Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Comic Book Update - September 2012

It’s been about three months since my last Comic Book Update and a lot has happened. Not as much as I kind of thought would happen, but some changes have occurred nonetheless.

This is still one of my favorites among the New 52, to the point where I am really nervous about the possibility of Justin Grey, Jimmy Palmiotti, or Moritat leaving the book. They have managed to do what DC very much wanted to do with the rest of the New 52, only on a much smaller scale – they have created a fresh, new, and exciting universe for familiar characters. All Star Western is always near the top of my stack and has not had a bad issue yet. Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham’s relationship continues to develop, and every story arc brings interesting new supporting characters. This is an excellent comic book that gets my highest recommendation.
Christos Gage is so good that he can make me not hate Angel’s douchebag son, Conner. I like Giles’ aunts, I’m interested to see why Whistler’s back and what he’s going to do. In short, this is an engaging comic that keeps me coming back every month eager to see what’s next.
Now that this book is in full-on crossover mode with Swamp Thing things have gotten really crazy. I just read issue #0. I’m honestly not sure how necessary these origin books are at this point. If you’re not already invested in one of the New52 books at this point, an explanation of the character isn’t going to do you any good. And there’s a danger that if you have finally accepted these new iterations on their own terms, there could be something about the origin that puts you off. Animal Man’s origin if sine, though. It isn’t all that revelatory – most of it has already been revealed in a less overt fashion by Jeff LeMire’s excellent storytelling.
I just picked up Batman #0 at the comic shop. Varis said it was kind of pointless. But I really liked issue 12 a lot. It reinvested me in the book after I was kind of let down by “Night of the Owls”. I’m very interested in the character that was introduced – a young woman named Harper Row. It was a great story and I would recommend you pick it up. Snyder’s writing was light and fun and Becky Cloonan’s art was a nice breather from Greg Capullo’s busy, frenetic style. Don’t get me wrong – I love Capullo’s art. I always preferred his work on the Spawn titles to McFarlane’s. But I think a break from time to time is good.
I enjoyed the last arc featuring the Bane-wannabe villain, Terminus. He was a total throwaway, but the story felt like something from the comics I was reading when I was younger; where not every story lasted ten-plus issues and not every villain was a global threat. Everything got wrapped up quickly and neatly. I still feel bad about doubting Tomasi and Gleason’s run on this book initially, because they really have created a title that reminds me more than any other of the style of comics from when I was a kid. The arcs are mostly self-contained, the action is fun and simple, and there is a certain standard of quality that runs through every single issue. I’m not going to say this one is near the top of my stack every month, but it is certainly one that satisfies me every time.
Okay, issue 2 of the new volume of Batman, Inc. was excellent. Every issue of this title has been excellent. But this one was basically an expansion of Talia Al Ghul and how and why she put Leviathan together. It was utterly necessary – for me, anyway (I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer and am occasionally left wondering what the fuck is going on in Morrison’s books) – but it didn’t actually progress the story. It looks like we only have three more issues left to go and with the way Morrison meanders sometimes I’m concerned the resolution to his years-long Batman saga might not be as grand as I think we’ve all come to expect.
The art is still beautiful, but Batwoman has been flopping around the same story since issue #1 and I’m starting to think I might not like it that much. It’s kind of… a mess. So there’s a totally separate worldwide conspiracy from the one in Morrison’s Batman, Inc.? I need to sit down and reread the whole run to see if maybe it will make more sense, but the last couple of issues have just felt kind of erratic. And the way they were jumping around was just irritating. But the art is still great!
However – the last issue was kind of awesome. Wonder Woman showing up would have been such a cool surprise if the idiots at DC hadn’t spoiled it by putting her on the cover. And I like the relationship between Chase and Batwoman.
The shop either forgot they are supposed to be pulling this one or it got canceled.
Time for some honesty, here. I can’t remember what the fuck happened in the last issue.
Side Note: In case you haven’t been following Needless Things for very long, let me explain why I don’t just go and grab the book for a refresher: I do all of my writing at work. I work 12 hour shifts at a terminally boring job where I do not have access to the internet or outside reading materials. If I want to use my cell phone I have to go to the bathroom and sneak a quick peek.
