Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Comics Out November 14, 2007

[I want to makes these impressions shorter. I am also having a bad week, which may be effecting my reviews. As first quick impressions, you get what you get. Let me know if you think I am off base -- I may need some course-correcting this week.]

All Star Superman. Feeling kind of meh about this one. Quitely's characters are lovely, as are Grant's colors -- PINK for the cover is inspired! Yellow and purple for the Kryptonians is great as they of course wore dreary black for the film. But this issue seemed thin on plot, ideas and backgrounds. I was not really sure what going on with the reference to the "radioactive cloud." It just seemed like there was maybe going to be a problem, but then, no, wait, no there isn't, it resolved itself on its own. Maybe that is charming? I did not hate it. Maybe some of the surprise is gone as I think I know what to expect with this title now? Or, again, could just be my bad week.

World War Hulk. This issue is the emblem of the comics industry today. Guys, pretty well drawn guys, punch each other for 22 pages. It draws on an earlier "EVENT" stories like Planet Hulk and Civil War, and it leads into more EVENT stories like Son of Hulk and Red Hulk. I could make complaints, but what on earth did I expect?

Punisher. The segue to Turkey was a little odd, but Matt Fraction writes a hell of a Spider-Man, and the new artist has a good sense of humor -- plus Kool-Aid ad joke. Plus Domino! Who knew! I used to love Domino!

The Ultimates Saga. Did I really buy a summary of 25 issues I already have just for the four page frame story by Travis Charest in which Tony Stark wakes up next to two girls? Yes I did.

Buffy: Panel to Panel.
Did I really buy a 20 dollar reprint of past Buffy art just for the best Bachalo cover EVER? No. I did not. But the week is not over yet, and I have to pass that comic book store every day on the way to the subway.

The League of Extraordinary Gentleman: The Black Dossier. Frank Miller writes a hell of a Batman, but he is also kind of a pseudo-fascist Republican crackpot. Alan Moore is one of the smartest guys in comics but he is also kind of a self-indulgent, rambling pseudo-Blakean hippie nostalgia-pastiche novelist in need of an editor with a hatchet. Basically, I prefer Miller. I loved the first League but did not actually read the prose pieces. I have not read this one yet but flipping through it I feel bombarded by the worst of Alan Moore -- the endless prose, the cheesy invocation of the IMAGINATION, and the meticulous recreation of genres I do not think I really care about. Hard work to be sure, but rewarding for the reader? I do not know. I have not read it yet. But my hunch? Exhausting. But again -- bad week for me.

In comics news Marvel is putting lots of stuff online, but since I have barely cracked the Claremont issues on my "40 Years of X-Men" disk, I feel like it is not for me, at least not yet.


neilshyminsky said...

Is World War Hulk over yet? How's it end? (Or NOT end, as the case may be.)

Geoff Klock said...

Hulk turns back to banner and is taken away in stasis where everything goes red. (Red Hulk is the next big thing). Back on planet Thrakamazorg or whatever a hulk aries from the devistated landscape -- Son of Hulk, which I would not have understood were it not for the ad in the back of the book for a comic book called Son of Hulk

Ping33 said...

New Courtney Crumrin!!!

Moore v Miller: Geoff you ignorant swine, I guess I could see LIKING Miller more but in my mind that's like saying that you like Die Hard better than Citizen Kane... Art is subjective and all but c'mon!

David Golding said...

Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together should be out this week.

Voice Of The Eagle said...

I dearly wish Bachalo was pencilling Buffy right now.

James said...

Man, World War Hulk, I thought you were different. I actually think this is worse than Civil War; as much as I liked Geoff's line "the thing ends, if you can call it that", in hindsight Civil War kind of hangs together as a story, and you understand its ending as the end of an era, a change in the way Marvel superheroes will operate etc. etc. World War Hulk has no ending, and all you understand is that three new comics are coming out. In trade this thing will read only as "Chapter 2 Of The Epic Hulk Saga: Song Of The Planet-Breaking World-Scar", and not as a complete thing in and of itself.

Haha! "Thrakamazorg".

Jason Powell said...

"[Alan Moore] is a self-indulgent, rambling pseudo-Blakean hippie nostalgia-pastiche novelist"

There is not a single thing in that description that is not true.

And not a single thing in it that I don't LOVE.

I had no idea till a few days ago that Black Dossier was coming out this week. I cannot WAIT to get to the comic store and read the fuck out of this thing.

