Every Wednesday I pop into Whatever Store on Castro Street in San Francisco to pick up my haul of new comics; this week I battled some fantastic allergies in the process. But never fear; I read the comics and thought thoughts that I can now share with you.
East of West #20
Book of the Week
“Uh, at this point you’ve sent all of our political enemies, minor campaign donors and any supporters left who happen to be vegetarian.”
The beginning of a new story arc gave me the opportunity to try this book out. The issue is a collection moments set amidst heavy atmosphere. There is only one action piece in the book, and it’s quite short. Mostly we have a lot of dialogue, sometimes clipped and sometimes lofty depending on who’s doing the speaking, that reveals details of the sides in what appears to be a longstanding conflict. The characters aren’t just different speakers telling one long narrative; Hickman creates distinct identities in cadence and word choice. Meanwhile Dragotta’s art is superb, offering detailed landscapes and very real people. His characters aren’t variations on a theme; we get an array of body types and face structures. A lot of my enjoyment of this relatively slow issue was the satisfying ease of experiencing the art in very neat, uncluttered panels. If this issue was the beginning of a story arc, it planted kernels more than laid out a full plot. I look forward to discovering what the next issue has in store and maybe exploring some of what I’ve missed before now. A definite jumping on point, though Hickman doesn’t hand out everything you need to know on a silver platter.
Zodiac Starforce #1
This Week’s Whatever Store Recommendation
“Parties are dumb.”
In a million years I wouldn’t have picked this book up on my own, and unfortunately I can’t say as I found in it anything that would convince me to get the second issue. The high point for me is probably the art, with lines and dimensions that remind me of Archie. The color palate is bright and alive. Visually the book is vibrant and energetic. The writing I found more problematic. While Panetta’s dialogue has painted an accurate picture of teenagers (or at least most every adult’s mental picture of the teenage experience), it’s almost too spot on. Halfway through the book I grew tired of the main characters’ bickering and stopped caring about whether they got the team together in the end; I really just wanted to get past the angst of the party they were at and find my way to the book’s last panel. My gripes about the characters and their dialogue is probably a larger issue of me not enjoying the overall style and in that way isn’t really a criticism. But there’s nothing her to invite me back into this series or other series of a like style.
Civil War #3
“So many have died…what’s one more, really? Even Elektra? My wiring’s off, Hank. I need to…fix myself.”
The ugliness of war goes on and on. And on. I’ve enjoyed this series because it feels like the honest extension of what should have happened after Marvel’s Civil War several years ago. At the same time, though, it’s easy to see why that story could never have been told. While this kind of honest ugliness works and works well in the likes of DMZ, it’s not what most readers want from their superheroes. In a way that’s too bad. While the story itself is interesting, the characters Soule has created are amazing: broken, tortured, real. Peter Parker watching comrades die (and standing ready to kill) without a second thought. Tony Stark using the corpse of the Kingpin to give Doc Ock’s arms life so long as those arms churn out new technology. An old, tired Professor Xavier that can’t see through lies anymore. While Secret Wars is an effort to change and combine the Marvel multiverse, I wish this universe would continue afterward unhindered. It fascinates me.
“Your friend Jimmy shouldn’t be so quick to accept caramel lattes from strangers.”
In talking about the previous issue, I was somewhat unsatisfied with the abrupt way Lois discovers the secret of Superman’s identity. The payoff for that is here. The issue starts off with Lois and Superman almost getting reacquainted and an affirmation by Superman of the value of having Lois in both halves of his life since she’s decided to keep his secret. Unfortunately these tender moments are interrupted by the reveal (via a robot accidentally smuggled in within Jimmy Olsen…and subsequently puked up) that the big villain who knows Superman’s secret identity survived the massive explosion at the end of the last issue. His ultimate plan seems to be to siphon off all of Superman’s energy, a plan Superman is perfectly happy to go along with out of fear that the people closest to him will suffer if his identity is revealed. But it’s Lois who, to protect Superman and thwart the villain, reveals Superman’s secret to the world. There’s not a lot of time to reflect on this decision other than to present Superman as somewhat feckless under the circumstances: unable or unwilling to make the difficult choices necessary to defeat his adversary. More and more I also find myself enjoying Romita, Jr.’s take on Clark and Superman; we get sharper lines in the facial expressions and a harder edge where we have so often seen softness. It complements the new take on Superman that is emerging in the story.
X-Men ‘92 #3
“ *You already know if you read X-Men ’92 Chapter 2! –Jordan ‘Details’ White”
The send-up of all things 90’s continues with wild abandon. I almost cringe seeing Cable and remembering how cool I thought his character was back when he was new; it almost looks like the enormous gun he wields grows larger over the course of the issue. Also the blatant cliffhanger manipulation, not quite as common now in the era of ubiquitous trade paperbacks, actually made me laugh; the pronouncement of Xavier’s death was so big a moment on the last page of the second issue while here there’s a quick, “No, wait, he’s alive,” and our characters get on with business. Least satisfying s that there’s only one great moment of fourth wall breaking censorship here; it featured so prominently and to such humorous effect in the beginning of the mini-series that its absence actually feels as though a plot point had been raised and then forgotten.
Villalobos’ art seems to finally get in the Frank Quitely style in E is for Extinction #3; the results had been hit or miss in the previous issues, occasionally stumbling into a realm of adding ugly subtext to the characters. As for the story, this issue and the mini-series in general has felt like a deconstruction of Grant Morrison’s run on The All New X-Men. That could be me reading too much into it. But Emma Frost doesn’t pull any punches in dialogue, periodically coming off as bored and disinterested which doesn’t elevate the excitement and actively sabotages the end with a line that isn’t quite funny.
I find myself tiring of the quest to prove Superboy’s innocence that continues in Teen Titans #11. At least Pfeiffer took a moment to acknowledge in dialogue the stupendous overreaction that occurred in the battle in Chicago in the previous issue. But in practically the next panel the group, in a moment of overly saccharine friendship, all dive head first into a prison break (in a prison housing the worst of the worst) to find evidence to exonerate Superboy. I can’t say that I care terribly how this story arc ends other than to say I’d like to see if something better comes in its aftermath.
Civil War #3
Charles Soule: writer
Leinil Francis Yu: penciler
Gerry Alanguilan: inker
Sunny Gho: colorist
Joe Sabino: letterer
Leinil Francis Yu & Sunny Gho: cover
E is for Extinction #3
Chris Burnham & Dennis Culver: writers
Ramon Villalobos: art
Ian Herring: colors
VC’s Clayton Cowles: letters
Ian Bertram & Dave Stewart: cover
East of West #20
Jonathan Hickman: writer
Nick Dragotta: artist
Frank Martin: colors
Rus Wooton: letters
Gene Luen Yang: writer
John Romita, Jr.: penciler
Klaus Janson & Scott Hanna: inkers
Dean White, Leonard Olea, Blond: colorists
Rob Leigh: letterer
John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson, Dean White: cover
Teen Titans #11
Will Pfeiffer: script
Dan Brown: colors
John J. Hill: letters
X-Men ’92 #3
Chris Sims & Chad Bowers: writers
Scott Koblish: artist
Matt Milla: colorist
VC’s Travis Lanham: letterer
Pepe Larraz & Jim Charalampidis: cover
Zodiac Starforce #1
Kevin Panetta: script
Paulina Ganucheau: art and lettering
Savanna Ganucheau: color assists
Marguerite Sauvage: cover
Dark Horse Comics