7.06.2009

Summer Reading, pt. 2


by Brandon
Summer marches on into July... and so does my summer reading! I could say something cheesy like I tried to "cool of with these hot reads", but I would be lying to you. It's been fairly moderate in South Carolina for late June and early July; not too hot or humid. My reading has followed the same trend; nothing much has really grabbed me lately. Many of the comics I've read the last couple of weeks have been decent, but not great. This week, I cover Uncanny X-Men, X-Men: Legacy, X-Force, Booster Gold, and many other titles. Won't you spare a mouse-click for the poor?



Wizard #213
One of the first stories Rich Johnston's new Bleeding Cool website reported on was about the latest batch of problems for Wizard. The once mighty company has apparently seen better days. Johnston ended his article by asking, "When was the last time you read Wizard?" As I often find myself doing, I answered the question that was staring back at me from my computer screen. When no one replied, I decided I might just have to check out an issue. I haven't read an issue of Wizard since I finished my B.A., which was in 2002. Wizard always seemed to be infantile, bordering on gonzo journalism and idiocy, with liberal sprinkling of fart jokes and drawings of big breasted women. That wasn't the only reason I avoided Wizard; who needs Wizard in an age where tons of comic book news websites, creator social networking pages, daily online press releases from publishers, and comic book fan message boards beat Wizard to the punch at nearly every turn. How does a comic magazine stay relevant? I think it's an uphill battle being fought by all print media, but Wizard has always been a niche magazine. I found an issue of Wizard at a newsstand the other day and checked it out. To their credit, this issue is far different and far better than the Wizard I read in middle or high school. Gone were the talking figures and rampant fart jokes (though, trust me, there were fart jokes). Wizard has taken more of a "features" approach which works really well within its framework. By focusing on interviews with creators and expanding their coverage to include entertainment pop culture has given Wizard a bit of a jolt for the future. I even checked out the current subscription rates for Wizard (around $29 a year), which in terms of content I guess is comparable to The Comics Journal (around $35) or Comic Buyer's Guide (around $25). Have you read Wizard lately? It might not be a bad idea to check it out.

Uncanny X-Men #'s 508-510
Matt Fraction's time on Uncanny X-Men has been pretty lackluster reading for me. Sure, it's got snappy dialogue and the art is sharp (insert Greg Land copying joke here), but it just doesn't scream "THIS IS UNCANNY FREAKIN' X-MEN" like it should. It just doesn't seem to be as grandiose as the stories from the past were. I think a large part of it has to do with the move to San Fransisco. This move hasn't given the geographic payoff I thought it would since it seems to be fairly unimportant to pretty much every other x-book besides Uncanny, which seems to use it as "Gee, we're in San Fransisco now. Isn't that, like, so totally, like, tubular or what?" The villains plaguing the X-Men here, the aptly named Sisterhood, also leave much to be desired. They predictably have become the View of the Marvel Universe, bickering amongst themselves and occasionally dragging in something quasi-interesting. And guess what? They invaded the new X-Mansion/compound. Haven't read that before, have we? This book is dangerously close to getting dropped, especially since Legacy and X-Force are running circles around it on a month-to-month basis.

X-Men Legacy #'s 223-224
It's sad to see Charles Xavier's romp around the X-Men universe past and present coming to an end. Mike Carey has managed to craft an excellent book out of a seemingly uninteresting topic. He has also managed to take Rogue and Gambit, two characters who were in desperate need of finding relevance, and put them back in the X-books without it seeming lame or forced. These two characters have been so easily made into caricatures by a multitude of past creators that they had become pretty much useless to anyone writing X-Men comics. It just didn't seem like anyone knew how to treat these characters. Mike Carey does a good job of using Danger as well, a recent character that was already becoming a one hit wonder with her "Kill the X-Men" shtick. I hope Professor X stays around for a while now in this book along with the other revitalized characters.

X-Force: Ain't No Dog
Bloody? Check. Violent? Check. Over the top? Check. Great? Double check. I picked this up for a buck on Free Comic Book day, but hadn't gotten around to reading it until this past weekend. The two main stories here involving Wolverine and Warpath were short and sweet, but packed a punch. This special reminded me a lot of Marvel Knight's Double Shot book from a few years ago. The Wolverine story especially reminded me of the Ennis/Quesada Punisher story from the first issue of Double Shot, where Punisher taunts a victim while visiting a dentist. While there were no dental hygienists in sight of this book, the dark atmosphere established was matchless. A book like X-Force seems to fit Marvel's Dark Reign era perfectly. The gore and violence of this issue just makes the anticipation even stronger for when the rest of the X-Men find out what Cyclops has been sanctioning behind their backs while they chill in San Fransisco.

