May 21, 2010 Leave a comment
Weekly comic reviews ahoy! Avengers Assemble, Long Live the Legion, and all that good stuff. Whether you find it exciting or retrogressive, happy Avengers Day you big nerds. I didn’t actually pick up Avengers #1 (only ever heard not-so-good things about Bendis and Avengers titles) or Legion of Super-Heroes #1, but I did get a cool haul today with stuff like Zatanna and Joe the Barbarian. Also picked up some slightly older stuff like the first volume of Sweet Tooth. I’ll save my review of that for a separate post. I don’t know if I’m just in a good mood today or if it was just a good week, but expect a lot of praise (well, aside from one particular comic).
Zatanna #1 – score: ***** outta five
Mobsters, magic, and a girl in fishnet stockings – what much else can you ask for in a first issue? My only issue with this issue (sorry) was that it felt slightly predictable, but being the very first, I couldn’t really knock a whole point off for that. This book gets straight to business, setting up a major arch-nemesis right off the bat in the mystic mobster Brother Night, who decides to take over San Fransisco’s human underworld the same way he already did with the mystic underworld. Zatanna won’t stand for that, obviously, so what we get is a back-and-forth between Zatanna and Night as they threaten each other and provide exposition to establish our players and their motivations for the series to come. All the while we get magical fireworks flying as Zatanna makes mince meat out of unlucky henchmen, providing plenty of fun and creative magic and action, almost as a teaser to what’s in store when the real battles begin. And sprinkle in, of course, some of Dini’s humour, which sets the upbeat tone for the book – despite the rather bloody imagery. None of this would have worked as well without the great art of Stephane Roux and co. I did think the colouring felt a little flat in places, but otherwise there’s little to fault. Roux draws great (and sexy!) characters and faces, but did anyone else notice how characters rarely appear on panels with their mouths completely closed? A weird quirk of the artist, something I didn’t notice straight away. Also, I do think Brother Night looks too much like the Joker, which is distracting.
Don’t expect something too dark and complex with this book. I think it’s just Dini having fun with a character he loves, one that’s been at the fringe most of the time and thus never really got a chance to develop much. Hopefully this series is her chance to stand in the spotlight. Hopefully her asshole brother pops up too. And hey, DC is definitely lacking in occult character books, so I’ll be following this, and I suggest you give it a chance.
DC Universe Legacies #1 – score: **** outta five
I was surprised by this book. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. The premise of DC Legacies is straightforward: a 10 issue miniseries that travels across the history of mystery men in the DCU. I’m a sucker for history and continuity (it’s one of the unique and thus, interesting things about mainstream comics) so I decided to give this a shot. We basically get two stories. The first one is a flashback, an old man recollecting his time as a kid in Suicide Slum. Through his story we get to meet the likes of Crimson Avenger and look at a couple of other early mystery men, complete with gangsters and gloriously cheese one-liners. The second story, going forward into the Golden Age, giving us the likes of JSA characters Doctor Fate and The Spectre from the POV of a skeptical reporter. Giving us stories from the point of view of human characters is definitely a more interesting spin than a straight-up history lesson or rehashed Golden Age stories (if not a new spin – I still haven’t read Marvels), and I enjoyed both, though the first one more than the second. They were simple, but nostalgic and without pretense, and you don’t need to know anything about the DCU to appreciate them. Issue two promises to kick off with the Seven Soldiers of Victory, and now I bring up my major beef: why do we seem to be speedingly so quickly away from the early eras? If this is a 10 part mini-series, why does it seem like we’re spending less time on the golden age and such than we could? I hope this book doesn’t end up giving more time to more modern stuff, as that would be completely pointless and a waste of a good concept. It’ll be easier to judge by the second issue how fast through time this book wants to fly, so I’ll stick with it for now, as I enjoyed this one.
On the art side we get some nice scratchy Kubert art in the first story and some realistic and soft, almost glowing art in the second story. It’s pulled off with skill but I’m not a fan of the style. I was really hoping to see more ‘iconic’ old-school art to match the premise. Nonetheless, while probably a book that you either want to pick up already or something I couldn’t convince you to get anyways, a solid first issue if not something you need to follow with immediacy.
