The Doomino Effect for the week of July 18, 2007

It’s Tuesday, it’s Doomino Time – I finally finished off my stack of last week’s comics so I shall let her rip.

First up is the book I almost didn’t read – The Spirit #8. I sat down with my stack and realized I didn’t even crack open the issue, so I made a point to before starting this. Oh boy, am I glad I did. It only took eight issues for this series to become a creatively bankrupt bore. I credit this largely to the fact that – SPOILER WARNING – Spirit #8 uses the ending from The Naked Gun 2 1/2. So so so funny for all the wrong reasons.

Yes, The Spirit is light-hearted. Yes, much of The Spirit is tongue-in-cheek. But when your ending comes from the watered-down sequel to a parody of police detectives, you have officially devolved to nothing more than a parody of yourself.

And I don’t know if it’s always been the case or if I’ve just noticed it, but I find Dave Stewart’s Straight-Line Facial Shadows be terribly distracting. I first noticed it last week when reading Superman Confidential #5 and I couldn’t stop noticing it in this week’s Spirit. The guy is capable of complex, beautifully rich coloring – is this whole straight-line fascination somehow “retro” ? I mean just look at the cover for a glaring example of this phenomenon of which I speak.

But anyway, I’m glad I read it because now I have a new entry on The List of Comics I’m Going to Stop Buying.

Speaking of comics that I’m going to stop buying that are also made by highly-acclaimed creators, that leads me to The Goon #19. I used to love The Goon. It was inspirational reading those early issues and trades. The joy that came from reading it was the kind of joy that just makes you want to create, because you get so excited from reading someone else’s creation that it just triggers your imagination in all sorts of directions. The Goon started going downhill for me in 2005, and since those days, there have been numerous references to its suffering quality. Apparently the lack of issues and ill-advised substitute creators have been due to Eric Powell’s focus on the Goon “Chinatown” graphic novel, which comes out in a few months. Normally, I would give the recent struggles in this book the benefit of the doubt and go ahead and pick up the graphic novel when it comes out. But thanks to issue #19, with Powell fully in charge and in the driver’s seat, all good will has been exhausted and the benefit of the doubt has expired. This comic has just gotten downright sad.

It starts out with a horribly unfunny parody of Oprah Winfrey (daring, since she’s so universally revered and previously untouched by satirists) which actually makes built-in excuses for its unfunny retard-and-poo jokes, blaming the failures on the publishing delays of comic books. Sadly, the timeliness is the least of the problems. This four-page introduction was so bad I almost just gave up, but then page 5 introduces us to an actual Goon story with a beautifully-drawn splash page. One thing about Eric Powell is that even when his stories suffer, his art rarely does. And here again, that is the case. Good looking art, really stupid story. It’s like the guy had a finite number of ideas that were fresh and exciting for the first dozen or so issues, but since then, is cluelessly cursed to reviving them and firing scattershot at the page, hoping that Frankie’s vulgarity and occasional visual non sequiturs would somehow fall conveniently into a humorous and intriguing combination. It just doesn’t work, and it’s so mind-boggling that something so incredibly good has devolved into something this bad. It’s gotten to the point where I wonder if the comic hipsters will even abandon ship at some point, realizing that putting their social capital into this mess will drag them down as well.

And speaking of messes, I’m still buying Countdown. Due to the nature of dominoes, my little scoring symbols only go down to 2. Imagine a completely blank domino over there to the left. (UPDATE!!! Fin Fang Doom has educated me and now I have a zero domino to award to really bad comics!)

Speaking of completely blank, that’s my recollection of Action Comics #852, but it’s a Countdown tie-in, so no wonder.

And speaking of forgettable tie-ins, that leads me to Ghost Rider #13, a World War Hulk crossover. These past two issues have been beyond pointless. Last month, I declared #12 the worst issue of Ghost Rider I had yet read, adding “this whole issue just served to get Ghost Rider in New York so he could fight the Hulk next issue. So any regular readers of Ghost Rider will be disappointed because their series was hijacked for nothing, and anyone who picked this up for the World War Hulk crossover will be disappointed because nothing at all happened except ‘Ghost Rider drove to New York and then the Hulk was standing there on the last page.'”

Well, this issue was definitely the fight…fight fight fight, boom…and then…Ghost Rider walks away. Want to know why? Because, as Doctor Strange points out, Ghost Rider only avenges the innocent. And the people the Hulk wants to smash are not innocent. Two issues for Ghost Rider to drive to New York and then just walk away to get across the already thoroughly beaten-like-Blackbolt point that the Illuminati screwed up.

And speaking of the smart people not being that smart after all, that leads me to The Brave and the Bold #5. This series continues to be the tons of fun that it started out being. It’s nothing too profound, but it’s just quality classic superhero adventure stories without pretension or a need to fit in with whatever the big event of the day is. And although you could see it coming from miles away, Batman’s outsmarting of Brainiac 5 just felt so good. But the quest for the various bits and pieces is over, as the big bad eyeball guy now has all the stuff. Yeah I don’t even remember what the stuff is or who the big bad eyeball guy is, but I like reading the book.

And speaking of quests, that leads me to Captain America #28, where Bucky is still hunting Nick Fury, Sharon and Falcon are still hunting Bucky, and Sin and the Gang are planning to break that skull-faced guy out of prison. Can’t think of his name for the life of me now. Even with Cap gone, Brubaker’s still managing to toss in enough juicy little bits to keep this story very interesting, including the newly-revealed (to Tony Stark, not the reader) final wishes of Captain America. I’ve said this several times, but I am very glad I just decided to take a chance on Captain America #1 two and a half years ago. He’s gone from a character I cared nothing about to being the title figure of one of my favorite monthly comics. I don’t even mind that he’s dead!

And speaking of not caring whether or not characters are dead, that leads me to Justice League of America #11, in which Red Arrow and that lady with animal powers (I can’t seem to remember anyone’s name today) are trapped in a toppled building. The painting of this issue was quite lovely, and as a stand-alone issue, it was pretty good. My main beef with it is that it has one of those surprises at the end that doesn’t really hold water (no pun intended) when you go back and read the issue. SPOILER WARNING, but it turns out that Mari the animal lady can’t swim to the surface from the hole in the roof because they’re upside down. Nevermind that gravity still applies, even if you’re underwater, except for apparently inside the little crevice they’re stuck in inside the rubble. So all that crawling around they’re doing before the escape? Yeah, they’re apparently crawling on the ceiling but actually thinking they’re crawling on the floor!

Not to mention that Mari squeezes out into the water to swim to safety, apparently through a hole that’s small enough to be plugged by an arrow. And she manages to come back into their little pod without flooding the thing. It’s just the type of thing that really bugs me, when writers lazily create situations that are convenient for the little story they want to tell without spending the extra five seconds to think “Okay, is this actually what would happen or just what I want to happen?” Because the meaning they want to convey is lost if the reader isn’t sucked into their world. And in this case, what should have been a poignant little tale of Roy and Mari was seriously crippled by Brad Meltzer’s shack-o-phalse-physics.

Couldn’t they just be in a cave or something?

The Scorecard

Captain America
Justice League of America
Brave and the Bold
Ghost Rider (I’m going to give it the benefit of the doubt that it struggled so much the past two issues because of the forced World War Hulk crossover)
Action Comics (see Ghost Rider)

The Spirit
The Goon