Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tales from the Pull-List

Hi there. I hit a grouchy patch for awhile, which corresponded with a general belt-tightening and pull-list shaving. Thinking too precisely about money puts me a foul mood, which I typically seek to allay by setting up a variety of ascetic regimes. These are pleasing for awhile, but then I rebel and gorge myself on cake and comics. ( I know—what vices! ) And I feel better: restored and human. Albeit penniless. But that's what credit is for.  And so, I’ve been fattening my pull-list again.

Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps. were sustaining me during the lean months, and they are better than ever. The multi-colored lanterns and the war of light are fundamentally silly, but they are being handled so deftly—and wrung for such great melodrama—by Johns and Tomasi that it hardly matters. Johns has an eye for locating the contours of myth within any comic book cliché, and his riff on the color spectrum works splendidly, despite its (so far) somewhat goofy conflation of metaphysical diffraction (the splitting of the “white light” into colors by the “darkness”) with an arbitrary assortment of affects. Like all of Johns’s plotting, the whole event—from the Lovecraftian design of the various corps. to the Biblical allusiveness of the action and the moral tenor of the allegory—seems like a semi-profane Sunday School lesson, which is precisely why I like it. It doesn’t hurt that the entire series of linked books is gorgeously illustrated (and in a relatively consistent style no less) by Ivan Reis, Doug Mahnke, and Patrick Gleason.

Batman and Robin is my favorite kind of Grant Morrison, and if any character needed a little freshening, it’s Batman. Having Dick assume the cowl was the best thing DC could have done to make the “death” of Batman into something more than a stunt. It completely reinvigorates the icon in a way that doesn’t seem arbitrary, and having Morrison helm it has brought a kind of perverse energy to the series that I’ve felt missing from Batman for a long time. The problem with Batman’s rogues’ gallery for me has long been that none of them are scary anymore, if they ever were. Fear requires a certain amount of novelty, and Morrison is good at inventing frightening things. I found Professor Pyg and his “Dollies” genuinely creep-inducing. Good. More of that, please.

For the whimsically depraved (which means most of us, I would assume), Secret Six is a gem of a series that has improved since it began. It remains superior to Simone’s still-enjoyable Wonder Woman, though I’m not quite sure why. The Silver Banshee revelation had the quality of all great reveals: the it-was-so-obvious-why-didn’t-I-think-of-that? factor. And the Scandal/Bane pairing is sentimental drivel and insanely hot all at once. (So of course I love it.)

And then there’s the new Fantastic Four creative team of Jonathan Hickman and my fanboy crush, Dale Eaglesham. Ah, that logo. I’ve been obsessed with it for a week now at least. They’re laying it on pretty thick—the nostalgia trip, I mean. Eaglesham is of course the go-to guy for Norman Rockwellizing your world’s greatest comics magazine. But throw in the Perez-era Fantastic Four logo to boot and you’ve basically lobotomized Mama Roeg’s little boy. He’s in the corner, rocking and hugging himself, crooning softly, wrapped in the cloak time, a far-away smile faintly on his lips as he slips back, fatally, into that golden year, 1977…

I pulled myself out of my fugue state long enough to give Adventure Comics a try—and I have to admit, it is nicely done. I’m not particularly interested in Superboy, but the Legion “second feature” has whetted my appetite for Paul Levitz’s return to the Legion.

Those have been the highlights for me lately, though I have also been enjoying The War of Kings over in Marvel’s space books. Anything space-faring drawn by Paul Pelletier is fine by me. I wish I were enjoying the Titans and Outsiders books more. The best of the bunch is Teen Titans, which everyone else seems to hate, but which, for me, has at least developed an aesthetic and a reasonably interesting team. Tomasi’s Outsiders has been a disappointment so far, primarily because it is too focused on missions and not enough on the Outsiders as people outside of the costumes. It hardly needs saying that the adult Titans book is nearly unreadable. Please fix it, DC. (Or perhaps that is what James Robinson is doing with his new JLA. I’m curious about that development…) Finally, I’m reserving judgment of JSA, but, like many, I’m skeptical that anyone can follow Johns on this book, and so far, Willingham has not done anything to make me feel otherwise.

To be continued.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Seventh Coming of Jim Roeg (Maybe)

How many times do you have to die and be resurrected to qualify for Jean Grey status?

I peeked out of my burrow a few days ago and saw that Mike Sterling has Double Articulation listed as “retired” on his blogroll. My first thought was: wow, Mike Sterling is really organized. I should do that with dead blogs on my link list. Waitaminnit… I’m what?

Let’s call it semi-retired—the semi-retirement peculiar to new parents. Kid arrives, castle walls spring up, drawbridge retracts: fortress of solitude. Well, not from the inside, of course. Inside everything’s cake and ice cream. And like the Lady of Shallot’s garret, a little bit squirrely. But it’s okay, because you’re so in love that you don’t notice. Until someone reminds you that the world outside the castle thinks you died. “Retired.” Which, of course, you did. So, here I am again. Blame Mike Sterling!

And speaking of blame, it would be easy to blame the kid for my disappearing trick. He is, after all, my new excuse for everything. But that’s not the whole story. Looking at it now, I can’t tell whether my vague disenchantment with comics over the past year was an inevitable side-effect of parenthood or the result of a whole confluence of other things. Was I burnt out by the demands of work and family? You know it. Was this a particularly bad year for comics? I kind of think it was. At the very least the “event fatigue” I’d been fighting finally got the better of me. On the other hand, it was such a good year for me personally, how could the satisfactions of fanboy obsession do anything but pale in comparison? Perhaps I was just getting tired of generating all this chatter, the endless rehearsal of my by now all-too-predictable “opinions.” Is there a blogger out there who doesn’t confront that particular nausea at some point? And let’s be real: Double Articulation had been clawing and gasping its way across the desert with prey-birds circling for at least a year before this most recent “hiatus.”

So, what now?

To be honest, I’m not sure. I’m feeling contemplative but lazy and not particularly fanboyish these days, though that may change I suppose.

I’m buying far fewer comics than I once did. Nostalgia acts, mostly. Titans. Outsiders. They’re not particularly good, but 1983 is a harsh mistress and, in any case, I’m not so much reading as clinging to them—in a “these fragments I have shored against my ruins” kind of way, you understand. Green Lantern does a better job than either of these titles at capturing the sense of richness that I, rightly or wrongly, associate with the DC universe of that earlier era, so it has become the “cornerstone” book for me of late. Like many, I admired but did not particularly enjoy Final Crisis and need a break from Morrison’s exhausting delirium. Green Lantern is the cotton candy version of the same thing, so of course I’m wolfing it down. I’m still mostly off Marvel, though I tried the new (old) New Mutants, predictably. Eh. I don’t know. I’ve been rereading Mike W. Barr and Jim Aparo’s magnificent Batman and the Outsiders—what ever happened to comics like THAT?

God, I’m grumpy this morning. Back into the burrow, Roeg!