The Bad and the Beautiful

We interrupt the scheduled post on the ‘optikon to briefly review some comics from the end of 2013. I’m a bit behind over on Some Fantastic Place but when I’ve caught up, we’ll return to the Tabloids and Treasuries here. I may also be revisiting Fireside Books “Origins of Marvel Comics”  series later in 2013.

Followers of Place will be aware it’s my custom (of nearly thirty years standing!)  to save up December’s comics for a marathon read on Christmas morning. Here then are my thoughts on that haul:

Smallville Season 11: my film-making former protege Thomas Simpson, who blogs at Moviescramble, recommended this title. Unfortunately, I really disliked it. I think DC should definitely have a Smallville/ Lois and Clark title:  the series kept Superman in the public eye for a decade after all. However the teeny-tiny panels by Kevin West and Axel Gimenez were  thoroughly unappealing and I was squeamish about Luthor’s lewd reference to the “business end of Oliver Queen”.  I quite liked the Prankster, the Captain Carrot toys and even the Barbara Gordon incarnation of Nightwing although: why? Why not Batgirl/Woman? But it was a clumsily-told story, with poor pacing and art. Sorry, Simmy.

Green Lantern: this was the Zero Month issue which introduced Simon Baz, the Muslim Lantern. This attempt to bring more ethnicity and diversity to comics is a spectacular misfire. Your high-profile Arab hero is a car thief and terrorism suspect, with a glowing tattoo? I  thought that was a sin under Islam, unless it’s henna, but please inform me if I’m wrong here. Anyway, the comic read like a bad, bad movie script. Moving on…

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Captain Marvel: while waiting for the Strathaven bus over a week ago, I killed some time in East Kilbride library leafing through Essential Ms. Marvel. Having become more of a household name through the Avengers: EMH cartoon, Ms. M has been revived in her own comic for the third time, finally taking on the mantle of Mar-Vell. I was pleased to see 70s supporting cast member Tracy Burke again. I was less taken with the Kree-style helmet and I thought the painted art by Soy was murky and horrid. This upbeat and confident take on the much-abused Marvel would have benefited from the colourful artistry on the cover.

Legion of Super-Heroes: I hope I’m not too disappointed when Keith Giffen returns; ever since the launch of the new 52, this has been a boring read. In this episode, enigmatic sorceress Glorith ( formerly the name of a major villainess in the 5YL LSH- so is this going anywhere, Paul?) is about to be burned as a witch in futuristic Barcleona. The explosion of Gaudi architecture  and the spotlight on the newest members) were the most interesting things about this issue. I hate Levitz’s  approach- drip-feeding the action every month. He did this around 1986-88 with Greg Larocque and I have no patience to sit through it again. I’m dismayed to say it but I wish Jason Aaron were writing LSH instead.

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Justice League: after the Arab-American Lantern debacle, Geoff Johns injects some Legion of Doom/Super Friends references into the League.  The Cheetah ( who is pretty much the mystical Perez version from the 80s) is in contact with Black Manta, while the Scarecrow’s goons are kidnapping witnesses.  Meanwhile, we’re still getting the artificial and irritating Wonder Woman-Superman romance.

I do however, enjoy, the retelling of Captain Marvel’s origin. It appears from the cover of issue  15 that Johns and Frank’s Shazam will be inducted shortly during this Aquaman crossover ( Aquaman is cool! Just ponder that one! And where is the Sub-Mariner- a superior creation and more interesting monarch- exactly?).

Batman Inc: I like the positioning of Talia as the head of the Leviathan terror cult but Morrison’s ability to create horribly realistic death-traps always unsettles me. I hope Knight and Squire survive this storyline;  I would have liked another Paul Cornell series for the arch pair but since he’s the new Wolverine writer, I think it highly unlikely. The only complaint I have is with Chris Burnham’s small panels: I find identifying the four different Robins quite a chore. In fact, is it only four?

Action Comics: Morrison’s run on Action has delivered a really interesting series of Superman tales. I’m not keen at all on the Jim Lee costume; the fireman identity wasn’t that successful and I miss the Lois/Superman relationship.

However, the 5th dimensional aspects of the story have been fascinating.”Superman’s Mission to Mars” is a sci-fi horror story about zombie angels: the Multitude, alluded to in previous issues. This issue also sees the return of the Metaleks: Bob the Builder characters crossed with the Daleks and first mentioned in the Black Death/Superbia/Grodd  storyline in JLA Classified about seven years ago, I think.

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“Superman at the End of Days” features the evil sprite Vyndktvx  and his Anti-Superman Army- all the villains from the previous issues : Drekken, the evolving monster; psionic Susie; Nimrod the Hunter; Metalek and the mummy-like Xa-Du. The villains appear to have struck at Ma and Pa Kent in a typically timey-wimey Morrison story.  There’s even an allusion to silly Zardoz-parody, Vartox and Super-Turtle, a  Silver Age cartoon strip. The Chris Sprouse back ups are very pretty ( I also dislike Lee’s Wonder Woman costume too, for the record). Sprouse is especially creative, depicting a  Disney-fied storybook 5th Dimension.

However, the best new comic of the bunch was Hawkeye but I’ll be discussing that  one on our sister site…

Coming soon on Place: Avengers – the Bendis Years. Coming soon on the ‘optikon: who is Miles Morales?

All images presumed copyright of their respective owners

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One comment on “The Bad and the Beautiful

  1. Kid Robson says:

    I’m not inspired to want to read any of those titles, I’m afraid. I’ve either left comics behind or they’ve left me behind. I suspect it’s the latter, as I still get a kick reading back issues from years ago and my many volumes of Marvel Masterworks. I just can’t figure out who these new, joyless, PC, dry, slow as feck, murky, waste of paper publications are aimed at. Stop encouraging their production by buying them, you b*gger – it’s all your fault.. (Any verdict yet on your CDs?)

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