Monday, February 22, 2010

Five Comics Worth Reading - Feb. 2010

In the nascent days of this blog, I used to do a weekly feature called Five Comics Worth Reading, where I picked out some books I enjoyed and gave little capsule reviews. It wasn’t long for this world because I’m really not great at reviews and didn’t like having that mandate hanging over my head every week, taking away a bit from the pure joy of just reading my comics (kudos to those who can do it; you’re better than me).

However, every now and again I read a comic and am just like “Wow, this book is sick,” but don’t always have more than a few sentences to say about it, let alone a whole post. To that end, with no ambitions whatsoever of any sort of regular schedule, I am gonna bring back 5CWR periodically to babbly about books I’m really digging.

Books like these.

I read the first issue of this series just because Ryan said so and was pretty well blown away not even knowing what the high concept was, just digging the writing and art. The twin brother team of Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon deliver a pretty standard “day-in-the-life” story about an average thirty-something going about his day, but I mean “standard” only in the sense that the events of the issue were (until the end) ostensibly mundane; however, despite the average nature of what’s going on, Ba and Moon have a way with their words of investing you in this man’s life and making the end of the issue all the more poignant.

I apologize for the vagueness here as I know it must be more than a bit frustrating, but I had no idea what this book was about going in, and that totally helped me enjoy it all the more, so if there is anybody out there who’s in the position I was, I want you to take a leap of faith and have a similar experience. The ending is key to what the whole series is about, and to give it away would be to spoil issues two and three as well, both of which also have that same quality of being beautiful in their take on the ordinary, but also begin bringing in a more sweeping sense of romance and grandeur.

The art—also a collaboration between the brothers—is gorgeous, with every person and every scene bursting with detail and unconventional beauty, as anybody who has followed their work on Umbrella Academy or Casanova would expect.

I wanna say more, but seriously, just trust me on this one and go find the first three issues.

Yes, the whole “What if Superman went bad?” motif has been done to death a zillion times since the dawn of time, but for whatever reason, I’m totally into Irredeemable in a way I wasn’t with all those others.

It may be because Mark Waid is such a fan of Superman and the whole heroic ideal that he really takes care when toying with it; there’s no sadistic glee you find in most of those pastiches (ok, maybe a little), but rather a great deal of care taken and a sense of “yeah, that’s how it would happen,” that comes from knowing Waid has absolutely thought this through. The motivations and fallout are meticulously thought out and add up (to the degree such things can in a book about super-powered demigods in spandex).

Peter Krause’s art has a sorta Dan Jurgens vibe going for it that fits the story well. He infuses the really horrific stuff Waid is putting out there with a sense of innocence gone horribly awry that twists your stomach in the right ways.

Beyond the initial shock factor of seeing the world’s greatest hero annihilating continents with his heat vision, there are also mysteries and tangential threads being laid out like mines by Waid and I enjoy seeing them go off with the precision he intended while I struggle to figure out who I’m supposed to be rooting for; good stuff here.

I’m sure there were plenty of folks out there who didn’t think turning The Punisher into a Frankenstein monster and having him hang out with Morbius and Werewolf By Night was a good idea (probably right here on this very Internet).

They were right; it was not a good idea.

It was a great idea!

Punisher is such a hugely entertaining comic right now it’s insane, and this is coming from somebody who has never been able to get into the character. Rick Remender has done a complete 360 in that he took a concept so wonderfully entertaining in its utter ridiculousness and then brought it full circle into a story that is completely compelling and perfectly fitting for the character.

I love that Remender is doing all this crazy shit but at the end of the day, in the context it is put in, IT MAKES TOTAL SENSE! Yes, if The Punisher went up against an entire team of ruthless super villains with the kind of power and carte blanche the Dark Avengers have, the son of Wolverine would totally end him. And yes, because he lives in a world where radiation doesn’t kill you but gives you fantastic or horrible powers and giant guys in purple suits try to eat or planet, it is not inconceivable in the least that a group of monsters would patch him up and turn him into a Frankenstein because they need a strategic mind to save their asses.

