Friday, February 18, 2011
Here's the short of it - there's something in this issue important enough to "War of the Green Lanterns" that DC has decided to reprint GL # 30 in the FCBD Green Lantern/Flashpoint book. That probably means buzz, which means more people interested in it than have it, and well....you know the rest.
But then again, maybe a reprint kills the action. There was a day when I would have poo-pooed the notion, partly because the market used to really prize first prints in a way that it doesn't currently, and partly because I like saying poo.
This brings a couple of points to mind. Firstly, comics are relatively scarce right now. The myth is that old comics are scarce and everybody has 30 bagged copies of everything new, so there's no market for it. The truth is that old comics in top condition are scarce, and nobody has 30 bagged copies of anything any more. The direct market is just in a scary place right now, and the comics being printed today are printed in smaller quantities than they ever have been. So when interest is piqued, it isn't hard to have more people looking for comics than can find them.
More importantly, though, it's worthwhile to observe what a remarkable thing Geoff Johns has done with the Green Lantern franchise. I've often declared that the only book to avoid attrition is Kirkman's Walking Dead, and that's almost true. Green Lantern is a much stronger piece of the DC lineup than it was five years ago. Johns built that brick by brick with solid storytelling, and he has maintained that elevated status far past the initial surge of the Sinestro Corps War.
Bottom line? I don't think it prudent to back up the truck on this, assuming you could even score a truckload of these if you wanted them. But I think it's a good idea to tuck one or two away if you can find them at $5 or less, and that's still possible as I type this.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Silver Surfer # 1 of 5
Script: Grek Pak
Pencils: Steven Segovia
22 pages for $2.99
But he's boring. Yeah, I said it. You know it, and I said it. Norrin Radd is dull. He's too virtuous, he has no sense of humor, and he never appears to have any motivation or plans of his own. You know what Somminex is? You take the pill and Norrin Radd whines at you about Shalla Bal and his unfair lot in life - clunk! - out like a light, commence with the snoring.
And in this new five issue mini-series by Grek Pak and Steven Segovia, Norrin Radd is still really goddamn boring. The closest thing we have to personality is Surfer letting sand slip between his fingers and observing that it never sticks. God, he must kill at parties!
But there are some things I rather liked about this comic, and here they are in no particular order:
Galactus Is Not A Villain, He's Just Top Of The Food Chain
OK, maybe that's not an unprecedented concept, but I like that treatment of the big purple headed warrior. Listen, nature is a giant dick. Things kill and eat other things to survive. It aint pretty, but it's how the game is rigged. You know what the best thing for a forest is? It needs to burn down randomly every couple of centuries, so that the new growth can profit from the ashes of its parents. If you want some healthy growth somewhere, something else generally has to die an excruciating death.
That's all Galactus is. He's the excruciating death part of this nutritious breakfast. That's a lot more interesting to me than a selfish prick on a power trip with a really big hat.
The Power Cosmic: Really Good Crack Without Side Effects
Usually the power cosmic is depicted as nothing more than really big laser blasts, which is total bullshit. The Silver Surfer is tied more directly into the fabric of reality than other people. He's got access to a lot more latent energy, and has far more direct control of it.
I tend to think of "God" as everything, the only thing. The implications of the power cosmic to me are that Norrin Radd got something akin to a direct line to God. Being around that power could easily be construed as a religious experience, if you will.
And that's pretty much how Pak is approaching Surfer in this installment, although he attaches no overt religious connotations, which is just as well. Being that close to a pure universal energy produces a kind of narcotic reaction in Carla, which I thought was outstanding.
It's the little things that count, as always. Paying attention to the way his powers work tells me that Greg Pak is not just mailing this in, he's exploring the implications of things, and that's fun for me. It's also interesting to me that Norrin doesn't experience that bliss at all. You can acclimate to anything if you're swimming in it all the time. I think Pak is implying that Silver Surfer is a dead fish of a character because once you've gotten used to pure joy, what's left outside of apathy?
But how do you fix that and make the character interesting, then?
You Take Away His Power Cosmic
I don't know if any of that will happen, but I like the fact that Pak is going to give us a chance to see Norrin come out of his shell, literally. I like the fact that Steven Segovia is on this book, because he makes it look good. All of it.
