The Doomino Effect for March 25, 2009

I missed a few weeks, so this edition of the Doomino Effect is going to be jam-packed with weeks-old books, but I’ll put the new stuff first.

I sat down to read last week’s comics at McDonald’s with DeLuise last Wednesday. We had just come from the shop with fresh comics in hand. I decided I wanted to start with Superman #686, the first issue of Mon-El subbing for Superman. I read the first page, in which bystanders on the streets of Metropolis go through the “It’s a bird, it’s a plane” thing. I told DeLuise I didn’t even want to read it anymore. He said “Let me guess — next page is a splash page of Mon-El.” Well, duh.

There is something quite fundamental about this situation that puzzles me. The people of Earth (or just Metropolis? Can’t remember) banned all Kryptonians except for Superman. The reason? The superpowered Kryptonians posed a threat to them, but Superman had earned their trust, so it was okay for him to stay. So Superman acknowledges this trust by defecting from Earth to join New Krypton (even if it’s just a ruse) and leaving a super-powered stranger in his place, who, as far as Earthlings know, might as well be a Kryptonian.

How would this work? The whole functional premise behind this is that Earthlings only trust Superman when it comes to Kryptonians. If I’m an Earthling, I’m not so sure that the distinction between Kryptonians and Daxamites would effectively be anything more than a semantic argument — they’re still super-powered flying people that I don’t know and I don’t trust. Superman could very easily say “Hey, it’s cool, Mon-El is someone you can depend on,” except for the fact that Superman just publicly defected from Earth to join the people that the Earthlings don’t trust.

This all could have been very easily avoided if Superman had just given Mon-El a Superman costume and told him to prance around as Superman. Doesn’t Superman still move really fast so that cameras can’t get a good fix on his face or something like that? They look similar enough for me, and if anyone’s hung up on any small differences, don’t they make holograph projectors or magic spells or something? I mean, the whole idea is that THE PEOPLE ONLY TRUST SUPERMAN BECAUSE THEY ARE SPOOKED BY THE SUPER STRANGERS so they have Superman leave and sub him with a super stranger.

I mean, I like the general concept of what Robinson’s trying to do. With the Kryptonians, we got a more war-mongering people trying to adapt to the precedent Superman set; with Mon-El, we’ve got a good-hearted hero with the best of intentions attempting to follow suit. It’s just so hard to care much about it when there’s so little regard for the internal logic of the scenario they’ve established. And you really know you’ve stepped back into the worst of the ’90s when the big splash-page cliffhanger is THE DEBUT OF A NEW HAIRCUT. Ugh.

Speaking of the worst of the ’90s, that leads me to Messiah War Prologue, which was last week’s Book of Doom. Hating all things ’90s was pretty much the theme of my review, and I wasn’t alone. I completely forgot to mention Deadpool in my review, though. I have completely missed out on whatever character renaissance that guy went through in the past decade, so he has, in my mind, remained an incredibly lame Deathstroke knockoff that gave Rob Liefeld more excuses to draw big lunchbox guns and multiple pouches. In the future, he is apparently dead and full of really terrible jokes. I really am not sure how I could hate this combination any more. The optimist in me hopes that this will be a way to put much of what I hated about comics in the ’90s into one series so that it stays far away from me and the books I buy. So I hope we end up with a several-hundred-issue run with Cable, Stryfe, Stryfe’s Strike Files, fears of Apocalypse, Bishop, bionic arms, Archangel, X-Force, Domino, superhero black ops, Deadpool and whatever other crap is going to be in that.

Speaking of returning villains, though, that leads me to Daredevil #117, part two of Return of the King. Even though the cover ruins the “surprise” ending, I still loved every minute of it. I don’t want to do math, so I’m not sure when the re-numbered sequence of Daredevil reaches #500, but I wonder if this isn’t Brubaker’s last arc. Regardless, that was just an aside, and this thing is off to such an awesome start that I consider it my early contender for Best Arc of the Year.

The Kingpin is back, the Hand is pushing the invasion of New York, they’ve pissed off the Kingpin, Matt Murdock continues to make a mess of his life, and it’s all just coming together in such a perfect storm kind of way. I really hate that metaphor, and it’s overused, but what works so well with the “perfect storm” metaphor is that there’s that feeling of uneasiness beforehand, where you can just sense that something huge and terrible is going to happen. That’s what’s going on here. And it’s awesome. It’s bringing the Kingpin back but doing something new with it.

Speaking of doing new things with old things, that leads me to Captain America #48, in which Captain Bucky and Namor escape from the evil Chinese scientist who was trying to turn the original Human Torch into a viral weapon. I was really hoping that this might lead to some New Invaders action written by Ed Brubaker, since we last saw the Human Torch in the series called New Invaders, this was acknowledging what happened in that series, and Brubaker has dipped into the World War II era before. However, that was not to be. The Torch is now so dead that he’s buried in the ground.

