Game Tape: Return of the Grumpy Old Man

I picked up 5 books this week. Three I liked, one aggravated me, and one made me madder the more I reflected upon it. Hence, we return the grumpy old man image from retirement.

There have been issues with individual issues of Hickman’s Fantastic Four, but you can’t fault the guy for a solid over-all vision on the book. Even his less than stellar issues/ moments were still strong compared to most pap out on the shelves. Like McDuffie’s run, there is a strong thread of family in Hickman’s work. Everybody says FF is a family first; then most go off and forget that. This issue highlights that with a trip to a toy store. Okay…it’s got Arcade (the Marvel Universe’s answer to the question, “What if 1970’s Elton John mated with Jimmy Olsen?”) so the issue already has my attention and positive feelings.

It’s also got Reed’s camp for the really smart kids. They’re working a project that won’t surprise some, but Hickman has an interesting take on it. One of the main reasons I respect and enjoy Mr. Hickman as a writer is that he understands the importance of done-in-one story telling, but he can skillfully weave an ongoing thread into the story. I heard recently that he plans long term, somewhere near 16 months in advance. Detailed plans more than just the story beats. His general philosophy and micromanaging of a story pays off in not needing to have issues that are exposition or dull “middle” parts. If you’re on the fence about FF, give Hickman a chance. The guy knows from good story.

Return of Bruce Wayne #3 was so much better than number two. No boring puritans. No heavily inked and confusing looking faces. Although it’s not wholly reasonable to call this story “Pirate Batman.” Explaining that would give too much away. Still, it’s really good. A lot of people are comparing this series to Batman’s 1950’s adventures through time. It’s a fair comparison, but a more accurate one would be to say it’s a series of Brave and the Bold issues. It’s a series of team-ups. He’s met Anthro; and this issue has him meeting both Blackbeard and John Valor, the Black Pirate. It always impresses me to what degree Morrison does his research. For a comic book, the pirates aboard Queen Anne’s Revenge are nicely accurate. In addition, Morrison cleanly ties the series into his work on Batman and Robin. There’s also a brief glimpse into the present and the JLA’s efforts to find/stop Bruce. Coherent and fun, it’s a good issue all around.

Muppet Snow White also continues to be fun. One thing that helps it work well is the return to the conceit of having Gonzo and Rizzo narrate. This time around they’re Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm. It’s enjoyable and will read well if you prefer to wait for the trade.

Superman #700 is better put together than the Batman counterpart, but it’s still not worth 5 bucks. Consistency in art helps. On the other hand, at 56 pages of relatively weak material, winning first prize in an ugly baby contest is not a real prize.

First up, James Robinson wrote a coda to the whole “New Krypton” business. It’s a “tender” reunion between Lois and Clark. Having just caught up on Love and Capes, I’ve seen how well written that sort of story should be. Thom Zahler wrote scenes of a similar vein in his issues #9 and 10. Zahler’s were funny and touching and warm. Robinson’s version came off as rote and cold.

On the other hand, Jurgens’ section of the book was a fun little story about Superman and Robin. It just wasn’t strong enough to save the whole issue.

I have to be even less kind to the third section. Remember that time an old man asked Hal Jordan why he didn’t help “the black skins?” So does JMS. Evidently he’s under the delusion that he’s the only one to have read it. The bulk of his section of anniversary issue Superman #700 is a poorly veiled rewrite of this scene. It’s a short piece to set up for his apparently ground breaking and year long arc. After 70 years, Superman had to face the hard fact that he can’t save everyone, but he should give it his best shot. He’s asked to consider solving everyone’s problems. So he’s going to walk across the country. If JMS has the stamina to finish this run, and I’ve got twenty dollars that says he won’t make 6 months, it’s either going to read like episodes of Highway to Heaven (where he travels cross-country helping people by rarely using his powers) or maybe a painful return to the time where Superman’s only power was to super weep. Wasn’t that a big deal in Infinite Crisis and 52? Wasn’t Superman supposed to get the sand out of his vagina and start acting… super? Walking across the country crying about things doesn’t seem to be very super.

Adding insult to mortal injury, the final two section of this issue are previews. The first is text pieces highlighting each of the titles in the Superman family. Each contains sample art and an explanation of where the book is headed. It’s not new material to anyone who follows things on DC’s Source, Newsarama or CBR. Finally we’re treated a preview of Paul Cornell’s Action Comics. I’m looking forward to this book on the strength of his Marvel work, but it’s a weak ending to an anniversary SUPERMAN book.

Okay, so Avengers #2 doesn’t fully fit under this heading, it’s pretty good and not near as bad as Superman, but it’s agravating. Bendis is writing specifically for a large trade collection, and issue 2 was the middle of the beginning. It also seems that everyone on the team cracks wise. There are eight or nine members on the team, and at least six of them talk with Spider-Man’s voice. It’s slow as molasses too. Bendis spends most of the issue showing readers how to build a time travel device…then something happens…and something else will eventually happen because that’s the 22 page mark. It’s an exposition heavy middle issue. Why can’t more people write long stories with an episodic bend to it?

Man it was a rough week with Superman #700. I’m going to reread US1 to cleanse the palate for next week.

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2 comments on “Game Tape: Return of the Grumpy Old Man

  1. […] I’m fairly autonomous in the comics I pick up every week, but after reading Matt’s Game Tape last Thursday I was convinced to pass on Superman #700 and pick up Fantastic Four #580 instead.  I […]

  2. […] 1. JMS will leave Superman with issue 706. He didn’t even write six issues! This number is no where near the year’s worth of stories DC and JMS were promising. I believe all that is left for me is to quote Dr. Sheldon Cooper, “I informed you thusly.” […]

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