Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Comics Out August 15, 2007

Brad Meltzer and Ed Benes's Justice League of America #12. This has been a very strange run. I liked the first six issues, the arc about building the Justice League, with all its clever fake outs (Starro! New Gods! Amazo!) and I liked that it focused on one specific character I was not all that familiar with, but came to like, the Red Tornado. The becoming human and then losing it has been done too much, but I like how to story was told, with the perspective of so many voices, well organized into a coherent whole. Then there was this weird little nostalgic epilogue to that story, an issue without a conflict whose centerpiece was a gatefold image of the team posing for a photograph. After Metzler went to so much trouble in Identity Crisis to introduce serious ethical lapses and rape into a Justice League period that seemed so upbeat, it was odd to watch this guy do things such as resurrect the old JLA headquarters from Superfriends (even if he did update it). Then we got a rambling JLA/JSA crossover that demanded I get JSA issues to follow it (I don't know the JSA). The focus of the crossover was the Legion (who I also dont know) -- more crazy nostalgia -- then really had nothing do to with any of them. All it did was bring back an older version of a hero that got killed off in another book I didn't read -- more nostalgia! Ah for the days when so-and-so wore the mantle of hero-guy. Also that story had no villain -- heck it was dealing with too many characters as it was, so I can see why, but still. Then we get a one shot high concept thing with two JLA members without powers trying to escape from out of the rubble of a collapsed building. No villain, but points for doing something new. Now the run ends here -- with another no villain, character study where good guys just wax nostalgic about what a beautiful thing the Justice League is. And we literally just did that five issues ago. People accused Planetary of navel gazing, but at least is looking at OTHER comic books. If it wasn't an excuse for writing a superhero comic book like a fawning obitutary you could almost admire the idea of trying to write twelve issues of a major team book where characer study replaces punch-em-ups.

And to make matters worse I don't have much patience for a writer who introduces mysteries and conflicts, then leaves them for someone else to deal with. Because I am not going to continue to follow this book unless I know, going in, I like the new guy.

Also did I need "meet my young daughter" as a signal for "We're going to have sex."

In comics news two things of note, for me at least. Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch will be taking on the regular Fantastic Four title. Click here for the interview. I have always wanted to like a Fantastic Four book (The first issue of Millar's Ultimate FF, and Morrison's FF 1234 was as close as I came), so I am kinda excited about this. Millar saying this helps:

I got great advice from Stan before I started and I've taken this onboard for the main book. He told me there was no idea too insane for Fantastic Four and that was actually very liberating. Some ideas are too crazy for the Hulk or Spidey or the X-Men, but the FF is where the crazy ideas live and breathe. You have to give them a hook a nine year old can understand, but they can be as wild as you like. This is what led to the Marvel Zombies (something that seemed so unlikely editorial actually laughed when I suggested it) and I've tried to bring that same head to this run too. I've been flying on it since I started and really having a good time.

And Hitch says this, which I like:

For better or worse, Ultimates became a magnum opus of sorts and you can't follow it with another one. I can relax. So I'm just setting out to hit the schedule and get some big, bold fun comics out and remind myself that it doesn't have to be hand-wringing, sweating, cursing, worry and poverty to make a good comic. It can actually be good fun, very rewarding and, in the great scheme of world problems, a walk in the park.

And Alex Ross is doing an Invaders/Avengers Crossover in regular continuity. I don't know anything about the Invaders, sort of the Golden Age Avengers who will travel forward in time to confront the modern age Avengers, but I know Alex Ross gets on my nerves. For stuff like this:

NRAMA: So…who needs villains?

AR: Not maybe that far, but the thing is, this is along the lines of a lot of storylines in my comics, especially Kingdom Come - what ultimately set off the trouble in that story is not an organized villain front, as much as it’s just superhumans screwing things up for each other.

