Sunday, October 12, 2008

Five Comics Worth Reading, 10/8/08

Before we begin proper, a pair of honorable mention type deals:

-I borrowed a copy of Superman/Batman #51 from my boss, John Cerilli (who reads like five of 80 million comics he gets comped from Marvel and DC every week despite there being third world countries where poor children have no comics to read and/or food), at the behest of friend of the blog Ryan Penagos, then got issue #52 this week (I think it came out last week), and holy crap, what a cute and fantastic story! It's cute-tastic! Michaels Green and Johnson whipped up a ridiculously fun story about little mini versions of the Justice League and Injustice League coming to our Earth and manage to throw in major pathos about what happens when the denizens of a world of fun and games are exposed to legitimate consequences. Artist Rafael Albequerque of Blue Beetle fame totally shines. Worth tracking down!

-I agonized (ok, maybe not agonized) over whether or not to include The Twelve #8 on this week's list, but ultimately decided not to because I really have nothing to say beyond "This book is still awesome, Chris Weston is an art god, I wish he were drawing a monthly..." and so on. Buy The Twelve!

Now then, onto this week's books...but first:

Read the Disclaimer!


DEADPOOL #3

Deadpool is a character I didn't so much appreciate in my youth, despite him being a recurring character in X-Force, but he became one of my favorites as I got older and appreciated what writers were doing with him more. I'd say he's definitely in my top five list of pet characters and I hold the Joe Kelly series in extremely high regard as well as considering the cancelled-earlier this year Cable/Deadpool as one of the funniest books ever and among the most underrated runs in comics over the last few years.

Given that, Daniel Way and friends had a lot to live up to in my eyes with this new ongoing, but I'm happy to report so far, really good.

In this issue, the book really seems to find and hit its stride in the final part of its introductory Secret Invasion tie-in arc (and why don't we have a big ol' "Secret Invasion" banner plastered on the top of the cover to grab casual readers? McCann?!?!). Way, who I know is a devotee of the aforementioned Kelly material from talking to him, has honored that interpretation of the character beautifully while adding his own flourishes as well. At first, I wasn't sure how the idea of 'Pool interacting with not just one but two "voices in his head" was gonna work, but now that Way has had time to hone it, it's quite funny. DP bickering with voice #1 about whether or not his new "You play with fire, you get electrocuted" catchphrase will catch on is the kind of gag I love to see from my Deadpool comics. Ditto the little "Deadpool-vision" asides, where he sees other characters as he wishes them to be (in this case, Nick Fury as a pacifier sucking weenie who insists Deadpool is Earth's only hope).

But any true Deadpool fan will tell you that making the guy funny is only part of the equation. The best Merc with a Mouth stories involve Wade Wilson's internal struggle with his outwardly mercenary nature versus the core of good and desire to be a hero accepted by the rest of the Marvel Universe tat resides deep within. This story has definitely accentuated both sides and provided appropriately goosebumpy moments when DP does the right thing. Deadpool is just a character you want to root for, and Way takes full advantage of that.

As for the art, the phrase "Artist X was born to draw Character Y" certainly gets thrown around a lot, but for real, y'all, Paco Medina was born to draw Deadpool. His style is so fun and so bursting with energy, but he can pull off the serious stuff too. Hopefully this book cements his star.


GREEN LANTERN CORPS #29

I just talked about Deadpool being at its best when two elements are balanced, and to be honest, that's true of most super hero comics. It's certainly true of Green Lantern Corps, which is, stripped down, really a police procedural, and thusly at its best when action is balanced with the personal lives and character advancement of the main players. Its also a book with a huge cast that needs to have a lot going on, but to have all that stuff managed well. Peter Tomasi has done a great job with all this stuff since coming onboard and I'd say this issue was a good example of GLC when he's hitting on all cylinders and getting things right.

The main plot of the issue is the ongoing advancement of the larger picture stuff going on both here and in the main Green Lantern title introducing the various Lantern Corps from the different colors along the emotional spectrum. Here, the Star Sapphires are brought back into the mix and more fully integrated as a traditional Corps, essentially becoming the Lanterns of Love (which is a great name for an alt rock band, incidentally). I really dug the introduction of the newest Star Sapphire as it both utilized ongoing GLC baddie Mongul in a kind of horror movie boogeyman way that was very cool and scary in its understated nature and also inverted the traditional gender roles of that structure. I'm curious to see how Tomasi continues to define the Star Sapphires moving forward, as they're certainly one of the more difficult Corps to nail down (willpower, fear, rage and hope are fairly easy to cast in traditional good guy or bad guys roles; love is a bit trickier).