I only started writing because of these long shifts and the fact that I had nothing else to do to keep me awake. I don’t write at home – for the most part – because I have a wife and a 4 year old son and as much as I love you guys, I love them more. When I post this stuff, I do it when they’re asleep or not home. I am passionate about my online dorkery, but I do my best to not let it interfere with my family life.
But Phantom,” you might say, “You do those podcasts for the ESO Network (and hopefully others to come soon)!” You’re right. But Mrs. Troublemaker got me that job, so I get away with that.
Anyway, the point of this is to say that I do everything from memory – comic updates, toy reviews, movie reviews; whatever. So it might be a bit of an indictment on the quality of the Buffy series to say that I don’t remember it.
I know that the current arc has Buffy working for Kennedy’s security agency, but I can’t recall the details. I’m not crazy about the current magic-free setting. It almost seems like most of the time in the current Buffy books is spent finding ways around the fact that there isn’t supposed to be magic anymore. As far as I can tell there is no compelling narrative reason for this to have occurred. Buffy is still fighting demons and vampires. As much as the loss of magic should have felt like an earth-shaking, major change; it doesn’t.
And I really hate to criticize a guy that I am a genuine fan of, but maybe it’s time for George Jeanty to take a bit of an extended break from the book. His work has been very shaky for a while now. I could totally understand if he’s burned out on Buffy. He’s been doing it a long time. But I frequently can’t tell who anybody is supposed to be and there are times where the narrative really requires you to recognize characters at a glance.
I dropped it. Not because I didn’t like it, but because the book just felt extraneous. There was nothing compelling me to read it. It was okay, but not amazing. And it didn’t seem to have any bearing on anything. It just didn’t make me care about the character.
It’s fun. The smart things about all of these Danger Girl books is they only go about five issues so you get your little chunk of goofy action and move on. No commitment. The sad thing about this one is that the art and story characterizes the Joes better than any of IDW’s other Joe books.
Wow! Another issue finally came out! And it’s the last one! I enjoyed this one. Obviously Andy Hartnell knows how to write the Danger Girls, but he nailed Ash as well. The art in this was beautiful and the story was… well, it was fine. As good as any of the Evil Dead movies, anyway. I’d say buy the trade when it comes out.
I might drop it soon. Part of the promise of the New 52 was that the entire new DCU would unfold together and things would slowly become related to one another. That isn’t really happening very much anywhere, though I am curious to see Etrigan’s new origin. I dunno – I really like all of the characters, but this one just doesn’t seem connected and vital. And if you think I am relying too much on universe-building and continuity to determine which comics I buy, wait until you get to “S”.
This one isn’t really fitting into the larger DCU either, but I like Frankenstein (and yes – he is “Frankenstein” and not “Frankenstein’s Monster” in this) so much I’m going to keep going. This one does compel me to keep reading. Matt Kindt has almost seamlessly replaced Jeff LeMire on this title, continuing the themes of a being that is truly alone and unique trying to work for the betterment of the world. I like that Kindt has started playing with S.H.A.D.E. a bit more as well.
I dropped all of IDW’s GI Joe titles. I have a new rule: any time the writers of any GI Joe media resort to the US government de-funding the GI Joe program, I am out. I am so fucking tired of that tactic. It’s worse than fucking kryptonite for being a cheap de-powering of the hero. And it happens in every run.
Side Note: I am not including GI Joe: Retaliation in this because it is Arnold Vosloo that de-funded the Joes. And declared them outlaws. And made Cobra the standing armed forces in the US. And NINJA MOTORCYCLE MADE OF ROCKETS.
Dropped it. Don’t care. So sick of Green Lanterns fighting each other or the Guardians or other types of Lanterns or whatever. This new thing where they find out the Guardians are evil or whatever – no shit.
Uh oh. We seem to be having deadline problems again. The last issue was 17 and that came out in July. The Image website lists the release dates in 18 & 19 as "TBD". That can't be good.
Dropped it. The sloooooooooow pace finally got to me.
