Saturday, February 26, 2005

Comics Stash

The Big Box still hasn’t shown up, so I had a chance to make my regular comic run, and I thought I’d make another pass through the week’s purchases. The interesting thing is, I’m seeing similar patterns to the first lot – stunt casting, mini-series starting and stopping, as well as a definite sense of history in the books, both in adhering to tradition and re-imagining old tropes.

Oh yeah – Danger, Danger Will Robinson! Spoilers!

Seven Soldiers of Victory#0 - Grant Morrison is the hot writer with a taste for serious weirdness, including mind-bending stints on JLA and X-Men of late. Here he writes a big check here – A collection of 7 four-issue mini-series over the next year, with an intro and exit piece. This is the intro, where 6 old/new characters, all with connections to the DC mythos, go hunting and in turn are hunted. The challenge here will be to make each of the following miniseries something grand as opposed to repetitions around the original theme.

Fantastic Four #523 – This particular arc has been about separating the characters from their powers – Johnny and Sue switch powers, and then they separate Galactus from his power and hunger, and try to convince him that mortals are friends, not food. It runs like a Star Trek, Next Generation episode, but the ending, continuing the theme, is a nice twist.

Earths Mightiest Heroes # 8 of 8, is another time-unstuck comic book, in this case, weaving around the early issues of the Avengers, from the founding to the “Old Order Changes” when the original team left and was replaced with Cap’s Merry Madcaps. This series has shows how we’ve changed expectations in comics over the years, where suddenly, they are worrying about government oversight and whether Thor really is a god. When the collection comes out (only a matter of time), it will be a good add for the Avengers fans.

Flash #219 guest-stars Wonder Woman, and also reminds how much comics have changed. Heroes in the DC universe in the 60s were pretty replaceable –they held a common viewpoint of the world, and generally they got along (The Green Arrow/Green Lantern relationship was considered radical at the time). In the modern DC Universe, the mythologized, noble Wonder Woman now contrasts sharply with the blue-color, mortal Flash. They are in turn fighting second-generation versions of the villains Cheetah and Professor Zoom, who are more potent than their originals. In addition, the book sets up for a civil war among the Flash Rogue’s Gallery, a collection of villains who have transcended their lameness.

Meanwhile Wonder Woman #213 deals with the mythologized maiden of might. Wondy, blinded after a battle with Medousa (with echoes of the recent demise of Thor over on the Marvel side), is called to Olympus as the female part of the pantheon overthrows the old patriarchic gods. There has been some nice re-imagining of the gods – they aren’t all guys and gals in togas. But Zeus is still a jerk, which is his downfall . This issue has a way-cool piece of art as well, one of those turn-the-page and go wooo when you see it, where Wondy defeats a hundred-handed one.

Outsiders #21 – More comics history - there were Outsiders back in the 70s, a bunch of B-listers led by Batman. The new team is led by Dick (Robin, now Nightwing) Grayson, who didn’t know the team was secretly funded by Bruce (Batman) Wayne. Nightwing finds out and gets cheesed off by Bats being a control freak. What’s interesting here is that we get into bits of Zatana’s spell on Bats (from Identity Crisis) is starting to erode around the edges and Bats may be going a little more bats.

Legion of Superheroes #3 – this series has been stopped and restarted and re-formatted a number of times, as the future keeps changing. Latest version – there is a generational gap between underagers and ruling old coots, who are conservative and want the kids to wipe their feet before entering the future. So the Legion is part fans (dedicated to the heroes of old), part revolutionaries, part role models, and part protectors. The characters are re-thought (Colossal Boy is naturally forty-foot tall – his power is that he can shrink to human size). Last issue was a great retake on Dream Girl, and this issue deals with Triplicate Girl, and has her make more sense than ever. Scary-good for the ancient fanboy.

Ultimate Nightmare #5 wraps up another series in the Ultimate Marvel Universe, which is at core an X-Men/Avengers fight in Russia at the site of the Tunguska crash. They’ve been able to write in most of the old Marvel Soviet Heroes (Red Guardian, Unicorn), but the final surprise really impressed me with the way they are walking away from parts of the sacred cows of the Main Marvel Universe.

The Straczynski Books are Spiderman #571 and Strange #4, Straczynski being the Babylon 5 guy (more stunt casting on the writing side). It’s been a good run on the Spider-Man book so far, but this particular art, sort of a reimagining of the Molten Man, just doesn’t work for me. Dr. Strange seems to be swerving in the direction of Straczynski’s Midnight Nation, which is also giving me grief – You want Strange to gain enlightenment and be done with it.

And finally, through the magic of shifting schedules, four X-Books show up at once, two of them by Chris Claremont. In Uncanny X-Men #456 they fight advanced dinosaurs. In Excalibur #10, they fight cast-offs from the Age of Apocalypse miniseries of ten years back. In the Un-adjectived X-men #167 they fight, well, it looks like a ball of snot, and the story really hasn’t seemed to settle. But the recommended X-Book of the group is Phoenix: Endsong, where a wounded Phoenix force comes to earth, brings Jean Grey back to life (again), and forces the team to make hard decisions about getting rid of her danger, as well a trying to cement the relationship between Cyclops and the White Queen. More readable than you would think from the description.

More later,