Friday, July 1

Version Suicides

I don't have to tell you, Weeklings: Blogging ain't easy. Like pimpin' or being green. What they never tell you is how overwhelming it can seem. You go about your business, reading this piece of news there, taking part in that discussion there, and you start to get a sense of the world. Not the world, though, not exactly. More yours. You start to realize, explictly, what matters and what can't, what'll influence and what'll stagnate. And you what to explain that, want to explain exactly how things look, from your vantage (to purloin a phrase). But there's no time. How do you draw a map of a world, one you've taken for granted for years, using nothing but whatever words you're left with at the end of the day? More often than not, if you're honest, you don't.

Too ponderous? Sorry, Weeklings. Let me say then, simply: This takes it out of you.

Which, now that I'm in it, sounds more like a eulogy than an apology (for whatever it's worth, the latter was intended). We've never really gotten off the ground here. Sure, we've had what I like to think are some clever observations, a turn of phrase or angle of perspective that made it worthwhile to spend some of your time here. But we're not as... precise as I'd hoped we'd be. Not yet, anyway.

Hopefully, this is where that happens. This is the (re)beginning of Wednesday Week, where we recommit ourselves to devoting a healthy portion of whatever found time we have, after work, after rest, after time spent with our families and friends and other people with whom we like to spend time. After that, after all that's left is time for ourselves, it'll go here. Because we love comics, have spent more of our lives than not reading, anticipating, considering, discussing, organizing, hoping for, being disappointed with, wanting, enjoying comics. And, to be honest, a lot of the time, they were crap. A lot of the time, they are crap. But we've always believed they could be better. And sometimes, they are.

So if the comics we're discussing are better, we necessarily have to be, too. Hence, a few changes.

Less drastic will be the changes in format. By which I mean that Wednesday Week, will, in fact, have a format. It'll be simple, nothing too confusing, too avant garde. At the beginning of the week, Sunday or Monday, will be a simple sort of summary, a brief consideration of where we are and how we got here. We'll look to the usual suspects to see what happened over the past seven days, with what'll hopefully pass for an insight into what's to come over the next seven days. This will, tentatively--it'll all be tentatively, for the time being--be called "Happen Stance." Clever, no? On Wednesday, another column. This one will, less cleverly, be called "Wednesday Week"; it will be the obligatory review portion of this particular blog. It'll consist of two "reviews," one of the best book from seven days prior, the other of the most promising from that day's batch (which, I know, will be more of a preview than a review, but let's not get mired in semantics. It's too late to turn back now, as he said). Finally, at the end of the week there'll be a sort of catch-all, where whatever doesn't fit in the previous two columns will go. There will be reviews of older books, close looks at upcoming solicitations, creator profiles, special projects, lists (the cornerstone of any modern pop cultural commentary). It'll be called... well, I don't know what it'll be called. Check back at the end of next week.

But don't check back here. This is the more, perhaps, surprising of the changes. Wednesday Week is changing, will, in fact, no longer even exist much long after this. That is, it'll still exist, as it does now, right now, but it'll never change. Wednesday Week is being replaced by, mutating into, dying and being reborn as, Crisis/Boring Change. The, um, change is being made for a number of reasons. For one, I thought the title, Wednesday Week, referenced an aspect of an culture that I'm not too proud of, felt guilty endorsing. Sure, I've heading for the comic book store on many a Wednesday lunch break, picked up my comics and read them all, a hundred pages or more, between that break and the rest of the subsequent evening. But I'm disinclined, anymore, to treat comics as commodities, something to consumed and hoarded. I'm more of a savorer. Another reason for the change is that, to be honest, I felt sort of weighted down by Wednesday Week, and thought a name change might sort of relieve the burden. It's not that this blog wasn't enjoyable, it's just that its expectations were a little too high, not to mention a little too nebulous. And finally, while I love Elvis Costello like I get paid to do it, "Wednesday Week" is a crappy song. Crisis/Boring Change is a little unwieldy, but it's taken from a great song, possibly my favorite from that particular band, and I think is tonally more illustrative of my regard for comics. Also, I like dashes.

So there you go. Or, hopefully, here you go. This should be exciting, is exciting. It won't be forever, it's true, but hopefully by the time this entire enterprise has lost its lustre, all this accumulated mental meandering will begin to resemble a map, one that shows the way forward as clearly as back.

And I'm hoping I'll get some free swag out of it.

Saturday, June 18

Year Another One

So. You hear anything about this new Batman movie...?

But seriously, folks.

Batman Begins has a lot to recommend it, not only to the geeks, all excited at being able to really appreciate the cameo appearance from Zsasz, but even for the everyday moviegoer, interested in little more than an evening's entertainment. If I were a bit more rash, I'd say that it's probably the best Comic Book Movie ever (and by capital-C, capital-B Comics Book Movie, you understand I mean Superman and Spider-Man, not Ghost World and American Splendor). As it is, I feel confident saying that it's at least very good.

Before I start picking nits, I should mention all the good that this movie has going for it, and there's quite a bit of good. This is arguably the most well-rounded Batman to appear in any non-comic media, more nuanced than either the Adam West or animated television versions, more compelling Tim Burton's or, especially, Joel Schumacher's. Director Christopher Nolan and co-writer David Goyer go out of their way to portray a sensible evolution from Bruce Wayne to Batman; contrary to the popular modern concept of Batman as being saddled with some kind of navigable form of insanity, Bruce Wayne's neuroses are more empathetic, more easily visible as having birthed the bat. Despite that explicit mention is made of the idea that Bruce Wayne is the mask, Batman the true identity, Wayne is as important to the story as Batman. Batman isn't an identity Bruce Wayne adopts (or vice versa). The Bat's an ends to a mean, to Bruce Wayne's mean of fighting injustice.

Impressively, this legitimate character development--and while Bruce is the most fully-formed, he's hardly the only character with dimension--is rooted in an exciting, and more impressively, logical, plot. The skeleton of Batman Begins comes from Miller's "Year One"; anyone familiar with that standard will be insucceptiable to at least a few of the movie's surprises. However, the movie manages to be both faithful to that forebear while introducing new elements. For example, while Ra's al Ghul's role in the creation of the Bat has been mentioned before, it's never really been directly inserted into the context of "Year One" (not in my recollection, anyway). And while the addition of the Scarecrow is unnecessary almost to the point of distraction, he's still used effectively and interestingly, in no small part due to the performance of Cillian Murphy.

In fact, the movie owes a great deal of its success to its performers. Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes and Tom Wilkinson all give important performances that both suggest what will be familiar to comic fans while introducing novel elements into this particular legend of the Dark Knight. Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman (as Alfred and Lucius Fox, respectively) create a support network for Bruce Wayne that make his transition from playboy to vigilante more plausible, not only practically, but also emotionally. You realize that there's no way Bruce could have become the Bat, let alone remained that way, without support, and you realize likewise what sort of mind would regard this mission as less a fool's errand and more a vocation. (One of my favorite moments in the film, in fact, belongs to Caine's Alfred, when he discusses his devotion to Bruce as an extension of his devotion to the Wayne family. It's been long canonical that Alfred's allegiance to Bruce Wayne is unwavering, but rarely do we remember that this allegiance is born out of the fact that Thomas Wayne trusted the care of his only son to Alfred; in other words, Alfred's devotion is as much to the trust of Thomas Wayne as it is to affection for his son.)

As you might imagine in a film drawn so clearly from "Year One", the story needs to be supported at least as strongly by James Gordon as by Bruce Wayne. Gary Oldman serves the character and the story better than we have any right to expect. Randomly, I found Oldman's performance to be reminiscent of Ewan McGregor's as Obi Wan Kenobi. In Episodes One through Three, McGregor essentially served two masters, one being the need to create a bridge between his performance and Alec Guinness's, the other creating a pocket in the character for his own interpretation, something that I thought he did remarkably well (in fact, I'd point to his performance overall as the high point of the prequels). Although James Gordon's never really had any sort of definitive portrayal onscreen--really, the animated version's is the closest thing we have--Oldman still seems to be channeling some sort of iconic version of the character. There's something intimately familiar about Oldman's Gordon, not just in the way he looks, but even in the way he sounds, even the way he moves. For some reason, the world at large has never seemed to regard Gordon as being as important to Batman as, say, Jimmy Olsen to Superman, or J. Jonah Jameson to Spider-Man (perhaps because Gordon's not a newspaperman?). I wouldn't be surprised of Oldman's flawless performance changes that.

But, of course, as far as this movie's performances go, a dozen of quality can't make it up if one particular performance is found lacking. But--I must admit, a little surprisingly--Christian Bale knocks it out of the park. Every once in a while, you might catch his Bruce Wayne in a shifting of gears, and even though there's no obvious difference in his appearance, you can recognize the moment that Bruce Wayne steps to the back and cedes control to Batman. Even as this happens though, the tether between these two states of mind--and the movie makes it clear that this is not a psychic break; it's two states of mind, not two entirely independent minds--is apparent. And refreshingly--at least for enyone whose been following Batman's adventures in the funny pages for the last decade or so--the "man" is at least as important as the "bat" here. There's a moment when Batman, having been in costume for less than a night, sprints across the rooftops of Gotham, pursued by the cops. He takes a flying leap off the side of one building and slams right into the next, is sent scrambling down its side, clutching at the fire escape. The moment's physical clumsiness was so foreign, predisposed as I am to think of Batman's modern version, the Morrisonian calculator, that I found myself instinctively laughing, despite that for most in the theatre, the moment was of the "will he make it?" dramatic tension variety. Bale's Batman is funny when he's allowed to be, scary when he has to be, and never perfect; whenever he approaches perfection, it's obvious that the approach is only made possible by an incredible amount of training and preparation. He makes this character empathetic--something that, anymore, seems an inherent violation of the character--while still making him undeniably recognizable.

