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Jumbie returns! (to comics)


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So, for the last 2 years, I've been on hiatus from comics, mostly due to lack of good internet and lack of time. The only comics I read were the Blackest Night and the Annihilation Wave stories from DC and Marvel respectively.

 

But the New 52 news got me interested again and then I kinda decided to get caught up on what's been happening in comics in general and so I just kinda went on a comics-devouring spree. Plus I got better internet.

 

So here's a summary of what I've been reading/got caught up on this month and what I think.

 

THE GOOD

 

Thor: broke off at 600 in the Straczinski run and was always curious to get back to it. JMS did good work up to 612 and when he left things actually got better. Kieron whatsisname and then Matt Fraction added great stuff. To me, what's best about the combined run of the three is that they made me feel like I was reading new mythology which is why I'm enjoying the heck out of...

 

Fear Itself: Coming out of Thor, it's no surprise I'm experiencing the same sensation of reading a new mythology, with the secret history of Odin's brother building on the secret history revealed earlier of Odin and Bor and the murder of Laufey etc. And again, the new mythology kick continues into perhaps my favorite book going right now...

 

Journey into Mystery: Kid Loki's so much fun. I've always been a sucker for characters with dark pasts trying to redeem themselves, but this adds a new angle in that most of those characters carry their dark brooding past around with them like a raincloud, being miserable and guilty about what they've done in their previous life, whereas Loki (though clearly feeling some of that e.g. his nightmares of the terrible things he's done) is a much brighter, fun-loving character. He seems to be genuinely enjoying himself putting together his various schemes in Fear Itself, the Galactus Seed, Mephisto and Hela etc. It's a lot like John Constantine, where you've got a low powered character relying on his wits to hang with the big powers and you can see some real vulnerability and steel-hard determination existing in the character at the same time.

 

The Walking Dead: This book is perfect. The reason it works so well is that Kirkman really really hates his characters. I'm convinced. He just piles it on and piles it on. This is a fucking grim book. And people suffer the whole way through and you can't turn away because it’s just that compelling.

 

Invincible: Kirkman again. And again, he just seems to hate his characters. Or love tormenting them. A character in Walking dead recently lost an eye. A main character in Invincible just lost his jaw. This book is as violent as Kick-ass. I think the recent Viltrumite War story dragged for a little bit, but things are back on track with the recent change in having Invincible forced to allow dangerous enemies sanctuary on Earth even though they've pretty much stated their goal is to take things over.

 

Kick-Ass. Finally finished this and I'm also current on Kick-Ass book 2. It's notable for its more 'real' world heroics of course but the characters in Kick=Ass are likeable/unlikeable as they need to be and that makes you care.

Severed: Got the first 2 issues of this ongoing supernatural horror mini. Solid, creepy, writing with a very Stephen King feel.

Locke & Key: Speaking of which, Joe Hill, Stephen King's son, has gained a rep with this book. I've read the first arc. Enjoyed it a lot. Curiously, it was the art more than the writing that stood out for me. There was a good deal of the storytelling coming off the characters’ faces that added to the sense of what was happening and to the characterization.

 

Superior: I recently re-read Transmetropolitan and Planetary as part of my comics feast and it reminded me of just how good Warren Ellis is. Superior is a little different for him, but it's working for me as a small self-contained story with that bit more realistic attitude to superpowers that Ellis is known for. Ellis's gift is he really makes you think, 'Yeah that's probably how it would have turned out.' while still surprising you with how things turn out.

 

Schism: I see we have a Schism thread, so I'll post more there, but I'm liking this more than any X-men story for a long time.

 

X-Factor: Speaking of mutants, I remember reading here a little while back that Nick is into this book now after a decade of my pushing him to try its various Peter David incarnations. I'm glad to hear. Peter David is like Kirkman in that he really seems to hate his characters sometimes and puts them through so much in a way that really portrays their pain. That's why his books connect to me.

He's got a good premise going too with the mutant detective agency angle and has done a lot of inventive stories through that where you don't feel like you're reading a superhero comic, but there are heroics.

 

A Man Called Kev: A spin off from Warren Ellis's Authority I think, but it feels like a separate story in a very realistic non-superhero world. It's typical Garth Ennis stuff (and that's a good thing) where you feel like you've fallen into a long bar story that happens to have philosophical ramifications about identity and your place in the world. With lots of violence.

