Sunday, October 22, 2006

Double Articulation Digest #1

52 #24 – Holy collapsing boundaries, Batman. The texture of allusion and metafictional reference in the best series of 2006 reaches a new level in this issue. There seem to be at least three categories of allusion at play here: (1) allusions to contemporary popular culture (Taylor Hicks, Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow); (2) allusions to Marvel-related comics events and characters (“Just Imagine” [Stan Lee Creating the DC Universe], “Justice is served,” J’onn says, recalling Scourge’s tag-line, a fourth-wall busting Ambush-Bug whose sound effects and costume changes recall those of the Impossible Man—the metafictional Marvel greenie); and (3) allusions to significant DC writers (Elliott S! Maggin, Julius Schwartz). What does it all add up to? No idea, but it’s fun to guess, and I love Ambush Bug’s “This shirt’s a clue” clue. If, indeed, we are to take this metafictional “clue” at face value, then perhaps all the boundary breaks between our world and the DCU in this issue are indicators that the nature of the new DCU is precisely metafictionality. Could it be that Morrison’s teased “sentient universe” idea will involve a kind of bringing of the very process of making comics into DC continuity itself, albeit in a somewhat displaced or veiled form? This wouldn’t be a new idea (Marvel was notably playful about this in the 1970s), but certainly integrating it into the very fabric of the continuity as a kind of causal agency would be a daring move (this seems to be the implication of integrating the title of a weekly comic that refers to its publication schedule into some mystery that involves the “Guardians of the Universe”). More generally, the increased merging of our universe with the DCU in the pages of 52 (a merging that is inherent in the very weekly “real time” concept) helps to account for some of the allusions to Marvel as well, a company that has always emphasized the parallels between its universe and our own. Interesting too that Julius Schwartz was the inventor of the parallel universes concept—is the notion of “parallel universes” being redefined here so that the Universes in question are not Earth 1 and Earth 2, but literally our earth and the new DCU’s? Added bonus: Jimenez’s homage to Perez’s nifty Starfire pin-up. (Interesting how it is juxtaposed with Firehawk—another DC heroine with a fussy, challenging hairstyle that only a Perez or a Jimenez could love to draw.)

Tales of the Unexpected #1 and Mystery in Space #2 – If you like genre fiction and flip-books, you’ll be as delighted as I am with these double-digest series. And in any case, the return of occult “heroes” like the Spectre, Dr. 13, and another old favorite (yes!!) revealed on the last past of Tales of the Unexpected #1 is cause for special celebration in any form, especially when they’re all handled with such a deft touch. Lapham, Battle, and Rollins’s Spectre is gritty and truly creep-inducing. DC needs a mainstream horror title and this is it (though Niles and Justiano’s The Creeper is another promising successor to pre-Vertigo Swamp Thing). Also enjoyed Azzarello and Chang’s Dr. 13, which feels like a kind of updated Tintin adventure with a square but fraying hero. The pairing of horn-rimmed 1950s dad Dr. 13 with his 2006-savvy teenaged daughter Traci creates a charged dynamic (to say the least) and begins what appears to be an amusing riff on the relation between the denial of supernatural beings and the sexual repression of the 1950s. Smart and fun. Mystery in Space is a treat as well, though I wish they hadn’t de-aged Captain Comet because one of the best things about him was those grey Reed Richards temples – us old guys need points of identification too for Pete’s sake. Nonetheless, an interesting mystery is brewing about the Captain’s strange resurrection. Starlin’s return to The Weird in the back-up feature is nicely drawn but too exposition heavy for my taste; it does at least offer some tantalizing hints about the Captain Comet mystery.

Ms. Marvel # 8 – This is a great book, but I have to agree with fellow reader Lawrence Stewart who writes, “I love what you’re doing with Ms. Marvel. Yet, I have to say, all this Civil War nonsense is leaving a very sour taste in my mouth… I’m starting to wonder how I can justify rooting for a main character I don’t actually like much anymore. Can you fix this? Or is Carol destined to be a government stooge and Iron Man flunky forever more?” Amen, brother. Marvel is either currently engaged in the bizarre process of destroying many of its greatest characters by turning them into idiots, or pulling the the most annoying bait-and-switch in recent memory. Either way: bleah. Sounds like writer Brian Reed is going to come through and redeem this mess in this title though. Looking forward to the Rogue story next issue.

