Again, I apologize for the long break from posting. Didn’t realize it would be this difficult maintaining a quality blog and still keeping up with my other work. Still, I will keep the posts coming as quickly as I possibly can, and this Wednesday I had a chance to read a few comics I’ve been following for the past several months.
All of the titles here stem from DC’s controversial New 52 reboot, and while I don’t approve of a lot of the creative decisions, I’ve gotten over most of the changes and acknowledged the fact that there’s definitely been overall improvement in DC’s output (books coming out on time, less “writing for the trade”, etc.).
I’ll try to post reviews for select comics and/or trade collections at least once a month, though I can’t guarantee it. For now though, I hope you’ll enjoy reading my take on last Wednesday’s comic haul.
Possessed by the three mysterious beings that attacked Metropolis (and are somehow connected to Krypton and Clark Kent’s early years in the city), Superman begins taking the law into his own hands. Preaching that the city must act as a whole unit and pledging to purge it of dissenters, citizens of Metropolis are taken aback, watching as their city erupts into chaos. Who, they wonder, can stop Superman? Meanwhile, Lois Lane, concerned with Clark’s uncharacteristic behavior, begins to suspect what the journalist may really be up to.
This issue, and indeed this entire arc by writer George Perez, is shaping up to be the best Superman arc in years. As the second-to-last issue in Perez’s run (he’ll be leaving the book after issue #6), I’m very much looking forward to the payoff, which, judging by how this issue is already bringing things full circle, will likely be as fulfilling as the issues preceding it. Sure, Perez makes for a better artist than a writer – his dialogue is of the classic comic-book cornball variety, for one – but as a figure most known for his work on Crisis on Infinite Earths and Wonder Woman in the 80s, Perez demonstrates a deeper understanding and reverence for the mythology than I’ve read in any Superman book in a long time. Capturing a classic feel that hearkens back to a simpler, better era of Bronze Age/Post-Crisis storytelling, yet still giving us a fresh, modern change-up of the status quo, Perez has established a new Superman setting worthy of sitting alongside other Superman relaunches like John Byrne’s Man of Steel and Geoff Johns/Kurt Busiek’s Up, Up, and Away.
If I have gripes, they stem from what are likely to be DC’s mandates. I dislike the fact that the arc is constantly referencing Grant Morrison’s abysmal Action Comics relaunch, especially when Perez’s book is great enough to stand on its own. Morrison’s book sent Superman back his long-outdated Golden Age persona, but instead of capturing the simple, quaint magic of those stories, he made Superman a darker, edgier, more irresponsible and decidedly un-heroic alien. I won’t waste time bitching about my issues with that arc, but I will say that Perez would’ve been better off leaving the references out. Though at least he knows well enough to give Supes a legitimate reason to act out of character.
I’m really digging the artwork of the series so far. While Jesus Merino’s art in issues #1, 2, and 4 was great, I’m very much warming up to Nicola Scott’s in this and issue #3. When it was announced Scott would be taking over art duties for Merinoon certain issues, I was worried the change would ruin the continuity of the arc. For me, when artists change mid-story arc, it’s just as disorienting as, for example, if George Lazenby suddenly replaced Sean Connery in the middle of Thunderball. Different appearance in character generally makes for irritating discontinuity. But since issue #3, Scott seems to be doing a great job channeling what Merino previously established, likely in no short part to Perez handling breakdowns. Either way, it’s good stuff.
I’m a big fan of Post-Crisis, 80s/90s era Superman, and this book is a return to that better era of comics, when each issue was brimming with story and character. Perez has really brought the magic of the mythology back for me, and I encourage fans to jump on board as soon as possible with issue #1 and onward.
All-Star Western #5
Bounty hunter Jonah Hex and psychiatrist Amadeus Arkham are captured by goons running a child slavery circuit, kidnapping children and remaining unopposed while Gotham City’s elites look the other way. The goons leave Hex and Arkham for dead in a massive cave, forcing them to face unknown dangers beneath the surface of Gotham as they make their way out of the cave. (This issue also features a backup story about a character named “the Barbary Ghost”, but I haven’t been following it and can’t say I have any interest in doing so.)
