Last week, I started a review of the many comics I read after returning from my travels in June and July.  It was kind of fun to read two or three issues at a time.  And it’s been just as much fun to review them that way as well.

 

GI Joe: Real American Hero 166-167: My patience has finally run out on the retro GI Joe title.  It’s never been the best book but I had room for a mediocre comic with nostalgic appeal.  The biggest problem is the dialogue.  The old GI Joe always had a smattering of military jargon.  At the time, it seemed designed to educate.  But the current title is crowded with it, making every conversation stilted and awkward.

 

Green Lantern 66-67, Green Lantern Corps 60-61, Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors 9-11, War of the Green Lanterns Aftermath 1: The last few months of Green Lantern have been unusually inconsistent.  I had been enjoying the first half of the War of the Green Lanterns story.  But the second half, represented in these issues, felt a little repetitive and drawn out.  I was particularly disappointed that the four earth Green Lanterns went back to the same pairings after meeting up in the middle.  The story could have introduced greater variety in character conflict if they had shuffled their partnerships.  Post-War, the separate titles have focused on individual Green Lanterns in self-contained stories.  While I appreciate the attempt at a change of pace, the stories themselves have been somewhat trite.  The unfortunate result is that it feels like the titles are biding time until their re-launch in September rather than truly exploring the depths of their characters.  The one exception is the War of the Green Lanterns Aftermath.  That issue packed several strong emotional wallops such as Hal’s despair at being exiled to earth and Sinestro’s desperation to get rid of the green ring.  The story also featured the great character conflict that had made the first half of the War worth reading. 

 

The Guild: Bladezz: I’ve truly delighted in this series of one-shots.  Earlier issues focused on Vork’s pathos and Tinkerballa’s mystery.  This issue explored Bladezz’s home life.  We learn how teenaged troublemaker Simon became sensational model Finn Smulders.  More importantly, we peek in on his antagonistic relationship with his sister, his tempered affection for his mother and his youthful resentment of her new boyfriend.  It’s a wonderful domestic drama that brings great depth to the main character- something that we don’t see in the more farcical web series.   

 

Invincible 80/Guarding the Globe 5: Invincible, the hero, is back on earth after the long Viltrumite War story.  And Invincible, the comic, is back to the combination of home life and super-heroics that made the book great.  On the superhero side, Invincible is feeling quite confident.  He has fully accepted his role as earth’s protector.  He isn’t shy about rushing into danger or making major decisions.  But that confidence may just lead him into trouble before the story is over.  On the domestic side, Invincible is feeling out of his depth.  He’s not quite ready to embrace the more adult role that he’s inherited.  He feels a little lost without his mom, who went on a trip into space.  And he’s hesitant about his relationship with Eve.  He wants to be with her, but he’s not quite ready to make a home with her.  Switching back and forth between the two storylines helps both move along briskly.  And there are some great contrasts between civilian Mark Grayson and confident Invincible.  Meanwhile, Guarding the Globe has been a minor disappointment.  The story can’t quite decide what it wants to be.  Is it the story of minor heroes saving the day in the absence of earth’s greatest hero?  Or is it a super-human soap opera?  The lack of commitment to either approach leaves the title with an uneven tone and a story that lurches from one situation to another.  

 

iZombie 13-15: There aren’t enough superlatives to describe this comic.  I read the first 12 issues in the span of two weeks as I caught up to the iZombie bandwagon.  Now, I’m reading it in (mostly) monthly installments and it’s just as good.  Chris Roberson does a great job keeping us invested in the main character, Gwen.  Her personality is interesting and her problems are intriguing.  I can see why Horatio is falling in love with her.  On top of that, Roberson is doing a great job with the secondary characters too.  Scenes concerning the vampire coven, Scott’s grandfather and Claire, the mad scientist assistant, are as enjoyable as the main story.  I could do without the Dead Presidents back-up strip though.

 

Kirby Genesis 0 and 1: This has the potential to become my new favorite comic.  Like Marvels and Kingdom Come, Genesis follows an unlikely lead in Kirby Freeman.  He’s the slightly nerdy kid smitten with the hottest girl in school in a world that’s about to explode in wonder.  He’s down to earth, yet knowledgeable.  He’s a little bit awed but skeptical enough not to be carried away.  He’s a little bit funny, but he’s not the class clown.  He has a small dose of teen angst, but not so much to be off-putting.  The art is also amazing, though that should be expected from a team headed by Alex Ross.  I particularly appreciated the humorous style for the flashback scenes and the contrast of shadowed human beings with almost neon alien visitors. 

