Comics Reviews (August 7th, 2014)
Right. Fun week. Pick of the week’s idiosyncratic, I’ll freely admit.
Bravo, by Greg Rucka
Not a comic, but certainly adjacent, Greg Rucka, writer of numerous very good comics, one of which is reviewed later in this comic, has a novel out as of a few weeks ago. The second in his Jad Bell series, which he seems to be focusing on now in his prose writing, which has, at other times, involved his phenomenal spy series Queen and Country and his quite solid PI/procedural Addicus Kodiak series, which executes a hilarious on the spot conversion from being a good old-fashioned detective series where the detective is a private bodyguard to suddenly being an assassin espionage procedural Tom Clancy sort of thing about human trafficking. Astonishingly weird.
In any case, it’s Rucka on one of his strongest themes, which is gender. The first Jad Bell was a kind of cute little “action movie in a theme park” book that played with conventions in some neat ways, but felt to me like a bit of a slender thing, so it took me a while to get around to this. Was pleasantly surprised – did some neat things with perspective and overlapping narratives, and ends up being a strange sort of romance between two heroes of ever-so-slightly different genre movies, while the political world of the book executes a series of disasters and big events that feels like you could suddenly have an important character with the surname Carlyle turn up and the plot could carry on seamlessly to something else. If you like Greg Rucka’s work in general, do check this out. And to be clear, I am very much interested in Greg Rucka’s work in general. If nothing else, his work is increasingly a series of very smart leftist takes on some genres with traditionally right-wing leanings, and that’s a really interesting aesthetic project.
(I really wish he were British. I’m half tempted to pretend via Queen and Country, but it’s cheating. I get him for 52 and a bit of Final Crisis, and that’s it. Oh, and Morrison’s Batman, a little. J.H. Williams is a background figure in that, and I really can’t ignore Williams.) A
God is Dead Book of Acts: Alpha
I admit, I’m not really reading God is Dead. After the issues Hickman had any hand in, I basically completely lost track of the plot, and wasn’t enjoying it enough to bother. Jill is still enjoying it, so I’ll freely admit the problem is me. But in any case, the bit anyone really cares about here is Alan Moore’s story, in which he finally explains Glycon for everybody, and makes a Honey Boo Boo joke in the process. Gratuitous as all hell, utterly “for fans only,” and in no way worth the $5.99 price point. A+ (Pick of the Week)
Guardians of the Galaxy
I am Groot. A
And Rucka again. Lazarus has been shockingly good. I think it may be Rucka’s best-ever work, or at least, it has a chance to be when it all shakes out. Clearly this is a long haul project for Rucka, but he’s capable of doing those well, and I’m really, really happy with this one so far. This is a nice one-shot that fills space between arcs, and does exactly what a well-designed one of those should do. A
Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man #4
Bendis keeps making this gig work, I give him credit. This remains a near-perfect Spider-Man book. And apparently Peter Parker is back? OK. Sure. A
OK, let’s set aside the weirdness of the package and just take a look, for a moment, at a lovingly restored publication of a piece of comics history that has been very hard to find for some time. Alan Moore’s Marvelman comics are a huge part of the medium’s history, and are important precursors to Swamp Thing and thus to Animal Man and Sandman and The Authority and Uber, and they’ve been quite hard to get a hold of for many years, and yes it’s weirdly frustrating that they’re credited to “The Original Writer” and cost at least $2 more than is remotely sane for this package, but OK, let’s look inside.
This is the birth issue, in which Alan Moore and Rick Veitch, the same month that the beginning of their “Swamp Thing vs. Batman” arc came out at DC, did an issue containing a five-page graphic scene of a woman giving birth, to considerable controversy. Steve Geppi, who now owns the sole distributor of American comic books, decried the issue, saying that comics had “become a dumping ground for every sort of graphic fantasy that someone wants to live out. We have an industry to protect; we have leases to abide by; we have a community image to maintain.”
