Some Long-Overdue Reviews

Because of my hiatus on picking up new Marvel and DC comics, I’m a few months behind on some series as I wait for prices to drop and make sure I have consecutive issues to read.  Recently I had the chance to get caught up on a series picking up some serious buzz, a favorite I was reluctant to drop, and a new series by a favorite author.

Despite some morbid curiosity I’ve steadfastly refused to finance J. Michael Strazcynski’s Superman run, believing Superman’s walk across the United States to be a fascinating writer’s exercise but a dreadfully dull reader’s chore.  When JMS bailed on his own awful experiment I thought that was it for “Grounded,” but then something unusual happened: Chris Roberson took over the writing details and the book started generating some positive buzz.  Despite being saddled with continuing The Long Walk, Roberson has been able to act as the fans’ advocate and a) return Superman to his proper character, and b) explain why he went so far off-track for the past several months.

The results have been refreshing, and returns the “Super” to Kal-El that has been missing for more years than you’d think.  Seriously, aside from All-Star, Superman has pretty much been limited to flight, speed, strength, and heat vision for ages, and he hasn’t even been doing anything creative with those powers.  Now Roberson has him racing The Flash, re-routing rivers, and using super-speed to put out fires.  It’s a more modern sensibility rather than a Silver Age homage like All-Star — as it should be — but it does reclaim the Superman we all know and love.

There are still some rough spots here and there, but each issue gets better and Roberson is a writer to keep your eye on.

Superman #707-709
Cover Price – $8.97
My Price – $4.50
Average Wait Time – 89 Days

Pity Jeff Parker’s Thunderbolts.  It’s consistently one of Marvel’s best books but after several months of excellence my reviews have denigrated to the point where that’s all I can say about it.  Either you’re reading and loving it, or you’re not and missing out on an exceptional superhero book starring some of Marvel’s greatest villains.

The first and most important thing to note is that Parker gets characterization.  The T-Bolts team is comprised of very different characters, and by the dialogue alone you could tell any of them apart even without art.  They’re that unique.  Parker doesn’t just line up 6 characters and aim them at a challenge, they interact with each other in some very interesting ways.  Everyone has different motivations and methods, and I swear I feel the world-weariness of Luke Cage having to deal with these villains and their chaos in each and every issue.

Something not completely necessary but highly appreciated is most of the issues stand alone, even as they contribute to the larger story. This means almost every issue is a great jumping-on point, no .1 issues needed!  This shouldn’t be as novel a concept as it is.  These standalones also allow each team member some focus.  To that end we get a Ghost issue (and his decidedly old-school villain origin!), and even a Man-Thing issue, where we finally learn how Swampy feels about being the team’s Nightcrawler.   Adding to the overall story structure, Parker anticipates the necessarily high turnover of the team (a la Suicide Squad) by setting up the T-Bolts farm league, which will also create another dimension for characterization and friction among the team.

Thunderbolts 152-155
Cover Price – $11.96
My Price – $6.30
Average Wait Time – 70 Days

My love for Jason Aaron’s work has been fairly well documented at this point.  I just wrapped up “Wolverine Goes to Hell” and fortunately have several issues left to go through before I run out.  Credit Aaron and artist Daniel Acuna for being able to appropriately convey the oppressive bleakness of Hell.  While I’m usually able to support my protagonist, in a way just reading the book made me feel beat down by the environment even as Logan was not, and I admired his perseverance all the more for it.  There’s no surprises or gotchas here — other than a guest appearance by someone from waaaaay back in Logan’s past — that aren’t self-evident from the title, but that’s okay.  It’s about the journey.

My only real complaint is, having read it so close to his Manifest Destiny mini-series from 2008, the story arcs drift just a little too close to each other.  <SPOILERS> Wolverine gets in over his head, meets bad people from his past, overcomes all obstacles and wins, then becomes the new ruler.  And while the first three are staples of EVERY Wolverine story (and roughly 68.3% of all comic book stories), the last once should be used more sparingly.  </SPOILERS>  That said, my Aaron man-crush goes on unabated.  I have started but not yet finished Wolverine vs the X-Men, but it is as strong as story as the first arc, as the X-Men must deal with the after-effects of a possessed Logan (starring the Ghost Riders!)

Wolverine 1 – 7 (only 5-7 calculated for 2011)
Cover Price – $15.96
My Price – $8.64
Average Wait Time – 82 Days

There we go: that’s where I am at the moment.  I’m frustratingly close to being able to plow through Paul Cornell’s Action Comics run, along with the Adjectiveless, New, and Secret Avengers.  I’m fairly caught up on Batman, but have found it fairly generic and not really worth delving into. 

Read anything I’ve mentioned?  Argue with us in the comments section.