It's not all perfect notes, of course. I really don't like the whole naval-gazing Silver Surfer stumbles onto a situation while sitting idly routine. Just once I'd like to see this character with an agenda, instead of playing the wandering little bitch. I don't care a white about Angel, Carla, or any of that nonsense. I don't find it particularly likely that the High Evolutionary could just show up instantly with the tools to neutralize the Silver Surfer. How could he possibly have the tools to do that without a similar subject to study? It would seem to me that he would be a tough nut to crack. I know, I know, it's comics.
So yeah, there are problems. Hell, I think I know how this ends already. I think it's going to book end itself. The story begins with Silver Surfer bailing out his old boss with a little star energy. I'm guessing Galactus pays it forward at the end of the story and helps him back.
But whatever. The point is that in the interim, Pak has set this thing up with at least the possibility that Norrin Radd might do something interesting, and that is a feat of cosmic proportions.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Marvel Girl # 1 (one-shot)
Script: Josh Fialkov
Pencils: Nuno Plati
22 pages for $2.99
The new Marvel Girl one-shot is a kind of origin story embellishment set in the X-Men: First Class end of the universe. The capsule situation is this: Jean is frazzled. The boys at Xavier's are fighting over her or clinging to her, and she lets loose with her powers in a dangerous little fit of exasperation. Xavier scolds her a bit before sending her packing from the school until she gets her act together again.
Fialkov's wheelhouse appears to be psychological drama and subtle weirdness, and this book has both elements. Unlike his stellar work on Echoes, however, Marvel Girl falls incredibly flat.
The moral of the story is about moving on and growing out of the past, and losing a close friend for any reason is a powerful catalyst. Perhaps it's because Fialkov is constrained by his X-Men: First Class audience, or perhaps it's because he's constrained by getting the whole story told in 22 pages, but this particular tale feels like a geared down shortcut to a much better story.
Given more space to breathe, I think the full ramifications of Annie's "curse" would have made more sense and felt more threatening. And if we had more time to actually care about Annie and Jean's relationship, the loss would feel more profound. As it stands, Marvel Girl # 1 reads like an X-Files after school special.
Ultimately, there isn't enough emotional punch or character insight between these covers to justify it for me, but I think I might be demanding the book be more sophisticated than it intends to be. I would have like to have seen what Fialkov could have done here with 4-6 issues while shooting for a more adult audience. But that's just me wishing it could be something it's not, which is probably unfair.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Steve Gerber was a unique creative force. He was imagination with impeccable steering and really bad brakes. His stuff was weird, and not for everybody. Steve Gerber was not for squares, back when there were such things as squares.
Steve Gerber did not melt your mind as an attack. It was simply the natural byproduct of his mental mutancy - he was a fully functioning, rational adult who never developed an anti-fun filter. Children don't filter anything, their imaginations run free and unchecked. We beat it out of them fairly quickly with fascist group thinking and a focus purely on "results". The idea is never the thing as we pass from childhood to adolescence to bitterness. What can you do with it?
I think Steve Gerber was a one-in-a-million treasure who never let that damned filter kill his flow. (We got our lottery winner in this generation in the form of Grant Morrison) He let the ideas flow and then asked a better question than everybody around him:
Tom Mason and co. handed Gerber a team full of cliches, and he created one of the great button-hooks in the history of comics. It was going to be the usual comics fare - a super scientist discovers a fatal "Theta Virus" that also generates super powers, and Dr. Deming forms a team of jag-offs and miscreants to serve the greater good.
In comics, hell, in storytelling, the rule is you slap these ill-fitting pieces together, and it isn't always pretty, but by gum that team is going to learn from their mistakes and each other and prevail in the end.
In life outside of stories, things fall apart. The center cannot hold. This is NOT the way you write comic books. The idea of an ongoing series is to keep going on. Gerber flushed the whole works in four issues, and the payoff was extraordinary.
There were some ruffled feathers over the fact that Malibu solicited an issue # 5 that it knew would never be published. (retailers were reimbursed, of course, but it felt like dirty pool) The only way the story works, of course, is if you hold the stodgy old pattern in your head (it's an ongoing series, nothing really bad can happen) only to have your mind blown when the entire team is laying in pieces due to gross incompetence.
