- Posted by Johanna on November 4, 2012 at 6:46 pm
- Category: Superhero Reviews
Superman Family Adventures #6
by Art Baltazar; co-written by Franco
DC Comics, $2.99
This title more and more sums up the entirely of the New 52 to me. Each issue features new versions of characters you think you know, reestablishing themselves through blatant expository dialogue. Each issue is more about reintroducing characters we already know than telling a stand-alone story that’s entertaining on its own, and the book seems to be coasting on the goodwill of readers who enjoy seeing familiar faces more than doing significant things with their ever-growing cast. Compared to an earlier series (Tiny Titans, in this case), there’s less humor and more action.
I mean, I loved seeing Natasha, the smart and capable niece of John Henry Irons created by Christopher Priest, appear once again SOMEwhere in a comic. The DCU, in whatever version, needs more heroic diverse characters (and more created more recently than 40 years ago), and she’s a great one. But all the stuff I loved about her isn’t really on display here. It’s knowledge that I bring to the comic, and without it, she’s just another space-filler. I’m mentally papering in the gaps to improve what’s on the page. Worse, I know that I’m not going to get any kind of significant story with her, which is what I really want. So for me, this is just a tease, a pale imitation, a reminder of the kind of comics I used to get and like better.
I don’t mean to pick on this title, which at least maintains a light-heartedness that’s woefully absent in so many other superhero comics these days. Since it’s for kids, it can get away with being silly and creative without the angst and gore that permeates the genre. It’s so much less than what I want from this publisher, though.
Wolverine and the X-Men #19
written by Jason Aaron; pencils by Nick Bradshaw; inks by Walden Wong
I don’t care about the Marvel Now! branding (although it makes me think of the Steven Wright “breakfast anytime” joke, “So I ordered French Toast in the Renaissance”; when am I supposed to be reading their comics?). I just like the imagination on display here, as we open with some weirdo made of living Nazi bees meeting up with the living grounds of the school, which results in the bizarre war cry of “Sting the grass!” It’s one of those “only in comics” scenes that has to be seen to be believed, and yet, in this context, it still somehow fits.
That leads into one of the classics of the genre, the team recruitment issue, only this time, it’s school leader Kitty Pryde trying to find replacement teachers. Oddly, the ones that we see are particularly badly suited to the job: Blade, Deathlok, Hellstorm, and it goes downhill from there. Plus, Beast is still hanging around, and I’m glad, because he provides a way to put even more invention into the series with his gadgets and studies. Kudos to Jason Aaron for getting the characters to introduce themselves in character-specific voice for readers like me who don’t know all the ins and outs of Marveldom, so I can get the jokes, too. He’s done an amazing job of freshening over-done and played-out concepts like the Hellfire Club.
I love the way this series makes the most of the school and classroom setting. It makes it unique among the X-Men titles, and it plays up what’s so great about this team, the idea that the young mutants need to be guided. I’m also impressed by how much detail Nick Bradshaw puts into the panels while still coping with Aaron’s lengthy dialogue, which I enjoy for its humor and insight.
And ooh, every page is a surprise! Imagine how tickled I was to see one of my two current favorite Marvel superheroes making a guest appearance, in a role perfectly suited for him! Plus, an underused icon looks to be joining the cast, in a wonderful callback to the glory days.
written by Matt Fraction; art by David Aja
Now that I’m ever-so-slightly losing interest in my previous superhero favorite, Daredevil — I blame the increased shipping velocity, which made me get behind and feel pressured to keep up, as well as the crossovers — I’m glad that this series has come along to keep me happy.
Hawkeye is stylish and distinctive (in both look and tone) and fresh and funny and exciting. Best of all, as the credits page makes clear, the title refers both to our old buddy Clint AND the younger, tough Kate Bishop. Yay for girl heroes!
Due to David Aja’s use of many panels per page when appropriate, the comic feels dense and fulfilling, as though I really got my money’s worth. (More and more a concern with slight content and escalating prices.) It’s also beautiful and modern. Matt Fraction takes a classic reason to make fun of archer superheroes — the trick arrows, the ones with the nets and boomerangs and bolas and all the other visually weird old-school gimmicks — and actually makes it the basis for a gripping, nail-biting story involving a possibly stolen muscle car and various chase scenes. It feels like a movie, but in a good way, not in a “I’m embarrassed to be doing comics and really want to write films” way.
Oh, and Clint reinforces his status as superhero most likely to make a bad decision. Which leads to my favorite cheeky panel in the book:
Mudman Volume 1
by Paul Grist
Image Comics, $9.99
In contrast with the fast-paced Hawkeye, Mudman feels stodgy. Grist’s art always impresses, but his pacing is so slow one is tempted to say reading it feels like slogging through, well, mud. This first collection reprints the first five issues, and I wish more happened than the introduction of young punk Owen, who gains the ability to turn into mud.
The rest is cliche — the caring but not involved enough Dad, the annoying older sister, the buddy, the bully, the crush, a prophetic dream. Typical of Grist’s stories, everyone, cops, criminals, superheroes, just stumble into things. There’s an opening page of cosmic hint that attempts to give the work some longer-term meaning, but since we don’t get back to it, it’s useless. Later, there’s a mystery girl wandering around muttering similar things. Grist follows his usual technique of constantly introducing more characters to show different facets of the tale. If you like his work, you find it interesting to see the various perspectives; if you don’t, you wonder why he keeps repeating himself instead of advancing the plot.
In another industry, with another creator, I’d try to have more faith that our questions will be answered if we sign onto following the comic, but this is Grist, notorious for walking away from plans and series, and I think book collections should be more stand-alone and have more resolution to the questions they raise than this. As it is, I find it too frustrating for him to build and tack on and hint and continually expand without ever pulling it all back together.