 

Legion of Superheroes 13-15/Adventure Comics 526-528: This just isn’t working.  The new Paul Levitz Legion hasn’t been awful.  It’s even been great on occasion, particularly in the Annual and the Legion of Super-Villains one-shot.  But as an ongoing title, it’s been mediocre more often than that.  I almost think this would work better as an over-sized quarterly comic.  There are too many storylines for any of them to move forward that much.  And there are too many changes in direction- such as Mon’El leaving and then coming back right away again.  Adventure has been slightly better thanks to a smaller cast and superior art by both Phil Jimenez (now departed) and Jimenez-influenced Geraldo Borges.  Unfortunately, the kids are often unlikable and that makes it difficult to care about their triumphs or the their setbacks. 

 

Red Skull: Incarnate 1: Wow, what a great comic.  When I saw that Marvel was publishing a Red Skull origin story, I merely hoped that it would be as good as 2008’s Magneto Testament.  I didn’t realize that this was an intentional follow-up by the same author, Greg Pak.  The previous series explored the events that caused a young boy victimized by Nazis to become one of the world’s greatest villains.  This series is an interesting counterpoint.  What would cause a young boy to become one of the most fearsome Nazis in comic book history?  It’s been an intriguing case study so far.  We see a childhood penchant for cruelty and early lessons against weakness.  Red Skull Incarnate is heading to a dark place.  But, on occasion, that can make for a fascinating story. 

 

The Red Wing 1: Jonathan Hickman’s new sci-fi series has the potential to be a really cool comic.  The series focuses on a team of pilots, kind of like Kurt Busiek’s Shockrockets but with the added twist of time travel.  That twist introduces unique dangers: instant aging, four-dimensional dogfights and being stranded in the age of dinosaurs.  There’s a strong human angle as the two main characters are trying to follow in their famous father’s footsteps.  And there’s a mystery to hook you in- are their fathers dead or merely lost in time?  The art has a Frank Quitely influence, though it’s lacking his polish.  Yet it’s strong enough to carry the story and convey the tension. 

 

Rocketeer Adventures 1-3: Anthologies are a risky venture.  They can be erratic from issue to issue, or even within a single issue.  That problem has plagued recent character specific anthologies such as Dark Horse’s Escapist.  But the Rocketeer sidesteps that obstacle with ease.  The list of creators is top-notch and their contributions maintain a high level of quality throughout.  There’s also a nice variety of tone and style.  Some creators aim for action while others are more focused on humor.  Some stories contain strong characterization, revealing Cliff’s jealousy over his girlfriend Betty, while others are light-hearted romps than provide more escape than analysis.  There’s also an appropriate level of cheesecake- Betty is based on pin-up model Bettie Page after all- but it’s never exploitative.  The Rocketeer Adventures are a model for how to do an anthology right.

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Comment by Travis Herrick (Modular Mod) on August 12, 2011 at 11:28am

Invincible 80/Guarding the Globe 5: I'm taking one of my breaks from Invincible right now. After the war I just need it myself. I only made it through the first 2 issues of Guarding the Globe before I bailed. It just wasn't working for me. 

 

I agree with everything you said regarding iZombie, including the back-up. 

 

I reckon I'm enjoying the LSH series more than you, and Mon-el leaving and coming back suddenly was his surprise win of the leader elections. Although I don't know why it would surprise them/ I do agree there are too many sub-plots going on that make the main series move at a glacial pace. Phil Jimenez as the regular artist sure didn't last too long.

 

I thought I might be the only one here reading Red Wing, but I liked that first issue a whole lot.

Comment by Wandering Sensei: Moderator Man on August 12, 2011 at 10:54pm
I loved that issue of Invincible! Still haven't read the one that came after, but not for lack of wanting to.
Comment by Captain Comics on August 13, 2011 at 12:30pm

I'm waiting until I get all the Red Skulls to read them at a sitting. I was already impressed by the style of the covers -- kind of a combination of Nazi and Soviet propaganda posters, in a 1930s Art Deco style -- and now I reallllly can't wait. Well, I guess I can, but you know what I mean.

