Unedited and non-proofread, published to clear the decks for the next three weeks of MUSIC, MUSIC and MUSIC, here's some comics, in their rough draft form. Starting at 10AM today, and not stopping until we get a number one, Marty Brown returns and the Factual Opinion gives you the TOP 25 ALBUMS of 1983.
All Star Batman & Robin 6
Written by Frank Miller
Art by Jim Lee & Scott Williams
It's sort of an odd sensation, reading a new issue of All-Star Batman when you can still recall what happened in the last issue. It's not a good feeling, and it's not a bad feeling. This comic still sells well, according to those reliable-because-they're-the-only-option Diamond sales charts, but if DC was hoping that the All-Star line was going to be their version of the Ultimates...well, then they should probably stop hoping that. Either way, All-Star Batman just makes me feel old, and not in a good way.
There isn't much hope for this series to round out it's current storyline in any method that's going to make me happy, but a couple of things could be added that might make for a more enjoying slog. The first being that Miller's version of Batman should have some kind of noticeable erection, especially when he's jumping out of the sky, laughing manically, to beat people up. The dialog, his obsessive recounting of the human damage he's inflicting--clearly, there's a sexual component that's being outright ignored. The second addition (well, technically it's more like a replacement) is that he shouldn't be say things like "Keep your head down, ma'am." This is the guy who calls Robin a retard and refers to himself as "the goddamn batman!" (None of which i have a problem with.) That guy doesn't assist other vigilantes while treating them with respect and diplomacy. That guy, that "goddamn Batman," would pop the intruding lawgiver in the chops and call her a Donkey, or a Bitch. (Pretty much anything that guy from Hell's Kitchen calls people.)
Written by Grant Morrison
If Grant Morrison hasn't earned a tired comic readers trust by now, then they should just bring back Valiant and Youngblood, close down Diamond, and give this whole hobby to the Mcfarlane fans. Nobody packs this much into books, excepting those cats who operate outside of the DC/Marvel contingent. While not everything Morrison writes may be gold, his best super-hero work beats the hell out of anything that wasn't done by Jack Kirby, and it stands toe to toe with quite a bit of that. Future Batmen warring it out in a city laced with explosives? A story that skips all introduction and gets right to the insanity? This is what comics should read like all the time.
Almost everytime complaints are leveled at Grant Morrison, they seem to focus on how he doesn't do two things--he doesn't respect continuity, and he doesn't tell simple one-to-one stories. The banality that these complaints cries out for is one that never gets addressed--after all, there's plenty of DC books that "respect continuity" and tell simple one-to-one stories. Those are what we call books that got cancelled. Nobody really wants to read that shit, and still people crying out for a return to form, as if it's somehow impressive that a book stays the same for multiple years and is always making sure it's trying to be as Strunk & White as possible. Batman 666 doesn't really follow Batman 665--but so what? The guys still writing this stuff, and it's not like the Doom Patrol didn't have moments where it diverged from it's prior context. That being said, even if Morrison never truly gets down to wrapping everything up all neat and tidy (which isn't exactly the most attractive thing anyway) since when did that become a rule for what comics are supposed to be like? They don't have to mean anything. They don't have to make sense. There aren't any fucking rules. Hell, if you don't like it so much, why don't you go buy some more copies of Justice Society of America and shut the fuck up?
Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Carlos D'Anda & Henry Flint
Let's not mince words: Deathblow should never be canceled, it should never change creative teams, and it should always be about a lunatic who teams up with a bunch of talking stray dogs. It should never attempt any sort of explanation or resolution. It's perfectly fine they way it is. It's weird, it doesn't make a lot of sense, and it's better than anything featuring Spider-Man that wasn't drawn by Steve Ditko. Including things directed by Sam Raimi.
Written by Andy Diggle
Art by Leonardo Manco
Andy Diggle is writing Hellblazer the same way Garth Ennis and Jamie Delano wrote him. But Andy Diggle ain't Ennis, and he ain't Delano. Still, Constantine remains one of the few characters in comics who seems to outsize his writer: even when he's not being written by the writers who, in this reader's opinion, knew him best, he never comes across as a cipher. Unlike Superman, a classic case study in a complete blank slate of a character, Constanatine books thrive with personality, and that's probably why a mean, cynical book about a perversely cruel man who seems to hate everything in the world is still being published. In the end, Hellblazer is mostly just about a cranky old chainsmoker, and considering what most comics are about, that makes him more of a hero than Cyclops.
