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Nov 24

Last Week in Comics

Posted on Tuesday, November 24, 2009 by Al in reviews

After many misadventures with trying to get hold of this past week’s comics (the problem, in the very unlikely circumstance that it is interesting to you, was that I had ordered the War of Kings hardback, and as it is the size of a modest paving slab it meant that my books had to be couriered to me and there was nobody there to get them because they were couriered to my flat while I was at work and… oy. Anyway.) they have finally turned up, and can be reviewed. Pleasingly, there is only one common point between my books of this week and Paul’s, so these reviews may be worthwhile reading should the mood take you. So! Let’s at it!

PHONOGRAM: THE SINGLES CLUB 5: Hmm. A comic with a colon in the title, when my reviews already have the format of being headed up with the title followed by a colon, thus making the whole review look like an unwieldy subtitle to the book. Could be worse, could be the Spider-Man thing I’ve reviewed below. This is the crossover point between my reading list and Paul’s, so see his review for plot details and so on. I think by now I could probably put together a macro template for reviewing Phonogram Madlibs style. It would involve praising Gillen’s technique in weaving the protagonists’ stories together, and mention how there are no bit players in The Singles Club (or perhaps that everyone is a bit player to each of the leads in turn). It would highlight the numerous clever variations on relating to music that allow for different varieties of phonomancy, and how each is appropriate to the spotlight character. It would then say that McKelvie’s art is spot on at portraying mood, and how he’s probably the best body language artist in comics (and is giving Kevin Maguire a run for his money in terms of facial expressions). So plug this issue’s specifics into the above and voilĂ ! Instant review. My only issue is that going by the backmatter Gillen seems to regard Laura Heaven as the closest thing in the series to someone who could be regarded as a villain, and I come down very much on the other side of that fence – if Laura’s a villain, then everyone who’s ever done anything out of a momentary desire for control, no matter how small or petty, is a villain. I shall be writing a stern missive to your publication, Mr Gillen.

DARK REIGN: THE LIST: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: Serious colon overload. Anyway. The List one-shots have supposedly been the first step along the path to Norman Osborn’s fall from grace, and there seems to have been an unfortunate tendency among fans online to discount their importance. I think the main problem is that these issues are definitely important to the individual characters’ books – Clint Barton is captured, Frank Castle is dismembered, Bruce Banner is re-exposed to gamma radiation etc – but there doesn’t seem to be much of a through-line between the issues beyond the lip service paid to the concept of the list itself. As a result, the various List one-shots have just served to take milestone developments out of the eyeline of readers who only buy the relevant characters’ regular titles, thus neatly managing to glean the worst possible result – people who don’t read, say, Punisher will skip it because there’s no continuing story between the List books, and people who just read Punisher may decide to skip what may well be something that’s linked to Dark Reign rather than to their favourite character (because, to be honest, how likely is it that major Dark Reign developments are going to happen in the pages of Punisher at this point?).