While all that is going on, Guy Gardner and Ice have a date on Oa (Ice hitched a ride from another Lantern) to try and sort out their relationship. These scenes were great both from the nostalgia sweet spot standpoint of this being the big romance of those awesome Justice League International days, but also because Guy and Ice are essentially trying to make a long distance relationship work and arguing over who should have to give up what. These are of course very real issues that lots of readers (yours truly included) can relate to, just cranked up to 11 since the distance between Earth and Oa is way farther than, say, that between New York and Connecticut. Whether you're a fan of the characters, relating to their plight, or both, these are great scenes. Guy dealing with the chatty precognitive GL who volunteers to "drive" Ice home is money.

On top of all that goodness, we've also Saarek continuing his quest to find the Anti-Monitor and Kyle Rayner pondering a new relationship despite the fact that every girl he dates winds up meeting a tragic end. It's all rendered by Patrick Gleason, whose art I love, despite him keeping my Nova sketchbook for several months and never getting around to drawing anything for me and now being terrified of me (I forgive you, Pat! You were having a kid! Well...your wife was...). His closeup shot of Ice's eyes as she's talking to Guy about their status is gorgeous. Pat's another guy who can draw soulful excanges and then flip on a dime to balls to the wall action with ease.


SECRET INVASION: INHUMANS #3

In my opinion, newcomer Joe Pokaski has joined a pretty elite group of writers in being able to take the Inhumans and elevate them from cool looking guest stars to a group of characters who can more than hold their own as protagonists. Joe has utilized Secret Invasion and the Skrulls' kidnapping of Black Bolt to highlight what sets the Inhumans apart from similarly garbed and powered super hero teams: they're not a team, they's a family; and not like how every team ever claims to be "a family," I mean a real family. They have no interest or stake in helping out Earth, they're just out to get their king back and protect their own, which certainly gives them a different mission statement from the Avengers.

It also makes them pretty damn bad ass. The Inhumans have always had incredibly cool powers that lend well to being among the premiere warriors of the Marvel Universe, but because they're getting shoved around and needing to get bailed out by the Fantastic Four in most of their appearances, we don't often get to see their ruthlessness on display. Pokaski has done really neat stuff in just three issues showing how much the combined burden of leadership and longing for her lost lover has hardened Medusa and made her a real force to be reckoned with. Things like Gorgon grudgingly but without hesitation protecting black sheep of the family Maximus because it's his job and Crystal squawking about every decision Medusa makes just as a real little sister would (incidentally, Crystal is one of my least favorite characters in all of comics, but that's an essay for another day) add to both the unique flow of this story and the relatability of the Inhumans because, hey, they might be freaks and outcasts, but they're kinda like your family, no?

Pokaski also makes the cool move this issue of bringing in Ronan the Accuser as the one guy the Inhumans hoped they'd never have to turn to as an ally. The Inhumans' complex and messy history with the Kree in general and Ronan in particular set up a neat "desperate times" dynamic, but more than that, the Accuser has become such a rad character of late thanks to his participation in the Annihilation events, so it's nice to see him being brough into a more mainstream Marvel event like Secret Invasion (as a huge Annihilation fan, I bristle with joy every time those characters show up now and pull the whole, "Yeah, we were off saving the universe a couple times while you were doing whatever and we rule now" routine).

Tom Raney has absolutely owned on art for this book, and this issue is no exception. He has designed some of the coolest Super Skrulls of any Secret Invasion tie-in for my money, and while we don't really get to see them on display here, he is just on fire as far as detail and flow.

With the end of the issue teasing Black Bolt under Skrull torture, Triton on a planet of his own kind, Karnak and Gorgon about to rumble with an army of Recorders and Medusa an Crystal being forced into gladiatorial combat (and not really minding) by Thundra, it makes me wish this book was about 30 issues longer (for a start).


X-MEN: MAGNETO TESTAMENT #2

Telling a story about the Holocaust is a lot to take on in any medium. To do it in comics, where the measuring stick is Maus, not just arguably one of the best comics ever but one of the best stories commited to paper of all time period, it's a task you think most would shy away from. Greg Pak and Carmine Di Giandomenico (along with editor Warren Simons) chose not to let these facts intimidate them when they decided they had a great Magneto story to tell that just happened to be rooted in the Holocaust and I'm so glad they did not.

