This week’s comics – July 26, 2006

It is rare that I actually get to read my new comics on a Wednesday, so here’s an actual timely review of the week’s haul to celebrate in the order I read them…

Astro City Special #1
Fantastic. Everything I read from the Astro City line is consistently fantastic. Like the inside front cover says, “What you need to know before reading this issue: Uh, nothing really. Dive on in, the water’s fine.”

So it has been with the other Astro City stuff I’ve read. I have the first trade, whatever it’s called. I bought that after starting to read the “The Dark Age” miniseries from last year and loving it. Busiek takes these archetypes, representing established superheroes, arcs or periods in cultural history, accepts them as known or understood, and then expands on them.

This story is about Samaritan, essentially Astro City’s Superman, having dinner with Infidel, providing the framework for Infidel’s telling of his origin. Busiek’s ability to define characters so smoothly and efficiently is greatly enhanced by Brent Anderson’s art. Anderson reminds me a bit of Neal Adams, only a little looser and more expressive in his inking. Definitely works as a stand-alone, but like The Dark Age did to me, it’ll likely hook people on the Astro City world.

Action Comics #841
I have mixed feelings about this issue. I was hesitant to even pick it up when I heard Fabian Nicieza was co-writing. Nicieza will always hold a place in my comics-reading memory as a writer who relentlessly tried to force in pop-culture references and new slang. I recall, not at all fondly, back in the early 90s when it seemed like every character in X-Force began referring to each other as “feebs.” Warpath’s music selections became the subject of banter. Bands showed up on t-shirts. Sadly, none of it came across like hip culture references.

So I was relieved to see that Nicieza only plotted the issue along with Kurt Busiek, and Busiek handled the script. Gone was the suspense wondering what new slang term would be uttered by Clark, Lois, Jimmy and Lex in the same issue. But suddenly there was this problem of everyone doubting Superman’s authenticity.

Was there an undercurrent of that in Up, Up and Away that I just missed, or is this arriving completely out of the blue? I’m not going to go back and re-read those last 8 issues, so simply going off my memories (which I imagine many other readers will do as well), this was startlingly new. Editorially, they had to know this was coming, so at least a few hints in the previous few issues would have served us well. (I do admit I might just be forgetting them, so if I’m wrong and that has been referred to, well then a big fat touche.)

What I loved was that Nightwing was treated like more of the Nightwing that was built up in Infinite Crisis in one page than he has been in over the past several months in his own title. I love the no-nonsense, heroic Dick Grayson – not the spandex-modeling, winy whore he is in his own book.

I don’t know if we’re supposed to know who this villain is at the end. I’ve never been that much of a Superman reader, so he was new to me. I yawned a bit at his slow over-the-shoulder / close-up-of-hands / big-splash-on-the-last-page revelation, but he’s here, okay. Let the fun begin.

Powers #19
I haven’t read an issue of Powers in probably 6 months. It’s still on my pull list, so I keep getting it, but I stopped reading it. Instead, I flip through, glance at the art (I still love Oeming’s work), and then maybe read the letters section. I’ve noticed a lot more nudity. Not enough to make me want to read the words in between. I always tell myself, “I’ll just go back and read them all at once.”

Well for some reason I read this one. No exception at all on the steadily increasing nudity. It’s a little unsettling with Oeming’s art – normally the comic nudity (or near-nudity) is in that standard post-Jim Lee style, to where it’s relatively Playboy-lifelike and it just seems like it’s designed to appeal to the 3 comic book readers who don’t have access to the internet. But with Oeming’s, it kind of feels like seeing Smurfette or one of those girl chipmunks from Alvin and the Chipmunks naked; it’s a little too Saturday morning cartoonish to be stimulating, which I suppose is a good thing? I don’t know.

Anyway, the jury’s out on whether or not I’ll bother to read the next issue or maybe remember to take it off my list. I honestly can’t remember anything about this issue other than lots of nudity, sex, cartoon people masturbation, and annoying witty banter in the middle of a fight with robots, and I just read it maybe a half hour ago.

Batman #655
An okay start, except Batman’s been back in Gotham for one arc after a year’s vacation, and he already needs a break to get out of town? Can’t really hold up like he used to, eh? Surely a mind like Morrison’s could come up with a less out-of-place reason to get Bruce on the road.

I’ve never been a fan of the Kuberts, especially Andy, for largely the same reasons I pissed off another second-generational comics talent last week – his character renderings always seemed pretty emotionless and interchangeable. However, I have to say that this issue seems to have a little more humanity and life than I’ve come to expect from his art, and that was a pleasant surprise.

And having a fake Batman shoot the Joker in the head seems to be a ridiculous waste of what could have been a great money moment wasted on some shocking “What has Morrison done?” first few pages.

I’m going to keep buying this because it’s Batman, but this was in no way a can’t-wait-til-next-month issue.

52: week 12
“And gathering together countries like chess pieces to consolidate a power base that only serves to threaten your people and the rest of the world.”

How does this happen? How does a big fat speech bubble like that end up in two consecutive panels? At first I thought that Adrianna was trying to make a point through some kind of parallel construction, but then I realized it was just a goof. I guess if an editorial goof is going to be excusable in any book, it’d be a book that comes out weekly. That is if an editorial goof is going to be excusable.

And on the topic of a book that comes out every month, I was thinking about how Keith Giffen does breakdowns for every book. I wonder what that’s like – drawing over someone else’s breakdowns. I wonder if John Romita, Jr has ever done that.

Anyway, I’ve been one of the folks sticking with 52, and I have no regrets. The Black Adam story alone has been great to follow, and I’ve still been given no reason to lose faith that the other stories aren’t going to pay off well.

Wolverine #44
I meant to take this off my pull list once that Decimation arc wrapped up, but I forgot. The big fat reason was the art. I absolutely despise anything in that Joe Madureira-esque style, where everything looks like it either belongs in Japan or Saturday morning. Nothing against Japan or Saturday morning, but to emulate a style for the sake of emulating a style often comes at the expense of the story (see all the X-Men comics that featured Joe Madureira on art).

The story has been strong enough to get me past the ridiculous new neck muscles that Logan has been arbitrarily sporting the past two issues. The idea of someone chasing Nitro is so simple that it’s effective and good. The idea of Wolverine fighting Namor next issue, however, is still up for debate.

New Avengers #22
It’s issues like this that only make the New Avengers net-trashing come off like so much misdirected Bendis hate. Bendis has a lot of flaws as a writer, but there’s also a lot that he does in amazing fashion. This issue is among the latter.

New Avengers is taking a well-defined route through Civil War of telling the stories of the assembly of Captain America’s band of rebels. This issue, illustrated by the magnificent Leinil Yu, tells the story of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. While I have no doubt that there will be plenty of folks on the web ripping this issue to shreds with various bits of nitpicking, if you’ve given up on this book and thought you might like to give it another chance, pick up either of the last two issues. If you don’t like those, you’re not going to like it, and fair enough. But issues like this make me glad I didn’t bail on this series, and it’s issues like this, supplementing Civil War, that are making it as powerful as it surprisingly has been.

On somewhat of a side note, I’m glad this issue addressed the aforementioned Daredevil problem. Daredevil is there, part of the posse, and several remarks are made about how he’s supposed to be in jail. This puts Civil War in the now, as opposed to a previous theory that it takes place after some undefined point in the future when DD gets out of prison…

Daredevil #87
Daredevil was the comic that got me going to the store on a regular basis back in 2002. The Bendis / Maleev run was unlike anything I’ve ever read (in a good way), and the handover to Brubaker and Lark has been seamless. Consistently the best comic out there, and every month builds anticipation for the next.