tends to be far more heavy-handed than Gerber would have used.

It’s not really anybody’s fault, and I appreciate that DC and the four writers wanted to pay a little tribute to Gerber, but I think the story and the readers would have been better served to have picked one ending and done that one the best they could. Ah well.

The other half of the comics, the Eclipso yarn, ended up being slightly more meaningful than I’d expected, comparing the similarities between Eclipso and the Spectre. The thing was still pretty superfluous, though, as nearly everything tied in to Countdown to Final Crisis has been. Just think: If DC had gone with Plan A and just done a Doctor Fate mini-series (which they had solicited and then cancelled), we could have avoided this whole Eclipso rubbish and Gerber might have been able to finish the story in his lifetime. Sheesh.

Echo #3 Things really pick up in the third issue of Echo, which encourages me enormously: We find out something about
‘s family, and why her husband is divorcing her. We find out something about the metal suit that’s partially grafted itself onto her body. And there’s an odd scene at the end which I expect will be explained in the coming months. Suddenly this is feeling like a much less generic indy comic. Which is good.
Grendel: Devil Quest HC Matt Wagner’s Grendel series is one of my favorites. It didn’t start out that way, though, as its first volume, Devil by the Deed concerned a crime lord named Hunter Rose. Wagner has revisited the Rose character from time to time, but I’ve pretty much given up on those, as it’s the least interesting slice of the Grendel story. Much more interesting are the stories which concern how Grendel – a spirit of aggression – affects the history of Earth over the next few hundred years, expanding from profoundly affecting a few influential individuals, to eventually helping to craft a global empire under the rule of Emperor Orion Assante several hundred years from now.

This volume, Devil Quest, takes place several generations after the excellent War Child story – which is about Orion’s son, Jupiter – concerning several interested parties trying to locate the Grendel cyborg who had helped Jupiter establish his own rule after his father died. The cyborg Grendel-Prime is on his own mission trying to strengthen the Empire, too, and his quest leads directly into the second half of the Batman/Grendel volume (the better half, as the first half involves Hunter Rose meeting Batman).

Written and drawn by Wagner, the art is superb. The story is eccentric and sometimes violently brutal, which I think is intentional; Wagner was trying to shock and push the envelope a little. Unfortunately it also comes to an ending which feels unfinished – even with the Batman story factored in – which makes it a disappointing read in total. Though the trip to get there is quite interesting.

Anyway, I did enjoy it enough to pick up this new hardcover collection. But your mileage may vary. I keep waiting for Wagner to do another Grendel sequence carrying the future history beyond this volume, but it seems like Wagner’s done as much as he plans to with the tale and he’s otherwise just poking around in the side corridors of the earlier stories, which doesn’t interest me as much. Alas.

Star Trek: Assignment: Earth #1 “Assignment: Earth” was an episode of the original Star Trek series which was intended as a pilot for a new TV series. The series didn’t sell, which isn’t surprising because it was a pretty wan, unimaginative episode. Nonetheless, IDW’s current renaissance of Star Trek comic books has resulted in a series based on the episode, written and drawn by John Byrne! As he’s done elsewhere, Byrne is using an unorthodox storytelling technique of having each issue take place a year later than the first one. Although not everything Byrne does works for me, I do usually enjoy his stories which are structurally adventurous like this, so I was moved to buy it.

It’s not bad, although it doesn’t go much past the TV episode. But then, it’s basically trying to lay the groundwork for the overall arc, which will I guess run through about 1980. He obviously has a lot of fun writing Roberta Lincoln (the Teri Garr role), as well as drawing Gary Seven (the Robert Lansing role) whose character he expands a little bit here. So it’s a decent start, and I’m curious to see where Byrne goes with it.

Kirk, You Ignorant…

Today I had coffee with Subrata, Cliff and Whump and as we usually do we were geeking out about various things. The conversation turned to the Mirror Universe two-parter toward the end of Enterprise, “In A Mirror, Darkly”, which Cliff hadn’t seen. So I described the premise, and eventually got to mentioning my favorite part:

“And we get to see Scott Bakula in Kirk’s slut uniform!”

A great thing about my friends is that they all know exactly which outfit I mean when I say that.

Scalzi: Star Wars Not Entertainment

Not that he needs any referrals from me, but John Scalzi’s post “The Lie of Star Wars as Entertainment” is both funny and insightful.

(Scalzi, for the both of my readers who don’t know, is a prince of a man and also one of the world’s elite kitten-jugglers, er, I mean, one of the most popular bloggers on the Web.)

I think he goes a little over the top in criticizing the original trilogy (Star Wars, Empire and Jedi), though he does allow that people other than George Lucas worked to make it entertaining. But my understanding is that Lucas didn’t get on his myth-making kick until after the original Star Wars came out. (I thought the original trilogy was solidly entertaining until they rescued Han Solo in Jedi, at which point it took a bizarre left turn into la-la land.)

Another point to spin out of Scalzi’s post is…

…those of you who know me can see this coming, right?…

…you can level almost identical charges against Star Trek: The Next Generation, which was primarily concerned with stroking the asinine Trek mythology about a bright, shiny, happy future for humanity, and which shoved aside (with great force) all of the conflict and character drama which made the original Star Trek good entertainment. Like Star Wars Eps 1-3, NextGen is largely bland and tedious, because it’s fundamentally unconcerned with entertaining the viewer.