The only identifiable disappointment I could register had to do with the action scenes. When Bruce Wayne enters into the tutelage of Neeson's character, the latter attacks the former, in order to (presumably) demonstrate the extent of his ignorance. As he goes at Wayne with this kick or that punch, he identifies the school of martial arts from which each is derived: "Jujitsu! Karate!" So the film goes out of its way to show that Bruce Wayne has been extensively trained in martial arts, suggesting that his fighting abilities are powered more by grace and speed than by raw force. So when a martial artist of Bruce Wayne's caliber goes up against the man who taught him, you'd expect the fight to be, well, smooth. But the fight scenes are more often than not choppy, blunt, abrupt. They're effective in indicating the role of violence in these goings-on, but not in the particular sort of violence.

If this movie's any good (and obviously, I believe it is), it's because it picks choice elements from the best Batman stories across the various media. Miller's grim-n-gritty Batman--the "Year One" version, not yet as dark as "Dark Knight Returns"--mixes with the pulp fun of the animated series, with dashes of the 60s series's fun, all with the epic scope of Burton's two Batfilms. Overall, this will be familiar territory for anyone with just more than a passing familiarity with the character, but the scenery's been changed just enough to make it worth a second visit.

Friday, June 10

Salesmanship, Sailed

I never thought I'd say this, but I miss Bill Jemas.

In the early days of what came to be known as the "Quemas" era, there seemed to be an air of spontaneity to how Marvel was run. It wasn't anarchic, though; it wasn't exactly as though the inmates had taken over. There was a sense of order, it's just that this sense was driven by courage, and matched by a sense of adventure. And that's just what was going on inside the books.

Outside, in terms of how the books were produced, marketed, and discussed inside the company, seemed to be just as exciting--if not as fantastic--as what the X-Men or Spider-Man experienced from month to month. And at the center of it all was Bill Jemas and Joe Quesada. As odd as it seems to consider now, Quesada was actually the more well-behaved of the two, the good cop, if you will. When Jemas called DC out, identifying story elements and even creative personnel, it was Quesada that came out as the PR guy, allowing for the possibility that anyone who bought DC Comics in addition to--or, Heaven forefend, instead of--Marvel Comics might still be respectable.

Now, though, Quesada's a ship without a rudder.

Consider the latest of Quesada's weekly press-releases-as-interviews over at Newsarama, Joe Fridays. At the end of this installment, one reader called Jab invites Quesada to sell him on Marvel's wares. He identifies himself as among the unconverted, even stating that he had recently dropped his only two monthly Marvel purchases, the 616 and Ultimate Fantastic Four books, for unspecified reasons. It's not the most original of questions, nor is it the most difficult, but it's still fair to ask the editor-in-chief of a line of major comic books to be able to convince an average (by all appearances) consumer to try one of his books. Here's Joey da Q's response:
Well, Jab, I don’t know that there is anything I can say? Right now I feel that Marvel books are at an all time high and certainly at the best point they’ve been since I’ve been Editor-in-Chief! There are just so many incredible stories that are just getting rolling and so many amazing creators that are coming on board. With books like New and Young Avengers, Ultimate Iron Man, Runaways, Astonishing X-Men, Supreme Power, Black Panther, Punisher and Wolverine just to name a few, If we can’t grab you at this point, then perhaps we never will. Perhaps Marvel books just aren’t your cup of tea or at least the ones we’re producing currently. But, hey that’s okay, we can dig it.

But more to the point, although the brilliant Mark Waid and just as brilliant Warren Ellis are exiting their respective FF titles, JMS is taking over FF and Mark Millar is taking over Ultimate FF, why not give them a shot again?

Which I thought was just lazy as Hell, not to mention insulting. It seems as though he's basically saying, "Well, if you have to ask, you probably couldn't understand the answer." Quesada's defeatism--"If we can’t grab you at this point, then perhaps we never will"? Are you kidding me?--not to mention his implicit elitism are simply inexcusable. My man Jab is essentially asking Quesada whether or not he should give him his money, to which Quesada warns him not to be too rash. What?

Now, I'll be honest, I'm not the biggest fan of Marvel right now. My regular purchases from the House of Ideas basically now includes only The Incredible Hulk. But if I had to, I bet I could get at least a few titles on your subscription list. I'd stress the pedigree and diversity of the characters, stressing that they're so well-developed that some of them are still supporting stories forty, fifty, sixty--if you count Captain America--years after their creation. I'd identify the breadth of the different creators, naming not only those that will be familiar to any long-time comics reader--Peter David, say, or Kurt Busiek--but those who might be new--maybe Greg Pak, or Allen Heinberg. If I wanted to mention "JMS," I'd refer to him not as "JMS" but by his full name (assuming that, unlike me, Quesada can spell it), and go on about his history working in television. I'd indicate how the different characters can be enjoyed autonomously, in their own titles, as well as in great, big, universe-spanning epics like House of M. I'd name every single creator who has an exclusive contract with Marvel, saying after every name that the only place to see what these writers and artists create is at the House of Ideas. And finally, I'd say that if Jab still hasn't found anything of interest at Marvel, he should check back in a month or two, since Marvel is constantly growing and adapting, and its most useful tool to that end is the input of fans. And furthermore, I'd say all of this with an eye toward grammar.

After all that, I'd have a question for Jab: "What's you address?" 'Cause I'd send him a big ol' box of Marvel comics, every book that I think forwards the creative success of the line and might be able to bring in a new reader. And I'd pay for it out of my own damn pocket if I had to.

But hey, that's just me. I suppose that "Perhaps Marvel books just aren’t your cup of tea" is an equally valid response.

Is Jim Shooter still looking for his job back?

Thursday, June 2

Standing By the Wall

It's finally happened, Weeklings. I've given up.

Superheroes are, needless to say, the bread and butter of our little corner of the world. It's difficult to exist in this subculture without deferring to their popularity, and it's pretty much impossible to consider comics, historically or contemporarily, without at least acknowledging the capes. But I'm gonna try. Basically, this whole neo-90s crossover madness has gotten the best of me. I enjoy the character of Batman, and for the most part have enjoyed the recent comics featuring the character. But not enough to spend money that I hadn't intended to spend, and certainly not enough to spend my time reading stories that I don't enjoy. So I've cut off my leg to save the rest of my body; in short, Batman and I are through.

It was, I realized in retrospect, surprisingly easy to leave the character behind. Despite the fact that I've followed at least one of the Batman-specific books (and usually more) since "No Man's Land" back at the turn of the century, not to mention more than a few of the addendum books, it's become clear that whatever story began with that storyline, and continued through the work of Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, and Devin Grayson, is over. There was no clear "The End" that allowed me to leave with a clear conscience, but I left nevertheless. Perhaps someday I'll be back (and, to be honest, I'm still nominally here; Gotham Central remains on my pull list, though with the departures of Brubaker and Michael Lark, as well as an alarming appearance from the Titans upcoming, I'm not sure how long that'll remain the case). The point--eventually--is that I might be done with superhero comics. And I said, I still read GC, and I've recently begun reading The Incredible Hulk again, but that's more out of interest in the writer than affection for the character. It seems as though, despite nearly fifteen years following the events of the Marvel and DC universes, I could no longer care any less.

So I was thinking: Is there any life left in these old characters? To be sure, some are still capable of bearing fruit, but others are a little too obviously still around only to maintain copyrights. But who's who, I wonder. Well, I did wonder. And I determined. And here, I stated. Here's my vote for most exhausted superhero, the most creatively deadened, and that in which I think there's still, inexplicably, some life.

Perhaps predictably, I'm most offended (if that's the right word) by the ongoing story of Superman. That DC thinks there's enough life in this character to support four ongoing books, to say nothing of the unrelenting onslaught of specials, miniseries, and guest appearances, is mind-boggling. Now, I should admit, I've given the character a chance. I've followed his monthly books during three periods--starting with "The Death of Superman" and continuing quite a while thereafter, during the first year-and-a-half or so of the Loeb/Kelly era, and most recently, a good portion of Azzarello & Lee's and Rucka's stories--so I've given Big Blue a chance. I've read most of the classic Supes stories: "Whatever Happened...?", Byrne's Man of Steel, Kingdom Come. While I've occasionally enjoyed stories featuring Superman, I've rarely enjoyed the character himself. So, I decided he wasn't for me. But now I realize, he's not for anyone. At least not anyone introduced to comics created after the firmamentation of Superman.

In his "Basement Tapes" column with Matt Fraction, Joe Casey said it a lot better than I could have. To sumarize, Casey suggests that Superman's is an origin story, beginning when an infant Kal El leaves a dying Krypton for planet Earth, and ending when Clark Kent first acts as the public's "Superman". Everything thereafter is gravy, almost beside the point. I think it's an interesting angle to take on the Man of Steel, and while some might see that angle as defeatist--especially coming from a writer whose own dalliance with the character failed to set the world on fire--I think it's just realistic enough, and in fact it might take a writer with that type of experience to arrive at such a conclusion.

The bottom line is that characters need conflict. Every character arc runs desire to pursuit to either realization or failure. I couldn't even really say for sure what Superman wants, overall. You could say, simply, that he's a crimefighter, that he wants to eradicate crime. But natural disasters, which Superman prevents and/or contains all the time, are hardly criminal. More accurate is the idea that Superman fights for "truth, justice and the American way," but that last part of the ideal is troublesome, especially during this particular era in our nation's history. The least problematic motivation for Superman has to, by definition, be as broad as possible. So, you could say that Superman wants to make the world a better place. But that's too broad to find within its boundaries a definable goal. (Curiously, and perhaps somewhat appropriately, I think that while this particular aspect is a liability for Superman, it's actually a benefit for Batman. While another of Superman's mottos concerns "the Never-Ending Battle," Batman's purpose is just as open-ended as his brighter colleague's; Rucka once described it as "the Fool's Errand." The difference is that futility and, to an extent, hopelessness, work for Batman, where they're concepts untranslatable into Superman's language. While the two heroes are ostensibly working towards the same nebulous goal, it's possible to Superman retiring happy, taking advantage of the world he's created, whereas it's impossible to see Batman voluntarily laying down arms for good.)