Anyway. That aside, this is actually a pretty good issue of Amazing Spider-Man, if one chooses to view it as such. Osborn has his first major PR disaster that he can’t hand-wave away with the aid of a good spin doctor, and it’s caused by Peter Parker. I’m sure Spidey will play a significant role in Siege, and can I just reiterate at this point that if he doesn’t it’ll be a scandal, but even if he doesn’t then this issue can be looked at as a significant milestone in the ongoing Dark Reign saga. Dan Slott, a man for whom I have a lot of time, gives us a pretty great Spider-Man in this issue, using both his acrobatic skills and his brainbox to hand Osborn a decisive defeat. Adam Kubert’s work is typically dynamic, with some nifty Neal Adams-style panel layouts and some first-rate character work (the first double-page spread shows definite influences of some of his most talented peers, from Leinil Yu to Tim Sale and Patrick Zircher). Pretty good stuff, although I question the wisdom of reprinting the issue of the Pulse in which Luke Cage scores from Spidey’s assist, to borrow some football terminology, as it just serves to undercut Peter’s victory in the main feature.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 612: The Gauntlet finally kicks off, and it’s somewhat different from what I was expecting. Rather than just gather up all the classic Spider-foes and toss them at Spidey like one of those pitching machines you get in batting cages, it looks like Ma Kraven (a Boney M song waiting to happen) and her leather-bound kid are taking a more subtle approach. The sad-sack version of Electro that Spider-Man finds himself up against in this issue is the most interesting that particular villain’s been in years, and writer Mark Waid gives us sufficient insights into the antagonist’s head to have us empathising without actually sympathising with him. Artist Paul Azateca makes his ASM debut, and he’s very much in the mould of a Sean Philips or an Eduardo Risso, which in case anyone’s wondering is a good thing indeed. Increasingly over-reaching attempts to re-explain Peter and Michelle’s one night stand aside, this is definitely a promising start for The Gauntlet, going off as it does in a bunch of directions I hadn’t anticipated (although Waid is going to have to be careful that his thinly-veiled Tea Partiers don’t become straw man targets). There’s a very good backup strip by Joe Kelly and JM Ken Niimura that looks like it would be more at home in a Popgun anthology than an issue of Amazing, but that’s a very welcome thing, and it sets up Black Cat’s new status quo quite neatly and positions her to be a major supporting cast member in the short term. In all, a huge step up from the Ben Reilly issues.

THE AUTHORITY: THE LOST YEAR 3: More colons. This would likely have made it onto the podcast in place of Victorian Undead if the books had arrived with me before Saturday morning, but c’est la vie. This is the first issue of Keith Giffen and Darick Robertson’s takeover of Grant Morrison and Gene Ha’s abortive run (which was, to be fair, 100% longer than Morrison and Lee’s WildC.A.T.S.), featuring the Authority turning up on our own Earth and discovering that there’s something decidedly odd and possibly catastrophically out of kilter about it. It’s actually a pretty decent book in its own right, and Giffen establishes his own voice on the book from the very beginning with an action sequence that would have been very out of place in Morrison’s vision. Nicely paced and with some intriguing ideas, this is the best Authority story I’ve read in a good while. Two major complaints, though – firstly, Darick Robertson is a great artist, so it’s a mystery why he’s been paired with inker Trevor Scott, who seems determined to obfuscate every line Robertson has drawn with some scritchy loose inks; and secondly it’s probably just a horrible coincidence but for one of the original architects of the Annihilation series to unveil this book in the same week that DnA do their Realm of Kings one-shot, both books featuring essentially the same villain, is terribly bad timing.

REALM OF KINGS: Speaking of. This is essentially a Quasar one-shot, with Wendell Vaughn finding out what lurks at the far end of the Fault, but we also get some decent moments for the Guardians of the Galaxy and a spit and cough cameo from Nova. Leonardo Manco and Mahmud Asrar do a decent job on the art, although they’re not sufficiently different in style to necessarily justify their splitting the issue. The story works well at properly establishing the central evil at the core of the Realm of Kings stories, but the unfortunate result is that the various non-GotG books get somewhat of a short shrift when it comes to setting up their stories to come (the Inhumans and Imperial Guard have to make do with tiny semi-previews at the back of the book). Looked at as a Quasar book, though, this will satisfy any cravings you may have on that score (and some people do have them, apparently).

DR. HORRIBLE: Okay, let’s put this as simply as possible. If you are a fan of Dr. Horrible, I recommend this book to you, as it has some great character likenesses from Joelle Jones and a fittingly silly plot and script from Zack Whedon that is completely in keeping with the original web series. If you are not a fan of Dr. Horrible, there is nothing in this book that will enrich your life to the value of $3.50. It’s really that straightforward.

