Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Name:
Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!

2.12.04

Comics for 1 December 2004

Another week, another bunch of pamphlets. Here we go!

Detective Comics #801 by David Lapham, Ramon Bachs and Nathan Massengill
$2.95, DC

The return of an old favorite. I haven't bought an issue of Detective since Rucka left (#775), but I used to buy it religiously, back when I could afford to be a completist without regard to price. Since comics became a little more dear, I was forced to reassess my affection for Batman comics, and found them wanting. I got the Loeb/Lee run on Batman, but wasn't all that impressed, and that's been pretty much it for a few years. This issue begins Lapham's year-long story on the title, and although I've never read anything by him (not even Stray Bullets), I know his reputation and decided to pick this up.

The story doesn't really blow you away, but it does establish Lapham's credentials as a hard-boiled fiction writer who gets Batman pretty well. Any Batman writer has to understand why Batman does what he does and how he goes about doing it. The early part of the issue is excellent. Lapham and Bachs show us just glimpses of Batman, but they reveal his effect on the citizens of Gotham very well. There's also a nod to the fact that he can't save everyone, which leads to the end of the book and a prelude to next issue. It's a nicely constructed comic, with a somewhat inside-out storytelling style. Batman doesn't even get his man, really, although the "bad guy" does meet justice. Robin even shows up at the end. Nice to see him.

Lapham also tries his hand at Bruce Wayne, in a central section that sets the whole plot in motion. Every writer of Batman tries to make Bruce Wayne a more prominent figure, with mixed success. I don't know if Lapham is going to do that during his run, but here, his depiction of Bruce is a mixed bag. Bruce is sufficiently disgusted with a gathering of Gotham's moneyed elite, and he's sufficiently noble enough not to get involved in what looks like a land grab. But his interaction with Haddie McNeil, the spoiled 14-year-old who drinks and seduces men (and might be the Gotham version of Paris Hilton?), seems off. Bruce has never been really this vindictive, has he? Batman maybe, but it seems that Bruce is a little more compassionate than he is here. It's a nice scene, but it does end with Bruce not looking like the good guy. Maybe that's the point.

The art is very nice in this issue. There are a lot of little panels, so there's not a lot of chances for the "wide-screen" art that's so popular these days, but the cramped style works here, because it makes Gotham feel claustrophobic, which is the effect Lapham and Bachs are going for. The details are excellent, and the fact that we get only really two good views of Batman in the entire book make him even more mysterious and menacing. A Batman sticking to the shadows is always more interesting visually than a Batman in full view, and Lapham and Bachs understand that.

I recommend this issue, especially for those like me who haven't bought a Batman book in a while. It's a good start to a 12-issue run.

Fallen Angel #18 by Peter David, David Lopez, and Fernando Blanco
$2.95, DC

This is the last issue of the "Hurlyburly" storyline, and it wraps up a number of things set in motion at the beginning of the series. It also marks a hiatus in the series, as David has said on his web site that Lopez and Blanco have some other work to do because they believed the title was canceled, so issue 19 of Fallen Angel won't be out until March. It remains a mystery why DC doesn't publicize this series more. David continues to be one of the most innovative and interesting writers in comics, yet his series keep getting canceled. It's sad. Go buy every issue of Fallen Angel! You won't be disappointed!

Things wrap up, as I said. We learn the true nature of Bete Noire. We learn what horrific crime drove Shadow Boxer away from home. We learn the fate of Shadow Boxer. We learn the fate of Lee's baby. We still don't know what exactly Lee is, or what happened to her, or what role the Hierarchy plays in all this, but that, presumably, is stuff for another day. This would be an unsatisfactory ending for the story, since there still are so many questions. I hope that in the next few months DC gets off its collective ass and promotes this book. Fallen Angel is a provocative and challenging book, and we need more of those in the current comics climate.

Hunter/Killer #0 by Mark Waid, Marc Silvestri, Joe B. Weems, and Matt Banning
$.25, Top Cow/Image

And then there's Hunter/Killer, which is neither provocative nor challenging. But it's a freakin' quarter! How can you go wrong?