Joe the Barbarian #1-5 – score: **** outta four
It actually should be pretty simple to review all five here (as I read all of them recently). Joe the Barbarian is an 8-issue mini-series by the ever prolific Morrison, and if I had to sum it up in a few words, they would be ‘strange… and pretty’. Oh, and perhaps a bit slow. Joe is your tale of a boy who forgets to take his meds and starts hallucinating his house in a fantasy world with fantastical creatures, and that does in effect sum up what’s been happening so far. He is then forced to go on a quest to defeat the shadowy villain and restore light to the darkness, with only a pack of misfits and rogues to help him (of course). Events, objects and places in the fantasy world parallel that of the real world as well as Joe’s troubled home life, and there is always the nagging chance that there is more going on than mere hallucinations, but the book definitely has a very odd and otherworldly feel to it. At the same time Morrison presents the world with great self-awareness and gently pokes fun at high fantasy. It’s not an original concept (Pan’s Labyrinth popped to mind as a similar sort of thing), but it’s weird enough to be intriguing, though it is definitely meandering at a leisurely pace so far. With three issues to go, though, I’ll be looking forward to how the plot decides to conclude itself. The highlight of the series though, by far, is its art. Murphy’s ‘sketchy’ drawings gives the art a real hand-drawn look, combined with fantastic colours that makes the art come alive. And Morrison definitely gives the artists plenty to do with the surreal fantasy landscapes brimming with detail and atmosphere. You’re better off getting this in a trade once all eight issues are out, but pick it up, if just for the art.
Hellboy in Mexico (Or, a Drunken Blur) – score: ***** outta five
I need more Hellboy (and B.P.R.D., etc) on my shelf, I really do. This is a simple done-in-one issue that came out a couple weeks ago, but for some reason I hadn’t picked it up until today. For a one-shot it provides a really complete and satisfying story, managing to mix in emotion, humour, action, and vampire-fighting luchadores (you heard me). Hellboy goes to Mexico in the 1950’s, supernatural hijinks ensue, and to elaborate more is unnecessary – you should just pick it up. and Despite entertainment being saturated with supernatural investigator type stories, Hellboy continues to have a higher standard than others, with strong writing, fantastic art and creativity, even in a more low-key and simple one-shot such as this. While Mignola sadly doesn’t have artist duties on this particular book, Richard Corben does a fantastic job. The art’s more round-edged and ‘organic’ than Mignola’s more straight geometric stuff, but it still comes off as just a different take on classic Hellboy, and we still get the same great set-pieces and design. These two have worked together before, and I look forward to picking up those books too, eventually. A worthy issue, and you don’t need to have been picking up every Hellboy arc that came before to pick up this little book (hell, all you need to know is that Hellboy is a supernatural investigator and you’re good for most of his minis).
Brightest Day #2 – score: * outta five
Harsh, man. My first * since I started this column, which I think just means I’ve been too easy on some titles. Like this one, which continues to be tedious, incoherent dreck. We get some more continuations on a bunch of unrelated plotlines involving our resurrected, but as before it’s all very uninteresting and, perhaps because of the quantity of the stories, nothing interesting happens – except the very last page. Which, nonetheless, brought about bewilderment rather than excitement, though it was a great piece of art, and the art in general continues to provide a consistent level of quality. The art is nowhere near special enough to be picking up this book though, at least monthly. It is possible this might work a lot better in trades, when you have each story fleshed out – even then, it’s hard to say, since I still don’t know what the hell is going on and it isn’t being interesting otherwise! More questions, no answers. Oh well, whatever. Also a family gets randomly slaughtered by a rogue Martian (um, spoilers). To derail the review a little (well, it’s basically over, nothing to see here, move on, folks) I really have no problem with the violence and darker stuff going on in Brightest Day – I think Johns is deliberately playing us with that banner – but it’s not even interesting or fun, just tedious. I am, as an aside, really pissed off with Ryan Choi’s death, but that’s a larger problem altogether: that of DC dicking over its legacy heroes in favour of older, more boring, and (only incidentally, for those who like to stir up dumb controversy) whiter ‘iconic’ versions of their heroes. Retrogression at its finest, folks.