It's not that I think it's impossible to tell a good Superman story. It's just that I think that these stories need more to have Superman in them rather than be about Superman. Superman isn't an object with real dimensions and textures, at least not in the same sense that Batman is. He's an ideal, and so his size and shape vary from one observer to another. Every month and every story of his that gets told is an attempt to better define that size and shape, which attempt not only undermines the character's nature, but in fact violates it.

So who's still got room to grow? Believe it or not, I'm inclined to say that the greatest untapped potential amongst the major superheroes (I'm not talking about the Power Pack here) can be found in the pages of X-Men. It's arguable that the definitive X-Men story has been told. Some might point to Claremont and Byrne's "Dark Phoenix Saga" as such (though I'd say it's more the best storyline than the most definitive). Others might move down a couple months in the merry mutants' history, pointing to "Days of Future Past" (what I'd choose, if made to do so). Others still, perhaps the more rash among our ranks, might consider Morrison's run to be the stuff that X is made of. And to be sure, these are all good stories, indicating what's best about this particular corner of the Marvel universe. However, I think it'd be a bit too limiting to say that they preclude the possibility of more good stories, or even of more truly original stories.

There are two factors which I think work in the X-Men's favor (and bear in mind that when I say "X-Men" I mean neither The Uncanny X-Men nor any particular team that's come together under that moniker, but rather the entire expasive world that's brached out from Claremont's vision, everything from Louise Simonson's New Mutants to to Warren Ellis's Excalibur to Frank Tieri's Weapon X and everything in between and on the side). The first factor is, simply, that's there's so damn many members of this subgroup, it seems more mathematically accurate to call them a group. This is a technique that's worked for--and, honestly, proved a crutch for--The Simpsons. You get tired of writing an episode around Bart or Homer (or, analgously, Wolverine or Jean)? Write one about Apu or Moe (or Artie & Leech). Or, if the mood strikes you, write one about everybody, as in my own favorite Simpsons episode. Simply, there are enough people in this family to ensure that there will always be enough stories to go around, every story essentially constituting one or two of the X-Men in starring roles, with everyone else guest-starring. And if that somehow fails, you have a great excuse to create new characters, as new mutants--and, potentially, New Mutants--are born every day. Morrison's run, after all, was as much about Beak and Quentin Quire and Xorn as it was Cyclops or Xavier or Emma Frost.

And if that seems cheap, to laud the expansiveness of a possibly literally inumerable cast while attacking the solitary Superman, well I'm more drawn by another quality inherent in the high concept of the X-Men. Really, any given X-Men story isn't so much about the team as it is about mutants. And in the Marvel universe, mutants are literally about change. At puberty, mutants change species, really, finding themselves with abilities that render them unique, not only from every other humans, but even, often, from every other mutant. And think about how many of the X-Men have powers whose nature allows them to fundamentally change: Colossus. Shadowcat. Iceman. Nightcrawler. Even Wolverine's healing factor is about changing from injured to healthy, his body essentially replacing itself whenever wounded. So if the X-Men are about change, then their focus can change. Originally, the X-Men were an allegory for racism. Under Claremont, they were a soap opera, a parable of power and its pitfalls. Morrison's was a formal pastiche, where mutation was libertating rather than a constricting. I'm sure, if someone wanted to, he could write a story featuring the X-Men as a metaphor for contemporary American foreign policy while still--and this is the most important part--making the story uniquely about the X-Men.

I feel kind of guilty saying the the X-Men have more conceptual room to grow, since I'd hardly feel comfortable giving an implicit endorsement to the flood of X-titles that have continued unabated since the early 90s. Although I think that it's still possible to tell an X-Men story both good and original, I'd hardly suggest that anyone be allowed to try. But nevertheless, I'm still more inclined to buy a story featuring the X-Men than with any other popular mainstream superhero. Essentially, there are no sorts of stories which cannot be told with the X-Men, that could not fit in with this particular mileau. Look at the great X-Men stories, like X-Statix, or Peter David's X-Factor, or Windsor-Smith's Weapon X, or Whedon and Cassaday's Astonishing. These are massively different sorts of stories, yet they all seem to fit in each other's worlds (if differnet corners) because they all share one common element: change.

But that's my two cents, Weeklings. Feel free to chime in. What heroes still have room left to breathe? And which heroes ought to hang up cape and cowl, their stories done?

Thursday, May 19

Loves "Jones", or "Desolation" Row

Though I'm a big Warren Ellis fan, I must admit that his work has left me wanting lately. It hasn't been bad, by any means, but I'm often left with the sense that it could have been better.

His three issue minis were obviously stories that needed to escape from his brain. Ocean has been an interesting story, but has not been that fascinating (which is odd because I love space stories as well). His run on Ultimate Fantastic Four was fun, but I believe you can start seeing his disdain for superheroics in it. Iron Man is pretty, and not very superheroey, which may be its only salvation. Yes, I find myself longing for Transmetropolitan. I become more and more curious as to what his Hellblazer run would have looked like if “Shoot” had been published (thus far the only bit of his run that I have read is the unpublished story).

This week, Desolation Jones came out.

Warren Ellis is back.

Michael Jones and Spider Jerusalem share a common antecedent; there is even a bit of Lazarus Churchyard in there. Whereas the earlier two both take place in some far (or not-so-far) future, Desolation is very much of the modern day. There is the colonel who talks about his sexual escapades and hires Jones to find his copy of Hitler Porn. There is the conversation between Michael Jones and Robin that sounds more like Ellis’s Bad Signal. All of these meld into classic Warren Ellis storytelling.

Desolation Jones still manages to remain different though, and it's probably due to the art (something I normally don’t pick up on, honestly). J. H. Williams III adds something significant to this book. While Darick Robertson helped push Transmetropolitan into the weird/funny realm, Williams is the reason for the, well, desolate landscape painted in the Los Angeles of the book. You will know that this is Warren Ellis after reading it, but this book illustrates wonderfully how Ellis works so well with certain artists. Desolation Jones is the perfect example of why writers should often give artists co-creator credit.

The book already appears to be selling out across the country, though my store still had several copies. On Bad Signal, Ellis mentioned how his readers are not the Every Wednesday group. I imagine, since the book seems to be doing so well, that the Trade will only enhance that. This calls to mind all those times Ellis has commented on the trade vs. monthly debate. Desolation Jones is going to bequie a different book in trade than it is in monthly (or bi-monthly, as it were). As much as Ellis seems to despise certain things about comics, he knows how to do most of them right. Forgetting how he is often cursed with late books for no apparent reason, Desolation Jones makes me excited to go back to the store. I usually decide to go to the comic store when one of those books comes out that I cannot wait for. This book has quite impressively and quickly joined that list.

If this book goes the way of all the Great Cancels of the past year, I think it will severely shake my faith in comicdom. This book needs to do well. It could start big things happening. In the same way that Sin City showed Hollywood that comics can be turned into movies as comics, Desolation should be the sign for the industry that, while super heroes sell, there is an entire audience of readers out there who are craving this stuff. And will go out of their way to get it.

I too had Chris’s lack of excitement there for awhile, despite my huge pull list. Desolation Jones, in one reading, has got me excited again. I just hope there's more to come.

Wednesday, May 18

Green Pieces (Part Two)

"What you didn't count on, hotshot, is the madder I get, the sneakier I get."

on The Incredible Hulk 347-359, 361-367

[N.B. My apologies for the protracted delay, Weeklings. I was distracted by an old friend coming back through town. Also, someone stole my car. And, there was an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts. Suffice it to say, it wasn't my fault. But, as our esteemed subject Mr. David has been known to say, I digress.]

What's notable about the "Mr. Fixit" era of Peter David's Hulk is how it can at once seem so out of the blue, a perfect ninety degree turn from what's come before, and still subtly maintain momentum. If you know where to look, it really does perfectly what we forget decades-old superhero comics ought to do,: make real changes to the character that are naturally borne out of what has come before (and, more often than not, what has come at another writer's hand).

When last we left the Hulk, we was believed dead, destroyed, in fact, when caught at the epicenter of a gamma bomb. Although his absence from the subsequent issue--346's "Whys and Wherefores"--tried its best to create a true sense of suspense as to whether or not the Hulk survived, it was probably evident to even the least savvy reader that the character with his name in the title would have to be back, eventually. And, yes, the Hulk came back, mean and gray and passionately self-interested. But, as would happen periodically throughout David's run, he was... different. To be sure, the superficial changes were probably most initially shocking. For one thing, the Hulk was dressed, and dressed nattily at that, in the three-piece and fedora befitting a man so high up in the hierarchy of money in the casino that employed him as a sort of hatchet man. And he had a girlfriend, Marlo (who would go on to become a fixture in the book for years to come, later following Peter David and Rick Jones over to Captain Marvel). He had a home, accommodating the size of both of his body and his appetites. He was, as unlikely as it must have seemed, happy. He was satisfied.

The only problem was that, like the man said, you can't always get what you want. When "Crap Shoot"--in 347--opened, the Hulk was surrounded by men and women waiting to tell him "yes," out of fear, out of self-interest, even out of a genuine sense of concern for the Hulk's well-being. But you knew that eventually, someone was going to tell him "no," and the whole thing would come crashing down.

It had to, since all the superficial changes hid (briefly), one fairly major one: Banner was gone.

Through a series of events too convoluted to go into here--and, at the time, unrevealed for four months, in what must have seemed to be David's narrative gloriously shooting itself in the foot--Hulk found himself alone, at last, never changing back to Banner, never even having to deal with Banner chipping away at his subconscious. Keep in mind that it was Hulk's name in the title and, as much as Hulk and Banner are two sides of the same coin, it was unclear at this point whether or not they were inseparable. (In fact, time would prove that they could exist with mutual exclusivity, albeit not safely, as during the "Heroes Reborn" fiasco, when Banner followed the Avengers and the Fantastic Four into the pocket universe while Hulk stayed in the 616.) It was, in short, believable that David had killed off his main character. And while Banner proved not to be dead, exactly, he was still missing from the book. It's really a hell of a thing Peter David did here; Banner and Hulk define one another through their opposing natures, like light and dark, and good and evil. Imagine what it took, not only to attempt to define one without the other, but to think to do so in the first place.