 

The Boys: Garth Ennis is bringing this series to a close and it’s been a pretty fun ride. You’ve got all that good stuff I mentioned above about identity and violence tied up in Ennis’s outright hostility to super heroes. The book does a good job of not making the good guys all that good and then making the bad guys relatable and even noble or tragic in some instances. Of course you still have your out and out vicious pricks, but this is Ennis, so that’s to be expected. A weird thing he does in this book is make a lot of the violence seem unnecessary and avoidable from the point of view of the characters’ goals but inevitable from the point of view of the characters’ attitudes.

 

Moon Knight So far the new series is going well but it’s just started so I’m reserving judgment. What I got caught up on was the Moon Knight series from 2006-2008. That series balanced so many things effectively: the sense of whether Moony was crazy or Khonshu was real. The humor and the grimness, Moony’s anger and the sense of deliberation in his actions, his need to inflict pain and his need to be a hero, his love for the people around him and his selfishness. It’s just classic and I’m really glad I came back to (almost) complete it. I’m at 24 of 30 right now.

 

Daredevil and Punisher: Two new series that seem to have started really well. Gonna wait to see more before making up my mind.

 

Captain America: Been enjoying the Brubaker run since issue one, enough to actually buy hard copies on occasion. The man has made me take Captain America and the Red Skull seriously in ways I never did before. He seems to put a complexity to his spy-culture world building too that I really enjoy. Not enough to be completely realistic, because that would tie up the book in too much minutae, but enough to make it fun.

I still cannot imagine that I enjoyed and continue to enjoy the resurrection of Bucky. But Ed Brubaker made it work.

 

The Immortal Iron Fist: One of my favorite heroes since I was a kid, the 2007 series stepped away from a superhero feel to present a much more kung-fu influenced style. I got the first 2 arcs of this when it came out and have started back on it. Some of the story-telling gets confused because it flashes between three different generations and that can be disorienting, but it’s Brubaker again, so he has the skill to make things seem serious and fun.

 

Conan: Road of Kings: Classic Conan style story with supernatural monsters, scary human enemies, greedy villains and untrustworthy wenches. All with modern, stylish art. Good stuff.

 

THE BAD

 

Not a lot to say here. There’s a lot of mediocre stuff out there, and anything that doesn’t work for me, I just don’t read more, so I can’t give a detailed critique of why it sucks. But there are a few titles that I can remember stinking.

 

Fantastic Four: Tried a few of this year’s issues. Seemed confusing as hell. Stopped reading.

 

Amazing Spiderman/ Spider Island As above, I tried a few issues and felt lost and things seemed incoherent.

 

Catwoman and Voodoo Some of you may be aware of the controversy over alleged sexism in Catwoman, Voodoo and Starfire in the New 52. I haven’t read the Starfire issue, though I’ve seen some stills from it, but I can tell you the Catwoman was horrific. I’m a big Catwoman fan and this felt like a stranger to me through the whole thing, except for the small bit with the fence. And the last panel of this comic was really uncalled for and stupid: Just pointless. Voodoo was vapid. I appreciated the genuine twist ending, but the journey there was painful.

 

Flashpoint Seemed like a big misfire. First off, they should have just called it Age of Flashopalypse because I couldn’t help but feel this was a lamer version of the Age of Apocalyse the whole way through. The only good thing to come out of this was the Thomas Wayne Batman and I say that as a guy who hates anyone but Bruce in a Batsuit, including Dick. (As you can imagine, I didn’t even sample the Batman Inc storyline.)

 

THE UGLY

 

This is stuff that could have been good, but had a critical flaw of some kind that mangled the whole thing for me, but which may not affect others:

 

Rising Stars Great setup by JMS and I enjoyed the way he created the conflict between the establishment (govt, media, corrupt corporations, drug lords etc) and the superheroes. The surprises in the plot and character development were good, being changes that were believable but still significant enough to make a difference in the plot.

 

The problem with this series is that JMS has some obvious authoritarian-left wing leanings and the way he goes about having the heroes make the world better in the third act of the storyline, involves a lot of things I disagree with philosophically.

 

For instance, two of the strongest characters start to fight the drug war, taking out cocaine production in South American and Crack houses in NYC/ Philly etc, respectively. It’s so naïve to think that a long term end to the problem of drugs involves shutting down the supply.

 

Another key plank of the Superhero program to make things better is to build Projects (as in The Projects). They don’t call them that, but it’s the same basic idea: They don’t change the fundamental dynamics of poverty, they just rebuild the houses and infrastructure in the poor areas to be shinier, which is exactly how the ghetto projects of today’s US started to begin with!

 

There was other stuff, like taking out all the nuclear weapons that didn’t seem like they would make a real difference in the world and their program also involved taking govt power for themselves and silencing the press and blackmailing politicians etc, so that there’s a general philosophy that emerges that a strong paternalistic central authority is the way to make a better world.

