Friday, February 24, 2006

The Comics You Can Talk About If You Want For February 22, 2006

This one is late because I'm dumb. Pretend it's Thursday as you read this.

None of the books I picked up this week shout out a blog topic at me, so I’ll take the week off from sermonizing and instead do a recap and review. Hey, even I can’t be an instigator all the time.

Amazing Spider-Man 529 is the debut of the much ballyhooed new costume, and, as you would expect, the furor is much ado about nothing. The gliding page is much improved, both thematically and presentationally, by the text, and the action sequence displaying all of the suit’s new tricks makes a good case for why Spider-Man should use this uniform. It’s not that he couldn’t have stopped the bad guys without the suit, but having it made things much easier and probably saved lives. Ron Garney’s art is a refreshing change-up from Mike Deodato Jr., who, good as he was, was getting stale and predictable. It’s been a good while since I’ve had an opportunity to look at Garney’s work, and he’s made quite a bit of improvement. Finally, I beg to differ with Brian Cronin, who feels the page where Peter and Tony explain away an art goof from “the Other” and look knowingly at the audience wasn’t worth doing. Anything that delivers a much-needed bitch-slap to the Internet Fanboy Grief Squad, and reminds them that older, wiser, better fans than they used to relish the chance to creatively explain mistakes instead of the chance to gloatingly point them out, is not only worth doing, but worth applauding. Mr. Straczynski, I salute you.

Astonishing X-Men
returns with its thirteenth issue in a little under two years, so if you feel like I do that it should have been bimonthly from the start, then it’s technically ahead of schedule. Silliness aside, I admit I’m torn on my reaction to this issue. One the one hand, there’s a good deal going on here, and a good deal of it is enjoyable (Wovlerine’s Combat 101 class, the continuing developments with Beast, Shadowcat’s nightmare), but on the other, it doesn’t quite feel complete. It’s not, as Danny Fingeroth would put it, a “discrete unit of entertainment.” Also, I’m of two minds on the development with Emma Frost. The immediate feeling here is that Whedon is acting out on his fanboyish distaste for elements of Morrison’s run (you can practically hear Whedon sneering along with Sebastian Shaw when the latter bemoans how the Hellfire Club proper has become a high-end strip club), and there’s been enough retconning for retconning’s sake in the X-Universe lately to stop there. But at the same time, when has Joss Whedon ever not played the sleight-of-hand trick on the audience? If all turns out to be as it seems, I’ll be disappointed then, but for now I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. And Cassaday’s art is still pretty; piss and moan and lament the death of the monkey-man beast all you want, but he makes the kitty Beast work.

Exiles is about at the halfway point of the World Tour arc, so it’s a good thing that Bedard decides to change up the dynamic. Instead of going to Squadron Supreme Earth to hijack another body, Proteus is instead playing “Let’s You And Him Fight,” using the Squadron to keep the Exiles occupied and out of his hair. The team is, of course, completely outmatched against these Justice League analogues, but they acquit themselves well enough, and I’m liking how Spider-Man 2099 is fitting into the team’s dynamic. There’s also a moment that alludes to the ongoing problem of fragmenting realities; it’s good to see this not forgotten in all the rush. That the Squadron’s Hyperion is one of the two who helped the team out during “Timebreakers” is a nice touch as well.

JLA Classified ran a little slower than I thought it would, but there’s still a good deal going on. General Tuzik makes a surprisingly strong adversary for the League, and it’s refreshing to have a thoroughly reprehensible specimen of humanity as the villain. The balance between the ongoing Starro crisis and the new developments in Santa Prisca isn’t as tight as it could be, and the inking looks rather rushed, but the individual moments worked. I admit chills at the President’s question about reducing the Watchtower to rubble if the entire League turns out to be Starro-infected, and anticipation at whatever Wonder Woman sees on page 20 that freaks her out so much. An important element in the framing device apparently slipped through the cracks, however, which caused me some confusion. I’m confident, though, that the first issue’s quality will hold through the story overall.

Legion of Super-Heroes has what may be the most superfluous crossover ever in this fill-in issue that is tied, kinda, to Infinite Crisis. From the solicits, readers no doubt expected some sort of cross-timeline caper; instead, we get a series of “imaginary stories” told by non-core Legionnaires during the recent battle with Lemnos’s forces. A pervers part of me couldn’t help but cackle at the subverted expectations, but that alone wouldn’t be enough to win the issue without the final sequence, a powerful reminder of the series’ emotional core. Mark Waid can hang around as long as he wants, but if he ever gets bored, Stuart Moore is the perfect takeover man. Pat Oliffe’s art was a treat, since I haven’t seen much of him since Untold Tales of Spider-Man was cancelled. And there’s another Legion lettercol, this one a helpful primer on the team’s current membership from Triplicate Girl. This one begins *and* ends on two great visual gags; I heartily recommend checking Scans Daily to see if it pops up.

And that’s it. Feel free to share your impressions of the above titles, or any others you might have read. I’ll be taking tomorrow off due to the New York Comic Con, but we’ll be back on Monday, Same Mildly Astonishing Time, Same Mildly Astonishing Channel.

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