The Immortal Iron Fist 7
Written by Ed Brubaker & Matt Fraction
Art by Travel Foreman, Derek Fridolfs, Leonardo Fernandez & Francisco Paronzini
A bullshit waste of time issue after a great six. First mistep from a writing team that had been firing on all cylinders from the gate. Hideous cover too.
Green Arrow: Year One
Written by Andy Diggle
Art by Jock
There's no good reason for this series to exist, but it's always nice to see Jock's art on a regular basis. Nothing that happens here really goes to the core problem this reader has always had with Green Arrow: why, roughly speaking, does this guy fight crime with a bow and arrow? What's his motive? 'Cause he got shipwrecked? Really?
Grendel: Behold the Devil 0
Writing & Art by Matt Wagner
One thing that was always kind of admirable about Wagner was how he limited the use of this Hunter Rose character--even though it was always far more popular than all the other versions of Grendel, Wagner stuck to his guns and experiemented with all kinds of different genres. He failed, quite often, to tell compelling stories, and thanks to some abysmal art choices, he also helped release some really ugly comics. But at least he was trying, he was moving shit around. There's no good reason to return to Hunter now--that is, unless you've run out of ideas.
The Incredible Hulk 108
Written by Greg Pak
Art by Leonard Kirk & Scott Hanna
It would be really great if the Hulk did actually slaughter Mr. Fantastic, Iron Man, Black Bolt and Dr. Strange. That would make for some good stories. It's not going to happen, and that's why it is becoming really hard to enjoy this World War Hulk storyline: because we all know it's not going to end the way it should. None of those characters are going to die. This story is going to end with some kind of half-ass turn of events, and that's it.
Legion of Super-Heroes 32
Written by Tony Bedard
Art by Dennis Calero
MATTER EATER LAD MUST EAT MATTER FOR HIM TO MATTER.
Queen & Country 32
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Chris Samnee
Taking a long time to finish didn't increase this reader's enjoyment of Chris Samnee's art--still don't much care for it. As is the status quo with violence in Queen & Country, Rucka brought the blood this issue, and it's completely upsetting and uncomfortably realistic.
Speak of the Devil 1
Writing & Art by Gilbert Hernandez
Wondering why Hernandez published this story on cheap paper at Dark Horse, instead of presenting it at his regular stable at Fantagraphics?
Probably has something to do with it not being very good. Although Hernandez has, like Grant Morrison, certainly earned the benefit of the doubt, Speak of the Devil doesn't match up to anything going down in the current Love & Rockets series. Gil isn't in a fallow period, buy you wouldn't know that from this book.
Ultimate Fantastic Four 44
Written by Mike Carey
Art by Pasqual Ferry & Justin Ponsor
That's it. No more. I deserved to waste my time, especially when i already knew, and previously expressed, how bad this book was going to be.
Writing by Jeph Loeb
Art by Simone Bianchi & Andrea Silvestri
There's always a struggle between brunette's and blondes? That's supposed to be a major relationship factor in a comic book? Well, if that's the equation, with Wolverine=Veronica and Sabretooth=Betty, than it's about time to introduce Archie and the rest of the clan. We've got a Sadie Hawkins dance to plan.
I know i'm not getting an answer, but fuck it: What happened to the Jeph Loeb who wrote Long Halloween?
Writing and Art by Darwyn Cooke
Inked by J. Bone
Don't get it twisted--the Spirit is damn fine work. Still, it can't be helped that the Spirit isn't operating on a very high level of art right now: it's a good read, month in and month out, but it's rapidly becoming a comic that goes down so easy that it makes one question the 2.99 cover price. Comics that are bad, ugly pieces of work have it a little easier: complaints are so aggressively focused on the low quality of writing, the sheer abundance of pointless repitition and shoddy art that price complaints fall on deaf ears. (Also, the 2.99 is more of an experiment. As in, i'll give you 2.99 once, and if you screw me, i'm walking.) It's comics like Spirit--fun, entertaining pages that end too soon and come in such a disposable format that make one begin to question why one should drop 18 dollars for six of them, when an attractive (and sturdier) compilation of the issues will eventually be published sometimes soon, and it will be cheaper. Nothing earth-shattering happens in the Spirit from month-to-month, it's not tied to larger storylines, and it's better than it's package deserves. It, like it's spiritual comic cousin, Godland, is the very definition of a comic that is better read in the trade. Like Hellboy before it, the Spirit is no longer a comic this reviewer plans to purchase off the rack. It deserves the spot of immortality a spot on the bookshelf will give it.