Holy shit has this book turned around. It has gone from being a confusing, dense narrative with no discernible direction to being a fun, clear, action-packed team book. I actually cared about the big betrayal from a couple of issues ago.
The title continues the arc of a future where Cypher is a villainous dictator who controls everything. Similar to Psylocke in recent issues of Uncanny X-Force. Very similar. But now the gang is stuck in an alternate timeline where things are very different and they have to figure out not only how to get back to their own timeline, but also what it is that knocked this one out of whack. I still like the book, but I have to admit that Abnett and Lanning are starting to lose me a little bit.
It might just be me, but this arc seemed awfully similar to the one in Batman and Robin. I think we have a problem here in that the creative teams behind the New 52 books seem intent on introducing new villains while we’re all waiting to see what the old ones look like now. Also, this Paragon character was just a bit too similar to what was going on in “Night of the Owls”. Nightwing is well written and the art is very good, but I want this title out from under the shadow of Batman, like Batwoman is. I was really hoping that Dick would join the circus and just travel across the country rather than staying in Gotham. Gotham City has more than enough crime fighters.
Rucka’s Punisher is exciting, new, and different. We are seeing things that we have never seen from a Punisher book before and the tension and drama has been outstanding. I almost hope Rucka just tells whatever story he has to tell and then Marvel cancels the book. As much as I am typically opposed to continually restarting books, it seems like the only way you can get a clean, good story now is to just give a title to a certain creative team and then end it when they’re done. Everything hits a downhill slope at some point, and rather than ever revitalize it the publishers just cancel it. So I think they should just start acting preemptively and ending things when the current team is done. Just make everything a damn miniseries. More on this later.
This new title from writer Tim Seeley (Hack/Slash) and artist Mike Norton (Battlepug) has me excited. Seeley has matured so much as a writer and Norton is a more than capable artist. Together they are creating a new world that I am anxious to see expand.
The deal is this – there’s a small town in the American Midwest where the dead have come back to life. But they’re not zombies, they’re functional members of society. But something is going wrong. Of course.
This title is the reason I am still reading comic books.
Things are a little tight money-wise around the Troublemaker household lately. My job pays alright, but we’re not rich by any means. We’re also nowhere near uncomfortable, as you can tell from all the stupid shit I spend my money on and write about. But a year full of unexpected expenses has taken its toll. I needed to tighten up somewhere. And I’m not usually one who can cut back. It’s all or nothing. I’ve dropped a few toy lines entirely. I barely buy movies anymore. There are a few other areas where I’ve eliminated expenses. Cutting out toys entirely isn’t really a practical option because I write about toys to keep myself sane at work. As long as I have just enough disposable income to throw at plastic, I kind of have to keep doing it. Otherwise I’m going to have to start writing fan fiction and nobody wants that. Well, one person might, but they’re out of luck. So a couple of months ago it was starting to seem like an easy way to save some money would be to drop comics.
I knew I couldn’t just cut it down to a few excellent titles. Comic Book publishers know how to handle people that try that. They put your favorite writer on thirteen different books and switch them up all the time. They put new writers on books you get addicted to. All kinds of ways to make your little five book pull grow to thirty within six months. So if I was going to stop, it was going to have to be cold turkey.
I knew I could do without the New 52; even Batman. I’ve stopped buying Batman before, I could do it again. Same went for the X-Titles. I didn’t want to drop comics, but it was seeming like more of a viable and necessary option. When I took a close look at the things I was buying, there were so many that were habit books. This is what the publishers depend on.
But every time I looked at my pull list, I saw one word sitting there:
I couldn’t bear the thought of not reading Saga. But if I went to the shop to pick up Saga once a month (or however often it ever comes out – I find myself not worried about dates because the book is so amazing I’ll just go with Staples’ and Vaughn’s flow) I would buy other stuff. There’s just no way for me to be disciplined enough to buy just one comic. I can barely stick to my regular pull as it is. Just last trip to the shop I had to buy Captain America/Black Widow because Francesco Francavilla did the art. I can’t help myself. I love comic books. And I really love Saga.