The greatest conflicts write themselves without having to bring in the unknown quantity of the villain in the corner to come in and be the mover and shaker to really get everybody charged up against them. There will ber surprises to titillate and satisfy that need, though.

NRAMA: Given what you said there, it seems like there could be a temptation at least, to compare these Golden Age heroes to modern day? Almost the metatextual object lesson of, “No – look, this is what a hero is?” which DC kind of started off with in Infinite Crisis?

AR: Well, no, but in a way, I could see that people might think that we’re bringing the original Invaders to the present to “put the Marvel Universe back on track” like another project… There might be some dramatic implications on that front, given that people can look at what that project meant and what it did with the idea, but that’s not why we’re doing this.

Ross just worships the good old days of Golden Age heroes. You can see it everywhere with him, even when he tries to deny it. Super-Nostalgia.

And Metzler's JLA run, Invaders Avengers, Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, Civil War, World War Hulk. Where oh where have all the villains gone?


Jason Powell said...

Wow, crazy. Interesting that Alex Ross is an illustrator on the "Justice" maxi-series, which is packed with like every major DC villain there is, acting very much like "an organized villain front."

(I'm not reading Justice, but I read some of an early issue in the store, and it actually seemed kind of cool. There was a neat bit where the Riddler was robbing a big computer room in Wayne Enterprises, and then saw on a security monitor that somebody was going to catch him in the act before he was done. The sensor was able to ID who it was, and told him it was Bruce Wayne. "Oh, the CEO, burning the midnight oil..." The henchmen get all set to just shoot Wayne the moment he walks in ... and then of course seconds later Batman comes crashing through and kicking ass. It was a fun bit, and the whole series seemed geared toward moments like that -- the pure joy of watching superheroes vs. their arch-nemeses. If they collect all 12 issues into one book, I may pick it up.)

Streebo said...

Who needs villains?

Well, the superheroes do. That's kind of how this whole set up works. Good guys vs bad guys. In the words of Matt Fraction, "it's not rocket science".

Geoff - Did you ever do a review for Infinite Crisis? I am curious to read your thoughts on it.

Geoff Klock said...

JP: that sounds alright but not enough to get around my annoyance at Ross.

Streebo: I did not say much about Infinite Crisis. this is what I wrote on October 11, 2006: "I was shocked to discover I actually liked Infinite Crisis. It is a total mess, cracking under the weight of a 12 (or 15) issue story smashed into 7 issues, a huge cast, and like 7 lead in mini-series. But it embraced a lot of the crazy, only occasionally dipping into unforgivable ridiculousness (that image of Alexander Luthor with the two huge balls), and I give extra points for exuberance and audacity. Not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but a pulpy page turner, I thought."

It might be worth revisiting.

neilshyminsky said...

Further to the 'where have all the villains gone?' question - I've always wondered why superhero writers are obsessed with the rehabilitation of villains but can't let a hero turn bad for more than a brief period of time. Spider-man once had an entire team of former rogues gallery members helping him fight the Avengers; at least half a dozen X-people were villains at some point (though some reverted); and heroes-turned-villains like Hal Jordan don't stay villainous forever. I suppose that the answer could be that they're all shades of gray anyway... but it sure doesn't come across that way in a superhero comic.

Michael K. Willis said...

I liked the idea of Brad Meltzer writing Justice League...I wasn't the biggest fan of some of the stuff that happened in Identity Crisis but I still really liked it overall...but I wasn't at all thrilled with the actual product. Some really nice little touches but nothing that really gelled.

(And maybe it's just me but I find the fact the he has everyone calling Batman "Bruce" and Superman "Clark" all the time to be a bit weird :-)

I do follow both the Legion (since I was a young whippersnapper) and the JSA but the crossover was mess (get an army of super-heroes and have them spend most of their yakking at each was a...oh let's say bold...choice...)

I agree as well that him leaving without paying off some of the plots and mysteries he set up seems incredibly odd. I mean, I have faith that Dwayne McDuffie is up to the task of taking the reins but this book, like so much of the stuff that came "One Year Later", was something of a disappointment to this longtime DC fan.

