Recent Dorkiness

I Went to Earth 2 and All I Got Was This Lousy Comic

Earth 2 #1, by James Robinson, Nicola Scott, and Trevor Scott Upon finishing this comic, my first thought was, “What a train wreck!” Upon returning to it to write this review, however, my opinion softened a bit. It's not a train wreck. It's actually a rather clever attempt to recreate the first generation of DC-owned super heroes in a modern context. But it tries to do too much in too few pages, and that hurts it. A lot. But let's deal with the clever bits first. This series returns the characters that make up the Justice Society of America to their Silver Age home in the alternate dimension known as Earth Two. (Thus the title. See? I told you it was clever!) That return affords series writer James Robinson a very important tool: the ability to bring crisis and strife to his heroes' world without regard for the rest of the DC line. The original Justice Society was born of the Great Depression, after all, and thrust very quickly into World War II. These are characters who've always had global tragedy in their fictional DNA, and any attempt to recreate them as 21st Century people threatens to remove that essential part of their origins. So Robinson wisely establishes an Earth Two that's recently been torn apart by war. A war with the forces of Apokolips. As you can see from the cover, of course, that war was fought primarily by three characters who haven't been associated with the Justice Society for the last quarter century: Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. The reasons for that separation are too complicated and boring to go into here, but it's nice to have them back. As this issue opens, they've been fighting the forces of Apokolips for quite some time, but there are no other super heroes to help them out, and so things haven't gone as well for Earth as they did when the same war broke out in the first story arc of the new Justice League series. This war's been fought all over the globe, and whole cities (Metropolis and Paradise Island among them) have been destroyed. The bulk of this first issue deals with the final battle that drives Apokolips off Earth and (SPOILER ALERT!) costs the three cover-featured heroes their lives. This leaves Robinson with a world heavily-damaged by war, and just waiting for new heroes to appear, heroes who can now be inspired by the memories of the Holy Trinity of DC-owned spandex. And by showing us those heroes' final battle, we're invited to feel their loss just as deeply. There's only one problem... Robinson does his best TO earn it, providing internal monologue for all three that spells out their travails and insecurities as they wade through endless hordes of Para-Demons. But that's the trouble. He spells it all out. He tells me why I should feel something instead of actually allowing me to feel it, and the end result is that I feel nothing. Nothing, except maybe mild annoyance at being so obviously manipulated by the writer. And that annoyance, of course, built to impatience, which in turn built to contempt. So by the time we get to this touching scene of Batman explaining to his daughter that he has to die to save the Earth... ...I was actually laughing at the over-emoting going on. I kind of like the “Dad... Daddy” thing in the first panel, but then Robinson's gotta go and ruin it with that “Oh my brave wonderful soldier” crap (Jesus. Who talks like that?!). Then, of course, he repeats the “Dad Daddy” thing just in case we didn't catch it the first time, and my disgust with the comic is pretty much complete. At least he had the sense to go with the silent scream when Bats blows up on the next page, instead of the even-more-ridiculous “Nooooooooooooo!!” But the damage is already done. “Train. Wreck.” I decreed. That reaction honestly colored my opinion of the pages that remained so badly that I don't think I can trust it, even now. Those pages introduce Alan Scott and Jay Garrick, the future Green Lantern and Flash, respectively, and the whole thing just seems too pat. I guess I'm okay with Scott explaining to his secretary why he wants to make a difference in the world, but then Garrick's girlfriend Joan explains why she's leaving him, and at that point I've had so much explained to me that I just don't care about any of it. James Robinson is capable of engaging me in his characters and situations, but here he's just cramming too much in. He's trying to deliver epic action, develop and kill off three icons in such a way that their deaths mean something, set things up for his real story, and start that story, all in 28 pages. And while that might be possible with quick, deft character moments and a myth-making tone, Robinson instead opts for the very kind of writing shortcuts I hate most. And he lost me. Even if he slows the pace down a bit after this, and delivers the better technique that I know he's capable of... I don't think I care. In the end, even if this issue is not the train wreck I initially thought, it's still just not very good. It comes off not as the epic beginning of a great adventure, but just as the same old bog-standard spandex crap. It's very much funnnybooks as usual, and I'm not shelling out four bucks a pop for funnybooks as freaking usual. Grade: C But, hey! I read lots of other funnybooks the last couple of weeks, too, and I didn't hate them nearly as much! Let's check them out, now...

Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred #4, by David Hine and Shaky Kane

Pretty much the antithesis of Earth 2.

The fourth issue of this sequel to last year’s excellent Bulletproof Coffin is a “cut-up” comic. It’s comprised of 84 separate panels, arranged in a random order by a bunch of British comics artists down the pub one night, and published for your reading pleasure. The “narrative” that emerges is more intuitive than literal, and may be affected by the order in which you read the panels. Hine and Kane suggest that you proceed randomly, jumping around through the book until you’ve read them all.