The first two issues of Magneto Testament have been powerful, haunting, emotional and heartbreaking. You can see the seeds of Magneto beginning to grow within young Max, but that's really not the important stuff, as thus far this has been an amazing and gripping story about a time and a people, not an epic about mutants and magnetism. This issue, with Max travelling with his father to see high ranking official Major Scharf, whom the older man saved during wartime, demonstrates the desperate beliefs that the persecuted will cling to and the horrible wedges fear can drive between men who were once like brothers. It's hard not to get choked up and a little angry when Scharf walks away from helping his friend and all the old man cares about is whether or not Max saved the war medals that seem to be no help but remain his final source of dignity as both were being beaten. Max's father's rationalization that Scharf will help them in a month or two because he "saved" them from being killed and will want to "confirm his original good judgment" is devastating.

Di Giandomenico does incredible work capturing every aspect of the period and what Max and his family are going through. His stylized art makes Nazi Germany seem both otherwordly, but at the same time very dirty and terrifyingly real. He conveys so much in the characters' eyes and facial expressions, from hope to horror.

I'm running out of adjectives to describe how strongly I feel about what an impressive book this is, so I'll conclude by saying the last page broke my heart (and yes, I know I already said the book is heartbreaking), but it's a (pun not intended) testament to the quality of the work that even though I know exactly how the story ends, both historically and in the context of Magneto's biography, I'm on the edge of my seat for the next installment.


X-MEN: ORIGINAL SIN #1

For a longtime X-Men fan such as myself, Mike Carey's X-Men: Legacy has been like a drug, providing sweet, sweet continuity porn (and I use that term with positive connotations) on a monthly basis. With this one-shot, Daniel Way and Wolverine: Origins are brought into the mix for what promises to be a crossover I'm gonna salivate over.

Wolverine has finally got his son Daken under control, but needs the help of a telepath to get the kid straightened out for good after the mess that has been made of his brain over the years. In the course of a dope confrontation with Cyclops and Emma Frost, he learns that Professor X is alive, and in the process of seeking him out to aid Daken, relives his early days as part of the "All-New, All-Different" X-Men, revealing that he had an agenda beyond just wanting to help his fellow mutants when he joined up. Meanwhile, the Hellfire Club, led by Carey's new character Lady Sinister, is after Daken.

I've seen Mike Deodato at his best and at his worst in the decade plus now that I've been following his art, but between his cover art and stuff like the Werewolf By Nigt issue of Moon Knight and the Wolverine Annual, I think he's been as good as he's ever been these past few months. He totally rocks it in the first half of this story, as his expert use of shading combined with the bright colors of the old school X-Men's costumes make for an extremely cool contrast and adds a real mood to the story.

The icing on the cake is a reprint of a backup story from Classic X-Men #1 by Chris Claremont and John Bolton that I've always wanted to read, filling in the gap between when the new X-Men rescues the originals in Giant-Size X-Men #1 and the first team all calling it quits in the next issue of Uncanny. We get to see Banshee bonding with Colossus and Nightcrawler, Iceman being a massive dick, Angel hitting on Storm, and, of course, the first real conversation between Wolverine and Jean Grey. It's a real treat for somebody who thought they had seen all the angles of that period in X-Men history and Bolton's art is a sight to behold.

6 comments:

Daniel Brooks said...

Can you pull some strings and get Marvel to put Wolverine back in his brown costume (again)?

That is all.

Ben Morse said...

Huh. I didn't even realize he was out of it (in Origins).

Daniel Brooks said...

Yeah, John Barber said in an interview that one costume had to go, and it was the brown. I like the other costumes a lot (I'm not a blue/yellow hater AT ALL), but it seems strange that they chose to get rid of the costume that everyone seemingly loves.

Ben Morse said...

Really? I never read that interview. Did he say why? John Barber is a known lunatic...

Daniel Brooks said...

Yeah, he basically said he felt 3 costumes was 1 too many, and it was a little ridiculous -- which I agree with. But it's still strange that brown drew the short straw...

J.D. said...

I'm glad someone else appreciates Deadpool. I've been pretty happy how Medina and Way have been portraying him. Issue two was hilarious and it just looks awesome. I can't find three though