This week I dipped my toe in a bunch of titles that I haven’t been reading in a long time. The problem with doing this however, is you can feel like you just walked into the middle of a story and end up quite lost.
Spawn manages the feat of making me feel like I’m in the middle of a story I don’t quite understand while at the same time feeding me more of the same old same old. It’s more “Who do you work for????” “Jason Wynn!” “Wynn’s coming for you!” Chains, power countdown timer, menace. I’ve seen all of t his before. On the other hand, it’s been a long time since Spawn has been cutting edge. The most revolutionary thing they’ve done in the 21st century was to change the identity of the title character from Al Simmons to ….I don’t even know his name. Perhaps if I cared more….
On the plus side though, this has spectacular art. It’s very similar to Tim Bradstreet, very much like the dark noir look of the best modern Daredevil stories. Last week I mentioned that Jerry Ordway was one of my favorite artists. I’ve always favored a more realistic look to the dynamic, hyper stylized feel of a Liefield or McFarline drawing. This works really well. I’d love to see this guy do a Hellblazer or a Hellraiser.
Army of Darkness is always a fun title, but you have to understand, this series has strayed miles from the movies. That makes it easy to feel lost. The thing is though, they haven’t really done any world building. This isn’t a tight continuity. They seem afraid to move far from the established characters and continuity of the films, so we just wander from situation to situation without ever really creating a narrative.
When a female Ash arrived at the cabin (now floating in another dimension, at a causal nexus of some sort), I was really hoping they were making an attempt to integrate the new Evil Dead movie into this series. It would have been a smart move and all this talk of multiverses seemed to point that way. The cliffhanger makes it clear that it’s not.
Finally there was Hawken : Genesis. Despite the fact that there are several gamers in my Violent Blue comic, I’m not one. I built myself a Pac Man Machine and decided I never had to buy another platform.
The point being, I had no idea this was based on a video game. It’s a great idea though. The art is stunning and the concepts are fascinating. I can absolutely see how this would completely flesh out a game world. These are very short stories, about half the size of a regular comic, but well worth it if you can track them down. I ended up having to go online to find the previous entry in the series.
I also grabbed Extermination. This really seemed like just indie superhero fare, but seemed to get a little dramatic towards the end. I haven’t read enough of this series (this was the first time I’d noticed it) to know if it had earned that kind of theme. I think I’m too lazy to go back and find previous issues though.
I happen to love Sherlock Holmes. My grandmother introduced me to the character when I was a child, but I only really started to appreciate him when I was a teenager and rediscovering it in reading class. I wasn’t this comic to be good. i really do. It has a beginning and and ending t hat both catch you, but the middle of this book just slogs on. It’s part one of a story so you almost want to give it some slack, but it just doesn’t keep my attention enough and the art in it is awful. Technically good drawing I suppose but it completely misses the soul of the characters and the era. I’m just not into it. I will probably get the second part of this, but it better get real good real quick or I’ll be dropping it.
Speaking of dropping, I think I’m done with new Valiant’s Bloodshot for a while. It’s not a bad book, it just isn’t my thing. I didn’t really get way into the original series and that may be having an effect on me. Archer and Armstrong on the other hand, continues to be a fun ride and genuinely better than it’s predecessors. I like how they are trying to ease some world building into this series by introducing the Eternal Warrior and t he idea of the Geomancer in through this series – and it’s the perfect place for it. Armstrong always put me off a bit in the old Valiant, but I like him quite a bit in this incarnation. Maybe it’s the hair or the better dress sense. I don’t know.
The Green Hornet on the other hand….I do believe they have the shark in their rear view mirror, having jumped it about the time Britt jr and Mulan Kato started gettin’ busy. Now with an attack on the home base…I know these are all classic comic book tropes, but this series is only like, two years old. Isn’t it a bit early to be hitting these cliches already? I like some of the extra elements they’ve come up with and the expanded cast, and I’ll keep reading as long as it runs, but I don’t think I’ll really miss it when it’s gone.