We miss you, Steve Gerber!
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
(Powers Boothe not included)
Roundhouse kicking it off with:
Script: Fred Van Lente
Pencils: Wellington Alves
22 pages for $2.99
Many mixed feelings on this book, although the more I ponder, the more I'm leaning toward labeling it pure garbage.
Iron Fist is still Danny Rand, who still plays it straight. He now plays mentor to a new Power Man, Victor Alvarez, filling the role of the gregarious minority character in this edition. Sweet Christmas, but Alvarez is annoying, almost exclusively so. I suppose that's Van Lente's intentions, so perhaps it's a good thing that I can't stand this kid?
Aside from the prototypical brashness and naive "black and white" moral foundation, there's little to Alvarez. Luke always seemed charming to me, even when he was being a dick. It may not be a good idea to hold Victor up to Luke's standard, but when you name the book "Power Man & Iron Fist", the comparison begs itself. I do not find the current version of Power Man charming in any way.
I'm mildly interested in the sub-plot involving old school Heroes For Hire manager Jennie Royce. She's (probably?) been framed for murder, and jaded Danny wants to help but isn't completely sure that his old friend is as innocent as she professes. If that doesn't sum up the 21st Century, I don't know what does.
Power-Man, being the cock sure spitfire that he is breaks into Crime Buster's apartment to start working on the case illegally before Iron Fist has even decided he's going to get involved. That's when the "masked stereotype" A plot busts into the B plot, and Victor is left to fend for himself against the whole lot since he ran off on his own.
I think the story can be salvaged, and it's not all terrible. It's briskly plotted, and it was constructed in such a way that you don't need to have read the previous 125 issues of PMIF or the Shadowland: Power Man mini to function. I think if you find Victor engaging you'll find the book engaging, but I find myself pining for Christopher Priest, who would handle these characters with more a more deft touch.
Script: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Pencils: Emma Rios
22 pages for $3.99
I have no mixed feelings about Osborn: this is a delight on every count. It's the little things, you see. Writing Osborn is not easy. At least, it isn't easy to write him correctly. The problem with Osborn is that he's a genius, he's crazy, and he's charismatic. It's easy to screw any or all of that up. The trap is to simply write gobbledygook in place of incisive wit, gobbledygook in place of true dementia. And how do you portray a voice that commands greater men? (writers have similar problems writing Captain America, who often spouts empty stoic nonsense instead of commanding respect)
And she does it all seamlessly, without calling undue attention to any of her craft, letting you enjoy the narrative flow. There are no bit characters in this book, everybody lives and breathes. Everybody has their own voice, and their own motivations. This is the hard stuff made to look very easy, it's very rare, and that ladies and gentlemen, is Kelly Sue DeConnick.
I have not been in love with the pencils of Emma Rios up to this point, but I'm sold now. There are framing shots and action shots in this comic that just dropped my jaw. There is nothing to not like about Osborn other than the cover price of $3.99.
Script: Chris Roberson (and JM Straczynski?)
Pencils: Eddie Barrows
20 pages + 5 Batman & Robin preview pages for $2.99
I don't know if this is the best comic on the stands. Matter of fact, I know that it's not. I do know that it is infinitely entertaining to watch Chris Roberson try to extricate himself from Straczynski's foundation in the most passive aggressive manner possible.
Does Roberson see it that way? I don't know. It seems like he's intentionally taking a literary dump on Straczynski's lunch. What he's done is take the painfully earnest and bizarre "Grounded" Superman and explain it away as a cocktail of post-traumatic stress disorder combined with a dash of depression and a splash of super-villainess mind control.
The implied message goes like this:
"There's no way I can take any of Straczynski's work seriously, much less continue with it. My only option is to paint what's gone before as the demented ramblings of a psychological victim."
And that is awesome. He even brings in Wonder Woman as if to say "Yes, JMS ruined her, too. Let me bring her back to normalcy as well and have a heroic Superman inspire into some form of normalcy."
Straczynski's name is still on the cover of this thing! There's just no way this is what he had in mind.
