Saturday Morning Comics

This week I’m settling down with a bowl of Cookie Crisp and taller than usual stack of comics. It’s a big week, and it’s a good week for comics. With that in mind, I’m going to keep most of the reviews brief.

The Muppets #2 story and art by Roger Langridge; published by Disney Comics (a Marvel imprint). With no color problems this go-round, the issue is much better. It’s summer and the Muppets take a crazy trip to the beach. What keeps this arc from being perfect are the damned covers. Kermit and Fozzie are horrible to look at here. Why? Why? Why?

Action Comics vol. 2 #12: written by Grant Morrison; art by Rags Morales, CAFU, Rick Bryant, Bob McLeod, and Andrew Hennessy; published by DC Comics. Yeoman’s work. After 12 issues we finally have a real clues as to the over arching conflict…and it involves the 5th Dimension.

 Love and Capes: What to Expect #1: by Thom Zahler; published by IDW. I’m so glad this is back. It’s still fun and a joy to read. As suggested at the end of the last arc and the title of this arc, we can expect a super birth by the end. It works well if you’ve never read any of the previous Love and Capes stories, but there’s an extra layer for those familiar with the world and the established character dynamics. Check it out; it’s clever with winks and nods to comicdom’s goofier moments.

Transformers: Regeneration One #82 story by Simon Furman; art by Andrew Wildman (p) and Stephen Baskerville (i); published by IDW. HOLY MOLEY! Hang on to your butts because Megatron is back and he’s more of a bad-ass than he’s been in a while. If your jaw was on the floor when we saw what he’s done to Earth in the last issue, this issue tops that.

Hypernaturals #1&2 written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; art by Andres Guinaldo, Brad Walker, and Mark Irwin; published by BOOM Studios. Easily the greatest thing about this week’s shipment. When I saw that DnA had a new superhero book out I thought I give it a shot. I was not disappointed. The great strength of these first two issues is that they are fast paced, yet everything necessary to understand the world and the characters is apparent within the first four pages of the issue. Unlike the team books of Distinguished Competition, we’ve got a whole team in issue one and we know the threat. The characters are familiar but interesting. Math is used like magic and a villain leaves his fingerprint on an entire planet.

I’m reticent to make a comparison because it will make the book sound misleadingly too derivative, but there are shades of the JLA, the Legion of Superheroes, and the Guardians of the Galaxy throughout this book. Maybe it’s more fair to say that DnA have taken the best BIG concepts and feelings from these three titles and woven them into an original and enjoyable work.

If you’re a fan DnA’s work on titles like Guardians of the Galaxy and Legion of Superheroes, or your a fan of good story telling where real stuff happens before the sixth issue, this is the book you need to be reading. It’s one of those books that will make you feel you as when the Earth was new.

In other news, Rasl is out this week with a final issue. I’m missing a couple of issues so I’ll get back to you on how it is. Also, I’m reading James Robinson’s Earth-2. It’s James Robinson; it’s the Justice Society; who are you to judge?

THIS WEEK’S COVERS

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.