SPIDER-MANDATE: The Lowe-down on "Secret Wars," Tie-Ins and Stacey Lee
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Today our special guest is Tim Seeley, whose work you may know from Hack/Slash, Bloodstrike, Witchblade, Colt Noble, the upcoming Ex Sanguine and Revival, and much more.
To see what Tim has been reading lately, click below.
This was a pretty good week for my New 52 purchases. Aquaman and Firestorm have been expanding their casts pretty steadily, and now that I am finally getting a handle on the comics themselves — not a euphemism; I mean sorting out the various piles — I am looking forward to reading them in big chunks. The Flash #8 (by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato) is usually a standout, and this month was no exception, with Barry trekking through the Speed Force and battling Turbine, one of its longtime residents. I’ve always enjoyed the pseudo-science behind the Flash, so I’d been looking forward to this issue. While it wasn’t the Speed Force I remember, it was pretty fascinating, like a cross between the Negative Zone and one of Steve Ditko’s weird dimensions from Doctor Strange. Naturally, it allowed Manapul and Buccellato to bust out more of the clever storytelling with which this title has become synonymous. Oh, and I think I might have seen Wally West in one corner of a future-vision, but don’t tell anyone….
All Star Western (written by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti) #8 was pretty fun itself. I liked the Gotham setting well enough, but moving Jonah and Dr. Arkham to New Orleans, and adding Nighthawk and Cinnamon, have been good ways to keep the setting fresh and head off any notion that the series would rely on Batman associations. (Of course, I say that knowing we’ll see some Owls before long.) The main story (drawn by Moritat) used a familiar “going undercover” plot to good effect, as Arkham and Jonah’s separate efforts ended up in a mutual cliffhanger. I enjoy their pairing, particularly because I can’t help hearing Jeff Bridges’ pinched-throat invective from True Grit in Jonah’s dialogue. Thus, although they were apart for most of the time, it made said cliffhanger even better. I’ve also been enjoying the Nighthawk-and-Cinnamon-centric backups more than previous installments, perhaps because the characters seem more appealing. This issue’s backup (pencilled by Patrick Scherberger, inked by Dan Green) explored Cinnamon’s origins and hinted at the (re)introduction of El Diablo, and while it wasn’t groundbreaking, it was done well. Scherberger and Green combine for a crisp, clear look, kind of like a less-stiff Ethan van Sciver, and Gray and Palmiotti pack a good bit of plot into eight pages.
I also spent a good bit of time in reprint-land. Among other stories, the Secrets of the Fortress of Solitude paperback yielded “Muscles For Sale” from 1942’s Superman vol. 1 #17 and 1958’s “The Super-Key To Fort Superman” from Action Comics #241. The first (written by Jerry Siegel and drawn by John Sikela) featured the Golden Age Supes’ mountainside “Secret Citadel” almost as an afterthought, since the main plot had Clark Kent go undercover in a musclebuilding scam. It was a nice story, and I liked the longer-than-expected look at the Fortress’ forerunner, but it felt a little draggy. The second story (written by Jerry Coleman, pencilled by Wayne Boring, inked by Stan Kaye) was almost a haunted-house mystery in which Superman must try to deduce who’s been breaking into his virtually-impenetrable home. The alert reader will be able to figure it out about the same time Superman does, but there’s a bit beyond that point where an incapacitated Superman and his tormentor are both trapped — apparently forever — and it’s still nicely claustrophobic. I haven’t read the rest of the book, but I’m a little disappointed that it includes 1989’s Action Comics Annual #2. That issue was an all-star jam involving Jerry Ordway, Roger Stern, George Perez, Mike Mignola, Curt Swan, John Statema, and Brett Breeding (most in multiple roles) and it revealed the history of the Eradicator, but a) it ended on a cliffhanger not resolved here, and b) the story where the Eradicator actually builds the new Fortress is also not reprinted here. Better, perhaps, to have reprinted that one (from Adventures Of Superman #459) than this, although the Action Annual was nothing at which to sneeze.
Finally, just to wrap up quickly, I read Gerry Conway and Gene Colan’s three-part vampire story from 1982’s Batman and Detective, reprinted in the Tales of the Batman: Gene Colan hardcover. I mean, if you have Gene Colan drawing Batman, of course he’s gotta fight some vampires! In the same vein (sorry) I then read a couple of the “weird origins” from the back of the recent Secret Origins hardcover: Doctor Fate, the Enchantress, and the Spectre. I was a little surprised that the Golden Age origins didn’t spend an inordinate amount of time on the characters in costume. The Spectre story (by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily) was much more of a cop-vs.-mobsters tale, and Fate’s in costume for only a page and change of his introduction. In fact, Fate basically intimidates the demon du jour with “Look, I can destroy your tchotchke! You want some of this?” It takes all of two panels. Accordingly, the Enchantress’ origin (written by Bob Haney, pencilled by Howard Sherman, inked by Sheldon Moldoff) is meatier, since she has to save a castle full of partygoers from an evil force, but it’s more conventional as a result, even ending on a typical “my boyfriend loves my alter ego” note. Still a decent story, and the hardcover overall is a good Silver Age sampler.
