Dr Manolis V writes the internet's most opinionated (and Greek) comics column…
This week: one Doop to rule them all, Lobdell versus Super- or Bat-parents, Morrison's Happy the Flying Blue Horse, Magneto+Rogue, Loeb's final Wolverine story and Aquaman punching a shark. What a week indeed!
DOOP VERSUS THE BLEEDING COOL MESSAGE BOARDS
I mean, that IS our very own "Xenos" right? :D
I still remember the very first time I saw the Doopster in Marvel's press release 11 years ago, with then series Editor Axel Alonso heralding him as the "protoplasmic sex symbol" of the future. And how right he was.
The Doop-centric WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN #17, drawn by the guy's (?) creators, Mike and Laura Allred, is pure insane imagination. Every page – nay, every PANEL! – is packed with crazy creativity, campy guest stars and absurd fun concepts that could fuel two whole years of a regular comics series. At some point, Doop and Howard the Duck are fighting alien robot invaders in the center of the earth, armed with nothing but a Bee-gun and a rubber chicken stuffed with nails FFS.
Both Mike and Laura have experimented with different styles and techniques since X-Statix ended. It was a blast seeing them back on this character at this point in their careers, both of them at the top of their game. Mike's character designs are more fluid (perhaps thanks to his collaboration inking his "protege" Nick Dragotta) and Laura has been doing phenomenal stuff expanding her signature retro two-tone style into a more lush watercolour or coloured pencil "hand-drawn" effect.
Bonus geek bragging fact: I've got the original Doop cornerbox design from the X-FORCE title framed on my wall. Beat that, nerd!
Whoduthunkit, Superman takes after his mother. SUPERMAN #0 is Scott Lobdell and Kenneth Rocafort's debut on the book, and it's a very welcome and well-boding change in direction. Lobdell takes advantage of the zero month to tell a unique story, an action adventure set on pre-explosion Krypton featuring Superman's parents. We seldom (if ever) get a closer look at Jor-El and Lara, beyond moth-y crystal projection recordings. Here they are finally very much their own characters, youthful and (well) ALIVE. Lara in particular is a joy to read and her chemistry with Jor-El could easily fuel more stories in this same setting, mirroring some of the old Lois-Clark magic that is sorely missing from the current DCNu.
GIVE A FLYING FUCK
In HAPPY #1 from Image, a professional merc is running from the mob and his only ally is the unexplainable magic flying cartoon horse imaginary friend that only he can see or hear. Morrison is channelling equal bits Moore and Garth Ennis, the mix of the dirty and gritty realness with the childlike and cutesy and the juxtaposition with the senseless violence of it all. It all ends up being quintessentially Morrison – but a more relaxed Morrison who allows his reader to sit back and enjoy the fun ride with him, instead of playing insane story catch-up five paces behind him like in recent self-contained projects.
A GRAVE AND CHARMING PLACE
IDW's A FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE #1 adapts Peter Beagle's classic fantasy novel about the friendship of a homeless man squatting in a cemetery with a talking raven and the ghost of recently murdered husband – among other things. The novel is now more than 5 decades old and it shows in its dialogues, despite the excellent adaptation by Peter Gillis, yet there's still a very charming quality to the characters and their existential wonderings.
SAVED BY THE THORN
NATIONAL COMICS: ROSE AND THORN #1 takes the cult-y classic setup of the timid virtuous heroine with the nasty/naughty flipside and puts a teenage schoolgirl spin on it. This NATIONAL COMICS non-imprint seems to be very successful at spinning existing stale concepts into exciting new books that would appeal to, well, teenage girls (and the geeks who share their interests). Unfortunately, unlike the previous cutesy MINX imprint, the "National Comics" banner makes it feel like it's being marketed towards the nostalgia/older geek crowd. Plus, as interesting and catchy as each of these setup issues are, the lack of any sort of follow-up #2 is a bit of a downer (contrasted with a majority of DC's current monthly books that are simply slugging along with no purpose).
Christos Gage is a horrible horrible tease. X-MEN LEGACY #274 is certainly one of those "special" issues that define the characters they examine. In this case, the long and tumultuous off-and-kinda-on relationship between Rogue and Magneto. In a very "Grey's Anatomy"-esque scenario the pair reunite and resolve their feelings for each other while struggling to save the life of a gay man in a train collapse with (very conveniently mirror-y) regrets in his heart. Gage really goes in deep with both characters here, pulling Rogue's entire history into perspective as she prepares for the next stage of her life.
