Comics Reviews (October 2nd, 2014)
As always, ranked from least favorite to favorite, with the caveat that I like everything enough to pay money for it.
Why bother launching this on The View if the end result is going to be to spend an issue highlighting how much this is just a continuation of the previous volume of Thor? Why end this with the reveal of the character on the cover? Why have comics not moved beyond the storytelling prowess of 1970s Terry Nation stories? Goddammit.
Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor #3
It’s interesting to see what parts of this book come from what writers. On the evidence, Al Ewing is providing more of the emotional heft, while Rob Williams provides more of the zany and big ideas, this one incorporating a bevy of twists. The result is something that feels more like the generic Doctor Who licensed comics we always get and less like what had been making this book special in the first two issues. Not bad by any measure, but the fact that a noticeable dip in originality and freshness came with the change to the second writer is a sad sign.
Moon Knight #8
I’m still not entirely sold on the turn to arc-based and continuing plotting. This was fine and a good issue of Moon Knight, but the loss of Warren Ellis’s ideological purity is just that: a loss.
I forgot the way this book kicked up a gear in Book Three. V for Vendetta does the same thing, though nobody ever notices because it’s collected in one volume. As should Miracleman be, given that it’s actually not much longer than Watchmen in terms of page count. Instead, as ever, we get $4.99 issues for sixteen pages of story. Bastards.
Silver Surfer #6
At last, the book arrives at its actual premise. And it’s fun, and exactly the sort of “Jack Kirby’s Doctor Who” feel that this book promised over half a year ago. Comics. The medium for people who resent it when things happen in their media. Still, it’s churlish to overly resent this comic because the previous five took too long to get here. This is very fun, and the better of the two Doctor Who comics I bought today. It may share some problems with Thor, but the problems are in past issues, not this one.
Rat Queens #8
No idea what the plot of this book is anymore, but it’s one of those I simply don’t care. It’s fun. Every month. By the time I get to the end of the issue I’m at least enjoying the characters in the issue. Should sit down with this and get into it, as I really enjoyed the first few issues when I shotgunned them. Not working for me as well serialized, but that’s true of a lot of comics.
All comics below that line there are ones I would with a straight face recommend people pick up if their premises sound interesting. Ones above the line may well be interesting series, but the ones below the lines are ones where this issue is worth picking up because it provides a compelling justification for why you would want to read this book in particular.
Gotham Academy #1
Always hard to judge a series on the first issue, but this comic accomplishes its goal of being about Hogwarts for Batman, and if you need more inducement than that to want to read it, I’m not sure I trust you as a human being.
Edge of Spider-Verse #2: Gwen Stacy Spider-Woman
This is a few weeks old, but I grabbed it based on its reputation. Its reputation is right. The best Spider-Man book since the debut of Miles Morales. I adore the compressed storytelling that results in doing something like six issues of Ultimate Spider-Woman in nine panels over two pages. I adore the character. I adore the basic joke of fridging Peter to provide motivation for Gwen. Never mind putting her in Spider-Woman after Spider-Verse, give her a solo book.
Man, this is great. A meticulously constructed one-shot of nuance and tragedy, and Kieron Gillen in rare form in the backing essay as he goes on for three pages in that way that he’s kind of compulsively drawn to do when he knows he’s written a good comic, because you can take writer out of criticism, but you just can’t take the critic out of the writer. Gillen’s continual self-analysis has always been a strength, and between it and his Moorean love of structure he’s really carved out a niche and style for himself that’s nevertheless terribly diverse. Also, is this the first time he’s publicly said that his editor is his wife? Certainly it was news to me. But welcome to the most significant writer-editor creative partnership since Gaiman/Berger, apparently. In any case, this is a really good issue. If you’ve been curious about Uber, which can fairly be described (as Gillen has) as “Miracleman #15 stretched out over sixty issues” or (as Gillen has not) “From Hell, only in World War II and with superheroes to provide the gore instead of Jack the Ripper,” this is an issue to start with.
October 2, 2014 @ 5:49 am
Gwen Stacey was the only Spider-Book I have paid money for since the Bendis-Maleev run on Spider Woman. I love it. And I would love if they could just fridge or retire Parker forever. The conceit of Peter Parker (and Spider-man) is that he's the world punching bag, a perpetual sad-sac who does his best, correct? This only works if it ignores the very real privilege that Peter Has. Peter is white, middlish class, and has an education. Hell, right now doesn’t he have his own company? For a person with that kind of position, to be sarcastically putting down his low rent opponents? That’s crass. Spider-Man was supposed to be an underdog. To have the world knocking him down. That just doesn’t happen anymore on a structural level. He’s made it. As a super hero, professionally, personally…and so either he needs to grow up, or we need someone else to take up the mantle. Otherwise he turns into Nolan’s Batman (which has ruined all enjoyment the character once brought me). Peter is using his gifts to punch down, and that is a scary sort of hero.