Silvestri's art has never really made me tingle, even when I was slavishly buying Uncanny X-Men way back when. He's gotten better, but it's still just kind of there. Pretty to look at, but nothing that blows me away. I do not understand why these Image guys (Lee, Silvestri, Larsen to a lesser degree, Liefeld, and all of their ilk) feel the need to dress their superheroes in ridiculous outfits. Samantha, the first Hunter/Killer we meet, is supposed to be some covert agent of the government, but she's dressed like a science fiction whore. It's laughable, and not in a good way.

So what happens in this short teaser for the ongoing series? We see an operation to take down a rogue ... whatever the hell she is, some kind of alien, maybe? go horribly wrong. Samantha Argent, the field operative, is supposed to round up this alien thing (who's a shapeshifter posing as a waitress at a coffeehouse), but another Hunter/Killer, known as Wolf, gets to her first and kills her. Ooh, that Wolf, he's a baddy! We also meet Ellis, who lives in Montana with his parents and apparently has a handy bottomless pocket from which he can extract anything that happens to be pertinent to the situation. Pretty cool!

That's it. It's not a long book, and it's not really that good, but like I said, it's a quarter, and it's a clever marketing ploy. DC and Marvel have done this with some of their books, and I wonder why they don't do it with more of them. It's nice to promote Batman or Daredevil with cheap books, but wouldn't it be nice to see a 10-cent adventure of, say, Fallen Angel (to return to a theme)? This book might not take off, because Silvestri's an artist, don't you know, and can't be rushed, but it's smart to try to lure people in this way. Pick it up and judge for yourself. Waid has an interesting track record, and he's got some interesting concepts here. Why don't more publishers do this with more books?????

The Intimates #2 by Joe Casey, Giuseppe Camuncoli, and Sandra Hope
$2.95, Wildstorm

Casey continues with his balls-to-the-wall storytelling in the second issue of The Intimates, as Punchy and Duke formulate a plan to get inside Mr. Majestic's secret headquarters in Mt. Rushmore while Duke deals with a personal problem, and Destra and Empty Vee gossip. Again, not a ton of plot, but it feels more frenetic than it really is, thanks to the CNN-style crawl at the bottom, which again offers subversive advice and factoids about the characters. They really have to change the colors on the crawl -- the white text is very difficult to read. We get a tiny bit more about Kefong, the new guy, but we're still not sure if he's supposed to be sinister or not. The issue also ends weirdly, stopping, it seems, in the middle of the story. It's as if Casey was writing a nice long story and they told him, "We're stopping this on page 22 no matter where you are!" It's strange. Still, this is a good issue, with lots of doubtlessly important details about seemingly superfluous stuff, very nice art, and all sorts of potential. Of course, so did Wildcats 3.0, and that died an ignoble death. It would be very nice if The Intimates could find an audience.

Noble Causes #4 by Jay Faerber and Fran Bueno
$3.50, Image

Boy, I don't like the cover on this issue. I know there's usually at least two different covers for each issue of Noble Causes, and I don't like this one. I like my covers to have a vague connection with what's going on inside, and this one doesn't. Oh well, I can deal with it.

I'm worried about the future of Noble Causes, simply because it's $3.50. It's not exactly worth it, but it's still a good read. I'm sure if I will continue to buy it, but for now, I'm intrigued. We have three stories going on here, and all are interesting. Krennick is still wanted for questioning in the murder of the prostitute who was dressed like Zephyr, and we find out that he has a long-lost sister. The real Zephyr helps Detective O'Mega find him and bring him in, so I'm sure the mystery will start to resolve itself in the next issue. Meanwhile, on the alien world where Frost, Rusty, et al. have gone, personal issues continue to intrude on the mission. Last issue, Frost and Cosmic Rae were separated from the rest of the group, and Celeste is stirring the pot by telling Rusty that his girlfriend will soon be hooking up with Frost. Rusty's suspicious since he's already been cuckolded once by Celeste, so he's worried. Frost and Rae, however, are just talking, but then they're attacked, and we learn something rather interesting about Cosmic Rae. Finally, Doc and Gaia are out on the town, and Doc thwarts a bank robber and exposes the fact that he's not exactly what he seems. Many balls up in the air from Jay Faerber!