Hence, the "Mr. Fixit" arc is unique in David's run in that it's pretty much the only time you get to see the Hulk really cut loose, not with violence (well, there's that, too), but rather with desire. If the central question of David's Hulk is what he wants, this arc makes it clear that even if you gave the Hulk exactly what he asked for, he still wouldn't be satisfied. It seems that the Hulk doesn't want what he wants so much as that he wants to want.

It's worth mentioning that as much as the book was following its own whims all over perdition during this period, the book still took effort to very much ground itself in the overall context of the Marvel Universe. Previously, during David's first year-and-a-half, the book was very much self-contained, with only an appearance from Wolverine (and, arguably, the behind-the-scenes presence of S.H.I.E.L.D.) to suggest the greater world. Although the first issue of the larger arc--347 again--is relatively self-contained, the subsequent issue features a guest shot from the Absorbing Man. From there, a brief detour to Web of Spider-Man (which David was also writing, off and on, at the time) for the first of a two-part crossover which ended in the next issue of The Incredible Hulk. Which, in turn, led to Fantastic Four for another two-part crossover ending in the next issue of Hulk, which finds ol' Gray Genes in New York, primed for recruitment into the last campaign of the Evolutionary War (which storyline was running through Marvel's Annuals that year, though oddly, there was no Hulk Annual).

The problem with this increased interconnectivity is that in retrospect it smacks of editorial interference. If rumors of behind-the-scenes action are to be believed, editorial machinations were highly influential on David's work here, and what ultimately inspired him to leave the book. Bobbie Chase, David's long-time editor, seemed to be as much of an ally as her bosses were obstacles. The result is The Incredible Hulk 360, the story of Betty Banner's miscarriage. The book was written by Bob Harras, who would of course go on to become a rather polarizing editor-in-chief, after David refused, making the book one of only two issues between 331 and 467 not written by Peter David. What's particularly disturbing about the editorial interference here (other than the Hungry Man portion of story potential wasted) is that it completely goes against a story written just a year before (346's "Whys and Wherefores") wherein Betty agonizes before deciding not to abort the child. Why make the reader go through the catharsis of such a decision, only to render the act of deciding immaterial?

But despite all the superficial changes, despite all the more fundamental changes, despite even the distractions of Spider-Man and co., one constant of David's run is readily apparent, unchanged: the destructively co-dependent relationship between Bruce Banner and the Hulk. When Banner inevitably returns, the spell cast by the sorcerers of Jarella's World having worn off (don't ask), the familiar dynamic is revisited. Banner by day, the Hulk by night, each one struggling to undo the other's hold on their coexistence while simultaneously trying to thwart further attempts. But what's different here is the Hulk finally has something to lose. At one point, Banner wakes up--having gone to sleep as the Hulk--and finds a message written on the bathroom mirror. "Don't screw this up," it says. But where once the Hulk would have threatened Banner unabashedly, he can't help but inadvertently admit that Banner's behavior--among other things--are out of his control. If there's a lesson in this large arc--and David, to his credit, was never one for easy answers--it's that we're never as human as when we're vulnerable, and we're never as vulnerable as when we have something to lose.

Next, in Green Pieces (Part Three): Peter David enters the high point of his run on The Incredible Hulk, issues 368-400, constituting the first half (!) of the Pantheon Saga. Dale Keown, considered by many to by David's definitive artistic partner on the book, joins up to illustrate the introduction of the Pantheon, the return of Betty and Rick, and appearances from the Defenders, the Punisher, and X-Factor, not to mention the Abomination and the Leader. Plus, Jim Wilson has AIDS, Banner's treacherous lab assistant has guilt, and, in David's best-regarded story (possibly ever), the Hulk has an appointment with Doc Samson. There's a lot to cover. Get here early.

Thursday, May 12

Too Thin

Me thinks the man doth protest too much.

I find it hard to do much besides disagree with Mr. Tamarri's post on the current DC Mega-Event, Infinite Crisis. That it is unpleasant for a reader to pick up their favorite monthly titles only to find out that the story they are reading is finished somewhere else cannot be disputed. However, I still think that Prelude to Infinite Crisis is kind of a nice idea, an easily budgeted book. Not only do I not collect the books that will be reprinted, I'm certainly not going to go to the length of getting Outsiders #N to find out what happened on page 13 panel 5. I think that DC has been incredibly accommodating with this crossover. Crisis Counseling is on the main DC website, and its purpose is to give you those minor tidbits that you may miss every week.

And while Chris throws the logic of math at us, let us not ignore logical fallacies. If Countdown's $1 price point was for those 80 pages, look at how much you are actually losing a week when you pick up your measly 32 page monthlies. Six bucks for 96 pages may not be perfect, but it is still not a bad price per page. We must remember that 80 pages for $1 is non-standard.

I also think that DC is being somewhat accurate in its "You do not have to read everything" stance. I know very little about the normal DCU and I've managed to understand all of the Infinite Crisis minis so far. I even dare to say that my reading of Adam Strange did little to improve my understanding of the recent
Rann-Thanagar War #1.

In addition, I think it would be a great disservice to the readers if they saw the "Part 17 of 96" on the cover, because they would then be disappointed when they get two pages of necessary storyline (Marvel's "Zero Tolerance" crossover in the X-Books a few years back comes to mind). With Infinite Crisis it seems that the reader will get as much out of the story as they want, or can afford.

It seems that Chris's problem with Infinite Crisis is the very essence of the universe-changing event. How else would you possibly change the entire universe, without affecting every book? I will probably end up being disappointed with Infinite Crisis when all is said and done, but not due to the logistics of storytelling. My fear is still that this universe changing event will be anything but. This past week I picked up all the first issues of the Countdown books. OMAC Project was interesting, and looks to be the most promising in developing into Infinite Crisis. Rann-Thanagar is setting up to be good old-fashioned Science Fiction, which DC seems to do well. Day of Vengeance was (for some reason) rather charming, if only for its apparent simplicity. As for the last, I must admit that I've already planned on dropping
Villains United.

So Chris, let us not bury this crossover in crap until it's done. Then one day we can look back on this event with disdain or delight, and see how the shape of things to come shaped up.

Friday, May 6


See, this is exactly my problem with this whole Infinite Crisis project.

DC has apparently rush-solicited a book they call Prelude to Infinite Crisis (Countdown was taken obviously; I can only assume that Antecedent to Infinite Crisis will be next). The book'll weigh in at about 96 pages, and will set you back six bucks (suggesting that the 16 pages this tome has on Countdown's length are worth an additional fiver, if I may be so bold as to introduce the rigid logic of mathematics). It will reprint the two-part Flash/Wonder Woman crossover from a couple months ago, the lead story from the most recent Superman Secret Files and, according to the press release, "select pages from nearly two dozen other DCU comics, with new text adding context to each story sequence."

DC would have you believe that this is a service to their readers. At best, it's a concession.

Somehow this company has taken its most appealing aspect--something, to be fair, it shares with Marvel--and turned it into a liability. The shared continuity is the most exciting thing that the DCU has going for it. It's fun to read, say, Detective Comics and Action Comics independently, only to see Superman, faced with an overwhelming problem, turn to Batman for help. Or, more accurately, it's fun to see this once in a while. What's bothersome is to see a major problem faced by Superman and Batman, and Wonder Woman, and the Flash, and the Justice League, and the Justice Society, and the Titans, and, ineffably, Adam Strange, and, once we get around to unkilling her, Donna Troy, each in their own books. Each of which you are asked to pay for.

In theory, it's exciting to see these heroes band together, to see the thread of continuity strung not between two characters or two books, but between all of them. But in practice, frankly, it's impossible. At least, it's impossible for me, inasmuch as I don't have an inexhaustible income.

The prevailing attitude from DC editorial seems to be "no, of course you don't have to buy all of these books to get the whole story," a standard company line (literally) whenever one of the big two trots out one of these big crossovers. However, I can't help but see as how a book like this completely undermines that position. A reprint book like this is just a finger in the dike (so to speak...), a way for DC to hopefully prevent their readers from being completely overwhelmed by a project that's gotten completely away from them. And, bear in mind, we're still a ways off from the actual book in which the central story will appear. I can't help but think that if DC was honest, solicited this as a multi-part story with central, unignorable events occurring in quite a few of their regular books, they would engender more good will than they will doing what they're doing.

What's better, picking up your monthly copy of Aquaman to see "Infinite Crisis part fourteen of seventy-two" on the cover, "continued in next week's Adventures of Superman" announced on the last page, or reading your supposedly self-contained issue of JSA to find that halfway through, a minor scene in an issue of The Outsiders from three months ago has become a major plot point? Neither is particularly appealing. Neither is respectful of the concept of the shared universe, to say nothing of a particular book's readers. But at least you can budget for one.

Tuesday, May 3

The Reappointment Artist

You've probably already heard about this, if you're inclined to pay attention to these sorts of things. But, for the sake of continuity (a loaded word, I know), a bit of reiteration: Jonathan Lethem is set to revisit the aptly-named character Omega the Unknown for Marvel Comics, to be published in 2006 (here's the link to the corresponding piece on Newsarama, which disappointingly provides little more information). Which I thought was a curious piece of news, both somehow surprising and, in retrospect, inevitable.

My initial reaction was to think about who this is meant to appeal to.

My secondary, closely following, reaction was to realize that I'm who this is meant to appeal to.

Lethem's hardly the first to have made a name for himself in the outside world before taking advantage of an opportunity to revisit childhood friends (to be overly romantic). Kevin Smith's been here (and was supposed to come back...), as has Straczynski, and lately Brad Metzler and Joss Whedon, amongst others I'm probably forgetting. But Lethem's the first novelist in recent memory to have made the jump. (Michael Chabon's a notable exception, but one with a necessary asterisk next to his name; The Escapist is a new property borne, improbably, out of Chabon's novel, making the "childhood friend" proviso not applicable, save through a brief contribution to the negligible JSA All Stars miniseries a few years back. But I digress.)

