Good Superhero Comics: Week of Jan 4

I’m trying to do a better job keeping up with the “pamphlets” — the issues can be such ephemeral things that there’s no point in leaving them to hang around.

Winter Soldier cover
Winter Soldier

Take, for instance, my comic of the week, Winter Soldier: Winter Kills. This was one of KC’s picks, and he recommended it to me. (Always nice to have a personalized source who knows your tastes well.) It was very good, although the reading experience was marred a bit by it being a Christmas comic. Being late wasn’t all my fault, though — Marvel shipped it on December 29.

I disagree with bringing Bucky back (just as I disagreed with bringing back Barry Allen or Uncle Ben or Jason Todd or any of the other “never say never” deadies who used to be sacrosanct). But now that he’s back, he seems to be a very interesting character … at least, as he’s portrayed here by Ed Brubaker and the variety of artists: Lee Weeks, Stefano Gaudiano, and Rick Hoberg.

He’s timelost in a way Captain America should be, but Cap is too prominent a hero for any writer to explore the cultural differences in depth. The flashbacks between Bucky’s Christmas in 1944, when he’s part of a group of heroes, taking time out from war to celebrate the holiday, and his more jaded solo Christmas now are poignant, and it makes his encounter with the Young Avengers (the real reason KC pointed this at me) all the more significant. Even if it’s only Patriot, Vision, and Hawkeye (as she’s apparently been officially named).

Between the war flashbacks and Bucky’s roguish charm, this issue reminded me in good ways of the introduction of Captain Jack to the new Doctor Who series, and that’s high praise. I’d like to see more of Bucky, especially in combination with the younger heroes.

Spider-Man and Power Pack #3 cover
Spider-Man and Power Pack #3

Also good from Marvel this week was Spider-Man and Power Pack #3 (by Marc Sumerak and Gurihiru). I’m a sucker for kids who act like kids.

The team goes to Fashion Week, where Mary Jane is modeling. I was impressed that they managed to use Venom in a way that was scary, but not too gross or intense for an all ages comic. The story is satisfying, but there’s a last-panel hint of next month’s issue, which implies Venom returns and puts one of the kids in danger. I’ll look for it.

Oh, and there’s a mini-Marvels take on Civil War, where little Spidey is trying to take the even mini-er Power Pack to play in Tony Stark’s playground. Sadly, setting up the conflict takes up two of the four pages (illustrating one of the problems with the premise), but the baby pack is cute, and I love the solution. “What’s a moo-tent?” Opting out of the whole thing seems sensible.

Update: You can read the short backup online.

On the other side of the traditional divide, DC put out two excellent Superman books this week.

Superman Confidential #3 cover
Superman Confidential #3

Superman Confidential #3 (Darwyn Cooke and Tim Sale) makes me happy because they finally show why Lois is such a terrific character that she’d last through the decades. This woman is accomplished, honest, talented, beautiful — you can see why a Superman would fall in love with her. She’s not willing to settle, and she does the right thing even at personal cost. She sees what he can’t (or won’t admit to) and expresses it powerfully.

The art (with coloring by Dave Stewart) is gorgeous, packed with emotion that shines through simplicity. The action and suspense are well-done, too. Finally, DC’s premier hero gets the kind of comic he deserves: one that makes him a fascinating three-dimensional character with challenges suited to him, one that avoids dumbing him down or ignoring him to concentrate on easier-to-write supporting cast or wallowing in nostalgia.

All-Star Superman #6 cover
All-Star Superman #6

But if you’re looking for that nostalgia, All-Star Superman #6 is happy to provide it. Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely start off with the joy between a boy and his dog… assuming they can romp in space.

The meat of the issue, though, involves time travel and alternate Supermen of the future and all those wacky high concepts that drove the title during the 50s and 60s. It’s leavened with one of the most significant elements of the Superman legend, the idea that with all his abilities, Superman can’t beat death and can’t save everyone. That’s the concept that humanizes the superhuman.

