Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Wednesday Comics: June 3rd, 2009

I bid you welcome my weary comic pilgrim to this humble nerd abode for another edition of Wednesday comics. Not any overly heavy week in terms of volume, but certainly the quality was high. In no particular order, here's my pull list this week:
Ultimate Spider-Man #133
Dark Avengers #5
Mighty Avengers #25
War of Kings #4
New Avengers: The Reunion #4
Ultimatum #4
Black Panther #5
New Mutants #2
Agents of Atlas #6
Captain Britain and MI13 Annual
Batman and Robin #1
Secret Six #10
Superman: World of New Krypton #4
The Authority #11

There were several titles I was looking forward to reading with great anticipation this week, as well as one title I nervously awaited the debut of, not because it was something I was optimistically looking forward to, but because I had a great degree of apprehension and numerous reservations about the potential for nearly unfathomable suckage. That's right, the "esteemed" writer Grant Morrison decided to unleash even more of his nigh incomprehensible gobbledy-gook on a poor and unsuspecting mass of innocent comic book aficionados who yearn for nothing more than a great Batman yarn. My problem with Morrison is this; it's one thing to have great ideas, but if you aren't capable of putting those ideas down on paper so that they're comprehensible to an audience that exists outside of your own head (that's right Mr. Morrison, you didn't invent the universe so it would be fair for you to assume that most of us do not think the same way you do), then you just aren't a very good writer. What James Joyce is to the world of literature, Grant Morrison is to comic books. Someone who is, without question, a genius, but exists so far inside of his own head that he has no idea how to translate his thoughts and feelings into something that the mass audience can relate to. And after all, that's what this is about. You're not writing for yourself Mr. Morrison, you're writing for each of the goobers (myself included) who are willing to shell out $3.99 every months only to watch you internalize the characters we each deeply love so much so that they become barely recognizable. I can't even count how many times I've read something written by Grant Morrison and after putting the book down feel like I've just failed a test (Batman R.I.P., Final Crisis, Superman Beyond, almost every one of the Seven Soldiers of Victory projects. I mean what in the holiest of fucks was that?). I'm a fairly well-read individual; I read untranslated middle-English poetry, I enjoy the works of Shakespeare, Milton, Keats, Byron, Eliot, Yeats, and Stern, and if I'm finding an issue of Batman more difficult to grasp than Eliot's The Wasteland, there's something wrong (can someone PLEASE explain to me what the hell the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh was about? I actually feel parts of my soul melt off and turn into ketchup when I say that). Comics CAN be intelligent; comics CAN make relevant social, political and moral commentary; they don't have to be completely incomprehensible to do-so. Now I'm proud to say that, joining the ranks of Morrison's run on the Justice League in the late 90's, as well as his run on New X-Men (though that did have many of it's own problems) Batman and Robin seems like it could be on the right track. Issue #1 hits the ground running, but half way through we do get a sense of how the new Batman and the new Robin work together. This is very much a role reversal, we have a dark and brooding Robin and a lighter, more openly compassionate Batman. It's a unique dichotomy that I think needed a good shake-up. Morrison has said that this title will feature villains who are new to Gotham City, so don't expect this dynamic duo to go foiling the criminal deeds of the Penguin or the Riddler. We are briefly introduced to a criminal element new to Gotham in the Circus of Strange. Though just a glimpse, my worry with these characters is that they're another horrifying nightmare pulled from the depths of Grant Morrison's twisted psyche and reflect a deeply intrinsic examination on the nature of control and blah blah blah.... oh I'm sorry, did you zone out there for a little bit? I'm all for comics with consequences, and deeply seated turmoil, but sometimes it's refreshing to have Batman=good, Joker=bad. We'll see. I give this a tentative 3 out of 5.