I suppose the fact that Lethem's jumped the generic shark isn't so surprising, given his history. Certainly, the fact that he had previously made his Marvel is all over Fortress of Solitude (the book's title notwithstanding). And shorter pieces--like the essay "Identifying With Your Parents", collected in both The Disappointment Artist and the excellent Give Our Regards to the Atomsmashers, or stories like "The Vision"--have dealt with his passion more directly, if less artfully. And since Motherless Brooklyn, casual Lethemites seemed to have forgotten that author's start was very much embedded in a science fiction tradition; As She Climbed Across the Table revolved around a love affair between a scientist and a black hole, and my favorite, Girl in Landscape, mined the same post-future westernist vein that Joss would tap for Firefly. So it's certainly not uncharacteristic of Lethem--or, more accurately, uncharacteristic of the character he's shaped on his pages--to be interested in putting his proverbial money where his mouth is.


I find it hard to believe that this constitutes a good business decision, at least in the short term. It certainly buys the Marvel name some artistic cred, irrespective of the book's ultimate quality (which will probably be good, and will certainly be regarded as good, even if it's not). But I'm more interested in what comics readers will be buying than with what Marvel will.

(By the by, I know it's curious to raise an eyebrow at Marvel having made a decision seemingly motivated by creative impulses rather by finances, but the fact remains that such a decision is uncharacteristic.)

I like Lethem. I've read a number of his books, and enjoyed most of them, some very much so (and even got paid to talk about one once, for the Village Voice). I'll certainly be buying the book, given that I'm already inclined to read the man's work, and am particularly interested in seeing what he's capable of creating for this medium. I'll be there. But I cou;dn't guess who'll be there with me.

Sunday, May 1

"Project" Red Light

I spent some time this afternoon giving my longboxes a much-needed spring cleaning. I pulled old comics, long unread, to donate to my local library (who, impressively, take them and actually introduce them into circulation). I pulled some more comics, recently completed runs, ready and waiting to be converted to trades (something once unthinkable, now standard). And, just to balance things out, I filed some new books who'd been sitting on the shelf, neglected and longing for a good ol' fashioned organizing. I ran into a snag, though.

I couldn't figure out where to put OMAC Project 1.

Admittedly, in the scope of things, this is the sort of non-problem that most of us would love to have top our list of Things Wrong With the World. But, organization and cross-reference are important tools to a comics historian--by which I mean "reader"--and, more importantly, I didn't think "Worse X-Man: Maggot or Marrow" was a compelling post topic. So here we are, lost in the stacks.

For reasons that I'll (hopefully, eventually) make clear, I didn't file the book where it by rights ought to go, under "O", nestled right next to a handfuls of Optic Nerves (can we chain Adrian Tomine to the drawing table, by the by? We'll start a fund, buy some shackles and someone to mind him, bring him sandwiches and clean T-Shirts. Our expectations will be conservative, to start, say a couple new Nerves a year. Ah, but I digress, Weeklings...).

I thought, briefly, about filing the book under "C", right there between Countdown and the inevitable Infinite Crisis (which, very much despite my better judgment, will probably need space in my collection six months from now). That is, after all where the story fits in. Ultimately, though, that didn't feel right, as though I was giving credence to an impulse that ought not be acknowledged.

See, here's the thing. I bought OMAC Project for two reasons: Batman and Greg Rucka. The series promised to feature the Dark Knight rather prominently, and as an old school fanboy for the character, I'll give most of his books at least a cursory glance, based on the creative team, even if I decide not to actually spend money on one book or another. And as far as creators go, there are few who've dealt with Batman in the last half decade who've satisfied more frequently than Greg Rucka. He was a major contributor to the Crossover-Done-Right "No Man's Land" (of particular note is his one-off with the always-solid Rick Burchett in Legends of the Dark Knight 125, an immensely compelling story wherein Bats and Commissioner Gordon talk about their feelings). His miniseries Death and the Maidens was especially pleasing, an in-depth look at Ra's al Ghul, a legitimate argument for the villain as Batman's true nemesis. And, of course, the centerpiece of Rucka's Batmanifesto is his three-year run on Detective Comics, a patient and painstaking delineation of Batman and Bruce Wayne favoring legitimate detective stories to sensational villain-of-the-week smash-'em-ups.

One of Rucka's main contributions to the Batmythos was the character of Sasha Bordeaux. Introduced in Detective 751 (correct if I'm wrong, Weeklings) as a bodyguard for Bruce Wayne, she quickly became a confident, a partner in crimefighting, and a love interest (or as close to one as the character has). Sasha was classic Rucka heroine, in the manner of Tara Chace, or even of his Elektra or Wonder Woman, hard and capable enough that you respected the character, expected her to take care of herself, but just soft enough that you longed for her to allow someone to take care of her, if that makes any sense (in Countdown, Beetle says of Wonder Woman, "It's the way she says your name, like she knows you, knows everything about you, the best and worst. Like she knows, and she loves you anyway." If that's not Rucka writing, I'll eat my hat). Sasha was ushered quietly offstage at the end of Rucka's run, adopted by Checkmate after her association with Batman had essentially made her life as she knew it impossible, but it always seemed as though they were parts of her story left untold. Naturally, I was excited by the possibility that OMAC might finally conclude her story, give her the kind of ending that real life never gives.

So you see why I'm compelled to consider OMAC Project a Batman story.

Here's the thing, though. It is a Batman story, in that he's a major character and he's being written by a man who's intimately familiar with his internal monologue. However, as has been pointed out in better e-rags than this, OMAC Project 1 is really Countdown 2. And Countdown was a story of Blue Beetle, and Superman, and the Titans and the Outsiders, and the JLA, and Adam Strange, and Maxwell friggin' Lord. And, if there's time, Batman. And, just to drive the point home, I notice that in a few months hence, there'll be a crossover between the Superman books and Wonder Woman (to both of which Rucka contributes), which thereafter will crossover with OMAC Project. Which I'm buying to see Batman.

Look, I get the shared universe thing. I enjoy the shared universe thing. The relationship between Batman and Superman is (if written correctly) is one of the most nuanced workplace relationships that I've ever encountered, in any medium. But I don't need a comic just to tell me that they work differently. And I certainly don't need a special, which leads into four miniseries, which in turn leads into another miniseries which will doubtless crossover with more books than my wallet can bear, to tell me that this is a multi-faceted fictional context.

I bought Detective Comics because I find Batman appealing, and I find (found, maybe, sadly) Greg Rucka's writing to be entertaining. I'm buying OMAC Project because it seems as though I have to, to enjoy the completion of the story that began in that title. But I'm not happy about it.

So here's the deal. I'm going to buy the OMAC Project, in toto, 2 through 6. At the end of that final issue, I'm going to decide whether I can continue following this character I enjoy while in good conscience ignoring Superman, and the Flash, and those characters that, due to matters of personal taste, aren't for me. If so, I'll continue reading Gotham Central, and Anderson Gabrych's Batgirl and David Lapham's Detective and Devin Grayson's Nightwing (I know, I know, but that's the subject of another post, friends). But if they ask me to buy more than that, suggest that Batman's story is incomplete without a total understanding of the world in which he lives, I'm out. Look, A Tale of Two Cities was a massive undertaking, with a cast of characters larger than the list of people I know, in real life, and well-studied observations of these two contexts considered through a number of disciplines. But it had a finite number of pages, and Dickens never asked for more money after I was done, to tell me how things really ended. And the DC Universe, I know, isn't Victorian Europe, but in its own way, it could be.

Six months and, maybe, I'm out.

But I'll always have "Officer Down".

Friday, April 29

Company Lines

Today on Newsarama a new column's debuted: Joe Fridays, or some such. It's a weekly interview with Marvel's Joe Quesada, about whatever comes up. It reminded me why I liked being a comics reader during the early Quesada/Jemas era. They were good at rallying interest, as Quesada is now. Some of the crap that I've seen come out of Marvel recently has been... less than interesting, and even their summer crossover, House of M, has failed to get me too excited. But after hearing Quesada talk, I am almost interested in seeing what it's all about. Almost.

There's an interesting note at the bottom of the page that mentions how a similar offer was given to DC to do a weekly interview, but it was declined. Then a thought appeared in the ether that is my brain concerning the difference in advertising between the Big Two, and how that plays out in the universes, how Marvel and DC are normally at such odds. Marvel can have MAX, or to a lesser extent Marvel Knights, as their answer to Vertigo, but all three of those imprints are vastly different. Characters can be analogous, but still distinctly different. Seeing Marvel's method of advertising being so different from DC's is understandable. I have no idea who DC's Editor-in-Chief is; he's so rarely heard from. I know DC names (DiDio, et al.) but not to the extent to which Joe Q. is known.

After thinking about this all for a while I realized that I don't consider DC and Marvel to really be competition. Competition generally implies two entities that have similar attributes that are at odds to determine (or let others determine) which is the best. The only real similarity I can presently see between Marvel and DC is that they both make comics. There should be no competition as people will choose one company over another not because one is better than the other, but because one is more in line with what they prefer.

(The argument could be made that they both do super-hero comics, but the difference between DC and Marvel superheroics is, I feel, obvious at this point. If this is untrue I'll do a different post on it sometime.)

The premature conclusion I come up with based on this non-competitor relationship is that one of the main reasons comics goes through its up and downs is because people will align with one company over another, then choose to leave comics over jumping ship to a different company. If you were a Marvel reader in the 90s and you hated Marvel in the 90s, my guess is you would be more likely to stop reading comics then look and see what DC was doing. I think this because when I began collecting comics for the second (third?) time in 2000, my reading list was overwhelmingly Marvel. As I look at my list of monthly comics, since April 19, my pull list contains 7 Marvel books, and 19 DC books. As a kid, I would never have picked up DC Comics (due to a fear, at that time, of the unknown comic universe). Now, as a more mature reader, I look for what is good. As you can see from my previous analysis of sales, especially in comparison with general reactions to comics, sales does not always equal quality comic.