Meltdown #1 cover
Meltdown #1

From Image, I wanted to briefly note a superhero comic from last month. Meltdown #1, with story by David Schwartz and art by Sean Wang, is one of those modern takes on the concept in which superheroes are treated as a business and a “realistic” approach to powers means angst and despair. In this case, the fire powers of Caliente (Cal for short) are going to burn him up, and as he faces death, he looks back at what brought him to this point. It’s part one of two, and I think it would have been more satisfying as a single graphic novel instead of a couple of over-sized $6 comics.

Anyway, even though I dislike this subgenre in general, I was interested enough to keep reading all the way through the preview galley. There’s a lot more skill here than I usually see in indy superhero attempts, and I admire Schwartz’s ambition in reaching for complicated themes and structure.

I was even more impressed by the art, and I wondered why Wang’s name sounded familiar. Turns out he self-published Runners, a science fiction series I’m still meaning to read. That experience clearly taught him a lot, because his work here is better than some of what DC and Marvel are publishing. He’s talented, able to draw action, cute characters, idealized figures, and emotion, and I hope he gets the career he deserves. See what I mean at the artist’s website.


21 Responses to “Good Superhero Comics: Week of Jan 4”

  1. Rob Staeger Says:

    I’ll have to check out the Superman Condifential run when it’s collected.

    You might want to change that first paragraph, though–Winter Kills was released only a few days after Xmas, not a month. (Maybe your copy was frozen in ice and revived by the Soviets?)

    Rob

  2. Johanna Says:

    How did I do that? Books for January 29 haven’t come out yet. Thanks for catching that; I’ve made the correction.

  3. Rob Barrett Says:

    I didn’t mind Brubaker bringing Bucky back for three reasons:

    A. Bucky’s death was not part of Cap’s origin. It was part of the retcon that Stan Lee did to bring Cap back into the Marvel Universe, but that’s of a different order from the deaths of Jor-El and Lara, Thomas and Martha Wayne, and Uncle Ben–all deaths that are central to the hero’s primary motivation.

    B. B/c Bucky’s death was a retcon, it took place in flashback form. I don’t feel that flashback deaths–deaths we’re supposed to take as givens–are as inviolable as deaths that emerge in “real time” as part of a story. The deaths of Barry Allen, Jason Todd, Kara Zor-El, Skurge the Executioner, et al. are deaths I want to see stick because they’re deaths that emerged out of stories I read in monthly segments–not because they suddenly appeared in a retconned flashback.

    C. Brubaker’s done a great job of bringing back Bucky in a way that improves Cap’s book (instead of simply trying to drum up sales through sensation). It’s sort of like the way John Byrne’s decision to let the Kents live improved Superman’s books: I prefer a Clark with living parents who continue to shape his morals to a Clark who managed to be twice-orphaned.

  4. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez Says:

    Runners is excellent ensemble, sci-fi/adventure fare that I wish a major publisher would pick up. I really wish Dark Horse would take it on, but it’s probably too similar (though better, IMO) to Star Wars for them. Boom!, Archaia or Viper might be good fits for it, too, but those options probably aren’t much better for Wang than self-publishing.

    Anyway, as an Atari Force fan, I think you’ll especially enjoy it.

    Winter Solider was an unexpectedly good read, establishing Bucky as one of Marvel’s most intriguing characters in years and justifying Brubaker’s decision to bring him back. I loved his interaction with the Young Avengers and think it would be an interesting move if, post-Civil War, he became their mentor/leader. But only if Brubaker or someone with similar sensibilities was writing it. I shudder to think what Bendis, Millar or Loeb would do with him/them.

  5. Dan Coyle Says:

    Bucky disappeared in an explosion. That, more than anything, is the easiest out for a dying character. Well, aside from the fact that Geoff Johns likes a character. That’s the easiest way to get resurrected.

  6. Johanna Says:

    Thanks for educating me on the history, Rob. I appreciate it. (Although your last line is funny, given the story in All-Star this week.)