The latest issue—in which Dan Brereton illustrated the hell out of a flashback sequence telling the origin of Hellsgaard—was another quantum leap of awesome as we realize the bad guy Punisher is going after is basically him but replacing the figurative monsters who killed Frank Castle’s family with literal monsters who killed his own. The fact that this doesn’t even faze Frank as he prepares to go to war is a juicy little morsel that I’m interested to see get picked up down the road either as an Achilles heel or further evidence that The Punisher is so far gone a parallel like that means jack to him.

It’s also worth noting that Tony Moore draws not only the best vampires and werewolves in comics, but also does crazy fight scenes like nobody’s business. I love the liberties he’s not afraid to take with established characters and really hope he gets to draw more of them.

I forget sometimes how much I like the character of Tim Drake because a lot of the time he just gets written as “Robin” with folks forgetting that behind the mask he is so far removed from Dick Grayson, Jason Todd and particularly Bruce Wayne. He’ll never be the fighter that Bruce or Dick were, but he makes up for that with his brains and the fact that he’s probably the best natural detective out of the bunch. He’s also the happy medium between Dick’s carefree swashbuckler and Bruce’s grim and hopeless creature of the night.

Chris Yost totally understands this and is making me remember more and more in every issue of Red Robin why this character rocks.

As Red Robin, Tim is refreshingly human, making mistakes but working through them and being driven by faith in his own inherent belief more than any sacred vow or thirst for vengeance. He wears his emotions on his sleeve and it bites him in the ass more than a couple times, but he has an incredible skill set and ability to think on his feet that Yost is extremely apt at showcasing.

I’m also quite a fan thus far of Yost’s new potential love interest for Tim, Tam Fox, as she’s got a good bit of her own capability but also enough damsel in distress in her to keep things interesting; her being Lucius Fox’s daughter is a neat and clever spin as well.

But I honestly realized how much I am getting out of this comic in the latest issue where Tim has both an awesome fight with Killer Moth and then a great emotional hugging scene with Superboy where he breaks down in tears of joy over his best friend being alive that felt so sincere; Yost is so good not just at writing convincing young adults, but also at positioning action and emotion in perfect harmony with one another.

I know there’s a school of thought that Peter David’s writing on ongoing series tends to be too dense for new readers to navigate in easily, and maybe it’s true, but at the same time if you invest the time in his stories, you’re pretty much always guaranteed one helluva return.

I really respect how long PAD sticks around on books, be it a decade on Incredible Hulk, five uninterrupted years on Young Justice, or so forth. I love that he lays out long-term plans, commits to them, changes on the fly if necessary, but generally tries to stay the course on the big characters arcs he’s mapped out and epic stories he’s lad the tracks for. I enjoy the in jokes rewarding folks who have read the book for awhile and the pay-offs that are a long time coming but worth it.

Such is the case with X-Factor, where David has been hard at work for five years, building an impressive cast, imbuing them with great personalities, weaving a tangled web of interpersonal dynamics, and just having a good time.

He just wrapped a year-long time travel story he’d been building for some time before that, and now we’ve got the incredible eclectic cast of Jamie Madrox, Strong Guy, Siryn, Rictor, Monet, Darwin, Longshot, Shatterstar and Layla Miller going in a bunch of different directions that include diffusing an international incident, trying to locate the missing Invisible Woman, and moping in Ireland.

Honestly, the incredible mix of 80’s, 90’s and today B and C-listers I just rifled off as a team roster should have piqued your curiosity enough, but if you come for that, stay for the wit, the well-spun mysteries, the crazy twists, the heartfelt dysfunctional family, etc.


Joe Y said...

X-Factor was worth reading during the first 2-3 years of this run, but it's been pretty awful since then.

Kello said...

I've been watching Red Robin slowly build into an enjoyable book. A lot of readers hated the pacing of the first arc, and I could see why, but now the wait is paying off. I think taking Drake out of Gotham for so long seemed unnatural to a lot of readers.

And I couldn't agree with you more about Tam Fox. She's a welcome addition to the Bat family.

P.S. I know you've got the "What The?" stuff, but can we expect to see you on the Weekly Watcher again?

Ben Morse said...

That was just a temporary gig while the host was on maternity leave, Kello, so no plans to at the moment to revisit.

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Christina said...

Yes, that is a temperory gig

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