The Doomino Effect for the week of March 12, 2008

March 12, the most recent comic book day, was my birthday. My wife took the day off to hang out with me, and one of the things to do on my list was go to the comic book store. I tried and I tried, and I could only find 3 comics I wanted to buy, but it turned out to be a very good week.

Even though Messiah Complex somehow left me not caring about it as much, I am still loyal to X-Factor and thus picked up X-Factor #29. I’m not sure why I’ve had such little interest in this book. I don’t even think it’s because of the PANS vs REMS battle looming in the background. There’s just something going on – likely related to my overall apathy toward comics in general – that made me not care to even open this book. In fact, it was the last of my three comics that I read this week.

Well guess what! I really liked it, and it got me excited about reading it again. And want to know the greatest irony? It was by bringing back one of the lamest villains EVER! Spoiler alert on, but the villain is ARCADE!!!! I even kind of suspected that early on, but thought to myself, “They wouldn’t bring him back — he’s just too lame.”

But part of what has made X-Factor so good in its 2-plus year run is Peter David’s ability to give the absurdity in these people’s lives some painfully real context. In fact, I might say that’s the single best thing about this book. This is a fairly ridiculous cast of characters going through almost Seinfeldianly bizarre situations and interactions, yet the stories remain firmly rooted in how these guys deal with them on a personal, emotional level.

Could there possibly be a better book in which to drop one of the most ridiculous comic book villains ever? The answer is no.

Speaking of potentially lame blasts from the past, that leads me to Mighty Avengers #10, in which Tony Stark, The Sentry and Doctor Doom have ended up in the ’60s, or sort of the ’60s, since the Marvel timeline seems to kind of constantly shift to where the real-life ’60s were always about 10 years ago. I think I even remember reading somewhere that that’s actually official.

The ol’ Mighty Avengers need to get a move on, because the delays in this title seem to be holding back the rest of the Secret Invasion. Issue #12 is supposed to come out in April. But I bet Mark Bagley’s a pretty good guy to have on pencils if you’re behind on a deadline. I’d never been a fan of his, actually stooping to the level of disliking his art at times, but he’s definitely a good fit for an action-packed superhero book.

Anyway, to continue the Jim Doom Brian Michael Bendis Unending Love that seems pervasive in these here updates, I want to say something about this issue that makes me more excited about the upcoming Secret Invasion. One of my big problems with Bendis stories was that they were always fantastic up until the conclusion, at which point they seemed to be ridiculously anti-climactic. Most Daredevil arcs were like “Awesome buildup, awesome buildup, awesome buildup, and then … Daredevil just beats up the bad guy. The end.”

I like a story where stuff makes sense, where it’s like a mystery or a problem to be solved, and the good guys win because they’re clever and not just stronger. That’s probably an unfair oversimplification of a lot of his stuff, but I just remember being really underwhelmed by the conclusions to other things like Avengers Disassembled and House of M, where everything just kind of ended.

This issue, however, was a lot of fun because he actually managed to use part of one of Marvel’s stupidest heroes as a clever way of saving the day. Since we were all forced to accept that The Sentry was around all along — he was simply wiped from everyone’s memories — Iron Man figures out that Bob The Sentry (which sound so much cooler than Bob the Monitor) can go fiddle around with past-people without damaging the timestream because they’re all going to forget about him anyway!

It’s surely the geek in me, but I love when writers can use something that’s otherwise kind of dumb and fictionally cumbersome to their advantage. I also enjoyed the interplay between Doom and Iron Man, such as Doom’s comment that “A lot more people hate you than hate me,” which is delightfully true.

Speaking of snappy dialogue, that leads me to Madman Atomic Comics #7, which included no words at all.

I’m guessing that’s some kind of reflection of Frank’s reaction to last issue’s stunning death of Joe. That really struck me, because Allred’s ability to portray Frank and Joe’s love was just something so awesome and untouched in comics. I thought it was a fairly touching way to reflect what Frank must be going through.

Problem is, I kind of couldn’t tell what was going on at the end. Does Frank think It Girl is Joe? Has some essence of Joe taken up residence within It Girl? Is Frank willfully accepting It Girl as a replacement for Joe? Is It Girl exploiting Frank’s loss for her selfish gain? Or am I missing something really obvious?

If she’s just moving in on Frank with Joe all of like 10 minutes out of the picture, I’m pissed!! That jerk.

Anyway, with no segue whatsoever, that leads me to Secret Invasion Saga, the free comic that Marvel is giving out to prep readers for Secret Invasion with all they need to know about the Skrulls.

This thing was written like it was for grade schoolers. It’s a fairly dumbed-down tone to take, but that’s the route they went. Fair enough. Poor writing aside, though, I really like this for two main reasons.

1. I’m excited about Secret Invasion because it shows Marvel is accepting their continuity and working with it. It’s what DC did so well with Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis. Simple things like acknowledging the absurdity of early Skrull stories, yet giving it justification, are very encouraging signs, because it suggests the architects of this are being very thorough about making sure this Skrull storyline is rooted in continuity rather than writing over it. It’s a way to reward fans for paying attention, and that builds loyalty.

2. When DC did this for Infinite Crisis, they charged $5.99. That wasn’t even presented as a story — just some snipped panels here and there with tiny-font captions — yet it was still very interesting and recommended. Good for Marvel for acknowledging how valuable these things can be to readers, taking the extra step to try to make it an actual story, and then giving it away for free.