- Posted by Johanna on April 29, 2007 at 12:04 pm
- Category: Superhero Reviews
DC wants me to talk about Justice Society of America #5 and Amazons Attack #1. At least, they sent me copies, and that’s my presumption as to why.
I don’t want to read them, though. I’ve raised my standards really high when it comes to superhero comics, because I’ve already read more than my life quota. I don’t expect to enjoy most of them … they’re not offering what I’m looking for, and I don’t like the work of any of DC’s current first-string team of writers. The characters don’t resemble those I knew, and I disagree with their treatments and motivations. I’m also dismayed by the increasing repugnance of what they consider appropriate content, with the raised levels of violence and sexism, far beyond what should be included in juvenile escapism.
Mostly, I just don’t care. They leave me cold, and it’s all pointless, subject to be reversed at the next event’s whim.
I’m sure DC would want me to mention, although they didn’t care enough to point it out on the cover, that Justice Society of America #5 is part two of a crossover with JLA that also involves the Legion of Super-Heroes. (The cover is a murky, boring Alex Ross painting of a character who appears for all of three pages. What a waste of an option to do a great, dynamic team shot.) As is typical of an early section, what’s here is explanation and setup, and most of it I already knew, since it revolves around explaining the Legion. I suppose that’s necessary, given how many times the story and the universe has been changed.
Speaking of which, Amazons Attack #1 has brought back the dead Hippolyta, Wonder Woman’s mother. I find this a bad choice. DC doesn’t know what to do with its best-known brunette in star-spangled swimsuit — why would they want two of them with little distinction in background or character?
See also previous remarks about too much violence. The story begins with the cliche of “oh, this is really serious, someone dies!” as the Amazons take over Washington. Fundamentally, though, this is not a story I want to read. I don’t want a group of female characters I always appreciated (for their sisterhood and the imagination of their private island) turned into cardboard villains. There aren’t enough good women in the DCU for so many of them to be thrown away this way. It’s a really bad idea, given how many stereotypes superhero comic writers use and rely on, to base a story on women vs. men — they just don’t know how to do it and they have no basis for the reader’s trust it’ll all turn out ok.
Then there’s Astro City #3… Kurt Busiek gets a lot more slack from me, but when I saw on page two the naked black woman calling the white guy master and having sex with him (although he got to keep his pants on) so he could get the power he needed, I just couldn’t cope with the symbolism. Even if Busiek is just replicating the power structures of the 70s comics he’s emulating, I don’t need to see it again.
So what was good? Best of the week was the final issue of the miniseries, X-Men First Class #8. (Thankfully, it’s been turned into a continuing series, so no need to fret over its loss.) I expected as much — Jeff Parker’s writing is classic, fun, and self-contained. The X-Men are heroes, and they have distinctive personalities and voices.
I have no idea if Gorilla Man is an old-fashioned Marvel character from history somewhere — I suspect he is — but I don’t need to. He works here well either way, especially as a foil for Beast. The two have a lot in common, with enough differences to remain distinct.
I’m harping on that because too many creators aren’t able to maintain it. They draw boys who look the same except for the color of their hair and underwear suits. Or all of their characters “sound” the same in dialogue. Parker’s skill is refreshing, even as he works further into the core of the superhero universe.
Oh, plot. Professor X is missing, so the team heads to Africa, the last place Jean had a psychic connection with him, to find him. Basic idea, well-executed, and (old-fashioned as it is to look for this) even a meaningful theme underneath it all. That’s something the reader can take away beyond the temporary enjoyment of the adventure.
Also good, although less focused and more continuity-hindered, is Fantastic Four #545. I didn’t care about half of it, but it was nice seeing Reed and Sue acting like a couple; a powerful Storm contributing to the fight; and an uber-competent Black Panther who’s not a jerk to his wife and everyone else around him. There’s a shot of him riding the Surfer’s board that really channels Jack Kirby; kudos, Paul Pelletier and Rick Magyar.
The big deal event here is the return of Gravity, killed a couple months ago in Beyond (also written by Dwayne McDuffie). Sadly, I fear he may be losing most of what I found appealing about him; he’s given some kind of cosmic power to make him a Quasar replacement. (Or maybe it’s just my natural antipathy to such stories; bigger is rarely better.)
While I’m being suspicious, I find it awfully convenient that there’s a storyline with Galactus and the Silver Surfer just as they’re starting up publicity for the movie that features the same two characters. Nothing wrong with that, only I’m not that interested in the pair as a reader — it feels to me like their story’s been done enough times already.
Mostly, the reason I didn’t enjoy this as much as I hoped was that it wasn’t a story, only a chapter of some larger attempt at an epic. Too much fighting, not enough of the other stuff that makes it meaningful. Some good chocolate chips, but in the wrong cookie for my taste.