Monday, December 04, 2006

ScatterThoughts: Some November Books

It's Giffen and DeMatteis and wacky superhero hijinks ... you know what to expect, right? Planetary Brigade: Origins #1 covers the formation of a league dedicated to justice, with familiar character types from the warrior woman to the curious alien (whose Oreo opinion is still unrevealed) to the millionaire-by-day/dark-avenger-by-night. It's also home to Captain Valor of Hero Squared, and this three issue miniseries will act as prequel to that BOOM! Studios smash hit. It's a funny book with some great lines, but it's a significant departure from both Justice League and Hero Squared. Whereas both of those books were truly sitcoms, Planetary Brigade: Origins bleeds more toward satire, sending up heroes we know and love. It's a delicate balance, and when the Batman analogue says his old sidekick is "dead as a boot" it starts to go off the rails. Sitcom is about situation and character, but this is mere parody ... and not very clever parody, at that. Since I know these characters exist solely as commentary on other characters, I never feel fully invested in them or in their story. Planetary Brigade: Origins sure delivers on the hijinks that Giffen and DeMatteis are famous for, but it falls short of their best work by not offering much behind the hijinks.

I think Talent #4 is the fourth issue of a four-issue miniseries. The last panel says "The End", and no fifth issue has been solicited. However, when the next to last panel includes the lead character saying "the first thing I'm going to do is find the man at the center of this conspiracy" ... I'm sure you can forgive my confusion. Talent's an interesting book with beautiful art, but it's feeling of "pitch on paper" has bugged me from the start and this "ending" only reinforces that feeling. I really wonder how this would have turned out without the five studio bidding war. Would the series have had a true ending, instead of just a slight pause before the next installment?

Wha-huh? Deathblow #2 is among my favorite books of the week? I vacillated before buying this, as the first issue's darker-than-dark paramilitary/conspiracy/superhero vibe did nothing for me other than trigger flashbacks to the nineties. This second issue starts off in the same vein, then takes a left turn into birthday parties and talking dogs and opposing spy organizations called "U.S." and "T.H.E.M.". Though Carlos D'Anda's art remains solidly in the hyper-macho genre, Azzarello's script is starting to flirt with the madness of Matt Fraction's excellent Casanova, and could easily become one of the surprises in this Wildstorm relaunch.

Oh! Hey! Speaking of Matt Fraction and "darker-than-dark paramilitary/conspiracy/superhero vibe", along comes Punisher War Journal #1. Punisher's a character that I've never had much use for: having read many a Mack Bolan adventure back in the day, I can't help but see Frank Castle as a pale knockoff of something without much substance to start with. Matt Fraction's the draw here, and he delivers what is easily the best comicbookery to arise out of Marvel's Civil War shenanigans. This is a very different take than the grim-n-gritty killer that personified the Chromium Age Of Comics, and reads as the diary of a madman. There's no mistake: Frank Castle is bugshit nuts, and Ariel Olivetti's off-kilter perspectives only heighten the feeling that we're seeing the world through crazy eyes.