Monday, January 08, 2007

ScatterThoughts: The Books of January 4

As if the shock reveal of Civil War: Front Line #10 wasn't idiotic enough, it's not even much of a shock reveal when the cover spoils it. Why bother with a this long, decompressed sequence introducing this new identity when anyone who's looked at the front of the book knows exactly what's going to happen and who it's happening to? It's not like Dorian is spoiling anything that Marvel hasn't. It almost seems like a sick joke to turn this figure of fun into this grim 'n' gritty antihero, and I wonder if this is Ellis' brainchild, a jab at the ultimate pervert suit. I seem to remember that Front Line was originally solicited as a 9 issue miniseries, which now seems to be stretching in length to account for the delays in Civil War. I can't imagine it's been a delight for Paul Jenkins to deal with a shifting target, and the strain is showing as what started as a series of promise has had all its power and urgency sapped as it stretches.

You know what I hate most about Civil War? It's not Clor. It's not Spidey's Big Reveal. It's not The New New Thunderbolts. It's that I'm losing respect for Mark Millar with each passing issue. He was until recently a favorite: Superman Adventures, Aztek, Ultimate X-Men, Ultimates, and other books had put him on my list of writers to follow with no questions asked. Each issue of this poorly conceived-and-executed event has dampened my enthusiasm, and Civil War #6 unloads what may be his worst bit of hackery yet. I won't spoil it for my West Coast compatriots who were not as lucky as I ... but there is a hamfisted plot-hammer incident that exists solely for Spidey to drop a bon mot that has obviously been festering in Millar's mind for years and years. It's abrupt and forced, as if Millar has simply given up stringing any pretense of characterization and plot between his setpieces. I fear Joe Quasada's legacy may turn from the guy who brought indie writers to the mainstream, to the guy who sucked every bit of good writing out of those guys, leaving them shallow husks of their promise. It's clearly happened to Bendis and Millar, and one fears Brubaker and Fraction are next.

No, it didn't hit store shelves last week. And it's a minicomic, which I usually leave to those more experienced in those mysterious, miniriffic ways. But when Joe Infurnari (of Caveman Robot and Borrowed Time fame) sent me his wonderful Mandala, I couldn't help but take notice. It's a fascinating book, less a graphic novel or comic than ... well, than a mandala. It's organized in a curious way, where you read all the right-facing pages then at the end of the book, you work back reading the left-facing pages. In this way, the opposite pages in each spread are not connected narratively, but thematically. It's not a narrative book at all, but an object of meditation and reflection: like a triptych (except I don't know what a 26-tych would be called). All this sounds so .... artsy, I suppose. A 26-part formal exercise that's a meditation on the cycles of birth, life, death, and renewal. Perhaps I should mention the giant fucking robot that is the heart of the story, and how much I throughly enjoy it when Infurnari draws giant fucking robots? Copies and be purchased at, where a measly $4 gets you a full-color mini, hand-numbered (in an edition of 150) and signed by the artist.

Kurt Busiek wins again. The Busiek/Pacheco Superman is one of the true delights of One Year Later, and this issue puts an exclamation point on his opening sentence. It's been an odd arc, with Arion and dystopian futures in a seemingly strained jumble. Instead of coming apart at the seams, Superman #658 introduces the kind of conceptual twist that's more usually seen in Busiek's Astro City: Superman's constant saving of civilization is only going to make the inevitable final fall worse, and is preventing the natural cycles that all life is subject to. To truly save mankind, Superman must stand aside and "Let Civilization Fall!" ... Of course he won't - there's a trademark at stake - but I can't wait to see where Busiek goes with it, and knowing the constraints of for-hire trademark servicing only makes the situation more interesting. This could go down as one of the great Superman runs when all's said and done.


SallyP said...

Dark Speedball. Truely the apocalypse is upon us.

jon martin said...

butbut mark,what incident are you talking about?i just reread the whole thing and have no idea what you're talking about.maybe the "gay" joke?

Mark Fossen said...

Jon -

Sorry - I was being vague until the rest of the West Coast had a chance. Now that it's on the shelves ... the whole Captain America/Punisher throwdown was so baldly an excuse for Spidey's "Same soldier, different war." Just the abruptness and insanity of Punisher's action, plus that idiotic fight (that no one broke up, while no one was busy tending to the wounded) ... it's just another Millar setpiece, and seemed especially creaky around the edges.

JC Carter said...

I'm starting to agree with Machine Man's sign on the cover of NextWave... Mark Millar Licks Goats!

Where I would LOVE to see a new Champions comic from Marvel, I was irritated that the heroes were "designed" a la the Ultimates, by Stark, Pym and SHIELD. They couldn't find any former members of the Pantheon hanging around the southwest?

Though the "Mormon hero team in Utah" DOES intrigue me. Will they get Kirkman and Walker to write/draw it? Or maybe even Mike Allred?

Mark Fossen said...

Yeah - I really want to see that Mormon team as well.