Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Looking To The Stars - The Week In Reviews for 08/23/07

Company Name: Marvel Comics
Writer: J. Michael Straczynksi
Artist: Ron Garney

Continuity seems to be a big sticking point with me this week.

Case in point: the main conceit of this issue - and indeed all of Amazing Spider-Man since Aunt May got shot - is that somehow, Mary Jane Watson was able to check Aunt May into a hospital with a gunshot wound and able to go several days without arousing suspicion as to why no police reports have been filed in connection to the mysterious "May Reilly".

Now, granting that this is a very exciting issue with amazing visuals and that the lengths which Peter goes through to save the life of the woman who raised him - to the point of committing nine felonies - make this one of the most powerful Spider-Man stories ever... part of me can't help but wonder certain things.

1. Wouldn't someone have recognized famous actress/supermodel Mary Jane Watson in the hospital?

2. Wouldn't someone have recognized the recently outed to the world Peter Parker: Amazing Spider-Man walking around in paramedic scrubs?

3. Couldn't Peter have avoided all of this by going to the Night Nurse? Admittedly, my Marvel reading of late has been somewhat limited - but the last I checked (in Brian K. Vaughn's Dr. Strange mini) she was still offering free medical coverage to any superhero who needed it...

And yet, part of me wants to like this issue for how effective it is in its' own logic and action, independent of any past works. It is an effective thriller on those terms but like most good thrillers, it falls apart when basic logic is applied.


Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Tony Bedard
Artist: Nicola Scott

I'm somewhat torn about this issue.

On the one hand, it is a continuity train wreck which neglects a fairly simple point of DC Comic Book history which any Green Arrow fan worth their salt should know. I go into greater detail on this point on my blog, but in brief the issue is this; Shado is NOT Connor Hawke's mother.

This is not some minute bit of trivia, such as "In what issue did Connor Hawke possibly lose his virginity to a ghost?” This is something that is fairly important to the history of the character, especially when you consider that we have over three years worth of comics showing his mother to be a flighty, free-spirited ex-hippie named Moonday Hawke.

On the other hand, the grasp of continuity elsewhere in the issue is excellent - with Dinah pointing out, rightly, that apart from Ollie's sleeping with Black Lightning's niece, he never once actually cheated on her. The point/counterpoint discussion could have easily come from any one of my debates on the subject with any number of prominent Ollie-haters.

Throw in some cuteness with Big Barda being taught that Pokemon is truly a warrior's game by Black Canary's young ward, some nice action that actually seems to be advancing the deadest plot in Countdown and Dinah Lance slapping Barbara Gordon with the ultimate burn regarding why she wants to take a chance on Ollie even if it does turn out to be a mistake ("I can't let fear keep me from a chance at happiness. I don't want to spend the rest of my life wondering what might've been, like you and Nightwing.") and there is a lot to admire in the dialog and characterization in this issue. And the artwork by Nicola Scott is as stunning as always.

Looks like we're going to have to grade this one on an average, kids.

ART: A - Nicola Scott does not disappoint.
WRITING: B - Ignoring the continuity issues, there's not much to complain about.
EDITING: F - What were you thinking?!

Company Name: Comic Foundry
Writers: Various
Artists: Various

Being in the digital comic magazine business, there's probably some sort of conflict of interest in me recommending a print comic book magazine to anyone. Still, if the power suddenly goes out or your Internet connection goes down, I can think of no better low-tech magazine about comic books to read than Comic Foundry. ;)

As Editor-In-Chief and Art Director Tim Leong notes in his introduction to the magazine, most comics magazines "assume readers are only the hard core superheroes or the indie elite." The aspiring historians will read The Comics Journal. The aspiring artists will study every new issue of Draw! The aspiring to one day see a bare naked girl without paying for the privilege will read Wizard and content themselves with yet another spread of Jessica Alba photographs.

Leong feels that most comic readers are somewhere in the middle and that few comic magazines cater to the middle-ground of fandom; the people who are not die-hard fans of any one particular part of the medium but are willing to give any and all sub-genres a fair shake. If this issue is any indication, Leong and company have been successful in creating a product that has something for everyone.

You like mainstream superheroes? There's an interview with Brad Meltzer about his love of the Justice League and an article about what inspired the classic Teen Titans story The Judas Contract.

You like more darker, more twisted work? Garth Ennis talks about his new series The Boys and Mark Millar talks about which of his artists he would eat first for food if trapped on an island.

You're curious about Manga but unfamiliar with the terms? There's a helpful one-page guide explaining the sub-genres of Manga, from Shonen to Seinen.

You like serious analysis of comic book culture? There's an article about what comic books say about common sexual fantasies as well as what your comic collection says about your kinks and hang-ups.

You like comedy? There are bits that seem to subtly parody the "humor" of Wizard while being hysterical on their own. For example, the infamous Wizard "Identify The Butt of The Superheroine" game is turned on its ear with "Sex Scene or Comic Cover" - a quiz in which you must determine whether the perverse image comes from a comic book sex scene or just a cheesecake heavy cover.

There are even some random fun bits such as how to decorate your home in geeky style, an article on comic creators who are also in a band of some kind and an interview with Veronica Mars herself, Kristen Bell.

Consider this then less of a review and more of an outright recommendation. Because with only one issue thus far, Comics Foundry is easily the freshest take on the industry in quote some time and poised to quickly become the most important magazine devoted to comic books on the stands.

Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Tony Bedard
Artist: J. Calafiore

So in a moment of misguided hopefulness, I decided that maybe I'd be okay if I limited my reading of Countdown to the scenes in which Trickster and Piper appeared.

That worked okay until this issue, in which the most overexposed villain in comics put in an appearance. And somehow, I lost all interest in this book yet again.

Because if there is one thing I don't need more of in my comics, it is Slade "Judd Winick's Man-Crush" Wilson aka Deathstroke playing the evil badass mastermind who still gets hordes of other, more powerful baddies to do his bidding - despite his routinely getting trounced by a bunch of kids.


Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Andy Diggle
Artist: Jock

Can you make a continuity rant about something that is setting up an event that takes place BEFORE an event that is supposed to happen?

Either way, I have a major issue with this book.

Last issue, Ollie broke his arm fighting former best-buddy Hackett and passed out in the woods from the pain. This issue, we find that Ollie is being cared for by pregnant native woman Taiana - who just happens to be a doctor, who returned to her home village just in time to be captured as slave labor for the world's biggest opium farm.

With no other medical supplies, Taiana uses opium to keep Ollie doped out of his gourd for the unspecified amount of time that it takes him to recover. A shaken Ollie eventually manages to - just barely - fight off the minions of the local drug lord, who are hunting for the man who shot down one of their planes with an arrow. Ollie escapes, spends several days and nights going through nightmarish withdrawal symptoms only to emerge hungry and weakened but alive and spoiling for a fight.

A great tale of epic heroism? Yes. A story that shows the Oliver Queen I've always admired? Yes. A realistic, believable story? Not exactly.

First, Ollie seems to recover from his injuries way too quickly - even though the amount of time Ollie spends resting is deliberately vague, as he describes how time lost all meaning while he was lost in an opium haze. Second, I know from all accounts that opiate addictions are the most difficult and dangerous form of drug addiction to overcome and that doing so cold turkey is virtually impossible. Still, I'm willing to give Ollie the benefit of the doubt, say that he is that tough and save that he actually spent weeks, not days, resting his arm under Taiana's care.

What I can't believe is that the Oliver Queen who experienced the side-effects of opium addiction first hand would grow into the Oliver Queen who kicked his adopted son out into the street after becoming a heroin addict.

I've seen some arguments that Ollie might, with such an experience in his past, becoming angry at a son who willingly chose an addiction to a substance that Ollie himself had fought and overcome an addiction with. And if we see a future retelling of "They Say It'll Kill Me, But They Won't Say When" in which we find that Ollie had told Roy of his own past encounters with drug addiction in the hopes of scaring the boy straight and that Roy turned to heroin to spite a neglectful Ollie, I might just be able to forgive that idea.

But personally - I can't believe that an encounter with addiction would cause Oliver Queen to become anything but sympathetic to those who suffered at the hands of drug abuse - even if that suffering was self-inflicted. He has too much heart not to be.

And yet, despite this concern, there is too much in this issue to admire not to give it a top grade. Jock's art is amazing as always. And this issue also gives us the best in-character explanation ever for the Green Arrow codename.


Company Name: DC Comics
Writer: Dave Gibbons
Artists: Pat Gleason and Prentis Rollins

I'm not a big fan of Gleason's art, but I will say one thing - you have no trouble picking apart his characters, even ignoring the fact that all of them are freaky aliens, all part of a unique civilization.

As for this issue - well, what can I say about a comic in which a sentient city, who wants revenge against Guy Gardner for reasons that are vaguely defined, attacks a sentient planet as the whole of the Green Lantern Corps remaining make a desperate stand against the main force of the fear-empowered Sinestro Corps?

Not since The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny has a story concept lived up so well to its' promise. If you're a fan of the old Alan Moore Green Lantern stories (which this series has, to be fair, borrowed heavily from) then you will love Green Lantern Corps.



  1. Referred from your other comment - I think I'm entirely with you on your BoP assessment, with the added, "Argh, those damn Batgirl heels are not back in continuity again, are they?!" I loved Batgirl: Year One for taking them out so cleverly.
    Excellent observation re: drug addiction and Green Arrow that I missed entirely.
    As for Amazing Spider-Man and celebrity identification, first and third points - I think JMS has been writing MJ largely as a B/C-list celebrity of the type that you'd recognize if you cared about that sort of thing, and she's apparently been sticking to that one hospital room? I guess? Mmm, fanwank. As for the third point, Night Nurse seems to be in the glorious continuity limbo of "in continuity, but none of the big titles have gotten around to acknowledging it, but we promise really" - Bendis has said he will use The Oath material, but he also can't right Dr. Strange. On the plus side, he did create Night Nurse.
    I'm not sure that's a fair criticism, though - Peter chose the hospital he went to because he wanted to have Aunt May to have the best care possible as quickly as possible, and one underground medical professional, no matter how well-trained, isn't going to stack up. He's also a little slow in general to pick up on the superhero network's gossipy resources (see also: the tailor guy, the doctor he went to at the very beginning of the Other, his pre-New Avengers interactions with the superhero community in general), so I think an argument could be made that he doesn't even know Night Nurse exists, given that she seems like a fairly recent arrival to the scene.

  2. Good points on Peter looking for the best for May; not what is safest.
    I seem to recall some reference being made to Peter knowing the Night Nurse SOMEWHERE (Bendis Daredevil, maybe?) but I'm not certain.
    I know JMS made her out to be more sort of a B-movie actress but I always seem to think of her being more established.