I namecheck Gwen and Miles here, because both have systemic problems someone like Peter can never face, both appeal to groups that don’t have a ton of cred from publishers, and both have had very successful reception in sidebooks. Marvel has shown themselves to be more progressive than DC in many ways, and has been pushing the envelop notably (Ms. Marvel comes to mind). This is an outgrowth of that. Either choice shows a repudiation of the “boys club” of comics and acknowledges the sins of the industry in a certain way. If we get Miles then one of the biggest books in comics is forced to confront it’s white-washing of social situations and inherent privilege. If we get Gwen, we confront the patriarchal system of Comics publishing/fans, as well as the original sin of her murder.
My point is that Peter could still be Spider Man in the off books, like Marvel Knights titles and such. This character that White-Boys love could still exist. Maybe he’s around as a mentor. But that the main Spider-book? It’s moved past him. Comics has moved past him.
October 2, 2014 @ 10:45 am
I'm clicking Like on your whole comment here. I love everything you're saying here.
I finally got myself up to 5 titles on my pull list — Wicked & Divine, She-Hulk, Elfquest, Sandman: Overture, and Saga. I only added Saga to get up to 5, which is the minimum my local shop requires (I could go somewhere else, but I like these people and want to give them my money); I've been preferring reading Saga in trades up to now, but what the hell, a cliffhanger that doesn't kill me makes me stronger.
You are both convincing me to add not only the Miles Morales book to my list but also this Gwen Stacy one. I love Spider-people but have no particular attachment to Peter Parker other than his traditional role in civilian life (if not an underdog, at least a regular person with regular problems) and am more than happy to make the switch to someone who's still occupying that role.
October 2, 2014 @ 12:22 pm
Thor was hard to like, let alone love. It wasn't the book Marvel seemed to promise it would be; instead of establishing the new status quo with the female Thor, we spend our time with the old Thor being mopey. That's okay… if this weren't marketed as a jumping-on point for new readers to get in on the ground floor with the new Thor. Instead, we get a comic that is mired in dealing with Original Sin and the previous twenty-five issues of Thor. It was disappointing.
As should Miracleman be, given that it's actually not much longer than Watchmen in terms of page count. Instead, as ever, we get $4.99 issues for sixteen pages of story. Bastards.
Marvel's pricing strategy on Miracleman is nuts. I imagine they spent a lot of money to lock down every little dangling right and they want to recoup that investment, but it's hard to look at Miracleman as anything but a price gouge.
I know Marvel's goal is to have something in bookstores to be a perennial seller like Watchmen or V for Vendetta. I'm not sure their current publication strategy gets them there; DC's going to beat them on price unless they eventually repackage all of The Original Writer's run into a single Watchmen-sized book at a Watchmen-like price.
October 2, 2014 @ 12:35 pm
They must be going to eventually, surely. I mean, my assumption is that I'm paying out the nose to see the new production values early and to experience it serialized, like it's the first time, only done to modern tastes and standards. And that, yes, I'm subsidizing the $20 mega-trade that's going to eventually exist.
October 2, 2014 @ 3:00 pm
Or possibly Marvel has accurately gauged that the primary audience for Miracleman is going to be the extremely small cohort of 35-50 year old men with disposable income and a hazy recollection of the buzz around the original series and its subsequent disappearance into copyright hell.
Even at $5/issue, I suspect that this is a labor of love rather than profit.
October 2, 2014 @ 3:03 pm
And to be clear: I'm one of that small cohort! And I love it! But if they're selling through more than 10,000 copies a month of each issue, I'd be shocked.
If there's any actual profit to be made on MM, it'll be when they reach the new material with Gaiman's name attached.
October 2, 2014 @ 3:07 pm
Oh hey, turns out this is totally something you can look up! And it's better than I expected:
01/14 Miracleman #1 – 52,313
01/14 Miracleman #2 – 36,927 ( -29.4%)
02/14 Miracleman #3 – 25,970 ( -32.6%)
03/14 Miracleman #4 – 23,557 ( -9.3%)
05/14 Miracleman #5 – 22,399 ( -4.9%)
05/14 Miracleman #6 – 20,598 ( -8.0%)
06/14 Miracleman #7 – 19,123 ( -7.2%)
07/14 Miracleman #8 – 17,654 ( -7.7%)
Not quite at my ex-recto 10k number, but trending there.
October 2, 2014 @ 4:25 pm
In defense of Peter Parker I'll say this: he's one of the few superheroes I can imagine having an interesting/enjoyable conversation with.
I mean, seriously, what would I talk about with Steve Rogers or Tony Stark?
October 2, 2014 @ 6:34 pm
I think a large chunk of issues with modern Spider-Man can all stem, in one way or another, all the way back to Spider-Man 2 due to comics desire to make themselves more like the movies and that film pushing the concept of Peter being a luckless person who has a terrible life but still does his duty as Spider-Man to the breaking point. And thus, the comics decided to make their Spider-Man like that Spider-Man, and pushed the concept even further (Back in Black, OMD, BND, ect.)