Dr Manolis Vamvounis writes for Bleeding Cool;
Each week we take a look at the most noteworthy events in comics, the best new releases and the most irritating screw-ups. From last week.
INSERT ARCHERY-RELATED ANALOGY FOR “BEST NEW BOOK OF THE YEAR”
HAWKEYE #1 is everything I expected from this book (the thematic sequel to Fraction and Aja’s previous collaboration in the already modern classic IMMORTAL IRON FIST series) and yet so much more.
This premiere issue does not spend any time introducing Hawkeye the superhero, his origins, his history or his antagonists. Who cares! Instead, we get to see how Clint Barton, the everyman trapped inside this flashy world of alien gods and time-displaced super-soldiers, deals with the more mundane everyday problems of people in the big city. The answer usually comprises of “lose his temper and then throw lots of Avengers money at them”. It’s a quaint little story that does more to shed light on Barton’s personality than any other previous attempt.
Fraction and Aja’s collaboration has evolved into a sort of symbiosis, most evident in the scene transitions, traditionally very word-reliant, now trusted almost completely on the visual side of the storytelling.
PROFESSOR X: NEVERYOUNG
Yes, that IS what struck me most about THE FIRST X-MEN #1. Wolverine keeps referring to Xavier as “kid”, so I’m assuming he is indeed supposed to be about 20 or so, yet he looks roughly the same as he would today. I can never warm up to these “they really met X years ago” pre-Silver Age retcons, especially since they always have the alarming tendency to feature either Wolverine or Sabretooth (or in this case, both). The creators (Neal Adams and Christos Gage) are a big draw here, as well as the always entertaining friendship/rivalry between young Xavier and Magneto.
MOTIVATIONAL PANEL OF THE MONTH
HARVEST #1, a new mini-series from Image Comics Shadowline, reads like an unmade HBO pilot starring a coke-addicted failed surgeon who finds himself trapped working for an illegal organ harvesting operation. There’s also a foul-mouthed hallucination (?) of a boy dressed as a superhero, so there’s that added comic twist. There’s a definite TV drama structure and feel to the characters – that certain “spiral wildly down the drain” quality. Fans of Breaking Bad, take notice.
JANET VAN DYNE RE-REMEMBERED
DAREDEVIL #16 revisits the true and tried Marvel trope of Hank Pym nosing around another hero’s insides, with a very Mark “Eisners are my bitch” Waid twist thrown in. A faulty antenna causes Pym’s and the comatose Murdock’s memories to overlap and twist together, each man experiencing the memories and senses that define the other. And that’s not even the biggest draw of the issue, I’ll get to that later in the column, once the SPOILERS warning is up.
THE BRIAN WOOD APPRECIATION HOUR
X-MEN #33 is full of these small but super-potent evocative moments where the art and the words meld together to create a moment of palpable emotion. It’s the high-concept scienciness of Warren Ellis’ ASTONISHING X-MEN run with Joss Whedon’s more personal emotional focus on the characters. It’s a crime this run could get buried under the train-wreck that was the vampire fad aimed launch of this book.
ROTWORLD RED, ROTWORLD GREEN
DCNu’s track record with these mini-crossovers between titles has been sketchy at best, with them usually coming off as superfluous and forced. The bright exception is of course ANIMAL MAN and SWAMP THING, two books that have been individually building towards a common epic bookend since their launch. ANIMAL MAN #12 recaps the connections between the two books and the relevant events of the past year, relishing in the awkward interactions between the two casts, while SWAMP THING #12 comes off as a much blander read, as the two characters sluggishly descend through to the Rot in a slow crawl of exposition. In October’s crossover, each book will feature a different apocalyptic future “ROTWORLD”, an Earth taken over by either the Green (plantlife) or the Red (animals).
There’s no way around it. Morrison’s young Superman in ACTION COMICS #12 (and perhaps the entire run so far) is an arrogant self-entitled jerk, a pampered child who runs wild under his coddling writer’s blind spot. It’s Silver Age zaniness (the concept that Superman can just become a super-skilled surgeon just by reading a lot about it and simply replace a scalpel with his fingernail) transposed in the realistic modern setting of the DCNu, and the results are jarring.
“THE END: CONCLUSION”
I mean, you don’t really get more FINAL ISSUE than the title of I ZOMBIE #28. What started off as a quaint quasi-retro take on Scooby Doo starring a brain-eating cute artsy zombie hipster chick solving local crimes with her gay were-terrier and mod girl ghost best friends, ends with a gigantic all-inclusive cast from every existing sci-fi and mystery genre bracing against the end of the world at the tentacles of a planet-devouring Cthulu-esque monster. Still, it’s a touching coda to a series that has been consistently enjoyable and surprising.
THE RETURN OF THE BOOB WINDOW
Just a nod, or two, to the much-missed trademark super-cleavage in WORLD’S FINEST #4. Admit it, it WAS getting too classy there. As explosive as the George Perez action sequences are, the flashback sequences (by the expressive Kevin Maguire) exploring the two exiled heroines’ origins in the DCNu are still the real draw of each issue. Boobs or no boobs.