  7. Don MacPherson Says:

    In my review of Meltdown #1, I also found that it was a shame the story wasn’t packaged as an original graphic novel, say for 10 bucks. I think it would have worked better and reached a wider audience.

  8. Rob Barrett Says:

    Johanna, I thought about tossing in a reference to this week’s All-Star Superman–but that book is off in its own continuity. :)

    I’ve been enjoying Brubaker’s run on Cap, but have only been collecting it in trades. I hope this issue gets collected as well–all the reviews make it sound wonderful.

  9. Mike Says:

    Did the Cap trades include the Nomad issue? Because that was a big part of Winter kills.

    Agreed on Brubaker’s Cap. Looking forward to picking up the new All-Star and the first Confidential trade.

  10. david brothers Says:

    The Nomad issue was #7, which is collected in the first trade, despite the fact that the trade says 1-6 on the back. Wonderful John Paul Leon art on that one.

    The previous Cap Special, the 65th anniversary one, was collected into the first Red Menace trade, so yeah, they’re collecting all the specials. Each of them have led into a story in the main book in some way.

  11. Tim O'Shea Says:

    I hated the return of Bucky (partially because of the Nomad plot element), but with this latest Winter Soldier release, I’m willing to admit I was wrong to dislike the return. As a guy who enjoyed Stern/Byrne’s run, as well as both of Waid’s run and doubted that anyone could do as well with Cap, Brubaker has proven to me there’s still plenty of great Cap stories to tell (anyone else hope that Brubaker does a Nick Fury miniseries at some point?)

  12. Rob Staeger Says:

    That’ a great point, Rob, about deaths in flashbacks not being as “real” as deaths in “real time.” (Maybe it’s because flashbacks are almost always narrated by a character in “real time,” and therefore explicitly subjective?) I hadn’t considered that distinction before.

  13. Mike Says:

    Re: Nick Fury. Maybe. The guy had a hell of a year, launching Daredevil, Iron Fist, X-Men, and Criminal while maintaining Cap, so I wouldn’t mind seeing more of these before new projects arise.

  14. Johanna Says:

    Could someone pretty please list for me (or provide a link) of what Cap trades are out for Brubaker’s run and which issues they reprint and which ones Bucky’s in? I’d like to do some catchup reading.

    And yeah, Iron Fist is surprisingly good too!

  15. Rob Barrett Says:

    Johanna, there are currently 4 trades of Bru’s run on Cap:

    Winter Soldier, Vol. 1 (issues 1-7)
    Winter Soldier, Vol. 2 (issues 8-9, 11-14)
    Red Menace, Vol. 1 (issues 15-17, 65th Anniversary Special)
    Red Menace, Vol. 2 (issues 18-21)

    Bucky shows up in all four trades (although his appearances in Red Menace, Vol. 1, are pretty much limited to the 65th Anniversary Special story).

    Iron Fist is amazing. I love the fluidity of Aja’s art.

  16. Mike Says:

    #10 was a House of M thing, which was pretty good, and I didn’t read any other House of M books. I guess it will get collected eventually.

    Confounding the situation is when they release a hardcover of one book before the softcover of the previous collection, plus the weird volume renumbering and scattered issues collected. All of this just means they should give it the double-sized hardcover treatment. With Epting, Lark, Leon, Perkins, and the rest, it definitely deserves it.

  17. Rob Staeger Says:

    What was in issue 10, that it wasn’t reprinted?

  18. Sam Hobart Says:

    Because Issue #10 was a House of M tie-in, it was reprinted only in House of M: World of M unfortunately.

  19. Johanna Says:

    I love my readers! Thank you — this will be a big help with a project for this weekend.

  20. R David Francis Says:

    Sean Wang worked on one of the TICk series before RUNNERS, as I recall.

  21. Meltdown: Another Great Reason to Wait for the Collection » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] I reviewed Meltdown #1, I said “I think it would have been more satisfying as a single graphic novel instead of a […]




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