So I’ve gotten sufficiently distracted by a sufficient number of things here lately that I’ve gotten terribly far behind on the funnybook reviews. Which is the story of my blogging life, of course, but I took a good hard look at the stack this weekend and decided it was time to just go ahead and file most of it, and soldier on to the new stack of books I bought last week. Warts and all…
The Green Lantern 4
by Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp
Four issues in, I’m starting to get a feel for what Grant Morrison is doing on this book. I mean… Tonally, it’s obvious what he’s doing: a sci-fi cop show with the sensibility of 2000 AD. But plot-wise, things have felt a bit disjointed. Stuff happens, and if you’re not paying attention, it may all seem like a series of unconnected events. Everything’s connected, though, and headed in a definite direction, which I’ve only just now twigged to: Hal Jordan’s going undercover.
I should have figured this out last issue, when he killed an alien slaver in cold blood.
But the real clue came back in issue one, when the Guardians told him, upon reinstating him to active duty, that there was a traitor within the Green Lantern Corps… and they knew who it was.
The implication then was that the traitor was Jordan himself. But since that line wasn’t really followed up on, I kind of forgot about it. Until this issue, that is, when a bearded space cowboy type starts telling a story only Hal Jordan could possibly know the details of. He’s fishing for a meeting with the head of the Blackstars, the evil for-profit Green Lantern competitors who’ve been behind much of the trouble in the series to date. At first, I thought he was setting up some kind of sting operation. But then that earlier scene with the Guardians came back to me, and everything that’s happened since then suddenly falls into place.
Hal already had a reputation as a bit of a loose cannon (it’s why he was on forced leave to begin with), and in issue three he stepped completely over the line. Now (according to the disguised Hal) he’s been called before a tribunal of Guardians and drummed out of the Corps for use of excessive force. So he wants to join the Blackstars, and he’s offering them his ring as an entry fee.
That last bit’s the real capper for me. I doubt Hal would give his ring to these assholes, even if he’d been allowed to keep it when he was sent off in disgrace. So if I wasn’t sure before, at that point I became convinced: this whole thing is a plan between Hal and the Guardians, to destroy Hal’s reputation, make him a believable traitor, and allow him to destroy the Blackstars from within. That’s a cool story, if so.
Also pretty cool is our main villain here: Countess Belzebeth, leader of the Blackstars and some kind of humanoid Sun-Eater, a cosmic vampire who feeds on light. She’s a genuine monster, a corrupter of souls as well as a devourer of worlds. And she’s released… something… from beyond our universe.
This is the thing that the space pirates were transporting back in issue one. The thing that got loose on the gambling planet and sucked a Green Lantern dry before heading off to do god knows what. I suspect that the Countess is only a minor threat in comparison to the WRONG-MAN from the INSIDE-OUT!
All of which is gloriously epic and dumb, and which captures the tone of this Morrison Green Lantern run far better than anything I could say to describe it to you. Liam Sharp’s art is a good fit for that tone, too. Though his grasp of human anatomy sometimes leaves a little to be desired, he really shines on the space alien stuff. This issue’s splash page, for instance…
…is beautiful and strange in a way that is absolutely pitch-perfect for this book. I won’t call it a triumph of style over substance, though that is something Morrison’s often been accused of. I don’t take those accusations seriously most of the time, because I generally find depths of theme and character behind all the style. But because he’s very much about demonstrating that sort of thing rather than talking about it directly, it takes a few issues to suss it out. I think we’re just now starting to see that in The Green Lantern, and I’m still not quite sure where it’s going. But the ride’s fun enough that I’m sure I’ll enjoy finding out.
by Chip Zdarsky and Marco Checchetto
So it’s been a while since I read Daredevil. It just hasn’t had any writers I like in recent years, so I haven’t been picking it up. And I’m not 100% sold on new Daredevil writer Chip Zdarsky’s work, to be honest. While I don’t think any of it’s been bad, per se, none of it’s really set my world on fire, either. I did enjoy his Marvel Two-In-One, but you know… Any decent take on the Fantastic Four is going to appeal to me.
(Insert snarky comment about Dan Slott’s FF here.)
But I like Daredevil, too, so… I figured, why not? If nothing else, it would give me an opportunity to see if funny-man Zdarsky could handle the crime noir stuff that always works best on this book. So I plunked down my five bucks (ouch!) for this extra-long (less ouch!) first issue, and 26 pages later, I was… actually pretty happy with it.
Zdarsky’s picking up from whatever latest terrible thing has happened to Our Hero (don’t know, don’t care), which includes a physical as well as mental recovery from injuries received in the line of duty. So he’s back on the streets, but not quite in peak form, and not entirely certain that he should be out there at all. There’s a series of flashbacks detailing Matt Murdock’s relationship with the family priest, and the ways he tried to help young Matt through some difficult moments. There’s a lot in their talks about the nature of justice and injustice, and the righteous use of violence vs using righteousness as an excuse to engage in violent acts.
It’s interesting, if not entirely unfamiliar, territory for this character. I don’t know that we’ve ever seen this priest before, but I like what he adds to the backstory. Matt’s Catholicism has reared up now and again over the years, but it’s nice to see it being discussed as such an integral part of who and what he is. Y’know… What with the devil imagery and all.
(I’m diggin’ the new variation on the costume, by the way. Because PANTS!)
The issue ends in a fight with some random thugs, and it doesn’t go well. I won’t spoil it here, but something happens in that fight that I find really compelling, and that’s not often dealt with in super hero stories. But it speaks to the issue’s themes, and it’s going to have consequences going forward.