TRANSFORMERS 1: I kind of lost track of the Transformers a while back. I was reading the various IDW series, but I didn’t know if I had to read Stormbringer or not, and then they started putting out the Spotlight one-shots which I thought were skippable, but then it turned out that the story had snuck in there so I was massively behind, then they skipped forward a year and destroyed the world in All Hail Megatron and now it turns out there are 14 trade paperbacks just of the IDW stuff and AARGH AARGH AARGH. Sorry. Anyway. This series skips forward again by another two years, and gives us a pretty neat setup that we haven’t seen to any great extent since, I think, In The National Interest, of all things, with the Autobots’ main enemy now being the humans they’re trying to protect. There are plenty of pleasing G1 cameos here, including a character death that’s very well executed (as it were), but there’s one glaring problem with it – what’s the deal with all the Bay-influenced character redesigns? Hot Rod and Bumblebee in particular have been revamped for the worse, with those awful goatee-esque pointy chins that the Noisy Movie introduced. If you can ignore that, and don’t mind that Prime’s course of action at the end of this issue seems more to do with martyring himself than actually helping the Autobots at all, then this is an issue that should prove pleasing to TF fans who were a little bored of an over-reliance on squishy human characters.

So that was my week. What did you read?

Bring on the comments

  1. Zach Adams says:

    Boy, you seem to have a bad case of colon cancer there.


    Re: Transformers, I think most of the redesigns are supposed to be based on the “TF Classics/TF Universe” series of figures that came out in 2006 and 2008/9. At least, that’s what I was told (I haven’t bought the comic since the end of Escalation).

    Personally, I enjoyed Mighty Avengers decently enough. It’s a pretty forgettable book that has managed to be my favorite in the franchise simply because (a) it’s not glacial like New Avengers has been and (b) it has the most characters I actually want to see.

  2. Chris McFeely says:

    It was “All Hail Megatron” that redesigned the Transformers based on the Universe/Classics figures. Artist Don Figueroa has redesigned them *again* for this series (it’s like a friggin’ obsessive compulsion) in a rather movie-esque style that wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for those godawful faces sheeah look at them with their teeth and such argh. Irritatingly, he’s gone on record saying this isn’t any kind of mandate – he’s just trying a different style, which you can’t really blame him for, as he’s been drawing Transformers the same way for the better part of a decade now. He “retired” from them about two years back, proceeded to go to do absolutely nothing other than a Terminator mini, and is now back. There’s a supreme irony in the fact he premiered the style in a short story in an earlier issue which was about Ironhide being stuck doing the same thing over and over.

  3. I suspect probably should have inverted-commaed up the Villain.

  4. A.J. says:

    As a Transformers fan, it’s hard to be affected by the death of a character who was killed before nearly 25 years ago in Transformers: The Movie. I saw the preview pages and went “Really . . ? That’s your hook?” I’ve long accepted that the character should be dead, so it’s a whole lot of “meh” from me.

    Dreamwave/IDW’s approach of ignoring the G1 TV continuity (which was necessary since they didn’t have the rights to those stories, admittedly, although it seems like they doen’t have the same problem with Beast Wars or other spinoffs) is what keeps me from reading the series.

  5. ZZZ says:

    I liked Dr. Horrible, but it seems like kind of a continutiy mine field to have it take place prior to the Singalong Blog. For example, you can’t really have Penny as a major character without making her more familiar with Dr. Horrible and Captain Hammer than she’s supposed to be at the start of the Blog.

    About the Amazing Spider-Man backup story: It seems, at the end, like he doesn’t recognize the Black Cat without her mask on (he DOES recognize her, but by voice and smell). Maybe she’s supposed to be wearing identity-obscuring makeup, or Peter forgot her ID when Brand New Day made her forget his, but it would have been nice for the writing to clarify that. Especially since he doesn’t refer to her as Felicia once during the story (unless I missed it) making it feel uncomfortably like Joe Kelly didn’t realize the Black Cat already had a civillian identity.