Squadron Supreme #'s 10-11
I am a Howard Chaykin apologist and fan, but I can't help thinking that Chaykin, and to a larger extent Marvel, missed a golden opportunity with this title. J. Michael Straczynski really left this property in the lurch by exiting the book. Chaykin was left to pick up the pieces from that book and the iffy Ultimate Power crossover. He seemed to be the man for the job too... that is until he spent the first six issues of the reboot tooling around with new characters. I'm all for bringing in new characters, but these guys were just dull, dull, dull, and dull. The last few issues have been very exciting, as the old Squadron returns from a five-year hiatus. Hyperions story, which has been percolating since the JMS run, finally came to fruition. It's damn interesting reading, but it's too bad the book has already been canned. Chaykin and Marvel had something here and they blew it! I'm sure issues 12 is already out now, thus closing the book on the Supreme Power universe for the foreseeable future. I hope this isn't goodbye to these characters, but I fear it will be for at least a couple of years.

Booster Gold #'s 15-21
I commented to someone a few weeks ago that if comic books were ice cream flavors that Dan Jurgens would be vanilla. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean this as a personal insult to the guy. Vanilla is good. It's in a lot of flavors. It's a good, solid background flavor that's dependable and has its uses. But man cannot live on vanilla flavored ice cream. Dan has always been a respectable, if not solid comic book creator, but he's never going to be regarded as well as say Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, or even someone like Mark Millar. Compared to these guys, he's just not going to write the legendary comic book people are going to look back on and say, "Gee, that was great. Just brilliant!" Case in point is Dan Jurgens' Booster Gold. The earlier issues from Geoff Johns were entertaining and fun. Jurgens created Booster Gold, so this should bode well for the character in a way. Yet the title lacks something now. The art is fine, the story serviceable, but it's just vanilla. Even making matters worse was issue #20, a standalone issue written by longtime JLI writer Keith Giffen. This one-issue story featuring the old Suicide Squad, Task Force X, beat the previous five issues by a mile. It managed to make the ingredients work. I love the Booster Gold character and can only hope that the book plugs along and gets better without causing too many time travel induced headaches. The Blue Beetle back-up feature in issue #21 was also a treat. I'm not familiar with this new Blue Beetle, but it wasn't bad.

The Brave and the Bold #23
I picked this up on a whim because it featured Blue Beetle. It also featured Magog, the Modern Age hero/villain of the Kingdom Come miniseries. For the record, Magog has to be the dumbest name ever for a comic book character. Even at DC and Marvel's cheesiest moments, no one ever came up with a name a stupid as Magog. The smart ass reader might say "Booster Gold is pretty dumb too." To that I have to say... okay, you may be right. This story features the lunk-headed Magog trying to solve a hostage situation in an Iraq style country. Enter Booster to save the day and shame Magog for not staying on task to save the helpless children hostages. This is was written and drawn by the same team that brings you the regular Booster Gold book, which is why the book's sympathies lie with Booster Gold. But how about making Magog out to be even a halfway decent character? Magog is treated like one big flexed muscle tearing his way through the universe. I'm supposed to care about this idiot enough to shell out money for a monthly comic book? I saw on Newsarama a while back that Magog has a new series coming out soon from DC. I hate to judge a book before it ever sees the light of day, but the Magog book has "cancellation by issue 12" written all over it.

The Unwritten #1
After Y the Last Man ended, Fables was the only Vertigo book that still managed to grab my attention, but they are currently going through a crossover events with the Literates and Jack of Fables, which I still think is the shittiest comic book I have ever read. I also tried Young Losers, which was way too scattered for me to keep up with. When Unwritten was announced, I hoped that it might draw back in since the creative team of Mike Carey and Peter Gross also produced Lucifer, one of the woefully underrated Vertigo titles. Plus, the $1 price point was very attractive. The verdict on The Unwritten? Not bad. Not bad at all. I like the idea of following the adventures of a guy who is famous for being the basis of a fictional boy wizard to be fascinating. I'm not a fan of Harry Potter, but the concept of fame and fiction crashing together is a fertile one. Carey has some big ideas to play with in the coming months and this series has the potential to be great. I'll be around at least for the first story.

The X-Files #6
This series started out very well. I think this is one of those properties that could excel as a comic book, but I'm not sure if this title sold that well. Probably not. The sixth issue wasn't very engaging, primarily due to the plot device of having Mulder "record" his voice for Scully. The only problem with that is the fact that it was very Claremont/Byrne in his description, meaning that a panel would show a dark cave while Mulder was saying, "I'm looking at a dark cave." It's just not effective storytelling for a comic book. I think DC and Wildstorm could have done a better job building this series up and promoting it. Like Squadron Supreme, I hope this isn't the last we will see of the X-Files in comic book form. The concept is just to fertile to let go of in such a faltering way.

2 comments:

Vocal Minority said...

Man, I re-read the first Supreme Power trade the other day.

So good. Such a shame it lost its way.

Brandon said...

I think Marvel has to be careful in how the handle The Twelve as well. JMS also left that book in an unfinished state. Marvel needs to learn from their Supreme Power failure. I don't like the attitude of, "Oh, JMS is off doing movies now." Well, he sort of started this comic. This is a serialized medium. It's time to live up to your obligations! Marvel should be calling every week giving some reminders to him that this series needs to be finished.