A KC COLUMN by KC Carlson
Recent comics reading seems to be mostly about the comics events that have kidnapped summer this year — DC Comics’ Rebirth initiative and Marvel Comics’ Civil War II. As you might expect, each has their good and bad, their ups and downs, their Penn and Teller… (Sorry… kinda overdosing on comedy magicians this summer. They’re cool too, but don’t really pertain to this particular column, despite their occasional work in comic books.)
REBIRTH OR REBOOT?
I’m still enjoying many of the new DC Rebirth titles; however, I’m still completely lost on most of the Superman and Batman titles. See, I kinda took that word Rebirth to heart, thinking that this new relaunch would be about new ideas and concepts (or at the very least new ways to look at old concepts and characters), yet the majority of the Superman- and Batman-related titles seem to be carrying on in the same overly confusing ways (most of the Superman titles) or sticking really close to Scott Snyder’s versions of the Batman characters (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing given the sales for projects which include his name in the credits or on the cover).
I can’t even begin to discuss the current Superman titles since I stopped reading them all around two years ago and now am hopelessly lost in trying to figure out what’s going on. Case in point, I was really excited to get Superwoman #1, because Phil Jimenez is one of my favorite current creators (and a good friend), and I wanted to see what he was going to do with a new #1. Unfortunately, what I got was a well-done summing up of what felt like maybe dozens of previous far-flung storylines and character bits featuring situations and plot lines that I knew absolutely nothing about. But I stuck with it, trusting Phil (and inker Matt Santorelli) to have things under control by the end of the issue, and ultimately I wasn’t disappointed — mostly because (it seems) this first issue was all about resolving a lot of that old stuff (and effectively getting it out of the way) so that Phil can go forward with telling stories about new (or at least different) characters and stories.
It might have been better to present this story arc in a separate miniseries (or oversize special) so that the new status quo could have been relaunched fully-formed as a #1 that was completely devoted to moving forward rather than as the transitional piece it is. But that may be picking nits: what’s most important about this first issue is that what was going on in it was fascinatingly interesting — and that has propelled me to continue the series going forward. (As opposed to me already dropping other Super-titles.) Which is always the most important function of all great first issues.
I don’t particularly think that the Batman titles are bad — I’m just not interested in reading them (something that’s been going on for over a decade with me, actually), as I am one of the rare readers (in a minority, I’m sure) that don’t care for Scott Snyder’s work. I am disappointed that Tom King’s Batman work is nothing like his oddball paranoia-on-a-stick writing over on Marvel’s The Vision (which I am immensely enjoying), but then again how could it be, really?
Batgirl (and her related titles), as written by Hope Larson and illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque, seems interesting, although attempts to reconcile the recent various aspects of the character may be too convoluted to sustain much longer, at least for me. I think I’d actually be more willing to stick around to suss out who this “new” Batgirl is than ever try to pick up what’s going on with the “Legion of Robins” (my snarky nickname for that situation).
SUICIDE AIN’T PAINLESS
Jumping from Batgirl to Suicide Squad may be a leap for some of you, but not for me, considering that the first run of Suicide Squad (amazingly written by John Ostrander with the late, great Kim Yale) was responsible for bringing Barbara “Batgirl” Gordon back into the active DC superhero limelight. (The Ostrander/Yale SS run is currently being collected in a series of TPBs not to be missed!)
I had to laugh out loud when I read the Suicide Squad Rebirth special (written by Rob Williams and art by Phillip Tan and several inkers), because it cribs liberally from the Ostrander origin of the series with an appropriately stout Amanda Waller meeting with the current President of the United States. (Obviously Barack Obama, but to assure deniability, he is only ever referred to as “Mr. President”.) She is aiming to (once again) secure Colonel Rick Flagg as the leader of a ragtag bunch of career criminals in doing the “jobs” no one else would do, in exchange for not being permanently incarcerated.
I applaud the SS mainstays Deadshot and Captain Boomerang, paired with other familiar faces including Katana, Killer Croc, and June Moon/Enchantress, leaping (reluctantly) back into action. Yes, I understand why Harley Quinn is there, but is she not one of the most overexposed characters in comics right now? (And you know she’s not one of the ones to ultimately get killed off, right? Sigh…) Plus, I’m also curious to see what exactly Jim Lee’s occasional ongoing role will be in the Squad. (Gosh, I hope he isn’t killed off by issue #6!) This generally isn’t my kind of comic book title, but I love that they are acknowledging the past (without being a slave to it), while also pushing things forward in a major way. I’ll be sticking around for awhile this time… So far, so good.
