Because No One Else Can: A Very Special Doomino Effect

I do not know how long it’s been since I’ve done a Doomino Effect. All I know is that it has been too long. So it’s time I returned (sort of like the last time I returned, when it had also been too long since I’d done a Doomino Effect … I’ll try to actually be back next week).

Speaking of returning, that leads me to Grendel: Behold the Devil #1 of 8. The teaser issue #0 was one of our (Satan’s) Books of Double (Evil) Doom back in July, but that was eight pages of preview that wasn’t necessarily eight pages of story.

This is proper Grendel with heads rolling as mobsters are decapitated and reporters are fellated; Hunter rose and cops feel; the protagonists queried as Grendel parried. Okay I’m done with those.

But I like the idea of Grendel’s supreme confidence being chipped away a bit. My familiarity with the character is superficial enough to not know if this has been done before, but it’s new to me, and it’s a direction I’m happy to see explored.

Matt Wagner’s art continues to impress me, for better or for worse. While I highly doubt he could get a comic illustration job at a publisher with any kind of distribution, his style still works for Grendel. Maybe it’s just because of the personal connection — he knows exactly what to do and where. But the occasional clumsy line and misshapen anatomy don’t pull me out of the story very often, at least not on first read.

Wagner is one of those creators whom I admittedly have a bias for. He’s earned enough goodwill with me from the Grendel stuff I have read, Trinity, the Batman minis and Sandman Mystery Theatre that his work would probably have to be bad for me to be disappointed with it, but Michael Allred and Eric Powell have shown me lately that even the biggest heroes can fall.

And speaking of heroes falling, that leads me to Captain America #32. Agent 13 is still compromised and fighting; Bucky was close to slipping back to the dark side but the little bugger stuck it out until getting dropped from the sky; Sam’s flying around and Natasha is still super hot.

The best part of this issue was that there’s a super secret lair in the tunnels beneath New York City. I don’t care how many times that well gets tapped, I love it. Mimic, Ghostbusters 2, Captain America — I love it all.

This series is leading up to the crowning (or shielding?) of the new Captain America. You read it here first — Sharon is pregnant with Steve’s super-sperm, which will gestate rapidly and reach full maturity in time for issue #34 when Ed Brubaker and Alex “I’ll Make Your Costume Shiny!” Ross reveal the result of Super Soldier Serum swimming for the prize. Remember I called it. Either that or it might be Bucky. Whatever, this series rules.

And speaking of ruling, that leads me to Action Comics #859, in which the Earthlings have taken over and kicked those alien bums out. The first part of this series occurred during that temporal black hole known as “When I Wasn’t Reviewing Comics,” and I was kind of “Eh” on it. I’m downright sick of geeky attempts to bring back the Silver Age comics of The Current Regime’s Childhood.

I also have absolutely zero respect for Gary Frank as an artist. I have only ever known Gary Frank as “The Guy Who Rips Off Other People.” Look at me today — I’m all “I Will Make a Pithy Dismissal In Quotes.” But anyway, I was a big fan of The Incredible Hulk during the Peter David / Dale Keown run. Well Keown split to crank out one comic per decade, and Marvel slid Keown-ripoff Gary Frank in his place, in precisely the same manner as the insertion of wannabes Brandon Peterson, Dan Panosian, Mark Pacella and Art Thibert in the roles of Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld.

And look at his art now. All I can say is, somebody likes Leinil Yu.

That said, I’m enjoying the premise of this storyline. This didn’t bring back the Legion of old just for the sake of bringing them back; there’s an intriguing story here. And I’ll be darned if Frank didn’t nail a pitch-perfect expression on Superman’s face as he tells the Legion he wants to know what they’re keeping from him. It was so perfect I stopped in my reading and did a double take in a good way. It was so good that I don’t even care how good the art in the rest of the book was (above average) — that’s one of those comics-reading moments where you just think “Yes. That is perfect.” Or at least I do.

I’m jumping around a bit, but not long ago I was speaking about the dark period after the departure of the Image gang. Several of them laid the groundwork for what was to become The X-Cutioner’s Song, also known as “The Last X-Men Crossover I Read In Its Entirety” (now I’m doing it on purpose). I bought all 12 chapters as they came out, and I even paid the marked-up $1.50 cover price since they came polybagged with a trading card.

So now, for the first time in exactly 15 years, I’ve decided to follow along with every chapter of an X-crossover. This week, it was New X-Men #44, chapter four of Messiah Complex. This is the first issue of New X-Men that I’ve ever purchased, so I had no idea who these people were.

Best part was, I didn’t need to! They’re a rag-tag buncha kids with a hot-headed leader who doesn’t care what them grown-ups say — she’s taking the fight to the baddies! Even if — wait for it — her haste ends up being a classic case of poor judgment that lands her team in even BIGGER trouble!

The trick worked and it didn’t. I bought an issue of New X-Men, which was a first. But it also kind of makes me want to stop reading Messiah Complex.

Guess what — it’s surprise time!

I had a pile of comics from what I believe is the week before last, and maybe even two weeks. I’m not sure. But as they have been Doomino Neglected, it’s CLINIQUE BONUS TIME!

Speaking of Messiah Complex, that leads me to Uncanny X-Men #492. I dropped UXM some time after that giant Shi’iar bidness, which wasn’t too long ago, but I decided to let Messiah Complex bring me back on board. You know what? A whole lotta absolutely nothing happened.

So then I read X-Factor #25. It’s a bummer that this crossover is sidetracking one of the best series in current production, but I liked that the issue was able to maintain the series’ normal tone. There also seemed to be a lot more substance to this chapter than in chapter two.

