Monday, September 12, 2005

Comic Reviews for Sept 8th

Last week was a mostly mainstream week again. I picked up a couple of trades, but DC Crossover Crisis Mania is sucking me in like a Black Hole of Metaplot. I'm enjoying the ride, though. Hoping for a strange new world of wonders on the other side, as opposed to a bleak existance as a bunch of shredded particles like many DC fans are expecting.

Mild Spoilers Below

Superman #221 -- I'm the reverse of a regular fan here. I picked up Superman issues and The OMAC Project because I'd heard they would be tying into Wonder Woman. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the Superman books, and so this month I picked up the next issues of all of the Superman books to see how they were doing.
The last two issues (Action Comics #830 and this one) of the Superman line that I've read were narrated by supporting cast members. Out of 3 issues of non-Crossover Superman books in 10 years (Although to be perfectly honest, the last Adventures of Superman should count as part of the crossover), that's not promising.
Now, don't get me wrong, spotlighting supporting cast is wonderful at times. But I notice a tendancy to spotlight supporting cast as a method of characterizing the main character. Jimmy speaks about Superman in glowing generalized terms, and talks about learning from him -- "He continues to astonish me" "I learn about selflessness, decency, the sometimes unfortunate laws of physics, and most of all, the meaning of heroism."
To take an example I enjoyed more -- Lois in the narration of Action Comics #830 tries to impart a fraction of the wonder at being married to Superman to the reader. This is a really good piece of writing, so true to life that you could see the wife of a perfectly normal human being say it. However, preceeding this issue, it helps to highlight by repetition the deficiencies in that technique in Superman #221.

It's wasted characterization.

We really don't need to hear it.

He's Superman.

We know he's awe-inspiring.

We know he's a miracle.

We know he's a hero.

That's what makes him Superman, silly. Everybody knows that!

If we did somehow forget momentarily, and needed to be reminded, it would be far more effective to show us that he is an awe-inspiring, heroic miracle, or a miraculous, awe-inspiring hero, or a heroic, miraculous inspiration...etc...

Less is more for Superman narration. The splash that accompanies Jimmy's "meaning of heroism" comment (Page 6, Pg 11 counting ads), for example, is a nice piece of Ed Benes art that would stand up on its own as an example of Superman's heroic behavior. No need to stick cliched narration in the background to characterize Superman.

Or is this to characterize Jimmy? Well, I get that he's in awe of Superman and greatly admires him. Not only is that Jimmy Olsen's basic characterization, but its written all over his face in that very panel.

Anyway, I think Mark Veheiden overdid it on the narration for this story. I could have been a very nice Jimmy Olsen spotlight, if not for all of the little narration boxes gushing needlessly about Superman. If you read through the story and ignore all of the narration, the same point is made. Even better, because it is made without subjecting you to so many cliches. This is just more of the unfortunate wordy tendancy of comic book writers, most likely inspired by the success of Kurt Buseik's childlike wonder in and Astro City, and James Robinson's lyrical hero-worship in Starman. But those writers knew, for the most part, when to step back and let the pictures and dialogue tell the story. Their works were considerably more enjoyable for it.

This issue wasn't enough to justify buying another of Verheiden's issues for me. I'll stick with Action Comics, though, because Ms Simone has the golden touch right now -- which brings me to...

Villains United #5 -- The cover is very impressive. It features Deadshot and Catman fighting in free-fall. When you open the book, the first page is a splash that reinforces it perfectly, and helps carry the impression of a falling fast fight throughout the entire book. This is Gail Simone's writing -- being thrown out of a window and taking the bad guy (or, in this case, other bad guy) with you. Even the calm moments where people are planning or catching their breath are loaded with electric excitement. I ended this book unable to sit still for anticipation of the next issue.

I've heard Gail Simone's name thrown around on message boards for nearly every female character in comics, but the character this women needs to write is The Flash. Her pacing and energy are just what the Fastest Man in the World needs!

Ultimate Spider-Man #82 -- was ultimately unimpressive. More Black Cat? I can't bring myself to care very much. This book may be next on my chopping block.

Gotham Central #35 -- The only DC book without a Metaplot sighting! Of course, this is going to change in the near future.
I think Stacy's developing a little crush on the Boy Wonder here. That is so cute. I like Stacy here. A child-woman like her can get very irritating very easily, and dwnright offensive when handled badly, but in Gotham Central she's set off by the bleak landscape and contrasted by Maggie, Rene', Romy and Josie. Rucka plays her sweet nature up only rarely, and when it has a definite effect on the plot. He manages to make her very endearing and naive.
I also love Rucka's characterization of Robin. Tim Drake's a much more likeable boy here than we see anywhere else today. But he's still sly, he's playing Stacy's naivete to get a rare insight inside the GCPD. Not that I can fault him for it -- this mystery seems like a very personal attack on him on the surface (though I'm sure there's a completely different motive), and Bat-jerk has gotten them all kicked out of the precinct here. It would be a interesting replacement for the Batman-Jim Gordan relationship, if it were a Robin-Stacy relationship that got the Gotham vigilantes their inside info.

The Manhatten Guardian #4 -- This issue is all exposition, and takes us deeper into the mystery connecting the Seven Soldiers than any other issue in this series so far. He also made me seriously like Jake for the first time (I must admit, I was reading for the subway pirates at the beginning) here in the last two pages.
And now, for today's Sentance I Never, Ever, in a Billion Lifetimes Thought I'd Hear Myself Day: I badly want more Newsboy Legion flashback stories.
More Ali Ka-Zoom! In this, and in Zatanna #3, he was just plain cool.

Warning though, Guardian #4 is considerably more of a cliffhanger than Shining Knight #4 was. You will buy Seven Soldiers #1 if you enjoy this.

Fell #1 -- I started off not liking this (Despite the initial laugh at the first panel), but gradually changed my mind during the read. It was a good mystery, totally self-contained (in 16 pages!), that introduced enough of Detective Fell's little corner of the genre that I'd be willing to read more. And Ellis manages to do it without shortchanging characterization or plot for the sake of more setup. I'll buy a second issue of this. I wish there was more out like this.

That's all for now, I bought a couple of trades, but those are weekend reads. Until next time, I leave you with something fun to listen to:
Click on Instrumental when you go here.

1 comment:

  1. And, now for today's Sentence I Never, Ever, in a Billion Lifetimes Thought I'd Hear Myself Say: