Monday, July 07, 2008

Comics Out July 2, 2008

Astonishing X-Men 25.
Ellis is not my favorite writer, but two things are going to make me stay with this book, at least in the short term. First, I think Bianchi is a really interesting artist (especially on a book like this); I am not sure I love him, and I have no idea how Wolverine dislocated his hip on the cover, and I do not know why everyone is doing "Big Arms" when they appear in street clothes, and the muddy colors might drive me up the wall, but it sort of has my attention. Though the process of writing that sentence sort of made me change my mind about him. Second, I am a sucker for the X-Men. I am reading Claremont's entire run now thanks to Jason Powell, I invested heavily in Morrison and Whedon's runs, and Ellis is clearly set up as the new heir to the prestige stand-alone core-character X-Men run: he immediately makes fun of Whedon for the name Armor, and makes the costume choices central as Morrison and Whedon did on their first issues. The story does not have my attention at all now -- a serial killer, a genetic mutant, and spaceships (god, I do not share Ellis's fascination with spaceships, science, and random violence), especially as it lacks Morrison and Whedon's big theme openings, but I will stick with it.

Does anyone remember when Warren Ellis was all about how people who wrote superhero comics were total sellouts? And how, when someone on his forum asked him about how Morrison writing New X-Men made him feel, said "What can I say? Sometimes your friends fuck ugly girls." The more I think about it the more I think I did NOT like Astonishing X-Men 25. Still: sticking with it at least through the first arc.

Batman 678.
After the conference at the Met I feel like I am seeing costumes issues everywhere -- but in both the comics I got this week, it really does seem important. My interest in this very messy, ugly and uneven run continues upwards -- the last page of this issue is the best page I have seen so far in the run, and I kind of wish Morrison had somehow started his run with it. It is everything I want to see in a Morrison Batman comic book. The magical black homeless guy ghost is kind of lame, as is much of the book, but Morrison tosses in enough interesting images and ideas -- I particularly like Hurt in the Batman outfit -- that I don't regret buying this series exactly.

In Comics News -- well actually, for no reason I can understand, I quit reading Newsarama after the format change. Something about it gets on my nerves. Let me know if I am missing anything this week.

Review, Discuss, and Recommend this week's comics. Buffy and Angel people -- feel free to spoil stuff even though I quit getting those books in issue format (and possibly in any format).


James said...

AXM 25: I try not to let Ellis's Internet Tough-Guy routine get in the way of my enjoying his writing, but sometimes it's hard. Didn't love this, didn't hate it, the third iteration of the costume discussion seemed really clunky and redundant, like now they're an action figure line. "Street Clothes Wolverine -- with spring-loaded crime-scene-autopsy action!" I liked the bit about the spaceship graveyard, though. Bianchi I thought was better on Shining Knight - his stuff looks a little stiff nowadays, especially the covers. Forget Wolverine's hip, the perspective on Cyclops' visor is appalling. I can only assume it exists on a completely separate spatial plane, causing him unbearable anguish.

Batman 678: "the last page of this issue is the best page I have seen so far in the run" - You ain't kidding! I still can't buy this, because the art is too horrible, but if he manages to even partially fulfil the promise of that ending I'll have to get the trade.

scott91777 said...

Who's doing the art in Batman now? Is this still the Batman RIP arc?

Speaking of Batman, Geoff. Can I do AS Batman and Robin next week? ( provided it comes out)

Marc Caputo said...

I'm of split mind on the AXM with Ellis/Bianchi. It looks gorgeous, but I'm not thrilled with the first issue. It's interesting and all, but this may be a sign that I'm ready to drop the mutants again. I know Fraction is coming on, but I get enough of his stuff as it is. With this new status quo, which I have to say is a little contrived. New York doesn't like mutants, but San Francisco does? Sign me out; I'll go to trade with the X-books now.

scott91777 said...


When you put it that way (I haven't been keeping up with the storylines) I kind of like the San Francisco thing. Afterall, one of the major things, especially in recent years, that mutants have been a symbol for is homosexuality. So, especially with the recent gay marriage descision, why not have San Franciso be a beacon of tolerance?

Geoff Klock said...

Scott -- it is the appalling Tony Daniels. And yes you can write about All Star Batman.

