Monthly Archives: December 2009

Quick Critiques – Dec. 20, 2009

The Brave and the Bold #30 (DC Comics)
by J. Michael Straczynski & Jesus Saiz

Straczynski proves the strength he brought to the previous issue wasn’t just an aberration and that his first couple of middling issues on this series wouldn’t be characteristic of his stint as this title’s writer. When this pairing of heroes for the team-up title was announced a few months ago, I was puzzled; I didn’t think it would make for that interesting a story beyond a generic super-hero story. But the basis for his choices quickly became clear. Green Lantern’s ring power is fueled by his will power, while his mystic (or if you will, spiritual) ally in this story is named “Fate.” Straczynski explores the age-old debate of free will versus determinism by means of a plot premise only possible in the super-hero genre. One might find the circumstances that lead to the debate a bit forced, but it worked for me in the context of the DC Universe. The one element of the plot I didn’t enjoy was Straczynski’s use of a thoroughly obscure character from a Justice League comic of the 1980s as a catalyst for Dr. Fate’s introspection. Fortunately, that element is relegated to the prologue and doesn’t hinder the story that unfolds later on. For those familiar with the original incarnation of Dr. Fate, the story might resonate a bit more effectively, but there’s enough information here for newer readers about Kent Nelson that they’ll be able to follow along.

Saiz has also stepped up his game, as is evident in the rich backgrounds he provides for the extra-terrestrial setting. Whereas his work on #28 (the Flash/Blackhawks issue) lacked in terms of backgrounds, in this issue, he provides a fascinating glimpse into the impossible. The alien world on which the action unfolds features an interesting blend of antiquated relics and alien, unfamiliar landscapes. The ruins in which the heroes find themselves look both genuine, like something one would see on the History Channel, and completely new and alien, like something would find in a James Cameron sci-fi flick. Furthermore, the softer features that Saiz’s brings to the characters’ faces continue to emphasize the humanity of the superhuman players, which works well with the more character-driven ideas that the writer wants to examine. 8/10

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When Good Things Are Done by Bad People

Cassaday coverSale coverIncentive variant coverIncorruptible #1
Writer: Mark Waid
Pencils: Jean Diaz
Inks: Belardino Brabo
Colors: Andrew Dalhouse
Letters: Ed Dukeshire
Cover artists: John Cassaday/Tim Sale/Jeffrey Spokes
Editor: Matt Gagnon
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Price: $3.99 US

I’ve heard some criticism that with Irredeemable still not even a year old, it’s too early for Boom! Studios to launch a spinoff title that explores the opposite dynamic: the world’s most powerful super-villain turning over a new leaf to fight for what’s right. I really don’t understand that aversion to this new title. The way I see it, the publisher is simply beginning the expansion of its super-hero line in a shared-continuity context. No one took issue with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s efforts to develop a larger super-hero universe almost 50 years ago or any other comics creators who have done the same over the life of the comics medium as a whole. That being said, while I enjoyed Incorruptible, it’s a far cry from the strength of Irredeemable. Still, there’s a great deal of potential here, and it certainly looks as though one’s appreciation of the plotlines and characters of this title won’t be dependent one one’s knowledge of the other.

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Once More with Repeating

New Avengers Annual #3
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist/Cover artist: Mike Mayhew
Colors: Andy Troy
Letters: Comicraft
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $4.99 US

In this comic book, a group of super-heroes teams up to free a fellow Avenger from the clutches of Norman Osborn and his Dark Avengers… again. This annual, meant as a lead-in to Siege apparently, disappoints in a number of ways, and its repetition of a similar plot that was just explored in the main series is just one of them. Not only is this story redundant, it’s completely inconsistent. It also misleads its audience into thinking that the spotlight is on one character when it’s really on another, and it serves to spotlight the lateness of another seemingly unrelated Marvel title. The failure here not only falls on the writer (who also penned the “Cage caged” story in New Avengers) but on the editing, or lack thereof. One of the appeals of shared-continuity super-hero stories is the continuity, the myth-building, but the people in charge of maintaining that continuity don’t seem to be all that interested in details.

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O, My Scars and Garters

The Story of O hardcover graphic novel
Writer: Pauline Reage
Artist/Adaptation: Guido Crepax
Publisher: NBM Publishing/Eurotica imprint
Price: $24.95 US

NBM Publishing sent along this attractive hardcover reprint of artist Guido Crepax’s adaptation of a classic piece of erotic literature for review, and since I’d heard of The Story of O but had never read it, I was more than happy to take a look. And after all, I’m a guy, and men in general aren’t exactly known for their aversion to pornography. And make no mistake… this comics adaptation of the well-known 1950s French erotica is porn. Almost every individual scene is titillating and will no doubt give way to arousal in many readers. On that level, the Italian comics artist succeeds with this tribute. However, when it comes to actual storytelling, his take on The Story of O is disappointing. There’s no sense of flow from one scene to another, and at times, from one panel to another. The eroticism of the book is hindered by confusion. Of course, I have to admit that another reason the book didn’t win me over is because I found the characters’ behavior off-putting. Don’t get me wrong… I love sex, but after reading this book, it’s clear to me that sadism and masochism aren’t for me. I found O’s complete submission and supposed love for a man who puts her through difficult ordeals to be too extreme. (Warning: NSFW)

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Giving Peace a Chance

The Brave and the Bold #29
“Lost Stories of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist/Cover artist: Jesus Saiz
Colors: Trish Mulvihill
Letters: Rob Leigh
Editor: Joey Cavalieri
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US

While I’ve had mixed reactions to writer J. Michael Straczynski’s comics work when he first come to prominence in the industry, some of his more recent efforts have really won me over. He kindled an interest in me in Marvel’s incarnation of Thor, a character I’ve rarely found interesting in the past, and his unfinished limited series The Twelve struck me as a compelling read, blending a more thoughtful, modern approach to super-hero storytelling with a respect and love for the championess of the Golden Age. So when Straczynski jumped ship and signed up with DC, I was expecting a continuation of the kind of creative strength he’s exhibited in recent years. Instead, we got the Red Circle books (a major disappointment) and a couple of middling issues of The Brave and the Bold. To my relief, a more inspired Straczynski joins us for this latest issue, in which he explores the never-ending nature of genre storytelling.

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