Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
It’s Thursday afternoon as you’re reading this, but it’s still Wednesday night as I write it. Usually on Wednesdays, I work at my day job until 5 p.m., and then, after I shout “Yabba-dabba-doo!” and slide down the tail of my sauropod/steam shovel, I hop into my car and drive to my local comic shop and pick up a small stack of comic books. Then I return to my apartment and read them, and then I write brief reviews of them all for a weekly feature I post on my home blog and then I write my weekly post for Robot 6.
Wednesdays are, generally speaking, pretty busy days for me. This one’s even busier than usual, as in addition to the above, I have a few extra writing assignments I need to finish before the end of the week and I still have two homemade Christmas presents for loved ones I need to finish putting together.
So then I had a brilliant idea! Well, an idea. Maybe instead of writing two blog posts tonight, one for Every Day Is Like Wednesday and one for Robot 6, I would just write my usual Wednesday-night blog post and put it here instead of there, thus killing two birds with one stone, as the saying, which was popularized back when people still killed birds with stones, goes.
Here then, are a few paragraphs about each of the new comic books I bought and read this Wednesday (now if only I could give blog posts as a Christmas gifts to my family members, the rest of this week would be pretty chill):
FF #2 (Marvel Entertainment): It wasn’t until this issue, the second of this new series but the fourth in Matt Fraction’s new Fantastic Four/FF connected series, that it was made clear which team the kids of the Future Foundation would be with. They are staying with the substitute Four starring in this book. (In the first issue of Fantastic Four, Reed Richards pitched the idea of taking a trip with the family as a learning opportunity for “the kids” and talked about designing a curriculum on the fly; it turns out he meant his own kids, not the rest of the Foundation kids.)
I can blame Fraction’s dialogue for being a little unclear on that matter, and artist Mark Bagley for not using the visuals in the first two issues of his book to show which kids went where during the launch. I can’t blame anyone but myself, however, for not realizing until about halfway through this particular issue that not only does the new substitute Fantastic Four have more females than previous versions, the gender ratio is actually completely flipped from the original team, with Ant-Man Scott Lang the only male on the team. That’s interesting, and I think it’s interesting that it took this long for me to notice, because Fraction wasn’t writing this FF as an (almost) all-girl team; he was writing it as a ragtag bunch of heroes (and, in Darla’s case, a hero-in-the-making), and the genders of those heroes didn’t matter enough to bring up.
In this issue, this new Four relive part of the original team’s origin story, with the Mole Man and a giant monster popping up through the street for them to fight, and then a strange, new menace appears. Fraction’s script is light and funny, balancing precariously between superheroics and comedy, without tipping too far in either direction. Artist Mike Allred and colorist Laura Allred continue to provide absolute perfect artwork; this is, in my mind at least, the Platonic ideal of what 21st-century Marvel comics should look like.
I’m not super-fond of the title of this book, however, as it makes writing about it and Fantastic Four somewhat difficult, as FF is how one normally abbreviates Fantastic Four. Now we have to actually write out “Fantastic Four” any time we want to refer to that particular superhero team or that particular comic book. Perhaps they should change the name of this book, to give the Fantastic Four their abbreviation back?
What could they call this new team? Well, I think the Daily Bugle had a pretty good idea:
Green Lantern #15 (DC Comics): Not only have I gotten used to the new Green Lantern Simon Baz (which DC made a little difficult by first introducing him as a person of color in a ski mask and waving a gun), I’ve actually come to prefer him to this title’s previous protagonist of Hal Jordan. That’s not really all that hard to believe, I suppose, as Jordan is generally depicted as either not having any personality at all, or having a personality best summed up as “kind of an a-hole.”
Hal and Sinestro get another page in this issue, which otherwise continues to follow Baz in his attempts to clear himself of suspicion of terrorism by finding the real terrorist. He and the other new character writer Geoff Johns recently introduced come into contact with the mouthless thingees that constituted The Guardians’ “Third Army,” although I suspect the biggest development is probably the revelation of The First Lantern’s name, which will sound familiar to readers of a certain age (although given how it’s sort of tossed off, rather than revealed in one of those last-page splashes Johns likes to reserve for big moments, I wonder if maybe it wasn’t already revealed in one of the other Lantern books I’m not reading …?)
Penciler Doug Mahnke continues to provide some of the sharpest and all-around best art in DC’s New 52 line, with colorist Alex Sinclair doing the usual phenomenal job of making it sing with restrained use of the coloring effects to highlight the power of the power rings, but, as usual for this title, the line work looks pretty different depending on the page, due to the fact that there four other guys inking the 20-page monthly, along with Mahnke, who inks some of it himself.
Hawkeye #6 (Marvel): Hey, weren’t we just talking about this book? Didn’t I just read Issue 5 last week? (Yes and yes, respectively). Artist David Aja is back and, as much as I loved Javier Pulido’s art on the fill-in arc, the book looks like itself again. The page layouts are more panel-packed, slowing the pace back down a bit, and the diagram-like precision that Aja brings to the characters and their environs has returned (an aspect Aja draws a ttention to on the title page, which features a diagram of the wiring of Clint Barton’s entertainment center on the border of the panels).