I am with marc on the San Francisco thing being contrived. And Scott, I see your point, but the whole thing is too much on the nose. Those kinds of connections are better when they are subtle.

Jason said...

Also, Claremont already did that "San Francisco is more tolerant of the X-Men" idea, back in 1985.

Just sayin'.

Also, is it true that Grant Morrison came up with something called the "Black Casebook," in this week's Batman, which details all of his 1950s adventures? How eerily similar to Alan Moore's "Black Dossier" concept, if true.

Jason Powell, ABCDEF&GH, I
(Association Believing Claremont's Done Everything First & Grant Hasn't, Incorporated)

Timothy Callahan said...

Morrison has had the Black Casebook in his Batman run since early on.

James said...

"Also, Claremont already did that "San Francisco is more tolerant of the X-Men" idea, back in 1985."

Then the X-Men are idiots for not moving there in the 80s.

I guess I don't get how it's contrived really? I'm surprised/impressed that Fraction and Brubaker have managed to sell Marvel on what is a very Morrisonian set-up, with a genuine mutant community that is not necessarily hated and feared by all around it. I'm all for doing something other than the hoary old "yah blah muties" schtick; seems like a good opportunity to tell different kinds of stories.

Plus, the whole endorsed-by-local-government bit was set-up in the Order, where the mayor of San Francisco was trying to get that super-team as a mascot.

j.liang said...

AXM 25: Feels like there's a disconnect between Bianchi's art and Ellis' script. The last page seems especially off: the focus in each of the first four panels is the person with the least amount of dialogue, while the character doing most of the talking is shunted off to the side or in a corner. We're left with a relatively large close-up of Wolverine dramatically lit from underneath, tilting his head back to take a swig from a can while chattering on about the dangers of Chaparanga Beach and quipping, "You shoulda brought your camera." Just odd.

Elsewhere in the issue, Hisako seems uncharacteristically expressive. Now I'm hoping Cassandra Nova has been hiding out this entire time.

Buffy 16: I was a fan of the Fray mini-series, so I'm excited for the Whedon-Moline reunion. This is a pretty decent set-up issue, but not too much going on other than that. I did like that Kennedy is wearing a Marzipan t-shirt.

Marc Caputo said...

Geoff: Is 'Big Arms' an Eddie Izzard (from 'Dressed to Kill') reference?

If not and you have no idea what I'm talking about, get that DVD.

That goes for the lot of out there as well - although most of this crowd should know this.

Geoff Klock said...

Jason -- that acronym is awesome.

Marc -- yes it is an Eddie Izard reference.

Everyone -- Marc is right. You all must know Glorious and Dressed to Kill.

Peter said...

Geoff -

It's Ellis' on-again/off-again contempt for super-hero books (and yet still writes them anyway) that keeps me away from his work in general. I can't believe he doesn't have another Transmet in him somewhere.

And I too stopped reading Newsarama because of the format change. I prefer the one-stop-shopping feel of a site, not an endless maze of clicking.

Stephen said...

AXM: I hope you stick with it through the first run -- that way I can decide if it's worth it to pick up the first trade :)

I read Morrison & Whedon's runs (all in trade), and enjoyed them, but I wouldn't mind stopping here if Ellis isn't up to their level.

Though the process of writing that sentence sort of made me change my mind about him.

Yeah, I've written that sort of sentence too. :)

when someone on his forum asked him about how Morrison writing New X-Men made him feel, said "What can I say? Sometimes your friends fuck ugly girls."

It's also worth noting the casual misogyny of that sentence. Sort of appalling, really.


Jason said...

"Also, Claremont already did that "San Francisco is more tolerant of the X-Men" idea, back in 1985."

Then the X-Men are idiots for not moving there in the 80s."

James, they actually did consider it in the story, but then were run out of town on a rail by Freedom Force. Then the Mutant Massacre happened and the tone changed to "the X-Men aren't safe anywhere."

James said...

Still, I like Fracbaker's rationale that staying in the same X-shaped mansion that's been blown up for the eight-hundredth time isn't particularly smart.

Josh Hechinger said...

I suspect Ellis' vocal hate for superheroes in the 90s/early-00s came from two things:

1) Marvel apparently being a pretty shitty place to work at, at the time; he's since called it a "snake-pit".

