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A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Funny Book Round-Up

The latest installment of my highly occasional round-up of things on the comic book front, and I'll refer now and again to my last from June 2009.

I purchased the first issue of Joe the Barbarian from Vertigo since it cost only $1, and I liked it. One thing about it was that it had one of those not atypical Grant Morrison endings where everything you just read turns out to be a prologue to something entirely different and unexpected. And the problem with that is... well, I'm reading the second issue, and I realize I can't remember anything about the first, because most of the first issue was something kind of entirely different. To me, this is bad in the same way as when you pick up a novel after a week or two away and realize you don't remember anything. I can tell intellectually that this is certainly a creative and different and unique and special something. And I don't have the foggiest idea what's going on. This may work better when it comes out in a collected edition of all 8 issues of the mini-series, but I won't come back for the next issue of the comic book.

DMZ is another Vertigo series that's stepping off in some different directions and going big into reversals. It continues to be a consistent entertainment, just like I said in my last full round-up 9 months ago, but I'd never have predicted we'd be where we are now. A seeming good guy has just detonated an a-bomb in an effort to show who's boss, and while the fallout's blowing a little north our lead character Matt is in a kind of deep blue funk wandering the lost world of Manhattan. Where there's a lot of death and dying, as always set against some nice artwork that looks exactly like Manhattan might look like if this wasn't just a comic book. Panel 1 on page 6 is the quintessential DMZ panel. When this series started out 4 years ago we were rooting for Matt, and the series has long since taken some detour from having a lead character we like. He's more like a camera lens for us to see through. As such, my attachment to the comic has now become more intellectual than emotional, which keeps me from being as much in love with it as maybe I should be for a comic I've been reading thru 51 issues now. But there is an attachment.

Ex Machina is also doing the DMZ thing. This excellent series is said to be in the homestretch, and the last arc is going off in some strange and bloody directions. Somewhere down the line I'm going to need an annotated version to explain all of the little hints and subtle connections that make this concluding arc of a piece with all that have gone before. Mitchell Hundred has been a much more emotionally involving lead character than DMZ's Matt. There's something about his pose in a bathroom stall in the last panel of this issue that suggests he might know more about what's going on than we the readers do. I'm awfully curious to see where this all leads in the last two issues. I'm not into Lost, but waiting for the final reveals in Ex Machina I think I can understand how Lost fans feel about the final episodes. Nine months ago, I was worried that this comic might drift to a close the way Y The Last Man did, and I needn't have worried. This last arc is hurtling toward something special at the close.

The non-DC comics this weekend were the latest issues of Bart Simpson (#52) and The Simpsons (#163), and both were good. Bart Simpson can be inconsistent, but this issue starts out with a charming, fun, creative story in which Comic Book Guy asks Bart to create a comic book sound effects glossary in barter for a rare issue of Radioactive Man. Sergio Aragones contributes a two-pager, and then there's another fun story where Homer becomes a chick magnet. Aragones does a full-length story for The Simpson's which is a mash-up of all of the classic Simpsons themes that's very much like a TV episode written into comic book form.

I'm glad Aragones is doing some good work for The Simpsons. I don't have an issue of the new Groo mini-series at hand, but it's been a deep disappointment. I've purchased pretty much every Groo issue at every publisher for close to 30 years, and I'm not sure I'm willing to buy the concluding issue of the Hogs of Horder 4-book arc. The ingredients are all there, but there's something totally off about the combination this time around. What's missing? Usually there's some underlying Groo wants/Groo needs element underpinning the story, even if it's the same thing Groo's wanted 28 times before. This arc is attempting to satirize some aspects of modern capitalism, like the race to the bottom with wages via free trade or the use of marketing to create demand for things nobody needs, but it doesn't hang. Groo is in each issue and doing all of the usual Groo things, but he also seems like a bystander to events that don't need Groo. And the satire itself seems a little more obvious than usual. There's a whiff of Lethal Weapon 4 about Hogs of Horder, that same sense of going through the motions with all of the usual jokes.

Human Target 2 is the 2nd of six issues scheduled to coincide with the new TV series. The top story by co-creator Len Wein is fun. Unlike with Joe the Barbarian, it took one little reference to the first issue I'd read several weeks ago for it all to come back to me and click into place and get me into the second installment. The Human Target is helping a mobster to reveal all he knows, only all he knows is secreted in locations throughout Europe that will have to be infiltrated. The back-up story I'm not so fond of, but I'd be surprised not to continue with this for the full 6 issues for some good basic fun.

