Friday, February 04, 2005

COMICS: Wed. 2/2/05 continued

Marvel Team-Up: Like I said before, this is my first exposure to the X-23 character. I like that Kirkman has no qualms about voicing (through Spider-Man) the mockery every right-thinking Marvel reader must feel on meeting X-23: "Wolverine! Good Lord! What have they done to you?" Unfortunately, Kirkman then has to try to make that character interesting. And he fails, completely. Because how could he not? What a stupid, stupid, stupid character. Seriously. Stupid.

The rest of the comic didn't thrill me, either. MTU is becoming a bit of a jumbled mess. Even the little soap opera thing going on at Peter Parker's school, with the one teacher putting the moves on him, failed to amuse me this time. I mean, she's hitting on Peter immediately after she acknowledges Peter's wife is a supermodel. That takes some balls. "What has she got that I don't got? Aside from worldwide fame, a vast fortune, and being one of the five most beautiful women on the face of the Earth?" And the guileless, shameless way she's going about it -- she might as well have been twirling her mustache. Or saying, "He will be mine. Oh yes: he will be mine." It started out as a cute and potentially entertaining sub-subplot, if handled delicately and with humor, but is now a little too blunt and ham-fisted to work. Probably she'll turn out to be Mysterio in disguise, or something.

Supreme Power: This continues as a kind of borderline book for me. I dig Gary Frank's art, and the characters and story work for me more often than not. That's it, I guess.

Superman: Strength: I don't read a lot of Superman, but this has to be the most purely enjoyable Superman story in the past decade or so. A nice reflection on Clark's formative years mixed with crazy sci-fi goofiness and globe-spanning action (although a flood scene in India is unfortunately ill-timed, in the aftermath of the tsunami) -- it's just tremendous fun. I'm still not entirely sold on the artist, and the six dollar price tag is a bit steep, but this is such a wonderful, welcome, all-ages superhero tale in the midst of all the Identity Crisis, grown-ups-only, dark-and-grim, rape-and-immolation comics currently dominating the market, that I hope Strength finds its way to younger and older audiences alike.

Concrete: The Human Dilemma: Wow, this was a departure. Check me if I'm wrong, but hasn't Concrete expressed his feelings for Maureen in the past, and been rebuffed? What changed her mind? The trauma of the violence that preceded it, the alcohol? Or has this just been a long time developing? In any case, Maureen's seduction -- if that's what you'd call it -- of Concrete was handled very well: frank, awkward, shocking, poignant, thoughtful, and erotic. It takes a talented creator to pull off a scene like that and not shatter the integrity of the comic, and Paul Chadwick certainly is that talented. (I mean, imagine it written by Chuck Austen!) And he still manages to put some compelling thought into the population control theme of the series. How young is too young to decide not to have children? How will Concrete's feelings on the subject change when his alien body changes in the way it looks like it's going to?

Grimjack: WOOHOOOO!!! John Gaunt is back. I loved seeing all three of them back in action -- Gaunt along with creators John Ostrander and Timothy Truman. I still want to know what happened to Grimjack after the end of the previous series, over thirteen years ago (maybe they'll get to that after more of the reprint volumes have come out), but a story from Gaunt's younger days does seem like a better way to get new readers in on the book. And yet, I worry that new readers won't find it nearly as accessible as Ostrander seems to think it is. First of all, there's the price. $3.99 is ridiculous for a standard-sized issue. I mean, Grimjack is my favorite comic ever, and while I didn't hesitate at four bucks, even I wouldn't pay the $15 for the variant cover that Mike tried to tempt me with. (The fiend!) Fifteen bucks was a deal breaker for me, and I have a feeling that for an awful lot of new readers, who don't have anywhere near my love for this character, or even an awareness of him at all, four bucks will be the deal breaker. And then there's the sheer density of the plot. The Arena, Dancer's Rebellion, Roscoe, MacCabre, the Trans-Dimensional Police, BlacJacMac, Mayfair, Cadre, the Demon Wars, Sphinx, Crayne, and of course the city of Cynosure itself -- you don't need to have a working knowledge of all those characters and events to get full enjoyment out of this issue, but it certainly helps. (Anyone new to the series, please let me know -- did this issue work for you or not?)

Well, I do have full knowledge of it all. And I loved this issue. Great, hard-boiled writing from Ostrander, featuring typical John Gaunt tunnel vision getting his friends hurt (so that's how Roscoe lost his eye!), and beautiful Truman art, featuring his usual crazily inventive characters and fashions (ah, lizard-men with starburst makeup/tattoos around your eyes! How I've missed you!). And I loved seeing the return of "Spill Yer Guts!", the classic Grimjack letter column, through which I became familiar with the likes of Uncle Elvis and T.M. Maple. Probably could've used some of that space to fill in a little more of Gaunt's backstory to new readers, though (maybe the website will be helpful in that area, especially this page).

Mike says that his store has sold out of the Legends of Grimjack TPB already (I bought one... so I hope they had more than one in stock, or that's not nearly as impressive), so I hope the new series will sell well, also. 'Cause I can't go back to a world without Grimjack. I won't!!

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