Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Comics Out 15 November 2006

Whedon and Cassaday's penultimate Astonishing X-Men arc concludes, Civil War 5 is out, and so is Testament 12. Also Grant Morrison has an interview about Seven Soldiers up at Newsarama, and it was announced more clearly today that his Batman run will be interrupted for four issues by a new creative team next month. I will add to this post later today with more detailed thoughts. For now: review, recommend, discuss.*

*[added 12 hours later: I have put a little one-paragraph review of Astonishing X-Men 18 in the comments section, so I don't spoil anything on the main page; in a week I will move it up here.]


Anonymous said...

I will probably have a spoiler or two in here, so if you haven't read Civil War #5 yet, skip over this post for now.

That said, Civil War #5 marks the point where this book is just too flawed for me to be really excited anymore. The book basically opens with a fight that makes no sense if you aren't reading the appropriate tie-ins. So when someone reads the TP, this chapter will make little to no sense, as the fight seems to just come out of the blue.

Fast forward a few pages in the book and there is a two page spread that reveals the gigantic two page spread that "reveals" the Negative Zone prison where the unregistered capes are being kept. Now, my distaste for one and two page spreads with a single freaking word balloon aside, this shot is horribly wasteful. If you've been reading the tie-ins, which the fight earlier in the issue demands that you do, you have gotten a guided tour of this prison, this two page spread is padding, at best.

Maybe it is the two month delay, but this just doesn't feel like a coherent story, and how is all of this going to be worked out in the TPs, exactly? Marvel delayed this book and its tie ins in the Most Disastrous Move of 2006, and right now, I don't see how the crossover will be remotely enjoyable as a series of trades unless you issue them Seven Soldiers-style. Which doing so would defeat the whole point of delaying the book so all the art can be done by McNiven.

Ah well, at least Astonishing X-Men was far more enjoyable than I could have hoped for, and Cassaday didn't have a single wasted two page spread with a single word balloon.

Tim from MySpace

mitch said...

I got a triple bogie today:

Civil War, Astonishing X-Men and last week's Batman.

Not a single one of these did it for me. I agree with Tim. A two page spread of the prison, yet we "cut to" Daredevil in handcuffs--No explaination of how he got caught and no excitement. Boo.

Astonishing X-Men--Still good, but it did feel a little rushed and mailed in to me. Mostly because I've loved the past five issues more than I've loved an X-Men comic in a while, this one kind of fizzled to me. Whedon seems kind of in a hurry to get them into space.

Batman-- The Bat-rocket was fun, but I'm just done with this. Maybe I'll pick up these four issues again in a few years and love them because there is, technically speaking, not much wrong with them; but for now they're mostly dull.

Geoff Klock said...

I agree with Tim and Mitch about Civil War 5, though I was never in love with the book so this issue was not really a step down for me. I read it cause it has a lot of guys and it is a big deal and I don't hate it.

Astonishing X-Men on the other hand -- I am going to have to violently disagree with you on this one Mitch. At a time when my three favorite creators -- Grant Morrison, Aaron Sorkin and John Darnelle -- have let me down in some big way, and LOST is gone till February 7th, Joss Whedon and John Cassaday's third X-Men story (issues 13-18) arrives as one of the best -- possibly THE best -- X-Men stories I have ever read. This book has emerged as the serial narrative I most look forward to.

The thing that knocks me out most -- besides Cassaday's return to greatness after YEARS of phoning his art in by neglecting to draw backgrounds and copying his own images whenever possible -- is the tone. Whedon, just in issue 18 for example, balances the sublime (neurons firing), pulp-cool (Scott, hair tousled and no glasses, just shooting people), serious evil (Casandra Nova is terrifying), silly stuff (giant magnets, cats like string, his trademark dialog) and meaningful irony ("cry me a river, bitch. We're going up") perfectly. Obviously he has been good at this since Buffy, but it is fantastic to see him firing on all cylinders here (I was less pleased with his first 12 issues). Plus: the best retroactive (e.g. not inherent in Morrison's run) twist I have seen in a long time, possibly ever. That's how you do a twist -- you set it up so that it is both surprising and inevitable (as the phrase goes); you don't just have it come flying out of left field for no reason and TELL me it was always there (I am looking at you, Xorn).

buckshot said...

