Lots of collections this week, of which I’d most highly recommend the new Sandman Mystery Theatre volume, a series which I’ve been thoroughly enjoying in reprint (having passed on it the first time around since I didn’t warm to the art at first – it got better) as a retro-noir-detective series. Hopefully DC is committed to getting the whole series out in trade.
- American Vampire #2, by Scott Snyder, Stephen King & Rafael Albuquerque (DC/Vertigo)
- The Brave and the Bold #33, by J. Michael Straczynski & Cliff Chiang (DC)
- Crisis on Multiple Earths vol 5 TPB, by Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin, George Pérez & Frank McLaughlin (DC)
- Green Lantern #53, by Geoff Johns, Doug Mahnke, Christian Alamy, Keith Champagne & Mark Irwin (DC)
- Power Girl #11, by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti & Amanda Conner (DC)
- Sandman Mystery Theatre: The Blackhawk and The Return of the Scarlet Ghost vol 8 TPB, by Matt Wagner, Steven T. Sagle, Guy Davis, Matthew Smith, Richard Case & Daniel Torres (DC)
- Guardians of the Galaxy #25, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Brad Walker & Andrew Hennessy (Marvel)
- Nova #36, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Andrea Divito (Marvel)
- Bloom County: The Complete Library vol 2 HC, by Berkeley Breathed (IDW)
- GrimJack: The Manx Cat TPB, by John Ostrander & Timothy Truman (IDW)
- Invincible Ultimate Collection vol 5 HC, by Robert Kirkman, Ryan Ottley, Jason Howard & Cliff Rathburn (Image)
American Vampire #2 is a big leap forward from #1, tying together its two stories – outlaw Skinner Sweet from the 19th century, and aspiring showgirl Pearl from 1925. Although it’s essentially the second half of the two characters’ origin stories, it’s much more satisfying than the first half, which didn’t even scratch the surface. It also lays out the direction of the series, that American vampires will be fundamentally different from European vampires, which will put the two groups into conflict but also mirror the growing influence of America in world affairs (or, so I infer). I hope there will be at least a bone tossed to explain why American vampires are different, rather than “just ‘cuz”, though.
I’m still not sure what I think of Rafael Albuquerque’s art, though I’ve warmed to it more since last issue. My biggest gripes about it are the exaggeration he gives to the vampires when their feral nature emerges, which makes little sense and isn’t dramatically effective (it’s more silly than anything else), which undercuts the two big splash panels in the issue.
But although the series is off to a shaky start, I’m much more optimistic that it will be worthwhile than I was after the first issue.
This issue of The Brave and the Bold actually made me mad. It starts out as a “girl’s night out” yarn in which Zatanna invites out Wonder Woman and Batgirl (the Barbara Gordon version) for a night of dancing, but with the hint of something ominous. That “something” soon becomes clear: Zatanna’s had a vision of Batgirl’s impending crippling at the hands of the Joker (from Batman: The Killing Joke) and she’s set this up as one nice last night while Batgirl is still ambulatory.
The story is manipulative and heavy-handed, overly sentimental, and about 20 years past its expiration date. As a lead-in to some new tragedy befalling a character it might have been okay, but done this way it’s just awful, twisting the knife (again and again and again, as comics are wont to do) by bringing up Gordon’s injury in full force yet again.
Everyone associated with this issue should be ashamed of themselves. This is crap.
Since it launched in the wake of Annihilation, Nova has been consistently one of Marvel’s best comics, despite struggling through one pointless event crossover comic (Secret Invasion) after another (War of Kings). In Annihilation Richard Ryder had grown up from a teenage hot-shot superhero to a first-tier leader who led the good guys to victory after the Nova Corps had been annihilated and he’d inherited their aggregate power. Nova continued his development, taking on increasingly larger threats while he worked to rebirth the Nova Corps. The journey was haphazard, but ultimately enjoyable. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning kept the focus on the main character, and the art was consistently strong, first with the always-great Sean Chen, and later with the solid Andrea Divito.
At the other end of the Spectrum, Guardians of the Galaxy followed a year later after Annihilation Conquest, and although it started off strong – tying in with the 30th-century Guardians and picking up the pieces scattered around after the two Annihilation series – it quickly fragmented, the Guardians never really seeming to have an officially-recognized place in the galaxy which undercut their effectiveness. The cast was too large and got pulled in too many directions – Moondragon died and came back, Phyla-Vell died and came back with entirely different powers, Warlock went through his predictable metamorphosis into the Magus – and the story was weighed down by too many unbelievably high-stakes events to ever be grounded in its characters or its setting. And the art ranged from quite good to pretty ugly. The series was just never satisfying.
And now both series are being cancelled ahead of a new event comic, The Thanos Imperative, which not only is a stupid-sounding title but heralds yet another return of Marvel’s second-string cosmic heavy (after Galactus). Unfortunately, I have little interest in reading yet another iteration of Jim Starlin’s prime baddie, so I think this is it for me and Marvel’s cosmic line. Keith Giffen and company did a great job getting things started back in Annihilation (still one of the best Marvel books of the last decade) and a 3-year run of spin-offs ain’t bad. But I think the train’s about to jump the rails.
I might sign on for another Nova series, if there is one, and if it’s not too weighed down by crossovers. But otherwise: Thanks guys, it’s been fun.