The Doomino Effect for July 31, 2013

So a funny thing happened. I was doing this weekly review called The Doomino Effect, and then I just stopped doing it for about two years. And then there was like a two year gap before that. But before that, I went strong for like three years!

But speaking of things that go on for about seven years and then just sort of end, that leads me to Batman Incorporated #13, the conclusion to Grant Morrison’s epic run on various books with the word “Batman” or “Final” and “Crisis” in them. This run has seen its ups and its downs, but it’s something that has definitely kept me strung along over the years. I think a big part of what hooked me was the belief that there was going to be some kind of satisfying payoff at the end of it all.

But no. In no uncertain terms, there’s not. Much of those oddities cast throughout the series had no meaningful place in the finale. I’m not kidding, but the way this resolves — SPOILER ALERT — is that you find out all along that the drama and suspense didn’t really matter, because Wayne Enterprises had secretly outsmarted Talia Al Ghul all along and her secret death trap wasn’t really a threat. And the final battle between Batman and her didn’t really matter because Jason just tricked Talia into giving Batman the antidote. And the day was saved when someone who was supposed to be dead just turned out to (surprise) not be dead.

What a weak, uninspired ending. As if, nearly a decade ago, Grant Morrison was sitting down thinking “I have this great climax where Batman loses a fight but somebody gets him an antidote and then someone else just walks in and shoots the bad guy. But I’m going to need about seven years of story to build up to it.”

I’m sure somewhere there’s somebody who decoded all these little Easter eggs that actually relate to something in Mister Miracle #2 or whatever, but this arc has overstayed its welcome with me. Some of my most fun moments as a comic book reader have been a result of Morrison’s huge Batman story — I’m specifically thinking of that day Doom DeLuise and I sat in the comic shop to read Batman #681 because we simply could not wait — but here we are years later, this thing is just limping along as a parody of its once creative self, and I’m not sad to see it go.

But speaking of things that are limping along, that leads me to The Wake #3, in which a lot of people get various body parts ripped off or chomped into — hence their need to limp and / or hobble — by a merman-like creature — which can’t walk very well.

I took a chance on this series because of how much of a Scott Snyder fan I’ve become via his work on Batman, and much of what I love about his writing on that series is making this a hit for me. Normally, you tell me “Hey Jim, want to read a book about a merman and some scientists in an underwater laboratory in the future?” I’d say “No, of course not.” But you could probably get me to read pretty much anything if you slap that “Scott Snyder” on the front! Although technically it only says “Snyder.”

Anyway, that common thing I like about his Batman work and The Wake — and even the first two issues of Superman Unchained — is his ability to let things build in a way that creates this uneasy tension. I have never read a comic that so closely approximated the feeling of watching a horror movie as I have with The Wake.

And Sean Murphy’s art is amazing. I was completely unfamiliar with him prior to this series, but I immediately became a fan. His brush work and Matt Hollingsworth’s muted colors remind me of the bleak X-Men comics of the early 200s, when they were all getting murdered and hunted and sacrificed and stranded in Australia. His lines have a very Marc Silvestri / Dan Green quality, and there has never been any penciler/inker team that I’ve enjoyed more.

But speaking of teams that I have enjoyed more, that leads me to Guardians of the Galaxy #5.

I’m a little puzzled by why this series isn’t working very well with me. I was a huge fan of this team back when Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning were writing the book. It was consistently one of my favorite reads month to month, and I was sad to see it go. For the most part, the lineup is the same as it was then.

Obviously, Brian Michael Bendis is the variable at play here, but what’s kind of weird about that is that he’s currently writing two of my favorite series right now — Uncanny X-Men and All-New X-Men. So it’s not as if I’m a Bendis hater or think that he’s in a dry spell.

There’s just something about the tone that isn’t right. It just feels like a different team with similar names. There’s none of the misfit charm that the previous series had. And now Angela is a part of it. I was excited that the series was coming back, but I’m finding it less and less appealing as it goes on. The only reason I’ve stuck with it is because it appears to be part of the buildup to the big Infinity crossover.

All of this talk about Earthlings damaging the timestream and reality breaking and bending and whatnot just feels way too similar to the groan-inducing “Superboy Prime was punching reality” buildup to Infinite Crisis. I understand sometimes publishers rip off other publishers, but jeesh — why rip off one of the stupidest ideas ever?

Maybe by being so rooted in what’s happening on Earth — and by having freaking Iron Man riding around on their ship — they’re too anchored, and so they don’t have that sort of anything-can-happen freedom that the previous series had. Like they just seem like setup pawns for a bigger story rather than their own characters. Eh I don’t know.

But speaking of things in space that are anchored to Earth, that brings me to Adventures of Superman #3. I bought the first two issues of this book because I am a huge fan of short, self-contained stories, and I loved that those first two issues seemed to position the series that way, especially short, self-contained stories by awesome creators!