It’s on high quality paper, with a crisp, modern digital colouring. There’s a lovely new Rick Veitch cover, an immaculate reprinting of John Totleben’s classic 80s cover, a crisp digital colouring job that reads beautifully and cleanly, like you always imagined the comic looking. The pace is slow and deliberate – although it’s a short comic at sixteen pages, only five are actually the famous birth scene. The others move efficiently through bits of plot, setting up scenes Moore will do down the line. His immaculate, detailed planning is as ever visible. He’s having fun, exploring what the medium can do. He’s in peak form. Everyone focuses on the birth, but forgets that it’s paralleled with a commentary on the tropes of a frighteningly generic superhero origin story, the crowning of the baby’s head visually matched to an account of the origin of Miracleman. There’s violence and viscera and murder and it’s a terribly strange, perverse mixture of elements, and Moore is having so much fun getting away with it. And it’s still shocking, and if you go to the shop to buy it, it comes in a plastic bag like it’s a copy of Playboy and it says “mature content” and “parental advisory for strong language content” on the front just to highlight that it’s a dirty, dirty comic, and it’s great. It’s beautiful. It really is. A
Moon Knight #6
Man, this is interesting for Marvel. Warren Ellis signs off on what was obviously a just-for-fun gig for him in which he did six completely self-contained done-in-ones with a stupid but popular Marvel character who’s basically a really dumb Batman knockoff, just to see what he could do. This one’s good, and he did a carefully constructed “save the best for last” trick, and this was very satisfying. Interesting to watch them try to spin the book off to Brian Wood to see if they can get more of it to work. That’s a very new thing to try for Marvel. (See also God is Dead for the process in a weird reverse.) A
New Avengers #22
Why is this book out weekly at the moment? Production issues of some sort, I suppose. And wow, what a weird-looking cover for where this book is right now. Anyway, I’ve been hard on Hickman lately, but this really is quite good. The way in which, just as the plot and underlying theory of a book becomes unmanageably dense he can slip into character drama is spectacular. The way his run is becoming a sort of intense and hyper-literate philosophical argument about what superhero is most badass is fascinating. And while I’m not sure I like his tendency to use grotesque amounts of exposition as his version of fight scenes, this issue really does absolutely purr along. A
Original Sin #3.3-3.4 Hulk vs. Iron Man #3-4
The Gillen/Waid crime against issue numbering wraps up. I completely missed #3, as my store was apparently shorted, so I got both this week. In any case, I’m not quite sure what’s going on with the Hulk end of it, since I’m not following that book, though it’s interesting. On the Iron Man end, Gillen goes out with a fascinatingly spiky philosophical statement about the character of Iron Man. It’s one of his better issues of Iron Man, and while it’s far from my favorite run he’s done, I’m glad he did it. Really looking forward to Darth Vader. I think that’s a book that’s very, very in his wheelhouse. A
Rocket Raccoon #2
Peak “I am Groot.” A
Well, the series is off it’s silly and rather unimpressive “Blue Case” arc and back to what was good about it – using superhero tropes to tell legal procedruals. This time it’s an Ant-Man guest spot about tech purchases and due diligence. It’s charming, and worth checking out, although I’m still a bit unnerved by just how awful the last issue was. A
Gillen’s such an interesting figure, with the Hulk/Iron Man thing on one hand and this on the other. They’re not quite unrelated, both being about weapons and power, but one is so hampered by a dozen other things it has to be, and the other is so aggressively idiosyncratic. This is a smart, carefully constructed comic that feels a lot like one imagines Miracleman did thirty years ago. He’s got it structured the same way Rucka’s structured Bravo, actually – what you might call Game of Thrones style these days. Each issue has its own thing it’s doing, combining a couple of scenes with distinct characters in distinct places that combine into a sort of snapshot. “Here’s where World War II is this month.” The backmatter is predictably smart. I talked about the joy of seeing Alan Moore stomping around in his imperial phase in Miracleman. Here’s Gillen doing his own version of it. Thrilling. A
August 7, 2014 @ 2:00 am
I'd have said Moon Knight was more of a Shadow knock off with Batman toys. The multiple identities and use of agents was much more Shadow than Batman.
August 7, 2014 @ 4:30 am
Everything got at least at 'A' this week!?! Are you getting soft on us, or are you just in a good mood this week?
