Good Superhero Comics: Week of Jan 17

A lack of superhero comics to whole-heartedly recommend means I start off with a bit of complaining.

Fantastic Four #542 cover
Fantastic Four #542

Dwayne McDuffie starts his writing run on the series with Fantastic Four #542. I love his character work, but I regret how often it’s used to prop up pointless or badly chosen continuities. I really want to read something by him that’s not tied into a bigger, inferior story, something where the story and character work is more important than the properties or the fictional “universe”.

In this case, we get a justification for why Reed Richards would act out of character by rabidly defending the Macguffin Registration Act, even to the extent of destroying his marriage. It seems that he’s so smart that he created magic equations that predict what will happen to society, and he knows that this is the least of all evils. It’s the supersmart guy equivalent of “shut up and trust me, I know better than you do.” I don’t find it compelling, not when put up against a 40-year (in real time) love story.

It is plausible, I suppose, within the bounds of a superhero universe, unless one suspects that the choices being propped up had external reasons, and whether or not they made sense in terms of fiction was irrelevant. For instance, I get the feeling that the marriage was ended because the current powers that be like single superheroes and seem to pathologically fear married characters. And that Reed’s “side” was determined by who wanted to write him and how someone wanted to build their team, as though trading baseball cards instead of considering character history and motivation.

The Spirit #2 cover
The Spirit #2

In short, the quality of the character work doesn’t matter when it’s being used to support something so ludicrous. (That’s Civil War in a nutshell.) Art’s by Mike McKone with inks by Andy Lanning & Cam Smith, who make Reed in sweater and fishing hat look like my dad.

No She-Hulk for me this week — she’s gone all action as an agent of SHIELD fighting Hulk’s old rogues gallery, which doesn’t interest me. Birds of Prey has Oracle quaking in fear from the Spy Smasher and Lois Lane, of all people, which didn’t sit right with me either. So what was good? As usual, books not aimed at the typical reader.

The Spirit #2 is a terrific adventure romp. Darwyn Cooke (with J. Bone inks and Dave Stewart colors, which are essential to the mood and overall outstanding package) does wonderful expression and gesture. The femme fatale P’Gell is just as seductive and slinky as she needs to be to snare a foreign prince. The Spirit has to ditch Ellen in order to attend a formal party and foil her plans.

Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #9 cover
Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #9

This is high escapism in the classic mold, and Cooke is a valid choice for caretaker of the Eisner legacy. Everyone’s gorgeous, or at least gorgeously drawn. There’s exoticism and glamour and danger and tortured histories and a very handsome, rugged man in the middle of it all.

And for dessert, Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #9. You’ve likely already heard me or someone else online talking about it, because the concept — the team becomes MODOKs, giant floating heads — is just too giddy cool. The execution, by Jeff Parker, Juan Santacruz, and Raul Fernandez, lives up to the premise.

After the requisite team wisecracking (and actually funny), MODOC (this one’s for Conquest, because Killing’s bad for the kiddies) freezes the team so he can tell them his origin. That’s before his nefarious transformation plot. They all turn into big-headed floaty beings — they even get -Doc names! (Pretty cool changing machine, that even provides the flying chairs in everyone’s sizes.) Very enjoyable, even if it’s only temporary.

If you need another reason to read this, as Chris said, it’s “Nextwave for kids”.

8 Responses to “Good Superhero Comics: Week of Jan 17”

  1. Tim O'Neil Says:

    You missed a good issue of She-Hulk. The all-action format may seem left-field, but it’s not, really, because the issue is built around Jen’s doubts and fears of not being able to live up to her cousin’s example, as well as missing him (because no one on Earth except for a handful of people know the Hulk was blasted away to an alien world by Tony Stark and Co). One of the things I always liked about She-Hulk was that she was a superhero whose very concept was tied to family, so it’s nice to see those aspects played up. Maybe there’s no Awesome Andy, but it’s a nice change of pace that also places She-Hulk in the position of being able to call Iron Man and Co. on their bullshit when she inevitably figures out just why the Hulk has been gone… so yeah, I thought it was great.

  2. Johanna Says:

    Ok, I’ll admit that Sampson’s analysis of why each Hulk-related character (including this issue’s villain The Abomination) wound up with the particular appearance they did was interesting, but I got more enjoyment out of reading your review, Tim, than I did flipping through the issue. I’ll check out the next one, though, to see if the premise leads anywhere promising.

  3. caleb Says:

    The premise leads, as all roads do, to a Wolverine guest appearance.

    I’ll admit I liked the original, court case-centric issues the best, but I thought the all-action format gave Rick Burchett an opportunity to shine. The scene where we watch the Abomination’s face fall when She-Hulk essentially calls him ugly was heartbreaking.

    And I think I’d happily read an ongoing monthly starring the M.O.D.Avengers

  4. Johanna Says:

    An ongoing? A miniseries, perhaps, just to see how well they combine crime-fighting and their desire to take over the world. But month after month?

    Then again, my lack of imagination in this area shows why I’m not a comic writer.

  5. caleb Says:

    Ha, yeah, okay, maybe a mini (my secret hope is that they’ll become the next “Marvel Zombies” style phenomenon). But damn did this issue excite me!

    I think there’s a good 22 pages of simple acronym jokes, like Hulkdoc declaring that he’s a “Mental Organism Designed Only For Smashing, “Wolvdoc saying he’s a “Mental Organism Designed Only for Being the Best There Is At What He Was Designed Only For Doing” and so on.

    Of course, I don’t know how wide the audience of people who think MODOK being an acronym a Mental Organism Designed Only for Computing/Killing/Conquest is hilarious is…

  6. Rob Barrett Says:

    Jeff Parker is awesome. My favorite parts of the issue had to do with Karl, the Best Ineffective Henchman Since Daredevil’s Turk. The reaction panel where Karl realizes just who lives next door to the secret base he’s acquired for MODOC is priceless.

    As for the She-Hulk issue, I’m sorry you didn’t like it, Johanna. I enjoyed it greatly. Favorite line: “Candygram.”

  7. Mel Valentin Says:

    Well, there’s more MODOC/MODOK goodness coming our way. Bill Reed at Comics Should be Good! has a post about upcoming projects:

    Including Super Villain Team-Up: Modok’s 11 (April release):

    Sweet, methinks.

  8. Antione Says:

    Your dead on about Civil War. I’m not sure if your right why they spit up Sue and Reed. It seems all comic books especilally Marvel will do something different to peak interest in dying book. I mean when Superman died it seemed various books was trying the same fumula to revive the characters. The forget the Fantasic four was built on family. If anything they should let Reed loose that super inteligence of his and let him struggle without it. We wouldn’t see that coming. Why that you may ask? He always had it and if he didn’t he would be a normal guy with powers and Sue and him would enjoy a better marrige. He would be a different type of hero too maybe cooler. Comics in general always let the character stay the same no matter what happens to him. Maybe they could change that. Nuff said.




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