Robot 6

What Are You Reading?

Revolver by Matt Kindt

Revolver by Matt Kindt

Happy Sunday and Happy Fourth of July, as we once again delve into what the Robot 6 crew are reading this week. Joining us as our special guest this week is Jeff Lemire, creator of Sweet Tooth, The Nobody, The Essex County Trilogy and Lost Dogs, and the writer of the Atom strip in Adventure Comics and the upcoming Superboy series.

To see what Jeff and the Robot 6 crew are reading, click below …

*****

Chris Mautner

Blackest Night

Blackest Night

DC sent me a copy of the new hardcover collection of Blackest Night, so I finally got to see what all the fuss was about. Honestly, the best I can give it is a shrug of the shoulders and mere “eh.” It’s neither so awful to merit my scorn, nor good enough for me to endorse or recommend on any level.

The basic concept is sound. Killer even. Utilizing the basic “superheroes versus zombies” angle gives you the opportunity to offer a commentary on the nature of the industry to recycle and reuse their properties until they become bereft of all vitality and charm. On another level, you can examine what death actually means in a world where people with god-like powers can not only survive horrendous disasters but come back from the dead seemingly at will. What meaning or power would death hold in such a place? At the very least, you should be able to pen an entertaining, slam-bang horrorish thriller.

Sadly, Geoff Johns and company do none of the above. It’s just one gigantic set piece after another that never really gels into a collective whole. Part of the problem for me is that I really don’t care much for Ivan Reis and company’s art. To me it’s emblematic of the worst of that post-Image, post 90s style, all over-rendered musculature, gritted teeth and PhotoShop tricks. Their habit to constantly provide one enormous, densely packed splash page sequence after another really annoyed me as well. I understand that kind of momentism is what the kids crave these days (“Oh boy, here’s where all the DC heroes come to kick some zombie ass! Look, there’s Starfire in the far right corner! I wish I could buy a poster-sized version of this!”), but it severely interrupts the story’s flow and really doesn’t make for very good comics. It’s as though Reis is more concerned with making things look cool than with making things look good.

I didn’t have any trouble following the story, despite all the hardcore DCU references, nor was I put off by the “superhero decadence” scenes like Firestorm’s girlfriend turning into a pillar of salt — it’s part horror story. That stuff comes with the territory. And I did like how Johns opted to use second and third bananas like Mera and Atom to help save the day. There was something charming about that. Ultimately what really, truly bugged me was Johns constant need to remind us — in captions and dialogue — just how awesome all these second stringers were. Every other sentence uttered by the cast seems to be a love letter to Flash or Green Lantern. Did Johns forget about the “show don’t tell” rule? I felt was like I was constantly being elbowed in the ribs by Johns and Reis while trying to read as they shouted at the top of their lungs, “This is awesome isn’t it? Isn’t this awesome? This is so awesome!” No guys, it really wasn’t.

Tim O’Shea

secretavengers2

Not to go borderline jingoistic on the Fourth of July (particularly for our international readers) but my favorite reads of this week involved Steve Rogers.

When I was a kid in the 1970s/1980s, Marvel captured my interest with the multiple super teams, The Champions, The Defenders and, of course, The Avengers. Ed Brubaker’s approach on the Secret Avengers (issue 2 came out this week) reminds me of the 1970s teams, with heroes you normally would not imagine teaming-up: Moon Knight with Valkyrie, for one example, or Beast and Sharon Carter. And I’m really happy to see how effectively Brubaker is utilizing Carter, after her using her too often (not always) as a plot device or prop during his Cap run.

Meanwhile in Captain America 607, it’s interesting to see how the Bucky and Steve Rogers dynamics are shaking out–as shown in this issue. Aw hell, who am I kidding–Steve Rogers is going around in one of Nick Fury/SHIELD’s flying cars! It’s panels like that which make me love comics.

Saving the best for last, Karl Kesel is writer, penciler and inker on Captain America: The 1940’s Newspaper Strip–originally developed for Marvel.com’s Digital Comics Unlimited Service. This is the first of three issues in a limited series. In an afterword of the first issue, Kesel wrote: “I’ve often wished I had been born 50 years earlier so I could have written and drawn an adventure strip, and I finally got my chance. I have to say: it’s the hardest, most satisfying job I’ve ever worked on. And I could do it for the rest of my life.” Good news, Kesel, I would read them as long as you were producing Cap tales.