2) The fact that the industry was basically drowning in crappy superhero books at the time, with nothing all else really flourishing. I think the analogy he used was something like "imagine if the book publishing industry was 90% nurse romance fiction, and lots of stores wouldn't even stock the 10% of whatever else was out there".

Number 1's changed for the better under Quesada, as I understand it.

Number 2...well, it's gotten better. Not perfect, but better. There's an actual space in the market for things like Casanova, or Ellis' Avatar work, or really any book that's, y'know, different. And good. And actually does something worthwhile with the medium.

Which is maybe more than you could say about the industry c. 2000.

Peter - Ellis is doing most (possibly all?) his creator-owned work over at Avatar. Give Doctor Sleepless, or his webcomic FreakAngels a shot.

Jake said...

"[Ellis] immediately makes fun of Whedon for the name Armor, and makes the costume choices central as Morrison and Whedon did on their first issues."

It's not really that Ellis is making fun of it, as it is a continuation of Whedon's Wolvie-Armor dialogue, considering Whedon already had Wolverine making fun of her codename right after she chose it back in AXM #20 and also made with the "Claws" joke. Ellis' extension of the joke (especially deeming Rogue "Suck") was humorous but also sort of felt...played. I'm forgiving because it WAS a reference to Whedon's run, which I'm all for, but half the dialogue seemed rehashed. Beast & Emma talking about coffee was already used in Whedon's run as well. In reality, people might talk about coffee every day. It's an everyday thing. But in a comic, reading it twice in 20-some issues of a comic seems boring, like it's just there as page filler. Maybe my negative feelings were just exacerbated because I instantly reread the whole Whedon run after the Giant-Size finale, so stuff like a codename joke and talking about coffee were more fresh in my mind.

Another thing that bugged me with the dialogue in #25 was Emma saying "simply kill myself" "simply die" or whatever over and over. Once would be fitting with the character, illustrating her dry wit. Twice in 2 pages seems less clever to me.

Also I don't have so much of a problem with Bianchi's technical ability (though he draws Wolverine's claws far too long) as much as with his designs. I don't really like how complex he's made Cassaday's excellent costume designs, and I didn't like the "street clothes" designs at all. Do camouflage and cargo pants look like something the SF people would understand at a crime scene? Why not just suits like an investigator would wear, or blue jackets with Super Crime Scene in yellow letters on the back. It didn't make sense to me, and I hated seeing Emma reduced to wearing such fashion-backward clothing, but at least it got Storm out of her impossibly skimpy costume (which, by the way, really looked better in Quitely's art style than with Bianchi's more realistic bent--though Quitely just had Emma's breasts nearly exposed as opposed to her crotch).

Jeff said...

I used to really like Ellis, but I feel too often he's laughing at me rather than with me, if you know what I mean.

Also, I used to read Newsaram a lot, but I barely go there anymore either after the update, it's too slow loading.

scott91777 said...

Okay, Kitty, Jubilee and ,now apparently, Armor...

What is it with Wovlvie and the underage X-girls?

... and by that of course I meant he obviously longs to have a daughter (what were you pervs thinking I meant?)

Jake said...

The mentor thing is a nice tradition and I'm glad Whedon actually gave us a likable character in Armor as the true young successor to Kitty. Jubilee is unbearable.

Speaking of the Wolvie-Armor relationship, I really like how as the burgeoning mentor relationship began, her armor eventually manifested claws. Bianchi even draws it with two pointy "ears."

scott91777 said...

Yeah, in hindsight Jubilee seems like she might be Claremont's attempt to do a 'hip-90s-mallrat' sort of varation on that theme... a Kitty Pryde for the 90210 set if you will. Then of course, later, when she adopted the Robin colors it seemed a bit too much like Carrie Kelly had been transported to the Marvel U.

Jason, you know of any inside story on Jubilee (i.e. how Claremont came up with her? Was the Carrie Kelly thing intentional?)

neilshyminsky said...

Just to jump in here, regarding the art on Batman: How does Tony Daniels get work? I flipped through an issue and couldn't even bring myself to finish the flip-through, Daniels art was so unbelievably ugly. And not, like, Igor Kordey's ugly-as-an-aesthetic ugly, but just amateurishly bad.