Sincerely hope your week gets better, Geoff!

Matthew J. Brady said...

Yes, Geoff, you seem grumpy. You're not wrong about ASS, but it's still an enjoyable issue full of fun details ("You broke the moon!"). I would argue that the Buffy cover is Bachalo's best though. I think he did better stuff on Generation X (or maybe one of his Shade the Changing Man covers) or even his current X-Men run.

I haven't read The Black Dossier yet (my copy is on order from Borders), but I'm really looking forward to it. I agree with Jason that your description of Moore is right on (except maybe the hatchet/editor bit), but I love every bit of it. Promethea and From Hell are some of my favorite comics of all time, and just about everything else he's done is pretty incredible. I can't wait to read this.

Jason Powell said...

Oh yeah, I don't agree with the hatchet/editor bit either. My other fave, Mr. Claremont, HE needs a hatchet-wielding editor.

Moore, naaah. The more self-indulgent he gets, the more I like him, typically.

Still, "self-indulgent, rambling pseudo-Blakean hippie nostalgia-pastiche novelist" ... that is effing brilliant.

Geoff Klock said...

Ping: I will not come on. I see a huge walls of Moore Text in a comic, or his 1000th pastiche of an older mode of writing and I get all sleepy.


James: I think I got Thrakamazorg from an episode of the Tick where he is getting the name of an alien wrong.

Matt, Jason: I look forward to discussing the Black Dossier more, if I ever get around to reading the thing.

Stephen said...

I'll wait to make a substantive comment until I've read Black Dossier (probably not until the Thanksgiving break, busy these days), but I basically agree with Ping/Matt/Jason about Moore.

(Ultimately I think he's just orders of magnitude more *sophisticated* than Miller: his comics are more fun to reread because there's just a lot more there. (Think about teaching Moore vs. teaching Miller...))


Geoff Klock said...

Stephen -- since you will review the Black Dossier on your blog I will not ask you to guest blog it here, but we can have this whole debate then.

You are right that there is more in Moore than Miller. It is just that I do not have that much tolerance for his pastiche, sex magic, nostalgia thing. I know others love it and I do not deny that he does it well.

Let me try this sentence, and let's see if this could be true. Frank Miller has more capacity for surprise than Moore? Maybe? DKSA and All Star Batman were very surprising. Is Black Dossier surprising? Again -- I have not read it. But the end looks like Promethea, and much looks like Lost Girls and Tomorrow Stories. Again -- I have not read it. We will see.

Jason Powell said...

Geoff, I could maybe do a guest-blog-review of "Black Dossier" if you'd like someone to do it. Unless you think you might review it yourself.

Regarding surprise, I have no idea. Moore rarely surprises me, but that is partly because I've absorbed so much of his sensibility by reading every jot of his writing I could get my greedy hands on, I find it increasingly easy to "write along" when I read him.

That said, he can still surprise in small ways. I mean, I had no doubt -- from the moment Moore did the bit in League Volume One where Hyde could see the Invisible Man but didn't let on that he could -- that Volume Two would have Hyde trashing the Invisible Man in some scene. The fact that this scene would involve anal rape, however ... that was kind of a shocker. And right around that same time there was a bit where we find out Mina gets turned on by being bitten, which was a stroke of genius that I didn't see coming. ("Stroke" is an anagram of "stoker" -- damn, I'm clever.)

Meanwhile, is All Star Batman STILL surprising at this point? We all kind of know what to expect from each issue now, right?

I don't know -- ability to surprise is kind of a tough thing to quantify, maybe...?

Stephen said...

since you will review the Black Dossier on your blog

Wasn't necessarily planning to, but now maybe I'll have to.

I will not ask you to guest blog it here

...Unless I do that instead. But I'll agree that

we can have this whole debate then

one way or another.


Ted said...

Moore and Miller both began their careers reinventing earlier comics that said a great deal about the times and expectations of comics people had (consider Daredevil and the gradual noir-ification of Marvel and MarvelMan and Moore's need to place it in EPIC, literally WORLD-SHAKING stakes).