DAN IF I DO AND DAN IF I DON’T
I keep bumping into Dan Abnett lately. Well, not literally, since I really only ever emerge from my basement office on Wednesdays, and I’m pretty sure that Dan’s not down here with me somewhere. (Unless he was somehow flushed in with the recent flooding.) I really enjoyed his recent Titans Hunt miniseries, a great mix of both traditional Titans storytelling as well as something more modern.
I had no idea that it was actually setting up the new Titans Rebirth series, but I wasn’t disappointed to hear that and was swept right along when that started. I think that since the Wally West Flash character was the focal point of the initial DC Universe Rebirth special, that automatically makes this new Titans book doubly important — not just for bringing back the classic Titans line up, but also for focusing on Wally’s journey back from being “dead”. (Something that seems to happen a lot with Flashes in the DCU.) I also really like the Brett Booth/Norm Rapmund/Andrew Dalhouse art team here. Lots of energy on each page!
I was also really impressed with Abnett’s take on Aquaman Rebirth, since I believe that a character like Aquaman is especially tricky to get the right tone and feel for. I’m a huge fan of the Steve Skeates/Jim Aparo era of this character, and while not exactly the same (thankfully — because much time has passed since that series and this one and comic book storytelling has evolved and become more sophisticated at least a time or three since then), this new series has a much better balance between the royal politics of Atlantis and the much less-structured life on Earth. Politics and statesmanship is important (not necessarily for comic books), but action, adventure, the many and varied relationships, and a touch of humor when needed, make this an enjoyable read.
Interestingly, I think Aquaman takes the best advantage of the Rebirth books’ twice-monthly publication schedule by keeping a lot of balls (subplots) in the air and not losing track of them. There seems to be a number of artists in the early issues, but the regular artist going forward is Philippe Brionnes in issues 3-5, following Scott Eaton and Brad Walker in earlier issues.
To a slightly lesser extent, I’m also enjoying The Flash, Wonder Woman (well, maybe only the even-numbered origin retelling Year One issues, so far), and Green Arrow (to the extent that I now like it much better than the stupidly-dark TV show). I’m also now really engaged with both of the GL books (Green Lanterns and Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps), which I’m surprised about, after growing tired of all the ongoing cosmic soap-opera that the previous series evolved into. Apparently, a lot happened in the GL backstory while I was gone, but I’m really appreciating the “scratching our way back from defeat” quality of these new series after way too many years of pure “cosmic opera”.
One new series that is not doing anything for me is Bryan Hitch’s take on Justice League. So far, it’s dull and unexciting, with the dialogue especially stilted. Maybe he’ll get better with more experience, but Hitch, right now as a writer — you are a great artist! Plus, the main reason that these team books exist is to see the heroes fighting together. If you keep plotting stories where the heroes fight separately only to come together for the climax, that’s actually a very overworked cliché — and should be avoided as much as possible. And yes, I’m very familiar with artists who complain about the number of characters they have to draw in each panel in team books. (I did edit the Legion of Super-Heroes for a long stretch… Hey, whatever happened to them?…) But that’s the gig! And it’s also why readers buy books like JLA and Avengers and X-Men and LSH! To see the characters interact with each other!
KC CARLSON SAYS: Yikes! I also meant to talk about some Marvel Comics here today, but got on a DC roll, I guess… Maybe some Marvels next time… Until then, check out Civil War II: Ulysses #1 (of 3) by Al Ewing, Karl Kesel, Jefte Palo, and Nick Filardi. Yeah, I know… Another of the approximately 666 CW II crossover books this summer, but this one really snuck up on me.
If you don’t already know, Ulysses is the new Inhuman who’s predicting all of these disasters around the world that are putting the Marvel heroes through their paces this summer. Ulysses is largely untrained in his abilities, which has caused some problems, including at least two heroes dead (one indirectly) and others injured, so Medusa and several Inhumans decide that it would be best if Ulysses be trained to use his abilities better, by none other than Karnak the mystic (?) master of pretty much everything, and, as currently being written, the biggest A-hole in the Marvel Universe.
Karnak, who once was one of the quietest guys in the original Marvel Universe, is now, in the ANAD Marvel Universe, the most irascible and unpleasant person around. (Perhaps he’s upset that his suicide attempt last year was unsuccessful. Yeah, that might explain it…) Anyway… despite all this, this comic was one of the funniest comics I’ve read this year. (Gee, do you think that maybe I can relate to a guy like Karnak?)
Apropos of nothing, my favorite Carnac quote was “Sis boom bah” which, of course, was the answer to the question “Describe the sound made when a sheep explodes.” (click on the link if you are too young to get the context).
WESTFIELD COMICS is not responsible for the stupid things that KC says. Especially that thing that really irritated you. Heh, heh… Sis boom bah…