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Joe Bennett and Jack Jadson
Finally out of the woods a cross-over creates, Checkmate returns to the able hands of a solitary Greg Rucka, and although he's under mandate to give whining fans the subplot they crave (Ice is back! What will Beatriz do? Oh. Cry. Genius.) Rucka's still able to show off at what he does best: write strikingly complex female characters without resorting to tits & ass stories. (Of course, he did cut off the female in mentions arm last month, but hey, she's a cyborg. It grew back.) Checkmate doesn't fit the bill of the DC universe right now--it's a little too quiet, and a little too clever, and neither of those traits bode well for a long run--but it's still a relatively pleasurable book, and one that strives for a Byzantine plot that is a hell of a lot more interesting to explore than anything currently featuring most of DC's line-up. Rucka gets called out, a little too often, for basically using Checkmate as a way to tell stories from his excellent adult-spy comic Queen & Country with the unwieldy insertion of obscure DC characters, but the simple truth is that a spandex-clad Queen & Country is still better than anything currently featuring Supergirl or Batwoman.
Ghost Rider 13
Written by Daniel Way
Art by Javier Saltares
Considering that the worst part of last months issue of Ghost Rider was the part where the Hulk storyline crossed-over, and considering that the current issue completely crosses-over, this was just about as bad as a mainstream comic can get. It's completely unentertaining and serves as an embarrassing waste of time for all involved.
Some of the drawings of fire were well done. It has that going for it.
The Programme 1
Written by Peter Milligan
Art by CP Smith
Peter Milligan is always an interesting writer to check in on: his work in Shade The Changing Man, X-Statix, Enigma and The Human Target are all excellent reads. For whatever reason, his work on more mainstream titles like Detective Comics and X-Men hasn't brought him the success and name recognition as contemporaries European writers like Mark Millar and Grant Morrison--it's not a slight, but it does seem that Milligan doesn't have the flair for incorporating the talent he shows on Enigma and Shade into the spandex-clad tales, unlike Morrison, who underwrites an entire odd abstract line of comics with his headlining work on Superman and the Justice League America. In other words--you get excited that he's put something out, but it's not Seven Soldiers excitement. Programme was certainly good, but it'll join the Spirit in the look forward to a trade pile. It's the sort of story that isn't going to be spoiled by the wait.
Written by Mark Waid
Art by Way Too Many Fucking People, For No Good Reason Other Than Getting It To Stores In Time
Wally's back! He runs really fast! He's back! He caught that bad guy, and turned him into a statue! He cried fast, while he was running fast!
Wait, since when did he turn bad guys into living statues?
We're all real happy that Flash is back, but the truth is we'll probably go back to not buying the Flash comic--nothing ever happens of any consequence there. (Not to say that something of consequence is happening in Ghost Rider. Still, nothing of consequence in Ghost Rider is still, by the numbers, more intriguing than when nothing of consequence happens in the Flash.)
Still, he's back. And he's got kids. And he's got a wife. Considering that the last time anybody did "kids and a wife" well was in the late 80's, and it was Morrison's Animal Man, we're not holding out a large amount of hope. Besides, if DC has taught us anything, it's that supporting characters have one purpose only: being killed.
Enjoy them while they last!
Written by Adam Beechen
Art by Freddie E. Williams
For whatever reason, it's time to trot out the old "let's give Robin an arch-enemy" idea again. Considering the last time they'd tried this, the result was the terrible, hideous "Johnny Warlock" debacle, and the next time they did, it was a reincarnation of a dead girlfriend as an agent of some nefarious demon. This time it's a little white kid who has the same powers as Marvel's Nightcrawler, wears a hoodie and calls himself Dodge. In classic don't make no sense fashion, he worshipped Robin, got himself hurt despite Robin's warnings, and now he must kill Robin.
Are we being a little too harsh on a pretty basic superhero trope: of course, because Beechen and Williams have done better, and they've done better as recently as last issue. This will play out no worse than those that have come before, but it will play out just the same. To those who continue to cry out that nothing new can be done with superhero comics, and to those cry that nothing should, these kind of completely balls of inanity are evidence to our learned response: pshaw!