This Week’s Haul

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)

Metal Men #3I 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.

Ms. Marvel #20I 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 #10The 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 #1Atomic 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.

3 thoughts on “This Week’s Haul”

  1. “it doesn’t feel like something that will be cohesive in the long term, or have some ultimate direction or destination”

    Perfectly understandable. The first 6-issue mini doesn’t do much to dissuade the notion that it is a series of “frivolous adventure yarns”. We intended it is a grab bag for readers to get a feel for Robo and his place in the world. That said, there is nothing that happens for no reason either. We have a timeline that dates back to the 19th century. It’s all interconnected. Our hope is that people will enjoy Robo enough to allow us to keep publishing issues so that the bigger picture will be revealed — both to the reader and to Robo.

  2. I’m having a hard time organizing my thoughts in response to your comment, Brian, so I’ll just write what’s in my head and hope it makes sense:

    First of all, it worries me when any new series doesn’t put its “best foot forward” out of the gate, by which I mean the terrific, no-holds-barred story which makes people feel that they must read this comic. This is especially true of a book which has a rich backdrop which needs time to unfold and be revealed. I’ve been reading comics long enough to know that despite the best intentions of the most capable and professional creators, many series just don’t sell well enough to keep going. So it’s worrisome that Robo’s first series is apparently going to be a sampler, since that doesn’t seem to be putting his best foot forward. Contrast with Hellboy, in which his first series, Seed of Destruction, was that knock-it-out-of-the-park yarn, and his backstory mostly got filled in later.

    (On the other hand, for all I know you already know for sure that you’ll be doing another series or two no matter how this one sells, in which case this concern doesn’t apply.)

    I’m of two minds about the “it’s all interconnected” aspect of the book. On the one hand, I do prefer books with a cohesive world and a storyline that’s building towards something (a.k.a. “going somewhere”), rather than a bunch of standalone stories which are basically independent of each other. On the other hand, it’s frustrating when a limited series comes out and moves the story along a little bit, but doesn’t really resolve things (or worse, seems to keep stringing us along forever). To go back to Hellboy, the latter characterizes both the current Hellboy and B.P.R.D. series – there’s motion, but little apparent progress, in that I have no idea if we’re getting closer to the end of the larger story.

    All of which means that my hope for Robo is that this first series will tell a complete story, rather than be the beginning of some larger story or be six unrelated stories. (It might also be the beginning of a larger story, of course.) Admittedly this is something of a balancing act. I think the best example of a successful use of this approach is Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, although it wasn’t released as a series of mini-series.

    To turn my criticism on myself, it’s not entirely fair to review a mini-series based on the first issue, since there are still five yet to come, and certainly everything could change in that time. In my defense, I’m expressing my first impressions of the series based on all I’ve got to go on at the moment, which is one of the pitfalls of serial publication in the first place. As both creators and readers, we’re both somewhat at the mercy of the industry format, I’m afraid.

    Anyway, one other positive thing: I was much amused by Robo’s handling of the guards he encounters in the story. I think that sort of humor, as much as anything, made me feel that I want to see how this first series, at least plays out.

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