Blackest Night #7 is the penultimate issue of the latest DC mega crossover project. I hate to sound old and crotchety with everything better in the good old days, but I'd like to think Crisis on Infinite Earths was better than this. I liked the first few issues of Blackest Night which I read in one sitting in the fall, but the series has become one giant fight scene without any character development which is leaving me cold. A friend of mine thinks it will read better when it's all combined into one issue. Maybe. It started out well enough that I'm disappointed not to be liking it more.

Nine months ago, talking about the current Superman arc, I said I'd probably keep going because it was straight up superhero stuff but that it would all end badly. I was right on the first part. I've continued to read most of the Superman books over the past nine months. I was wrong on the second part. Maybe it will all end badly, but I've actually come to appreciate the series more and more as it's gone along at a consistent good level, and it's now building to a climax in a little bit. That being said, the thing I didn't like about it nine months ago, I still don't entirely like. To fully enjoy all of the Superman books, you need to be up not only on your Superman history but on your Mon-El history, your Nightwing and Flamebird history, and your Legion of Superheros history, among other things. The issue with the #32 triangle doesn't actually have much of anything to do with the issues with the #31 or the #33 that will come out this week, and I'm not entirely thrilled that they're cross-numbering everything. On the other hand, you never quite know when all of a sudden the Supergirl issues will start to connect up again and the Action or Adventure issues will start to drift away. Adventure is drifting back into the main line of the story, and issue #8 (or #511) is surprisingly good. I liked three of the four stories in this prologue to the main denoument that starts to arrive in Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton #1. That being said, even though I've been reading most of the Superman comics, I'm not exactly sure when this final battle with Brainiac began. But it began somewhere! So OK, I'm not head over heels in love with the Superman books. But it's the only big crossover arc for one of the major or mini-major DC characters that's been accessible to someone such as myself who hasn't been fan-boying over the entire DC line for the last 12 years, and that is a major accomplishment on its own terms that I heartily cheer. So long as I don't accidentally miss an issue of importance when Action is again important in triangle #41 while I'm still reading Adventure which isn't any more with triangle #41 I should be OK.

Finally, I picked up issue #1 of Nemesis: The Imposters. It wasn't bad, but it also suffers as so many of the DC books do these days because it just doesn't cohere if you haven't read some other comic book that came in before this one. This may end up becoming something where I'll buy issue #2 if it comes out in a light week when I'm buying only one other book, and not bother if there are four or five other books I'm buying.

DC Comics recently announced that Dan Didio, Geoff Johns and Jim Lee are going to become the creative triumvurate in charge of things. Blackest Night is so typical of a Geoff Johns book to me, in that he'll start out something that seems really fun and interesting, and then strangle it in crossovers and continuity. And since Didio has been the Executive Editor, he's been the one who happily lets this happen time and again because he's totally big into the big crossover event where something major has to be happening at all times, or at least be always close at hand. If more of them were like the Superman books that are at least marginally accessible, or if they could come up with more things that would represent the good start of a Geoff Johns run instead of the hullabaloo of the 8th issue... Just as well that they don't, since it keeps me from getting back into my once upon a time days of reading 25 or 40 comic books a month whch I don't have the time for and which would start to add up $$ wise. Some of these comics have a sneak preview of a new Flash series written by Geoff Johns. Which looks really good. And I'm sure I'll buy and enjoy the first issue. But will I still be reading it a year later? That's an area where the Vertigo books I'm loyal to have been much more successful these past several years than the DCU.


E.C. Myers said...

Have you tried a series called "Irredeemable" by Mark Waid? It's basically a thinly veiled Superman story where the Man of Steel goes nuts and starts killing other superheroes and wreaking havoc on the world. The story follows the heroes as they try to evade him and survive, figure out what happened to him, and look for a way to stop him. It's quite dark and entertaining.

I'll probably try out the Superman monthlies when Straczynski (from Babylon 5) starts writing it this summer. I've been picking up the Secret Origin comics though.

Lynxswift said...

Cools, I didn't know you liked Groo the Wanderer. Back in 8th grade and my early days of high school I used to be a fanatic for Groo the Wanderer :). Back when it was with Epic comics. I think I have a good run of #1-50, with only a few issues missing here and there. Bought most of those issues at the comic shop on Skillman when I was a kid. I also have an early appearance of him from an issue of Starslayer that I hunted down in Forrest Hills back then. One time I wrote him a fan letter and he sent me back an autographed sketch of Groo, inscribed to me :). I'll post a scan of the drawing on my blog if you'd like to see :). I even bought a few Groo trade paperbacks last year at the Brooklyn Book Festival for nostalgias sake. I haven't kept up with any current issues in years.