February 21st, 2012

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Watching The Storm Out

Stormwatch

I was never really a fan of The Authority, nor the book they spun out of, the original Stormwatch from Wildstorm. Guys with super powers working for the government tend to bore me, but whatever. This new series, by Paul Cornell, is a kind of whizbang roller-coaster ride of high concept new wave sci-fi mixed with ultra-powered spandex prima donnas who claim to be professionals without actually showing it. In the first three issues, we are introduced to concepts and ideas that would normally be like year long stories in other comics, as well as most of the main cast, who come off as snooty status seekers more interested in being seen as powerful heroes than actually acting like it. The team is made up of people who don't like each other, the leader is someone the team doesn't feel they can trust, and they're being stalked by the deadliest killer on the planet, who for some dumb reason has spikes all over the place, including his stupid chin.

Stormwatch, the first three issues, is very uneven. It's got amazing ideas, but characters I have a hard time caring about, let alone liking, and the art is . . . not . . . that . . . good. But the ride is amazing. These are things that can be overlooked because of that, and that alone. So I'll be hanging on for dear life on that ride, anxious to see what comes next.

Aaron "The Mad Whitaker" Bourque; I guess that's all I have to say about that. Except to reiterate: the Midnighter's spikes, especially the one on his chin, is moronic. MORONIC.
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Don't Fear The Reaper

Suicide Squad

Argh.

The most well known version of the Suicide Squad--a team of minor supervillains recruited by the US government from prison to perform "black ops" missions the government could disavow if things went wrong--was one of the greatest comic book series ever written. They even had an episode devoted to them on the cartoon Justice League Unlimited, "Task Force X," the official designation of the squad. "Suicide Squad" was just a colloquialism, because they often went on suicide missions.

The tradition of pretty damn good serieses starring super villains continued in Gail Simone's excellent Secret Six, and then the reboot came.

And now we've got the new Suicide Squad, which is one of the worst comic book series ever written. It's loud, obnoxious, pointless, stupid, and ugly. The thing about the previous Squad was that it had direct oversight in the person of Rick Flagg, Jr. The man may have been as unhinged as the villains he worked with, but he kept them in line, and was good at his job. This new Squad doesn't have that. So the villains all do as villains do, and terrible things happen. But nobody cares, because nobody is given a reason to care. And when they through in shout-outs to the previous Squad, they are done in just the right way to piss off people who know about the previous Squad.

I don't hate this comic as much as I hate Red Hood And The Outlaws, in fact I don't even hate this comic. I'm just tired by it. It doesn't bring anything new or interesting, and instead dumps over the memory of a much better comic.

Which has several collections, so if you want some SS, read the good one by John Ostrander, and screw this series.

Aaron "The Mad Whitaker" Bourque; there was also a war comic about a group called the Suicide Squad, but the only connection was that the father of Rick Flagg, Jr. was in it.
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Boy Or Superboy

Superboy

Okay, the original, original-original Superboy was Superman as a kid. It was Clark Kent, and his adventures as a pre-teen in Smallville. Yes, this is where the tv show got its best ideas (except Chloe Sullivan) from. Superboy, Clark Kent, had adventures, and made friends with the Legion of Superheroes (I may have mentioned them), and even had guest appearances of other heroes before they became heroes, like Bruce Wayne and Aquaman.

But that was the Silver Age. After Crisis On Infinite Earths, Superman's backstory was retcon'd to omit those adventures, and they didn't come back fully for a couple decades. So the comics didn't have a Superboy until an little event called "The Death of Superman." After Superman died (oh, spoilers, Superman dies in the a story called "The Death of Superman." Also, it was his sled), four replacement supermen showed up, and the only one we're interested in right now is Superboy. He was a blend of Kryptonian and human DNA, and he was immature, loud, and desparat to be considered a hero. He eventually actually became a hero (dying himself, once, only to come back in true superhero fashion), and it was good. He was accepted by Superman, getting a name (Kon-El), and even a secret identity (Conner Kent). He was a good kid, and a real hero.

So cue the reboot, and . . . he's still a genetic blend of human and Kryptonian DNA. Only now he's a part of this mysterious secret organization, and he can't control his powers, and he doesn't know how the outside world works . . . and the narration doesn't really support it. I'm not sure if it's from a future date where he has acclimated to society somewhat, but the story takes pains to paint him as this emotionless (or at least stoic), confused entity, and the narration is snarky and laden with references to things an actual teenager would know about, but not somebody grown in a lab and sequestered from real people his whole life (all six months of it, but whatever). The cartoon Young Justice does a better job of characterizing their Superboy character is alienated. This comic does not.

