Thursday, January 04, 2007

Double Articulation Digest: The Year in Review (Part 3)

Read: Part 1 and Part 2.

On Probation

1. The All-New Atom – I was surprised to learn that Entertainment Weekly named this title book-of-the-year. Gail Simone is the bee’s knees, but this book hasn’t completely won me over. I’m grateful that they dumped Byrne, but even without his arrogant scribbles, there was something a little too tongue-in-cheek about the opening story-arc for my taste. Nonetheless, I’m intrigued and sticking with it.

2. Blue Beetle – I’m rooting for this series, but I dunno… Love the characters and the premise. Curious about the New Gods connection and the ongoing mystery of the alien tech. Not thrilled with the pacing of the series, the inconsistent art, or the meandering nature of the story so far. Loathe the Beetle suit. Fingers crossed.

3. Green Lantern Corps – This book is in certain ways more entertaining than the main Green Lantern title—Guy is just a lot more fun to read than Hal Jordan. Gleason’s sensational art is also a major plus. However, this book suffers from a fairly dull supporting cast and, in Dave Gibbon’s hands, was cursed with the most pointless fill-in story arc since the endless Justice League Detroit saga torpedoed both JLA and JSA Classified titles earlier in the year. Thankfully, things are looking up again with the brand new “Dark Side of the Green” storyline.

4. Shadowpact – Another book I’m prepared to love, if only it would let me. Much of the charm of the miniseries seems to have vanished along with Justiano. The villains are too silly for my taste and the stories need a denser texture.

5. Tales of the Unexpected – The Spectre story is pretty good but the art is a bit rough. The Doctor 13 back-up is a hoot.

6. Ms. Marvel – This started off as one of the more entertaining new Marvel books of 2006, but has since become a casualty of Civil War politics. The recent Wieringo fill-in issues didn’t work for me either—the tone of Ringo’s art is all wrong for this title. Better days ahead, I hope.

7. Omega Men – I like the concept behind this book better than the execution, but I’m in it for the duration because I want to see more of these characters.


1. Teen Titans – I’ve been holding out for the big pay-off, but I think it’s time to admit that it just isn’t coming. There’s no momentum here at all, partly because Johns never really allows things to simmer and because there are so many new (or new-again) characters flying through these pages that the reader never actually gets a chance to care. The perfunctory handling of Kid Devil’s origin in the most recent issue, which Newsarama’s Koben Kelly accurately describes as “com[ing] off like a fill-in issue,” is another sign that Johns isn’t quite the right writer for this series, despite his superb instincts for reinvention. I know how I’d fix Teen Titans from a creative standpoint, but I’d be curious to know what others think.

2. Astonishing X-Men – This is a strange situation. I love Joss Whedon’s TV, and I can see that “objectively” this has many features of a “good” book: drama, tension, surprises, likeable characters, witty dialogue—the whole nine yards. One problem is that it isn’t an X-Men comic—it’s an episode of Firefly masquerading as an X-Men comic. And as much as I enjoyed Firefly, I would really like to enjoy a good, involving, non-cutesy X-Men comic that moved at faster clip. The pacing is just brutal. But the underlying problem here is that I find myself bored senseless by the X-Men generally. I routinely pick up new X-Men stories in the hope that something will hold my interest, but all of it just feels blah. I think I need a little vacation from the X-Mansion.

3. JSA (Levitz/Morales) – What a shame to end the series with such a whimper.

4. OMAC – I was drawn in by the first couple of issues, but MAN has this series killed my interest. Is that big satellite STILL in the sky? Is it still sending signals to that kid-OMAC? Is he STILL in bed with that girl? Is it all a hallucination? Did he just wake up again? Wait, where is he now? Did the sheriff come and get him, AGAIN? Is this, like, the most boring road movie I’ve ever had to sit through? Did this REALLY need to be eight issues long? Is it over yet?

5. Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis – A valiant but apparently doomed effort on the part of Busiek and Guice. The pictures are pretty, but I’ve finally had to give up on this waterlogged King Arthur yarn.

6. Trials of Shazam – Not at all what I’m looking for from a Captain Marvel story. Awful.

7. Martian Manhunter – My expectations weren’t all that high to begin with, but I wasn’t sufficiently hooked to stick around past issue #3. Not a fan of the cone-headed J’onzz either.