The down side I guess is that after two issues, this still isn't really Roberson's book, it's still in the process of becoming "Not Straczynski's Book". It's kind of weird that Clark just threatened Lois and just dropped the issue so that he could follow some Super People down the yellow brick road. That group didn't really blow me away, I'm not feeling Superman's brain washing nemesis as a visceral threat yet, and Wonder Woman is in the same odd unidentifiable place that the title character is in. The whole thing feels like a sputtering junker that Roberson is desperately trying to keep running, praying it makes it to the shop before it dies.
It's fairly awesome to watch it sputter, though, for now. When do we get to the new good stuff?
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
I like to talk a lot about "guerrilla comics buying". Now is the time, we have a tiny window that DC has given us to show the Big Two that we mean business about the business of comics. They rolled their books back to $2.99 for 2011, and if we flock to those books - money talks, baby.
If we don't flock to them, frankly, we will have earned our fate. Before "hold the line at $2.99" our evil overlord masters were entirely to blame. We now have a choice. If January's numbers are indication, we are choosing....poorly.
|It's in our hands, now|
Why do I do that? Why should it make a difference whether Marvel or IDW is charging me too much money for a comic book? Isn't that intellectually lazy? Maybe it is.
I give the indies a dispensation primarily because they are not giant corporate entities. They don't have such reduced printing costs, because they simply can't do it in the same bulk. They can't attract those lovely toothpaste companies to come put those annoying booklets in their comics. In fact, most independent books advertise little other than their own product.
Right now I order the vast majority of my comics through DCB Service, and it's starting to chafe me. Not because there's anything wrong with DCB Service as a, well, service. You cannot beat those prices. I'm ordering my books for the same rate many local comic shops order their books at. Ordering at those prices allows me to get more books than I otherwise would be able to afford.
I'm not having as much fun, though. I still do visit my LCS every week, and purchase something every week. I find something to review for this blog, or something grabs my attention that did not when I first put in my order. But it's not the same. I get a box every other week, and it arrives at best several days after everybody else in the world has their comics. I feel "out of the loop", slightly disconnected, slightly out of synch.
|Che Guevara - big Secret Six guy|
The first thing I noticed when I broke down my February order is that I don't get as many comics as you might expect a guy with a comics podcast to get. I ordered 32 "floppies" and 6 books. Averaging four weeks a month, and I'm getting about eight books a week. That's substantial, but hardly what I would call "extreme" behavior. As comic book addicts go, I'm pretty low grade.
There's no way you can really stay on the pulse of the whole industry reading that few books. 32 books probably barely accounts for the Avengers and Batman books in any given month. In some ways I'm a charlatan as a comics "pundit". Just as a comparison, on John Mayo's latest installment of his Weekly Comics Spotlight he noticed that it was a light week for him. He only had 50 books to read that week. Now that's a commitment!
Honestly, I don't believe I'd read many more books than I do now, regardless of my monetary situation, because I just can't squeeze any more into my head and really enjoy it and keep up with it. There are days when my DCB Service box shows up right now it already feels like work when I see the stack that I have. Comics should never be work, and if you're reading so much material that you can't recall a thing about the prior issue until you start digging into the new one...you're reading too many damn comics.
So there is is. I ordered 32 comic books in February, and here's how it breaks down by company:
- DC: 10 books
- Image: 9 books
- Marvel: 8 books
- Dynamite: 2 books
- Boom: 1 book
- IDW: 1 book
- Avatar: 1 book
As you can see, I don't stray too far off the beaten path, and I don't really feel like apologizing for that, either. Dynamite should actually probably be better categorized as "Garth Ennis". I find myself retching at most of Dynamite's glut offerings. If Ennis walked, I don't think I'd give them a nickel.
The other stab in the dark I took this month was Boom's Planet of the Apes relaunch, featuring movie prequel continuity. I adore those first couple films, and if they can somehow capture that magic I'm going to be totally in love. I won't be in love with the $3.99 price point, though.