I saw there was a new Crow series out and thought I’d give that one a try for old time’s sake.
Why do I keep doing that to myself?
Actually the idea of a Crow at a death camp in Nazi Germany isn’t a bad one, but it’s just not enough for me to care. This concept has gotten so watered down over the years, it almost seems like anyone who dies violently comes back as a crow. I half expect batman’s parents to come back as the Crow!
Grifter is still a good series. I’ve heard this one is getting cancelled and that really does make me a little sad. I’m liking it and really enjoying the newer take on the character. This issue has him facing the Suicide Squad which is pretty much just flat out fan service aimed directly at me….or it would be if it were a Suicide Squad I recognized. Still, it’s actually a better handling of most of those characters than I’ve been seeing in thier own book. I love how he describes them : “Everyone in t he squad is dangerous.They’re Black Ops criminals with nothing to lose”. I’ve never really heard them referd to in that manner before and I love it. This story also establishes a prior working relationship between Grifter and (the new 52 character who isn’t anything remotely like) Amanda Waller. This particular comment alone is enough reason to get this book.
I miss fat, middle-age Amanda Waller. I totally believed that character WAY more than I do with this young, slim imposter.
Anyhow. Can I talk about She-Ra now?
First and foremost, we don’t see She-Ra in this series, we don’t get the entire Secret of the Sword treatment either, but rather we get just before that. This character and series is apparently going to be intergrated into DC’s MOTU series eventually and I can’t wait.
It’s itneresting, they address something I had felt for years – Adora’s costume. In t his she is still aHorde Force Captian, just like in Secret of the Sword. However, in that cartoon, she was wearing the same Adora costume that she wore for the rest of the series (which is fine. I get limited animation and all of that). Essentially a jacket and a nice confy cotten shirt. Everyone else in teh Horde wore armor and bats and sigils and she just didn’t fit. This changes that… and her horde armor is stunning, not to mention the name : Despara. Just great stuff. She fits in better with the Horde here, rather than coming off like a princess wandering through the halls of evil treading on rose petals all the way….now, she looks evil. Moreover, when she takes that helmet off….she looks damaged. You can see the brainwashing in her eyes, the chopped hair just adds to it all. I love this.
When we open, it mentions that we are on Etheria – in the dark dimension of Despondos. That tells me that we aren’t throwing out all of the previous continuity from the failed MYP series in 2002, and that’s a good thing. While there were elements I really didn’t like about that series (most notably the designs for He-Man and the Sorceress) That series worked very hard to add some mythology to this world that had never been as well developed as it’s contemporaries in Transformers and GI Joe. It added a great deal to the MOTU story and I had feared most of that would have been thrown right out the window since that series was now out of favor.
Seriously. We’d gotten what I thought a spectacular origin for him in the MYP series and I was heartbroken that someone was going to come in and just re-write it. It turns out they didn’t exactly re-write it after all.
This story explores Skeletor’s past. Yes, we knew he was actually Randor’s brother Keldor. We had even expected that he was really his half-brother. And we see him treated as the Half-brother by his parents. Always out of favor, always passed over. Interestingly ( and heartbreakingly) enough, Randor is the one standing up for him. He is perhaps the only person ever to really love Keldor. Interesting but predictable. We probably could have guessed most of this.
What no one ever considered before, was that Keldor was the older brother.
Seriously. This changes everything.
Before, he was just some megalomaniac. He was just a James Bond villian who wanted to take over the world. Now….he’s the elder. He has a legitimate claim to the throne….perhaps even a more legitimate claim than Randor. His madness is what now makes him unfit to rule, but before losing his face and submitting to Hordak’s magic and apprenticeship?
This is a whole new dynamic. It took the MYP series to make this into a generational story. DC has taken it and turned it into a generational drama. I love this. I haven’t been this excited about MOTU in a very long time and it’s just great.
