This Week’s Comics

Another light week, and a sad, sad day for comicdom.  I’m picking up one book this week, ATLAS #5, which brings that series to a close. Since Jeff Parker has brought Jimmy, Ken, and pals with him on other books he’s written I don’t think this will be the last we see of them, but it’s disappointing that such an excellent book can’t find the sales numbers it needs to stay running.

Last week saw some very good books come out.  Fantastic Four continues Jonathan Hickman’s incredible run, with new artist Steve Epting on-board with his stellar pencils.  I was especially impressed by the scene with Doom, where it really dawned on me that Victor is a part of the family as much as anyone else.  Sure, he’s the crazy uncle nobody talks about, but despite multiple murder attempts it’s clear that he’s as much a part of the family as Ben Grimm.  Just not, you know….welcome.

Going into this issue Galactus is dead and Doom has lost his intellect.  Are these hanging plot threads from Mark Millar’s run?

And speaking of Millar, I continue to be pleasantly surprised with Nemesis.  The book has plenty of action, enough twists to keep me engaged, and the characters are in precarious enough positions that it doesn’t feel like one issue is going to be enough to wrap everything up.  Knowing Millar, it will be just enough.

That’s it for me.  What are YOU looking at?

This Week’s Comics — And Some Light Ranting

It’s a fairly light week again, which is still good because lately the local quarter bins have been full and I’ll probably be doing some heavy back issue shopping this Saturday.  Still, there’s some solid books out this week.  Here’s what I’m looking at.

  • IMAGE FIRSTS INVINCIBLE # 1 – In spite of some questionable choices like Youngblood #1 and Savage Dragon #1, releasing this as a $1 book is a good call by Image.  It’s a great superhero book by Robert Kirkman, full of twists and turns, and it stays in print in a variety of formats from trade to hardcover to Omnibus.  I think the only thing they’re missing is digests.
  • IMAGE FIRSTS PROOF #1 – Strangely, I don’t think I’m familiar with this book at all, but I’m willing to expand my horizons for a buck if it passes the flip test.
  • MARVEL ZOMBIES 5 #2 (OF 5) – I’ve been digging Marvel Zombies for a while, but I just finished volume 4 and am fairly convinced that the concept has been played out for now and needs to take a little nap.
  • NEMESIS #1 2ND PTG MCNIVEN VAR – If you missed out on the first print of Nemesis #1, now’s your week to check it out.  My late review posted last week, but (SPOILER ALERT!) I liked it a lot.

Matt, please look elsewhere for the next bullet.

  • THUNDERBOLTS #143 – A bad Jeff Parker story is better than most people’s good stories.  Still, I feel like we’ve both been biding our time until the new direction kicks in.

Like Matt, I was entertained enough by Green Lantern #53 but felt that it was mostly starting points for new story arcs, like Johns has been doing a lot lately.  Green Lantern has been okay, but I’m starting to
feel like I did when I dropped JSA several years back: that it’s solid but not great, and that I want just a little more out of the book.  I also grabbed JLA on a whim, since I’d been wanting to check out Robinson’s new team and new writing, but I felt let down.  It’s a really generic feelgood story about the team learning to work with each other, but I didn’t really care about any of the characters or how well they work with each other.  This Starman is not the Mikaal Tomas I remember and every word coming out of Congorilla’s mouth just made me wish I were reading about Gorilla Man (even their origins are identical!).  FAIL.

I WAS impressed by the conclusion of Avengers vs Atlas, though all the time travel talk left me mystified and disinterested.  The beginning was especially strong, though, in a meta-textual look at fandom and how every line-up always be someone’s ideal team.  We all have a favored line-up (see the Busiek/Perez run for mine), and anything else is always inadequate.  (And here’s where we digress into an Avengers rant for no good reason…)

The current Avengers lineups don’t do anything for me.  From a marketing point of view I understand why Marvel put in Spider-Man and Wolverine, and from a creative point of view I understand why Bendis put in Luke Cage and Ms. Marvel, but like a giant temporal cloud it’s not what I think the Avengers should be.  To me, the key lineup is Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man (of course), along with the Vision and Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye (I accept Giant-Man/Ant-Man/Yellowjacket and Wasp, but don’t especially care about them).  There should also be a couple lesser characters floating in and out, but the Avengers has never been a “big guns” team, so the lineup should be more fluid. It’s worked for 40 years, I would think that would be a pretty solid proof of concept.

Anyway, that’s it for me.  What are YOU looking at?

Sunnytime Review Show: Nemesis Edition

I have a strange sort of love/hate relationship with Mark Millar’s work.  His work is full of a dark cynicism that tends to be bleaker than even I can deal with, and his penchant for self-promotion (and occasionally outright lying) has become so grating that even Rich Johnston is tiring of it.  I’m normally able to separate the artist from the work, but the last two pages of Wanted was so vitriolic that it was impossible for me to separate the rant from the author.  That said, he’s also an unquestionably talented writer who can still write an intriguing and compelling story.

Now with MY baggage out of the way: Nemesis.  The story of the world’s only super-criminal (it remains to be seen if superheroes don’t exist or if they just haven’t been mentioned yet), Nemesis answers the question “What if Batman was the Joker.”  Or if Joker was Batman.  One of those.  He is organized, disciplined, collected, and has been working his way across Asia killing police and pulling off  elaborate heists with local gangs.  When he targets Blake Morrow, he makes his way to Washington, D.C., taking his time to go through the President of the United States.

Nemesis is a very good Batman study.  Because we’re already familiar with Batman, Millar gets to use some shorthand, but Nemesis is erudite, poised, fearsome, and aloof.  Even Nemesis’ costume — all white with that familiar Bat-nose — evokes the opposite of Bruce Wayne.  I feel like we learn more about Batman by learning about Nemesis (but then I feel like all learning essentially brings us closer to understanding Batman).

All of this talk of writing is not to dismiss Steve McNiven at all, but he’s a known quantity here.  Millar calls his art spectacular, and he’s right on.  If you pick up one of McNiven’s books you know you’re going to get an excellent, realistic artist who can grab the drama in a conversation along with as much kick/punch/splode action the writer can throw at him.  Still, his work here reaches a new high, with a strong attention to detail and a remarkably fine line that stands out from panel one.

It’s also worth mentioning that in a time when comic publishers will take any excuse they can get to jack up cover prices, Marvel/Icon has kept this issue to a reasonable $3.

So yeah, the story was great, but Millar still manages to interject some of his more irritating qualities into the text piece in the back. What should have been a fairly straightforward behind-the-scenes piece became a case study in Millarian contradictions.  At one point he expresses his pride in the “Angelina-propelled Wanted movie” then makes a none-too-subtle (and none-too-kind) reference to her “nicking” children from other countries.  He also talks about how simple the concept was (“What if this cool billionaire with all those planes, cars and gadgets, put on a mask and waged war on the forces of law and order?”) and then concludes that “sometimes we rely a little too much on the work and ideas of other people,” as if creating the anti-Batman was a stroke of originality (and hadn’t already been done).

But a book should be judged on its own merits, not the relative craziness or doublespeak of it’s creators, and Nemesis is a book I will absolutely be coming back to.

*I didn’t want to write that joke, I just couldn’t resist the setup.