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Archive for the ‘Pull List’ Category

The Truly Awful

In Pull List on May 15, 2010 at 8:47 pm

As many of you know, I have a high tolerance for bad comics.  But these ones are trying even my patience.

Oh, lord.  Outsiders.  For my money, Dan Didio has done an acceptable job of steering DC over the last few years, but he needs to stop embarrassing himself and hire a real writer—or at least a scripter—for this book.  Listen, I’m thrilled that Didio has love for Mike W. Barr and Jim Aparo’s stellar years on the original series.  Me too, Dan!  So howzabout we show that love by treating ourselves to a competent wordsmith and a good artist to bring all that awesomeness to a new generation of comic readers, huh?

Kudos to Didio for reuniting the team and for coming up with some story ideas that, for example, build on the various lesser iterations of the team in the various failed relaunch attempts of the 90s (eg. Looker as Vampire).  This is all solid, and I have been pining for such developments for years (as readers of this blog know all too well).

But Didio isn’t a writer.  He has no sense of pacing and absolutely no ear for dialogue.  Evidently, Didio prepared for his new gig by rereading the original series and making note of the signature character beats and dialogue ticks Barr designed.  This is sensible, and in more competent hands would be swell.  But, Didio combines his aping of classic Outsiders mannerisms with dreadfully inept vulgarity, trash talk, and posturing.  It’s obviously meant to come across as hip and badass, but the effect is quite different.  It’s as if my dad were having a midlife crisis and decided to score points with me by reviving an old comic series he knew I used to like; in other words: mortifying.

The bottom line is that I’m conflicted.  I love that this title exists and has taken the direction it has under Didio’s stewardship.  Presumably, if Outsiders is Didio’s pet project, that bodes well for the longevity of the title, even if the sales are soft.  On the other hand, we’re stuck with this kind of hurtful mishegas:

from Outsiders #29 by Dan Didio and Don Kramer

Perhaps the most I can hope for is that Didio will find the task of scripting a monthly series too taxing on top of his regular job and will pass the reigns to someone else, even if he retains the role of plotter.  Such a development might be the best of both worlds, since his involvement would keep the direction steady, while the quality of the scripts themselves could only improve.

Outsiders is pretty awful, but at least it isn’t completely offensive.  The same cannot be said for Titans: Villains for Hire, which is, hands down, the worst comic I have read this year (I didn’t read the much-maligned JLA: Cry For Justice; perhaps they are on par?).  Basically, Deathstroke assembles a “Titans” team of villains and Dlisters and they proceed to toy with and eventually murder Ryan Choi, The “All-New” Atom.  Turns out Deathstroke was hired by Choi’s psychotic nemesis Dwarfstar, and the issue’s climax is the delivery of Choi’s tiny corpse to Dwarfstar in a matchbox.  Oops.  Did I forget to say “spoilers”?  I hope I did spoil it, and I hope you don’t buy it.  It’s a gross waste of time on a number of different levels.  I won’t bother to expand, except to say that I agree with every word of Greg McElhatton’s review at CBR, which gives the book an absolutely earned rating of 0 out of 5 stars.  I’m cancelling my subscription to Titans, incidentally.

Wait–did I say that Outsiders wasn’t offensive?  While looking for a cover scan of the latest issue, I encountered some speculation that the “Harold” character in this issue is based on a Didio-bashing message board troll.  If so: grow up, Dan!

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The Good

In Pull List on May 14, 2010 at 11:39 pm

So much to catch up on.  For this post, I think I’ll concentrate on the good reads:

Birds of Prey #1 (DC Comics)

I might as well start with the brand new Birds of Prey by Gail Simone and Ed Benes, since this is the book that actually got me off my ass and into the comic store for the first time in over a month.  I feel bad for Gail that she got kicked off Wonder Woman, but, if I’m being honest, I’d rather read her Birds of Prey and Secret Six any day.  Gail has a knack for writing interesting team dynamics that was a difficult fit with the Wonder Woman gig—not that she didn’t try to bring that oddball-ensemble sensibility to Diana and her friends, even if the results were hit-and-miss.  It’s hard to be quirky with an icon, but Gail makes it look effortless on the Six and now again on Birds.