I am typically loathe to start an entirely new title. I like the familiar. There are two reasons for this, using Batman as an example –
  1. Batman has certain established parameters that I am used to and that are not going to change beyond a certain degree. Batman is comfortable. I know Batman. There have been shitty Batman stories, but eventually the franchise will always be righted because it has to be protected for the future.
  2. Batman isn’t going anywhere. There will always be Batman comics. While I don’t often try new books not in established universes, it does happen, and all too frequently those books get cancelled without resolution. That sucks so bad.
I can’t even remember what made me buy Saga in the first place. I knew Vaughn and his work, but I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a fan. Same with Fiona Staples. I think it was something about the concept of a family fighting against everything that appealed to me. My family means more to me than anything; to the point where having a family defined meaning for me, if that makes sense.
Anyway, Saga is so good that it kept me collecting comics. You should be buying it.
I just bought the final issue. I can’t bring myself to read it yet because I don’t want this story to be over. Of course, Varis spoiled a little something for me because he still doesn’t quite grasp the concept that I have not yet read the books that I am currently purchasing from him; but I’m still excited about reading this one.
Varis – seriously, dude – stop telling me things about the books I am buying. I appreciate that you’re trying to save me the trouble of reading comics, but I like reading comics.
I thought we would be getting the story of how spike hooked up with the alien bugs. It turns out this miniseries picks up right after Spike’s exit from Buffy Season 9, which I am okay with. The first issue is pretty fun and has some good bug humor, which I like. So far this one is worthwhile.
If you like Boba Fett, you should pick this completed series up when it comes out as a trade. If you are Darth Pete, I wouldn’t bother.
If you hate the idea of these things being combined there is nothing in this book that will win you over. However, if you are not a stuck-up fuddy-duddy you will thoroughly enjoy the interactions between all of these iconic sci-fi characters and the epic adventure they are involved in. I can't decide if I really like the art, though.
Side Note: You'll notice there are no pictures for IDW comics. It's because IDW's website is garbage. Most comic book publishers have shitty, confusing websites - it's what makes posting these updates so fucking frustrating and why I do it so rarely - but IDW's is truly the cream of the crap.
Dropped it. I didn’t dislike the title, but it was just unnecessary.
I have faith in Scott Snyder, so I’m sure the extremely confusing timeline established for the New 52 Swamp Thing/Alec Holland makes sense. But man. It’s confusing. Apparently five years ago Alec Holland was murdered via fire by his wife, who was possessed by an ancient agent of The Rot called Anton Arcane. Five years later he emerged from the swamp and issue #1 of the New 52 run of Swamp Thing began. That’s fine except for the fact that it is established in said issue #1 that Alec and Abigail Arcane (and Anton) all know each other somehow. I don’t quite understand how that all works.
But then you have to consider that (I guess) everything that happened to Swamp Thing since 1973 (or whatever) happened in that five year span, only it happened to a big plant man that only thought it was Alec Holland. But then how did Alec Holland know Abigail? There are probably other issues (and answers) but this is making my head hurt.
And that is another problem with the New 52. It was supposed to be new-reader-friendly, but I find that there are several titles that expect you to have a fairly extensive knowledge of what has gone before. Not only expect it, but demand it. I can follow what is going on in Snyder’s Swamp thing, but I do often feel like I’m missing something, like pieces of the story aren’t there in what has been produced.
Aside from the Captain Britain Corps storyline this book has been excellent from day one. Apparently Marvel is launching a new X-Force title later this year as part of its NOW initiative, which likely means the end of Uncanny X-Force. Surprisingly, I am okay with that. We have gotten 31 issues of an excellent comic book. As I said above, let’s just end it now while it’s still compelling and great. If Rick Remender has told all the story he wants to tell, so be it. Don’t let it get bad – let’s have a full run of a great comic.
The team is currently dealing with a new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants who have kidnapped Evan. Evan is a clone of a boy that Fantomex murdered in the first story arc because he was destined to become Apocalypse. Fantomex cloned him in the hopes that the boy could be raised to use his potential powers for good rather than evil. Naturally the Brotherhood is trying to turn Evan to their own ends.
