This Week’s Haul

A.K.A., last week’s haul, desperately late.

I thumbed through Marvel’s The Siege in the store and decided – as I do for nearly every Marvel event comic – to skip it. Chad Nevitt at Comics Should Be Good sums it up pretty well: The “Dark Avengers” (villains acting as the Avengers since the real Avengers have been ousted by the powers that be) attack Thor and Asgard. My fundamental problem with Marvel’s events – and the way their comics have gone generally in recent years – is that the heroes aren’t very heroic. J. Michael Straczynski’s Thor was bland and dull, and having a bunch of villains attack a group of gods who really aren’t very heroic themselves is just not interesting to me. Sure, I like Thor a lot better than I like the villains, so I’d prefer him to “win”, but I don’t care enough to get engaged with the story.

  • Suicide Squad #67, by Gail Simone, John Ostrander & Jim Calafiore (DC)
  • Echo #18, by Terry Moore (Abstract)
  • B.P.R.D.: King of Fear #1 of 5, by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi & Guy Davis (Dark Horse)
  • Gigantic #5 of 5, by Rick Remender & Eric Nguyen (Dark Horse)
  • The Boys #38, by Garth Ennis & Darick Robertson (Dynamite)
Suicide Squad #67 Part of DC’s Blackest Night event involves resurrecting some cancelled comics series of years past for one more issue. One of the more unusual comics of the late 80s/early 90s was John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad, which Gail Simone’s Secret Six bears some resemblance to: The Squad were villains who were recruited for high-risk government-sanctioned missions, with the promise of a pardon afterwards. The Six are a small organization of criminals. The Six are sort of the darker version of the Squad.

So in this one-issue revival of Suicide Squad, there’s a little of the usual rigamarole regarding dead Squad members being revived as black lanterns, but mainly it’s about Amanda Waller of the Squad deciding she needs Deadshot for a mission, and staging a trap for the Six to both put them out of business and capture Deadshot to force him to rejoin. It’s a good set-up for the next Secret Six story arc, and Ostrander and Simone co-write it. It ought to be good, as long as the black lanterns don’t play too big a role.

Gigantic #5 Rick Remender and Eric Nguyen’s Gigantic comes to an end, the last issue being extremely late (issue #4 came out last May), and unfortunately it wasn’t worth the wait. The trappings are those of big monsters smashing each other, but the story itself is rather depressing, and the upbeat ending in this issue not only doesn’t really put a brave face on the earlier events, but it feels very out-of-place next to the rest of the story. Greg Burgas found it disappointing, too, and he touches on some of the series’ other flaws: The lead character is unsympathetic, the story is hard to follow despite not being very complicated.

Nguyen’s art doesn’t work for me at all: It’s too sketchy, which doesn’t do justice to the designs of the characters. I didn’t care for it in Sandman Mystery Theatre a few years ago, either.

For a similar premise – a young man leaves with aliens, and comes back years later to find he can’t go home again – I’d recommend Dan Vado’s graphic novel The Griffin instead. It has its flaws too, but the story is far more satisfying than Gigantic.

This Week’s Haul

  • Green Lantern #38, by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis & Oclair Albert (DC)
  • Justice Society of America #24, by Geoff Johns, Jerry Ordway & Bob Wiacek (DC)
  • Madame Xanadu #8, by Matt Wagner, Amy Reeder Hadley & Richard Friend (DC/Vertigo)
  • The Starman Omnibus vol 2 of 6 HC, by James Robins, Tony Harris, Wade Von Grawbadger, Craig Hamilton, John Watkiss, Steve Yeowell & others (DC)
  • The Incredible Hercules #125 & 126, by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, Salva Espin, Clayton Henry, Rodney Buchemi, Greg Adams & Takeshi Miyazawa (Marvel)
  • Marvels: Eye of the Camera #4 of 6, by Kurt Busiek & Jay Anacleto (Marvel)
  • Nova #22, by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Andrea Divito (Marvel)
  • Gigantic #3 of 5, by Rick Remender & Eric Nguyen (Dark Horse)
  • Mister X: Condemned #3 of 4, by Dean Motter (Dark Horse)
  • The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #4 of 6, by Gerard Way & Gabriel Bá (Dark Horse)
  • The Complete Peanuts: 1971-1972, by Charles M. Schultz (Fantagraphics)
Starman Omnibus vol 2 Man do I ever appreciate DC publishing James Robinson’s Starman in this nice hardcover omnibus series. Not only does it collect some issues which weren’t in the trade paperbacks, but it collects some odds-and-ends stories from other titles which I’ve never read at all! There are two Shade stories here which I’d never read before, one of which is actually relevant to later events in the series.