I'm still digging Civil War. This issue had some nice 'pro-reg' moments, and McNiven draws one hell of a Punisher. I don't think Civil War is accomplishing what it set out to be, but my inner 12 year old is still getting a kick out of.

I finished up that Batman arc today. I feel like the first half was much, much stronger, and that the last issue was basically a mess. But yeah, it was still kind of fun.

Astonishing kinda bores me, actually. The very first arc is what got me reading comics again, and here I sit now completely uninterested.

This week's best comics, for my money, were Escapists and Sock Monkey.

Patrick said...

Now I find that very interesting, no creator-and I mean NOBODY-has let me down like Whedon has. After my experience with him, I'll forgive anybody anything.

I read the first arc of Astonishing and enjoyed it. I'm interested on his upcoming take on Runaways, and I think this will make me or break me on Whedon. He screws this up, we are DONE.

Pat Moler said...

I really haven't kept up with X-Men ever since they went away from the New X-Men Arc and began Astonishing X-Men. I know they wanted to get back to tradition both in the story and with the writers, but I felt like they taking a step back. I still keep up with Wolverine though.

Mitch said...

I don't deny the greatness of this arc. I just didn't get any satifaction from it's conclusion...The Emma/Nova storyline didn't pay off for me. Everybody was zipped out of there too quick. I'm sure I'll change my mind when they're in space and still have great Emma baggage to deal with,but, for now I feel cold and alone.

I'll give Astonishing another try when I get home tonight-- It could be that I was just in a bad mood because I read it in the same sitting as Civil War and Batman.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Geoff that this Astonishing arc has been the story from these creators that I've been waiting for. The first 12 issues showed signs of brilliance but those were often followed up by flat and awkward storytelling.

This current arc has been tight and moving. Kitty's torture last issue just hit me emotionally and her thirst for vengeance this issue was both understandable and surprising. Whedon has also reminded me why Hank's one of my favorite characters when he showed up in a suit to easily dispatch the bad guys. And I have no idea what he's doing with Scott, a character who's been fairly static since 1963.

Geoff Klock said...

Patrick: You need to be a little more specific about how Whedon let you down.

One more thing to add about issue 18 -- I loved the sheer ridiculousness of Danger and Ord interrupting the big climax of this story just as the whole thing is suddenly transposed into space. I get now why Whedon's Danger and Ord were a bit on the stupid-silly side -- they are a foil for the very serious Casandra Nova. Whedon likes his mixed tone.

I also remember being annoyed that he was making the White Queen into a villain again, but now we see he has gone another way, which is quite smart, and his take on Emma is very persuasive.

Scott: Cyclops has not changed much since 1963. Whedon is all about persuasive radical change, which shouldn't be a big complement but it is in a genre that just figures out ways to give you the same thing over and over.

Patrick said...

Geoff, this is from your interview at Astonishing Tales.

"Buffy and Angel lasted for 254 hours and took us through not only seven years in the characters' lives, but seven years in the lives of the actors; that means my relationship with the characters on that show has outlasted most of the relationships in my day to day life, and was, in fact, a more rewarding experience in many cases."

I had a similar experence, but not as postitive. The seven years I spent with those characters felt wasted. They had become people I no longer felt I knew, I no longer wanted to know, and I was sorry to have known them to begin with.

Pat Moler said...

replying to Geoff: Well basically New X-Men gave it a more realistic tone. Gritty as well as smooth in the way the story was told. Don't get me wrong I still like the X-MEN A lot.Also at least the characters acknowledged taking a step back in Astonishing #1 where Wolvie was annoyed with the idea of wearing costumes once more.

Over all I felt it was kinda like the typical "We tried something new, now this erase everything and return it to normal."

Pat Moler said...

oh you were talking to another Patrick. bad. My point still stands though.

neilshyminsky said...

Geoff: The dialogue and nuanced tone remain great, but this story more than even the previous 3 arcs seems very familiar.