The art, which has never been the title's strong point, is still serviceable. It's blocky and a little to cartoonish for my tastes, but it doesn't detract from the story, and at least all the characters are well defined. Like I said, I'm still curious enough about what's going on to buy Noble Causes, but it would be nice if it weren't such a drain on my wallet.

The Question #2 by Rick Veitch and Tommy Lee Edwards
$2.95, DC

The art in this title is still gorgeous, and if possible, it's even a little nicer than last issue. Edwards is really blowing me away on this, and it would be nice if the industry would take notice and let him work on a high profile book after this. It's almost worth the cover price.

The story remains interesting, as pieces come together a little bit, and Vic Sage learns a little more about what he's doing in Metropolis. Lex Luthor is suitably businessman-like, and Lois Lane is the valiant reporter who actually asks newsworthy questions instead of fawning all over Luthor (wish-fulfillment on the part of Veitch; most reporters today are simply hand puppets), and Superman shows up, although he's mostly a blur, which is how I like him -- I've never been a Superman fan, and I like when writers depict him as a god-like presence who flits through your consciousness, does his save-the-world thing, then disappears. It's a pretty cool way to show him. The things I didn't like about the story: Vic Sage's ridiculous narration. I know Veitch has worked with Alan Moore, but that doesn't mean he's mastered Moore's purple prose. Here's an example: "What do you fear, oh hardened arteries clogged and choked with trans-fatty human deposits?" I mean, come on! Comic book characters don't even talk like that! It's really distracting, and takes you right out of the story. Just shut up, Sage! The other thing I don't like is the feng shui thing that crops up. Blech. It's just silly. That said, the mystery is interesting, and the way the bank robbers distract Superman is neat, and things are moving along. I'll keep reading, probably 65% because of Edwards' art. It's that cool.

The Ultimates Vol. 2 #1 by Mark Millar, Bryan Hitch, and Paul Neary
$2.99, Marvel

The Ultimates is the highest-profile book coming out this month, and the big question is ... Is it worth the wait?????

Well, sort of. The first 13 issues of The Ultimates was supposed to be a new threshold in comic book, with Millar's over-the-top scripts with actual world-shaking threats and Hitch's widescreen pencils, one issue of which apparently takes six months to finish. It started well, and looked fabulous, but ... the Hulk storyline was excellent and fun, but the aliens infiltrating the Nazi party? It's been done, at least in the X-Men/WildC.A.T.s crossover, if not elsewhere. I don't like attributing Nazis to aliens, because it shortchanges the horrors humans can perpetuate on each other. But that's neither here nor there. The Ultimates Vol. 1 ended weakly (I respect the French a lot more than most Americans, apparently, and though Captain America's joke at their expense easy and, more damning, totally out of context for him) and the press releases for the new version don't fill me with confidence. The trial of the Hulk? Personal issues? Thor's origin sounds kind of cool, but if Millar's going to keep going to the Hulk well, he's going to run dry soon.

So how does this issue stand up, with all that? Well, it's beautiful. I've been a fan of Hitch's since his Marvel U.K. days (Motormouth, anyone?) and he keeps getting better. His attention to detail is fantastic, and his action sequences are second to none. You can just stare at his panels for long minutes and soak up the minutiae. The story is, well, just a lot of exposition, even Captain America's foray into Iraq to save some hostages. Seems The Ultimates are only supposed to be used on domestic problems, but Fury said screw it and went ahead anyway. More power to him. There's also a scene with Captain America dating the Wasp, and Henry Pym showing up at Bruce Banner's cell and going all Ant-Man on him. I'm not sure what's going on here, since the last time we saw Henry Pym, Captain America was tearing him a new one after he beat up Janet, but what do I know? Let's hope Millar tells that story. Bruce Banner's alter ego is revealed and things go FUBAR, but the nicest scene in the book is Thor's dinner with Volstagg, during which we learn interesting things about Loki and what he's planning to do to Thor. That's the coolest thing in the book.

It's a nice book. It's not the greatest thing in the world, and it might be prudent to buy the hardcover collection, the first of which is gorgeous. I don't know how long it's going to take to come out every month, since Hitch is so slow, but we'll see. It's going to sell a ton of copies, but it would be nice if Millar could show some of the brilliance he's capable of rather than trying to be a comics rock star. We'll see.