The Doomino Effect for August 28, 2013

My comics from the past two weeks are all mixed up so this is two weeks’ worth of comics all mixed up. Not that it’s probably worth noting that they’re “all mixed up,” since it’s not as if I review these things in any kind of order.

Speaking of order, that leads me to Justice League #23, part 6 of 6 in the Trinity War, but the first issue I bought. That’s out of order!

I avoided Trinity War from the start for several reasons. 1) I had dropped Justice League a while back because I had stopped enjoying it. 2) I dropped Justice League of America after issue #1 because I never enjoyed it. And 3) I have never had any interest in reading Justice League Dark. So when you put it that way, I’d be pretty silly to start reading this crossover! It’s like “Hey, here’s a big story that crosses over between three books you don’t read!” And then in case that sold me, Doom DeLuise’s review was the nail in the coffin.

That said, supposedly Trinity War was what was leading into Forever Evil, and I suppose I’ll have no choice but to read Forever Evil tie-ins, so I was curious enough to pick up this issue.

It was okay! I love Ivan Reis’ art. My lack of familiarity with most of the characters didn’t matter (I’ve known many British people over the years. I lived in England for a year. I’ve never known a single British person to actually say “Blimey.” But I can tell Constantine is supposed to be British, because that’s how Geoff Johns writes him! See, you can get to know these people right away) because the action was easy to follow — except for when I had to keep turning the book sideways for those double-wide splash pages that were vertically oriented. This was embarrassing because I was reading my comics in public (sometimes already embarrassing enough) but then I kept having to turn the book sideways, and I was wondering if people thought that my comics had a centerfold in them.

I have some questions though. Why do they call that skull “Pandora’s Box” ? Who is going to see a skull and be like “Let’s call that thing a box” ? I think any reasonable person, from this world or any other, would call it “Pandora’s Skull.” But one might say “Historically and colloquially, we know Pandora’s little vessel to be called a ‘box.'” Ok, then in that case, just be like “Hey, Ivan — quit drawing jewelry skulls and draw a freaking box.”

Also, I find it a little hard to believe that the “trinity” all along was referring to Earth-3 and not the mighty three of Superman-Batman-Wonder Woman (or their other-dimensional counterparts). Trinity doesn’t refer to a third thing, it refers to three things. When some long-haired woman (can’t tell from the drawing) says “The Trinity … it wasn’t about you … it was the number … the true number of evil. Three. EARTH THREE!” Again, no. “Trinity” isn’t the numeral three. Furthermore, do you think people on Earth-3 are like “We are the third of a set” ? No! Of course not! I’d be willing to bet that the people of Earth-3 do not buy into Earth-1’s numbering system! So whatever. That just seemed like a really contrived way of having a surprise. And you could get around it so easily. For example, don’t say “trinity.” Say “three” ! Saying “three” could still be done in a way to lead people to think we’re talking Big Three, three Justice Leagues, three whatever. But the great thing is that three can also refer to Earth-3 in a way that “trinity” doesn’t. But whatever.

So one thing I do like about this is how the crossover ends with the Justice League pretty freaking decimated and on their heels. Also I am curious about this effort to present the Crime Syndicate as a serious threat. Because these guys are inherently stupid, so I see “Owl Man” or that ridiculous alternate version of Green Lantern and I am thinking “Awful 1960s comics,” but I don’t think that makes them doomed as villains — I just think it makes their presentation slightly more of a challenge and definitely more interesting.

That said, the Crime Syndicate’s entrance was kind of lame. Apparently Evil Aquaman was like “I’m mortally wounded, but I think I’ll walk through this interdimensional portal before I fall on my face.” What an entrance, I guess. Or exit. Whatever.

Hey but speaking of falling on your face, that leads me to Flash #23 which includes the Reverse-Flash about to land on the ground on his face (or on Barry’s face, or whoever is The Flash these days), and was also my attempt to try out a new series that failed miserably.