That wraps up this week. Christmas is coming. I hope you all survive it…I’m going to go look for He-Man shaped presents under the tree.
A while back I did a Violent Blue strip where i mentioned that The Lone Ranger from Dynamite comics was one of the best books being published. That’s still true, even though I’ve missed a bunch of issues. They restarted the numbering after the hiatus and it’s thrown me off, but “Hard Country” was a perfect example of everything I love about this book. The Ranger is more established in these stories now, and his reputation precedes him. That makes him a little more familiar to the reader as well. We’re past the learning curve arcs. “Hard Country” is a set of mostly self contained stories with a two parter on the back end. It’s a great place to jump on for folks who haven’t been reading the book and if you haven’t I really recommend that you do.
This book is the first time I’ve seen someone get the Lone Ranger right….the first time I’ve seen it since the TV series in the 50’s. That’s a lot of water under the bridge huh? The problem over the years has been that every writer wants to deconstruct him, and reimagined his relationship with Tonto in a way that’s more politically correct – even adversarial. No one wants to see that. The Lone Ranger is like Superman. We want a pure, noble hero. dynamite gives us that, while at the same time expanding the mythos. They have given us more to look at, a better understanding of where the silver bullets come from, how The ranger relates to his lost brother’s wife, how he lives and a bit more depth to the characterization. They do this all without trying to drag him down. I love these books.
The “Death of Zorro” series has been surprisingly great as well. It didn’t necessarily have to be. Crossing over The Lone Ranger and Zorro was going to sell books one way or another, but the ideas they have presented here work well. It’s particularly interesting to see the Ranger’s father in this series and how he was helped by Zorro. I’m still missing the last two issues of that series, but I’m comfortable singing it’s praises as it is.
Suicide Squad is another story altogether. I was excited about this book coming back as a regular series. Hopeful even. There’s enough of a fan base I think, to keep it afloat if DC really puts some effort into it. And that’s where we find our problem.
Remember last week when I was complaining about Image’s Bloodstrike? How they stripped it of everything that made it fun? Much the same is happening here. One of the things that has always made Suicide Squad interesting is the bureaucracy. It’s always been a part of the book, even during that brief run by Keith Giffen that everyone seems to have disowned. The bureaucracy was INTERESTING. It was years before we’d see it become the norm in the 90’s Image books. It was new and different. Interesting to see Waller as the liaison dealing with the psychiatrists, the prison Warden, and guards and the Chaplin. Interesting to see the intrigue as she deals with Washington politicians and intelligence. Fascinating to explore the relationships between the normal people and the super powered convicts. All of this has been stripped. It’s pretty much Waller as the only symbol of authority. The only “good guy” in the room.
That’s another problem. The Suicide Squad as it existed in ’88 consisted of both heroes and villains. The heroes were perhaps a bit shady, Bronze Tiger being a reformed villain and Vixen being a bit of an outcast. But it provided a better balance. The villains, were by and large, sociopathic. Really bad folks. They were familiar names; Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, Poisen Ivy, Count Vertigo, Doctor Light. Characters you’d seen beaten in other titles but never given any real character development. Before, they were merely foils. In John Ostrander’s hands, they became truly scary, and you realized they didn’t have a sense of right or wrong. THAT’s what made them evil. Not robbing banks or kidnapping the mayor’s daughter. These familiar faces would kill anyone and do anything as long as it suited their plans.
All of that is gone. It’s just a bunch of cardboard cutouts now. These characters are just the colorful foils they always were in the superhero books and Suicide Squad is far less interesting because of it. particularly when it comes to Waller and Deadshot.
Deadshot is now the leader of the suicide squad and he’s portrayed as a bit of a go getter. The soldier type. His death wish is gone, his attitude. Someone at DC seems to have decided that Deadshot is popular and he should be the main character in the book, but they failed to understand WHY he was popular. Ostrander created great depth with Deadshot, exploring his relationships, his family and his pathology. He wasn’t a hero. He didn’t want to be. Gail Simone picked up on this when she was writing Secret Six and ran with it. There’s a lot to Floyd Lawton, and still more that could be explored, but this guy in the new 52 universe isn’t him. He’s just your standard not-quite-a-hero type and far less interesting.
