Comics Reviews (June 1st, 2016)
Announcements about the future of Comics Reviews at the end. For now, the usual.
Civil War II #1
I really try not to be that critic. You know – the one who says provocative things like “Bendis can’t write.” Because, i mean, he’s a tremendously popular and bankable writer, and his strengths are obvious. So let’s try this – Brian Michael Bendis sucks at modern comics serialization. Like, he is actively really fucking bad at it. Consider Civil War II, a comic in the middle of which the Free Comic Book Day Civil War II issue simply happens. Or, rather, doesn’t. You literally turn the page from the future-seeing Inhuman sayng “we have to call the Ultimates” to Tony Stark being told James Rhodes is dead. The entire Thanos fight happens in a several-weeks-ago comic. And there’s not even a caption box or anything. It’s just a page-turn and pow, a fight with Thanos has happened off-panel. There’s not even so much as a caption box, which I suppose makes sense, since what would they tell you? “Sorry, we took out the primary actual plot beat of this $6 comic and published it several weeks earlier. We’d tell you where to find it, but it was actually an issue we only distributed for one day and don’t even have a digital edition of, so basically, if you missed it, it sucks to be you.”
I mean, seriously, why the fuck would you even do this? All of Bendis, Alanna Smith, Tom Brevoort, Wil Moss, Axel Alonso, Joe Quesada, Dan Buckley, and Alan Fine presumably at some point signed off on the idea that their major summer event should be published like this. Why? I mean, not only is it profoundly reader-unfriendly, it doesn’t even read well. It outright feels like there are pages missing in the comic.
Past that… they fridge a woman and a black man. Nothing happens that hasn’t been spoiled extensively in interviews for months. (Actually, that’s not quite true, but we’ll wait for the next review for that.) And again, the comic is six dollars. Six. Fucking. Dollars. An entire month of Netflix is only $2 more than that. Countless excellent novels are available at that price point. Whole CDs of music. I bet there are even markets where you can see Captain America: Civil War for that if you go for a matinee. Or you can buy a forty-page comic that’s missing its main story beat.
Invincible Iron Man #10
Oh, and it also casually spoils all the main plot beats of this arc. I mean, not that there’s any major suspense over whether the characters are going to make it out of this or what will happen to Tony’s company. That’s not how comics suspense works and never has been. But still, this issue neither seems to lead to Civil War II in any meaningful sense, and now Civil War II is here and proclaiming the status quo after the arc’s conclusion. Brilliant, Marvel. Fucking brilliant.
Spider-Women Omega #1
So, hey, this really did turn out to be a lovely and well-done crossover that was interesting and fun for seven of its eight issues, did significant things for the status quos of its characters, and effectively communicated to readers of any one of the three books involved what the main pleasures of the others are. Impressive. Maybe Dennis Hopeless, Jason Latour, and Robbie Thompson should be managing the company’s crossovers. They seem to have that whole “basic competence” thing down. And, I mean, this goes above basic competence and into “actually really good” in spots. Urban Assault Spider-Gwen is possibly the best panel of the week. But equally, the major virtues of this issue and crossover is that they actually manage what should be the bare minimum standard for any comics crossover.
Cinema Purgatorio #2
It looks like the standard structure of these is always going to be “the three stories by British people are brilliant, but the other two are disposable filler.” Cinema Purgatorio itself is strong this week – Moore did the not-atypical trick of opening with something a little vague and unsettled and then doing the big “here’s the one that illustrates what we’re doing” story later. Code Pru is a great, understated little thing that’s growing on me rapidly. Modded is a fucking hoot. And then, well, there are two other stories. Incidentally, this is also a 40-page comic for $6, only squarebound and with several additional art pages. (It’s admittedly also black and white, but frankly it looks better than Civil War II as well.)
Like there was any doubt what would slot into the top. As usual, a subtle, intelligent comic that’s will reward multiple rereadings and deep attention, but doesn’t actually demand more than a single “don’t skim” read to enjoy. As we approach the end of the series, it’s impressive how much it’s still operating as a slow burn in which the awful things are gestured at instead of shown. There’s enough care and thought to it that there’s no sense of “is this going to actually pay off,” and indeed, we’re clearly approaching some suitably awful climax, but, in truly classic horror fashion, the overwhelming sense one has of the book is “it’s quiet… too quiet.” Beautiful stuff, as good as Civil War II was bad.
I’m going to be culling my pulls significantly in two weeks after I move. I’ll be switching to digital instead of floppies, and it just seems like a good time to walk away from Marvel to a large extent. I won’t be dropping everything, but off the top of my head, it’ll just be Darth Vader, Squirrel Girl, Black Panther and Ms. Marvel. (I think. I may be forgetting something.) I’m simply too jaded by Marvel’s constant run of shitty events to keep paying money for them. A Marvel book is too often wildly overpriced shit, and even being selective isn’t keeping me from wasting money, as the furious invective above indicates.