Tho, granted I haven't hit up my LCS this week yet, but I'm still shocked. Bendis and Hickman both must have upped their game this month. Tho, I appreciate that She-Hulk seems to be returning to the form that makes it workable, but I question whether "I am Groot" is really all a book needs to get a passing grade here. I'll get my pull list and see if I agree with you.
Thanks for doing these posts, by the way. I've been slowly pulling away from my fanboy obsession with comics, and I need a nudge back every so often to tell me, "stick around, there is still good stuff out there."
August 7, 2014 @ 6:56 am
Yo soy… GROOT.
August 7, 2014 @ 7:38 am
As enjoyable as Guardians was, the Spanish dub must be way better.
Watashi wa… GURUUT.
August 7, 2014 @ 8:12 am
One feels that there's a difference in approach at the planning meetings at Warner Brothers and Marvel Studios.
Why are we making this film?
To make lots of money from our intellectual property.
Why are we making this film?
To make lots of money from our intellectual property.
Ok. Why else are we making this film?
The world wants a superhero space opera with a talking raccoon; it just doesn't know it yet.
(I'm not saying the answer Marvel Studios have given to the second question have always been entirely satisfactory, but there's generally evidence that the question has been asked.)
August 7, 2014 @ 9:45 am
It was a very good week. I got four comics into the reviews – I believe it was Uber, Miracleman, Moon Knight, and New Avengers – when I noticed I was giving a lot of As. I'd decided after being brutal to Hickman I wanted to be nice this week, because I really am interested in what Hickman is doing even as it infuriates me, and that's where I was with Bendis three years ago, so I'm really trying to overcome my frustrations there and see the writer that some of the most intelligent critics I know of see and enjoy. So I was a ways in and giving everything good reviews, and I decided to just lean into it. It was a really good week, and I figured, OK, let's enjoy that after a week where I was pissy and didn't give a "pick of the week" out.
I'd also joked to Jill after seeing Guardians that I was just going to run "I am Groot" as my review for everything, with differing letter grades. I decided on a pared down version of the joke on the day – especially after Rocket Raccoon used the "I am Groot" joke a bunch of times and quite well, it seemed like the exact time to declare peak "I am Groot."
And then with all good reviews, the joke of giving Pick of the Week to an overpriced ten page Alan Moore comic that is literally the most self-indulgent thing he's ever written was irresistible, because it absolutely is my pick of the week. So I gave it the bad review and then the A+ and pick of the week, because that seemed to complete the joke nicely.
So, to answer your question, partially in a good mood, partially me deciding to play with the review column as a structure instead of as an actual guide, partially me just deciding to do some warm-ups on reviewing contemporary culture, since people are giving me $2k for my Peter Capaldi reviews, so I suppose I ought to try to give them a good show.
August 7, 2014 @ 1:31 pm
It's got to be "Boku wa Guruuto" — depending on the kanji, 'boku' can mean either 'I' or 'wood', and no self-respecting Japanese translation can pass up wordplay that bad.
August 7, 2014 @ 6:16 pm
I saw someone on Tumblr sum up the differences between the Warner Bros. and Marvel Studios approaches like this:
Warner: Well, Wonder Woman has just too complex an origin to support her own movie! No one would understand it! She's better suited starring in other people's movies and in a Justice League one!
Marvel: Have a talking raccoon with a machine gun!
And then Marvel makes the effort to make it work.
August 7, 2014 @ 7:08 pm
"A complex origin? Perfect! Sounds like we have a ready-made plot to fill a whole movie!" – I'm baffled.
In fact, I'd say "Thor" is a pretty good touchstone for how to handle a first Wonder Woman movie – not to copy the plot or anything, but to see that it's possible to handle this sort of "not of yon society" character entering the world of humans without exactly giving an 'origin of my powers' story but a 'why I'm here kicking ass and where I came from' story.
Perhaps in some ways the properties are too close in this regard, and such a film would risk treading similar territory for it to draw a crowd? I'm doubtful – I'm sure a Wonder Woman solo movie would do fine as an introduction to the character… unless they have in mind a really strong story for her first movie outing that doesn't want to be bogged down with introductory elements?
Of course perhaps they're not intending to give her a solo movie at all unless she becomes a sort of Mark Ruffalo/Hulk breakout character in Batman v Superman.