THE FIRST THERE IS
That's an easy one. Exactly 30 years earlier in WOLVERINE #1 (the original Claremont/Miller mini) on the very first page:
WOLVERINE #313 on the other hand was definitely NOT (the best there is, that is). Jeph Loeb blurts out a half-assed retcon (Logan going into the Weapon X program voluntarily) just for the instant gratification of the thing without any intention of backing it up or even seeing it through. Even the grand (?) showdown with Remus/Romulus/Sabretooth is set up over 4 issues only to be resolved prematurely in the most anticlimactic manner. How do you even manage to make giant explosions anticlimactic!
Also last week:
AQUAMAN PUNCHES A SHARK
As simple and powerful as that. Geoff Johns takes his time during the first half of AQUAMAN #0 to show young Arthur Curry in his element being formidable and regal under the sea, before DROWNING the reader under a flood of expository back history for Aquaman's queen mom, his brother and the history of the Atlantean crown.
Cullen Bunn is channelling a touch of Frank Miller in CAPTAIN AMERICA AND BLACK WIDOW #637, while on the other hand the plot takes a very Claremontian turn into the multiversal.
YE OLDE BIG RED BUTTON
Call me a green purist, but smashing aside, I do enjoy the odd look inside Hulk's head in my giant monster comics. In INCREDIBLE HULK #14, Jason Aaron reinterprets the ever-changing mindscape of Banner/Hulk as a warehouse with a (very literal) pilot's seat, complete with an analog joystick and a great honking big "SMASH!" button.
THE BRIGHTER SIDE OF CANCELLATION
JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY has been good fiction indeed. #644 spins even more layers of deception and redemption through the past, present and future of its characters, taking full advantage of the storytelling tools and possibilities provided by its unique mix of science fiction and mythology.
ALL THE CAPTAIN'S MEN
There's definitely something off with President Cap's inaugural issue on the job, ULTIMATE COMICS ULTIMATES #16. What is essentially martial law (or surely law of force) is being used against any person of authority or governor opposing President Cap, but it's all glossed over behind the superheroic facade without any deeper/darker connotations even getting acknowledged. Did Cap really need to be elected "president" to go around the world punching people? We get enough of that here in Greece for this to feel chillingly uneasy.
Meet Gabriel Shepherd. He's cool (apparently), collected and looks pretty sharp for a 700-year old. He's also one of the few surviving Original Mutants (or proto-mutants), the concept that Brian Wood is having a blast examining in the pages of #36 of his (sadly soon to be concluded) X-MEN run. Also, that David Lopez is growing into the next Frank Quitely with impressive dedication. Just saying, keep an eye out for him!
There is just NO CONVINCING WAY for a grown man to adopt the superhero name "Doll Man". Unless there's some loss of common sense linked to shrinking powers. Remember Hank Pym as the "Wasp"? Gray and Palmiotti aren't afraid to poke fun in the entire campy superhero convention in PHANTOM LADY AND DOLL MAN #2 as they have their characters amusingly discover their powers. Heck, they name their villain "Funerella"!
Still so damn enjoyable!
In YOUNGBLOOD #74 an alien card shark has won Las Vegas (the entire city) in a poker game and the team travels there to basically kill and maim alien mercenaries. It's ok though, "they're aliens so they don't have to respect their civil rights". It's silly fun with a modern twist – and truly chaotic storytelling. It reminds me of the qualities I enjoyed in X-FORCE #1 back in the day #guiltypleasures.
WE'VE GOT ADRIAN ALPHONA
Alphona is back for a guest-stint as the flashback artist in MIND THE GAP #5, Jim McCann's great new mystery series from Image that is putting J. J. Abrams to shame. #5 is a great chance to try it out even if you missed the first issues, it's a pretty self-contained story and a done-in-one riddle concerning the protagonist's boyfriend, his past and his relationship with his comically shady dad.
MIND THE SPOILERS:
You've been warned!
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #694 continues the trend of previous issues in that it is mind-bogglingly compressed to the point that it's a disservice to the story itself. Never mind how the Alpha situation is (seemingly?) cleared and dusted off to a neat disappointing conclusion within the space of a single page. There's a terrific scene of Spidey LANDING A FREAKING PLANE on his back to save his aunt's life that could have lived on as a classic of the scope of the original "lifting a heck of debris" from AMAZING SPIDEY #33. Instead both scenes are paced and illustrated in a hasty manner, losing any sense of gravitas.
