Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hoopla! - Episode 3: In which comics are reviewed and much fun is had by all

Hello and welcome to Hoopla!

I'll tell you what... the past couple of weeks have been rather sucky. I'll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that I apologize for the long delay between columns and that I will now try to make it up to you by providing you with a veritable smorgasbord (spelling?) of comic-book reviews...

Ready? Let's begin...

The Twelve #1
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Art by Chris Weston
Published by Marvel Comics

Project Superpowers #0
Story by Alex Ross and Jim Krueger
Art by Alex Ross, Doug Klauba, and Stephen Sadowski
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
[And, no, that's not the company that used to publish Dynamite magazine back when I was in junior high school... alas.]

12 (public domain) mystery-men from the World War II era are placed, through plot contrivances, into the year 2008 in what feels very much like a Watchmen rip-off.

I'm sure I'm not the first to note that The Twelve and Project Superpowers are extremely similar to each other in terms of the basic concept. The fact that the first issue of each was published at more or less the same time is sort of unfortunate as it gives one a sense of "been there, done that" that goes beyond the obvious Watchmen comparisons.

Are they any good?

I thought The Twelve was actually pretty neat. I'm not a big Straczynski fan, but he does a pretty nice job here of introducing twelve characters in a very limited space and making me want to read more about them. One of my favorites is the two-panel intro to the Witness:

As for the Witness, he didn't have any powers, just his fists... but he could remember every evil act he'd ever seen, and had sworn to avenge them all. On the way in, he said he'd just come from a place called Auschwitz.

No powers.

But not one of us could look him in the eye without feeling like we'd peered into something dark and angry and very, very dangerous.

My other favorite character from this first issue is Electro, a big robot controlled by someone halfway around the world. Not only is he a neat character, but I absolutely love that someone spray painted Berlin or Bust! on his chest-plate.

The Twelve may be highly derivative of other comics that have come before it, but it's a heck of a fun read and the art by Chris Weston is very, very cool.

Less satisfying was Project Superpowers which, quite frankly, didn't do a thing for me. The interior art has that not-very-dynamic quality of Alex Ross' painted work but without the majestic grandeur that, in my opinion, more than compensates for the static compositions. It's a muddy, messy looking book that really lacks the kind of oomph! this sort of series really needs.

As for the story...?


Something about Pandora's Box being real and a lead character who is such a total sucker that he's conned into believing that imprisoning all of his former teammates will somehow rid the world of evil and who somehow fails to notice that it didn't work until a ghost-y thing that looks like the American Flag points it out to him.

Project Superpowers also fails to flesh out any of the characters beyond our lead, the Fighting Yank, who is a moron and the Green Lama, whose only character trait thus far is that he's a Buddhist and so is very calm and serene.


As for the others, I can't recall their names and have a hard time recalling what any of them looked like, despite the fact that I read it last night. I'm not sure what powers, if any, they have. I couldn't tell you a thing about their personalities beyond the fact that the Green Lama is calm and the Fighting Yank is a schmuck.


Captain America #34
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Steve Epting and Butch Guice
Published by Marvel Comics

The first issue with the new Captain America is, in my humble opinion, a big success.

It would have been easy to f*** this up. When I saw that the new Captain America was carrying a gun, I had this awful, sinking feeling that we were going to do the storyline where a super-hero is replaced by another, more violent super-hero and, at first, it seems like a good thing because he isn't bogged down by old-fashioned rules and stuff but then we all learn a very valuable lesson when it turns out that it's wrong to shoot people and be a violent sociopath and so the original hero has to return and battle his replacement and, at the end, everyone says "You're the only person who could ever be Insert-Name-of-Superhero and we will all do a fancy dance to celebrate your return."

Brubaker doesn't seem to be going this route, though, and god bless him for that! Instead, I thought he did a fantastic job of giving the reader a sense of how difficult it would be to try to take the place of Captain America and how all the stuff that looked so easy (diving into hordes of evil-doers and smashing them over the head with that shield) would actually be incredibly difficult. By the end of the issue, I actually felt the exhaustion and nervous tension coming off the page.

Or maybe that was Mie. I'm not sure.

Anyway, nicely done Mr. Brubaker... and VERY nice work on the whole plot-line of the Red Skull attacking the US through assaults on its economy and EXTRA ESPECIALLY cool to have the real-life mortgage crisis incorporated into the storyline.