I also found the art combo of Scot Eaton and John Dell to be quite captivating. There was something aggressively human and sensitive about the art in this issue; each bit of body language seemed to help tell the story. And I might be wrong, but I think they used Eddie Guerrero as the model for Forge.

And speaking of exploited dead people, that leads me to Ghost Rider #17. I’ve been singing this book’s praises since issue #1, but I almost didn’t pick this one up. I’m getting a little GR fatigue, and that’s not made any better by the fact that Mark Texeira is no longer finishing Javier Saltares’ pencils. Ghost Rider just doesn’t work as well without Tex. There’s a dark humor in his gritty lines that perfectly matches the tone of the character, particularly as it has been handled by Daniel Way and his dryly witty personification of Satan.

This is another book where I’m not sure a whole lot happened, but I’ll be darned if Marvel doesn’t stick in about 80 pages of ads to make you feel like you’re getting a treat. I bet the retailers love the extra postage they get to pay that doesn’t get taken care of by the cover price.

Speaking of fat books with a low cover price, that leads me to Mice Templar #2. I have a feeling this will one day be one of those legendary series where you sit around with your fat old geek comic friends and say “Aw shucks, ‘member when Mice Templar was coming out, and we were like ‘Who needs another book about mice and swords?'” There’s just an epic magical feeling in this story, which I imagine is a realization of a well-established goal on the part of the storytellers. No accident indeed. But it’s a treat to read, and it’s 32 pages with no ads for $2.99. Hard to beat that in this day and age!

Remember back when we used to be able to buy 32 page comics for three bucks? Yeah that was last week but it was only once.

Speaking of things that only happen once, that leads me to Batman and the Outsiders #1! Oh wait, I got confused. Series getting canceled and then restarted happens ALL THE TIME! Let’s see, Batman and the Outsiders #1 came out in 1983 … Outsiders #1 came out in 1985 … Outsiders #1 came out in 1993 … Outsiders #1 came out in 2003 …

I guess technically, this is only the second time Batman and the Outsiders #1 has come out. At least it’s not as bad as Captain America and Iron Man.

I admire a good team book as much as anything, I suppose, and this issue had some good interaction amongst teammates, but I’ll be darned if I care at all to read a story about OMACs. I hate OMACs. I’m freaking sick of OMACs. Is that a normal person? NO! It’s an OMAC! Is that a normal person? NO! It’s Martian Manhunter! Is that a normal chemical spill? NO! It’s Metamorpho! BATO!

Speaking of people not being who they are, or whatever, that leads me to New Avengers #36. We’re ramping up to Skrull Party Time in the Marvel Universe, and I continue to be pumped. This series must just be finely tuned to taste, because Fin Fang Doom and the late Jean-Claude Van Doom hate this stuff but I don’t know if I could love it any more.

Last we saw in Illuminati, at least Black Bolt is a Skrull, and there were hints at Colossus and Thor being Skrulls as well (though I honestly think those were just designed to throw people off and make them realize just how easy it would be to explain away events of the past few years as Skrulliness).

In the midst of the escalation, we see the harsh emotional wounds between the two teams of Avengers starting to heal over common ground; we see Wolverine sneak into the shower with Jessica Drew, who I believe has recently surpassed Storm as Most Likely Woman to Appear Naked in a Comic; and we see what I believe are hints that Carol Danvers is A SKRULL! Or at least Jessica Jones thinks so. Or at least I think Jessica Jones thinks so. She made me think so anyway, and we’re clearly at a point in the game where some real reveals are happenin’.

Personally I think Black Widow is a Skrull. Her hair is always long in Captain America and Daredevil, but it’s always short in the two Avengers books. That requires SHAPE SHIFTING.

The last panel leaves me wondering, though. Who called Thor? Isn’t the Silver Surfer dead? Is Howard the Duck actually a superhero or was that just supposed to be a cute way of saying “they’re all here” ? Solidarity, brother. Or something.

Speaking of solidarity, my whole brain is united in not knowing what’s going on in Iron Fist.

This demonstrates that one simply cannot jump on at the beginning of The Capital Cities of Heaven.

And speaking of iron fists, that leads me to World War Hulk #5, which I felt was a bit of a letdown to the series. Let’s isolate the problems here.

1. The Sentry is lame. If you’re going to retcon your universe to include him, please find a way to retcon your universe again and make him disappear. I did not need five issues of $3.99 comics if all you wanted to do was try to convince everyone The Sentry is cool. He’s a loser. It’s true.

2. The Hulk was going to destroy New York and stuff, right? So good thing the Sentry came and stopped him with a fistfight that ended up destroying New York.

3. John Romita Jr. has been pretty good in this series, for him, but if Marvel wanted to bet me that he could draw 50 pages of flaming, fiery crap, I would’ve just said “I believe you.”

Just in case you needed a crappy re-drawing of the original cover, Marvel provided a JRJR variant.

4. The series is over and I’m not actually sure what happened. After punching and punching, the Hulk turned into Bruce Banner and … ?

One of the big problems with John Romita Jr.’s art is that I can’t tell who is who. So I think Rick Jones got stabbed, Tony Stark ran around a crater in his underwear in a beam of red light and Hulk was hit with that light.

There’s a person lying in the crater, but I’m not sure if that’s Bruce Banner or Rick Jones. Whoever it was was loaded into a coffin or a medical chamber of some sort, so I don’t know if they were killed or just injured.

Someone who is possibly Bruce Banner or Rick Jones is floating in a chamber, blinking and then turning red. And on the planet Sakaar, someone climbed out of the dirt.

Thanks Marvel, you penny-wise pound-poor jerks.