Saturday, February 19, 2005

Comics Stash

I don’t make fun of people who collect souvenirs of their favorite sports team, nor do I mock readers of romance fiction, nor do I taunt people who have to see the latest movie on opening day, then get it on DVD in five different versions. I don’t do these things because I have my own deep, dark, jones – I am a comic book fan.

Every week, I help keep Bookworld, my source for comics, afloat by dropping a few bills for the week’s shipment. Most of these are comics I’ve been reading for thirty years, in one form or another, and I still enjoy them more often than not. What I’d like to do real quick is run through this week’s take – here is what I’m reading (this week).

(Oh yeah, Spoilers abound. Just deal.)

The Authority: Revolution #5 of 12*. This comic deals with the question: If superheroes are so powerful, how come they don’t take over? Well, they do, here, in this case taking over the US Government. It’s a bad fit, and problems arise. Worse, one of their number gets word from the future that if they don’t break up, the world becomes a distopia, which was lame when they did it to cancel the Defenders back in the 90s and actually pretty lame here as well. The team breaks up, but not before Washington DC gets dusted. And that allows the series’ true big bad guy to move in.

Daredevil: Redemption #2 of 6 – Comics have become temporally unstuck at the moment, writing “lost stories” of the heroes in other, simpler times, unconnected to the current universe. In this one, an early Matt Murdock/Daredevil goes down south to defend a kid in a satanic killing. Issue two and he’s already shot down the confession another kid made. The law feels fine, but the costume has yet to really come out.

Daredevil #70/450** Meanwhile, over in the main Marvel Continuity, Matt Murdock has been outed as Daredevil in the press. Now this would be a one-issue imaginary story from DC in the 60s, or a six-issue arc with a cheesy reset button in the Marvel 80s. Its been going on for what seems like three years here, and changes everything that happens in the book. Everything ties back to Matt Murdock denying he’s Daredevil while being Daredevil. It’s been a good read as the dominos continue to topple.

Green Lantern: Rebirth #4 of 6 – About a decade ago, Hal (Green Lantern) Jordan*** went crazy, became a supervillain, killed the rest of the Green lantern Corps, died, and was replaced by Kyle (Green Lantern) Raynor. Now, the fans who liked Hal grew up and are now writing the stories, so Hal is making a comeback, where it is revealed that it was a yellow, fear-based parasite that caused Hal to go whacko. Hal is purged of the parasite (as well as his mantle as the Spectre, which he got as sort of consolation prize) and is back in action. Kyle may or may not survive the return, which will cheese off the NEXT generation of writers.

Hawkman #37 – Of all of the comics, this is the one that is just treading water. Someone is gathering all of Hawkman’s villains for an attack. Problem is, Hawkman has really lame villains.

The New Invaders #7 – So you create a superteam to be rougher and nastier than its predecessors, because the world is rougher and nastier. How far do you go before you’re as bad as the bad guys? That’s the problem with this book, and the JLA-Elite book on the DC side.

JLA Classified #4 – This book was written by the guys who did the “Funny” JLA of the 90s, and was originally set up for a miniseries. The bad news is that as they were writing it, the Identity Crisis came along and killed one of their key supporting characters in a gory, unfunny fashion. So watching this now-dead character engage in funny whackiness is more than a little queasy-making, like watching Sam Kinison’s act when you know he’s been spread out on the California desert.

Livewires #1 of 6 – Marvel does the Metal Men. A bunch of anime-style super-robots run around the MU, blowing up other advanced technology man was not meant to use. Actually better than it sounds from that description. First issue involves introducing all the characters in bang-bang-bang fashion.

New X-men – Academy X #10 – The New Mutants with new mutants – kids with superpowers. In this issue, the mutant-smart character has his mental blocks removed to attain his true potential, and things get weird fast, such that we’ve probably swerved into an “in-your-mind” fantasy sequence halfway through it.

Ocean #4 of 6 – I like this one – an SF story without spandex. Earth explorers find a bunch of flying coffins beneath the ice of Titans. The inhabitants look mostly-human, and are packing star-destroying weapons. Add an evil corporation and stir. Well-written.

Promethea #32 (final issue) – So if you never had the chance to drop acid and then discuss the nature of magic when you were in college, this is the issue for you. Nonlinear, and meant to be read back to front, front to back, or as two posters, it is . . non-linear musings on the nature of magic with a technicolor lightshow. Alan Moore has done this before – taking a traditional comic trope and spinning it into utter, unique weirdness, but I think he’s gone further than ever with this one. The story in this book really ended like issue 29 or so, but there are 32 trumps in the tarot deck, so . . .

She-Hulk #12 (final issue) – Always a weird book - during the Byrne years, She-Hulk lived in a self-referential universe where she knew she was a character in a comic book. For this series she becomes Ally McBeal, working in a law firm that specializes in super-hero law, which uses back issues of Marvel comic books as legal documents. Whackiness ensues. Has the same JLA-Classified problem in that She-Hulk had a major breakdown over in the Avengers book (she ripped up the Vision), but is more even-keeled and witty here.

Stormbreaker #2 of 6 – Back in the 80’s, Walt Simonsen created an Alien Thor-clone named Beta Ray Bill. Here he fights a servant of Galactus you’ve never seen before. I swear the big G has been plowing through heralds like he was Donald Trump with apprentices.

Tom Strong #31 – Michael Moorcock! How can you not like a story by Michael Moorcock! Even better, he ties in all the multiple-world crap that he’s known for, including cross-dimensional zeppelins, and a slightly-altered Elric of Melnibone. And Pirates! How can you not like pirates?

Teen Titans #21 – One of the pendulums in comic books is that a super hero is cool (Superman) because he’s unique, but because he’s popular, he tends to aggregate a bunch of similarly-powered assistants (Supergirl, Superboy, Steel, Krypto, Streaky), so that he’s no longer unique. Green Arrow has this problem, in that he has a small platoon of archers working with him (His son Connor (also Green Arrow), Roy (Speedy, later Arsenal) Harper, and now a new (female) Speedy). The second Speedy joins the Teen Titans, and Green Arrow gets kidnapped by Doctor Light, who is no longer a loser because of the Identity Crisis. Got it?

Astonishing X-Men #8 – Joss Whedon, of Buffy and Angel, has been writing this, bringing Colossus (also dead), back to life and doing nice turns on all the characters. This issue is all set-up as a broken-down Sentinel attacks the school, all the telepaths pass out, and the Danger Room gets angry. Don’t ask me, this is the middle of the arc.

*A lot of my comics are mini-series these days, so they come in bite-sized, easy to collect bitsies, and don’t commit the companies to regular schedules.
**The dual numbering system is an avatar of a badly-thought out relaunch for most of the Marvel Universe, that allowed all their books to restart (DC did it as well, but did a better job). So Marvel is drifting back slowly with bigger numbers.
***One thing I love about the old DC comics was that they identified the secret identities with the super hero name in the middle – Clark (Superman) Kent, or Bruce (Batman) Wayne. I love this stuff, but then I’m Jeff (Big Fanboy) Grubb.

More later,