Sunday, September 11, 2005

Chris' Reviews 9/7, Pt. 1


Hey howdy all, we've got a lot to cover, so let's get to it, shall we? Hmm? Regular readers know the drill --- Massive Spoilers Ahoy!

MARVEL TEAM-UP #12

I would say at this point that Kirkman's been roughly 75% on this series so far --- most of time, I find myself laughing at the humor and the dialogue, because it's real humor that comes from characters reacting to situations, not "Let's try and make Wonder Man funny by having him tell a potty joke". (Although that particular scenario has possibilities, too, I'll admit.)

There were a few warning signs that this issue was going to be in the bad 25% of the series. To wit:
  • There are no superheroes on the cover. For a superhero team-up comic, this is bad.
  • Titannus, the villain and least compelling character in the series so far, is on the cover.
  • My LCS guy told me, "No one's bothered to buy this Titannus issue. It's an origin story."
  • The cover image of Titannus screaming lacks the fun, humor, and oddity of the prior covers.

The lesson, as always....I'm gullible.

Tho I can't fault it for being exactly what it advertised itself as --- a Titannus origin story---it's a bad issue. The central joke here is that Titannus is telling the assembled heroes a tale of woe and despair, while the pictures accompanying the flashback tell us what's really going on---namely, that Titannus is a Super-Duper Skrull who's a murdering, conquering bastard. Which is funny the first two or three times, but when that whole drawn-out gimmick takes up 80% of the issue, it's a waste. Finally, at the end, we get a couple good lines and the heroes decide to kick his ass. Which is also funny-ish, I guess. Bottom line here is that this is probably the worst issue of the series to date, but hey--1 really bad issue out of 12 ain't hay, brutha.

Best Moment: Nova (!) asking, "Can we be the Champions? That's a better gig than the New Warriors."

Worst Moment: Pick any one of the "Hey! Look! Titannus is saying one thing, but as the art shows, he's clearly a liar---AGAIN! Har!" pages.

Comic Book Goodness: 1/5. Boring and could have been done in 2 pages instead of 22.


VILLAINS UNITED #5

With this issue, the Six completes its transformation into the Suicide Squad, as it completes one mission, defies Mockingbird in an attempt to find out his/her identity, and then makes a deal for one last suicide run at the Society in a bid for freedom.

Ho-hum, just another great issue with action, characterization, nice art, and compelling plot. Really, that's all there is to it. What more could you ask for? Plus, in a shocking development, the scene depicted on the cover actually happens in the comic! I love it when that happens.

The funny thing about this series is that I know all the "heroes" are really bastards, but even when I find out they've done something despicable I'm still taken aback. Deadshot killed Catman's lions? Get out! Cheshire betrays the team to Luthor's Society? Never saw that coming from a mercenary assassin supervillain! And apparently Cheshire is carrying Catman's kid, which means a year from now we can look forward to The Cheshire Cat, DC's newest supervillain! Scipio, run with it! (Seriously. I will light myself on fire if that doesn't happen. It's too good not to do.)

Luthor's Society, by the way, seems to be cracking, as Vandal Savage among others spurns them. And oh, Pariah shows up, which given what happened the last time he showed up, cannot be good. I really hope we're not headed for another time stream aneurysm, but we all know damn well that we are. Sigh. And I still think Mockingbird is the Joker.

Best Moment: "You're the bright fellow that named a quartet the Fearsome Five, then."

Worst Moment: In a classic case of "too much information", Ragdoll lets us know he had his Johnson surgically removed. Thanks, Ragdoll. Also, ew.

Comic Book Goodness: 4/5. Outstanding again, total Suicide Squad vibe, and great character moments all around. I cannot praise this comic enough.


BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN TPB

So, I'd been hearing for years about how this story was one of the best Batman tales, how could I call myself a fan if I hadn't read it, Jeph Loeb at the top of his game, yadda yadda.

So, having a day in airports ahead of me, I bought it so I could see what all the fuss was about.

My friends, I'm here to tell you that The Long Halloween is overrated. I know, many cry Heresy at this, but it's true. And here's why.