I’ve been put off for quite a while about virtually all comics being $3.99 these days, so I’m always willing to give $2.99 books a chance in the hopes that I can get hooked on a cheaper book. And last week, I read a CBR report on a DC panel and was reading the segment with Francis Manapul on the Flash, and I read this quote:

“We wanted a book that was fun. We wanted a book that anyone could jump in at any time and pick up the issue and have a self-contained mystery within that issue, but if you were dedicated and kept reading the book, month after month, you would see that there are ties that are going to run through the entire arc into these next couple issues, into the wrap arc, into some stand-alone issues and into the next big thing we’re going to do.”

I was like “Sweet! That sounds like such a great premise! I’m going to jump on board this week!” And then I read this issue, and while I found it a nice easy read and I absolutely love Manapul’s art, this was only $2.99 and I still felt ripped off. I got through this whole issue in about three minutes. There’s a big reveal, but it was an incredibly hard point for new readers to jump in on. And there was no self-contained mystery! I felt completely duped!

Well just now, I went back to that CBR link to copy that blockquote, and I realized that I misread or skipped a crucial piece of text. Immediately preceding that quote up there was a transition — a transition from Manapul’s quote to Jay Fabok, the artist on Detective Comics. So that quote wasn’t even about Flash. Oops.

Speaking of top-notch detective work, that leads me to Batman Superman #3. I’ve established in the preceding paragraphs that I can be somewhat thick at times and not the most detail-oriented reader, but I don’t know what’s going on in this book. I blame two things. 1) Most of the time I’m not sure whose thoughts are in the caption boxes. Most of the time, I can narrow it down to Superman or Batman. Problem is, there are two Supermen and two Batmen. 2) I can’t tell Past Batman and Future Batman apart.

Jae Lee’s art is beautiful (though a lot of credit also goes to whoever is using the “render clouds” filter in Photoshop), but I find it absolutely awful in terms of storytelling. Also the fill-in artist for the flashback was so jarringly different that I almost skipped those pages because I thought they were one of those ads that are designed as comics and typically illustrated by sub-par comics artists. I really like looking at this book but I don’t think I’m going to be looking at it anymore after this month.

Also I can’t really tell if this story is in continuity or not, and I also don’t know if it really matters, but I was surprised that Superman didn’t know who Darkseid was. Didn’t he fight Darkseid in his early career as part of the Justice League’s first team adventure? I’m guessing that’s irrelevant, but when I’m having so much trouble distinguishing who is who, I’m grasping for any kinds of context or continuity clues.

Speaking of looking for clues, that leads me to Superman Unchained #3. I’m really digging this book, and I always admire when a writer can take a new character and immediately make him or her seem like a major player, and I feel like that’s happening with Wraith.

However — maybe I’m reading too much into this — but is Wraith going to be The New 52’s Doomsday? I saw that there is a Doomsday one-shot as part of Villains Month, and it looks different than Wraith, and there’s more story that needs to happen between now and then. But wraith’s other-worldly origins and other clues — not to mention the way Jim Lee draws him in the final panel — make it seem like he could be an intriguing update on the surprisingly well-fleshed-out Old 52 Doomsday backstory.

So if it’s not that, Lee just has some remarkably lazy character design with those bony protrusions, particularly considering when they’re paired up with that Doomsdayesque backstory. I’m a little worried that this is the case; Lee’s art seemed quite lazy at times in this issue, in a way that reminded me of the shock I experienced back when I picked up X-Force in the ’90s after Liefeld left the book and was replaced by Dan Panosian and Mark Pacella, whose parroty art lacked even the anatomical foundation of Rob Liefeld. Some of Lee’s pencils here look like a less skilled clown aping his style.

My favorite thing about this issue though? Lois Freaking Lane. Lois is written like she should be — she’s smart, she’s fearless, she’s quick on her feet. Lesser talents should take note. This is the Lois Lane I love reading and the Lois Lane I would love to see in a Superman movie.

Speaking of clowns and apes though, that leads me to Avengers #18 and New Avengers #9, in which Thanos and his buddies, who remind me a lot of clowns and apes, attack Earth. But they do a really bad job of it!

