Thursday, September 30, 2010

Short Takes

Work and real life are kind of kicking my butt at the moment, but while it's caused me to put the temporary kibosh on "Superman Sundays," it hasn't impacted (and won't impact for at least the foreseeable future) the "Walking with Superman" series. I'm right on track with that series, and every time I think I might be running out of ideas, I find some cool place in my research or think "what's a cool thing that I want to see Superman do?" and I'm all right again.

But that's not what this post is about. This post is about some of the comics I've actually managed to read recently, and other associated thoughts. And so...

In the "news to absolutely no one" department, I finally managed to purchase the newest volume of Adam Warren's "Empowered," and it was quite awesome. The increasing continuity in the title has inspired me to go back and read the whole series all at once, probably before my next "Scott Pilgrim" read-through, to be honest.

I could gush for long periods of time about all the awesome stuff in the book, but one thing I think it does particularly well is exploring the idea of a superhero culture. The "Empowered" universe has a superhero 24-hour news network, superhero TV shows, superhero award ceremonies, and radio programs devoted to fantasy-football-style superhero fandom. It's the sort of thing that great books like "She-Hulk" and "Manhunter" and "Bulleteer" and so forth have examined in smaller degrees, and it's something I wish comic creators would put more thought into. In a world where being superhuman is not entirely uncommon, we should expect to see a culture rise up around those superhumans, whether it's the mutant subculture explored in books like "X-Statix" and Grant Morrison's "New X-Men" run, or the ramifications of superhero existence implied by "Damage Control" and so forth. I'd like to see more creators ask "if superheroes existed, what else would we expect to see," and I think Adam Warren is one of the best creators out there in that regard. And that's not even the main focus of the title! So kudos to Warren for one of the best superhero books on the stands, even if it is a little embarrassing to purchase, shrink-wrapped and all, from my local Borders.

I also enjoyed the most recent Invincible trade, but I have less exciting things to say about that.

My feelings about J. Michael Straczynski's "Superman" ought to be well-known about seventy-one times over at this point, but Paul Cornell is rocking the house on "Lex Luthor's Action Comics." It's been a solid title from issue one, showcasing some of Luthor's eccentricities and weaknesses in ways that don't make him any less threatening or intimidating as a villain.

It also featured Gorilla Grodd wielding a "combat spoon." And that's amazing. I don't know how a book about DC's greatest villain manages to be this crazy and fun, but it does, and I hope it continues that way.

Incidentally, next issue is the one with Death. SPOILER ALERT! I'm not entirely sure how Lex is going to get out of this apparent jam, but I'm interested to find out. That? That was a cliffhanger. END SPOILERS.

Speaking of "Action Comics," despite the fact that I downloaded the Jimmy Olsen preview on my iPhone last week, I never quite got around to reading it until today. The way it treats the Silver Age wackiness of Jimmy Olsen's career with such matter-of-fact panache and uses morse code as a plot point in such a perfectly spot-on Silver Age way, is pitch-perfect awesome. I love the new characters, though it's going to probably take a few stories before we see whether or not Chloe Sullivan is anything like her spunky television counterpart.

A techno-genie. Man, "Action Comics" is amazing.

Action Comics also got me thinking about the weird way that some supervillains manage to "graduate." Like, most villains start as villains for some specific hero or team, but some manage to move up to universe-wide villains, villains who would be believable as the focal characters of major crossovers or fighting nearly any other hero. I've made a quick list of villains who started as single-hero foes and made their way up to universal threats:
  • Lex Luthor (Superman)
  • Dr. Doom (Fantastic Four)
  • The Joker (Batman)
  • Deathstroke (Teen Titans)
  • Ultra-Humanite (Superman)
  • Gorilla Grodd (Flash)
  • Norman Osborn (Spider-Man)
  • Loki (Thor)
  • Magneto (X-Men)
  • Kingpin (Spider-Man)

And so forth. I don't know exactly what qualifies a villain to make that jump; it seems like some of them start by shuffling around to different heroes (the way that Dr. Doom fought Spider-Man in an early "Amazing") or going after teams that their main rival is on (Loki being the first enemy of the Avengers). But, like, why would Deathstroke take off as a major DCU villain over, say, Brother Blood?

I also think it'd be interesting to compare/contrast this list with the list of villains who became heroes/antiheroes, during the '90s in particular and during other times in general. Deathstroke's on both lists, and arguably the Joker is too, given his solo title in the '70s. The Punisher started as a Spider-Man villain, but then you also have Venom (the "lethal protector"), Morbius, and a host of other characters to choose from. Not to mention the Suicide Squad and Secret Six.

It's interesting fodder for future posts, I suppose.

I appear to be the only person in comics fandom who wasn't wowed and wooed by "Chew." I don't know exactly what the problem is, whether it was just too many "innaworld"-type high concepts stuck on top of one another or something else entirely. All I know is that everyone is singing the title's praises with superlative accolades, including lots of people whose opinions I trust, and who have caused me to run out and buy other titles in the past on recommendation alone. But man, it just did absolutely nothing for me. I feel like I need to re-read the book again, or like there's something wrong with me. Rest assured, I'll do the former, and I suspect the truth of the latter.

I expect they'll be by for my comics blogging license any day now.

I like that the Green Lantern books are finally dealing with Sodam Yat. His sacrifice, up to and including the way it mimicked that of Hal Jordan in "Final Night"--was obviously going to be a non-death, and it's nice to see some movement on that plotline. That being said, I'm pretty sure that his story is being dealt with in "Emerald Warriors," and I really don't think I'm going to subscribe to a third Green Lantern title. I love Guy Gardner and all, but I think I'll be sticking with the two main titles for now. Maybe I'll change my mind soon, but not so far.

The current tragedy of my comic collecting is that I didn't have the funds to pick up "Darkwing Duck" as it was coming out, and so I only have the first issue. The closest shop that has any additional issues is A) not close and B) missing #2. I might ask my new LCS guy if they can procure the additional issues. Maybe I'll do that tomorrow, then. But man, $3.99 an issue sure makes trade-waiting an attractive prospect.

Looks like that's it for now. Feel free to tell me how or why I'm wrong in the comments. Especially if you're a "Chew" fan. I'd love to be sold on the series--I bought the first trade, after all, so I'm at least a little invested--but man, absolutely nothing.


LurkerWithout said...

The final issue of the first Darkwing Duck had a mess of Duck Tales cameos. Making it double awesome. Plus it showed a hint as to the villain pairing for the next arc...

At least you just didn't care for Chew. I still have problems understanding people whose taste I normally trust talking up Seth McFarlane's shows. Seriously, the Quaqmire character is an actual rapist. HOW IS THAT FUNNY?

Unknown said...

If it makes you feel any better, not only do I agree with you about "Chew," but I also not that crazy about "Casanova." Given the unanimous praise it's garnered from all corners of the blogosphere, I feel pretty bad about it.

Bill S. said...

Honestly, I tried reading the first volume of Chew and I just couldn't finish it. Not because it was gross or anything; I just got no enjoyment out of it, and figured my time was better spent with something I actually wanted to read. And up until now I figured I was pretty much alone in that.