Tom Bondurant

Well, you know already that I liked Wonder Woman #600 pretty well. Subsequently — and thanks to Amazon.com, ha ha — I read the first collection of Diana’s “Mod” period. These stories come from Denny O’Neil and Mike Sekowsky, with Dick Giordano’s inks distinguishing them from, say, Sekowsky’s JLA work. Basically they read like the comics equivalent of a late-’60s spy knockoff. Not nearly as bad as “The Girl From UNCLE,” but more like O’Neil and Sekowsky wanted to do Emma Peel and couldn’t decide how “serious” it should be. In fact, towards the end of the book Diana has already returned to Paradise Island to fight gods and monsters alongside her Amazon sisters — never mind that when the Amazons left our plane of reality a few issues earlier, they made it sound like they were never coming back. The rest of the book is similarly uneven, almost to the extent that it doesn’t connect at all to the familiar status quo. Still, I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the experiment, mostly to see how far afield it got.

Unknown Soldier #21

Unknown Soldier #21

Both Madame Xanadu and Unknown Soldier had fine standalone issues this week; and both with guest artists, too (Marley Zarcone on MX, Rick Veitch on US). It’s already too late for Unknown Soldier, but perhaps it will do well enough in trades to warrant the occasional special issue or OGN. Madame Xanadu, however, has definite crossover appeal, especially with main-line superhero readers like myself who enjoy the occasional Phantom Stranger or Martian Manhunter guest-shot. The latest issue doesn’t have anything like that, but it’s still an excellent little fantasy/horror tale set in the early days of the Civil Rights movement. I really wish DC would promote the heck out of Madame Xanadu — it’s consistently among the best books in the publisher’s lineup.

Meanwhile, Action Comics #890 probably doesn’t need much more promotion, but if future issues are as good as this one, it too deserves to be one of the publisher’s top sellers. New writer Paul Cornell and returning artist Pete Woods bring us the continuing adventures of Lex Luthor, now busy trying to unlock the secrets of Oan-type power rings. By no means has Lex been driven to do good by his involvement in Blackest Night — instead, he’s in full-on megalomaniac mode, and that’s what makes the book so enticing. In a way, Lex’s quest for this particular knowledge makes him a good reader-identification character, because what semi-serious DC fan hasn’t wondered how the rings really work? (Notwithstanding Ganthet’s DIY sequence in Green Lantern Corps, that is.)

As far as phone-book collections go, I’m working my way through Brave and the Bold Batman Team-Ups Vol. 2 and Essential Captain America Vol. 4. Finally, while buying some short boxes (better for the aging back) at the comics shop today, I picked up the Muppet Show: Treasure Of Peg-Leg Wilson collection, and can’t wait to read it.

Sean T. Collins

Two anthologies and a lackluster manga for me this week. Click the links for reviews…

not simple by Natsume Ono: Ludicrous melodrama and coincidence mar this manga about a broken family.

Shitbeams on the Loose #2: Fun if not light-the-world-on-fire material from the altcomix edge.

Closed Caption Comics #8: A thrillingly dark and dirty anthology by the CCC collective.

Jeff Lemire

Atari Force #1

Atari Force #1

1. Atari Force: Gerry Conway and Jose Luis Garcia Lopez: Amazing art and some really fun Sci-fi concepts. This is a really overlooked gem from the 80’s that still holds up to other great team books of the day like The New Teen Titans and The Legion of Superheroes. I wish DC still owned the rights so I could pitch a revamp!

2. Tumor: Joshua Hale Fialkov and Noel Tuazon: A really great graphic novel in both concept and design and in it’s execution. Tuazon’s washy, loose art is a perfect fit for protagonist Frank Armstrong’s increasingly diluted state of mind. He has a brain tumor, but he has to finish on each case before he goes…great read!

3. Revolver: Matt Kindt: Matt’s debut Vertigo GN is awesome. His art has never looked better and the post-apocalyptic concept of a man caught between two world’s (literally) is perfectly explored with Matt’s trademark sense of cleverness, great characterization and amazing art. Also features the coolest page numbers EVER.

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Comments

7 Comments

Richard Meyer

July 4, 2010 at 8:08 pm

“Tim O’Shea

secretavengers2

Not to go borderline jingoistic on the Fourth of July (particularly for our international readers) but my favorite reads of this week involved Steve Rogers.”

Liking a patriotic character isn’t jingositic. Why do you feel the need to apologize for it.

I thought it was fairly clear my use of the phrase “borderline jingoistic” was tongue-in-cheek on my part (given the Fourth of July context). Sorry if that was not clear to you, but I definitely didn’t apologize for what I liked.

I agree that Atari Force is a hidden gem, especially the first twelve issues, and I would buy a Jeff Lemire revamp of it in a heartbeat.