  6. Zach Adams says:

    A.J.: I don’t think it’s possible to set a grownup-targeted comic in the TV version of the G1 continuity, if for no other reason than there isn’t any. The kid-friendly, ultra-episodic nature of the show meant that you got 65 episodes of nothing happening, followed by the movie that killed half the characters whose toys were going out of print, then 30 or so new episodes with a little more happening than the old ones, but not much. To say nothing of the massively self-contradictory stories–were the Constructicons built on Earth or were they Autobots brainwashed by Megatron? Can new life (i.e. the Constructicons and Dinobots) be created by talented engineers, or is a computer at the core of Cybertron the sole source of new Sparks?

    Don’t get me wrong, I have fond memories of the cartoon even though, objectively, it doesn’t hold up. But I think that creating their own timeline is the only way to go even if they aren’t forced to by licensing.

  7. Al says:

    Even though I love Transformers, I was never a big fan of the show. For me it was all about the comics, particularly the Simon Furman stuff, so if a TF book’s going to take pointers from another incarnation of the franchise I’d prefer it to be that one. Not that this one does. But anyway.

  8. A.J. says:

    Zach: Beast Wars and Beast Machines had no problem being in continuity with the original series. And for for every “We’ll write whatever the hell we want this week” backstory niggle in the original series, there were also clear efforts to follow what was established in previous episodes (particularly in season three, when the writer kind of twigged to the idea that maybe they should keep things consistent). Anyways, whether or not the continuity of the original series can built upon is not the issue. The issue is I’m a fan of the TV series and it’s the story I’m familiar with and care about. As the comics don’t follow it, then I don’t give a damn.

    And seriously, if the death of the character in the new issue shocks someone, I wonder what their reaction to the horde of deaths in Transformers: The Movie will be like.

  9. The original Matt says:

    “As a result, the various List one-shots have just served to take milestone developments out of the eyeline of readers who only buy the relevant characters’ regular titles, thus neatly managing to glean the worst possible result”

    It also doesn’t help that the various The List – Character X oneshots don’t happen in any sort of timeline relevnace to their parent books. (Or maybe just the books that I follow aren’t)

    *New Avengers still hasn’t caught up.
    *X-men was just crap and pointless.
    *Secret Warriors regular issue that came out after The List clarified the The List oneshot would happen after that particular issue (or storyarc, can’t quite remember).
    *Wolverine Weapon X hasn’t had anything to do with it’s The List oneshot, but in anycase it may become relevant towards the end or after the current arc, meaning that it’s still horribly out of place release wise.

    Add to that, only Spiderman’s issue had any bearing (potentially) on Dark Reign as a whole, these issues really were fluff. Punisher, Hulk, Avengers and Daredevil may or may not end up being important to their own respective series (TL:Punisher could be swept under the rug by use of LMD, for example), I’d have to declare the entire The List “event” as FAIL.

    As a side note, the ending of The List: Punisher did get me really curious to see where they would go from there, as any route they take obviously has to be reversable (thanks to franchise serialisation), but not enough for me to start buying The Punisher’s regular comic. If anyone wants to report on whats going on over there after Castle’s dismemberment, it’d be greatly appreciated.

    A question for Paul & Al before I go: Do you guys review every book that you bought that week or just the books you have something to say about?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Ha ha ha. I had the exact same experience with IDW Transformers, being completely lost when Spotlight issues started having big-scope plot affecting the main issues. Then I stopped reading Hail Megatron due to wavering interest and now I don’t even know what’s going on anymore.

    I think I’ll grab this relaunch anyway. Sounds like “shit got real” here.

  11. Jim Lard says:

    Whenever I have a case of colon overload, I head for the Kelloggs All-Bran. *groan*

    Interesting reviews as ever, and since I don’t read any of these books I won’t comment further…

  12. Al says:

    Matt – usually I try to review everything, but if there’s something that I really don’t have much to say about (each review of the last year’s worth of issues of X-Factor, for instance, would have been largely the same) I make a call as to whether or not to skip it. Similarly, I couldn’t bring myself to re-read Victorian Undead, as it was so unbelievably mediocre, so I didn’t review it here.