Favorite lines from comics I read this week
Ultimate Spider-Man #1: “My compliments to your tailor. The green apron thing is sure to catch on.”-Spider-Man to a group of HYDRA thugs. (Co-writer Dan Slott and co-writer/artist Ty Templeton)
Popeye #1: “Off y’go! Yer as free as a lil’ bird what weighs five hundred pounds.” Popeye (Writer Roger Langridge/Artist Bruce Ozella)
Secret Avengers #26: “I’ve served with Beast for many years, as a Defender and an Avenger. He prefers to fret.” Valkyrie (Writer Rick Remender/Artist Renato Guedes). Sidenote: I was intrigued/pleased to see the subdued (for a lack of a better term) color palette (by Bettie Breitweiser & Matthew Wilson) in this issue, seemingly in an effort to compliment Guedes’ art style.
FF #17: “Ha! My home is engorged!” Kal Blackbane [Trying to talk trash while playing poker] (Writer Jonathan Hickman/Artist Nick Dragotta). One of those comics that entertains best and most uniquely in the last page. I was pleasantly surprised at how well Hickman did Johnny Storm/ Peter Parker comedy in this done-in-one issue.
Captain America & Hawkeye #629: OK, I have no single great quote, but writer Cullen Bunn has a good ear for Cap/Hawkeye banter. Also interesting to see Cap in a horror-tinged action story (particularly as drawn by artist Alessandro Vitti).
Daredevil #11: “I like it when Captain America says [‘I just came up with a new plan.’]. Fills me with confidence. You. Not so much…” Spider-Man to Daredevil. (Writer Mark Waid/artist Marco Checchetto)
Transformers: Robots in Disguise and More than Meets the Eye
I had a soft spot for the TFs for years until my affection was crushed under the incoherent foot of Bay’s movies. But, I was intrigued enough by the concept of IDW’s two-title relaunch, and thought I’d give the big bots another chance. And man, am I glad I did. The new titles, while pretty accessible to new readers, build on IDW’s long-running TF continuity, in which the Autobots have won the war against the Decepticons. The problem is, of course, that life after wartime isn’t nearly a simple as the black and white of an ’80s cartoon’s “good guys vs. bad guys” scenario. Together the books present an intriguing sci-fi political drama, with loads of action, and more importantly, a read-time that makes for a far better dollar-to-minutes ratio than most any other books on the stands. A couple of weeks ago, I picked up six comics, and I read five of them in the time it took to read the latest issue of MTMTE (which may also tell you how sparse and lazy the other books I bought were. Bad form, comics. Bad form.) Anyway, a highly recommended read that takes a “mature” look at childhood icons without having to resort to rape and face-slicing.
Glory, Prophet, Supreme
I’m probably a bit biased, as I write one of the Extreme relaunch books (Bloodstrike!), but I’m pretty sure I’d be into these books even if I got fired, and Rob Liefeld stood on my nuts. Smart revamps of “old” Liefeld properties with fresh blood, the Extreme books do what other company-wide relaunches SAID they were gonna do, and then, y’know, didn’t. Glory turns a Wonder Woman homage into a hard bitten fantasy comic staring a broken heroine on a dark path to a bleak future (ooh, nice Hollywood pitch, me!). Prophet takes a manga by way of European comic approach to a Conan via OMAC concept, and fills each issue with so many new ideas that it leaves you feeling the urge to make something. And, Supreme breaks down Superman nostalgia with the realities of what kind of person an all-powerful “god” really might be. Cool stuff that legitimately makes me remember why I fell in love with comics over TV, literature or movies.
I’m not generally huge on weekly webstrips, simply because one page per week is difficult for my ADD-riddled mind to process. But Oglaf, a semi-dirty sword n’ sex fantasy comic manages to keep me checking the site every Sunday. Loosely tying together a number of characters, Oglaf has a dry sense of humor, and seems just as content making weird political jokes as it is making dick jokes. In addition to being smartly written, it’s beautifully illustrated, and portrays a variety of sexualities and kinks, which ought to please any kind of pervert.