General Reviews 4/30: DC must stand for Don't Care

by The General

Wow, it seems like it was just the other day that I was typing up reviews for last weeks comics... oh, wait! It was just the other day! That's what I get for dinking around last week and not doing my reviews until Monday. Anyhow, this week of comics is definitely more of a mixed bag than last week's Bliss-Fest™, so maybe you'll get to listen to me grousing a little this week. OK, let's take a deep breath before clicking the "read more" and diving into my reviews of X-Men Legacy, Ultimate X-Men, DC Universe, and The Incredible Hercules!

X-Men Legacy #210 (Carey, Eaton and Land) - If you read most websites' reviews of this title, you see a lot of reviewers talking about how they don't know where this title is going, or aren't convinced that the direction is strong enough to maintain a title. Me? I'm just happy to enjoy the ride. It hasn't been a perfect book, but Carey's been providing a dense exploration of the X-Men's back history through a string of flashbacks and psychic visions (cue Dan: "Tedious"). Not much has happened in the first three issues, but it's great to read a book that seems to know how to harness the X-Universe's history constructively rather than just ignore it or revamp it like most writers seem happy to do these days. That said, this definitely isn't a book for new readers.

This issue actually manages to get Xavier out the Acolyte base by the end of it, which is a good step forward... if a small one. In addition, we are treated to a couple of epilogues that hint that the focus of the book is widening a bit. Also a good move. I'm not sure if I'm keen of the idea of Xavier wandering around with shattered memories (I mean, that's Wolverine's schtick), but I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt for the time being. Just keep it interesting is all I ask. In terms of art, Land steps in as this issue's "flashback artist." I'm not a huge fan of Land's work, but this issue he seems to dial back the glossiness a bit, and I frankly didn't notice it too much one way or the other. Overall, this probably wasn't the strongest issue of the new creative direction, but it's still pretty much your Basic B.

Ultimate X-Men #93 (Kirkman and Tolibao) - At some point, about two issues back, my interest waned on this whole Apocalypse storyline. I literally went from thinking "this is all really fascinating" to thinking "when will this be over" with, like, the turn of a page. Kirkman's strength seems to be when he is able to spin traditional X-Men plot elements off each other in unique ways. On the flip side, his weakest moments are his fight scenes. And, it hasn't helped matters that the last couple issues have been one protracted, downtown-demolishing fight scene.

Which brings us to this issue: The grand finale that plays on both his strengths and weaknesses... Phoenix versus Apocalypse. So, we have two big X-ideas playing off each other, but it's also one huge fight scene. It's a great idea, at least, and spectacularly rendered by (I believe) newcomer Harvey Tolibao. Tolibao's style reminds me of Tom Raney on a coffee binge. It's detailed in a way that's a feast for the eyes, even if his anatomy slips from time to time. He's far from perfect, but if he's young and still improving, I think he might be big someday. The end is a bit of a cop out, but at least Kirkman allows the characters a couple pages to breath and deal with the fall out of the arc. This issue is a definite upswing from the last couple, but it's still Barely a B-.

DC Universe #0 (Morrison, Johns and a whole butt-load of artists) - Why does DC do this to me? Or, rather, why do I do this to myself? It's become pretty much an annual tradition: DC will release a cheapo teaser issue meant to pitch a new batch of titles and, lured by the price tag and the dream that I will someday like a mainstream DC title, I pick it up. I'll hold it in my grubby hands, look at it and think "maybe this time!" And then I'll open it and find pages of dire incoherency. Sadly, it's happened again.

There's something about the way DC tells stories these days that just turns me off. Too much of it reads like I'm reading Cliff's Notes versions of the storyline. Not the actual story itself. Of all the sections in this issue, the only one that actually shows any real understanding of how characters should play off each other is the Batman and Joker scene. That scene manages to be creepy and foreboding, but everything else just rings hollow. And, as far as the Flash's return (I'm not even going to bother with spoilers, at this point), I can see how it would be interesting or exciting in theory, but there's nothing in this issue that makes me excited about the idea. Oh well, maybe next year. A Dire D.

The Incredible Hercules #116 (Pak, Van Lente and Sandoval) - There's been a lot of online raves about Hercules these days, and it was a slow week, so I figured why not check it out? If nothing else, it has a decent Romita Jr. cover. So, what's the verdict? Solid. Interesting and entertaining. But not the hilarious show-stopper I've heard it described as. I'm not too familiar with Hercules as a character, but what little I know about him, and how he's used here, I can see his appeal. He sort of works like Jack Burton in Big Trouble of Little China, the clueless narcissist bumbling through a storyline that's actually being driven by those around him. It's fun, and the tone and story is ably handled here.

I do want to make note of the Dreaming Celestial in this issue, or at least ask: So what's the story with it? The same Celestial was featured briefly in Uncanny a month ago. Is this building to something bigger or is it something like X-Factor's old ship (waaaay back in the day) - set piece for one title that's so big and interesting, that other titles can't help but at least show it in the background. Either way, I like it. It's the sort of shared universe detail that piques my curiosity. And, seeing it here, along with Hercules' antics, raise this to a Breezy B.


Vocal Minority said...

The Dreaming Celestial popped up in Gaiman's eternals.


In the course of that series, it was woken up, something that shouldn't have happened. It was going to destroy the world, but one of the characters talked to it and convinced it to judge for itself. So it's standing outside San Fran, basically making its mind up. And nobody can do anything to stop it, so they're just leaving it alone to decide.

Which sounds faintly lame in the cliff notes version, but is really cool in the book itself IMHO.

The General said...

See, that is sort of cool. In Hercules, he fights with the Etnerals, so I figured they were all linked, but it's good to know the back story... and it's neat that they decided to at least give that thought a head nod in X-men a couple weeks ago.

Matt said...

I came into DC comics late, it was during Zero Hour and I quickly became a fan of the universe. I started collecting some of the major books but ever since Infinite Crisis my interest has been waning. JSA and Teen Titans are the only books I pick up and once the repsective writers leave those books, I will leave with them. Final Crisis maybe my final DC event as well.

Brandon said...

X-Men Legacy and Ultimate X-Men have been fun to read, but unfortunately they haven't been really strong. They just kind of sit there on my reading pile, not really jumping out or giving me any reason to read first. I want more direction for Legacy. I think there is a kernel of great story in that title, but it really needs to develop more. Ultimate X-Men may do well once a new writer comes in.

The General said...

Legacy is always at the top of my "to read" pile. And, Brandon, if you haven't read the most recent issue, I think you'll be happy ot know that the "storyline" get's more fleshed out in this latest issue.

Ultimate X-men, on the other hand, I rarely dislike, but it's generally toward the bottom of the "to read" pile because I can never get excited about it.