I should preface this by saying that Jonah Hex has never really been my cup of tea. I’ve tried reading Justin Gray and Jimmy Palamotti’s original run on the character, but I couldn’t get into it for several reasons, among them Hex’s uncanny resemblance to Clint Eastwood. I’m sorry, but when I’m trying to get a feel for what a particular character is all about, and I’m distracted by said character’s forced resemblance to a real-life actor, I just can’t get into it. I was just far too busy pondering potential lawsuits over the use of Eastwood’s likeness without his permission rather than paying attention to the story.
I’ve rather enjoyed this arc, however. It’s pretty consistent in terms of quality writing, and Moriart’s pencils are a perfect fit for the grungy look of 19th century Gotham City. And yes, Hex looks like Hex, not an actor playing Hex.
I also love this particular take on the material. Pairing the character with Amadeus Arkham brings a fresh dynamic to the mythology – it gives Hex someone to play off of, and gives Arkham a chance to analyze Hex’s psychology. Their contrasting backgrounds and opposing views towards violence makes for an interesting, character-centric read.
Issue #5 is a decent read, but there’s not enough going on in terms of story – Hex and Arkham venture through a cave for the entire issue. Arkham’s dialogue is starting to get a bit grating as well, made up of cliched things characters say when they’re trapped or near death (“You’re giving up?! You can’t give up!”, among others). I have, conversely, been enjoying the continued nods to Batman, like the fact that the cave is actually the site of what will become the Batcave.
I suspect I’ll tire of the book’s format and probably stop reading when this arc wraps up, but even my issues are more based on personal taste, rather than the book’s overall quality.
The Flash #5
Having nearly been killed as a result of tapping into the Speed Force, Barry Allen, aka The Flash, is going after the murderous organization Mob Rule, made up of clones of Allen’s old friend Manuel. The clones are on a mission to locate a device which will stop them from dying off, allowing them to live lives of their own. The Flash must save his friend and keep the city protected as the climax of the Mob Rule arc comes to a close.
I must say, this series really dropped off after the first issue. I have nothing but good things to say about Francis Manapul’s beautiful artwork, but sadly his and Brian Buccellato’s writing doesn’t soar nearly as high. This issue, and indeed this entire arc, is made up of largely clumsy, convoluted, and generally un-engaging storytelling. None of the characters are interesting or worth investing in, the story is uninspired and ordinary, and the whole thing lacks real, serious drama.
This issue is even a bit of an anticlimax – with a villain like Mob Rule, it’s not hard to assume that Flash would have to face multiple clones at once in a fight of speed vs. numbers. This issue, however, gives us a couple of panels featuring Flash throwing the clones around like rag dolls, then blasting through a mass of them in a rush to get to the next scene. A missed opportunity if there ever was one. It almost reminds me of the kind of comics I used to write and draw as a kid, where I would set up this big climax and then blow through it in a few panels out of boredom. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case here as well.
Issue #1 presented us with the idea that Iris and Barry had a prior relationship, and that Iris is still sort of infatuated with Barry. It hasn’t gone anywhere since then, however, because for the past two or three issues, Iris has been locked away by Captain Cold. I was actually looking forward to some love triangle drama between Iris, Barry, and…er…the woman Barry is with right now…what was her name again?
Really, these writers just aren’t making a very good case for why Barry Allen and his supporting case are interesting characters worth exploring moreso than, say, Wally West and his family, who really shined in some of my favorite Flash stories. I don’t mind giving Barry some time in the limelight, seeing as how most of his defining appearances come from the dated days of the Silver Age, but I do expect to be shown why Barry is such a great character and why he’s worth axing West for. We had a glimpse of a more modern Allen in Geoff Johns’ The Flash: Rebirth, but since then, there’s been nothing that really shows us why he was worth bringing back from the dead in the first place.
I’ll be sticking with this book for now, as I’m curious to see how Captain Cold, appearing in Issue #7, will be handled in a more modern context. But unless things start to pick up, I’ll be dropping this series for the time being. Maybe when they bring back Wally, I’ll have a reason to care again.
Hard to say whether or not I’d recommend this issue. Admittedly, you could do a lot worse, but there are just so many other, better Flash stories out there more worthy of a read than this. If you’re really curious about the character and are looking for a place to start, I’d recommend waiting for the trade collection, or just pick up Issue #1 from your local library and go from there.
That’s all for this week, cheers!