I think the allegiance to companies is a poor move on the comic readers part. Not only does the non-chosen of the Big Two lose out, but indie comics also lose then. If you are not willing to look at DC because you read Marvel, there's no way you'll look at AiT/PlanetLar. If you look for good comics for good comics sake, your options open up so much.

This post ends as openly as it began as I'm not exactly sure what the point may have been. It is more the beginning of a long conversation than anything else. I feel that an observation has been made, and in the words of AC Weisbecker, when all is said and done, this post was definitely an example of something.

Thursday, April 28

Preaching to the Choir

Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Preacher started soon after I stopped reading comics, when I turned 16. A fewyears later, when I started reading again it had just recently ended. Today it's probably the best selling Vertigo series besides Sandman. (I've been quite fascinated by comic sales recently). One of the things that I recall from my first reading is my initial reaction as a raised Catholic.

I get tired of people poking fun at religion in an angry, unintelligent and spiteful way (Tom Robbins's Another Roadside Attraction comes to mind as a work that far too maliciously attacks organized religion). To do so is to ignore the good that religion has given to mankind. I remember thinking about how angry Jesse Custer seemed to be, but not completely being able to follow it. The dreadful result that often comes from these types of attacks is something akin to what I imagine I would feel if I saw Fahrenheit 9/11: Great points skewed by the fact that they are so poorly delivered, that I have no urge to support them. They end up becoming sickly parodies of themselves instead of valid commentary.

Ennis and Dillon put together an interesting non-parody here. Though the story is far-fetched it hits several nerves that are close to the heart. They toe that line of making religion seem like the big bad enemy, until you realize that Jesse is a fine Christian. He lays down his life to save his friends, and he treats people fairly. So he gets a bit violent sometimes (ye without sin, yadda yadda); in his heart he is honest and good, if not, at points, grotesquely funny.

Garth Ennis does grotesque-funny well. He got big in the superhero world after writing Punisher, which, if you are like me, is the reason you read Preacher. The first story introduces most of the major players, and hooks the reader in quite well. The second storyline cements the series as a means of telling horrific stories, while still being able to make sex references, and dirty jokes. The third storyline, “Until the End of the World” secures the series' ability to be intelligent and emotional by dealing with God, his relationship to his earthly family, and the earthly family's relationship to itself.

The character of God is shown as a powerful, yet scared being. He knows that his end could be nigh, and that he cannot face the preacher because of the power that the half-angel/half-demon entity,Genesis, gives to Jesse.

God is a coward here, but as much as the reader dislikes him, there is sympathy. It is kind of like watching your father get old. There is a point where he just cannot do the things he use to be able to do, and it scares him. God has been in power too long. His (angel) children have transgressed and created a monster (that could destroy him) and his other kids barely spend the energy to write or call.

God’s family, which makes him complete, has left him. Can you blame him for having a mid-life crisis?

Well, in this instance you have to. You would blame Superman for going crazy when he realizes his best years are behind him, and God is in a similar predicament. He is very powerful, but he is facing a very real threat (For the superheroing world, imagine Superman facing Doomsday; Holmes facing Moriarty that one last time).

The image of God’s family continues on throughout the story, and expands to become a story about all family. Early on Jesse feels that Genesis chose him because they were children with similar parents (parents that broke the rules to be together). Jesse’s father was shot when Jesse was a young boy, and he remembers his father, John Custer, as a mythical figure; a super-dad. The direct juxtaposition to this is Jesse’s relationship with Jody, a man whose family has been serving the L’angelles for a long time.

Jody is the evil twin of John Custer. Both know how to get into, and win a fight. Both can be mean sons of bitches. The main difference is the choice between good and bad. John Custer tells Jesse to “be one of the good guys, because there’re way too many of the bad.” Jody is one of the bad. From his father, Jesse learns about John Wayne, being good, and enjoying life. But from Jody, Jesse learns how to survive it. Jody is the one that teaches Jesse to fight. Like any poor teacher, Jody gives Jesse the technique without teaching about motivation (giving a child superpowers, and expecting them to do the right thing intuitively).

Jesse owes Jody; for the death of his father, and for giving him the means of exacting revenge. In Jody’s last scene, he finally sees hope in Jesse. Jody always saw Jesse has a coward growing up, who would consistently be beaten down. When Jesse finally comes back and stands up to Jody, he does it without The Word, but with the skills that Jody taught him. He fights him, and he wins.

Unfortunately for Jesse it is a pyrrhic victory. He exacts his revenge, but gains no solace from what has happened. He gains only the freedom from his family, and a step in the direction of calling God out for what he's done.

(As I am currently re-reading the Preacher series I may decide to do another post on its later issues. Sadly, this was initially going to be a post about monthly vs. trade. As I typed, it quickly became another monster unto itself. Who knows what will come next. As the next trip to the comic store is not until Free Comic Book Day, We will have to be happy with what is past for the moment, as the future (and in a sense the present), is about a week and a half away for me.)

Wednesday, April 27

Green Pieces (Part One)

"It's not that I'm afraid to show emotions, Betty. Just what can happen... if they get out of control.”

on The Incredible Hulk 331-346

It's all there, right from the beginning, if you know where to look. Peter David's run on the book with which he will inevitably come to be identified begins abruptly, unceremoniously, with little indication that these are the first of eleven years' worth of stories. In fact, David's run doesn't actually begin traditionally at all; his first issue on The Incredible Hulk was 328, a fill-in called "Piece of Mind". When he began writing the book regularly three issues later, there was little to suggest that it was, in fact the beginning of anything. In fact, David's beginning seems more like an ending, writing as he was to draw closed Al Milgrom's truncated run on the book, using his first eight issues to clean up loose ends: the dissolution of the Hulkbusters, the defeat of the Rick Jones Hulk (don't ask), the reintroduction of the Leader, even the reinstatement of the (not-so) Jade Giant himself.

But in retrospect, David's style, his predilections, his preoccupations, his intentions all seem self-evident.

In retrospect, this seems like some great superheroics.

But only in retrospect.

To be honest, if David's run had come to an end with 346, the epilogue to the epic (at that time) "Gamma Bomb" storyline that had culminated in the previous double-sized issue, it would be regarded as a footnote, more notable for the contribution of up-and-coming artist Todd McFarlane than for the book's writer. There's little here to overtly indicate what's to come, the rapport that David would establish with the Hulk (arguably more so than with Bruce Banner), the honestly engrossing sense of magic and loss that David would be able to weave, patiently, once it became clear that he wasn't going anywhere. For now, the book's okay. Not great, not bad, just okay.

(Some of the disappointment apparent in this era of the book has to be attributed to Todd McFarlane, artist on every issue here except for the aforementioned "Piece of Mind", a chilling one-off in 335 illustrated beautifully by John Ridgway, and the denouement in 346 penciled--over McFarlane's layouts--by eventual Image-consultant Erik Larsen. Todd would go on to superstardom immediately after this on The Amazing Spider-Man, breathing life into the character with which he's probably still best identified. But while McFarlane's elastic lines and staccato jump cuts were particularly well-suited to our Friendly Neighborhood, they're ill-matched with the Hulk. Where he attempts to create a sense of gravity, the Hulk simply seems slothful and pruny, McFarlane's hyperactive sense of storytelling and dizzying panel placement actually undermining the Hulk's most characteristic attribute: his power. Todd is still, at this point, an unproven artist. The Incredible Hulk was the training ground for what would become his admittedly inimitable style. Unfortunately, it was rarely the beneficiary of any of that training.)

At this point, David's first year and a half on the book is best regarded as a sort of rough draft for what was to come. Eventually, David would claim that the Hulk is a manifestation of Bruce Banner's consciousness, an aspect of his gray matter (pun, in homage to PAD, very much intended) that was present at, if not created by, Banner's boyhood abuse at the hands of his father. The idea surfaces in an observation from Clay Quartermain--rogue S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and brief traveling companion of Rick Jones & Bruce--who opines off-handedly in 339's "Native Son" that "Bruce Banner was a victim of his [father's] violence--and maybe--just maybe--the Hulk is a direct result of that abuse." It's a seed that would eventually bear David healthy fruit, arguably his greatest contribution to the ongoing story of the Hulk, an origin suggesting not where the creature came from but rather why he needed to be.

Slowly, David begins to suggest that the relationship between Bruce Banner and the Hulk wasn't as disparate as had perhaps been previously suggested. These weren't two minds, both tenant in the same body. These were two aspects of the same mind, both given physicality through the freak science of the Marvel Universe.

Another David trademark making its first tentative appearance here is the Issue issue, wherein some social concern or another is considered, human problems thrown into relief through their introduction into a decidedly inhuman context; the most prominent example thereof is 420, wherein the problem of AIDS is contemplated, reflected through the reader's identification with the afflicted Jim Wilson, former sidekick of the Hulk. The issues here are neither as prominent nor as gracefully-handled as in that story, but it's nevertheless clear that David has greater aspirations for the book than a series of slugfests, a sense of the world in which the book's readers live, and recognition of where that world intersects with the Hulk's. As early as 333, David's third issue as regular writer, he tackles domestic abuse, admittedly not as nebulous a problem as the AIDS epidemic, but one that still needs address. In "Quality of Life" Bruce Banner is incarcerated by a small-town sheriff for a liquor store raid perpetrated by the Hulk. In the inevitable confrontation between the blowhard sheriff and the Hulk, the sheriff's abused wife jumps to her husband's defense, incurring his ire when she inadvertently emasculates him. Turning the gun meant for the Hulk on her husband, the woman fires, illustrating the inability to successfully solve the problem of domestic abuse. "You thought you were alone," the Hulk conclusively tells Banner. "But you see, there's monsters everywhere." Subtlety proves elusive here, as throughout David's run, but his dramatization of the issue at hand still proves effective.