I’m also pretty happy with artist Marco Checchetto. His stuff’s not beautiful in every panel, but I can see touches of both Lee Weeks and Sean Murphy about him that I like quite a bit. He does a nice job with the radar sense, too:
So! That’s a pretty strong start to the new Daredevil. It’s not setting my world on fire, mind you, and there’s little here that I haven’t seen before. But it’s being handled rather well, and what happens with that closing fight has really piqued my interest. So I think it’s safe to say that, for my money, Zdarsky’s not a bad fit for the book at all. I’ll be back for more next month, anyway, and that’s what they’re hoping for, right?
Umbrella Academy: Hotel Oblivion 5
by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba
This book still feels like a bunch of unconnected stories, even as we start to see some of them drawn together this issue. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, I don’t suppose. I mean, I’m following all the disparate plot threads alright, and some cool stuff happens every issue. The art’s as good as ever. I’m entertained by it, and there’s very little I can actively complain about.
I guess I just wish there was a little more …I dunno… NARRATIVE to it. More to sink my teeth into. As it is, it’s a pleasant, but vaguely disappointing, distraction. And I think I wanted more.
United States vs Murder Incorporated 6
by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming
I don’t know how to review this book quickly without going into HUGE spoilers, so I’ll just say that it changes the series’ premise pretty drastically, and leave it at that.
I’ll also say that reading this, Pearl, and Scarlet all at the same time is kind of a weird experience, because it’s suddenly occurred to me that this book has become a synthesis of the other two. Scarlet‘s had the Second American Revolution happening off-camera, and something similar is happening here in short form, without Our Heroes’ direct involvement. And meanwhile, Pearl seems to be turning into the story of a mob boss’ daughter coming into her own, while this book sees Valentine Gallo embracing his legacy within the mob.
I don’t know whether to be impressed that Bendis has been able to explore the same ideas from different perspectives, or to be disappointed that he’s really only telling two stories in three different books. But I suppose they’re all sufficiently different in form and approach… and all sufficiently entertaining… that I’ll have to side with “impressed.”
Mike Oeming’s always great, at the very least. And the way this issue unfolds, through montage and flashback, until it gets to its big moment, is very nice work from Bendis, too. I really enjoyed reading it. And it was only after the fact that I realized how close it was to the other two books. Whether I’ll be back for the next volume (United States of Murder Inc. vs the Vatican) will really depend on how long it takes them to do it, and how burned out Bendis has gotten from his work-for-hire gigs by then…
by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans
I want to like this book. I’m a life-long RPG nerd, so it should be right up my alley. But this issue…
I just don’t know.
This issue is Kieron Gillen’s commentary on Tolkien, and while everything he writes here is absolutely correct, it also felt just a little too on-the-nose. I mean, yes. Tolkien drew heavily on his World War I experiences in writing The Lord of the Rings. The Hobbits were his Officer’s View on the enlisted men he served with in the trenches, his attempt at memorializing who they were and what they sacrificed. And yes, that’s nice. And yes, it’s also a bit condescending. And it unintentionally glorifies war by not having any of the Hobbits pay the ultimate price, the way so many of those men did in real life. All of that is entirely true. And yet…
Actually putting the Hobbits in the trenches is just a little too on-the-nose for my taste. And I’ve spared you the first page of it, which is mostly just Gillen cribbing lines from Tolkien. He comments on that later, on how it’s all just one big reference, but that didn’t make me roll my eyes any less. Actually, pointing out your obvious reference as an obvious reference is likely to make me roll my eyes even more. Still, I could have lived with it if Gillen didn’t then have TOLKIEN HIMSELF do a walk-on to talk about it.
That just chucks the whole thing over the line from “clever” to “obvious,” and my patience with it ended rather quickly after that.
I dunno. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I know too much about Tolkien, and that makes this seem less clever than it is. Though… No. No, I’m gonna say that actually putting Tolkien himself in the story, to explain the symbolism of having Hobbits in the trenches, just in case somebody didn’t get it… is bad writing. Put the damn Hobbits in the trench, slaughter them mercilessly, and move the hell on. If you feel the need to explain it for people who don’t know much about Tolkien, do it in the back matter.
This issue’s got three pages of that, with plenty of blank space, so you’d think he could have squeezed in a paragraph or two about the finer points of Tolkien’s inspirations. As it is, he already spends most of a page talking about Tolkien in there. Granted, it’s mostly about his own lingering resentments toward the author, and the problematic class structure of Middle Earth. But that still seems like a better place for explanations than the story itself, where it undercuts the pathos.
BE MORE BETTER, FUNNYBOOK!
BE MORE BETTER!
On the other hand, there’s also a really awesome mechanical dragon in this issue…
…so it’s not a total loss.
Immortal Hulk 13
by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett
This issue ends (for now) the Hulk’s sojourn in Hell. And I’m glad of that. Much as I’ve enjoyed Al Ewing’s “evil justice” Hulk, this story dragged for me. I’m not all that interested in the meta-plot tying the Hulk to the Devil, for one thing, and for another, I’ve never been a big fan of stories involving people wandering in wastelands. So this has been three or four issues of tedium for me, punctuated with occasional interesting revelations. I’m hoping the book goes back to the connected-done-in-one horror format of the early issues for a while. I could deal with more of that. But we’ll see. For now, I’m giving it…
Conan the Barbarian 3
by Jason Aaron and Mahmud Asrar
I’ve been enjoying this new Conan comic, but I think that (as with most Jason Aaron comics) I may just start waiting for sales on the digital trades. It’s fun, don’t get me wrong. Sort of a one-century-later updating of Robert E Howard, filtered through modern corporate comics. It lacks Howard’s outrageous spirit, but it captures his melancholy rather well. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s just not great. And if I’m going to be dropping four bucks a pop on these things, I really want a little more.