This particular volume has both one of my least-favorite stories in the series (Jack Knight and the Shade face a demon on the other side of a magical painting), but it also contains my hands-down favorite story, in which Jack meets Wes Dodds, the original Sandman – now a man in his 80s – and they investigate a series of murders. The story is sort of a sequel to Matt Wagner’s Sandman Mystery Theatre, and explores the relationships that heroes have to one another, the camaraderie which leads to a sort of friendship where a friendship wouldn’t otherwise exist. It’s also one of the most blatant examples of generational relationships in superhero comics, as Dodds is clearly at least one generation, if not two, removed from Jack Knight. (I don’t think it’s ever clearly stated, but I think Jack is himself in his 30s, rather old for a superhero, especially a novice one.)

There are many good standalone stories in here, too: The original Starman’s first battle with The Mist (which leads into the Sandman/Starman story), and “The Return of Bobo”, in which a small-time villain gets out of jail and returns to Opal City, to the worry of the police and Jack Knight. Bobo is one of the series’ best characters, as is immediately evident from this story. But Starman is similar to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman in that the standalone stories build up the background of the series and eventually contribute important pieces to the characters and ongoing storyline. And even if not every detail is crucial, most stories are enjoyable on their own.

James Robinson is sorely missed in comics – at least by me; these days I think he mainly works in Hollywood. But this volume of Starman reminds me that he really was one of the most sophisticated writers in the business. In some ways the best is yet to come, but in many ways the best is right here in this book.

Marvels: Eye of the Camera #4 I’ve been disappointed in Marvels: Eye of the Camera so far, and I think I know why: The strong character arc of the original Marvels, and the strong sense of time and place of each issue of that series, is missing here. Eye feels like it’s one brief glimpse of 1970s and 80s Marvel after another, without the depth that gives the glimpses meaning. Granted, the period covered so far is mostly not an iconic period in Marvel’s publishing history (the Claremont/Byrne X-Men aside), but I still think it would have been a much better series if it had been pared down to fewer incidents.

This issue primarily focuses on the wake of the Secret Wars series, especially the second one, in which the godlike Beyonder comes to Earth and trails destruction in his wake. It’s okay, but it still feels like a series of vignettes. It’s loosely connected by Phil Sheldon’s ongoing battle with cancer, but the series just isn’t working for me.

There’s still time for Busiek to pull it off, but it’s been a rather haphazard story so far.

Gigantic #3 Greg Burgas wonders why Gigantic isn’t a better comic book. I think the answer’s pretty simple: While it’s a high-concept action story (“The Earth’s just a setting for alien reality TV programming”), it’s really a very depressing one. The lead character is a man who was turned into a gladiator for the aliens when he was younger, and has come back to his homeworld a hunted man. Catastrophe, tragedy and a whole lot of punching ensues. The first three issues haven’t really expanded on the premise very much, it’s continued to just be a lot of tragedy and punching with no light visible at the end of the tunnel. I have a similar problem with the other Remender series I’m reading, The End League. I can deal with dark comics series, but these aren’t just dark, they’re bleak. So they’re not much fun.

For a much better take on a very similar premise, try Dan Vado’s The Griffin. While the art in that one is a little iffy, the story is first-rate. If you can find the original DC Comics prestige-format mini-series (6 issues), that’s even better, since the SLG collection is in black-and-white.