Is this Slott trying to fit all his remaining big ideas in the span of his last 12 issues on the book? Slott off the book will be the greatest disservice to the title since (ironically) One More Day.
JOE CHILL IN HECK
It's tradition for every DC reboot to feature a new origin and fate for Joe Chill, the Waynes killer. BATMAN THE DARK KNIGHT #0 is a watered down version of previous Joe Chill stories. It's not insulting as the Reaper stuff from post-Crisis pre-Zero Hour, but it's not significant as one such confrontation should be either, like Morrison's Joe Chill in Hell from BATMAN #673 was. Regardless if Chill is a petty thug to be pitied or a horrible mob boss to be reviled, the confrontation between his and the adult Bruce Wayne ought to be a life-changing moment. Here we only hear of its effect, without feeling it.
Yes, Tim. Your parents want more for you than a life of anonymity in the middle of nowhere under an assumed name. They'd much rather you hide your face under a mask all day long, in the middle of constant danger, under -well- an assumed name.
[GEEKRANT] TEEN TITANS #0 pulls a whole new spin on Tim Drake's origins. He never really figures out Batman's secret identity anymore (although the much less detectivey young Dick Grayson now does, without even any research) and his parents both live. Because of his actions though (stealing some money off the Penguin) they are forced into perpetual witness protection and CHOOSE to leave their underage son into a life of vigilantism and constant danger, under the supervision of a possible psychopath who has already JUST let another teenager die under his watch. As much as I love Scott Lobdell (and I do love and support the man, especially for Bunker and what he's doing in Red Hood), this new scenario is completely ridiculous. Tim's parents went from dead to brain-dead.[/GEEKRANT]
SPEAKING OF TEEN PROSELYTIZING
TALON #0 introduces Calvin Rose, a young escape artist from Haly's circus who (like many before him and since) was approached by the Court Of Owls but in the process turned against their ruthless practices. It's a solid setup for a new struggling anti-hero who is essentially Nightwing's darker mirror image. Will this title prove more than a belated crossover cash-in attempt?
THE NUCLEAR CONFUSION
I can appreciate DC's honest with FURY OF FIRESTORM #0. They're sort of admitting fuck-up-age and sweeping the last 12 issues (with the confusing endless array of international Firestorms) under the rug and starting fresh, (sorta) going back to the original concept: two men joined as one superhero, the jock driving the shots and the brainiac riding backseat. Let's see if this one takes
FF #22 puts the final kick in the coffin on the nature versus nurture debate, as the young Wizard clone, Bentley 23, who is being raised by the Richardses confronts his original template and creator. It's an adorably optimistic story about basic human nature, fitting with the "early Power Pack"/adventuring kids tone of the book.
Doop is KING this week. I wish the big two were putting out more of this kind of off-the-walls crazy fun comics instead of fussing over big events, variant covers and how to fit eleven Robins into five years of history.
DC is a bit too continuity constipated at the moment while Marvel is too sales-obsessed (to the point of cancelling good and bad books alike, in favour of a line comprised solely of Avengers tie-ins). Just relax, dudes – and try having some fun. The readers will appreciate it more than 20 more variant covers of UNCANNY AVENGERS #1.
Morrison's return in HAPPY is exactly a celebration of that. Wild, imaginative and unexpected. The sort of unconventional fusion of fantasy and gritty crime book you always wanted to read but never thought anyone would be coo-coo enough to write for you.
Lobdell is the third big star of the week. He's written both one of the worst retcons of the month in Tim's TEEN TITANS re-origin and DC's best read of the week, SUPERMAN #0. This is everything SUPERMAN's book should be, even if Superman is (kinda) not in it. Sci-fi, action, a sense of wonder, staggeringly breathtaking settings and a fantastical sense of whimsy.
If this is a clear indication of what Lobdell has in store for the book, it might well soon snap up the position of DC's flagship Superman book from the currently confusing and inaccessible ACTION COMICS.
Still, though, there's no Doop in a french maid's uniform in it.
My top picks from this week's books:
- WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN #17
- HAPPY #1
- SUPERMAN #0
- X-MEN LEGACY #274
- AQUAMAN #0
- MIND THE GAP #5
- NATIONAL COMICS: ROSE AND THORN #1
- YOUNGBLOOD #74
- THE INCREDIBLE HULK #14
- A FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE #1
What did you think of this week's books? Chime in through the comments section or troll after me on my twitter account @theComicsGreek.
I know you're out there, Troll Nun!