Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ugly American # 12: Review Time!

I don’t know if I was just in a mood primed to enjoy comics or what, but this felt like a really strong week.   I’m going to briefly talk about everything I picked on Wednesday, January 23 beginning with:

Young Avengers #1
  • Marvel Comics
  • Writes:  Kieron Gillen
  • Arts:      Jamie McKelvie w/Mike Norton
I don’t know if this is the best book on the stands this week, but Young Avengers is without question the book most worthy of your attention.   Those of you who read my “Best of 2012” and saw Journey Into Mystery at the #1 position will understand that I’ve been anticipating this book a great deal.  Those of you that enjoyed Phonogram will surely be geared up for Gillen and McKelvie collaborating again, and of course those cult Young Avengers fans will be salivating as well.  The book had a lot to live up to, is my point, and Young Avengers exceeds all expectations by doing something almost unheard of these days…defying said expectations.

How to encapsulate what’s going on here?   The team will mostly sound familiar to Young Avengers veterans:  Kate Bishop, Hulkling, Wiccan, Noh-Varr, Miss America Chavez, (whom I only know from Joe Casey’s “Vengeance”) and Kid Loki.  This is not that Alan Heinberg and Jimmy Cheung book, though.  And it certainly isn’t pumping out a vibe like JIM.  

If that’s what it isn’t, what is it, then?  The problem is that I don’t know, exactly, and that’s what has me delighted.  This is Kieron Gillen feeling his oats a bit, getting comfortable with his artist and editorial…and then flexing.  Big time, all out, “Hey, check out these guns!” FLEXING.  

The title of this issue is “Young Avengers:  Style > Substance”, and it could not be more aptly named.  I don’t know quite what he’s doing yet, but this shit is bananas, and that is so very welcome in this graying mainstream landscape.   My complaints about DCs New 52 are well documented – where is the new, folks?  It’s here.  

Young avengers is hyper-emotional, unabashedly sexual, and unapologetically soap operatical.  I think the operating words are “urgent”, and “vibrant”.   Everything in this comic pops, loud and bright.  There is a two page splash featuring Kate Bishop toward the front of the book that knocked me square on my sexy, euphemistical ass.  I won’t ruin it for you – you’ll know it when you see it, trust me.  I haven’t seen bravado like that since Steranko.   More, please.

And maybe it doesn’t work for you.  Young Avengers is so far on the edge of comic book quantum physics that if it wobbles at all, it stands a good chance of failing magnificently.  Again….I LOVE THAT!  

DC:  take notes, please.  This is what you should have done with at least 25% of your rebooted line –  you should have found good creators and turned them loose like maniacs into the night.  Comic readers:  take notes, please.  No, this comic doesn’t have Batman or Spider-Man in it.  Get over it.  Buy this book.  Do it now.

Bedlam #3 – Image Comics
More so than even Morning Glories, this one will need to pay off plot wise at some point in order to avoid feeling cheated.  Having said that, Fillmore Press/Madder Red is easily one of the five most intriguing characters in comics.   Even when he isn’t precisely “doing” anything, that guy is such a singular weirdo I find myself captivated.  

If you’re a fan of the mysteries of Nick Spencer, obviously welcome aboard.  If you find yourself settling into TruTV or the ID network when you’re channel surfing, this is for you.  If you’re a big fan of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic….ahh….I wouldn’t come over here.   Shit gets real hairy in Bedlam.

I was at the comic shop today, and a dude came into the store with his daughter, and she stormed in with great excitement looking for that My Little Pony comic.  There’s no way this girl was even old enough to go to kindergarten.  The shop had ordered a stack of the 4th print for issue # 1 and was able to help the little girl out, and she promptly informed dad that he would be reading it to her that evening.  

That was nice.

Minutemen #6 – DC Comics
While I was in Halifax, one Mr. Darwyn Cooke informed me that this issue would be a face-melter.  Well…mission accomplished, I would say.

I will not betray the twist that drives the story, because you should also have the experience of being a Nazi at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  One of Cooke’s mantras is a lamentation about our loss of innocence.  We don’t believe in heroes any more.  Principles seem like a hokey and irrelevant relic that we don’t need any more.  This comic is a powerful demonstration of why we need those principles and heroes.  It’s not stuffy or didactic….you’ll feel the lesson in your bones.  Well played, sir.

Oh, and it also deepened and re-defined a couple of really important elements of the Watchmen mythos in the process.  I don’t know.  Whatever horror people were feeling about all this, I don’t know who could object the Minutemen series if they actually read it.

