Been busy and/or out of it, so here’s me catching up on the past couple weeks of comics.
Writer - J. Michael Straczynski. Artist - Eddy Barrows. Publisher - DC Comics
I’m a little later to the table reviewing this, but that’s okay because in part I’m commenting on other reviews. OK, so JMS didn’t do his homework about South Philly. I think that’s significant but very secondary to whether it was a good story or not. And it’s not a bad effort, the writing. I think some folks have gotten a little nitpicky regarding the little incidents that Superman has experienced with the townsfolk. No, he needn’t fly the old guy to the hospital because it wasn’t an emergency. It was enough that he gave him a free x-ray. And no, he didn’t need to fix the guy’s car after diagnosing the problem with the fuel line. What one should take away from this issue is that JMS wasn’t afraid to dispense with several possible stories in order to get right to the most important one, which is the potential suicide story that dominates the second half of the book. This was pretty well done, with Superman listening and promising not to interfere or prevent the woman from jumping if that was what she ultimately chose to do. I liked that. That said, it wasn’t any better written than Law & Order, and that’s free and this comic is four dollars and none of the characters are any more attractive than Sam Watterston or that guy who played Jesus or whoever stars in Law & Order these days. Barrows draws a credible Superman and that’s unfortunately leagues better than the past year’s worth of artists on Superman books. I think JMS, his ego demanding a big splash, has hit on one of those unwinnable challenges which is to make Superman relatable to real people and their current problems. That he didn’t fail miserably is an accomplishment if not exactly great comics.
Strange Science Fantasy #1
Writer/Artist - Scott Morse. Publisher - IDW Publishing.
If you’re going to call to mind EC Comics in your title and cover art, you would do well to present an anthology of several different science fiction/fantasy short stories. Failing that, one good sci-fi story would do. This doesn’t even achieve that, with a Kirbyesque build-up towards some mythical new world of gearheads lead by a guy in an illuminated diving helmet called The Headlight that doesn’t get anywhere, its overblown and frequently syntax-hostile narration not getting anywhere with the three-panel-per-page format. Despite Scott Morse not actually making any good comics in the near-decade I’ve been reviewing (Soulwind was completed prior to my start), I still kind of hold out hope for him to rebound. This is just one more impediment.
Amazing Spider-Man #638
Writer/Artist - Joe Quesada. Artist - Paolo Rivera. Publisher - Marvel Comics
I wasn’t around for JMS’ controversial “One More Day” storyline, which I think was a story put in motion by Quesada to nullify Peter and Mary-Jane Parker’s marriage and make Pete a swinging bachelor again. Putting Aunt May’s life at stake and making Mephisto the bad guy doesn’t sound like something I’d like, plus I think it’s a cop-out. There had to be good stories about the married couple beyond the usual MJ-in-jeopardy ones.
That said, I’ve really been enjoying AMS the past year with the high quality rotating line-up of creators. Filling in the holes of a story I never read isn’t something I really wanted, and to be honest, Quesada isn’t as good a writer as Mark Waid, Zeb Wells, Fred Van Lente, Joe Kelly or Dan Slott, nor is his art in line with what’s been on the book recently. But okay, we’ve got this “One Moment In Time” thing to get through, and we’ll get through it.
Quesada makes a couple odd choices here that I don’t think really work. I’d have much preferred all-new material rather than the attempt to weave big chunks of ASM Annual #21 back from 1987 in here with all its mullety, Shooter-plotted, black-suited, Colletta-inked glory. It’s ironic, really—Shooter butted in to direct the big story of Peter’s wedding to MJ, and now Quesada is taking over a smoothly-running ASM for four issues to flesh out a story that most fans didn’t like. You got what you wanted, and based on the subsequent stories, maybe you were right. So then why go back to an era you thought fans didn’t like?
In addition to the odd meld of ’80s art with Rivera’s new stuff, Quesada himself draws a handful of pages—the current stuff, with Mary Jane coming over to finally have a heart-to-heart with Peter about what happened with their wedding. Quesada has a decent ear for dialogue, I’ll give him that, and I like his Mary Jane, even if she doesn’t have the looks to cut it as a supermodel. She’s very girl-next-door, which not only doesn’t fit with the supermodel thing but also with scenes where Harry Osborn describes her as the wildest party girl he knows. I did like his Peter, who has a fat face, sunken eyes and no muscle tone, just like me.
Nothing actually happens in this issue.
The Sixth Gun #1 & 2
Writer - Cullen Bunn. Artist - Brian Hurtt. Publisher - Oni Press
Now this is more like it. I must admit, I think Oni has held onto relationships with too many underwhelming creators from their early days. But I did always think Brian Hurtt was talented, and he’s lucky to have hooked up with fresh writer Cullen Bunn, who not only clearly has a story to tell but looks like he really wants to tell as much of it as he can each issue, quite counter to the current decompression model.
The story is set in what looks like late 19th Century, and there are already three compelling villains, ghosts, treasure, a fetching female lead, and a cursed gun. All familiar elements but they’re blended zestily and with real storytelling authority by Bunn.