Good stuff.

Youngblood #1
Written by Joe Casey
Art by Derec Donovan
Published by Image

Joe Casey has written some great comics over the years, but this isn't one of them. Part of the problem is the art; I have really enjoyed Donovan's art in the past, but it just doesn't fit here. I really think the premise of Youngblood is so closely intertwined with the art style of original creator Rob Liefeld that you need an artist who can match that kind of manic energy to make it feel like the same group. Derec Donovan is not that artist.

More importantly, there's nothing here we haven't seen a million times before. Reading Youngblood #1 made me want to go back and re-read Peter Milligan and Michael Allred's X-Force/X-Statix series, which is essentially the same thing but a million times more interesting.

I thought it was a particularly bad idea, incidentally, to include a few reprinted pages of the original series at the back of the book, as it simply highlights the lack of energy in the new series.

But what do I know? I'm just a bill...

Wonder Woman #16
Written by Gail Simone
Art by Terry and Rachel Dodson... and Ron Randall
Published by DC Comics

I know that Gail Simone is doing her damnedest to make Wonder Woman a viable character once again and I appreciate that... but somehow the end result tastes like flat cola.

It's not bad, per se, and there are bits and pieces of this story that have made me smile, but there has been no moment that's really taken me by surprise... no sense of awe. No thrills.

This is a title that I keep forgetting is being published until the latest issue arrives at my door. Which it won't be doing anymore, because I've dropped it.

Sorry, Gail. I respect what you're trying to do with the character, but it simply isn't working for me.

Ultimate Spider-Man #118
Story by Brian Michael Bendis
Art by Stuart Immonen
Published by Marvel Comics

This, on the other hand, is sheer bliss.

Here's what I've noticed about this series...

The best issues are the ones where there's no fight and no super-villain but, instead, Bendis focuses on the soap opera elements of the book.

Also, the beginnings of his story-arcs are always much better than the endings. The endings usually amount to nothing more than a big fight, which is not Bendis' strong point as a writer.

Anyway, I really loved this. Great character development (especially for Kong!) and a lot of genuinely funny stuff.

Thank you, Bendis.

Astonishing X-Men #24
Written by Joss Whedon
Art by John Cassaday
Published by Marvel Comics

My god... are they still on that planet?

Superman/Batman #44 and 45
Story by Michael Green
Art by Shane Davis
Published by DC Comics

These are the first issues of this series I've picked up in a long, long time. In fact, I think the last time I bought an issue of Superman/Batman was near the beginning of Jeph Loeb's final arc; by that time I'd completely lost interest and nothing that followed really compelled me to look again. Oh, except for a couple of issues with art by Ethan van Sciver that I just remembered. The story was pretty forgettable (something about all the aliens on Earth turning evil?) but the art, it was pretty.

Anyway, I just got these two issues because I liked the cover to #45 (Aquaman kicking Superman's butt underwater) and because I am a whimsical fellow, given to sudden flights of fancy.

Are they any good?

Sure, they're alright. The opening to issue #44 is pretty darn funny, the interaction between the two lead characters is very nicely done, the basic premise (Superman decides that there's a heck of a lot of green kryptonite on the planet and maybe it wouldn't be such a bad idea to dispose of it before it's used to kill him) makes perfect sense, and I think Shane Davis' art is quite good. It's not the kind of art that makes me say "Zowie!!! I'm going to buy anything this guy does!!!" but it's perfectly fine and I hope he gets a more regular assignment soon (Justice League, maybe?).

I thought the whole "We have learned a valuable lesson" moment at the end of #45 was a bit dopey, but overall I thought this was well worth the time and money.


Okay... so, that was a lot of comic-book reviews I just threw your way... are you feeling okay? Do you need to sit down, maybe?

As for me, I'm going to HOPE that my month improves... so far, February sucks. I'm sorry, but there it is.

Until next time, here's hoping that all your four-color dreams come true...

- Paul

1 comment:

M said...

Good post, except all that comic book stuff. You know, the reviews and everything. But yeah, otherwise pretty ok.

-the The Incredible Hulk (tm) and his amazing dancing penguins, now appearing at an ice rink near you!