This Week’s Haul

Comic books I bought the week of 6 June 2007.

Once again, it’s last week’s haul this week. And once again, it’s a small one:

  • Countdown #47 of 52 (backwards), by Paul Dini, Sean McKeever, & Tom Derenick (DC)
  • Jack of Fables #11, by Bill Willingham, Matthew Sturges & Steve Leialoha (DC/Vertigo)
  • Welcome to Tranquility #7 by Gail Simone, Neil Googe & Stephen Molnar (DC/Wildstorm)
  • Ms. Marvel #16, by Brian Reed, Aaron Lopresti & Matt Ryan (Marvel)

The blogosphere has been abuzz about Countdown, and the trend doesn’t seem to be good. The Invincible Super-Blog hates it (my preciousssss…), while Living Between Wednesdays thinks it’s okay. Meanwhile, Comics Should Be Good quotes Jerry Ordway on the darkening of Mary Marvel; Ordway was the architect of SHAZAM!’s most recent successful revival, and he isn’t wild about what they’re doing (and I can certainly see his point). Lastly, Comix Experience observes that orders at their store for Countdown are plummeting quickly.

I’m pretty much with Rachelle at LBW: It’s entertaining, it’s not as good as 52. But then, we’re only 5 weeks in, and I don’t reall the first 5 weeks of 52 being any great shakes, either. (BTW, I’ve heard rumors that Countdown will lead into something called Final Crisis, which is alluded to in the current JLA/JSA team-up. But if you think I believe the word “Final” will actually play true, then I’ve got an abandoned satellite headquarters to sell you…)

This issue of Jack of Fables is my last. It hasn’t found the balance of characters and storylines that Fables did, and this issue shows just how thoroughly unlikeable Jack is as a character, and why he therefore can’t really carry the series. Which is unfortunate, since it’s his series. I gave it a good try, but it doesn’t work for me.

It’s slowly sinking in that Welcome to Tranquility reminds me of nothing so much as Alan Moore’s enjoyable run on Supreme from a decade or so back: The old super-heroes in the present day, the new generation, the occasional old-style flashbacks to previous adventures, and the hint of kitsch in the characters’ catch-phrases. A deliberate homage? Hard to say, since Moore’s approach to superheroes and their legacies is pervasive in modern comics, between Watchmen, Supreme and Tom Strong. Tranquility is a little weird since its characters are so mostly pretty far afield of the archetypes we’re used to (well, that I’m used to), so there’s no real sense of nostalgia but there’s a strong sense that there should be.

I’m not really sure what to make of the total package: There are things I like, and things I don’t, and the whole is strange and off-beat, but doesn’t feel fresh or entirely satisfying. Is Simone just nutty in a different way from your typical comics writer (and since your typical comics writer is a man, the answer is probably “yes, and that’s a good thing”), or is Tranquility just an experiment that doesn’t quite gel? Maybe both.

This Week’s Haul

Comic books I bought the week of 2 May 2007.

  • 52 #52 of 52 (DC)
  • Welcome to Tranquility #6, by Gail Simone & Neil Googe (DC/Wildstorm)
  • Ms. Marvel #15, by Brian Reed, Aaron Lopresti & Matt Ryan (Marvel)
  • Hellboy: Darkness Calls #1 of 6, by Mike Mignola & Duncan Fedrego (Dark Horse)

A light week this week.

52 finally wraps up. All-in-all I thought it was fun. I think the Elongated Man arc was the best, with that terrific conclusion illustrated by Darick Robertson. The Question and Booster Gold arcs were quite fun. The Black Adam arc wandered around but ended up being pretty good. The Steel arc as kind of pointless, but had a decent payoff issue. The Mystery in Space arc was completely, utterly pointless – why did they even bother with it? Overall it was decent light entertainment, enough so that I’m going to head on into Countdown, which starts next week.

Brian Hibbs writes a good analysis of 52, although I think he’s a little harsh on it. Yes, the series’ focus clearly changed from its original direction, but it did so mainly to focus on the stories it was really telling, so it could do them justice. While not all the stories succeeded, I don’t think they would have fared nearly so well had it stuck to its original mandate of showing how the DC Universe changed in the year following Infinite Crisis. Choosing a framework that results in better stories is rarely a bad thing.

Welcome to Tranquility wraps up its first story this month. Greg Burgas wrote an excellent analysis of the story (with spoilers), although I think he enjoyed it more than I did, as I think there are too many characters to feel like I have a good handle on any of them yet, and therefore it’s hard to care about any of them. And, as I’ve said, I’m not a big fan of Googe’s art. That said, it’s quirky and fun enough to keep buying it and see if it improves.

By the way, Free Comic Book Day is this Saturday. I’ll be going to the sale at my regular store, Comics Conspiracy.

(I’m also ridiculously eager to play the new Magic: The Gathering expansion, Future Sight, which comes out tomorrow. But now I’ve wandered away from comics and into gaming, so it’s probably time to go to bed.)

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