I dropped it. Nothing against the new creative team, but I am attempting to whittle my pull down and Rick Remender leaving a title is as good a reason as any to drop it. I was buying this book for Remender (well, actually the first issue I bought was because of Tom Fowler), not Venom. I’ve never been a huge Venom fan. I don’t dislike the character or anything – I’m not trying to be all hipster – it’s just not one I’d buy a book for.
Okay, I can’t really say much, but I am relieved at Rick’s reaction to recent events. I was a little concerned that things would go one way and necessitate an unwanted change in his character, but thankfully Rick still appears to be the rick we’ve been watching for the last 101 issues. Strap in, kids. Shit is getting crazy-go-nuts.
I like all of the mythology, but I was getting a little tired of this book’s seeming complete separation from the rest of the DC Universe. I will say that issue 12 was solid and the turn of events caught me off guard (which I liked). Between that and events in Batwoman, it looks like this book is going to keep me hooked.
(I friggin' love that cover)
The new arc has me fascinated. Of course, every issue of X-Factor has me fascinated, so I guess that’s no surprise. Right now we have a situation where the new team seems to be falling apart, but Havok and Madrox are actually working together fairly well. That can’t be good. We also just found out that Polaris (accidentally) killed her own parents, which she did not previously know. Something like that might almost be enough to make a person villainous. Well, villainous again.
I feel that this crossover has been a huge success. The characters have all acted in believable ways, the stakes have been high without seeming artificially so, and everybody’s motivations are clear – Cyclops thinks he (and the rest of the Phoenix Five) can control the Phoenix Force and use it to make the world a better place. Everybody else disagrees.
Witnessing the slow process of the rest of mutantkind recognizing Scott Summer’s increasing megalomania has been awesome. All of the writers involved have done a very good job, and even Bendis has only bothered me a couple of times; most recently with the phrase, “- - I know you only fight a fight worth fighting…”
But issue #11 was excellent (except for that line of dialogue and one other that I can’t quote without spoiling something pretty major) and felt like a massive deal.
Main Title – Issue #11 was excellent (except for that line of dialogue and one other that I can’t quote without spoiling something pretty major) and felt like a massive deal. Also, I love the way Olivier Coipel draws Hulk.
AVX: Vs. – For the most part this has been the fun beat-em-up that it had promised to be from the start. Things got heavy in the last issue when Storm fought T’Challa, but this is still a visually striking limited series. I just hope that Marvel doesn’t take its success as a go-ahead for an ongoing title that’s nothing but fighting.
Side Note: The above statement was dumb for two reasons: 1) I have no idea if AvX has actually been a success or not, and 2) I honestly don’t care if they launch and ongoing in this format or not. If it’s not good I won’t buy it.
Avengers – This title is a bit more critical for me, if only because I know next-to-nothing about the current iteration of the team. I don’t know how they interact or think or even, quite frankly, what their modern mission statement is. This has let me see “the other side of the fight”, even though this team is the one I agree with. I think.
Avengers Academy – This one was dealing with how the young powered non-mutants were dealing with the conflict and it was very good. I did not previously care about that kid and his pet Sentinel, but when Emma Frost dismantled it I was genuinely dismayed. But at the same time, If I were her I would have done the same thing. Academy had a great story arc. It may not have been a vital part of the crossover, but it gave me the clearest definition of the conflict in Frost’s dealings with the group.
New Avengers – Another fine example of how Marvel did this crossover right. By not making the ancillary tie-ins a necessary part of the story, they have actually succeeded in making better individual narratives. This one filled us in on how Hope came to be powerful enough to knock Phoenix Force Scott Summers on his narrow ass, so to speak. It took some cues from Jonathan Hickman’s SHIELD series in the process, as well.
Secret Avengers – I dropped it.
Uncanny X-Men – This last issue delineated everything that is wrong about Scott Summers having the Phoenix Force. Previous to that the Phoenix Force Five were battling a whole civilization of Mister Sinisters, which is definitely something I can get behind.
Wolverine and the X-Men – A book that has no business even existing continues to be great. I say it has no business existing because it is named after one of Marvel’s shortest-lived cartoon series but has nothing to do with it, which is okay because the series had nothing to do with anything. But that’s a whole different post.
