This Week’s Haul

Comic books I bought the week of 6 September 2007.

  • Countdown #34 of 52 (backwards), by Paul Dini, Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Keith Giffen & Jesus Saiz (DC)
  • Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes: Dominator War TPB vol 5, by Mark Waid, Tony Bedard, Barry Kitson & Kevin Sharpe (DC)
  • Metal Men #2 of 8, by Duncan Rouleau (DC)
  • Armageddon Conquest: Wraith #3 of 4, by Javier Grillo-Marxuach & Kyle Holz (Marvel)
  • Ms. Marvel #19, by Brian Reed, Aaron Lopresti & Matt Ryan (Marvel)
  • The Incredible Hulk #110, by Grek Pak, Carlo Pagulayan & Jeffrey Huet (Marvel)
  • Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus #1 of 5, by Mike Mignola & Jason Armstrong (Dark Horse)

Weirdly, Saiz & Palmiotti’s art on this week’s Countdown seems very reminiscent of Kevin Nowlan’s art, or maybe Nowlan over Brian Bolland. Not that this is a bad thing, but it’s always weird when art so closely resembles the style of another creator that I have to check the credits to see whether he’s the one who really drew it.

The Incredible Hulk #110The Incredible Hulk is tying into the World War Hulk storyline by focusing on Amadeus Cho, the seventh-smartest person in the world, who is also a teenager who believes in the Hulk. This week’s issue cuts to the core of Cho’s belief in the Hulk, despite the Hulk’s past as a rampaging beast and his current stated desire to kill the heroes who sent him into space. It’s a little hard to swallow, although it does suggest an ability that the Hulk’s had all along which seems to explain his behavior at times over the years. It’s the sort of thing that could open up some new avenues in the Hulk’s character, but I bet it will mostly fall by the wayside. I also wonder if Pak has written himself into a corner so that he won’t be able to resolve World War Hulk in any satisfying manner. Which would be a shame.

Pak does a terrific job of writing Cho, who’s always a couple of steps (or more) ahead of everyone else, who’s insightful as well as clever, and who’s a lively and sympathetic character. I’m still just a little suspicious that he’s not quite as selfless as he’s portrayed, but I’d certainly be pleased if he were. (He sure beats J. Michael Straczynski’s characterization of Reed Richards all hollow.)

I haven’t been following the other World ar Hulk tie-ins, just this and the main series, but really I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. These two series are opposite sides of the same coin, complementing each other nicely. It’s tough to write a tie-in when the book’s main character is the star of the main series, but after an awkward start Pak’s really made it all come together.

Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus #1Lobster Johnson is Mike Mignola’s latest mini-series in his Hellboy universe: LJ is a pulp-style hero working in 1937, and The Iron Prometheus concerns his efforts to protect a man in a powerful electric suit from the evil ambitions of (of course) Nazis. Chris Sims picks it as his best of the week, but I was less impressed.

Although still enjoyable, these days Mignola’s books seem like a shadow of what they were back in the early Hellboy days. Mignola rarely draws anymore, although some of the artists he does employ do a good job of aping his style, as Jason Armstrong does here. I realize Mignola isn’t a very fast artist (when was the last time he draw a monthly ongoing book? Alpha Flight in the late 1980s?) and this is therefore his way to tell more stories on a semi-regular schedule, but these days he’s not even drawing the Hellboy: Darkness Calls mini-series. Still, at least he knows the trick of hiring good artists when he’s not doing the chores himself.

More serious, though, is the increasingly repetitive feeling I get from the stories: None of them really feel “special” anymore, and each one feels less distinctive than the last. Moreover, neither the Hellboy nor the B.P.R.D. series seem to be going anywhere. It seems like both have lost the heart of he early Hellboy series, and Lobster Johnson feels like more of the same.

I think the problem is this: Hellboy is the heart and soul of Mignola’s stuff – everyone else is too ethereal or too mysterious or too self-doubting or just too damned creepy to get behind as a character, while the beauty of Hellboy is that he’s this giant devil-thing with a stone hand who basically just wants to go kick some alien ass to make the world safe for freedom and apple pie. (The only character who could really equal Hellboy was Roger the Homunculous, who shuffled off the series’ immortal coil a while ago, alas.) In his own series Hellboy’s turned into a character who’s just being pushed around by various godlike figures, and no one else can fill the void in the other books.

Lobster Johnson falls into the “too ethereal” category, a ghostlike figure who comes and goes and speaks mysteriously, and occasionally fights a giant gorilla. I have little doubt that this will be an enjoyable series, but also that a year from now it will feel liks just one more cog in the giant Hellboy machine, and that someday I’ll look at the stack of cogs sitting on my bookshelf and wonder when the payoff to it all is coming.