Somewhere a pygmy weeps
Now, in the order that I read them:
Queen and Country: Declassified Vol. 3 #1- I need to admit that I was in an exceptionally bad mood when I read this comic, a bad mood directed at the comic itself. I had ordered the first issue of volume 2, and this one showed up instead. My retailer’s been really good about a couple of things lately, so I didn’t raise a fuss about this being the wrong comic and I bought it anyways. On the drive home, however, I got mad at myself for buying a comic I didn’t really want, and when I sat down to read this book I was angry at it.
I think maybe that my anger made me hypercritical, because everything this book did rubbed me the wrong way. The multiple jumps back and forth in time in the opening pages made the narrative disjointed and hard to follow. Moreover, the artist's tendency to draw many characters with no shading or shadows made most of the people look the same, which hurt the storytelling as well. I finished the book with no interest in any of the characters or the situation.
I seem to be in the minority in not being impressed with the book; I’ve read three other reviews that all give this book top marks. However, even after going back and reading the comic again, the first impression has stuck, and I don’t think I’ll be buying any more.
Supreme Power #17- Maybe my bad mood affected the rest of my reading, because I didn’t like this book much either. Nothing much happens in the issue, other than a series of conversations that don’t leave us much further ahead than we were at the end of last issue. The pacing of this comic didn’t bother me for the first twelve or fifteen issues, because even though the book was slow, things were happening. The issues since the fight with the super powered murderer have seen the plot slow to a crawl. The darkness of the world Straczynski has created is starting to wear on me too. I didn’t feel empathy for any of the characters in this issue, and thus felt distanced from the story. Finally, the two characters I find most interesting, Nighthawk and the Blur, don’t appear in the issue at all. This book has been good enough in the past that I figure I’m in until the end of the current run, but if the pace and tone keep up like this I’m going to wind up dropping the title.
Hellboy: The Island #1- Any week when an issue of Hellboy comes out is a good week. I could go on forever about how much I love Hellboy, but you’ve heard it all before. Suffice it to say, the only reason you should have for not reading Hellboy is that you’re doing anthropological work with tree people in Borneo, and you don’t want to blow their minds with Mignola’s groundbreaking work. Sorry pygmies, you’ll have to make do with what you’ve got.
I mean, just look at this stuff:
The story picks up some time after the last Hellboy mini, The Third Wish, as Hellboy washes up on an island and has a series of hallucinatory experiences. The art, as usual, is beautiful, and the real entertainment comes from Hellboy’s "regular Joe" attitude towards the oddities he routinely encounters.
However, despite all my gushing, I wasn’t bowled over by this issue. The dreamlike narrative again left me feeling disconnected from the story. The multiple footnotes were also distracting, and the one citing Gregory Peck’s dialogue from Moby Dick was particularly jarring. This was still a good comic, and I trust the editor when he says in the letter column that the next issue will make everything make sense.
Astro City: The Dark Age #1- Another comic that goes long between issues. I’ve been more and more impressed with Busiek lately, after reading Arrowsmith and Superman: Secret Identity. He takes worn comic book tropes- like two brothers, one on either side of the law- and stock characters, and makes them both believable and human. The characters in this comic are complex and sympathetic; I love that the police officer brother is more cynical about superheroes than the brother who is a criminal. Little plot bits like the Old Soldier standing against US soldiers, and the arrest of the Silver Agent, are clever and have me intrigued. I’m glad to see this book on the stands again.
Captain America #7- A sort of flashback issue, that while interesting, doesn’t appear to leave us much farther ahead than before. Of course, Brubaker could, and very likely will, prove me wrong by having all this information be relevant to the master plot. I’m liking Brubaker’s Captain America so much that I was disappointed that he doesn’t appear in this issue. The winding story is serviceable, but didn’t impress me as much as earlier issues. Particularly surprising for me was my lukewarm reaction to John Paul Leon’s art. Leon is one of my favourite artists, and I love what he does with light and dark, but he’s doing something different with his art here. It works, but like the rest of the issue, it doesn’t blow me away. It’s the curse of excellence I guess, that I’m disappointed with this issue because it’s “only” good. Even with my lack of enthusiasm for this issue, I’ll be picking this comic up next month because this series has been so good so far.
Doc Frankenstein #3- Clunky writing, beautiful art. The stories have just enough to interest me that I can excuse buying this book for the art. The anti- Christian nature of some of the dialogue makes me wince at points, and I’m as atheist as they come. Take for instance this scene after armed troops from the Vatican have captured Frankenstein and taken him prisoner:
I suppose that’s clever, but it’s the kind of clever where you think of it, laugh to yourself, and never mention it again. These guys saved it and put it in a comic book. Those Wachowskis really need to work on their subtlety. I like the art extras in this comic, like the sketch covers and the concept designs and the outtake scenes.
The New Avengers #6- How is it that this is the Bendis book I’m enjoying the most right now (and yes, that includes Powers)? What kind of Bizarro universe have I fallen into? This issue isn’t as good as the ones that came before it, as the opening story arc wraps up. The character interaction is nice, although Spider-man is noticeably quieter this time around. Now that I think about it, the plot is somewhat random and circular. The reasoning for the team being in the Savage Land is never explained very well. Also, a mass slaughter happens at the end, and no one is particularly broken up about it; the main purpose seems to be that Tony Stark gets a chance to try and make some sense of the Avengers’ name by suggesting that they do some avenging. While everything about the plotting in this comic seems somewhat forced (Wolverine’s presence on the team is awkward at best), the dialoguing makes the book entertaining.
David Finch’s art is serviceable, but I’m kind of cold on the Top Cow house style. Also, he has a moment where he engages in one of my pet peeves:
What exactly is Spider-man attached to here? I’ll tell you: nothing! They’re on a plateau! In the Savage Land! Shouldn't somebody have spotted that?
House of M #1 & 2- I picked up the first issue and was entertained. Bendis handled the large cast of characters much better than before, and the Copiel art was clean and dynamic. I particularly liked the scene with Magneto and Quicksilver, I think they’re an interesting family and I’d like to see Bendis explore their relationship some more. A couple of nitpicks: Falcon, Wonder Man, and Ms. Marvel/ Warbird aren’t allowed to fly to the top of the Stark Tower because they might draw attention, but the X-Men can land their jet on the building? And there’s a quinjet already sitting up there. Nothing’s as inconspicuous as aircraft taking off and landing on a building in midtown Manhattan, I guess. Also, having the X-Men walk in to meet the Avengers in their gaudy spandex just reinforces to me how much better the Morrison outfits were. I don’t get how Cyclops expects to be taken seriously wearing that gimp suit.
I picked up the second issue based on my somewhat enjoyment of the first. This one fills in the blanks of where everyone has wound up in the alternate world that has somehow sprung up. This book has no plot that I can discern, it’s like an extended montage. Moreover, we have the cliché of the world being warped and only one person remembers (!). What’s worse is that the one person is (shock and awe) Wolverine. Argh. The art is still nice, and I’ll pick up the next issue to see what the big surprise is, but this issue was entirely missable.
Crap, that was a lot of writing.