That said, I remain happy to review anything I get a copy of. Which is to say that anyone who is dying to hear my thoughts on Civil War II or New Avengers or whatever going forward can either provide me with a free digital copy code or gift the issue to my Comixology account, and I’ll review it. This isn’t just limited to Marvel books either – any comic someone gets me a copy of in a given week, I’ll review.
More details in next week’s post.
June 1, 2016 @ 11:47 pm
P—if you are moving digital, i will lobby you to try to sample a lot of Image books you’ve missed over the past year + as I think you’ll dig ’em a lot more than the Marvel stuff
June 1, 2016 @ 11:52 pm
June 7, 2016 @ 8:55 pm
I got a bunch of Image digital volumes in a Humble Bundle a couple months back and I’ve been slowly working through them. They’re amazing — even the ones I wasn’t hooked on immediately were at the very least fascinating and fresh. And there were at least two I read and thought “if this isn’t right up Sandifer’s alley I don’t know what is.”
So yeah, seconded, enthusiastically. 🙂
June 2, 2016 @ 1:32 am
Don’t forget to keep ‘Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur’ (which I assume is the one you’re missing from the Marvel list!)
June 2, 2016 @ 2:16 am
Will you pick up Ewing’s ultimates after it’s civil war crossover?
June 2, 2016 @ 2:56 am
Have you considered checking some of the Dark Horse/2000AD/Image stuff. I know you like Gillian but Kirkman’s Outkast and Fraction’s ODY-C is good. Matt Kindt did a brilliant Dark Horse comic Mind MGMT which was great. It just finished a few months back. Also there’s a cool spooky one, called… begins with ‘H’ and it’s a sort of gothic American horror about a girl who is not who she thinks she is…Damn! And of course 2000AD is always great. Matt Smith is an amazing editor at 2000AD. Rob
June 2, 2016 @ 3:55 am
Frankly I almost never buy Marvel books anymore except in situations I think it’s important to “vote with my wallet” (i.e. Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl). I have for a Marvel Unlimited subscription, which is a screaming deal for the price and I don’t necessarily care that I have to wait 6 months to read Civil War II. By then it will be a nice “oh so this is what pissed everyone off six months ago” instead of a “I paid 6 bucks for this?!” And then I’ll go back to working through Walt Simonson’s Thor or something.
June 2, 2016 @ 10:58 am
Yes! Exactly how I find Marvel Unlimited. I’ve read an obscene amount of comics in the last two months for the price charged, and events like Secret Invasion, Dark Reign and the like rattle along nicely. If something is dull or stupid, I just skip along without feeling like I’ve wasted my money.
As a result it’s never got exasperating, but even if it did I could always go read some classic X-Men or Star Wars or Spider-Man or Cloak & Dagger or something.
June 2, 2016 @ 4:10 am
Attitudes towards Bendis are utterly puzzling to me, because obviously there must be people who like him, but they are unbelievably hard to find on the internets. All internet discussion of Bendis seems to be along the lines of “Bendis is the worst and I hate him and he hates all the characters I like except for Luke Cage,” and yet he’s also somehow one of the most popular comics writers of this century. (This seems to also be true of Geoff Johns, but I’ve not actually read much that Johns has written, so I have less grounding in that.)
Bendis has seemed to me like a writer who has very distinctive strengths and weaknesses
June 2, 2016 @ 4:28 am
I legitimately like much of what Bendis does. Scarlet, in particular, remains one of my favorite things being published. He has a fantastic sense of rhythm in his storytelling. His plotting is genuinely delightful. But he is really awful at monthly serialization. It’s not even that he’s, like, say, Gaiman or Vaughan, bad at single issues. He’s bad at the fact that comics get released into shops on a weekly basis and people pay money for them.
June 2, 2016 @ 12:20 pm
Yeah, he’s the posterboy for “writing for the trades”. The decompressed storytelling (Ultimate Spider-Man<.i> takes five issues to get through Amazing Fantasy #15) is part of it, but only part.
But not caring that a chunk of story isn’t there is something else. Mind you, in Secret Invasion, ISTR that there were important plot beats that never happened at all, because everyone assumed someone else was doing them…
Many UK comic shops don’t do Free Comic Book Day because the numbers don’t add up for some reason. I assume there are other markets where it’s the same. Personally, I’m going to wait a year and hope Marvel UK fix it when Avengers Universe gets there…
June 2, 2016 @ 12:21 pm
Oops, broken formatting. Sorry.
June 2, 2016 @ 6:24 pm
I like a fair amount of what he does. I agree he’s better in trade than in singles because of his decompression.
One thing that gets annoying after a while though is his tendency to want to bring back a character who hasn’t been around a while (this is a good thing), then not really bother doing much with the character unless it’s one that’s special to him. Squirrel Girl, The Hood and the Sentry were exceptions, but for each of them he had others he never really did much with. Some examples: Killraven didn’t really do much when he brought him back and wasn’t seen afterwards, Ulysses Bloodstone was nice in his 50’s Avengers flashbacks but didn’t really get used anywhere after that, and even Marvel Boy was wasted under his watch and really needed Keiron Gillen using him in Young Avengers to bring him back to prominence.