Last Week's Comics In Twenty-Three Panels
Dr Manolis V writes;
Your one stop to catch up on everything happening inside comics each week!
In today's special: Green Lantern Simon Baz, Peter Cannon Thunderbolt, Judas (!), more from Spidey's annoying sidekick, Deadpool's new powers and the breaking of Lorna Dane.
I'd been trying to keep the panel count minimal in the past few instalments, but it seems DC's Zero Week will start bumping up the column length for the rest of September. Six featured books and a whole mess of capsules. Keeping things relatively spoiler-free until we get further down the pull list and the appropriate warnings go up.
(LITERALLY) BEFORE WATCHMEN
You gotta love the subtle play at words here.
Most will know the not-so-obscure fact that the Silver Age Charlton Comics character PETER CANNON, THUNDERBOLT was the inspiration (or more accurately, starting point) for the WATCHMEN's Ozymandias. The new series from Alex Ross and Dynamite reimagines the original character (the only one of the Charlton Action Heroes not currently owned by DC) for the modern era. There are a few references to Ozymandias in there (that I may or may not be reading into too much) but it is too early to call how much this version is influenced by Alan Moore's take on the character.
By the start of the debut issue issue this new Peter Cannon has already amazingly succeeded in "saving the world". The rest of the series sets out to explore what comes next, which people might hold a real grudge and have conflicting interests at someone turning up as their saviour – and from the surprise (and familiar) twist at the ending, how much of his seemingly noble altruism Pete Cannon has been willing to compromise to succeed in his goals.
THE WORLD IS A-BAZ (SORRY)
Everyone's already talking about him. The new, muslim American ringbearer that is introduced in GREEN LANTERN #0. Now, I see what Geoff Johns is trying to do here, but… The white GLs are pilots, teachers and artists. The black GL is a soldier and architect. The first MUSLIM GL, though, is introduced as a CAR THIEF. I can see Johns trying to be edgy and not cookie-cutter P.C., but what with the gun and the "hood" costume and all… This is really skating on thin ice. Because of all the cultural importance placed on this character, I would have preferred him a bit less provocative for the sake of it.
IN TODAY'S VERY SPECIAL ISSUE OF X-FACTOR…
Remember X-FACTOR #39, the "dead baby" issue? Or #40, the Father Madrox issue? Or the future arc with Ruby Summers, Layla's return, Rictor's outing? PAD has a proud track record of self-contained issues that deliver unbelievable plot twists and unfathomable emotional punches. X-FACTOR #243 is just such a case. Focusing on Polaris and her search for the truth behind her on-again off-again relation to Magneto.
It's a plot point that has been casually retconned back and forth, without anyone ever daring to really go into the details of why Magneto would bed someone's suburban wife, or what exactly happened to her afterwards. PAD tackles all this head on, playing towards expectations and then swerving unexpectedly.
Polaris is a character he alone made popular after so many decades of being everyone's mind puppet – and has since been casually and often reduced to a raving madwoman. Here, PAD takes her back under his wing, with the good and the bad. He acknowledges her bad turns and her convoluted continuity issues and he explains it all away lovingly – before snapping her up like a twig. This is her shining moment and her most shocking low.
DON'T CALL MY NAME, DON'T CALL MY NAME ALEJ- JUDAS
If you're going to go out of your way to be THIS shameless with your clues to the Phantom Stranger's identity (the silver coins, the hanging, the Golgotha and so on), you might as well throw in a Lady Gaga tune or two… I don't much care for any of these revelations about the character in PHANTOM STRANGER #0. Some characters' appeal is heavily dependent on their aura of mystery and to stay true to them it's imperative that they must always stay shrouded in mystery and half-truths (no greater example of this than Wolverine).
What REALLY sent me into GEEK-RAGE in this issue was the throwaway manner in which the origins of the original Christianity-based DC character, the SPECTRE, were handled. There's no mention of the Spectre being God's tool of punishment here (one of the gutsiest presences in the old DCU), merely the wrathful "spectre" of asshole Jim Corrigan.