It does have its moments, though. Superboy is clearly heroic--which is always good to see in SUPER HEROES--and his circumstances, of being made to be nothing but a weapon for shadowy government goons, are interesting enough for me to check out what happens next (a team up with the Teen Titans, specifically). Also, it has ties to another Wildstorm Comic, Gen 13. I think the writer, Scott Lobdell, would have been a better fit on a New 52 version of Gen 13, but some of the situations of Superboy lead me to believe there won't be a team by that name in the New 52-averse.

All in all, it's not a bad comic by any means, but it fails to live up to its potential (there's that word again) and become a good one.

Aaron "The Mad Whitaker" Bourque; having Gen 13 be N.O.W.H.E.R.E.'s teen team would have also made a lot of sense.
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Girl Power (I'm So Sorry)

Supergirl

I loved the first issue of this title, but felt it went by really, really damn fast.

The next issues weren't quite as good, but serviceable.

So, this is simply an updated retelling of the classic Supergirl story: Kara Zor-El is Kal-El's cousin from Krypton, sent to Earth to help him. Only, like the immediate previous retelling of the story, she's his OLDER cousin, not his younger cousin, and remembers him as a baby. For some reason, she was in stasis during transit and didn't age, so when Superman shows up all grown man and everything, she's confused as hell . . . and doesn't believe he is who he says he is. That's a nice twist.

Also, when she shows up on earth, she has no idea she has powers and causes an international incident and gets found by pretty obviously evil super-science guy with plans for her. And is so obviously evil it makes my teeth hurt.

Other than the TOTALLY OBVIOUSLY EVIL guy, this has been an all right comic. Despite the whip-fast speed of the first issue, the pacing of the opening story has been kind of slow, though. Hopefully that'll pick up.

Aaron "The Mad Whitaker" Bourque; and seriously, what the hell is up with her boots? I don't mind showing skin on a hero or heroine, but the knees? What the hell?
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Strange Visitor From Another Planet

Superman

Now THIS is a great comic book. You see, back back back in the day, back when I was a wee lad, there was this thing in comics where a story was told in a single issue, and it wasn't stretched out to fill a trade collection. They are now called "done-in-ones," and for decades, they were the standard. Of course, before I was born, it was much more common to have multiple features in a single issue, but those multiple stories were still told in one issue. It is inexpressibly relieving to see that this can still happen on a mainstream title, and George Perez' old-school Superman does it well.

For the first three issues, we are given 1) a complete introduction to the new status quo of Superman, with Clark being a crusading reporter, the Daily Planet sold to a TV production, Lois becoming a news show producer, etc. 2) a single issue story per issue (I miss it so), and 3) an ongoing plot that continues throughout the other stories going on in the issue. You see, both ways can be done, at once!

Sure, there's the stupidity of Clark and Lois not being together anymore, but if they manage to bring the romance back, I'll be okay with a period of her being with some other schmuck. It'll just be a speedbump on the road back to their proper positions, and no, I'm NOT in denial, you can't prove I am!.

Aaron "The Mad Whitaker" Bourque; I mean it, done in ones should become the standard again.
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He's A Thingy. From A Swampy.

Swamp-Thing

Long ago, Swamp Thing was a tired, forgettable horror comic who's main claim to fame was being similar to Marvel's Man-Thing (another tired, forgettable horror comic that came out at pretty much the exact same time) . . . until a guy named Alan Moore took over writing it, and almost overnight turned it into one of the greatest comics of all time. After Alan Moore left, completely changing comics forever, Swamp Thing went back and forth between really good and not so good. It was one of the flagship titles of DC's Vertigo imprint, originally a place where DC's properties were reinterpreted to be more mature and horror tinged, and then became where creator-owned content went to thrive. However, with the New 52, Swamp Thing and a few others are back in the DC fold.

And Swamp Thing in the new 52 is really damn good. And a horror title. Long ago, before I was born, there were more to comics than just superheroes. War comics, true crime, romance, westerns, funny animals, comedy, horror . . . Swamp Thing, like Animal Man, is a genuinely disturbing comic at times, and that horror manages to make it thrilling. The art is also gorgeous at times, downright breathtaking.

I don't want to keep gushing. Just go out and read it.

Aaron "The Mad Whitaker" Bourque; and it's crossing over with Animal Man, so read that, too.