It was a pretty good ending to the storyline. Nothing earth shattering, but quality. And I think that’s actually pretty important at this point, because it’s establishing that Bucky really is Captain America because ordinary superhero stories will happen with him as the title character. I’m not trying to suggest there’s some kind of deliberate sabotage of the storylines, consciously dragging them down from fantastic to above average, but if every storyline had some kind of “big event” feel to it, I think that might actually subtly undermine the idea that Bucky is really Captain America, as opposed to just a guy who’s wearing the mask throughout a marketing push.

Speaking of superhero placeholders, that leads me to Guardians of the Galaxy #12, the second part in this two-part series in which Drax and She-Quasar are stuck in some kind of ill-defined death dreamworld. Quasar Wendell comes back and reclaims the quantum bands after being dead for what, like a year? And Phyla-Vell apparently sold her soul and became the new avatar of Death in exchange for saving Heather / Moondragon from the stomach of an actual dragon.

I am quickly going from “Can’t praise this book enough!” to “This is getting frustrating.” I find myself continuing to have total faith in Abnett and Lanning’s ability to develop big-picture stories. I’ve very much enjoyed how the events of this series have unfolded from Annihilation and tied into what’s going on elsewhere in the War of Kings storyline. So yeah, big picture is great. But the small-picture stuff is getting really irritating.

It started a few issues ago with the obnoxious attempts at snappy dialogue. This wasn’t much better. Maelstrom calls out Quasar for returning from the dead so quickly. “I guess everyone’s coming back from the dead these days,” he says. “It’s so passé.” While that may be entirely true, what benefit is there to pointing it out in the story? Is it not possible that some readers might gotten some genuine excitement from seeing Wendell Quasar return? I can’t imagine that ruining their experience was worth any cool points that may have been gained, but weren’t, by winking at the audience.

And then there was the god-awful groaner when Drax said “Hands off” while CUTTING MAELSTROM’S HANDS OFF. Get it? Are you sure? Because he cut his hands off, so it’s like literally “Hands off.” Do you get it now? Okay, if you’re sure, because it’s really funny, and so I want to make sure you get it.

Then Phyla-Vell pulls the Men In Black ending and rescues Moondragon by bursting out from within the dragon’s belly. Apparently she wasn’t really dead at all … which kind of negates the fact that the only reason Wendell Quasar found them was because he “felt the user of the bands die,” and “her doom brought [him] here.” Oh well. We then suffer through not one, not two, but three virtually identical exchanges of “What did you do to save Moondragon, Phyla?” followed by some variation of “Oh nothing.” Except we can tell she’s lying! SOMETHING BAD HAPPENED!

It’s just all so hokey, and what’s so puzzling about it is that it seems so remarkably out of character for how intelligently put together this series felt for the first 9 issues or so. It was practically flawless, and now it seems to be some awkward combination of shame and cuteness.

Speaking of shamed heroes, that leads me to Wolverine #71, which I think is around part 83 of “Old Man Logan.” I really dig this story, and I thought a lot of cool stuff happened in this issue that stacked the deck even worse for poor Wolverine, but something needs to start happening to bend this curve back. I really can’t imagine how it gets any worse.

Speaking of not imagining how it gets any worse, that leads me to Batman: Battle for the Cowl #1, which was one of our Books of Doom recently. I wasn’t impressed.

Speaking of impressions, that leads me to Action Comics #875, which featured the new Nightwing and Flamebird. I think this is off to a better start than the other Superman-stand-in series. Not only do I like the fact that this new duo has a mission of its own, but I very much appreciate the detail work of having them wear costumes that hide the fact that they’re superpowered Kryptonians (I guess they could’ve just said they’re Daxamites).

Speaking of people being more powerful than they appear, that leads me to The Immortal Iron Fist #23. You know, it really stinks that I start getting back into this book in time to learn it’s going to be cancelled. And then two weeks later, #24 comes out and it’s basically a filler issue. STOP WASTING TIME! I’m hoping that the series lasts long enough to conclude this “Escape from the Eighth City” storyline. Quite a bummer it’s going away, because — in spite of the fact I bailed on it — this has consistently been one of the best ongoing superhero comics of the past two years. Swierczynski has done a great job of continuing to build on the Iron Fist mythology that Brubaker and Fraction brought to life so well.

Speaking of comic books that are coming out at a rapid pace, that leads me to Guardians of the Galaxy #11. I reviewed #12 up there a little bit, which just came out this past week, but #11 came out just two weeks before that, and #10 had come out only two weeks before that. It’s like they know how bad these past three issues have been and they’re just trying to get them out of their system as quickly as possible.

And speaking of getting things out of your system, that leads me to Mysterius the Unfathomable #3, in which Mysterius is attempting to rid a client of a curse that was placed upon him. I’m most definitely out of steam at this point, so in a nutshell, I love this book and I’m bummed that it’s only a miniseries. It took me a while to figure that out.