That single Phoenixed-powered (and already Juggernaut-augmented) organic steel fist turning Spidey’s face into a cartoonish bean bag is the most staggering and unsettling image from any of this year’s Marvel books. Perhaps it’s the way it simply defies the boundaries of Adam Kubert’s realistic depiction of anatomy and violence. You can get a clear sense of Spidey’s skull caving in from the force of the blow as he “takes one for the team” and is the one hero responsible for the (rather simplistic) takedown of two more of the Phoenix Five/Four/Two in AVX #9.
THE ATOM, TWO
EARTH 2 #4 keeps up the great pace set up by previous issues, introducing more of the new JSA (this month it’s Al Pratt, the Atom) without the plot feeling formulaic. It’s one of the rare instances where this slow and methodical “gathering of the team” type of storytelling actually seems to work for the benefit of the overall story. Oh, and hey, the new Hawkgirl is Kendra! We missed Kendra. And hey, it’s the first confirmed sighting of a modern character in a legacy identity, in the DCNu.
MIND THE SPOILERS
IF THE GLOVE FITS
Yup, DAREDEVIL #16 again, as promised. Mark Waid never really let the reader forget about the contradiction between his make-pretend merry swashbuckler “reboot” on the character and the dark and twisty Bendis/Brubaker two-punch combo that preceded his run. He has been slowly introducing mounting tension into Matt’s life, leading to this (still) unexpected reveal, Murdock’s inner big ugly punching back in a BIG way, the inevitable dark twistiness breaking through the put-on happy face.
IF YOU LIKED IT THEN YOU SHOULDA…
INVINCIBLE IRON-MAN #522 introduces a new (rather 00s) take on the Mandarin’s power rings as they (much like Cerebro, the Danger Room or -I dunno- the Lantern Corps energies) are set up to take corporeal form in the coming months. See, they’re not rings at all, but ring-shaped vessels for the souls of -blah blah blah- They’re gonna get bodies and talk and zap things and make awesome action figures.
TALKING OF TROPES
In AVENGERS ACADEMY #34 Christos Gage takes that other old reliable trope of “the Cure”, one he has dangled in front of his very grievously disfigured Avengers kids before, and finally does good on his promise. But would they allow it to be used to depower the entire world’s super-powered population? It’s the main theme of power and responsibility behind the registration act from Civil War or the current AvX crossover, distilled to its most potent elements and dilemmas – and nested right in the middle of the summer crossover itself! You see these type of questions posed often and wide, but only under Christos Gage do they really seem to pack their real weight.
DOES THIS MEAN SHE HAS TO RETURN THE CROWN?
The writing was on the wall as soon as Storm started spending more and more screen time on the various X-books, instead of *never* appearing in any of the cancelled Black Panther-starring books. The wedding that was supposed to “bring the warring factions together” during the Civil War crossover is now torn apart as a senseless side-effect of AvX. It’s amusing the lengths at which Marvel is willing to go to NOT divorce any of its married characters, while making damn sure they’re not married anymore. Annulled indeed.
STORYTELLING FOR DUMMIES
[GEEK-RANT] No, admitting that the ploy you’re trying to pull is dumb does NOT alleviate its, well, sheer triteness. So, WOLVERINE #311 tells us that the Sabretooth that was killed in the much-hyped “one true dead means dead death of Sabretooth” Evolution storyline was, well, a clone. Thanks, Jeph Loeb. Don’t ever stop proving rabid fanboys right. [/GEEK-RANT]
KILLING THE FOURTH WALL
Sure, Deadpool is no stranger to that other cherished comics trope, breaking the fourth wall, especially during the past few years during his revived popularity. What Cullen Bunn does in DEADPOOL KILLS THE MARVEL UNIVERSE #1 though is indeed taking the concept to Morrisonian levels of meta-ness. In the closing of the first issue of this What If story, Deadpool tracks down and kills the traditional narrator of these stories, the omniscient (well, not Deadpool-scient as it turns out) Watcher, right in the middle of his trademark expository chat with the audience.
AND NOW FOR SOME SMUT
Howard Chaykin’s BLACK KISS II #1 gives modern Alan Moore a run for his money with the turn of the century adventures of a very horny (and even more vindictive) many-cocked succubus. If you have a thing for silent movies, the Titanic or demon-winged transvestites, this one’s for you.
SO WHAT’S THE TALLY?
What a great week, full of clever twists and shocks.
HAWKEYE is unquestionably the book of the week. Much like Waid’s DAREDEVIL, this book is a definite sneak look at the future of comics. More “Marvel NOW” than I expect any of the announced October books to be.
Waid’s DD also had its major turning point this week. Everyone was hurraying about how awesome it was for not going down the dark twisty route, but now that it shows it’s been there all along, it’s even better and more nuanced for it.
Along with Brian Wood’s X-MEN (a series that is still flying under the radar) and the so-fun-it-should-be-banned DEADPOOL KILLS THE MARVEL UNIVERSE these are some of the best books out on the shelves right now.
I’ve been getting complaints in the comments about not featuring enough DC books here, but let’s face it, there’s not just not enough oomph to most of their stories right now. Forgettable villains in humdrum situations. I sneak in any mentions I can. Marvel just manages to put out more comics worth talking about and featuring. But please, go ahead and prove me wrong, let me know what books you’re enjoying that I might have missed out on.