That’s what I did, and in return I was presented with a dream-tale rife with themes of paranoia and Lovecraftian horror. I started with the final page, a full-page splash that reads, “Please, if it’s at all possible, I’d like to wake up now.” From there, I jumped around, reading the panels in each two-page spread in whatever order my eyes fell upon them, through aliens and monsters and horrible people, until I reached my final panel, which reads, “Then, to his astonishment, a doorway opened and he found himself gazing into the infinite.”

“And that,” I thought, “sums up this reading experience better than anything I could imagine.”

Grade: A+ 

Super Crooks #2, by Mark Millar and Leinil Yu

No heroic over-emoting here, folks, just a fun little caper comic. Super Crooks is hardly god’s gift to comics, either, but at least it has the good sense to be entertaining and light, and that makes up for an awful lot.

Grade: B

Spaceman #6, by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso

Another beautiful issue from Eduardo Risso, and Azzarello’s story is coming together nicely on this one, too. All the various characters and plot pieces are coming together, bouncing off each other, and forming new shapes as they go. Fun to read and real purty to look at. Can’t ask for much more out of pulp funnybooks than that.

Grade: A-

Ultimates #9, by Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic

Jonathan Hickman’s writing can sometimes have a cold clockwork efficiency to it that takes my breath away, and that’s what he’s pulling off on this book. I love the webs of cross and double-cross reverberating back and forth across the world here, the fears and manipulations both petty and… not noble, exactly, but at least… clever and necessary. I love that he’s given Our Heroes an increasingly impossible problem to solve, and that even after nine issues, I’m still not sure where it’s all going to end up. With the simultaneously powerful and delicate work of Esad Ribic on illustration, this is one of the very best mainstream corporate spandex books on the market.

Grade: A-

The Goon #39, by Eric Powell

And now the remedy for mainstream corporate spandex books…

Heh. HEH. Honestly, there’s really nothing I could say about this issue that cover doesn’t say ten times better. Except that there’s even yet still more high-larity inside, and that if you’re not reading the Goon… WHAT THE HELL’S WRONG WITCHA, BOY?!

Grade: A

The Defenders #6, by Matt Fraction, Victor Ibanez, Tom Palmer, and Terry Pallot

More corporate spandex, but with a refreshingly irreverent touch. Matt Fraction’s just having fun on this book, and it shows. It’s weird enough to play as a tribute to Steve Gerber’s 70s run on the book, fun and complex enough to win it the title of “Corporate Fraction Book Most Likely to Appeal to People Who Like Casanova,” and well-drawn enough that even this issue’s fill-in work looks better than 90% of the corporate funnybooks on the market. Is this the Marvel comic most worth reading right now? Hmm. Ultimates gives it a run for its money, but… yes. Yes, I think it is.

Grade: A-

The Boys #66, by Garth Ennis and Russ Braun

Billy Butcher is a bad man. He’s a very bad man.

He’s also something of a masterpiece of a character, at this point. The regular guy who’s anything but. The friendly psychopath who’s secretly manipulating even his closest companions toward a bloody end.  One of these days, I’m going to have to sit down and explain exactly why this book is so very good, and why, like Preacher before it, it’s so easy to lose that quality in all the shock and gore. This is Garth Ennis at his best, aided and abetted by Russ Braun, an artist who’s very quietly made this book his own when I didn’t think that was possible. Top-notch funnybooks as this series heads into its final story arc. Oh, how I’ll miss it when it’s done…

(Ennis has also provided a great “commentary track” for the issue over at Bleeding Cool. Check it out: http://www.bleedingcool.com/forums/comic-book-forum/58315-garth-ennis-commentary-boys-66-a.html

Grade: A

Fury MAX #1, by Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov

It’s not often that a funnybook queers a major movie deal and gets a corporate president fired. It’s even less often that a funnybook like that gets a sequel. But here we are.

This is good Ennis war comics, less overtly parodic than the first Fury MAX and even a bit less offensive. It feels more grounded, more real, more like something Ennis is sinking his teeth into. Coupled with the fine cartooning of artist Goran Parlov…

…I really hope this one’s around a while.

Grade: A-

Sweet Tooth #33, by Jeff Lemire

Haven’t talked about this book in a while, but this is a particularly nice entry in the series, another “sideways” issue told in storybook style. The landscape formatting lets Lemire really cut loose on his  page composition; in fact, this might be the best-looking issue of the series to date. Story-wise, it’s a bit of an interlude. A funeral for Lucy, who finally succumbed to the plague in the last issue, and the beginning of Our Heroes’ final journey north to Alaska, to find the source of all the world’s woes. It’s a pause, more than anything else, but a pause that Lemire uses to good effect, cementing his casts’ relationships and putting some final steel in their spines as the series heads toward its conclusion.

Grade: A-

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About Mark Brett (419 Articles)
Shaved Yeti. Alien. Writer of stuff. Read my fiction at http://reportsfromthefieldblog.wordpress.com/. Read my thoughts on comic books and other dork culture ephemera at https://dorkforty.wordpress.com/.

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