Jason said...

Scott, nothing on Jubilee here. But, jeez, how dumb am I for not seeing the Carrie Kelly parallel? I had always assumed the Robin colors were a jokey "cash-in" on the newfound popularity of Batman. (Jubilee got the Robin color scheme just after the 1989 Batman film. One issue later, Claremont had Wolverine ask a villain, "You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?").

But, of course, Carrie Kelly. Jubilee started wearing the Robin colors at the same time that Psylocke was brainwashed and turned into a Hand ninja, explicitly said to be the successor to Elektra. There's some kind of crazy Frank Miller mash-up going on. (And crazier still, all those issues were drawn by Jim Lee, Miller's current collaborator on -- Batman and Robin!)

Brilliant one, Scott. Thank you!

Mikey said...

Congrats guys - you just made Jubilee the most interesting she's ever been!

AXM and Ellis - liked it, although yeah, I'm unsure if the San Francisco angle's not a bit...pat. I'm prepared to give it a shot. Bianchi's artwork is absolutely preposterous, and therefore quite wonderful.

As for Ellis's past comments about superheroes - a guy's allowed to change his mind, and he's quite convincing when talking about how much better Marvel is now, although I too wish he'd get on with something on the level of Transmet.

Maybe he has to, God forbid, get off the internet and reconnect with character, as opposed to concepts and concept-dependant characters and dialogue. He often talks about writing in terms of 'lashing things together' or 'bolting bits on' and, while such mechanistic concepts may be true (it is, after all work), it's telling, and is observable in his work.

I've got room for (admittedly well-written) comics-by-google, and he is a scifi writer, but how about trying to stir some emotion in at least one of his many titles (I admire his work ethic). Although the argument is there that Ellis feels he doesn't have to bother to do much more with corporate-owned characters, all he has to do is move the pieces around a bit to justify the continuing existence of a monthly book. And he's sort of right about that.

Hmm, you wouldn't think that I like the guy and like his comics. Weird.

AXM sparked here some interesting points about a conversation between Morrison and Whedon's X-Men that I found really interesting. My guess is that Ellis's version is going to step sideways from there and not sustain it. Who's the character to watch in this run though? Storm?

Geoff - Morrison has actually updated his website. If you register as a user you get exclusive content - a kind of blog that's quite amusing, although it misses the zip of his old Head pieces from the old red site, which were really ballsy and great fun. But then, he's getting on a bit.

Christian said...

I'm sleep deprieved, so I might be harsher than usual, but I think most of you guys are getting too hung up on Ellis online persona. A persona primarily used to sell books.
Saying Ellis hates Superheroes is really like saying Morrison is a drug-fueled idiot savant with no real writing ability aside from being able to type on four types of illicit drugs. It's an unfair simplification and completely undermines the writer's actual ability. Go "wah wah wah, Ellis hates superheroes and clearly mocks his reader instead of the subject matter," to me, just weakens your arguement and might make me disregard some of the actual valid complaints in your reviews. (I'm using the Royal You at this point btw.)

Plus, his Astonishing is pretty much written as a Sci-fi comic anyway. Something Jason actually brought up in his Claremont X-men posts. They work best as a Sci-fi team in Superhero clothing.

scott91777 said...


Maybe Claremont secretly longed to write Batman...

Did anyone see the episode of the Simpsons last season where Alan Moore, Daniel Clowes, and Art Spiegelman guested?

Lisa: Mr. Clowes, you're such a wonderful artist, I feel you can do anything!

Clowes (excitedly): Really? Do you know someone in charge of Batman... 'cos I'd really like to draw Batman! I have Sketches!

Jason said...

My favorite detail in that episode is the revelation that when Alan Moore was the writer of "Radioactive Man," he made him a "crack-addicted jazz musician who's NOT RADIOACTIVE."

(Emphasis mine there ... I just love their mocking of Moore's common use of "everything you thought you knew was wrong"-type writing tactics.)

scott91777 said...


That episode was the first time I heard Alan Moore's voice and I immediately thought of Dave Sim's line, "and he says to you in that deep voice (no, deeper)."

Alan Moore- The Barry White of comics writers.