Comics Reviews (7/24/14)
Amazing Spider-Man #4
Perfectly competent new character introduction, but I honestly can’t think of much to say about it past that. Introducing characters is easy. Using them interestingly is the real test. B+
Hm. So, Waid’s Daredevil, at its genesis, was about getting the character away from the shadow of Frank Miller. And man, that shadow looms over this issue with its suggestion that Daredevil’s father was abusive and the return of focus to Daredevil’s mother, which was very much a Miller invention. And yet this is also doing goofy adventure fun, and setting up a trip to Wakanda. Which is… I mean, it’s easy to be nervous when the next issue is called “Law of the Jungle.” Plus there’s a lot of sharp political stuff here. All in all, it’s a strange issue that doesn’t quite tip its hand about where it’s going, which is a lot more interesting than Daredevil has been in a while. B+
Doctor Who (Eleventh Doctor) #1
Oh, good – this is the first Al Ewing coming in the list (Al Ewing and Rob Williams, in fact, but I’m not familiar enough with Williams to talk about him in the general case). That’s good – he’s got three books out this week, but I want to talk about this one first. Ewing’s an interesting writer for me. First of all, he’s a long-time fan and Kickstarter backer, full disclosure. And he’s a solid comics writer. He hasn’t, for my money, had his big iconic series yet, but he’s also yet to write anything that didn’t work for me, and I’m really looking forward to the first project where he really nails his colors to the mast and shows what he’s capable of. (I should note I haven’t read his British work yet, only his Marvel stuff.)
And, I mean, the licensed Doctor Who comic was never going to be it. But damn, this is really impressive. it’s easy to do crap with a licensed property like Doctor Who – you get very little room to say anything major or significant about it, because that’s left for the television series. So you’re left with very self-contained, inward focused stories, or very sterile continuity romps.
Ewing and Williams manage to do neither of these, instead telling a story that’s really quite compelling. There are a lot of really good tricks here – a deft use of narration that gives it a sense of size and scope, a really tight theme, a fantastically well-defined character. The result is something that feels like the best bits of the Virgin era – where the grandeur of the Doctor is paired with the everyday in a really compelling, interesting way. There’s a moment where Ewing drops from the narration for a moment, as the Doctor comes back to the main character, who’s clearly (to the reader) suffering from depression. They chased an alien for a bit, then the Doctor left, like he does, and then suddenly he comes back. And his explanation is this wonderful, small, “you seemed sad.” It’s spot-on characterization for Matt Smith’s Doctor, and it feels very contemporary and now, and it’s really, properly brilliant stuff. Highly, highly recommend this. It’ll be one of the best Doctor Who spin-off pieces of the decade, I think. A+ (Pick of the Week)
Mighty Avengers #12
Mighty Avengers is a really interesting book, in that they got a white British guy to write a book that’s clearly been conceptualized at some point in its development as “the black team.” Ewing is handling this with real aplomb, and the book avoids every single obvious thing it could do wrong. All of which said, this homage to the 70s Blaxploitation roots of Luke Cage that’s also a huge meta-joke about the sliding Marvel timeline and how it means that Luke Cage wasn’t actually around for his own era of history is a little bit trying. Not bad, so much as not necessarily the flavor for this book that I enjoy most. B-
Original Sin #5.2 Thor and Loki: The Tenth Realm #2
Everything said about the first issue applies here: Al Ewing is doing a heroic job with a story that has no apparent reason for existing, and one really wonders how Jason Aaron feels about his career right now. It’s not bad, but it’s really hard to make yourself care about this comic. To recap, a chunk of Todd McFarlene’s Spawn universe that was cast off as part of the process of settling the rights to Miracleman has been declared the “Tenth Realm” of Norse cosmology, and now Thor and Odin have a sister in ludicrous 90s she-armor. If that doesn’t seem kind of funny to you, this is probably your pick of the week. C
The bits actually centered on Hazel and her family continue to scintillate, but I have to admit, people with televisions for heads all look alike. B+
Supreme: Blue Rose #1
A Warren Ellis mini. It’s playing a lot of cards close to the chest in the first issue, but Ellis is putting some interesting pieces into play. Can’t quite recommend yet – it’s definitely not the sort of series you can judge from one issue. But the first issue is quite strong and interesting, and I want to flag it for people who like getting in on the ground floor as a strange new thing unfolds. A
Well, this is certainly interesting. Any sense that I knew what Trees was doing is thoroughly shattered at this point, as Ellis just jumps to new plots and characters with no obvious connection to what’s come before. (Although there are a few threads picked up from issue #1 that had been abandoned.) The number of plot threads Ellis is intertwining is absolutely massive, and there’s very little sense of plot. Given that Ellis is not prone to sixty issue epics, it’s tough to see what he’s doing with this. Fascinating. Strange. B
The Unwritten Apocalypse #7
Here’s a fun exercise – skip to the next review and read it, and then just imagine the genre described is different and I said “Mike Carey” instead of “Ed Brubaker.” C
This is sharp, well-done spy noir in a nice, old-fashioned, classic sense. It’s a loving homage to a genre, done straight and without much adornment. Ed Brubaker is good at the genre in question, so it breezes along competently. All of which said, it’s terribly suited to single issues. The month (or more) gap between issues means that when it comes out, all memory of where we were last month is long gone. This one recaps the basic setup, but it barely helps. This feels like an impressionistic slice of genre every month, but as an exercise in storytelling, it needs the trade paperback. C
July 24, 2014 @ 3:28 am
"And, I mean, the licensed Doctor Who comic was never going to be it."
