- Posted by Johanna on July 4, 2006 at 8:23 pm
- Category: Superhero Reviews
- PUBLISHER: Marvel
Marvel is the only reason I’m still reading superhero comics. That’s a very strange thing for someone who was always a DC fan to say, but all I feel for that particular publisher these days is apathy. Marvel, while just as fixated on the crossover dollar and the variant cover, at least does some titles that are a little bit different, for those of us who don’t need or want 20 changes on the same theme.
And how convenient, that Marvel puts out all my favorite titles in the same week! Now I don’t have to bother shopping for another month.
I started off with NextWave: Agents of HATE #6 (by Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen). I’m still achy from working with a retailer friend at Heroes Con this year, so ridiculous characters doing violent things was just the ticket for distraction.
I love that this team is so thoroughly modern that they spend all their time insulting each other. When it comes time to save the day, everyone splits up and does whatever they do with little or no concern for the others. It’s the ultimate group of individuals, and it’s very of the moment, now that news is out that our society is more isolated than ever. No Care Bear Stares saving the day here; put in a room and told to act on their core emotions, this bunch would end up eating each other.
Let’s look at those individuals, shall we? Bloodstone is who Buffy and Creepy No-Mouth Batgirl dream of being, a gorgeous female fighting machine, the epitome of fanboy nightmares (because she’s also every woman who rejected them). Tabitha blows things up, PMS made flesh. Monica says lovely phrases like “ultraviolet nova”, and the result is destruction of entire species. Her character is defined by an absence of anything but being the authority figure, a provocative choice given her skin color.
Dirk Anger, Bad Guy, is what happens when the authority figure actually wants the power given: a twisted mass of neuroses proving every rumor about every perversion possessed by every leader through history true. Poor Aaron Stack is the contributor who will always be overlooked and ignored, the robot cog in the group wheel, Marvin’s grandson. The Captain is an unbelievable assumption that drinking and cursing and generally being a wastrel will be rewarded. Boys used to dream that their internal Superman would get them a girl; now the fantasy has degraded to being a hard-drinking faux-Brit.
Every issue results in fans going “eh, it’s not as good as last time”, but every issue makes me both laugh and think in unusual directions. Every issue keeps changing direction, creativity on demand. Sure, it’s easy to get distracted by the random concepts (homicide crabs) flying by and the explosions that usually end the stories, but there’s some really subtle stuff going on here that rewards actual thinking.
Or I’m bored and wanted to put my popular culture graduate degree to use, you decide.
I’d like Young Avengers (written by Allen Heinberg) more if it wasn’t so fascinated with long-ago Marvel continuity. The characters are strong and the team synergistic, but behind that, there’s not enough there there for me to recommend it without reservations.
Also, no one ever feels like they’re in real danger. Scary big events happen and someone says something determined, showing the team pulling together, but I don’t get a sense of how the characters individually feel, only how I’m supposed to believe they feel. It can be too surface.
God bless penciller Jim Cheung, because this double-sized final issue (for now; the series is planned to return after a Civil War tie-in minseries) is full of battle scenes featuring lots of Avengers, Young Avengers, and Skrulls. The resulting compositions are chaotic, without much depth and as confusing as a battle might really be.
Problems are also resolved much too quickly. A page or less of solution — whether Teddy’s kidnapping or Eli’s drug issues or the Vision’s autonomy — and on to the next thing doesn’t satisfy me. Each issue is like a summary of a much more in-depth Platonic ideal of a comic somewhere else. I still like the characters, though, or at least what I envision them to be.
I think Peter David’s a genius, because he kept my interest even though X-Factor #8 (art by Dennis Calero) is a Civil War tie-in. Layla is weirder than usual, and her quiet confusion is a much scarier indicator of looming disaster than any more showy disruption could be. With her living Nail-ness (you know, for want of a nail, the shoe was lost, and so on), the book rewards attention, knitting together various happenings clearly but without plot hammers (bang! let’s hit the reader over the head to make sure it’s obvious!).
The art’s got some lovely individual images, but looked at as a whole, the panel-to-panel flow sometimes is lacking, and it can be clear that Calero likes his copy machine. The characters don’t appear to be caught at just the right moment, as with the best artists; instead, they seem to be posing, as though modeling for a slow painter. Like I said, though, pretty on a panel basis.
Some of the events discussed herein illustrate why I don’t bother much with crossovers. Siryn does a good job of summing up why the characters in this title should care about the Hero Registration Act driving Civil War, but she’s also still trying to figure out what happened behind of the scenes of the Decimation, which was last crossover (House of M). Meanwhile, Spider-Man makes a guest swing-through, but it’s set before the unmasking that several other titles covered this week.
David addresses that topic in the letter column, briefly, saying that he reads the other comics when we do and has to figure out how to work key events into his schedule. I’m impressed he can do as much as he does here, and given his classic run on the title, I see Quicksilver’s impending presence as suggesting good things for the book. (Plus, also in the letter column, David reveals that #13 will be similar to the well-remembered psychiatry issue from that run.)
In Layla, I’m beginning to sense echoes of David’s previous godlike child, the boy with the baseball bat in his issues of Supergirl back when. I think I’ll have to keep her philosophy in mind:
“You look so serious, like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders.”
“How do you deal with that?”