I not only reject that, I can’t take it seriously.

 

Nemesis This is Warren Ellis, so it can’t go bad, but it just never seems to strike the right spot with me. Can’t say why, and I know a lot of people love this book, but it never made me feel like I understood the characters or cared about them.

 

EDIT: Just realised it's Millar, not Ellis. Well that's good. Ellis remains 1.000.

 

Secret Warriors: This book should have been awesome. Nick Fury and a small band of rookie super-agents working underground against Hydra and HAMMER at the same time. And it had some great moments throughout. But it never held together. It had no focus. It would follow a character for an arc only for that character to not appear at all for the next 5 issues and the story-telling just seemed to never get a sequence of A-B-C going. I finished it because the premise was good enough to keep me interested, but it was painful at times and that’s all down to the choices of the writer, who made it painful.

 

============================================

 

So, I'm back into comics and of course I'm picking up all the mainstream stuff like Xmen Legacy and Superman etc. But Anything off the radar that I might like? Anything to avoid?

Edited by Jumbie
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:kotter:

Always happy when anyone reads more comics.

 

You mentioned some good stuff I've been sitting on for awhile now.

 

The only Voodoo book I've ever read was the one Alan Moore wrote, and it still wasn't that good. Not a great sign.

 

I'm intrigued by your issues with Rising Stars. I never read more than the first few issues, so I have no real opinions on whether it's quality or not. I think it's interesting that, by all indications, you seem to write something off as "bad" if it expresses too many ideas that you don't agree with or if the writer expresses political leanings that you find distasteful. That doesn't seem fair to me. I mean, Orson Scott Card is a dangerous lunatic that must be stopped, but I can admit that Ender's Game is pretty cool, y'know? Miracleman turns the world into some sort of Monarcommunistutopia that I don't think would work, but it's still a well written book.

I guess I just don't fret about having to take something "seriously" once there are super powered people in spandex flying around and punching each other.

Now, Rising Stars might be bad for entirely different reasons and that's just coincidental, I don't know.

 

I don't mean for that to come off aggressive or for you to explain yourself or anything, it just made me furrow my brow a bit and I thought I'd mention it.

 

Post in Schism! We needs more X-Fans that are up to date! I'm liking it too.

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you seem to write something off as "bad" if it expresses too many ideas that you don't agree with or if the writer expresses political leanings that you find distasteful. That doesn't seem fair to me. I mean, Orson Scott Card is a dangerous lunatic that must be stopped, but I can admit that Ender's Game is pretty cool, y'know?

I feel like we had a thread for this. If not there should be.

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Just to be clear, I classed my recent reads into Good, Bad and Ugly with Rising Stars under Ugly, which are comics that were basically good, but with which I had personal issues about particular elements that made me not enjoy them. So I never said Rising Stars was 'Bad'.

 

I also praised it on a technical level.

 

Also My Rising Stars issues don't kick in until the 3rd arc which without getting spoilery is when the Specials go on a crusade to remake Earth for the better and bring JSM's politics into it.

 

 

EDIT: Also, forgot to put in my GOOD list, that I finished Black Summer, another good one from Ellis. This had confusing art at times, but the story was excellent and had those trademark Ellis Superhero elements I mentioned which is making you think that where he takes the story is both surprising and natural.

Edited by Jumbie
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Ah but, I actually don't know for sure that these are JMS's politics that I dislike. I'm being critical of the political philosophy and actions of his characters in the story. I just assume it's a reflection of what JMS believes.

 

The thing with Card is that Ender's Game gives very little away about his politics. Hell, he has a sympathetic muslim character all through the book and that doesn't mesh with his current anti-muslim stances. So to have the discussion of his politics cross over with his book, you'd have to pull the two together artificially.

 

In my case, these characters spend 9 issues doing things against my sense of right and wrong, so I feel ok, bringing up the politics in a discussion of the merits of the book. To me that's no different from complaining about how nonsensical Lex Luthor's plan is in Superman I (or Superman Returns) and why it wouldn't work even if Superman weren't around and things went exactly as Luthor wanted.

 

 

But to answer you Question Lycaon, I'm pretty sure there is a thread about this general question of creators beliefs and their art.

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oh shit i didnt know it ended. fuck.

 

well, you're bad enough for not liking Rising Stars, but bish lets his ideology ruin fantasy stuff for him sometimes too, maybe that's a libertarian thing. as for Secret, i think you gotta remember they had some stuff handed to them by events at the time (Ares, etc).

