Saturday, December 30, 2006

Taking Stock

To begin, here's my list of the year's pleasures and pleasant surprises.

I. Ongoing titles whose appearance I eagerly await each month:

(1) Peter David's X-Factor (Marvel).

(2) Brian Reed's Ms. Marvel (Marvel).

(3) Brian K. Vaughn's Runaways (Marvel). Even despite Gert's death; Alphona's art is a crucial component.

(4) Gail Simone's Birds of Prey (DC). Without doubt, Simone made one of the most fruitful and effective uses of the One Year Later concept.

(5) Dan Slott's The She-Hulk (Marvel).

(6) Sean McKeever's Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane (Marvel). Takeshi Miyazawa's wonderful artwork is as important as McKeever's writing.

II. Satisfying individual issues:

(1) Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers: Zatanna #2, art by Ryan Sook. There is so much going on here visually that I still re-read this comic with pleasure.

(2) Jeph Loeb's Supergirl #5. Bruce, Diana, Clark, and Kara confront the evil Supergirl and answer the question: who is this new Kara?

(3) Warren Ellis' Desolation Jones #2. I entirely agree with Mr. Fossen.

Three New Avengers (written by Bendis):

(4) Luke Cage and Jessica Jones get married in Annual #1;

(5) Luke Cage's Civil War tie-in issue (#22); and

(6) Jessica Drew's Civil War issue (#23).

(7) Ed Brubaker's Captain America #22. Sharon Carter's interactions with the outlawed Captain America.

(8) Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #5. Gwen Stacy arrives in town, just when MJ decides...

(9) Marc Andreyko's Manhunter #26. Wonder Woman meets Kate Spencer.

(10) Gail Simone's Villains United Infinite Crisis Special. Setting the stage for the defense of Metropolis.

III. Enjoyable limited series, and nice runs within titles:

(1) Ted Naifeh's Polly and the Pirates (Oni Press).

(2) Krueger/Braithwaite/Ross Justice (DC).

(3) Mark Millar's Civil War (Marvel). What can I say? I'm enjoying it.

(4) Chris Claremont's issues of New Excalibur (Marvel).

(5) Stuart Moore's writing and Jamal Iggle's art made Firestorm: The Nuclear Man (DC) a pleasure to read. Another excellent One Year Later transition.

And now, 5 things that I found unsatisfying:

(1) I was disappointed in the ending of Infinite Crisis. For me, the resolution just didn't match the story's set-up. (Though I'll admit that it read better as a collected volume.) Call me bloodthirsty, but I can't help thinking that it would have been more compelling if Nightwing had died and if the Amazons had launched an attack in defense of Diana in the run-up to the series. After the second issue, I felt that the plot was structured around a series of "moments," eschewing character development and realization, things that fully engage me in a story.

(2) Speaking of Diana, I'm not pleased that the Wonder Woman re-launch has been stuttering and limping along, while Batman and Superman have landed on their feet after the One Year Later stunt. It seems to me that the marvelous character who appeared in Manhunter #26 should also be present in her own (reguarly appearing) title. Although the news that an Amazons Attack mini-series is in the works shows some sign that the editorial team recognizes that this corner of the DCU requires some attention, I don't think it will be sufficient.

(3) Wizard magazine informed us that this was going to be Spider Woman's year, and it just hasn't happened. Unfortunately, I thought the Spider-Woman: Origin series was just OK; I was expecting more. (Although this too went down better in a single sitting than it did in month-to-month readings.) And I enjoyed the New Avengers issues that focused on Jessica Drew's re-powering, her intrigues with HYDRA and Nick Fury, and her decision to choose a side in Civil War. What's really disappointed me is the absence of the promised stand-alone ongoing title which might have better established the character as an independent force in the Marvel Universe.

(4) I've been let-down by the Supergirl title. And it's not the characterization of Kara as a supremely powerful "little girl lost" whose brain has been pretty much fried by an evil parent; I thought this theme worked very well in Carrie, and there's no reason that it can't work here, too. It's just that the title's pacing is screwed up. Let me give you one example: why was the incredibly nicely drawn and entertaining Amanda Conner issue (#12) inserted between numbers 11 and 13, which clearly should have been published and read one after the other? Also, Joe Kelly's writing makes me feel like the book should have footnotes: who were the villains in #13? I mean, I don't have to know exactly who they are to get the story, but ...

(5) The resolution of the "who the daddy" question introduced into the Catwoman title let me down this year. You know, I don't have a problem with Selina Kyle being a mother. What I did find problematic was the non-resolution of the "paternity question" month after laborious month. There was no tension; it was clear that Selina was going to be a single mom; and by the time I was told the full story in issue #62, I had stopped caring who the father of the child actually was.

Friday, December 29, 2006


Upon reading Steve Bennett's latest "Confessions of a Comic Book Guy" column at ICv2, it's hit me that I'm a (40+ year-old) tween.