I dig the notion of a Batman story about him taking down gangsters. It seems natural, and provides a noir element that I tend to love. And I likes me some origin stories, and looked forward to filling in Harvey Dent's backstory (and Two-Face has always been pretty much a gangster, so the supervillain fit seemed like a good one). Couple those elements with a serial killer with a pattern -- also a favorite trope of mine -- and you're speaking directly to Chris the Batfan. So, what happened?

What happened is that Batman's Rogues Gallery got way too much friggin' screen time, that's what happened. Can someone please tell me what purpose the Riddler, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, the Joker, the Scarecrow, and the Mad Hatter serve here? 'Cause from where I'm sitting, not a single one of them served the story; rather, it was just to say, "Remember, this is a Batman comic! You know this because we've just had the Riddler almost get shot instead of one of the actually interesting characters!"

Had the focus remained on the Falcone/Maroni families (coupled with the Holiday killer), it would have been a much tighter, much more tragic and compelling read. We're meant to keep guessing whether or not Holiday is a regular person or a superfreak villain, but it doesn't work when you've got a new superfreak villain popping up in every issue (and Catwoman making things immediately less interesting every time she shows up). They're distracting and unnecessary.

On the plus side, I really enjoyed the look at Harvey and Gilda's marriage, their interaction with the Gordons, and the almost Usual Suspects-ish sequence where Batman is trying to identify Holiday. In fact, there's a decent amount of detecting done here, which was good. And Tim Sale---man, he was ON. Perfectly suited the tone of story, and interesting compositions throughout, although I wondered at points why Batman never shaves.

But the ending was confusing (now, Alberto Falcone killed some folks, AND Harvey killed some AND Gilda killed some? I guess? Maybe?) , and this whole operation smells of missed opportunity. We could have had the Batman equivalent of the Maltese Falcon, or The Usual Suspects. Instead, we ended up with the Batman equivalent of Cannonball Run.

Best Moment: Having picked Alberto as Holiday from issue one, I was legitimately surprised when he was seemingly killed a third of the way through.

Worst Moment: Of all the cameos, the Scarecrow/Mad Hatter team-up was the one that stuck out like a sore thumb. That was the point when I wondered if Jamie Farr or Dean Martin were going to show up next.

Comic Book Goodness: 3/5. Points for the incredible artwork and noir story, but it loses focus and gets too wrapped up in being a Batman story instead of a crime comic, which is what this should have been (and it could've been a great one, too).

Work calls, so I'll be back later with Part 2, including House of M, Iron Man:House of M, Seven Soldiers: Guardian, and Fell (you didn't really think I'd let a week go by without an Ellis comic, didja?).

3 Comments:

Blogger kelvingreen said...

I am consistently baffled by Loeb's reputation as a comics writer. I've not read a truly amazing bit of work from him, yet he's treated like the American Alan Moore or something.

There's enough good stuff in Long Halloween for me to consider it worthwhile (unlike Hush, Supergirl, and Loeb's Marvel stuff), but like Hush, the tour of the rogue's gallery is superfluous, and like Hush, the central mystery is badly handled.

In Hush, it was patently obvious from the very beginning who Hush was, but the problem with LH is exactly the opposite. Now, as far as I'm concerned, a good mystery plot is characterised by a puzzle that's actually solved at the end, and one that is made obvious in hindsight by clues laced throughout the book. Instead, in LH, we get no definitive answer; we know who Batman thinks did it, but beyond that, the solution is vague and elusive.

I can understand Loeb wanting to add an extra twist, but if a mystery with a definitive solution was good enough for Doyle and Christie, it should be good enough for him.

As such, it's always a frustrating read for me; atmospheric and full of character, but with a terribly unsatisfying plot.

9:36 AM  
Blogger Scipio said...

I concur with you all: Loeb is has the awfulness of the Silver Age with none of its charm and sparkle. I suspect that DC is actually paying him to sign an exclusive with Marvel. I know I would.

As for the offspring of Cheshire and Catman, I hear your challenge and rise to it. I too pledge that, if "the Cheshire Cat" is not born as a result of this union, I will set you on fire!!!

1:18 PM  
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