Why do you figure that? I'm not saying that Titan 11 #1 is high art, but why couldn't it have been? What precludes greatness from realizing itself in a licensed comic?
I'm not busting chops or anything, I mean that sincerely.
July 24, 2014 @ 6:13 am
And his explanation is this wonderful, small, "you seemed sad."
Hmm. The explanation is indeed wonderful, but it might be bigger than you thin, given that:
(i) The alien they're chasing is drawn to people's misery, and the Doctor explicitly states that it came up to Alice because she was unhappy. Yes, he's being nice about it, but… there's a possibility there that he went back to enlist her help — that he also went back to enlist her help — so he could use her as bait.
(ii) This story seems to be set before thingy, but at one point, the Doctor sees a thingy, and the end implies that the thingy is going to be followed up on. This is the Doctor who went back for Amy because he was interested in the crack in her wall, and pretty much stalked Clara until she agreed to travel with him because he wanted to solve her mystery. Perhaps he's drawn a connection between Alice and the thingy.
(iii) What you said. Even if he had other motivations for what he was doing, they neither contradict or diminish the fact that he sat down with Alice and gave her a sympathetic ear when she needed it.
So yeah, perfect characterisation of Matt Smith's Doctor, but I think even more perfect than you had the time to go into here.
July 24, 2014 @ 7:34 am
I don't want to be rudely off-topic, but… whence cometh "Night Terrors"? 🙁
July 24, 2014 @ 9:33 am
When you would expect given when Night Terrors aired in relation to other episodes.
July 24, 2014 @ 9:34 am
Equally, I think the art is very much on the side of the small reason – the way the Doctor's face falls, as though Alice's sadness was tangibly painful to him, is really a thing of beauty.
July 24, 2014 @ 9:35 am
For the same reason that it's not going to come out of Original Sin 5.2 Thor & Loki: The Tenth Realm – because I think there's a real upper bound to how good you can be while filling in the negative space of someone else's story.
July 24, 2014 @ 10:40 am
Ahem. "Whence" means "from where," not "when."
July 24, 2014 @ 10:50 am
The way I see it, if any existing universe's "negative space" can support art, Doctor Who is that universe. Well, that and the real world.
July 24, 2014 @ 11:32 am
this homage to the 70s Blaxploitation roots of Luke Cage that's also a huge meta-joke about the sliding Marvel timeline and how it means that Luke Cage wasn't actually around for his own era of history
Reminds me of this.
July 24, 2014 @ 11:55 am
I used the phrase "negative space" consciously, though, to denote things that had actively been left open by other people. It's not just "fitting stories into the gaps," but fitting stories into deliberate, conscious gaps. Which can still be done well, but you start at a disadvantage, frankly.
You Know Who...
July 24, 2014 @ 3:37 pm
I agree with all that's been said about the 11th Doctor comic, which I really enjoyed…but why no mention of the 10th Doctor comic? I read it first, basically hated it, and was looking forward to this blog engaging with it. (It also improved the experience of reading the other one, because I was basically expecting nothing.)
Oh, and as for Velvet, I get it digitally, and keep the previous issue on my phone to read before each new one. It helps a lot – – this comic is probably my favourite monthly floppy.
July 25, 2014 @ 7:26 am
Yeah, you mean wherefore cometh Night Terrors
July 25, 2014 @ 8:10 am
No, because "wherefore" means "why"; hence, "wherefore art thou Romeo?" means "why are you Romeo?". Simple as that.
July 25, 2014 @ 4:04 pm
This comment has been removed by the author.