Everything about her that was unique, everything that was special has been thrown out. A pretty, young secret agent with an attitude and a mouth? What’s special about that? What is there to this character that I haven’t seen a thousand times in any other comic book or TV show? Amanda Waller was fascinating in the past because she was a middle aged tough as nails strong black woman.She had wisdom and determination. There was a good deal of amorality to her, though not quite enough to push her towards sociopathology. She knew the game that politics was and played it as well as anyone. She pulled her self up from the mud by her own bootstraps and BUILT this life for herself….and she did that after her kids were grown. This young chippy that’s running around with the huge rack and thin waist calling herself Amanda Waller isn’t half the person pre-52 Waller was. Nor will she grow into the role. She doesn’t have the requisite adversity to overcome. Someone explain to me what it was that NEEDED to be changed or updated about this character. Come on. I dare you.
It’s been 12 issues now. You had your chance DC. I’m dropping this book…..something I’ve NEVER done with a series called Suicide Squad.
Grifter has changed a bit, gradually over the years. Not a huge amount, if you were to pick up an early WildCATS book and a current Grifter, you’d notice some differences, but not enough to be unrecognizable. Slow as they were, they’ve been almost unnoticeable. The biggest one I’ve seen is his recently developed Telekinesis. That’s not as big a deal to me as I may have expected. When the TK and other Psi abilities started to really show up with Cable, it didn’t change the character that much. He was still all about the guns and strategy. If DC takes this approach with Grifter, it’ll be just fine.
Grifter isn’t a great book. It doesn’t aspire to be. It’s a solid, average series, and it always has been. That may be it’s strentgth. It’s never been Sandman, but then again, it’s also never been Great Lakes Avengers either. I can be confident that if I pick this up I’ll be entertained. I always empty Grifters out of bargain bins at comic shops and cons, and I pick them up off t he racks here and there. When I think about it. Every few months. No biggie. Please new 52 DCU, don’t screw this one up.
Finally, I revisited Dynamite’s The Shadow. I pretty much nailed it when I said Ennis seemed to have a heavy Chaykin influence. He admits as much here: http://www.bleedingcool.com/2012/02/14/the-shadow-interview-garth-ennis-knows-what-evil-lurks-in-the-hearts-of-men/ Which is fine. I have that series. I even like it, but it’s far from my favorite. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by all the other versions. I far prefer the O’Neil one from the 70’s, even the Klauta work for Dark Horse. Honestly I even prefer the poorly done movie to Chaykins version (Check out Klauta’s comic adaptions of that by the way, it’s actually superior to the film and manages to fix a lot of the movies issues without compromising the story – but I digress). Back when I was 12, and Chaykin was the only game in town I enjoyed it more.
Still, I’m going to stick with this for a while. Kevin Smith didn’t really hit his stride on The Green Hornet until issue seven or eight, and after he left in issue twelve, the series improved further still. I want to see the next story arc on the Shadow, hopefully we’ll be back in New York battling the mob. Ennis talks about the “potential” of the character. I believe in that as well. Lets see where it takes us.
Finally got to try out my Amanda Waller figure last night over at Infinite Monkey Comics. I was very pleased at how she preformed, though it probably helped that it was a low point (300) game so the targets were a little easier. She’s mostly a support piece but she can hit a low point target that comes to close. I wasn’t in trouble until she got based with the human target….he was wailing on Deadshot too.
Speaking of Deadshot, the newer version with the “Setting up the Shot” power packs a surprisingly nice punch. Slow, but if he’s stelthed, you’ve got the time. Between him and (brightest day) Captian Boomerang, they managed to take a out a Kryptonian soldier. Not bad for a little Suicide Squad.
Thanks to Jessie for both the Deadshot and Amanda Waller.