I struggled to decide how much of FAIREST #7 I was willing to spoil here to be able to put across how unbelievably momentous and significant this single self-contained story is in the world of FABLES. Sure, it starts off as a seemingly filler gumshoe noir tale starring Beast tracking down a mystery killer in Old Hollywood. Towards the end of the story though, there comes such an unexpected twist (and I'm considering it a spoiler even explaining this) that turns the whole thing on its back, along with nearly every single appearance of Beast in the main FABLES book. It's a clear Don't Miss for any fan of the popular Vertigo franchise.
ALPHA-HOLE (WITH A COUPLE DOLLAR SIGNS INVOLVED)
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #593 is (unbelievably enough) even more of a compressed read than last issue's opening chapter of the Alpha saga. Dan Slott seems to be trying to cram more than a year's worth of stories within these few issues leading up to the anniversary #700. The problem is, in all this fuss and overwhelming plot, Alpha (Spidey's new "sidekick" and the most powerful super-powered being on Earth or whatever) has had VERY little space to build any sort of credibility or heaven forbid reader affinity.
This is not a "fans hate Jason Todd" sort of thing. This is a character who is pure shameless one-dimensionality with not a single redeeming quality and who shows no signs of developing past the necessities of what he symbolises in the story (which is sooo clearly spelled out for the reader in this issue), and the role of the sacrificial example he is certainly doomed to play in it.
BONUS QUICK ROUND!
Everything else that happened this week in comics:
CAPTAIN AMERICA'S RINGTONE…
… is the GLEE theme! ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN #14 deals with the "realities" of responsible adults knowingly enabling a 13-year old to go out and endanger his life on a day to day basis. Once you acknowledge that elephant (or in this issue, Rhino) in the room, it's REALLY difficult to build a case for it.
EVEN REANIMATED ROBOT ZOMBIES GET THE BLUES
Spin-offs are all the craze this year! The above is the one sequence in GUARDING THE GLOBE #1, the new INVINCIBLE sister book, that really grabbed me, without even knowing who the heck this character is. The rest of the book read like a frantic jumping around from subplot to subplot and between a whole bunch of different unknown characters with utterly ridiculous one-off pun names.
EVERYTHING YOUR MOTHER WARNED YOU AGAINST
There's something terribly disconcerting about THE ROAD TO OZ #1 (the latest new mini in Marvel's brilliant series of Frank L. Baum comics adaptations) and young Dorothy's willingness to just up and follow into the unknown any clearly cray-cray dirty bum that shows up at her doorstep. Skottie Young's character fluffy fluid character designs are as always the main attraction here, giving real soul and whimsy to the offbeat "characters" that Dorothy has the tendency to draw into her entourage.
MAGNETO, MASTER OF… RUBBERISM?
Of all the car parts in a junkyard that Magneto could use to fling at people… are rubber tires really the most obvious choice? The only thing that actually bugs me about FIRST X-MEN #2 is how OLD everyone already is. Sure, Magneto's origins are now tied to Auschwitz, but there must be some rolling timeline continuity trick to make him "not 90 years old".
META WILL EAT ITSELF
ANIMAL MAN #0 takes the tricks Morrison used to incorporate Buddy's humble origins into his vision of the character, and use them on themselves to further incorporate both versions of the character into Lemire's new mythology.
BEST NEW SUPER-POWER OF THE WEEK
DEADPOOL #60 a.k.a. THE HUMAN FLAMETHROWER #1 is just 20 jolly pages of Wade's ass farting fire at villains and helicopters. Thoroughly enjoyable.
GUTTERS CAVING IN
Just some brilliant bit of innovative comics storytelling from ARCHER & ARMSTRONG #2. The height of each successive panel closing down as the protagonists are getting squashed under rubble. This series is Clayton Henry's big time to shine.
The Valiant books are really pushing the envelope this week. BLOODSHOT #3 is finally pulling the series to a sharp and fascinating focus. The reawakened rogue super-weapon is tracking down leads from the countless artificial memories of wives, kids and lives that the military has filled his head with. Everything you need to know to jump on this series is in this issue.
WANNA SEE SOMETHING EVEN COOLER?
Indeed. HAWKEYE #2 is twice as awesome as the first issue, and that was already one damn impressive debut. This series is gonna be this year's new "Mark Waid's DAREDEVIL", mark my words. Fraction incorporates the YOUNG AVENGERS' Kate Bishop into the book as a sort of sidekick or fated jailbait in a very daring cosmopolitan heist story.
