Sunday, April 24, 2011

Five Comics Worth Reading - April 2011

Following Grant Morrison’s initial foray, I thought perhaps some writers might find it a bit challenging to distinguish the Dick Grayson version of Batman from the Bruce Wayne incarnation beyond the slightly tweaked costume, but for the most part I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how it’s gone down. Dick has been played as the extremely competent hero he was as Nightwing, yet with a higher level of confidence to match his new position and distinctive whimsy to perhaps combat it; few places has this new Batman shined as nicely as in the retooled Detective Comics written by Scott Snyder, which has hit on quite a few cylinders for me. Besides nailing a great protagonist in the Grayson Batman, Snyder has also embraced the book’s title with genuinely compelling—and frankly creepy—mysteries that he layers nicely with a mix of forensics and super hero stuff. Snyder’s secret weapon has also been his nuanced use of Commissioner Gordon, either as the back-up or lately star of the story, giving this stalwart a nice stage to play on and enough moral murkiness to remind you he’s no angel, just the best cop in a bad city. Having the distinctive and striking art of Jock and Francesco Francavilla certainly doesn’t hurt this title’s case either.

Since its inception, Incorruptible has been a fun companion piece to Irredeemable, telling a more lighthearted morality tale off to the side of the rampant tragedy and destruction of the parent book—and seriously, I’m not joking when I say the story about the former super criminal with the underage female sidekick named Jailbait is the “softer” side of the Irredeemable Universe. As Irredeemable has moved towards a broader story and resultantly brought some its characters over into Incorruptible, it has only made the latter title stronger. It’s quite interesting to watch what Mark Waid is doing in contrasting the heroes of Paradigm with their egos and neuroses against the simple single-mindedness of Max Damage, reformed villain; Max may have been a jerk and worse in the past, but he operates on a very simple field of “this is how we fix things” with no room for grandstanding or political posturing, whereas the “good guys” overanalyze their every move because they’re so much more concerned about keeping their images intact. The side stuff where Max is falling for his old archenemy’s girl even as she moves to portray him or putting off dealing with the trauma-fueled psychoses of his new sidekick is good stuff as well, but as ever, I just enjoy reading Mark Waid pick apart the mechanics and dynamics of what’s behind super heroes and villains.

Nick Spencer writes comics that I feel like should be too smart for me, but makes sure I get them. With Iron Man 2.0, he’s covering all sorts of political, social and economic issues as he sends War Machine into the government and around the world dealing with conspiracies and WMDs, but even though I’m more or less useless when it comes to any news items not posted on the AOL homepage when I sign in at work every morning, I’m not only getting it, but getting into it, as he’s using these building blocks not to talk down, but to create a world that resonates with stuff really going on and at the same time carves out an interesting corner of the Marvel Universe for his cast to explore. I dig his characterization of James Rhodes—a tougher character to nail down than most people think in my opinion—as a guy committed to his country, more committed to doing the right thing, driven by a sense of duty, but not a total starched shirt as you would imagine years of hanging around Tony Stark would loosen up even the staunchest military man. I like the mix of big explosions with whole issues that are just supporting characters introduced only months ago talking about other characters we’ve never met—and that issue had me riveted! I think Spencer and my buddy editor Alejandro Arbona are dead on with their assessment of War Machine needing to be not just lots of guns, but whatever the next cutting edge way of waging war is; again, it’s a smart book, but not too smart for a dummy like me. And intelligence aside, scenes of Tony and Rhodey talking like kids about their armors as toys are just plain fun.

I suppose this can be filed under “too little too late” with the book coming to an end next month, but I’ve been meaning for awhile to mention how much I enjoy Tony Bedard and Claude St. Aubin’s take on the cosmic DC Universe. They way Bedard manages a large and eclectic cast, shifting the focus every page or two and keeping things fresh, reminds me of how Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen nailed a somewhat similar premise on Legion of Super-Heroes back in the 80’s, and there are few higher compliments I can give. Bedard has once again made Vril Dox the kind of guy whose arrogance and cleverness I look forward to following—if for no other reason than to see how he’ll cheat his way out of the latest situation his mouth got him into—while on the total other end of the spectrum he writes a great smart ass and crazy Lobo while also finding nice spots for Adam Strange, Starfire, Captain Comet and the rest of DC’s displaced space stars. To St. Aubin’s credit, his clean art does a great job of making the many overlapping plots easy to follow and the action pop off the page. I should also note that their take on Starro creeps me out to no end. Pick this one up in trade!

It takes talent to mix nostalgia and continuity service with genuinely intelligent stories as well as character-driven development plus throw in a decent amount of shooting and stabbing in one book; fortunately Rick Remender is talented as well as smart with a knack for enjoying his work, so he is more than adept at serving up delicious comics stew with Uncanny X-Force. I can’t say enough good things about this book, one of my top favorites as I tear through my comics. I love Remender’s long game as he’s both playing off existing mythology when it comes to Apocalypse and also building something entirely new. I’m invested in Psylocke’s quest to save Archangel’s soul—and her own. I’m intrigued by what Fantomex is up to and how he interacts with the rest of the team. The different take Remender has on Deadpool from just about anybody else I’ve ever read is fascinating. All that aside, you’ve got Deathlok versions of the Avengers—not to mention Deathlok himself as a supporting cast member—great old school X-Men villains like the Reavers and The Shadow King coming back, and a return trip to the friggin’ Age of Apocalypse; it truly is a perfect storm and I also really appreciate Remender’s commitment to acknowledging that every single this that has happened in past stories did in fact happen and will be addressed. Did I mention the murderer’s row of artistic talent that includes Jerome Opena, Esad Ribic, Mark Brooks, Rafael Albuquerque and Billy Tan not to mention Dean White? There are few comics out there right now I am a bigger fan of—if there are any.


TJ Dietsch said...

I also really dig Bedard's take on REBELS. I'm hoping to get all the trades once the book is over and re-read/catch up on the ones I've missed since the Starro story, which I thought was pretty epic.

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