Good Superhero Comics: Week of March 21

I caught up on a month’s worth of superhero comics this afternoon, and boy, was that a mistake. Put me in a grumpy mood all evening. There’s just too much mediocrity out there, too much stuff that would have been satisfying in bigger chunks, too much trying to make meaning from connections to other titles instead of their own stories (or using characters other people made mean something as shortcuts to provide weight), too much disappointment from well-respected names who should have known better, too much navel-gazing.

X-Men: First Class #7 cover
X-Men: First Class #7

So what was good? First rule: look for Jeff Parker’s name. Even though it’s issue #7 of 8 of X-Men: First Class, he provides a story that means something on its own, without reference to previous issues. And it’s a classic type, one that most people can identify with, based on young love from opposite sides of a deep-seated divide.

It seems that Angel has been sneaking out of class to meet the Scarlet Witch. Her brother, the speedster Quicksilver, accidentally attacks the X-Men while looking for her, leading to misunderstandings and eventually a shared search. Meanwhile, the two dating heroes are in that “should this go any further?” phase of getting to know each other.

Through well-chosen scenes and bits of business, I was reminded of the characters’ personalities, motivations, and powers, such that I didn’t have to look elsewhere to put names with costumes. I know this seems like congratulating a master chef on making sure the salad’s cold and the entree’s hot, but you’d be amazed at how many comics come out from DC and Marvel where those basics aren’t established. Or worse yet, other comics can pay so much attention to emotional drama that they forget “hey, these kids have powers, maybe they should use them!”

Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #11 cover
Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #11

Artwise, I knew what was happening (again, covering the basics admirably), thanks to Roger Cruz. They seem like teens in their attitudes and dialogue, too. I think this title was meant to “fill in the blanks” around previously published stories, but I didn’t much care, because enough was happening “present day” that the occasional “remember when” didn’t bother me even though I didn’t.

I was also glad to see something to take away at the end I agreed with, when they address the issue of how controlling family members should be, even out of good intentions. I wanted to call up a friend of mine, one with a daughter about to graduate high school, and read it to him, because it was a message that could have important meaning in real life, too.

Also by Jeff Parker, the fun and even silly Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #11. How can you not have fun with such classic villains as It the Living Colossus and a bunch of guys with snakes? And I loved seeing Spidey say “Will anyone ever remember that I’m really, really smart?”

The Spirit #4 cover
The Spirit #4

On the other side of the aisle, I’m still enjoying Darwyn Cooke’s Will Eisner’s The Spirit #4. He’s so creative in his updating — Silk Satin becomes a CIA agent chasing the terrorist Octopus. It’s pure comics: imagination and skill put down in words and lines. I can get lost in individual panels, marveling at their construction and subtleties.

(If you want to know more about his modern take on the classic character, be sure to find issue #3, which retells the Spirit’s origin.)

I never got the appeal of Eisner’s women — they were nicely drawn stereotypes, in many cases, and maybe it was surprising just seeing them be smart and devious in that era — but this one, in this version, I am with 100%. She’s tough, beautiful, and still a three-dimensional character. She even saves the day — just check out that cover! Bless you, Cooke.

Update: I see that this issue is getting plenty of blog attention just because Girl Hero Saves Day. Which is cool, but disheartening, that such a basic role reversal is still so unusual as to be worthy of widespread comment.

15 Responses to “Good Superhero Comics: Week of March 21”

  1. Blake Says:

    Thanks for doing these reviews. I know you don’t like most superhero comics, but I enjoy reading about what you do like and why.

    I have also been enjoying the Spirit, and this is probably my favorite issue yet. I really like how the comics are not so much about the Spirit, but about the people he interacts with.

  2. svetlana Says:

    Ohgod, the X-Men one is GORGEOUS O__O Who is the cover artist? I’d love to get a print of this…

  3. svetlana Says:

    …Aha! Never mind–followed link, question answered!

  4. James Schee Says:

    Interesting, there is a trade of the X-Men First Class in the newest Previews I believe. I’d been thinking about it after liking Parker’s Avengers Adventure story.

    Am I slow in just realizing recently that Jeff is the same one who did the amazing Interman book?

    I wish I would have found Cooke’s work before The Spirit started, but only really latched onto it with the Absolute New Frontier. So I’ll have to wait for a collection now for it. (which is fine, I’ll just be anxious for it)

  5. Ray Cornwall Says:

    I sat down this weekend and caught up with Brubaker’s run on X-Men. I was shocked; it’s the first good X-related stuff (other than Peter David’s X-Factor stuff) since Morrison’s run on New X-Men. I highly recommend it.

  6. Paul O'Brien Says:

    “I think this title was meant to “fill in the blanks” around previously published stories…”

    Well, yes, up to a point. Actually, Parker’s just dotting back and forwards all over the Silver Age – this story would have to take place somewhere around issue #13 or so, while a few months back we had a sequel to issue #33. And there are some things, like the Coffee-a-Go-Go, that he’s been revising drastically to bring them up to date. But frankly, there was almost no forward progression during the Silver Age X-Men (at least before they killed off Professor X), so he can get away with that sort of thing.

  7. Chad Anderson Says:

    James, you’re in luck. “Ego and Other Tales” is a TPB coming out in June, collecting several Catwoman and Batman tales by Cooke. It includes Selina’s Big Score, which is one of my favorites.

  8. Johanna Says:

    It’s actually Batman: Ego and Other Tails, get it? ha ha.

  9. Rob Barrett Says:

    I personally thought that this month’s Marvel Adventures: The Avengers was actually funnier than the all-MODOC issue–a noteworthy achievement.

    It’s also worth noting that X-Men: First Class will become an ongoing series in June. The Parker goodness keeps on coming!

  10. Dan Coyle Says:

    First Class sells extremely well at my store, and I assume others too. John Byrne is already bleating over “WHY did they cancel Hidden Years and not this?” Granted, HY was in the black when it was canceled, but I think FC sells quite a bit better than it did.

  11. Tommy Says:

    Maybe i’m in the minority but when I read Spirit #4 I just thought “wow, that was a fun ride” and didn’t really notice it was a “girl saves the day” story. I picked up the first two issues and the Batman crossover on KC’s recommendation and I’ve loved every issue so far. If you didn’t read the new Brave and the Bold I would suggest you do. Supergirl is surprisingly likeable in that story and Hal’s inner monologue made me laugh out loud.

  12. James Schee Says:

    Yeah I have that Batman Ego… on order already for half price at DCBS! I am hoping his Spirit work will be collected soon as well.

  13. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Mar. 27, 2007: The first draft of history (some revisions may be necessary) Says:

    […] to know if there were any good superhero comics out last week? Johanna Draper Carlson’s got you […]

  14. Johanna Says:

    Dan, John Byrne isn’t even funny any more.

    Tommy, glad to hear you’re enjoying them! I did flip through Brave & the Bold, but I was conflicted about it. I was surprised that I had a hard time figuring out what was happening in certain sequences.

    James, I’m sure there will be a Spirit collection at some point.

  15. Dan Coyle Says:

    B and the B #2 was very hard to look at.

    Although this is the least bitter and most accessible Waid’s writing has been since 2000.




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