Friday, January 19, 2007

Reviews: Marvel-Oriented Delight Outlined in Comics

Simpsons #126SIMPSONS COMICS #126: This comic is fun. After a handful of entertaining but not-exceptional issues, Simpsons Comics returns to tip-top form with an anthology of three tales of Arabian high adventure and genie jokes. Similar to the once-a-season tall tales segments on the animated show, the regular cast reinvents Aladdin, Ali Baba, and Sinbad with typical Simpson silliness and attitude. It's pretty gentle parody by Simpsons standards, but there's still a clever irreverence to it all and a nifty crossover element where the stories come together in the end. Plus, the return of Maude Flanders! (Be care-diddley-dareful what you wish for, Ned!)

X-Men: First Class #5X-MEN: FIRST CLASS #5: This comic is fun...sorta. These new tales of the old X-Men are nicely done-in-one adventures, although this issue shows the relative sameness of the series to date. Even a guest appearance by Thor doesn't do much to spice up the fairly standard adventure—it takes far too long for Don Blake (remember when he hung around the Marvel Universe) to strike that walking stick on the floor and transform into his brawnier counterpart. There's some gentle light humor and a nice starring role for Iceman, but this issue seems to be the weakest so far of the series. (And those generic painted covers always make me think I've already picked up an issue, so I keep missing this series when it comes out.)

FF #542FANTASTIC FOUR #542: This comic is fun...sorta. Well, that's a step in the right direction: at least some acknowledgement and explanation that Reed is acting the way he is during Civil War for something he believes in. I still don't buy it entirely, but that might just be fanbull entitlement: to me, Reed has always been the epitome of "the third alternative": given the choice between two disastrous and deadly outcomes, Reed has always been the go-to man to find the third, hitherto-unseen third alternative. FF #542 explains Reed's taking the least evil of many paths, but it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth: he's in this corner because he's been written into it, and while that storyline is absolutely valid, it's still not really a Mister Fantastic I wanna "read" about. Some nice touches bring the level up, tho': a wonderfully frank and lightly funny conversation between Johnny and Reed in a Park Slope coffee shop, an intriguing alternative portrayal of the Mad Thinker, and the arrival of Dwayne McDuffie on this book are all things to cheer—as is the "To be Concluded" tag at the end of the story. Plus, any book that features The Best Line of the Week: "Il est temps de fouter!" can't be all bad. (Mister Grimm, you keep using that word. I do not think you know what it means.)

Detective ChimpTHE HELMET OF FATE: DETECTIVE CHIMP: This comic is fun. I haven't been following or even specifically interested in Shadowpact, but I do love talking animals, so how could I pass up a one-shot featuring DC's simian sleuth, especially written by Bill Willingham and drawn by Shawn McManus? This book is a light but not insubstantial story of Dr. Fate's helmet beginning its quest for a new head. That's not the attraction—even if you don't follow internet gossip you know DC's not gonna leave the helmet on a monkey's head. At its heart it's more a celebration of merely one element of the wackiness that makes the DC Universe unique and different and utterly loveable: a chimp that's a better detective than Batman ("Batman's only the world's greatest human detective"). McManus's artwork is suitably apt whether he's drawing a human or primate character, and the whole thing's done with such a light touch you scarcely worry that the fate of the magical world is at stake. Like many DC books this week it's interrupted by a dumb-ass Nintendo Wii advertisement in the form of a comic strip that, if you're not expecting it, totally breaks the mood of the story, but I won't hold that against it. I'm suspicious of monkeys in general, but put some interesting headgear on one—whether that's a Sherlock Holmes deerstalker or a golden magical helmet—and I'm so there.

52 Week 3752 WEEK 37: This comic is fun. One of 52's leading mysteries is solved right up front, and even though it invalidates my heartfelt little bit of creative writing eulogizing a dead character I'm still pumping my hoof up and declaring "Yes!" at such a great re-entrance and bit of comic book drama. Plus, those of you complaining the book's main surprise was blown on the cover? I call that a savvy redirection, 'coz I certainly didn't see the second surprise on the last couple pages coming, featuring the return of a couple characters I remember from Grant Morrison's Animal Man but which I have to re-read in order to remind me what's their role in reshaping reality. There's a lot going on now as 52 begins to pick up speed again heading into its final quarter, but keep on blasting nifty concepts at me like this issue and I'm there until the very last.

Spirit #2THE SPIRIT #2: This comic is fun. It placed exceptionally high on my Fun Fifty of 2006 on the basis of its single first issue, and #2 is a sure sign that it's got a really good shot of making 2007's list as well. Old-time Spirit fans might get a touch more out of this issue with its return of perennial Spirit antagonist and all-out dangerous lady P'Gell, but you don't have to know word one about Denny Colt's history to fully enjoy the solid story, crackling dialogue and gorgeous, dynamic artwork that Darwyn Cook and J. Bone are bringing to Eisner's classic character. The only crime? That more people aren't picking up this, the best adventure comic to come along in quite some time. This is by far the best book of the week, and to split the distinction, it's a book that coulda and easily woulda been the most fun book of the week, in a week that didn't include...

Marvel Advs. Avengers #9MARVEL ADVENTURES: AVENGERS #9: This comic is fun. Extremely general theory about the comparative appeals of the DC and Marvel Universe: The DC Universe is loved for (among other reasons) its weird and freaky assortment of heroes: Detective Chimp, Metamorpho, Space Cabby, Krypto, Kilowog, The Metal Men. The Marvel Universe is loved for (among other reasons) its weird and freaky assortment of villains: Arnim Zola, Dormammu, The Leader, Doctor Octopus, Mister Fish, The Headmen, and even Doctor Doom. With the possible exception of Batman, no DC hero has a rogues gallery as colorful and bizarre as those that skulk in the darkest corners of the MU. How else can you explain the love and obsession we Marvel fans have for the big head in a chair known as M.O.D.O.K.? (Mental Organism Designed Only for Kittens Killing) He's renamed M.O.D.O.C. (substitute the word "conquest") for this kid-friendly but fanbull-approved story, but he's still one of the biggest hoots of fandom as he stars in this why-has-nobody-ever-thought-of-it-before story where all the Avengers are transformed into M.O.D.O.C.s? What might have been just a silly story is genuinely funny in the hands of Jeff Parker's able script, in which M.O.D.O.C.'d Cap, Spidey and company begin to take over the world in their own big-headed way, thwarted in the end by nothing more than good ol' fashioned human frailties and Karl, the hilariously ineffectual A.I.M. employee. It's a great tale with a fantastic cover and I don't wanna hear anybody scoffing that it takes place in a kid's-version, non-continuity comic: if this story took place in the regular Marvel Universe you would proclaim it as one of the greatest tales in the Avengers canon, ever. That's why MARVEL ADVENTURES: AVENGERS #9 is the most fun comic of the week!


CalvinPitt said...

The returning characters in 52, do you mean those guys that popped up in front of Buddy?

I figured those were more of those Dominator fellows (since they seem to be everywhere these days, like DC's version of HYDRA), but it sounds like I was mistaken.

Bully said...

No. They are the aliens that supposedly originally gave Buddy his powers, although Morrison retconned them in his Animal Man series into being something much more important and somehow connected to the nature of fiction and reality...although I can't remember quite how. It's been years since I read the Animal Man series and I don't have it on-hand to double-check. Anyone got it handy?

SallyP said...

There were some fun comics this week! 'Bout time! I'm so happy about Buster and Buddy that I could squee.

And the bit with the Thing and the french retranslation was really a hoot.