So then what happens? We get to issue #3, which is a self-contained story all right, but it takes up the whole issue and it’s really stupid. And maybe Matt Kindt and Stephen Segovia are highly regarded creators, but if they are, the people who feel that way about them are wrong. This story was just heavy handed and clumsily drawn and it just baffles me. Has this series already had to fall back on a fill-in issue? Or has DC already abandoned the format?

Speaking of being abandoned, that leads me to Uncanny X-Men #9, in which Dazzler: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. shows up at the gold balls kid’s house after Cyclops’ band of rogue X-Men (not to be confused with Rogue’s band of cycloptic X-Men) ditch him.

But it turns out to be a trap! Or something. I don’t remember. Things that I do remember:

1. This was probably my least favorite issue of this series so far, but overall I’ve been consistently enjoying it. I’m very intrigued by the struggles between Cyclops’ adherence to his mission, he and his team’s issues with their powers not behaving, and trying to keep a team of veterans and ultra-rookies together. I think overall that tension has been handled well, and whether it’s building to something good or not, it’s a fun ride.

2. I’m tired of that gold balls kid being just a recurring joke for making gold balls. Sure, maybe Bendis is having fun with this stupid power, but let’s not forget, Bendis is working with fictional characters. It’s not as if these people are real and Bendis is forced to write stories for them because he’s saddled with the burdens of reality. I have an idea. Let’s not invent really stupid characters whose only role is to be a punchline.

3. I think it’s awesome that Dazzler is back. I don’t know why, but I have always really liked her character. And one time in middle school, I had a dream that I was Dazzler (yeah, I realize that’s weird, but I didn’t so much dream that I was a busty adult woman as I dreamt that I had her powers) and I was in a parade in my hometown and I shot some bullies with my light-blast powers. I made a diorama of that dream in art class, which led my teacher to conclude that I had some anger issues and was a threat to shoot people or something, so she called a meeting with the principal and my parents, who were just like “Uh, Jim Doom just likes comic books.”

But speaking of people who think that others are dangerous and thus need to be locked away, that leads me to Batman Annual #2.

For the most part, I’ve really been enjoying comics lately — much moreso than I have in a long time. But this past week has seen some real stinkers, not the least of which was this one.

The story was a waste of time, and more significantly, it was deceptively labeled as being part of the building Zero Year business. This story has a tiny inconsequential flashback to “Zero Year” that could be removed and nothing would matter. I’d feel annoyed paying $5 for such an uninteresting waste of paper as this story was, but I feel cheated by paying $5 thinking that this uninteresting waste of paper had Zero Year implications. Shame on DC for marketing this this way. If you have to deceptively market your $5 comic because it’s too awful to sell otherwise, don’t make it.

Bonus material! I think these last two comics might have come out the week before, but my stacks got mixed up so I’m not sure!

Speaking of things getting mixed up and people getting confused as a result, that leads me to Batman Superman #2.

I enjoyed the heck out of this issue — the thing is beautiful! — but today when I was thinking about it, I was like “Huh, what actually happened in that? All I can remember is Batman and Superman showing up where other Batman and other Superman were, and Lil’ Batman and Lil’ Superman being all confused. What else happened?” So I flipped back through it and realized — nothing! Nothing else happened! It took a whole comic book for Jae Lee to beautifully illustrate very little!

So I’m a little disappointed on that front, since this — like pretty much everything else — costs $3.99 these days, but I’ll be darned if Jae Lee’s beautiful art didn’t make me forget that I was sort of just floating in storyline water.

And speaking of floating in water, that’s what a lot of Atlanteans will be doing upside down after the events of New Avengers #8!

Unlike Guardians of the Galaxy, which seems to at least be driving and be driven by the events leading up to the Infinity crossover, this series has very much felt like it has its own self-contained ongoing drama that was abruptly cut off by Infinity. It was jarring. It was as if the characters were acknowledging that their regularly scheduled crisis was being preempted by a crossover.

New Avengers has been either at the top or very near the top of my favorite books since its relaunch (I haven’t updated the rankings in a while) but this issue was a little off for me. The storytelling felt very disjointed. Reed and Tony are off doing something mysterious. A gigantic battle between Wakanda and Atlantis takes place essentially off-panel, and then a bunch of curious people step off of space ships. And nobody really reacts to any of this in a way that I would expect. It felt like bad acting, except again, these people aren’t real!

Although — I was thinking during this issue about how I really appreciate Jonathan Hickman’s characterization of the feud between Black Panther and Namor. So often, characters are written to be stubborn in ways that just lazily advances the plot or creates contrived drama. But the ways in which he writes their stubbornness is suprisingly convincing, and rather than making me hate them, it sort of makes me like them more. It makes them seem more realistic in their roles as detached monarchs drunk on the games that their power allows them to play.

And speaking of being drunk, it’s 9:30 and I’m going to the bar.