I love this book possibly more than any other X-book right now (excepting Uncanny X-Force) because it’s fun and mostly gloom-free. The first time I ever spoke to my wife I told her I was looking for comics that were fun without all the angsty bullshit. Eight years later, Wolverine and the X-Men fulfills that need. Issue #15 features the Avengers hanging around with Henry McCoy and Wolverine trying to figure out how to take down the Phoenix Force Five (now two). But it also features Broo – a Brood hybrid that I hated at first but is now one of my favorite Marvel characters – hanging out with Tony Stark.
X-Men: Legacy – The last issue I remember had Magik banishing Rogue to another planet or something. Disappointing since I thought for sure Rogue was being set up to play a major part in the conclusion of the crossover. Unfortunately that role seems to have gone to Storm. Not that I don’t like Storm, but she has her own story in dealing with T’Challa. Rogue could have used the heat that comes with being the first one to break away from Cyclops. As things stand, this is probably the first title I’m going to abandon. Rogue is one of my favorite characters and I dig Christos Gage, but I hate that he took her out of the story in this way.
Other Comic-Related News
Apparently a lot of people have left DC. Judd Winick, Rob Liefeld, and maybe some others. Rob Liefeld had an absolutely hilarious Twitter fit about it that I strongly recommend you look up. Other than that, this is non-news to me.
People that work for Marvel or DC work for a corporation on characters that are owned by that corporation. You do what they tell you. A for-hire artist or writer doesn’t have any more right to do whatever they want with a character or storyline than a fry cook at McDonald’s has to dump those frozen potato slices into the grease a different way. Just like with any job, if you don’t like the situation you’re in you leave. These folks are only different because they have worked hard to get themselves into positions where leaving is an option. And in Liefeld’s case leaving and throwing a public hissy fit and shitting all over the people who were recently buttering your bread.
And another thing – I find all of the internet folks who are talking about Liefeld “burning bridges” to be absolutely hilarious.
There is no such thing as burning bridges in the comic book industry. If you are perceived as somebody who can make a company enough money to be worth the trouble you are, they will hire you. Yeah, at the moment Tom Brevoort has no interest in Liefeld. But if the time comes when Marvel decides it might not be a bad idea to have The Rob back on one of their forthcoming X-Force titles, they will hire him. Same goes for DC. I have no idea why they thought Rob Liefeld would be a great addition to the New 52 reboot, but they did. And if for whatever reason somebody at DC thinks he’d be the man to relaunch Ambush Bug or something, he’ll be back.
But anyway, people leave comic book companies all the time. DC is doing something extremely difficult and restrictive right now by trying to streamline their new universe. Naturally people who are creatively inclined are going to resist the type of mandating that’s going on. Which brings me to
New 52: One Year Later
Well, I gave it a year and I still don’t like it.
Overall the DC Universe seems utterly meaningless to me right now. The new paradigm just feels like a cheap imitation. It’s different enough that it is disorienting, but not so different that it feels exciting and worthwhile. I just keep dropping titles, and the ones that I like could have happened in the old DCU. And then you launch a very good title like Earth 2. I already feel like the New 52 DCU doesn’t really matter, so another universe even further removed seems inconsequential. I just can’t care about it.
I think there’s a good chance that six months from now I won’t be buying any DC superhero books. It’s happened before and DC has certainly taken the right steps to make it happen again.
7 Soldiers of Victory
I’m not going to say much about this, because I could write a whole post about it. It is a fantastic work that exemplifies Grant Morrison’s talent at characterization and subtle story crafting. I read the two trades that contain the entire story in sequential order, but each of the seven miniseries could be read on its own. Together, though, they form a huge narrative that, quite frankly, seems to sow the seeds for how a lot of things are in the New 52. Slaughter Swamp, anybody?
Mark Waid’s Daredevil
I’m only three issues in, but yes – it is as good as everybody says. More on this next time. I only mention it briefly here because Matt ”Sex” Sells asked about it and when Matt “Sex” Sells ask a question you had better damn well answer.


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