Harbinger #8 – Valiant Comics
Is it too late to change my favorite Valiant book to Harbinger?  Man, I’m loving this series right now!  Faith is basically still Faith.  (maybe turned up to 11) Everybody else is more interesting than they were in the first iteration.  Flamingo is sexier and less of a prop.  We’re still in the process of sorting out if Pete is getting better or still a douchey sociopath.   He pulls a Jesse Custer move on a redneck in this issue that will make you laugh out loud, though.

The intro in this issue is Torque, and Dysart simultaneously made the character more vulnerable and more dangerous.  It’s got a healthy dose of Malibu’s Prime or Captain Marvel to it, but like everybody else in the Valiant universe, he’s a little bit damaged goods, so there’s added tension and complexity.

All the Valiant titles are wicked smart.  If that’s your thing and you’re not reading these….I feel sorry for you that you’re missing out.

X-O Manowar #9 – Valiant Comics
Things are getting potentially more interesting, but I’m starting to sweat this just a bit.  There’s a really nice rivalry brewing between Aric and Admiral Xylem, and I’m now on board with the “B” plot between the military and religious factions of The Vine.

Fascinating stuff about how the relationship between Aric  and Shanhara is growing, and things are moving along.  It’s the “Planet Death” stuff that has me concerned, though.  I know that this is about the time that VH1 Valiant popped off “Unity”, and its tradition and all that.  I know that the Valiant books are suffering attrition like everyone else and they’re looking for that juicy sales boost.

I’m just not sure that a “Planet Death” is what we need.  Maybe this is just a case of putting a banner on the “what happens next” brand of storytelling that I favor.  Everything else from Valiant has been executed with such sophistication I should probably just relax. 

But this is where I go to avoid all those Imperial continuity entanglements and corporate hijinx.  Now we got events and crossovers and a zero issue month coming in May.  Please, Valiant, don’t mess with what has been a very, very good thing.

Huh.  This is running long, so the last reviews will be short and sweet.

Revival #6 – Image Comics
This is the fines work I’ve seen from Tim Seeley, Mike Norton, or cover artist Jenny Frisson.  There’s a panel in this issue, not a word on it, just a look from a virtually catatonic geriatric.  The thing is, you never know what’s actually behind that when you’re dealing with a Reviver.  He still shouldn’t be able to evince a sense of menace like that.  It’s a show-stopper, and that’s a credit to Norton’s art and the atmosphere that Seeley has deftly crafted.  

You want a nitpick?  I don’t really like Dana.  If she’s going to be the star, I want her to show me something, and soon.  But that’s not a deal-breaker.  The happenings are intense, the character bits are tasty, and this should be a television series.  Oh wait, ABC already stole it.

Nightwing #16 – DC Comics
The entire family of Bat Writers is apparently having a contest to see who can produce the script most deserving of a psych evaluation for the author.  I don’t know who’s winning, frankly.  Snyder’s Joker is the most chilling, but what Simone is doing over on Batgirl is JACKED UP, and this issue of Nightwing is completely out of control as well.  Which for me is terrific.  I like Crossed, kay?  I eat this “dig up a whole circus full of dead people” like peanut butter cups.

And you know what?  Us jaded comic book folks like to pretend we’ve seen it all and none of this is fresh or exciting, but face it…do you know what’s under that dinner dome?  No, you don’t.  Nah- zip it.  You don’t know.  I’m dying to find out next month.  So there.  It aint gonna be duck a l’orange, I know that. 

Death of the Family.  It’s going to be THE Joker story for a new generation, mark my words.  Nasty, nasty stuff.   PS:  Eddie Barrows is really good.

Hellblazer #299
Yeah, you knew John wasn’t going down quite that easy, didn’t you?  Piffy got some ‘splaining to do, huh?  Love it.  Thank you, Mr. Peter Milligan for allowing Hellblazer to go out in a suitably Constantine fashion.  I look forward to coming to near-robot-tears in the finale.

Like I said, it was a good strong week.  What did you find enjoyable?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Ugly American Report Column 11

Column 11: Superior Spider-Rape?

By now I’m sure you’re all fully aware that at the end of Amazing Spider-Man # 700…...wait, you’re aware of what happens, right? If not, stop reading immediately, because I can’t write this column without delving into massive spoilers.

OK, sorry about that. So as you’re now fully aware, Doctor Octopus swapped out of his terminal, cancer-ridden body and into Peter Parker, with full access to Peter’s memories. Peter got yanked from his body and into the dying Octavius. Needless to say this did not sit well with Mr. Parker, who tried a last ditch gambit to swap out again, but was only able to transmit his “great power, great responsibility” schtick into Doc Ock’s body, because his head was shielded by carbonadium, of course. These things do happen.