Titled “Six Days in the Life of,” this issue breaks about a week of Hawkeye’s life into sequences presented out of chronological order, but all focusing on the character dealing with the emerging status quo writer Matt Fraction has given him: part-time Avenger who in his spare time is the superhero super of a building, which he must now defend from his new archenemies, the guys in the matching tracksuits who say “bro” all the time.
This issue is actually full of guest stars — and there’s a two-page sequence featuring Clint in his costume and doing Avengers stuff with Wolverine and Spider-Man, which I thought was against the rules the recap page established. In addition to a bit of Avenging alongside those guys, Clint has Tony Stark come over to help him set up his VCR and DVR and DVD player. The other Hawkeye and Lucky both appear, and there’s even a one-panel cameo by Dr. Druid.
So Marvel’s (currently) best comic book was pretty good again this issue and, unlike so many superhero comic books, it was actually, you know, comic — I even laughed once or twice while reading. There’s a neat running gag about all of the Avengers’ favorite TV show, and I really enjoyed the 12-panel sequence in which Clint Barton tries to explain that his superhero identity is Hawkeye, not Hawkguy.
I wonder if Fraction and Aja ever get mad at Marvel, if they could just keep doing this comic book as is by simply changing the last syllable of the protagonist’s superhero codename …?
The Lake Erie Monster #3 (Shiner Comics Group): This book may or may not have been on the new comics rack of your local shop, depending on how close your shop to Cleveland. Mine’s about 20 minutes away, so the latest issue of the locally published horror anthology that I’ve told you about before was there.
If you’re not in the Cleveland area, I’d recommend this book as something well worth checking out, although it is a bit pricey ($5 for 31 pages of comics content). This issue features the third installment of the title story, in which several groups of people seeking out the monster — whether they know it or not — get closer, and writer Jake Kelly and artist John G. present the monster in all its glory when it attacks a hobo in a hobo jungle (“monster,” “hobo” and “hobo jungle” … this book is even fun to summarize!).
The back-up is a simple yet devastatingly effective short written and drawn by Kelly in which something horrifying that happened during a high school prank gone wrong.
Classic Popeye #5 (IDW Publishing): Craig Yoe’s Yoe Books and IDW present another reprint of an old Bud Sagendorf Popeye comic, this one from 1949. In the main story, Popeye and Wimpy are tricked by some heavily bearded scientists in taking a trip to the moon, where they discover two very surprising races live, one of which has a connection to a supporting character in Popye’s mythos. There’s also a fun back-up in which Wimpy’s love of hamburgers is illustrated through is affection for, and willingness to hand-slaughter, that “seet bovine blessing of nature,” that “lady of the meadow,” the cow.
Saga #8 (Image Comics): I think D. Oswald’s Heist may replace Barbarian Revenge as the prose novel read by a character in a comic book that I most wish I could read for myself. Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples are kind enough to print the last page of the book on an easily readable splash page in this issue of Saga, which remains a very good comic book. I hope this very popular series continues to grow in popularity until it reaches the point where someone decides to publish Heist as a prose tie-in novel, like Hyperion does with those Nikki Heat books written by the character Nathan Fillion plays on Castle.
Wonder Woman #15 (DC): Cliff Chiang rejoins writer Brian Azzarello for this issue, in which their new, more handsome, less superhero-looking version of Jack Kirby’s Orion finally gets to be in the same scene as Wonder Woman and they are about to come to blows. This being 2012, however, the actual fight will have to wait for another issue. You can’t rush these things! Otherwise, it would take a writer forever to come up with enough ideas to fill up a whole trade collection!
This is kind of a weird book at this point in its existence. It’s good. The script is good. The art is good (sensational, really, particularly by the standards of DC’s New 52 line, much of the art of which isn’t exactly inspired). But it just sort of keeps going in the same direction, doing the same things. The first 12 issues were mainly a succession of reimaginings of different Olympian gods, which the mostly personality-free Wonder Woman engaged with somewhat smug offers of friendship and/or challenges to battle. The last few have been a succession of super-powered, out-of-wedlock children of Zeus — Kind of like Hybrid Bastards! Except not at all! — whom Wonder Woman must fight and then befriend.
It’s repetitive, but not tedious. It’s professional work of exceptionally high quality, it just doesn’t seem capable of surprising or thrilling, and the imagination all seems to have gone into the character designs, not the characters or the story they are in. It also doesn’t really feel like Wonder Woman, or a superhero comic at all, which is may actually be a good thing, depending on the reader. Like Justice League and a few of the other New 52 titles I’ve sampled, it seems more like an ongoing Elseworlds, albeit one set in a completely different Elseworld than that of, say, Justice League or Justice League Dark or Aquaman.
Sadly, my shop didn’t order any rack copies of Empowered Special #3: Hell Bent or Heaven Sent, Multiple Wardheads: Alphabet to Infinity #3 or Magic Whistle #12, so I had to go without all three of those comics I was really looking forward to.
Anyway, that’s me. What books did you guys get this Wednesday, and what did you think of ‘em …?