So funny thing happened — I was doing this weekly comic review called “The Doomino Effect” and then I stopped doing it for like two years.
Speaking of looking back at the past, that leads me to Action Comics #1 by Grant Morrison and Rags Morales. Like Justice League #1, this story seems to be taking place in the past of The New 52. Unlike Justice League, this seems to be taking place more than 5 years in the past, because Superman has a silly cuffed-jeans costume. They’re also big loose rolls and not tight rolls, so I’m thinking that makes it late 90s. I might need some backup on that one though.
I like this Superman. He seems to have a little more of a social justice angle to his “I am a Real American” schtick, which makes for something with a tinge of menace and therefore more fun than Super Boy Scout. Super Boy Scouts are lame. but as much as I do like this new version of Superman, I just feel like I’m reading another All-Star Superman or Superman: Birthright or some other reimagining of the Superman myth that really has no bearing on continuity.
I realize this is Action Comics #1, so it obviously is new continuity, but it just doesn’t feel like it. Maybe it’s just too nuanced and well-written, and I’m aware of the fact that Tony Daniel is writing several books in The New 52, so obviously “well-written” and “nuanced” are not going to be universal themes throughout the relaunch. But more than that, it’s just a gut feeling. Like “Yeah, I enjoy this, but what does it matter?”
I’m also very intrigued at how Lex Luthor in recent years has apparently evolved in his ethnicity. I used to think he was just some kind of generic European casserole white guy. But between the Justice League cartoon, and now Rags Morales’ take on Lex Luthor, he appears to have some kind of Mediterranean heritage. I hope this isn’t some kind of attempt to make him seem like part of The Great Brown-Skinned Threat of Post 9/11. That would be lame and unnecessary.
But as much as I appreciate Rags Morales’ storytelling abilities, I’ve always kind of cringed at his character references. I remember the back of my Identity Crisis graphic novel having his notes where he talked about what real-life people he modeled the characters after. It was a disappointing way to finish the book, and I even read it in one sitting, so I otherwise really liked it. But I guess I just want my comic book artists to envision these characters according to the essence of the character, not according to what actor they want to use as a visual reference.
In other words, I don’t care to read Daniel Radcliffe as Clark Kent.
Speaking of things popularized by British authors, that reminds me of Swamp Thing #1 by Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette. I’ve never read a single issue of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing. Not a single issue! I think I’ve seen the Swamp Thing movie, though, from when I was a little kid and I’d hang out with my grandparents, who had HBO. I also own The Essential Man-Thing, which is Essentially The Same-Thing, right?
Well anyway, I didn’t geek out at the end of Brightest Day, mainly because I didn’t care that Swamp Thing came back. But I decided I’d use this “New 52” bidness to try out new things, and try out new things I did.
And man, I really liked this! It’s kind of weird! It seems sort of nerdy! It’s interesting! And I love Yanick Paquette’s art. It reminds me a lot of Kevin Nowlan. Actually it could probably be considered a Kevin Nowlan ripoff, but I don’t see any Kevin Nowlan on my “New this week!” comic book shelves, so I’ll buy this.
So since I don’t know anything about Swamp Thing, I can’t really comment on this in terms of its relation to past incarnations of the character. I just know I enjoyed it. Oh and I also know that this Dr. Holland must be an amazing scientist. The guy dies in a lab explosion years ago, and then six weeks ago he comes back to life. What does his lab do? They hire him right back. Never mind that he’s been dead. “Get back to work, Doc.”
Then we find out a few seconds later, once his jabbering has gone from monologue to conversation with Superman, that he took a sabbatical two weeks ago. So he was apparently like “Yeah, I know I’ve only been working here again for four weeks after being gone (dead) for several years, but I need to take a break.” And they didn’t fire him! He’s apparently got his job waiting for him.
Speaking of people who can’t seem to get fired no matter how hard they try, that leads me to Detective Comics #1 by the remarkably terrible Tony Daniel.
My best guess is that this guy Tony Daniel was walking down the street one day. Someone — most likely Dan Didio — was like “Hey there. Would you like to write some Batman comics?” And Tony Daniel, having just arrived in the city from his parents farm — which was recently foreclosed on by the bank, leaving him with nothing but the stupid clothes on his dumb back — had no idea what a Bat Man was. So Dan Didio told him, “‘Batman’ is a series of cliches.”
Tony Daniel, being uneducated and straight off the farm, thought Didio said something about “hays,” as in alfalfa, clover, etc., cut, dried and then baled.
“No, no, Tony. Cliches.”
Even though Tony Daniel would eventually come to understand that very well, Didio moved on. “The second thing that ‘Batman’ is about is cartoonish gore.” Tony Daniel, having years’ worth of manure buildup in his ears, thought Didio said “Car full of tuna! Score!” and got very excited. Given that the family farm had been failing for years, he hadn’t been able to afford tuna since childhood. And that was a mere can! A car full?
Anyway, you know how this story ends. Tony Daniel, paid in tuna, writes the stunningly terrible Battle for the Cowl, making everyone in the Bat Universe look like a contemptible moron, and he’s rewarded with multiple other writing duties, including relaunching Detective Comics as part of The New 52.
