Monday, February 18, 2008

Reviews: Curse you, Joe Quesada!

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #550: This comic is fun. Oh, Joey Q. is laughing his butt off now, isn't he? 'Coz Amazing Spider-Man has actually turned entertaining, action-packed, and jus' plain fun. (Then again, anything in comparison to "One More Day" would seem fun. A viewing of The Sorrow and the Pity would be a gay romp in the park after "One More Day.") I'm not nuts about Salvador Larroca's slightly-murky, photo-realistic art, and the Jackpot subplot seems unrealistic: there's no way Pete wouldn't recognize MJ is it were here, so despite the anagram-soundin' "Sara Ehret" name, I'm bettin' there's more to the Jackpot mystery than it seems on the surface, tiger. That said, the action is solid, the soap opera compelling, and Spidey is snappier than he has been in several years. Curse you, Quesada! Curse you!

TINY TITANS #1: This comic is sorta fun. I was looking forward to the first of the new batch of DC's comics oriented for kids, and the artwork is charming and innovative: there ain't nothin' cuter than a pint-sized Beast Boy. But I'm not really certain, on reading it, just who this comic is supposed to be for. It's a series of light short comedy stories starring child versions of the Teen Titans. I expected, and hoped, for slightly more involved light comedy adventure stories: the Tiny Titans stopping neighborhood crimes and getting into the sort of adventures Little Lulu or the Little Rascals would. As much of the comedy seems geared for those who know the Titans already (you only giggle if you know that Trigon is Raven's father, f'r instance), it's a very young approach using characters and situations that you'd have to be familiar with the Teen Titans cartoon series to understand. It's utterly cute and charming, and p'raps the only quibble I have with it is that it's a little too young for me. (Even the Superfriends preview seems skewed extremely young.) Try it out on a young kid and I bet you they'll upgrade it to full-fledged fun.

FANTASTIC FOUR #554: This comic is sorta fun. I'm always interested in a good FF first issue: those by Byrne, Simonson, and Waid have signaled the start of solid and entertaining runs that I've loved. So I approach the first ish by Millar, Hitch, and Neary with a good deal of excitement but also a little nervousness: I'm not a big fan of their work on Ultimates in specific or that brand of attempting photo-realistic art in general. But this is a solid start with an intriguing premise and some apt character bits: the final page splash of an Earth and moon under construction had a lovely Slartibartfast at Magrathea vibe to it, the opening time escape from the Old West is frantic and funny (ignore the fact that the Indians seem to be firing not only bullets at the FF but also cartridges), and Reed Richard's lecture to schoolkids about the global economics of paying for an anti-Galactus suit are both laugh-out-loud funny and so absolutely Reed. And it does feature The Best Line of the Week: "Oh God, I've just little brother's Paris Hilton." So why doesn't this tickle the full Bully fancy? Well, there's a few minor and one major thing problems which knock this new run down a notch. Ben's suggestive come-on to a teacher seemed so risqué I was wondering if Millar had misdialogued the Human Torch instead—and anyway, aren't the Thing and Alicia back together again? (Hmmm, maybe Ben's a Skrull!) I was bothered rather than amused by Reed producing Doombot robots to help around the Baxter Building—come on Reed, this is a deadly villain who has endangered your family multiple times, and more to the point, has terrorized you children. What's next, Annihilus jammies for Franklin? (Hmmm, maybe Reed's a Skrull.) But most of all, with the exception of the opening scene, there's really no action in this issue. The storyline is obviously being written for the trade, but to have a FF issue without an action scene seems muted and dull to me. Don't get me wrong—there's enough in here to be excited and delighted by, and I'm certainly going t5o hang around for the first four-issue opening arc. But Millar is going to have to impress me a lot more in #555-557 to get to pick up the full run.