8. Creeper – This “Brave New World” experiment hasn’t worked out so well, has it? The series has really fallen apart since the loss of Justiano—or rather, it’s revealed how thin its premise was to begin with.

9. Mystery in Space – I think I might actually hate The Weird, despite having briefly convinced myself that his return was something to be excited about. My reservations about de-aging Captain Comet are already on record, so I’ll only add that the problem with this series is its rather claustrophobic focus on the protagonist. Captain Comet is awesome, but the canvass doesn’t feel big enough.

Unmitigated Catastrophes

1. Civil War – Too harsh? I don’t think so. It’s high production values can’t disguise the fact that it is the most loathsome book of the year and the epitome of everything that is wrong with the company’s current, utterly humorless creative “vision” for its mainstream titles. It’s killed my interest in Marvel for the time being—and not because of its notorious lateness. What’s so awful about this series (aside from the multifaceted idiocy of its premise) is the way that it has made character subservient to the dictates of a high-concept plot, with the result that it utterly poisons some of its most significant characters. And then it has the gall to pretend that the plot really is “character driven” and all about “character moments” after all. Right. The reason this rings so falsely is that the manipulations leading up to the series (getting Peter into bed with Tony Stark, for example) were all utterly transparent, crude, and unconvincing. But, you know, it isn’t even that that really irritates me. It’s the self-importance and utter humorlessness of the project that turns me off. I could elaborate, I suppose, but why bother?

2. Flash – Someone must have owed someone a favor. How else to explain the shockingly incompetent handling of the relaunch of a title that had been climbing in quality and popularity for the past several years? It’s hard to say what’s worse: the writing or the editorial decision-making behind this fiasco.

3. New Avengers – How did a promising start go so completely off the rails? This book has been in a death spiral since the end of the Savage Land story, and most of the Civil War issues have been pointless filler. The Luke Cage issue was good, I guess, but not the reason I read the Avengers (New or otherwise), and Maleev’s art in the most recent issue was lovely, but Hawkeye—wha? I’m really just done with Bendis. The post-Civil War sister book isn’t cause for optimism either.

4. Hawkgirl – An object lesson in the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rule. The infuriating thing about this title is that it had finally established its viability as a nearly first-tier superhero book when it was shot out of the sky by One Year Later.

5. Outsiders – As if its pseudo-hipster status weren’t enough to make you flee, the unsuspenseful stories themselves moved at a snail’s pace. Run, Katana—run to Birds of Prey while you still can!

Friday: My 2007 Wish List for DC’s Science Fiction Books: 3 Redesigns


Anonymous said...

Yeah, Jim, I've been a little frustrated with the Atom, too. I want to love it, and most of the time I do. In fact, the things I love about it best are the silly high-concepts--aliens in the dog's fur and all that. But everytime we cut back to Dwarfstar licking his knife or stabbing someone or whatever, the jarring tonal shift nearly ruins the issue for me. Hopefully we've seen the last of him for a while at least...

Anonymous said...

I'm right there with you on Aquaman Jim. THere's no real reason I shouldn't like it but I just sort of shrugged my shoulders a few times before picking it up. I've always liked it when I red it but never felt compelled to pick it up recently. The thing is I probably would really enjoy it if it was a collected elseworlds original graphic novel.

Jim Roeg said...

prof - frustrating, innit? We finally get a neat academic setting, and yet (I totally agree) the tone of The Atom is just so odd. I kind of like the alien colony on the dog (apparently Grant Morrison was partly behind the "conceptualizing" of this series--there's his fingerprint!), but the alien dialect is...not my favorite. I have a feeling that the semi-satircal "wacky professors" stuff hits a little too close to home for me too... Still, I'm going to give it a year!

jon - Elseworlds! Of course! That's what this feels like. This may be one of those cases where the beauty of the vision is more powerful than its ongoing story potential. I.e. Do I really want to read a serial about King Shark and his ongoing woes? I do not! But there's something undeniably attractive about the Busiek/Guice vision of a truly Arthurian Aquaman. A self-contained story in the old-fashioned, oversized graphic novel format would have been a better way of "testing the waters" on this one, and of having a nice product to show for it at the end of it, instead of what it likely is going to be: just another false start.

Vaklam said...

The design of Blue Beetle's armor is the only think I like about this series. I dropped it after #2.

I want to like The Atom but...well, you said it already.