 

I'm enjoying Legion more than you. I think it's because comics have moved beyond Levit'z's approach to comics, which is very structured, and I enjoy seeing this older style. Levitz uses a specific story structure he calls ABC or "waves," and when it was in wide use in DC Comics it tended to do what you complain about, slow them down and give the appearance of stodginess. But since Legion is the ONLY comic book using this struture now, it's rather refreshing, while simultaneously (and, perversely, in contradiction) making me feel a little nostalgic. This is quite literally old-school writing, and it may be slower than today's fans are used to, but I'd like to think there's room for one book out there that takes its time building to climax. (Actually, the ABC structure is such that each issue should  have a climax to one storyline, while building up two others. This issue "A" will climax, while next issue "B" will climax, while the next issue after that "C" will climax. The idea is that every issue will have some kind of payoff -- a "wave" will "crest" -- while always building on two or three others as subplots.)

 

I thought your analysis of character-specific anthologies was spot on, as it directly addressed my discontent with The Escapist, which I had never really thought about very hard. And since you know the pitfalls and say Rocketeer avoided them, it makes me more interested in that title. Thanks for the tip!

Comment by Jeff of Earth-J on August 15, 2011 at 9:09am
Kirby Genesis — Glad to hear you’re enjoying this one; me, too.

LSH — I agree with both you and Cap. On the one hand it’s “refreshing” (exactly the word I would use), but on the other, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. DC is soon going to restart these series (along with the rest of their line), I don’t like what I’ve read concerning the new direction, and will be taking advantage of this JOP (Jumping Off Point).

Red Skull: Didn’t even give this series a look, but I will now.

Rocketeer: I agree with your assessment.
Comment by Chris Fluit on August 15, 2011 at 10:59am

Cap, we're not as far off as you might think. 

 

The "ABC" or "wave" story-telling was in vogue when I first got into comics.  It's what I grew up with and I miss it a lot.  I loved the sub-plots and the slow build and the supporting casts.

 

Paul Levitz was the master of it.  He was better at it than Claremont, who used to lose track of his C plots (which is why the X-Men were infamous for unfinished storylines).  He was better at it than Wolfman, who would use it occasionally but not exclusively.  I still prefer the Uncanny X-Men and the New Teen Titans for other reasons, but my estimation is very high for Levitz's Legion of Super-Heroes.  It's one of my favorite series.

 

But that was then and this is now.  I would love to see someone use that particular plotting technique today.  However, I would also want to see them use it well.   Unfortunately, I have to admit that it isn't being done especially well here.  Levitz has been giving us peeks at the B and C stories, but he hasn't been moving them along.  Those shorter scenes should still accomplish something more than reminding us that other characters are out there.  The result is that the series feels stilted and slow.  Plus, the occasional story reversals (even if they were the result of fan input) have somewhat robbed the series of its forward momentum. 

 

My nostalgia for Levitz's classic run kept me around a lot longer than I might have given a different title.  But eventually, nostalgia isn't enough.  It's the same reason why I'm dropping the current GI Joe.  I'm a lot happier going back and buying back issues or trades. 

 

 

 

Comment by Chris Fluit on August 15, 2011 at 11:02am

Travis Herrick: Invincible 80/Guarding the Globe 5: I'm taking one of my breaks from Invincible right now. After the war I just need it myself. I only made it through the first 2 issues of Guarding the Globe before I bailed. It just wasn't working for me.

Jeff Carter: I loved that issue of Invincible! Still haven't read the one that came after, but not for lack of wanting to.

 

Travis, I understand the need for a break after the Viltrumite War.  However, when you're ready, don't hesitate to catch up on Invincible.  The last few issues have been great (as Jeff agrees!). 

 

On the other hand, you were right to bail on Guarding the Globe.  I wish I had dropped it myself.  I need to remember that Invincible spin-offs simply don't measure up to the real thing (a lesson I should have learned after the Atom Eve mini-series). 


Comment by Chris Fluit on August 15, 2011 at 11:04am

I'm glad to see that other people are enjoying Red Wing and interested in Red Skull.  It's nice when something different can draw an audience.  Though, Cap, I understand why you would want to wait and read them all at once. 

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