So the whole premise here, from what I understand, is that the Avengers have been drawn off Earth for some interstellar battle with the Builders, who are poorly named, as they seem to be breaking everything. And Thanos is all “Hey, this is a great time to strike, because the Avengers are gone!” So then what does he do? He sends some of his goons to Earth, except they all get whooped. Oops!

It’s probably unfair at first glance to lump these books together, except I’m freaking loving this story, and that’s in no small part thanks to the art. I love Leinil Yu, especially when the dude is drawing Skrulls. Mike Deodato is great too. And I’m too lazy to look this up, but whoever is coloring this stuff is great too.

The mood throughout this has been spot on, to the point where those victories over the Thanos B-Listers don’t seem like victories — they seem like temporary reprieves. You see a little foreshadowing of that in Avengers #18 when the spaceship crew is lulled into a false sense of security that turns out to be a bit of a trap.

Also, Namor’s swerve against the Black Panther was freaking brilliant. Hickman is balancing a lot of dynamics at once — you’ve got the interpersonal conflicts of the Illuminati. You’ve got the international conflicts of Atlantis and Wakanda. You’ve got the interplanetary conflicts of the bad kids from Titan and the scraps of what heroes are left on Earth. And then there are the interstellar conflicts that provide the backdrop for all of it. Hot dog!

I don’t often read other sites’ reviews of comics, typically because they are inferior, but I do remember reading some reviews of these issues that complained there was too much talk and not enough rock. While there surely is a lot of talk, I am a fan, as it is building a sense of foreboding doom that I am quite enjoying. I not only don’t know where this is going, I really want to see where it’s going. And that’s what I want my comics to do!

Speaking of not being able to see where I’m going, that leads me to Uncanny X-Men #11, where silly old Cyclops’ eyeball powers are still messing up, but he’s still lettin’ ‘er rip!

I was thinking the other day about how I think I’m enjoying reading comics as much now as I have in many years, and a big part of that is on the strength of several of the X-books (Uncanny X-Men and All-New X-Men, to call them out). But then I was thinking about how, at the same time, I think the other X-Men books are really awful! Like I feel like this is some Yankees versus Little League stuff going on when you compare the stuff Bendis is doing with what’s happening in the other books. In that way, I’m kind of looking forward to this upcoming X-Men Battle of the Atom crossover, because I sure wouldn’t mind being forced to give these other books a second chance and then being proven wrong. But thank goodness I don’t have to read freaking Uncanny Avengers. That one is so bad.

Anyway, normally this is probably the type of issue I’d hate, because it’s essentially one big fight. But Bendis uses this one big fight to advance several things — Cyclops’ struggles as a leader; Magneto’s continued struggle with his powers (along with Cyclops and Emma); the new kids’ struggles to step up and embrace the responsibility that they face with the dangers they are now a part of; Maria Hill’s struggles with keeping tabs on this chaos; Alison Blair’s struggles to fill her new role. All that stuff is advanced in one big fight!

I may end up regretting this, or at least changing my mind, but I feel like Bendis is really starting to become a more well-rounded writer. His Daredevil and Alias stuff is among my absolute favorite comic book material ever, but some of his more action-oriented things, like Avengers and New Avengers a few years back, and especially Secret Invasion, really struggled from an imbalance of the character moments with needing to choreograph large-scale action. But I’ve not gotten the sense from these new series that he has the same weaknesses. And as a result, I find myself enjoying X-books more than I have in probably about 22 years.

Speaking of 22 years, that’s how long I should punish myself for buying Adventures of Superman #4 after last month’s craptacular issue (I just glanced at that review and was surprised I gave it two whole dots), but I am such a sucker for the names “Abnett” and “Lanning” on the front of a comic book that I bought it anyway (This should only receive one dot; one bonus dot each for Abnett & Lanning). Yeah, their story is fine, but the bloom is off the freaking rose on this series.

Whereas the first two issues felt like “We’re giving talented creators an opportunity to tell timeless Superman stories in the confines of 8 pages or less!” or whatever the page count was, the subsequent issues have felt like “We’re bundling up Superman stories that are too poor to stand on their own!”

And they’re only on issue 4!