 

for me, the meat of it was:

 

Fury's PMCs at the UN, Fury taking out the traitor (so awesome), and the reveal @ Jacob/Scorpio as a double agent - ive been reading fury for years, so tying in the Scorpio Connection and all that was so cool, the book had twists like an Alistar Maclean novel and really tied up all of spy-marvel in a way no one's tried for years...most writers just want to do knockoff 007 stories with the character.

also, the Mikel stuff was outta nowhere too. but yeah, they didnt build much with that team that will last the book, i guess?

 

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Yes, not liking a book cuz the characters make senseless/bullying/irrelevant choices that the writer wants us to accept as heroic and positive is a LIBERTARIAN thing. It's the old impossible/improbably divide. You can get me to believe that a man can shoot fire from his hands as if by magic. You cannot get me to believe that using that power to burn up all the coca plants in South America will make the world safer or better or even do so little as end the abuse of drugs.

 

Re: Secret warriors: No, no, the Ares-type stuff etc has little do do with it. It was purely a matter of trying to focus on too many things at one time and not getting anything portrayed in any kind of coherent fashion. As I said, the books SHOULD have been great. The concept and scope were excellent. The execution was lacking.

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well, you're bad enough for not liking Rising Stars, but bish lets his ideology ruin fantasy stuff for him sometimes too, maybe that's a libertarian thing. as for Secret, i think you gotta remember they had some stuff handed to them by events at the time (Ares, etc).

 

 

 

Wait what?

 

Kinda curious about what in particular you are talking about. Unless you mean when writers THINK they know what the fuck they are talking about when it comes to politics and clearly do not.

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Jumbie: ill give it a re-read later, it wasn't a great idea but it didnt stop me from enjoying JMS shit there, just one solution in a fantasy setting. i get your impossible/improbable, but it didnt stick out so much like 10 years ago or whenever it got tied up, shit was on hiatus for fucking ever too.

moreover: if "what kind of answer is the army building better gov't housing and superheroes burning down drug crops?" is the question, the answer is: it's a comic book one. i sometimes try to judge things based on the medium, and im not sure what books you're reading that handle current political topics with depth/pragmatism, but in the early 2000's, there was this and Cla$$war. those solutions dont work for you (or me, for the most part) but i could see metahumans seeing them as answers and taking those actions, so i dont see the improbability there.

 

as for Secret Warriors, nothing in my spoiler tag made you "OH GOD THIS IS HOT SHIT" when you read it? how much Fury have you read, from say Steranko on? cause they went into all kinds've angles on his history.

 

bish - you kinda just illustrated it; if a writer puts up something you disagree with, they dont know what the fuck etc etc. we've talked about this before, you kinda give the hyper-environmental stuff in JRPGs a pass over the years, cause fuck, if you dont you're not gonna enjoy most of it (and god knows plot isnt always a strong point anyway), but views that dont allign to yours prevent you form enjoying stuff. maybe i didnt notice it before, but youve kinda worn your views on your sleeve more when talking about these things in recent years, just something ive noticed whereas i can read something atrocious like Liberality with views i practically abhor and still enjoy it if its fun because it's fantasy, even if halfway rooted in our times. didn't mean to diverge this thread too much, just saw a pattern.

again, writers fuck up philosophy/medical/other stuff i know a fair extent on constantly, it doesn't throw me off as much though.

 

and hey im not paying for these things anyway

Edited by The NZA
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"i could see metahumans seeing them as answers and taking those actions, so i dont see the improbability there. "

 

Yes and so could I. The problem isn't with the probability of the characters choosing to do these things, it's with the author making it so that these things succeed when in all probability they would not. In Rising Stars, the attacks on the drug trade DID end it and further, ending the trade improved society, the Superhumans taking over the govt DOES make society more prosperous, the 'projects' they built DID end up becoming successful, rather than becoming ghettos.

 

See, if the Specials had tried their shitty agenda and it had come crashing down on their heads because of how impotent, naive and counterproductive it was, I wouldn't have minded at all because that would have been the most PROBABLE outcome by a long way. Instead it's a lecture from JMS on how his politics would make the world better.

 

And the funny part is I don't mind him *attempting* this. When I write my own stories, things happen and consequences come according to how *I* think the world works. So if, for instance, the president in my story tried to solve unemployment by using shitty, make-work 'stimulus' programmes, I would have unemployment remain high for the next 2 years in my fictional world.

