Saturday, May 8, 2010

Bullet Points: Thoughts in brief on the Comics I've been reading.

-DOC SAVAGE #1: Ehhhhh. . .not so good. Paul Malmont wrote THE CHINATOWN DEATH CLOUD PERIL, which rocks on toast but it's painfully clear in some of the staging and dialogue choices that as a comicbook writer, he makes a helluva dancer. Howard Porter's art--while amazing with contemporary fare--feels a bit too contemporary with something like DOC, which is clearly trying to straddle a pseudo-pulp/Batman: The Animated Series feel. The Justice Inc. story was a bit better, but I'm here for Doc Savage, not Richard Benson. Simply put, when the best item to come out of the issue is the Zatanna preview, we got a problem.

-MAGOG #8: As part of my effort to show I can embrace the new and different I gave reading MAGOG a try. The eponymous anti-hero spun out of Alex Ross and Mark Waid's quite excellent KINGDOM COME as the epitome of a brand of darker-edged 'heroes' that were little better than the scum they were fighting, until Superman's return to the scene inspired the Old Guard to rally and show the arrogant demigods what being a hero truly meant. Magog is really little more than a kinda-cool looking piece of visual parody(he's designed as pretty much a walking piece of snark against the Rob Liefeldian excesses of '90s superhero design), but as a potential series lead? There's not much to work with. Recently Geoff Johns (God-Emperor of DC Comics) decided to take the concept of Magog and build a full-fledged character during his run on JSA. Intrigued by the notion of longtime favorite writer Keith Giffen and penciller Howard Porter teaming up on an 'anti-hero' book, I decided to shop outside my normal comfort zone of talking apes, jetpacks and fins to take a walk on the darker side of the street. Truth be told, after eight issues I'm thinking of pulling the ripcord. The series is by no means wretched, it's just kind of. . .there. There's no real hook to it, apart from Magog(aka Lance Corporal David Reid) going John McClane on bad guys while having an internal monlogue about how silly most superheroes are with their outdated codes of conduct. While that'd be fun for a mini-series or one-shot, I can't really say it's worth your hard-earned comicbook dollar. There's the seed of a decent series in here, and Porter's art is well done but yeah. . .no pop here either. Let me put it to you this way; I've been readin this book for eight issues and I had to consult Wikipedia to find his real name. A fun visual? Yeah. Memorable? Not so much.

-R.E.B.E.L.S. #15: Buried beneath the miasma of MegaCrossovers That Will Change Things Forever, R.E.B.E.L.S. is easily one of the three best continuing series DC is putting out right now (THE WARLORD and BATMAN AND ROBIN filling out the other two slots). It's epic space opera with a band of unlikely misfits struggling to survive in the depths of space against nigh-unbeatable foes. It's the best of Star Wars, Farscape, and Firefly with a twist of superhero convention and scale. This issue makes for a suitable jumping on point as the series takes a breath between storylines, and the introduction of Starfire(the eye-candy that walks like a woman) is a pretty significant development, as writer Tony Bedard has this unlikely group of cosmic heroes come to terms with the fallout of their actions to liberate the Vega sector from the parasitic minions of Starro the Conqueror. Claude St. Aubrin and Scott Hana really cut loose with a mixture of cool visuals that make the various aliens and individuals come alive. It's fun, fast paced, and there's not a single Green Lantern in si--

--God dammit.

S.H.I.E.L.D. #1: Jonathan Hickman is one of those writers who came out of nowhere who just plain gets superhero comics; what they were and what they can be. Here we see him craft the history of Marvel's uber-spy organization S.H.I.E.L.D. as not only a globetrotting band of spies and soldiers but as a conspiracy that has woven it's strands from ancient Egypt through historical China, Florence, and Rome. A conspiracy driven to protect the world and ensure that it ends at it's proper time and not before. Hickman does a nice job of blending the historical romance with the scope and span of the Marvel Universe and the mix of influences is entertaining as all get-out. A story about the triumph of human ingeniuty and the victory of knowledge over ignorance (it can't be a coincidence that this story's 'contemporary' setting is the 1950s) that presents a heroic front whilst hinting at the darker shadows of a conspiracy is provacative and holds the reader's attention until the last page, which ends on a cliffhanger that had me grinning ear to ear. Da Vinci as the Tony Stark of his era? Gallileo vs. Galactus? Celestials running amuck in Ancient China? Yeah, you pretty much need to get on board with this book. It's awesome, new-reader friendly, and just plain fun in a way most comics just aren't anymore.

That's all for now. More as I make my way through my To-Read pile.


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