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Trouble with Comics

Floppy Drive-by

I’ve been reading books and some old comics, but had a chance this weekend to catch up on a chunk of recent stuff:

Batman and Robin #20 - Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason step in for a three issue arc in which Tomasi seems determined to misinterpret Damian Wayne as just another disrespectful young delinquent, using contractions, calling Commissioner Gordon “old man,” wisecracking about the dead. That’s just not the character Grant Morrison created. He’s a know-it-all, sure, but a very articulate one who takes his role seriously and knows when to let the grown-ups talk, for the most part. I also thought it was funny that just a month or two after Scott Snyder established that the Dick Grayson Batman wasn’t the type to disappear while Gordon was in the middle of a sentence, Tomasi has him do just that. I blame the editors for this small oversight, but as a creative choice I don’t get why Tomasi isn’t interested in writing Dick as a different kind of Batman, especially when the book opens up with an odd take on Bruce Wayne as the kind of Bat-patriarch who gathers all his boys together for movie night. I only remember the weird characterization; the plot escapes me. Gleason is very average.

Amazing Spider-Man #653, 654, 654.1 - Dan Slott, with some scripting help from Fred Van Lente, wraps up the Spider-Slayer storyline, which makes the younger Smythe into a convincing legacy villain with a new take on the Spider-Slayers: they’re now guys in buggy exosuits that mimic Spider-Man’s danger sense, which makes them hard for even the Avengers to hit. Smythe tries to take down all the Jameson clan for revenge, and succeeds in getting one of them, though I won’t spoil who if you haven’t read it. I will say it makes good dramatic sense and could open up at least one character to a fresh take. I wasn’t a fan of Stefano Caselli’s art, but Humberto Ramos comes back for the .1 issue, which presents legless Flash Thompson as a new, government-controlled Venom, the symbiote approximating his legs and whatever else is needed for missions that don’t take more than 48 hours, so that he can be out before the symbiote takes over his mind. With both stories, Slott proves himself at the very least to have a facile mind when it comes to remixing old intellectual property.

Soldier Zero #5 - Paul Cornell is now off this book, replaced by Abnett/Lanning. They follow through on his ideas well enough, but it’s still a pretty easy book to cut, which is probably what I’ll be doing.

Starborn #3 - Likewise this book. I am not exactly a fan of Khary Randolph’s art style, but I think it’s consistent and accomplished. The story isn’t bad, either, but I’ve seen it all before many times, and aside from the prospect of a race of warrior lion aliens, there isn’t much here that’s novel.

Black Panther: The Man Without Fear #515 - I’ve been liking this. I think David Liss understands that he’s not writing an ongoing Panther series and so he keeps his story tight: T’Challa sets himself up as Hell’s Kitchen’s new protector, and he’s got a new enemy to contend with, a nasty Romanian with family issues and a pretty cool superpower. Panther is going low-tech and solo to prove himself. Good Francavilla artwork that looks organic and sort of in Mazzucchelli territory. I love that Francavilla writes labels by hand, sloppily, rather than having the letterer do it perfectly but incongruously with his art. I’m amused that Luke Cage’s relatively brief time as an Avengers leader has now given him balls big enough to give T’Challa orders, but then this is a guy who went all the way to Latveria to collect a fee from deadbeat Doctor Doom.

New Avengers #9 - Another creative change as Mike Deodato moves from Secret Avengers to this title. Not a whole lot going on yet, and a largish part of the book was given to a flashback with Nick Fury hunting escaped Nazis in Cuba, 1959, drawn by Howard Chaykin. At the end, he’s approached about The Avengers Initiative. Not sure how they’ll make the timeline work. 

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #4 - Similarly, this team book also gives its opener to veteran George Perez, drawing a kind of recruitment speech/history of T.H.U.N.D.E.R., complete with a busy two-page spread. Perez still looks good, though Scott Koblish’s inks are heavier than I’d like. The rest of the book is mostly talky, leading to a nice surprise at the end. I like what Nick Spencer and Cafu have been doing on this series, which isn’t a book I was expecting to like, but I do wish there was more going on in each issue.

Heroes For Hire #3 - Abnett/Lanning/Brad Walker deliver the okays in this series, as mercenary Paladin delays helping Moon Knight on a mission, as he’s in the middle of surveilling those close to Misty Knight. He thinks she’s in trouble and he’s right. But Iron Fist doesn’t take kindly to being spied on and there’s a fight before known amoral, double-crossing Paladin rather uncharacteristically yells at Iron Fist that his avoiding Misty is a cop-out. When did Paladin get touchy-feely? If you like to see what second-and-thirdl-string Marvel characters do between miniseries and failed solo series, this book isn’t bad.

John Byrne’s Next Men #2, 3 - After a bumpy start, in which it looked like Byrne was working in older pages and taking too much time in set-up, we get two issues with much stronger, more consistent art. One probably has to be a big fan of the old series, though, because the characters are not really themselves yet, all dropped in different eras, or maybe that’s another illusion. It’s entertaining, though I do wish Byrne took his freedom with the series to do more than amp up the sex and torture, but then, that’s the fun in wishing.

—Christopher Allen