Over the years, they've both left an impression on comics that Moore has repeatedly said has disappointed him. So, naturally, he's been seeking more and more esoteric influences to get away from the WATCHMEN formula of taking familiar characters and liberally sprinkling cynicism on them. In contrast, Miller has pushed the volume up to 11 and found his fans and Hollywood ready to celebrate him for it (whether or not you like Miller, you have to admit the 300 movie was pretty lazy). While I can see why it'd be hard to engage with The Black Dossier (204 pages that jump from contemporary comics form to old-fashioned to Shakespearean verse to newspeak, etc.), there is a definite reward in immersing yourself in it. Just as a modern reader grabbing a copy of Orlando or the Dharma Bums is going to stumble now and again getting to the end of them, Moore's treatise on them depends a bit on confounding you.

Miller is easier to engage with on the immediate level (there's only one person in ASBaR who that chain-smoking blonde in fishnets can be) and Moore on a longer term (why is Dr. Moreau hanging out with Rupert the Bear? What does it say about both those writings and the times they came out of?). However, Moore must be celebrated, if only because he's trying to elevate ALL writing to an equally important level. And regardless of the degree to which he succeeds (I found League vol. 2 good but flawed), the insights and ideas and sheer knowledge he has of these characters (Mr. Hyde being the culmination of a repressed Dr. Jekyll's homosexual yearnings is a brilliant re-reading of Stevenson's text). I'm bearly twenty pages in the the Dossier, and I'm already noticing an attention to detail that excites me. Moore, especially with this, is meant to be read re-read, studied and speculated upon. And what does it say about Moore that as he gets closer to contemporary fiction, he's able to make his references more obscure and troubling (combining Big Brother, Graham Greene's Third Man AND 'Mother' from the Avengers? Whose mind works like that?)?

Christian said...

I will say I'm with Ping and the others. You're totally correct about the "a self-indulgent, rambling pseudo-Blakean hippie nostalgia-pastiche novelist" bit.

I still find it enjoyable. And he is far more versatile because of it. The last time Miller did something different than imitate his younger self was with the Darrows stuff, right?

In other terms, Moore created Joe Pi; Miller "created" the Goddamn Batman.

If Moore is self-indulgent hippie dandy, then Miller is a self-indulgent nazi caveman. There's no real depth, it's just fascist porn. The only surprise I've gotten from him in later years is how amazingly awful he's become at even that. If Moore copies everyone else and infuses himself in it, Miller riffs off himself and ups the ante with about 10.

Moore writes stories that makes the reader (and quite possibly himself) laugh, Miller writes stories that make only him laugh.

Geoff Klock said...

Ted, Christian, et al. On some level I do not disagree with any of you. The issue is that obviously I am more impatient that you all.

Though Christian, I do quite like Frank Miller, and am always surprised what kind of a loon he can be. Most people don't like that, and I see why, but there is a kind of crazy commitment to it that I kinda admire. Again -- that is clearly just me.

The Satrap said...

Let me add my voice to the pro-Moore contingent.

Moore can be very flawed, in roughly two ways. He can be ponderous, preachy and overly sentimental, or he can be overly intricate and self-indulgent in his cleverness, as you well say.

An example of the first kind of weakness would be the last leg of Promethea (the last issue of Tom Strong is even worse). Some of his stronger work, like the best bits of Swamp Thing and (IMO) From Hell, suffers from this too, but the density of the subject-matter and the lavishness and virtuosity on display in those cases make up for the ham-handedness.

In all cases, his work lends itself to re-readings, but not quite so much to alternative readings. I understand how this can rub some people up the wrong way. Morrison is often even sappier than Moore (Seven Soldiers #1, anyone?), but his “messier” style can alleviate it somewhat.

When Moore gets all scholarly on the reader’s arse it can be really boring (the New Traveller’s Almanac was rubbish, sorry, Alan). This can be leavened by his twisted sense of humour, like in the first volume of LOEG or in “Top Ten” (Galactapuss vs Cosmouse? C’mon, that’s hilarious).

OTOH, All-Star Batman is surprising because Miller appears to be embracing self-parody. But he still operates within the parameters of his well-worn “hard-boiled” shtick. I mean, I’m sure some would hail it as genius if he were the actual author of this.

He’s simply not in Moore’s or Morrison’s league, but he remains a very powerful presence. Morrison’s failure to bend Miller’s legacy to his will in the pages of Batman, for example, shows this.

Anonymous said...

The Kryptonian name Bar-el may be a joke on Morrison's part. "Bar-L" is the local nickname for Glasgow's Barlinnie Prison, some ten minutes from where I'm typing.