Seriously. HAWKEYE. Best new book of the year. Whoduthunkit. It's IMMORTAL IRON FIST all over again.
MIND THE SPOILERS
THAT LAST PAGE REVEAL EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT
No direct spoilers here, but MIGHTY THOR #19 is indeed a doozy. If you've ever been a fan of the current incarnation of JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY prepare to have your brain awesomed.
DAMN YOU GAGE
Yeah, AVENGERS ACADEMY #36 is cheesy and everything that would be anticipated for the finale of a storyline about heroes dealing with the cure of their disfiguring powers – BUT – noone before has handled this with such finesse. These two kids forced to consciously reactivate their powers and knowingly lose their only chance at a normal life together, sharing one last kiss as one's powers are destroying the other's body… It's one of the strongest comics moments of the year.
ANOTHER DEATH IN THE FAMILY
It's impossible not to feel for Huntress/Robin and the tragic loss of her mom in WORLD'S FINEST #0. It's Kevin Maguire drawing it, you fall in love with his Catwoman from her first to bitter last panel. It can't be helped. The Earth 2 flashback scenes are the strongest part of this book, making this the de facto best issue of the series so far.
SUNDIAL H FOR HERO
It makes sense, if the magic hero-summoning dial has existed for thousands of years, its earliest incarnation would be that of a massive stone sundial that requires 6 people to turn it and 4 days to spell the magic word. DIAL H #0 explains -for those who pay enough attention- the new mythology behind the DCNu H-E-R-O dial, which is used to temporarily steal the powers and identities of heroes from a whimsical (more like surreal) parallel world. Sometimes (like in this story) with tragic consequences.
GHOSTS OF JENNIES PAST
As Rich wisely noted, a lot of these #0s this week focused on the theme of legacy. STORMWATCH #0 is the best example of this, looking back through various incarnations of the century baby Jennies (manifesting various ingenious variations of each century's achievements as their power signature) and the heroes they gathered around them. Milligan is really making this book his home, and it's starting to show.
BATMAN YEAR ZERO
So what WAS the final lesson from Bruce's long trek Miyagi-ing through the East in DETECTIVE COMICS #0? "Never marry"? It's all a bit thrown-together theme-wise, I'm still unsure what the reader should be getting out of this. Feel free to chime in through the comments.
It's a hand with a face and an exposed brain, suffocating a newborn baby. I can't even call it the most disturbing image in SWAMP THING #0 for sure. That Arcane dude is one rotten sick puppy.
Just in case you're wonder what the fuss was with Diamond and BLACK KISS II #2, the smut-tastic adventures (and dicks) of a Hollywood succubus. Or it may have something to do with that subtle bestiality scene later on with the girl and the horse…
(part of the fun is waiting to see how Rich creatively covers up the increasing size of the male genitalia in these panels every month)
DC is (finally) stepping up their game with their #0s, with the real task of providing self-contained, significant stories for each and every title during September. DIAL H, STORMWATCH, WORLD'S FINEST and ANIMAL MAN were the best of the bunch, really going giddy with the prospect of delving into their characters' history and incorporating the #0 issues into their ongoing narrative.
X-FACTOR, MIGHTY THOR, PETER CANNON THUNDERBOLT and FAIREST packed unbelievable plot twists, too big for me to spoil her. I mean, real SHOCKERS! They're all massive game-changers (or in THUNDERBOLT's case, a game-setter) and most importantly, great reads.
The Valiant revival books, ARCHER AND ARMSTRONG and BLOODSHOT are slowly but surely worming their way into my must-read pile each week. I hope the sales are enough to mark this relaunch a success.
I have a tendency to get over-excited and declare things the best this and the best that. Let's try something new and actually rank the TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE WEEK:
1. X-FACTOR #243
2. HAWKEYE #2
3. FAIREST #7
4. AVENGERS ACADEMY #36
5. DIAL H #0
6. PETER CANNON THUNDERBOLT #1
7. BLOODSHOT #3
8. STORMWATCH #0
9. ULTIMATE COMICS SPIDER-MAN #14
10. ARCHER AND ARMSTRONG #2