A poster on my message board dubs it a 'remix' of Dark Phoenix Saga. Remix seems apt, too, since many of the connections aren't explicit enough to be an homage. Among them (and here I'm quoting directly from the poster):
-- Psychic female teammate goes dark and evil.
-- Hellfire Club turns up, and swiftly wrecks the team.
-- One lone X-Man survives, plunging into the waters below the mansion where the fight takes place.
-- A villain who casts illusions into the mind of the X-Man-gone-bad is responsible for their heel turn and is allied with the Hellfire Club.
-- A psychic event in Scott's mind involving his telepathic teammate gone bad leads to his breaking loose and free the rest of the cast.
-- There is debate about whether the team will need to kill the psychic gone bad.
-- Just as the inner conflict of the psychic teammate is reaching the point of resolution, aliens abduct all of the heroes.

Personally, I like that the ending is stolen directly from DPS, if not because I didn't want to see yet another battle end with a fastball special. But I'm troubled by the way in which Dangerous was very much a re-write of Gifted and now this arc is an even closer re-write of Dark Phoenix (though it also bears close structural resemblances to Gifted and Dangerous, too). It just starts looking like lazy plotting.

And finally, about Xorn - are you suggesting that he wasn't supposed to be Magneto all along? I was one of the many people who read NXM 146 and when paging through the back issues, slapping myself every time I ran up against another clue. I'd definitely call the Xorn reveal a case of the 'surprising and inevitable'.

Marc Caputo said...

Alright, a Xorn discussion! I'm with Neil - 100%. Now, I give Claremont his due - until 1991, the first time he left the X-books. And I'm also not an Chuck Austen hater - I thought his Action run was really headed somewhere (until he was kicked off and his plot ended - and well, I'll add by J.D. Finn - who are you? where are you?), but their retcon/explanation of Xorn/Xorn II/Magneto was hackwork and crap. The only man who had any respect for Morrison after he left the building was Bendis, who hinted that the Magneto of "Planet X" was a construct of Wanda's (in Avengers 503 and also in House of M 7 with Dr. Strange) and then put it in indelible ink with the New Avengers arc, "The Collective". Yes, Morrison always meant for Magneto to be Xorn and for Magneto to die, but that couldn't be and I'll accept that. I re-read Morrison's X-work twice a year and it always rewards me. But the reality is that Marvel can't NOT have Magneto, so Bendis made it work for me.

ping33 said...

yeah Xorn was Magnito all along. It's really evident when you reread that stuff.

I don't really understand why #5 seems to be the issue where it's finally starting to hemorrhage audience faith... but then, I'm not sure why Slate and others were defending Studio 60 past the 3rd show.

I got two weeks of books this week, Annihilation is still more fun and more logical than Civil War.

Geoff: Check out Bomb Queen, it's perverted silly fun.

Geoff Klock said...

buckshot: sell me on the Escapists and Sock Monkey -- whats good about them?

Patrick: I cannot deny that there were some bad decisions with characters in seasons 6 and 7 but I did not feel as burned as you clearly did. It may be because my favorite Whedon character is Wesley, who had an extremely persuasive arc which brought him from prissy know-it-all to a real human being.

Pat Moler: I was down on the first 12 issues of Astonishing X-Men as well, but now I am not so sure this is just a back to normal thing overall (Emma for instance is not just simply going to be a villain again, as it seemed) -- plus I imagine the back to costumes thing was more of a editorial decision.

Neil: Wow. that comparison of this X-Men arc to Dark Phoenix is fascinating. I don't think it is lazy plotting, however, any more than I think Tarantino is a hack who stole stuff from a bunch of other movies. Re-mixing something persuasively is an art, and it is one Whedon does very well. He makes something old, fresh, and I like that.

