Every Wednesday I pop into Whatever Store on Castro Street in San Francisco to pick up my haul of new comics. I read them. I share some thoughts.
Book of the Week
“We don’t have time for one of your 40-minute space soliloquies. You do those a lot.”
A book that makes comics live up to their “funny books” moniker continues its hysterical run. This issue makes a lot of jokes at the Silver Surfer’s expense, and no one that hasn’t read Silver Surfer books can disagree with the jokes’ worthiness. The issue has a rudimentary plot that is completely superfluous to its larger themes: Friendships are important, and failure isn’t failure if you don’t let it be. So many comics are so serious these days—even the super hero ones—that it’s nice to have a lighthearted book with ideas that are no less valuable for being basic.
John Flood #1
This Week’s Whatever Store Recommendation
“Plan? No. I don’t plan. Totally not a plan guy.”
This story is all over the place. Almost the entire issue is told in flashback. The first page, which sets up the flashback, introduces us to the titular character, John Flood—and his dialogue flows with the kind of lucidity only produced by alcohol and drugs. John Flood doesn’t sleep, and while that may have given him the time to profile a serial killer that no one can catch (or even knows about—that is somewhat unclear), one has to wonder if it’s made the character insane given how he’s portrayed. After the flashback starts we get a break from John Flood and the characters and dialogue get a little more normal—but only a little. The dialogue from both John Flood, when he reappears in the flashback, and an associate of his named Lyta again proves almost impenetrable as they try to recruit a former cop to investigate the supposed serial killer. The book is interesting, but for me the writing was a bit too stylized, ultimately distracting me from the story’s beginning.
Age of Apocalypse #2
“I saw the X-Men as a force of nature. All thunder and lightning and crashing waves. But once the storm passes? They leave themselves in its wake.”
I’d never looked at the original Age of Apocalypse story through a lens of hero deconstruction—nor does the original story encourage it with its race-to-the-finish pacing. This little mini-series, though, is nothing but deconstruction—a world where heroes fight not because they can win or even think they can win, but because they have nothing else to do. Are they still heroes at that point? Is anyone a hero in that world? Nicieza has infused a fun little multiverse romp that I remembered fondly into something much deeper. I’ll admit that I really didn’t remember the intricacies of this mini-series’ plot as I read the issue. It’s a big messy fight and a who’s who of the Age of Apocalypse; the details get hazy. Ultimately it doesn’t matter. Doug Ramsey’s musings are more valuable as a commentary on edgy, ugly heroes and why too many shades of grey aren’t always ideal for good guys.
“Man, you sure are a glass-is-half-full guy. I like it.”
I’m guessing there’s very little middle ground when it comes to Airboy. I can see why. The art is stylized (especially when fantastical past and crude present mash together). The story is at times vulgar. The humor is limited and just as often as vulgar as the story. The writing is painfully blunt. But there is an honesty here that can’t be denied. This issue, set against the imagined World War II that Airboy calls home, distills Airboy’s larger complaints about James’ & Greg’s real world from last issue into the very personal admission by James that he’s generally a failure: his work’s no good, and he’s a bad husband. There’s also a nice moment where Airboy and his girlfriend Valkyrie have a very public argument—something that Airboy’s teammates allude isn’t an uncommon occurrence—and James and Greg see that Airboy’s world isn’t all shiny paint and unassailable good guy perfection. Art wise, even better than the color contrast of Airboy versus the whole world in the second issue is the contrast of dull, washed out James and Greg versus the vibrant, alive world of Airboy.
The middle of a story can be the hardest to carry off, and Amazing Spider-Man Renew Your Vows #3 is no exception. It’s definitely a bridging chapter that lacks the heart of the first issue and the sly social commentary of the second. But it stays honest, setting up what may be a tragic final issue.
Dark just keeps getting darker in Civil War #2 as Steve Rodgers commissions a device to eliminate super powers and Tony Stark suspects a larger conspiracy motivating everything. It’s a tight issue that keeps things personal for the main characters, especially Peter Parker who is almost unrecognizable as compared to his usual portrayal. The cityscapes in the Iron and the Blue are brilliantly conceived, reflecting the leaders of each.
If I have one major complaint about Green Lantern #43 (and the Hal Jordan outlaw storyline) it’s that Hal Jordan’s hair belongs in an 80’s rock band. Setting that fashion critique aside, this issue continues the larger story arc while itself being mostly contained. I cringe anytime any DC comic starts talking about universes being destroyed, but I’m assuming in this case it’s mostly harmless. The hostile (apparently) female personality of Hal’s ship does wear a bit thin as the issue goes on.
I was worried after the first issue that the future war between Canada and the United States wasn’t fleshed out enough to feel like more than a gimmick, and We Stand on Guard #2 does nothing to dispel that worry. The issue taught me little about the world and even less about the characters. I think this wants to be a team building issue as main character Amber is brought further into the resistance fold, but I just never felt like those character moments gelled.
Age of Apocalypse #2
Fabian Nicieza: writer
Gerardo Sandoval: artist
David Curiel: colorist
VC’s Clayton Cowls: letterer
Gerardo Sandoval & David Curiel: cover
James Robinson & Greg Hinkle
Amazing Spider-Man Renew Your Vows #3
Dan Slott: writer
Adam Kubert: penciler
John Dell, Andrew Hennessey, and Mark Morales: inkers
Justin Ponsor: colorist
VC’s Joe Caramagna: letterer
Adam Kubert and Justin Ponsor: cover artists
Civil War #2
Charles Soule: writer
Leinil Francis Yu: penciler
Gerry Alanguilan: inker
Sunny Gho: colorist
Joe Sabano: letterer
Leinil Francis Yu & Sunny Gho: cover
Green Lantern #43
Robert Venditti: writer
Ethan van Sciver: artist
Alex Sinclair: colorist
Dave Sharpe: letterer
Billy Tan and Alex Sinclair: cover
Jeff Loveness: writer
Brian Kesinger: artist
Vero Gandini: color artist
Jeff Eckleberry: letterer
Declan Shalvey & Jordie Bellaire: cover artists
John Flood #1
Justin Jordan: writer
Jorge Coelho: illustrator
Tamra Bonvillian: colors
Ed Dukeshire: letters
Jorge Coelho: cover
We Stand on Guard #2
Brian K. Vaughn: writer
Steve Skroce: artist
Matt Hollingsworth: colorist
Fonografiks: lettering & design