Speaking of, here's how my price breakdown looks for my 32 floppy comics:
- $4.99: 1 book
- $3.99: 7 books
- $3.50: 3 books
- $2.99: 21 books
So 18/32 comics were Marvel or DC books, or about 56%. I suppose that's healthy. I think ordinarily my Big 2 percentage is a little higher, but like I said, Image is really commanding a greater chunk of my curiosity lately. Kudos to Eric Stephenson, maybe? Somebody is doing something right over there. I can't lay enough superlatives on Morning Glories or Echoes, and I'm loving Who is Jake Ellis?, Savage Dragon, and Hack/Slash.
I'm actually a little disappointed in my DC allotment, though. In order to send the correct message, noticeable amounts of money need to shift in that direction. There are good DC books that I've yet to discover. Has anybody read Booster Gold that didn't like it? I'm ordering that next month. How about Freedom Fighters by the inimitable Jimmy Palmiotti? I shall rage against the machine and buy this off the rack next time in the shop, and also begin ordering it next month.
Listen folks, this is war, and I mean to send $3.99 to hell in a blaze of guerrilla comics buying. What's your sit rep?
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Eric Powell slapped a video for his new Creators Front For Diversity In Comics on Youtube Friday, and it's now a talking point, so I'll talk about it. It's Powell's outlandish and creative attempt to draw attention away from superheroes and toward other comics. Particularly creator owned original comics.
Steve Niles put out something similar this week) implying sodomy while demonstrating one's point is a fresh take, and a Chronic approved take. I thought it was funny. A little misguided, but a lot funny.
In case you missed it, I said my piece on this subject when the year kicked off. The "Superhero Problem" is one of the most prevalent and poorly reasoned myths we have floating about the kingdom. Comics don't have a superhero problem. Comics have an audience problem, by which I mean there aren't many of us left.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not stupid. I do recognize that there is an absolutely inordinate amount of superhero representation in comics, both in units and dollars. It's absurd. But the only thing more absurd than that is the idea that Marvel and DC have an agenda regarding the genre, or that they might be holding other genres or creator owned work down. It's just silly.
Here's the easily verifiable and demonstrable truth: Marvel and DC will put out whatever sells. End of story. Marvel in particular does not give a shit about the category of content it is putting out there, provided that there are people willing to buy it. Marvel and DC are continuously in the process of experimenting with new styles of material to see if they can't catch lightning in a bottle. And if they do, you'll see more of it. Lots more of it. Like eight Deadpool titles a month more of it.
Anybody who claims that DC has a pro-superhero platform has apparently never met Vertigo. Case closed. Leaving Marvel. Marvel produces kids books, (what used to be known as Marvel Adventures) and Thor: Mighty Avenger books. They do French comics about virgins slaying dragons, and they do Orson Scott Card/Stephen King adaptations, Strange Tales comics specifically spotlighting indie creators and their books. They make horror titles, lately they've put out a slew of usually crappy "girlie" books and romance atrocities, they have Brubaker doing straight crime fiction, and need I go on?
Duncan the Wonder Dog. But at the same time, how do the Creators For Diversity In Comics rationalize the existence of New York Five hitting the stands this week? I'm sure Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly are doing a bang-up job on the book. But it's not like New York Four set any sales records when it launched in the summer of 2008. And there's DC, smashing it's face against the brick wall again publishing a comic about female students living life in New York. How do they explain that?
Thankfully, Powell avoided the worst of the conspiratorial garbage that accompanies most anti-superhero rhetoric. In fact, I don't think I would classify that youtube video as "anti-superhero" at all. But their logo does contain a chain around an artist's wrists, and that does imply an external restrictive force.
Listen. Go pick up a copy of McKeever's Meta 4 and tell me there's an itch left to be scratched. It's all out there. If that's what people wanted, they would buy that, and then those horrible dictators at Marvel and DC would trip over themselves giving you what you want. That's a promise. They are dying to sell anything at this point!
Sixth Gun over at Oni Press and Penny For Your Soul over at Big Dog Ink. Viva la indy comics!
But there's no chain around anybody's wrist and there isn't a problem with superheros in comics. And once you've removed the corporate conspiracy, what's the message, really? People should like stuff they don't like? It's absurd.
The real problem is that we're down to our last 70,000 inbred customers, and nobody seems willing or able to reach outside of that cult. You want diversity in comics? We're going to have to find some more people willing to vote for that material with real dollars.