Every Wednesday I pop into Whatever Store on Castro Street in San Francisco to pick up my haul of new comics. Because I like to hear my own voice (in written, non-auditory form), I toss up a few brief thoughts; if it’s a heavy week, the five that left the biggest impact (good or bad) get a full review treatment while the rest get quick hits. Minor spoilers always possible.
X-Men ’92 #2
Book of the Week
How can you not enjoy revisiting the excess of ‘90s comic books? With the absurd super hero costumes and ridiculous hair, and the overly talky thought bubbles and omniscient narrators. This issue is long on dialogue as Casandra Nova examines the captured X-Men and provides her own quirky therapy. In an interesting nod to Secret Wars’ internal continuity, Nova justifies her mental sanitizing as a way to prevent her world from turning into the harsh X-worlds that exist elsewhere on Battleworld. The thread of self-conscious over-censorship that appeared when the X-Men arrived at Clear Mountain last issue continues when Nova shuts down Gambit and Rogue just as they’re about to have that great love connection they never got; Nova sanitizes it to a daytime Nickelodeon level in a fun moment where she literally has Rogue and Gambit on puppet strings. I don’t know what Sims’ and Bowers’ intent is, but the Nova sanitization is a fun tongue in cheek reminder of our culture’s occasional tendency to go to great lengths to not offend each other. Koblish’s art continue to make the nostalgia factor the highlight as his work recalls not just the X-Men series that started in the 90s, but also the cartoon series that ran at that time. Of all the revisited X-Men pasts getting a Secret Wars treatment, this might be the most fun—and simultaneously the campiest. But then then anyone who read X-Men in the 90s had to have appreciated some camp.
Sex Criminals #11
This ended up in the pile because I’ve enjoyed Matt Fraction’s writing since I stumbled on to the first Casanova series; I’ll try just about anything he’s writing. I’ve enjoyed everything of his I’ve read. This book is definitely the most “out there.” I haven’t read any previous issues (though after reading this I did pick up the first collection), so I have no reference point for past storylines. In this issue Fraction tells the story by splitting the narrative between point of view characters and obliterating the fourth wall in the process. Whether that’s indicative of all the issues I don’t know. But it is an effective way to get a reader into the mind of a character when that character knows he’s the focus of a comic book; it’s a lot of fun, too, when the point of view character who knows he’s in a comic book has a fairly boring, almost milquetoast existence. I love how understated the art is; these characters, despite their weird powers, are straight out of the suburbs (for that matter, the suburbs in this book are straight out of the suburbs). The letter column, which runs several pages, is almost worth the price of admission as fans are unexpectedly honest for a comic book letters page. I’m not at all sure what to make of Sex Criminals except to say that I enjoyed it.
The story of how Superman lost his powers in this latest DC reboot continues. I am of mixed feelings on the story. The rest of the Superman books have already shown us how this ends: Superman losing most of his powers and having his secret identity revealed. Unfortunately this issue suffers a bit too much from the prequel curse: the events feel less like an organically developing plot and more like the coordinated connecting of dots to arrive at a pre-determined conclusion. All that said the issue has a great dynamic when Lois discovers Clark is Superman (though the reveal comes so suddenly that it feels forced) and reacts not with happiness at being involved in Superman’s life but betrayal at being lied to. It’s a fun through the looking glass moment when compared to how that reveal played out all those years ago before DC’s various reboots. As an aside I will say that I have always liked Romita, Jr’s style, but there are a few panels when Clark Kent reminds me of Peter Parker from when Romita, Jr penciled that book; this isn’t a criticism of the art so much as a realization that I’ve been reading comics for a long time.
Sex Criminals #11
Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky
Gene Yang: writer
John Romita, Jr: penciler
Klaus Janson: inker
Dean White, Wil Quintana, Tomeu Morey: colorists
Rob Leigh: letterer
John Romita, Jr, Klaus Janson, Dean White: cover
X-Men ’92 #2
Chris Sims and Chad Bowers: writers
Scott Koblish: artist
Matt Milla: colorist
VC’s Travis Lanham: letterer
Pepe Larraz & Jim Charalampidis: cover