And this is definitely the Tony Daniel that Dan Didio found wandering shirtless in the streets of New York City with only a pitchfork and a straw hat. Within the first few pages, The Joker is naked wrestling with a man wearing a hat of human skin.
The Joker and Batman are reduced to mere caricatures of themselves. The Joker fires off mid-battle witticisms like “This is a violation of my civil rights! A man should be able to slaughter in peace!” to which ‘Bat Man’ replies “You can’t run. I own the night.” All of the new readers brought in by The New 52 relaunch are like “Ah, so that’s what I’ve been missing all of these years! An idiot and a douchebag!”
This whole scene just reads like a soulless distillation of decades of Bat comics. Batman breaks up a super-villain scene. There’s an innocent victim there. Batman has to choose between pursuing the villain and saving the innocent. He tries to save the innocent, but then the cops show up and complicate things. If only they would just let Batman save the day! But they’re too dumb! And then Jim Gordon shows up, all frustrated because these meat-head boys in blue are mucking everything up! And then Batman arrives home, at which point Alfred reminds him he’s late for a date. But Batman doesn’t have time for women! Then Batman broods — if he can’t stop the Joker, it’s BLOOD ON HIS HANDS. And then he meets with Jim Gordon, and Gordon tries to tell Batman something — BUT BATMAN DISAPPEARED SILENTLY!
I cannot tell you a single issue that these scenes have previously happened in, because it feels like they have happened in every issue ever. It’s just so exhaustingly uninspired. I can’t even keep flipping through the pages of this to regurgitate its awfulness. If I buy this again, it’s only to keep watching the car crash over and over.
Speaking of repeatedly looking at things that should have died, that reminds me of OMAC #1 by Dan Didio, Keith Giffen and Scott Koblish, yet another revival of some awful Jack Kirby thing. Clearly many comic book creators believe in afterlife, because I cannot figure out any other reason to keep cranking out Kirby tributes unless the spirits of those passed on are able to observe us here on Earth, and those spirits are also very susceptible to manipulation via excessive kissing-up. Because seriously. This stuff is crap.
And unlike the Kirby worship of the past few years like Death of the New Gods and Final Crisis, OMAC features some Kirby-aping art too! And I say “aping” because it’s mimicking and because Kirby drew people – especially women – as if they were apes. And so Scott Koblish draws people – especially women – as if they look like apes. Not because that’s good or anything. But because that’s what Jack Kirby did. Gorilly?
This book was like 30 pages of a blue guy smashing things.
Speaking of smashing things, that reminds me of Animal Man #1 by Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman, which was absolutely smashing!
I’ve never read any Animal Man. I think the only thing I’ve ever read with Animal Man in it was 52, and I thought his scenes were kind of lame. But I’m experimenting! And this issue started out making me think I might rather read OMAC! Ok it wasn’t that bad, but it was a lot of Animal Man and family sitting around in the kitchen like I’m reading a CBS sitcom or something.
But then things started getting weird, like an ABC sitcom! The story takes all of these eerie, disturbing, grotesque turns! But what was really cool about it was that it maintained that delicate family-centered tone in a way that both respected the reader and amplified the eeriness. I went from having never read an Animal Man comic to thinking I would never read another Animal Man comic to not being able to wait to read the next issue.
Travel Foreman’s art is very expressive and somewhat unconventional for superhero comics. I first saw his work in the pages of Iron Fist a year or two ago or whenever. It seems a little unfinished and hurried in these pages, but when it gets to the psychedelic freak-out pages, it’s NUTS! It’s a crazy departure from the relatively restrained “normal” stuff that is a beautiful contrast to the suburban scenes.
Speaking of leaving The Real World, that reminds me of Batwing #1 by Judd Winick and Ben Oliver. I really only bought this because I enjoyed Winick’s work on Batman back in the pre-Infinite Crisis days, and I wanted to see how he’d handle another bat character.
This series is about a member of Batman Incorporated (note to new readers coming on board as a part of the New 52: there’s a whole lot of backstory you’ll need to know about Batman Inc.) setting up in Africa and dealing with the corruption and violence of the Congo.
I don’t know anything about the Congo, so it’s all believable to me! People getting chopped up and shot up and mopped up and stuff. Batwing is a cop in a violent world who’s trying to do a little bit more with Batman’s help while this guy called Massacre is killing a bunch of people.
You know, writing this up, I kind of wonder why I like this. Massacre looks like a classic 90s comics character, and I mean that in the worst way possible. Much of this issue is just people fighting, kind of like 90s comics. I honestly don’t know why I liked this! But I did, and I’m looking forward to reading more.
I wonder if what I liked was that there’s just kind of a sense that there’s a bigger story underneath this. I like comic book stories that reward patience and attention, and there’s just this vibe to this book that there’ll be a payoff. And Ben Oliver’s art is beautiful. It’s so photorealistic. I don’t know how this guy hits deadlines when scratchy balloon connectors like Rob Liefeld can’t.
Anyway, I’m greatly looking forward to next issue. Hope there’s a lot more fighting and people getting chopped up by a big strong guy named Massacre.