The only other DC title I want to touch on this week is Secret Six #10. If you aren't reading this title right now, throw yourself on your sword because, frankly, your life isn't worth living. This book is Gail Simone at her finest. With a cast of unlikeable, wickedly-funny, morally ambiguous mercenaries for hire, this book is DC's brightest diamond in the rough (and with the books DC has been putting out lately, that's a lot of rough). What you can expect from this title is to fall in love with the most unlovable characters, laugh at the most horrific things and know you're probably going to hell, and to top it off, you'll get to experience a writer who understands that all you need is a story with real people, flaws and all, in unreal situations, and a little heart (it's there, trust me). If this very brief of introductions to the Secret Six intrigues you, I suggest you start by looking at their first appearance in Villains United #1, as well as their 6-issue miniseries that preceded their current ongoing title. You won't regret it, and if you do, chances are you can still throw yourself on your sword.

Let's hop across the pond and see what's shakin' in Norman Osborn's world. That's right, the Dark Reign is showing no signs of stopping over at Marvel, which was exemplified by the fact that half of the Marvel titles I purchased this week possessed the Dark Reign banner across the top of the front cover. Being that the Avengers hold the title of my top favorite team, you might expect that I would want to talk about the 3 Avengers titles that came out this week, but such is not the case. If you want to hear me gush about the Avengers, I will do so for you at any time you desire. No, this week I'd like to turn my gaze to the Ultimate Universe. My God what a horse's ass that turned out to be. It was almost 10 years ago when some genius at Marvel asked the question, "how can we introduce new readers to our beloved characters without them getting frustrated by the 40+ years of history that most of these characters come packaged with"? Well, why not make a new universe? Refresh these characters with modern origins, make them younger and more hip. That way it'll be easy for new readers to jump on board! Genius!
10 years later.....
Well, shit. Now all of these characters that we created 10 years ago with no convoluted continuity and tumultuous backgrounds now have convoluted continuity and tumultuous backgrounds. Enter Jeph Loeb. The man has quite an impressive track record: Batman Hush, The Long Halloween, Dark Victory, Superman Batman. All great DC titles. His Marvel work, however, with the exception of Daredevil Yellow, which was pretty good (not great) hasn't been his best, which leads me to conclude that he's a double agent. He's "working" for Marvel, but really is sabotaging them under DC's watchful eye. How else can you explain his drastic dip in quality? And his work in the Ultimate Universe is the worst. The mentality behind is it, let's just kill a bunch of big characters, shock some readers, and then start over with whatever we have left. A plan with the elegance of a linebacker in heels. Now, I'm not suggesting that the Ultimate Universe was without it's flaws, but the concept just can't work over an extended period of time; you can't create something that is constantly being updated with new entries into it's continuity and not expect it to develop it's own complexity. And senselessly killing off characters is not the way to press the reset button. If anything it makes things worse because you'll turn away longtime fans who've come to love the differences in the Ultimate Universe, and you'll alienate potential new fans who come to the Ultimate Universe looking for a stepping-stone into the regular Marvel U because, at the end of the day, though the Ultimate line was always it's own thing, it still managed to capture the spirit of the regular Marvel U. New readers making the leap from the Ultimate to the regular universe might be shocked by how drastically disparate these two entities have become and in all honesty, the Ultimate line no longer reflects the love for it's characters and for it's stories that the regular Marvel U has always embraced. The callous disregard for these character's existence tells us that the Ultimate universe is not where ideas go to thrive, but rather to die. The one ever-present exception to this rule is Ultimate Spider-Man, a book that captured the heart of Peter Parker and his supporting cast like no other book I've experienced. And with Ultimatum comes an end to this particular era. The final issue of Ultimate Spider-Man was released this week, and it contained no words; the story was conveyed through images alone. In this landmark issue we witness, silently, as Peter's closest friends and loving family come to terms with the knowledge that he is likely dead. I find this particular review difficult to write because I've truly come to love this title; it spoke to me on many personal levels and to see it become a casualty to an editorial decision to wipe the slate clean is a stain I hope never washes off of the hands of the powers that be.

Well that's a wrap for this edition of Wednesday comics! Be sure to check back later in the week for a special review on David Peterson's Mouse Guard Fall 1152, a fantastic tale of anthropomorphic mice engaging in sword fights and general medieval badassery! Who can resist such disease-ridden swashbucklers?

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