Here's how Bennett defines what we want:
Although today's kids are increasingly exposed to more adult material, they still have a need to feel safe, making them seek out material innocuous and reassuring, explaining the success of such inoffensive fare as the Suite Life of Zack and Cody and That's So Raven. They certainly seem to be hungry for stories about (relatively) ordinary kids in situations that reflect upon their hopes and fears - and doesn't that sound more than a little like what Archie Comics has been doing for decades? With a little tweaking the company is uniquely situated to provide kids with the sort of innocent romance (in, not surprisingly, close to a manga format) that tweens now crave.
In assessing whether DC or Marvel is meeting the demands of us tweens, Bennett concludes that they're just not:
DC has a sixteen year old Supergirl reconfigured by Joe Kelly (a talented writer whose work I intellectually appreciate but can't say I often actually enjoy) as a Satanic Teenage Time Bomb. And Marvel fifteen year old X-23, a teen girl Wolverine clone who up until recently was an assassin and part time prostitute who wears black leather bondage gear. I can understand why both publishers haven't tried to appeal to an audience that isn't there (yet); but can't help feeling uncomfortable seeing underage female characters being treated in such demeaning, sexualized ways. Sometimes it really does seem like both publishers are doing their best to appeal to perverts and get the lead spot on tonight's edition of the 700 Club.
Just for the record, in Supergirl #13 Kelly may have pulled the character out of her Satanic Time Bomb spiral. Whether it's enough, though, is still up in the air.

Bennett next goes on to address what he'd like to see in the future, and I found myself in perfect agreement:
So, what do I want? In the ... Wall Street piece [that discussed the Archie re-vamp] there's a quote from Archie chairman Michael I. Silberkleit about the various ways their characters are drawn that I'd like to share with you:

"Why are there seven different Chevrolets? There's one that people like this way and one that people like that way."

Meaning, this isn't an either or situation, you can have classic and post-modern versions of characters existing side by side with each other. DC is already selectively practicing this. To appeal to the mainstream super-hero reader there's the Trial of Shazam Captain Marvel and for everyone else there's Jeff Smith's upcoming rendition of the classic incarnation. It'll probably come as no surprise that I prefer the utter wish fulfillment of the original, but until a lot more kids start coming into Dark Star [his comic shop] I can't ignore the way copies of Trial of Shazam has been flying off our shelves.

If you want to do a dark Supergirl, fine, just so long as somewhere there's one who, you know, might actually appeal to girls. Say a Supergirl with a manga style story that focuses more on Linda Lee Danvers and her cat than super-heroics, or a version of X-23 where she's the strange new Goth girl at school with the terrible secret who slowly learns to reach out past her pain (anyone who says girls could never enjoy the fantasy of a character who "cuts loose" the way boys do hasn't an inkling just how mean and vindictive your average teen-age girl can be).

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Heaping Helping of Regret

Dan DiDio, in last month's Wizard magazine (#183), describing how 52 was massaged into the form we are presently reading:
"The team we ended up with was not the team we started with. I always had Donna Troy as part of the story from the beginning. She was on every one of my charts, every one of my lists. I walked into a meeting one day and everybody was looking at me," he laughs. "They said 'We can't find a way to work Donna Troy into this,' and I said to go with what made the most sense." (p. 57)
So let me get this straight: Lobo's inclusion made more sense to them.

(Full disclosure: although I wasn't collecting Teen Titans as a boy, I knew about the book, and the fact that Donna Troy was drawn in such a way that she resembled my Latina schoolmates always endeared her to me.)

Jodi Picoult, who will be writing Wonder Woman after issue #5, is interviewed in this month's magazine, and says:
"The Dept. of Metahuman Affairs people want to bring in Wonder Woman for questioning about her role in killing a federal agent, Max Lord, which of course already happened [in Manhunter #26]. But what I'm doing is taking it one step further, because that's going to precipitate a war with the Amazons [in March's Amazons Attack miniseries -- see sidebar]."
We're told in the sidebar that Will Pfeifer (who's writing Catwoman) will be writing the mini-series, and here's the juicy bit :
"[T]he April debuting mini-series, which sees Wonder Woman's warrior race return to the DCU, had its roots in 2005's ramp-up to Infinite Crisis. Originally slated to be the fifth prequel mini-series to the reality-altering event ..., Amazons Attack was dropped during last minute meetings to aid in story planning." (p. 87)
Those pesky DC editorial teams are batting 0 for 2, so far. It seems they had two occasions to better integrate Wonder Woman's corner of the DCU into their "event" story-arcs, and decided against doing so both times.

Wonder Woman was certainly present in Infinite Crisis, though I found that she wasn't nearly enough at the center of things to keep me entirely interested.

It's not like I'm bitter or anything ... though I am keeping score.

Monday, December 04, 2006

No Respect

Rogue, I appreciate that the laws of bad-assery require you to face overwhelming threats with light-hearted banter, but, being a true son of the City of Caesar, I've got to say that this one hurts.

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