Omega Men #1 – a bit of a pastiche, but nicely illustrated and off to a flying start, especially with appearances by the Guardians and the Zamarons. Looks like I should go reread Millennium (that other DC weekly miniseries of times past). Echoes of Chuck Dixon’s wonderful nuns-in-space Evangeline series as well. Henry Flint’s style is a pleasing Frank Miller/Moebius hybrid.

Annihilation #3 – I’m enjoying this series perhaps more than it deserves and yet not quite as much as I’d like to, no doubt in part because it is a break from the Civil War storyline running through the rest of the Marvel books. The cosmic stakes are certainly big enough, but, with the notable exceptions of Nova, Thanos, and Drax, many of the players still feel more like action-figures than characters; Annihilus certainly takes the prize for most boring villain. Nonetheless, a fairly exciting military saga with gorgeous pictures by supertalented and superunderrated Andrea DiVito.

Thunderbolts #107 – Feel so mixed about this news. On the one hand, the new series looks gorgeous, and Ellis will no doubt energize things. But I love what Nicieza, Grummett, and Erskine have done with the book and hate to see them booted off at the very moment that things have finally achieved critical mass. If only we could have a West Coast Thunderbolts title and enjoy the best of both worlds.


Leigh Walton said...

also: My eyeballs would love you if you could separate the paragraphs with actual line breaks intead of just dots!

Leigh Walton said...

also, I thought you might enjoy these comments of mine upon seeing the Omega Men solicit, months ago:

A classic team makes an unexpected return to comics in a 6-issue miniseries written by Andersen Gabrych (DETECTIVE COMICS) with art by Henry Flint (2000 A.D.)! Convinced that all of creation is on the brink of cosmic apocalypse, the last remaining Omega Men begin a universe-spanning rampage of murder and destruction. Pursued by every known league of interstellar justice, they are on the run and taking no prisoners! What is the mystery in space that One Year Later transforms these former freedom fighters into brutal terrorists? Climb on board for the controversial and head-spinning science-fiction odyssey that synthesizes intolerant zealotry, quantum mechanics, and all-out action!
On sale October 18 • 1 of 6 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Disclaimer: I know nothing about the "Omega Men." But why does the solicitation copy sound like a crappy Sci-Fi Channel Thursday-afternoon thriller? The cover features a guy on fire (okay), a dude throwing an asteroid (nice), a guy with a pair of Pontiac headlights instead of a head (!) and an orange catfish-headed dude smoking a cigar(!!!!)! If you cannot sell me on a comic featuring a CIGAR-SMOKING ORANGE CATFISH MAN IN SPACE, you have utterly failed in your job as a marketer and you must be fired. Yet another casualty of the Taking Oneself Too Seriously Syndrome plaguing corporate comics today.

Jim Roeg said...

But leigh, the lack of line breaks is...the whole point of my rarified aesthetic vision! :) (I'm thinking about it, though...)

And no doubt, you speak for many a reader who has no attachment to the Omega Men when you write, "If you cannot sell me on a comic featuring a CIGAR-SMOKING ORANGE CATFISH MAN IN SPACE, you have utterly failed in your job as a marketer and you must be fired." LOL! How could any comics marketer miss such a sure thing?? Of course, I'm an easy mark because of my low threshold for nostalgic DC stuff.

The thing that irks me about the new Omega Men is the lack of Omega Women--though there is one possible addition to the team in this issue.

Anonymous said...

I love your suggestion that the new "Earth-Two" is actually going to be our earth -- New Earth-Prime, if you will.

I think this would also answer where the E2 Supes, Lois, and Wonder Woman went in IC, strongly emphasized in the hardcover revisions -- and what the nature is of their "afterlife" there. More at my blog.

Jim Roeg said...

nobody - yes!! Thank you for convincing me that I am not totally off base! Readers, check out nobody's elaborations here.

leigh - I took your advice on the line breaks. Once again, I'm forced to kill my darlings. Drat.