Unlike a lot of people on this blog, I did not find the Xorn-as-Magneto thing to be surprising and inevitable but I may have just been cranky because I hated Morrison's Magneto so much, and I was disappointed because Morrison is one of my favorite writers. I just didn't buy that Magneto would act like that "under cover" and then just be completely insane. What I was referring to in my throwaway comment about Xorn, however, was the way latter writers tried to say "Wait that wasn't really Xorn or whatever." Whedon, on the other hand, I thought did a good job going back into Morrison's run and imagining something interesting there that Morrison did not intend (Nova hid in Frost).

Ping: tell me more about Bomb Queen.

neilshyminsky said...

While I'm all for a good re-mix - and I'm sure we can all agree that some re-mixes are even better than the original, regardles of the medium - I've never been a fan of the re-mix album, especially when various tracks and artists begin to cannabalize themselves ad nauseum (I'm looking at you, Beck!). And it's feeling increasingly as if Whedon's run is a re-mix album. I haven't written anything on this latest issue yet, but if Geoff or anyone else is interested in reading more along these lines, I wrote about my frustration at Whedon writing AXM seemingly according to formula right here on my own blog. (Amusingly, it seems that I'd forgotten that I had made a Dark Phoenix connection two months ago, too.)

Geoff Klock said...

Neil: Let me say something very uncritical. Every point you make in you excellent blog post about AXM is true -- we have seen this all before. I feel, and I understand why you don't, that Whedon has an uncanny ability to freshen things up. I know that it is a remix, but I do not feel that it is a remix -- I feel that it is a fresh take, and so I like it. I wish I had a better way of explaining it than that. I suppose it could be my hero worship of Whedon getting in the way of my good judgement. I just don't think so.

buckshot said...


With Escapists, you have Brian K. Vaughan crafting a sort of 'Kavalier and Clay: The Next Generation'. Three young indie upstarts have acquired the rights to a forgotten superhero, The Escapist, and are risking it all to tell their story on their terms. Intercut with their story is a sort of comic-in-a-comic device, featuring The Escapist involved in some adventure that somehow connects to the main plot. Something kind of ironic about it is that the 'comic' story is rendered in a much more realistic fashion than the 'real world' story. If you liked Chabon's Kavalier and Clay, and/or you like BKV, give it a look.

Sock Monkey, also from Dark Horse, come to think of it, sort of defies explanation. It's kind of like Buster Brown meets Popeye meets Uncle Scrooge meets alcohol poisoning.

ping33 said...

Bomb Queen is an Image book where the titular character is a super villain who runs the city she lives in. She has set up zones where all crime is legal, and the entire place is in constant chaos. She kind of goes around causing havoc while arousing the public's ire and libido in equal measures. In the first series which I believe is traded, there's a mayoral election with one of the candidates promising to clean up the city and get rid of Bomb Queen.
The cover for issue 2 says a lot about the series: If you hate it, you'll hate the series, if you love it...

neilshyminsky said...

I don't necessarily disaggre, Geoff. I'm torn between admiring the beautiful artwork, snappy dialogue, and wonderful characters (Danger and Ord are shaping up to be a wonderful comic duo) and admonishing Whedon for the incredibly unsurprising and repetitive way that he lays out plots (I think that 7 is his strongest single issue - probably because it's mostly self-contained). It's not that I think misreading, reinterpreting, and/or remixing are bad things, of course - but to what end are these storytelling strategies being deployed? Maybe that's the hang-up - I don't know that he has a point.

Geoff Klock said...

Buckshot: thanks for the details. Sounds good.

Ping: I will check that out; it looks like fun.

Neil: point or no point Whedon is telling fun stories, and that is what I read for. Unlike a lot of smart folks, unlike a lot of smart folks here, I don't much care about the bigger picture if the story is fun. I would much rather read a fun story with no point (Astonishing X-men) than a story with a big point that is badly executed by, say, crummy fill in artists and quite a few pointless or bad issues (New X-Men).

neilshyminsky said...

Fun stories are also good, of course. I guess that part of it is my disappointment that Wheodon isn't writing something MORE than fun stories. Maybe I just have to realign my expectations. It just seemed like he had some sort've message to impart, what with Cyclops philosophizing about where the X-Men fit in the super-hero scheme. (And that philosophy being undermined in AXM 7, though it appears that it hasn't been addressed since.)