Wednesday, July 05, 2006

ScatterThoughts: The Books Of June 28th

It's Wednesday, yet there are no new comics! What's a junkie to do?

Let's travel back in time a week, and discuss last week's comics - that should ease the hunger pangs.

After coming home from the distinctly disappointing Superman Returns, I gathered up my newly purchased Action Comics #840 alongside the past few months' Action and Superman issues, and read through the complete "Up, Up, And Away!" arc by Kurt Busiek, Geoff Johns and Pete Woods. Spinning out of "One Year Later", it's an arc that begins with Superman missing from the public eye for a year, as we learn he's been depowered and has been happily living his life as Clark Kent. From there, powers are regained, villains defeated, and there's a great examination of the character. The Superman books often exist in perpetual doldrums, but this was an exciting story that can easily stand alongside All-Star Superman as a beautiful example of how and why the character works. It's not about all the powers, it's about the heroism of one man who tries to do the most good he can with what's been given to him - whether that's good journalism or super-strength. I can't say I'm thrilled to see so much of the movie franchise creeping in - the 3-D chest insignia, Luthor's plot which closely mimics the Singer movie, even a new Fortress of Solitude introduced in a panel-for-panel homage to the 1979 Richard Donner film. That aside, this arc was pure Superman bliss, and I am looking forward even more to Busiek's upcoming run on the book.

In almost every way, Civil War: Front Line #2 addresses most of my problems with the debut issue. Some of the main story's heavy-handedness is gone, and comparing superheroes to Julius Caesar is much more palatable than the distasteful analogy to Japanese internment camps. This issue in large part works better because we get more plot and less opinion. It's a dense issue with a lot of beats that flesh out and expand the Civil War story. There's a continuing messageboard debate over Marvel's claim that you don't "need" to read any of the Civil War tie-ins to enjoy and understand the main event, but it sure feels like Front Line is required reading. At the least, the initial battle of the war as the clock ticks midnight belongs in the main series. What initially appears a heroic stand by the Anti-Registration forces is completely undercut by an obviously drunk Prodigy swinging a bottle around as he makes his stand ... and that complexity is thoroughly welcome, and may be one of the first actions (as opposed to blabberiffic talking heads) that defines the complexities of the issue.

I need to ask, though ... between this and Runaways, what's with the Slingers hate?

I'm not going to go through Brave New World #1. I think Mike, Jog, Chris and many others handled that well. I probably agree with the HiveMind on this one: The All-New Atom looks like it'll be a fun romp, and I'll sadly avoid Martian Manhunter no matter how much I like the character. The big place I differ with most reactions I've read is with OMAC: I hated them in the Crisis, think little of Bruce Jones after his Nightwing disaster, and can't imagine the concept sustaining even an eight-issue miniseries. Somehow, though, I immediately liked the main character and got hooked on the mystery ... and I fully admit that I may simply be rationalizing a purchase of the series based on art alone. I'm usually a writing guy, but I was just floored by Renato Guedes, and may purchase the series and ignore the word balloons.

Just about damn-near note-perfect. I hate to see Young Avengers go on hiatus, but at least Young Avengers #12 provides a really satisfying conclusion to this first "season". Though clocking in with only two extra pages, this feels much larger. A fantastic trick here is the series of half-splashes that make up the issue's central battle. In each one, we get a detailed, dynamic splash from Jim Cheung peppered with 6 panels focusing on character beats within that moment. It's really a simple establishing-shot/two-shot technique, but it works perfectly. Plenty of plot, plenty of gorgeously-rendered action, and it it's heart are the characters which compete with the Runaways cast for some of the most realized characters in superhero comics today.


Michael said...

Although I liked Superman Returns, I thought "Up Up and Away" was more emotionally powerful and that its conclusion was the conclusion I really wanted for the movie. I've never cared for Superman except in a few rare instances, but Busiek, as I thought he would, has gotten me excited about reading Superman.

Michael said...

I also agree that Young Avengers was a very satisfying conclusion. I just LOVE that title. I hope it does indeed return.

Dan Coyle said...

Don't forget- Hornet was killed during Millar's "Enemy of the State" storyline in Wolverine.

I guess it's just a reflection of dislike for Harras-era "design= all new fully formed character" thinking.

Kevin said...

I agree that Up, Up, and Away was a great story. I liked most of it very much and thought it was odd how it related to Superman Returns (which I loved). Between Busiek's Astro City, this Superman line, and his Aquaman, he's really becoming a favorite of mine.

Mark Fossen said...

Michael - Same fear here. They are talking about a Season 2, but I'll believe it when I see it.


Dan - I haven't read "Enemy Of The State", so I missed that one. It's not like I'm some huge Slingers fan, it's just weird to see them becoming some weird kind of running joke in the Marvel Universe ....

I suppose they've recieved better treatment than Alpha Flight and New Warriors, though. :)


Kevin - Yeah, Busiek's one of the good ones. I've liked his work for a long time, and I'm really glad to see him writing Supes, as it seems such a perfect fit.