So, yeah: Birds of Prey #1.  Well-scripted, well-illustrated, well-paced, exciting.  Loved it.  And love the idea of bringing Hawk and Dove to the title—such a “Gail” move, and SO brilliant in terms of storytelling possibilities.  The prospective interplay of Hawk (the maniac? the dickbag? the “fancy boy”?) with Dawn, Zinda, Dinah, Helena, and Babs is basically just delicious.  I really missed this book and I am so glad it’s back.  P.S. to the haters: Ed Benes does a bang-up job on the visuals.

Sticking with Gail’s comics, Secret Six is still amazing 21 issues in.  The gruesome story of Catman’s dysfunctional family and his continued journey into nihilistic badassery this issue plumbed just the depths of depravity that one has come to rely upon this book to provide.  The inventiveness of Gail’s mind when it comes to developing tortures to inflict upon her characters (and readers) always astonishes me—and I mean that as a compliment, of course.  She’s making great use of Black Alice in this series—which is a feat, since Alice gives off this “annoying character” vibe that is difficult to write through.  Alice’s askew “romance’ with Ragdoll has helped, and her surprise possession near the end of this issue is delightful.

I finally got around to reading the epilogues to Blackest Night in Green Lantern #53 and Green Lantern Corps #47.  We’ve been hearing rumbles of Geoff Johns backlash around the web for awhile (something that was obviously stoked by his recent ascension to Chief Creative Officer at DC), but whatevs.  Blackest Night was a spectacular—and spectacularly well-managed—comic book event, and these issues are more of the same.  (The return of the Anti-Monitor!  Still excited about that !!)  Peter J. Tomasi’s writing still shows a bit, but he has grown by leaps and bounds over the past several years.  I love his “day in the life” stories, and GLC #47 was no exception.  It’s nice to see a superhero comic spend a whole issue dealing with the issue of workplace relationships—who’d a thunk?  I liked the tease for August’s Guy Gardner headlined Emerald Warriors series too.

Brightest Day itself is a lot of fun so far.  I’m enjoying the spotlighting of Aquaman and Mera, as well as J’onn, the Hawks, and Firestorm.  The series so far has the feel of a sequel—despite the ominous beats, everything feels a bit lighter, which is not a bad thing at all after all the zombie-anguish of Blackest Night.

Bill Willingham’s first arc on  Justice Society of America didn’t wow me, but his second is turning out to be a barnburner.  Mister Terrific and the JSA vs. the Nazis in an alternate reality?  Could have felt like a waste of time, but Willingham has taken the story in a nasty anything-can-happen direction that has me riveted every month.  The ending to this issue is particularly jaw-dropping, and I can’t wait for the conclusion.  Jesus Merino’s pencils are amazing, too.

Matthew Sturges’s  JSA All-Stars has a very different feel from the main book.  Perhaps because Freddie Williams II is working an early Bart Sears vibe in his pencils, I keep drawing comparisons between this book and Justice League Europe (coincidentally a team book also featuring Power Girl!) during the Giffen/DeMatteis heyday of the Justice League.  Both spinoff books have a “cozy” quality about their storytelling that I enjoy, without being absolutely jazzed about. So far, JSA All-Stars has not felt like essential reading, but it serves up an extra helping of JSA every month that I have so far always enjoyed.  I have been particularly digging the Liberty Belle/Hourman back up romp featuring Icicle and Tigress.  It’s fun.  And kind of sexy.

NEXT: The Bad

Tales from the Pull-List

In Pull List on September 20, 2009 at 4:00 am

Hi there. I hit a grouchy patch for awhile, which corresponded with a general belt-tightening and pull-list shaving. Thinking too precisely about money puts me a foul mood, which I typically seek to allay by setting up a variety of ascetic regimes. These are pleasing for awhile, but then I rebel and gorge myself on cake and comics. ( I know—what vices! ) And I feel better: restored and human. Albeit penniless. But that’s what credit is for.  And so, I’ve been fattening my pull-list again.

Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps. were sustaining me during the lean months, and they are better than ever. The multi-colored lanterns and the war of light are fundamentally silly, but they are being handled so deftly—and wrung for such great melodrama—by Johns and Tomasi that it hardly matters. Johns has an eye for locating the contours of myth within any comic book cliché, and his riff on the color spectrum works splendidly, despite its (so far) somewhat goofy conflation of metaphysical diffraction (the splitting of the “white light” into colors by the “darkness”) with an arbitrary assortment of affects. Like all of Johns’s plotting, the whole event—from the Lovecraftian design of the various corps. to the Biblical allusiveness of the action and the moral tenor of the allegory—seems like a semi-profane Sunday School lesson, which is precisely why I like it. It doesn’t hurt that the entire series of linked books is gorgeously illustrated (and in a relatively consistent style no less) by Ivan Reis, Doug Mahnke, and Patrick Gleason.

Batman and Robin is my favorite kind of Grant Morrison, and if any character needed a little freshening, it’s Batman. Having Dick assume the cowl was the best thing DC could have done to make the “death” of Batman into something more than a stunt. It completely reinvigorates the icon in a way that doesn’t seem arbitrary, and having Morrison helm it has brought a kind of perverse energy to the series that I’ve felt missing from Batman for a long time. The problem with Batman’s rogues’ gallery for me has long been that none of them are scary anymore, if they ever were. Fear requires a certain amount of novelty, and Morrison is good at inventing frightening things. I found Professor Pyg and his “Dollies” genuinely creep-inducing. Good. More of that, please.

For the whimsically depraved (which means most of us, I would assume), Secret Six is a gem of a series that has improved since it began. It remains superior to Simone’s still-enjoyable Wonder Woman, though I’m not quite sure why. The Silver Banshee revelation had the quality of all great reveals: the it-was-so-obvious-why-didn’t-I-think-of-that? factor. And the Scandal/Bane pairing is sentimental drivel and insanely hot all at once. (So of course I love it.)

And then there’s the new Fantastic Four creative team of Jonathan Hickman and my fanboy crush, Dale Eaglesham. Ah, that logo. I’ve been obsessed with it for a week now at least. They’re laying it on pretty thick—the nostalgia trip, I mean. Eaglesham is of course the go-to guy for Norman Rockwellizing your world’s greatest comics magazine. But throw in the Perez-era Fantastic Four logo to boot and you’ve basically lobotomized Mama Roeg’s little boy. He’s in the corner, rocking and hugging himself, crooning softly, wrapped in the cloak time, a far-away smile faintly on his lips as he slips back, fatally, into that golden year, 1977…

I pulled myself out of my fugue state long enough to give Adventure Comics a try—and I have to admit, it is nicely done. I’m not particularly interested in Superboy, but the Legion “second feature” has whetted my appetite for Paul Levitz’s return to the Legion.

Those have been the highlights for me lately, though I have also been enjoying The War of Kings over in Marvel’s space books. Anything space-faring drawn by Paul Pelletier is fine by me. I wish I were enjoying the Titans and Outsiders books more. The best of the bunch is Teen Titans, which everyone else seems to hate, but which, for me, has at least developed an aesthetic and a reasonably interesting team. Tomasi’s Outsiders has been a disappointment so far, primarily because it is too focused on missions and not enough on the Outsiders as people outside of the costumes. It hardly needs saying that the adult Titans book is nearly unreadable. Please fix it, DC. (Or perhaps that is what James Robinson is doing with his new JLA. I’m curious about that development…) Finally, I’m reserving judgment of JSA, but, like many, I’m skeptical that anyone can follow Johns on this book, and so far, Willingham has not done anything to make me feel otherwise.

To be continued.