But at the center of Peter David's story here is the element that would prove to be at the center of his entire run. For most of 331-346, husband and wife Bruce and Betty are separate; even when they're ostensibly given the opportunity to be together, Bruce's position is usurped by the Hulk. They're never let to rest. But nor do they really ask for the chance. In 346, "Whys and Wherefores," Betty contemplates a life without her husband, apparently killed when caught at ground zero of a detonated gamma bomb (spoiler alert: he survives). Betty finds herself carrying Bruce Banner's child, and briefly considers having an abortion, or as the Comics Code allows it to be nebulously put, "not having the baby." Ultimately, she wonders "how can I kill, now, the one remaining bit of the last loved one I've ever had" and vows "No more death... No matter what the risks, it stops here." Betty's pathos is compelling, her grief more real than a comic starring a monsterous manifestation of a scientist's subconscious deserves to be. Bottom line, this is a story about Bruce Banner and Betty Ross, a man and a woman who never stopped fighting--who never got the chance to stop fighting--to be with one another. That element of David's overall story is here fully-formed, as clear and tall as other aspects are still developing.

Next, in Green Pieces (Part Two): The most idosyncratic era of David's run is considered in The Incredible Hulk 347-367. The Hulk, briefly free of Banner's influence, goes wild in Las Vegas as Mr. Fixit. Meanwhile, David starts to establish the Hulk's place in the Marvel Universe, with encounters between the Hulk and Spider-Man, the Thing and Iron Man, and looks back at the history of the Hulk, with an appearance from the Abomination and a visit to Jarella's world.

Tuesday, April 26

Green Pieces (Part Zero)

Before we get started (again), there's a few things you should know, that I should, I suppose, admit.

First, I'm not all that bad. I know we have a tendency to get our complaining on here at the Week, but it's not all that dire. The thing is, as any cultural critic--or kid with internet access and too much time on his hands--knows, it's a lot easier to point out what's wrong than what's right. And it's more fun; "brilliant display" just doesn't have the same sensational ring as "epic disaster". And you know this. But there's good stuff out there, stuff worth spending your time and money on. How do I know this? Because without the good, we wouldn't be able to recognize the bad, and then we'd have nothing to bitch about. Endlessly.

Second, if it's good now, it was better then. I mean, as loath as I am to fall into the rhetorical trap of lamenting the departure of the good ol' days, the fact is that I don't enjoy comics now as much as I did when I was 13, 14, 15. But then, I'm not supposed to. When I say I don't "enjoy" comics as much, I mean just that, not that they're not as enjoyable, but that I don't enjoy them as much as I used to. Nor do I enjoy music, movies, my friends, myself, anything as much as I did when I was a teenager. I don't think it's all defeatist to admit that kids fundamentally enjoy life more than adults (not that I'm Methuselah). And, all evidence to the contrary, I'm no longer a kid. But I can remember the past. And, more importantly, I can use it to inform the future. And recommend it.

Third, I think I'm fairly well-rounded. Literally, certainly, sadly, but figuratively, as well. You want to talk about LCD Soundsystem, or Napoleon Dynamite, or Jonathan Safran Foer, or even, um, current events, and stuff, sure, I can hold it down. But if we talk long enough, see if I don't steer the conversation towards The Invisibles. Bottom line: I'm a geek. But you knew that, didn't you.

So why all the soul-bearing, you might ask, and what has this to do with House of M? Well, I have to admit that it has nothing to do with House of M (which, if I could get a quick zinger in, looks just short of awesome enough), but I haven't forgotten that this is a comics blog.

You see, I've been thinking about the Hulk.

My association with the Hulk began in 1994, with issue 417. It was the bachelor party issue, the prelude to the big Rick/Marlo wedding that'd occur in the subsequent issue. Peter David was at the height of his powers. He had established an apparant rapport with then-artist Gary Frank (still, in my opinion, the best artist of David's run) and was reaching the climax of "The Pantheon Saga", the truly epic storyline that David had begun years before. It was a good time to read The Incredible Hulk. As years went by, I continued following the Hulk's adventures, simultaneously watching where the character went and working backwards to see from where he had come. Eventually, I gathered a complete run of David's Hulk, 328-467 (minus a few holes and plus a few addenda). I read them as I got them, mentally assembling the pieces of the character with whom David is, and always will be, indellibly associated. It's my favorite superhero comic, even better regarded, in my estimation, than the previously mentioned Starman. The run demonstrated a better rapport between a creator and a character that he had not created than one might think is possible. I've reads stories where creators had less of an understanding of characters they'd created than Peter David did of Bruce Banner.

So you understand that I was excited when, after seven some-odd years, David and the Hulk were reunited.

And you understand, hopefully, that I was disappointed when the storyline (still, I admit, uncompleted), proved not to be the greatest of all time.

There's a few things going on here. First, I'm sure that David's a little rusty, after having spent so much time away from the character, and to some degree directed creatively by editorial mandates. Second, and for our purposes more important, I'm sure I've worked up a serious of unfair expectations, romanticizing David's run as something more than what it probably was: a really good comic book story.

So. Here's the punchline: I'm going back home. As I mentioned above, I've collected and read all of David's contributions to the Hulk mythos. And I've read them all. But not in order.

But I'm going to.

The project is: I read these comics, The Incredible Hulk 328-467, minus a few holes and plus a few addenda. Periodically, I stop reading, and I write about what I've read so far, always while considering whether or not these books, more than a decade after I've read them for the first time and certainly too long since I've read them last, are in fact as good as I've made them up to be. (The nice thing about David's eleven-year [!] run is that is can be broken up into a number of big eras, often punctuated by a change of artist.)

I meant to post my consideration of the beginning of David's run here, after this brief introduction, but I've realized that I've neither now nor probably ever written anything that can be unironically described as "brief". So the beginning, 328 (331, techinically) to 346 or so, will be considered in a seperate post, to be, um, posted, tomorrow. So check back, Weeklings! Were things actually better then? Find out soon!

(By the way, check the archives if you're so inclined, but I believe that was the first official Wednesday Week cliffhanger. God willing, it was the last.)


Tuesday, April 19


Trigger is ending soon. Which is fine. It’s an interesting story, but it's not really that good. I'm not that upset.

Wildcats 3.0 ended some while ago, and it was excellent. It was a fascinating story, dealing with superheroes that run a super-company. It didn't sell worth a damn apparently (at least to Wildstorm standards).

Human Target will be ending next month with #21. It tells intriguing stories about human identity, and how people tell the difference between themselves and others (which is more complex than it may sound). I love when Peter Milligan writes like this. His run on Shade the Changing Man in the early 90s is currently my favorite comic series ever written. I am greatly upset.

Uncanny X-Men has not really been that good since Joe Casey left (and to be honest his run was only getting really good at what turned out to be the end). Chuck Austen was basically horrible. Chris Claremont seems to be getting worse. His original run was, needless to say, classic fun. His first return to Uncanny (nine issues beginning with 381) was confusing, but I believe I’m the only person alive that enjoyed the Neo storylines. Then he left and went to X-treme. I soon got tired of that book, and it finally ended with last year's "Reload". Now he's back with Uncanny which is, as I see on the Diamond's top 300 list for March, is the twelfth best-selling book around.

Trigger is #191.

Human Target is #193.

I doubt either Wildcats or Shade ever got that high in the charts either.

This stinks. Uncanny should not be winning any readers. The stories are not that good, and are obviously written for an immature audience. It's a child’s book. The plot lines are unclear, and there is very little continuity between stories. The Hellfire Club was important a few months ago. Now there is a new evolution of dinosaurs in the Savage Land. I missed the closing of the last story and the beginning of the next one.

The thing is, I like these types of stories. I have no problem with superheroes doing silly superhero things, like flying to the moon, or going to Atlantis. The Savage Land, in X-Men comics, has often been a fun setting for some good ol' fashioned superheroing.

But this story is not good. It sounds like the reverberated echo of old Claremont stories that were once good. But it, in itself is not good. Plot has taken over at the expense of almost everything else. Morrison seemed to introduce Nano-sentinels, and now there are all sorts of nanomites attacking people, such as Rachel Summers, who is suppose to have something to do with the Phoenix (I know this was in X-treme towards the end, but I missed it). Chris Claremont on X-Men has a similar flavor to George Lucas on Star Wars.

I collect Uncanny X-Men, and will continue to get it on a monthly basis. I stopped midway through the Austen run because it was awful. Then I went back and got those issues cheap when I heard Claremont was coming back. I started collecting comics at age 11 with Uncanny X-Men 281. I stopped in my Junior year of high school, then started again when I was 20 with the release of the X-Men movie (383 was my first back). I have every issue of Uncanny from 93 on.

I am part of the reason that Uncanny X-Men is where it is.

It's the last part of x-zombie fan boy left in me. I want to buy these comics. I want them to be decent reads. I want to give Marvel my money for a good issue of Uncanny X-Men. But they're losing me.

It would seem as though I'm unique in that. Meanwhile, Human Target is cancelled at 21.

I understand that comics have to sell to continue going. I understand that superheroes are the most popular genre of comics. I understand that good comics are often overlooked for various reasons (and don’t sell). What I don't understand is the fascination with and allowance for bad comics.

My evil twin, Chris, pointed out the lack of novelty in comics recently, even the good ones. What’s sad is the lack of possible good in the bad comics. I liked Stormwatch: Team Achilles, but those stories stuck sometime. Micah Wright through a lot of shit on the wall, and often enough something would stick. Chris Claremont, meanwhile, has lost his throwing arm. None of it works, and it doesn’t seem like he’s been trying lately. Any day now I’ll take it off my pull list.

(I've discovered lately that if I rant long enough, I get the answers to my own questions).

I want something new. I want something amazing. There is a ton of great stuff out there, but it’s not the next generation.