I’m liking the over-looked American Son mini series. It’s a nice follow up piece as to what’s up with Norman Osborn after Siege ended. If you haven’t hopped on board, now’s your chance!

I’m all in on the new Avengers’ series. Marvel’s pulling no punches with the creators on these titles.

I’m was disappointed with some of DC’s efforts on their high-profile issues this week. Wonder Woman #600 was uneventful and I don’t dig her new outfit, Batman Beyond wasn’t up to kicking butt the way I had hoped to see.

Action Comics proved to be a winner though! I’m liking me some Paul Cornell who now writes a series I had no desire reading over the past 6 months. Lex is back and he is hungry for power!

Lockjaw, two quick follow-ups.

I’m one of the folks overlooking American Son, because honestly I grew sick of Norman Osborn. Also with the use of Harry Osborn in the story, I’m curious is the character more than “dad’s pawn/struggling drug addict”? I’m not trying to disabuse you of your enjoyment of the story, I’m just curious as to what makes the miniseries clearly click with you as a reader.

Also I meant to pick up Batman Beyond but forgot. Out of curiosity, instead of meeting your expectations of “kicking butt ” (a fair expectation, I admit)–what did the creators do with the story in the first issue? Were they setting up the series infrastructure a little longer than you’d hoped–or putting out a bunch of teasers to be followed up in future issues?

Hey Tim thanks for following up on my comments from the past week..

Brian Reed’s American Son has a lot going on at once and it begs the question, who is American Son? It isn’t Harry, he was saved by American Son after an attempt on his life by his half-brother Gabriel Stacy.

Yes, we still see Harry’s same pill-popping persona in action, but this time he is going to set the record straight exposing Norman to the public for the sins he has committed his entire life. He has had enough of Norman’s desire to humiliate him. How far will he get with this is another question.

Expectations….What I hope this series brings by the end of the mini is that Harry’s drug abuse will lead him over the edge will hopefully plant the seeds of him becoming the Green Goblin again.

I’d like to know who’s wearing the American Son armor and what connection does this person have to Osborn?

And finally, I’d like to see if there are any plot developments that will bring us villains that may be sympathetic of Osborn’s incarceration and lead a revolt against Steve Rogers’ new regime. It may be asking for alot from a mini series but it would make a good story!

As far as Batman Beyond… The first issue just seemed to use the same formula that we saw a decade ago. What changes to this character are we supposed to be intrigued of? How is this set up any different from the series that was cancelled all those years ago? This series may be considered canon for the DCU future so why not make him older, wiser and stronger? Is this just a rehash of what we’ve already seen? What are DC’s expectations with this character when the mini series finishes up? I just don’t see a strong lead-in to something new and daring.

Expectations…I had high hopes that we would see Terry McGinnis being less reliant on Bruce Wayne and doing things more in the way of being Batman, not the future Robin. Obviously he is younger than Dick Grayson ever was when he suited up with the cowl. Grayson was highly trained and earned the Batman monicker. At this stage of the game, McGinnis is lacking but I am hopeful that we will see a true Batman of the future some day.

Thanks again, I hope to read your reaction to my thoughts and will be looking forward to What are You Reading? again next week!

Lockjaw, sorry for the delayed reply.

I have to admit, your expectations are vastly different than mine. Stop me if I’m wrong here, in terms of American Son–you’re hoping to see more villains and misery coming out of it? See, I’m the kind of guy that hopes Harry Osborn kicks the drug habit and gets the ultimate revenge on his father by … ignoring his father. And to find out that the series utilizes one of the weakest aspects of JMS Spider-Man run (Gwen had children with Norman Osborn!?!) really bums me out. Comic plots need to have conflicts, don’t get me wrong, I understand if it’s all happy endings–well that makes for dull reading. But after a number of years of Norman Osborn running the country, I’d really like to see him off the plotting grid for a few years. But that’s me–clearly Reed’s writing is connecting with you (and many others).

Unless I’m mistaken, with Batman Beyond, Terry McGinnis is not part of DC publishing canon at present. The cartoon canon? Firmly set, no doubt–but in terms of DC proper (whatever that may mean) this miniseries has to establish what you as a consumer of the show already know. At best, I guess you may need to take a wait and see attitude, but I doubt they’ll toss Bruce out of the mix. The surrogate father/son dynamic is what many consider the backbone of that series’ success.

Thanks for reading, thanks for commenting and thanks for giving me a perspective I would not otherwise possess. We’re nothing without our readers, obviously.

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