BLACK PANTHER #34: This comic is fun. I don't normally pick up Black Panther. (I'm still a little miffed I never got a thank-you note from Ororo and T'Challa for the toaster I sent them for their wedding!) This ish, however, caught my interest immediately with its lovely and funky cover of a Pam Grier-inspired Storm. Warning: this scene does not actually appear in the cover, and at its heart it's a pin-up, but it was beautiful and intriguing enough to get me to pick up the issue. Didja hear that, Joey Q.? Comics with intriguing covers that hint at the contents get readers to pick up the issue. (Here's the cover, enlarged.) The story picks up at the end of an extended storyline, but the recap page 1 is brief but detailed enough to get me up to speed immediately: the FF (pre-return of Reed and Sue) are trapped on the Skrull gangster world. Man, I love the gangster Skrulls...anybody remember Floyd Donahue, the Skrull who looked like Bogart? Hudlin goes even better in this with Skrulls who look like Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, working together to overthrow the oppressive hierarchy of their world. As opposed to the true FF issue appearing this month, there's a good deal of action and battle. I kinda quibble at the bloodlust shown by everyone in this issue: the Black Panther using deadly force isn't surprising, but to have both Storm and the Thing roar that they are going to burn the planet to the ground is a little startling. Never mind. I loves me some Skrull action, and you know, if you were looking for a continuity point where Ben Grimm was replaced by a Skrull, you could do worse than to point to this issue...hint, hint.

BOOSTER GOLD #0: This comic is fun. Waaaay back in 1994, DC produced a massive cross-over series entitled "Zero Hour." Every DC Universe comic tied into it, and when the universe was reset at the end of it, we were treated to a "#0" issue of every comic to flash back and fill in the characters' new origins. Some great stuff came out of these zero issues: the revamped and at last continuity-settled Legion of Super-Heroes, the sublime Starman—and now we can add, fourteen freakin' years later, the cleverly numbered Booster Gold #0 tie-in to Zero Hour. Booster and Beetle zip through time to the events of Zero Hour, providing as tidy and neat a tie-in as can be (even Parallax and Extant are along for the ride), but then we revisit Booster's origin in 2462 Metropolis. Booster Gold is shaping up to be much more than merely "Quantum Leap for the DC Universe"—it's clearly not merely a tour of events past and future but also a heckuva funride. I'm sure hoping for a red-skies Crisis crossover somewhere on the horizon for the Blue and the Gold!

FANTASTIC FOUR: THE LOST ADVENTURE: This comic is fun. 1970's Fantastic Four #103 was supposed to be the final issue worked on by Lee and Kirby as a team, but it never quite came together. Marvel substituted another issue and then Stan cut up and redialogued Jack's original artwork for a quite different story printed in FF #108. Many commenters have remarked that the great Lee/Kirby run on Fantastic Four ended with a whimper rather than a bang—in fact, the fun faux-Kirby maxiseries Fantastic Four: The World's Greatest Comic Magazine was a 12-issue modern attempt to fill in what might have been the final Lee/Kirby saga with a big, bombastic story that involved the entire cast of the Marvel Universe). The Lost Adventure takes a different approach by reprinting Jack Kirby's original pencils for #103, with an essay and annotations by John Morrow of The Jack Kirby Collector. The original story is then reconstructed using as many penciled pages as could be found, plus new Kirby-esque art by Ron Frenz, to approximate what Lee and Kirby intended for #103, a very human tale of twin brothers, one evil and one good, and how a quest for power brings them into conflict (including a boisterous fight sequence) with the FF. Just for good measure, the complete issue #108 is reprinted so we can see how Jack's pencils were chopped up and repurposed. It's an amazingly detailed and effective look behind the scenes of how Stan 'n' Jack worked, and the reconstructed story is not only fun but also serves to close the curtain on their long run with a quiet but utterly typical FF story. I might make a few quibbles about some of the modern references in the reconstructed story (DSL lines, digital cameras, Doonesbury), but that's all very minor stuff. Fantastic Four: The Lost Adventure gives you not only the last great Lee/Kirby saga, it also provides a dynamite look into how stories are made and remade. And the Kirby pencil art alone is worth the price or admission. That's why FANTASTIC FOUR: THE LOST ADVENTURE is the most fun comic of the week.


The Mutt said...

A star here.
A rat's here.
Earth Ares.

Bill S. said...

Theresa Ra?
Rather Sea.
Ether Rasa.

Brian Doan said...

Cool post! I always love your reviews, as they give me good tips about what to grab on Wednesdays. And thanks for writing about the FF: Lost Adventure-- I picked it up, too, but hadn't seen it blogged about in other places (which is not to say it wasn't, just that I hadn't seen posts), so I really liked your take on it.

I think I have to convince my excellent comics shop to carry booster gold, after your two write-ups about it.