Anonymous said...

I found JLA tedious and pretentious. The issue of nostalgia doesn't bother me- Fox and Infantino encouraged kids to be nostalgiac for the JSA in 1963-
I am just so tired of this "comics aren't just for kids" nonsense. Superheroes are being written by the middle-aged FOR the middle-aged.I would cite the cynical, showboating style of my countryman Millar and the photorealism of Hitch as exactly the WORST things that could happen to the FF. Screenwriters' and novelists' attempts at adult drama acted out by the Super Friends come off as leaden soap opera at best. There's also an increase in the kind of pornographic horror that infects film and tv while other creators take their influences from dreary products like "Lost" or "Heroes": incoherent rehashes of The Twilight Zone

Andy said...

I know what you mean about Alex Ross. Reading Justice, I enjoyed a great deal of it but still you're constantly reminded that this is Alex turning back the clock to get all his DC toys back from his childhood.

Dante Kleinberg said...

Where have all the villains gone? Good question. I'd add, where has heroism gone?

The vast majority of modern comics involve the hero either struggling against personal problems, or fighting a villain who has a vendetta against that particular hero. I wish more books had villains trying to hurt OTHER people, and the hero stepping in to help, not because THIS TIME IT's PERSONAL, but just because it's the right thing to do.

Marc Caputo said...

Over at my blog, I took a look at a few books from this and last week, including JLA 12.

If its heroes and villains people want, I'd heartily recommend Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps, especially during this Sinestro Corps War. It addresses many of the points brought up here, including the one re: nostalgia. Yes, Johns is bringing back concepts and characters from 10-20 years ago, but he keeps you up to date and he's doing so to create NEW mythology.

Streebo said...

Thanks for the response, Geoff. Your thoughts pretty much mirrored my own on Infinite Crisis.

To my shame - I meant to ask you about "Identity Crisis" but somehow managed to type "Infinite Crisis" instead.


Me aM SmaRt.

Anonymous said...

I follow your blog here and there. You seem to be generally a Marvel fan. That's cool...nothing wrong with it. I'm a firm believer that someone can love both apples and bananas. But for an uber-DC fan like myself, Meltzer's run on JLA has been a dream. Sure he relies on someone to be like him...a big fan of DC and it's vast history. I can certainly understand how this isn't easy for someone to just pick up after walking into a comic shop (maybe after getting interested by Batman Begins, Superman Returns, or the Justice League animated series). But I imagine he writes these stories for people like me in mind, then expects the quality of his writing to interest those casual readers to get interested in some of those past stories and history. I will argue with you on a specific point, though. The end of the "Lightning Saga" arc with the JLA/JSA/Legion crossover didn't have just "an older version of a hero that got killed off in another book," at the end. It was the return of Wally West, who some would argue is the greatest and most popular Flash. Surely you read Infinite Crisis. He and his family disappeared in time while he used the Speed Force to banish the crazy Superboy-Prime (continuity-heavy, I know).

I will agree with you on a few points. Meltzer could certainly do with a little more action (thus, villains) in his stories. The first six-issue arc was not only his best part, but some of the finest Justice League material I've ever read (and I've read A LOT). Alex Ross is definitely stuck in the Silver Age. I was VERY surprised to have found that he did the modern League in his two variant covers for this issue of JLA (to include Black Lightning, Hawkgirl, Red Arrow, Geo-Force, and Green Lantern's new look). He normally refuses to draw anything in recent history (to include Dick Grayson as Nightwing or Kyle Rayner as Green Lantern). The thing is, he puts out quality stuff. His work is top-notch, and the recent "Justice" story has been a pleasing epic. I may not like everything the guy says, but I'm not ashamed to admit that I have two of his posters, a couple action figures, and one of his statues in my house.

Good thoughts, though. Hope mine helped a bit.