 

And if your politics didn't align to mine, you'd probably think I had constructed an improbable world. And you'd find fault with my world. And I wouldn't care because I have to write the world the way I see it working. Just as I'm sure JMS doesn't care what I think of his politics, because he thinks the world works a certain way. It's a personal views thing, which is why I described the comics as ugly rather than bad.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

 

 

Although. I should add there are two levels to doing the whole politics in fiction thing. JMS *did* commit one sin which is that he just throws out his solution without attempting justification, so the heroes attack drugs and the drug trade stops. He never goes into the mechanism of why the coca farmers decided to be poor honest subsistence farmers instead of switching to hydroponics or moving their plantations to Mexico or disguising their field in a way the heroes couldn't find like in a cave, why cheaper synthetic alternatives weren't developed etc.

 

The second way to do it, on the other hand, is to show the process that leads to outcomes in a society, the way for instance 'Animal Farm' does it. Where the reason the pigs become autocrats is explained on the level of the pigs' motivations and personality and the reason the worker animals accept the pigs' rule is shown in their conversations about trusting them etc.

 

Now, the second method isn't foolproof, because you can obviously still be contrary to your readers beliefs about how people act and think, but at least you're making a stronger justification.

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He never goes into the mechanism of why the coca farmers decided to be poor honest subsistence farmers instead of switching to hydroponics or moving their plantations to Mexico or disguising their field in a way the heroes couldn't find like in a cave, why cheaper synthetic alternatives weren't developed etc.

 

okay, let's look at this point right here. i see what you're saying. but the whole scene was a few panels, was it not? what im saying is, focusing too much on this feels like kevin smith talking about all those poor contracted architects/construction workers/etc on the death star.

 

judging on JMS himself, he's another hit-or-miss guy - he revived Amazing Spider-Man, but interjected some of the weirdest shit the book saw (totem spider-god, gwen stacy knocking boots with osborn, etc), and his recent Superman & Wonder Woman stint apparently went poorly. with Rising Stars (and Midnight Nation too, another one you might dig), he was early on into writing comics/following Babylon 5 and i took it he had these stories to tell, but again unlike say Cla$$war or some of Ellis' work, it wasn't sold as being political - RS was more about supes in everyday life. this might be why im more forgiving when he ties everything up together at the end like that.

 

 

out of curiosity, were you bothered by the kumbaya moment of "everyone got to see what it'd be like if we played nice together for a day" moment? or creating fertile land in the middle east to solve most of its problems, etc?

 

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Having not read (much of) Rising Stars, all of this sounds like Miracleman Lite. Maybe these super people just don't have enough power to make serious changes.

 

MM actually solves the drug problem, by legalizing everything and saturating the media with honest information on their harmful or benign effects.

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Right, see, that I could get behind, cuz the problem isn't so much drugs as it is the violence and corruption that surrounds illegal drug trading. Use of drugs alone would at worse be a minor problem in the overall scheme of things, so legalisation sounds like a good solution.

 

I don't think it's lack of ability to make serious changes. They eventually held near complete control over government, military and commerce.

 

They used their super powered genius to create their version of Apple that made them the richest people on earth and which pumped out technical innovations like crazy that helped the world (One of the things they did that I had no problems with.) One of them became president and blackmailed congress into going along with everything he wanted by threatening to expose their secrets.

 

So basically, the problem is that this fix was accomplished by rule of philosopher kings, not the will of the people.

 

To answer Nick: I thought the fertile land in the middle east was OK. There would still be idiots on both sides concerned about owning it all because it was decreed to them by history/birthright/god etc but the base of support from the frustrated masses that enabled them to have so much influence would go away.

 

The Kumbaya moment was cool too. Empathy is a big part of what modern education theory aims to instill in students because the idea of being able to UNDERSTAND, even if you don't agree with, a person makes you able to deal more reasonably with them and cooperate. And that was one of the places where JMS did what I said he should have done and shown how the event affected individual people and changed their thinking and actions.

 

The drug fight was NOT just a few panels. It was a major part of their programme and ended up being a significant plot point in the death of on of their most powerful members.

------------------------------------------------------

 

Nick, I'm not so sure why you seem to be pushing for JMS's absolution in this. I've been very careful not to attack him for what he did, just to say that I can't accept it from my own perceptions.

 

To give you a clearer idea of why I have a problem with this, consider one of the many faults of Battlefield Earth. The scene at the end where the harrier jets still work after 1000 years instead of just rusting away into dust and their fuel hasn't even evaporated away. And then cavemen get inside and are able to fly them in combat.

 

The whole time you're watching that you're thinking, "This could never happen. I can't take it seriously." It doesn't matter that the movie wasn't intended as a serious examination of the structural integrity of metal machines, the movie makes you step out of the suspension of disbelief.

 

Similarly with Rising Stars, it doesn't matter that the book isn't intended as a political tale, it has unrealistic politics and advocates authoritarian govt as a way to make life better.

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