Saturday, April 16

There's a Way

So. That was interesting. My previous post, a whinathon inspired by the announcement of recent Eisner Award nominees, seems to have garnered some modest attention; an increase in hits (hopefully from returning or planning-on-returning Weeklings) and a pair of comments, one from Troy Hickman, whose Common Grounds received a pair of nominations, and one from Jackie Estrada, the self-identified "Eisner Awards Administrator".

It's the latter's comment which gave my eyebrows a raise.

Ms. Estrada takes issue with my finding of, in her words, "this year's nominations pretty much being a repeat of last year's." She sets out to thwart me the way any rational person would, with a statement of comparative fact and an indication, wherever possible, of quantifiable demonstration. Her logical response fails, though, to recognize that she's responding to an argument that is fundamentally and inescapably irrational.

It appears some clarification is in order.

My problem isn't exactly with the Eisners. Not only do I not take issue with the nominations (for the most part; to say that I don't agree with their selections totally, though, is hardly a slight), but many of the stories and creators they've singled out as being worthy are one on which I've spent both my money and time. More than that, they're among what I'd consider the best of the past year. I've already stated my love for Demo; Ex Machina pleasantly surprised, proving enjoyable despite the fact that in the past I've found Brian Vaughn's work not really my cup of tea; Astonishing X-Men is far better and better-looking than any X-Men book deserves to be; and Stray Bullets has been a favorite of mine since its inception a decade ago, so I'm pleased as punch whenever the community at large remembers that it's still around. But these are exceptions, rather than rules, and only the first and last of these four has inspired anything resembling excitement.

I suppose that's the bottom line. I have no problem with the Eisners; they've made what I think, on the whole, are fair selections for the year's top achievements. And the books are, on the whole, good; on average, they're probably about as good as, or slightly less than, other years. My problem is that the individual books aren't too far off from the average. Comics aren't great, and horrible. They're all just okay.

I can remember being excited about comics, both for individual works and for the industry as a whole. The early years of the Quesada-Jemas era had me shitting my pants in anticipation, actually curious about what's going to happen to these characters (that waned, but that's a discussion for another time). Scurvy Dogs had me laughing as loud as probably any comic book I've ever read, and as heartily as the funniest stories I've encountered in any medium. The "Murderer/Fugitive" storyline in the Batbooks had me actually enjoying a crossover, something I might not have ever done, to that extent at least. But what happened this past year? Grant Morrison left the X-Men, completing the best-received run with the characters in more than a decade, only to see his legacy almost immediately eroding. They killed Sue Dibny, and Ted Kord (I suppose that was technically this year), because they were just important enough to pretend that we cared about them, creating this elaborate dance where DC and the readers of their books both pretended that they cared what the other thought.

But I didn't. This is the year I stopped caring.

To some degree, that's why I decided to help start this blog. (When did this little response become the St. Crispin's Day speech...?) I don't really care about comics anymore. I don't know who's fault it is, and I'm perfectly willing to admit that it might be mine, but somehow, someone convinced me that comics aren't worth caring about anymore. I still know they are, but for the first time in fourteen(ish) years, I don't necessarily believe it. So Ms. Estrada, you'll forgive me if I say that the nominees all look the same; I know they're not, literally. But it feels, with a few notable exceptions, as though they all do the same thing: Beat a dead horse.

I think I'm wrong. I certainly hope I'm wrong. Prove me wrong.

Friday, April 15

There's a Will

The nominees for the 2005 Eisner Awards have been announced, and I couldn't possibly care less.

Here's the thing. I like comics, perhaps obviously. I like the Eisner Awards, feel that they're probably the best opportunity to honor the medium as a legitimate forum for creativity, rather than a child's indulgence or a field for potential Hollywood development. I'm even fond of a number of the individual nominees, creators and creations both. Still, though, I find it very hard to get at all excited about this, now.

Here's the long way around: In the second year of James Robinson and Tony Harris's Starman, the book featured a storyline entitled "Sand and Stars" (the storyline, by the by, itself won an Eisner, along with nominations for writer, book, and pencil and cover artist). In the storyline, hero Jack Knight travels to New York to consult with Wesley Dodds, a caped colleague of his father's. What captures Knight's attention, though, is the opportunity to meet Dodds's wife, Dian Belmont, Knight's favorite novelist. "When they awarded you the Nobel six years ago, it seemed so overdue, and so deserved, I went out and got drunk," he admits. "Good and happy drunk, like it was me that had gotten the award. I was so pleased for you."

I remember that moment as one of favorites in the series, itself one of my favorite superhero titles. I remember it when I watch the Academy Awards, or see year-end best-of lists from my favorite music rags, or read about Eisner nominees, and eventually, winners. I remember it when I have the chance to watch someone honored, someone who's made my life a little happier, briefly or not-so-briefly, by way of their art. And I look for the chance to commiserate, remotely with everybody else whose life's been made howevermuch better by a film, or a song, or a comic.

I remember it now, but I don't experience it.

Now look, the Eisner, with all due respect to both its history and its namesake, is hardly the Nobel Prize. But it's arguably as close as we get. It's the best chance we get to look at everybody else who loved whatever they loved and say "Yeah, I get it, too."

But I don't get it.

I suspect this has more than a little to do with the particular nominees in this year's batch. There's nothing wrong with them, exactly. All of those that I've read--and it's a fair amount, so I'm not speaking entirely out of ignorance here--were good stories. But they weren't great. Look at, for example, the nominees for Best Short Story. Among them is "God" from the dust cover of the comics-oriented McSweeney's edited by Chris Ware, who also created the story. Let me say that again: this story is from the dust cover. To point this out is, in no way, to slight the quality of the story itself. I, for one, liked it well enough. But as far as metaphors go, the fact that one of the nominees for a category that awards stories appeared on a book's cover isn't exactly a subtle one.

Or: Kyle Baker received three nominations in one category, Best Humor Publication. The Eisner Awards celebrate achievements in comic books. The Best Humor Publication sees 60% of its nominations go to one man. Again, I don't begrudge Kyle Baker, whom, again, I like. And I only point out the etymological happenstance here for purposes of metaphor; I understand that there's nothing fundamentally funny about a comic book story. But it doesn't change the fact that the committee only thought there were only three men worth honoring for their comedic creations in the entire comic community.

And that's another thing (is that a rant I smell...?): Where my girls at? From amongst all of the individual categories, there are only two nominations for females: Laura Martin for her Color and Raina Telgemeier as Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition. I suppose we'll have to wait until Persepolis 3 comes out before we see another woman added to the list.

My problem with the Eisners, overall, is in fact not a problem with the Eisners at all. Rather, it's a problem that the announcements of the nominees brings into light, a problem of homogeneity. These nominees bore me. Not because they're boring, in themselves, but rather because, up against one another like this, one realizes how little quality gets injected into mainstream comics; specifically, as little as they can get away with, and not a drop more. These are the same books we saw last year--even the Best New Series category, somehow, seems to be contemptuously familiar--and the same that we'll see next year. I am, occasionally, pleased (it's nice to see some love for Demo, a series I've long enjoyed) and disappointed (I thought Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark's "Unresolved" in issues 19-22 or Gotham Central, was far and away the best serialized story I read last year, Eisner nod or no), but I find it almost impossible to get excited about these books. They failed to change my life, overall, for better or for worse.

Is it me?

Monday, April 11

Pull List

Pre-ordering, as I often hear, is your friend. The glory of pre-ordering is that whichever comic shop you order from may go ahead and order an extra copy if you order one. This past Wednesday, for example, I received a copy of God the Dyslexic Dog 2. It is quite possible, since there was one interested party, there may be two (and with a name like that). So, yeah, pre-order.

The joy of the pull list is largely the weekly anticipation. Monday, after 5, Diamond releases the shipping lists, and then for the next two weeks you have a real idea of what is coming out. I find that solicitations are fun because you can see months down the road, but so rarely do those shipping dates seem to really last (and it's much too far away to care).

This week I grabbed issue 2 of God the Dyslexic Dog. Interesting comic. At the beginning of time, the great poet, almost as a joke, says "let there be light." And then there is creation. It has a lot of things that remind me of Morrison's writing. It deals with elements of the Mayan calendar and the countdown to the end of time. The dog that is one of the main characters was the great poet's pet, but sadly he has no memory of anything that is going on.

It is kind of slow, but I'm interested in seeing what happens next. It has the horrible posibility of becoming crap quickly, but I am somewhat confident it will not.

Losers is continuing on strongly, and it is an interesting read. I find Andy Diggle very entertaining, I am loving Adam Strange, and his run on Swamp Thing was the final reason I needed to fork over the money for Alan Moore's run. It is a fun read, but I can't wait for it to be over. I want the conclusion. The problem I have noticed with a lot of new series, specifically Vertigo series, I love them and I want them to be completed. I like knowing there is a definitive end. 100 Bullets is on the countdown to 100, and I love it. Losers is the same way. It is made well for the monthly format, as there are often the cliffhanger endings that keep you excited about the book, but I want to know how long there is until the conclusion.

Speaking of Swamp Thing, 13 is continuing the slow demise. It's good, but it's not great, and it needs to be great. Andy Diggle did it well, but I can kind of foresee the end that was probably how people looked at the series after Alan Moore left, and how it just is ok, but never quite as good (similar to the lull after Morrison's run on Animal Man). I don't know why Vertigo series have done this so much lately, but there is a lot more less successful series than successful. Preacher ended after 66, Transmet after 60, Sandman 75. And those are excellent runs. Most, now, have to finish up after 12-20 issues. Whatever they had, they need to get it back. (Trigger, a 1984-esque series is ending with #8. The most recent Vertigo ongoing to fail.)

Then I caved. I bought Identity Crisis, and GL: Rebirth, as Countdown has made me a DC Hero Junkie. Identity Crisis was well written. I enjyoed reading it, but the story was just strange. It kind of worked sometimes, and was just trite and trying to be too realistic other times. It's an interesting difference from Seaguy, which was obvious superheroics. Metzer writes well, but it has the same issue I had with Marvel Knights 4. It is well written. The stories are kind of silly, but the good writing pulls me back. So we'll see.