    I also, as you may have noticed, occasionally completely skip entire weeks depending on how much pressure is on with regard to my other writing projects (I’m writing a non-fiction book and a game for separate publishers), how much wedding planning needs doing and how many hours actually exist in a normal day.

  13. David Aspmo says:

    I suspect what you’re seeing as a Leinil Yu influence on Adam Kubert is more a result of his being inked by Mark Morales (frequent Yu inker – as on Secret Invasion) for this book. It’s an interesting combination – one I wouldn’t have thought of, actually (though I greatly enjoy the work of both artists) – reminds me in a lot of ways of when John Dell inks Kubert.

    On the other hand, I can’t say that I see what in this work makes you think of Tim Sale or Patrick Zircher.

  14. Al says:

    That double-page spread, in the panels along the bottom – that first one is prime Sale, and the one with the half-Spidey-mask face could almost be Zircher subbing for Kubert.

  15. Jonny K says:

    Any mention of how Osborn’s reputation recovered from that Pulse issue? Or is it just the result of OMD?

  16. Al says:

    I think it’s all just as a result of him being the guy who fired the shot heard around the world in Secret Invasion 8, or something similarly daft.

  17. Mastadge says:

    I was going to make a joke about how this column needs a proctologist, but I seem to have been beaten to the punch.

  18. Omar Karindu says:

    May I point out that after all he hoops Marvel went through so they could write the Peter Parker soap opera they apparently want to, that’s arguably the one element of the current Spider-Man series that’s been mishandled the most.

    Currently, Peter’s basically in a remake of a harem anime — think Tenchi Muyo — which is one of those ideas that doesn’t quite fit most people’s image of the character. The super side of the comic is wonderful stuff, but these writers can’t seem to write the life of a regular twentysomething without resorting to the stalest of sitcom cliches.

  19. Holy smokes. You’re absolutely right. I mean, I’ve got the first DVD of Love Hina, and it’s ace, but the women in the current Spider-Man run make the tenants of Hinata House seem like six Emmas and a Cathy.

    The thing is, nobody – not even Peter, really – is given the chance to be anything other than a Fast Show character, dropping in, saying the catchphrase, and getting out as quickly as possible. It’s somewhere between slow boil and spinning plates, combined with occasional leaps of plot where a character arc should be.

    IT’s…….it’s candy floss, is what it is.


  20. Mark Cook says:

    Matt: The Punisher was rebuilt into a Frankenstein monster by the Legion of Monsters.

  21. Paul says:

    “Do you guys review every book that you bought that week or just the books you have something to say about?”

    Depends what mood I’m in, really.

  22. Personally, I very much like the IDW Transformers. It would be nice if they just made the series bi-weekly, rather than having two monthly titles (subtitle-of-the-arc and Spotlight), if just so the issues can be easily put in chronological order if nothing else (I can’t for the life of me remember when Wheelie’s Spotlight came out, and therefore haven’t yet filed it away).

    The BayFormers-esque designs in the new series are interesting; If Figueroa’s statement about there not being a mandate is true, then I wonder if he’s trying to do what I suspected the mandate would have been; Create a look that appeals to fans of both G1 and the live-action movies.

    By the way, how relieving was it for Optimus to acknowledge that Hot Rod’s being bright orange makes Roddy a wide-open target? It occasionally irks me that the Transformers are all these bright colors, but nobody ever acknowledges it. Especially characters whose alt modes are vehicles that don’t even exist on Earth!

  23. Surely all good Transformers fans are used to Optimus martyring himself by now. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened already in the IDW comics (which I also gave up on around the start of All Hail Megatron. Why bother giving Furman free reign to build a cohesive TF universe from the ground up for once if you’re just going to dump it after a couple of years and do sub-movie rubbish?)

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