What I Read This Week – 2/8/12

BATWOMAN #6

Without J.H. Williams on art I find the book to be a lot less interesting. No offense to Amy Reeder et al who can draw a very competent superhero book (and I really like this cover, quiet and ambiguous yet iconic), but Williams’ art layered a whole other supertext over the book. Supertext, get it? GET IT? His art made it about identities and masquerades and not just fighting things and improbable family difficulties. There’s still a subtext about creating and participating in stories working its way through there and that is enough to boost this above the average super-book and keep me engaged. Basically I demand that my super-books are either insanely energetic and over-the-top, or entirely about people talking with as little fighting as possible, or layered with hidden meaning.

FRANKENSTEIN, AGENT OF S.H.A.D.E. #6

Coincidentally with the announcement/furor of Watchmen: You Want Watchmen? We’ll Give You All The Damn Watchmen You Could Ever Want Lemire shows up with a degraded Dr. Manhattan. I’m sure that wasn’t planned, though maybe this is like that part in Call of Cthulhu where the rising of R’lyeh sends out psychic terror waves that register in the minds of psychically sensitive artists.

VENOM #13.1

I didn’t realize this four-parter was going to have basically a different writer every issue. That seems like a weird way to tell a story. No complaints so far though!

UNCANNY X-FORCE #21 and SECRET AVENGERS #22

Remender is really getting to carve himself off a nice little chunk of the Marvel universe and do weird stuff to it, and that kind of thing usually results in developing some really interesting ideas which subsequent writers will either totally ignore or completely screw up. I still wish X-Force had better art, because this whole comic seems to take place in a series of backgroundless voids. It’s fantasy, damn it, and I want to see some fantastic landscapes!

DEMON KNIGHTS #6, LOBSTER JOHNSON: THE BURNING HAND #2, THE PUNISHER #8

These are all good comics, I just don’t have anything interesting to say about them. Other than maybe imploring you to read Demon Knights so we can be damn sure it doesn’t get cancelled. It’s fun and unique and focuses on new and underused characters instead of just Batman or something, and that means it is inevitably marked for death. The world would be a poorer place if we couldn’t watch Medieval Wonder Woman smack down a Triceratops.


What I Read This Week – 2/1/12

FATALE #2

Here’s how you do horror: keep it nice and quiet, let the weirdness trickle in slowly, don’t let them see the teeth until it’s too late. One of the hallmarks of Lovecraft was, basically, powerlessness in the face of incomprehensible cosmic forces. Curiously enough that’s also a hallmark of noir – the bad guys are untouchable because they have the power, the entire system is corrupt, all of it arrayed against the protagonist. But Lovecraft says it’s not just here on Earth, it’s the whole universe, there are mysteries you’re better off not trying to solve because you’ll see the true uncaring structure of it all and get pulled into a world of darkness and madness. Too many Lovecraft homages only see the tentacles, they miss the real point. Not Fatale though.

ACTION COMICS #6

 

Classic Morrison superhero stuff, setting up a whole world in a single issue. Let’s talk about the art in that backup though: it’s very much unlike the usual uninspired superhero stuff. It’s bright, clean, confident, and above all different. Why can’t they put out a full book with art like this?

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Obligatory “Before Watchmen” Post

On the one hand: sure, maybe it is a little disingenuous for Alan Moore to complain about other people repurposing his work, when he’s made a career out of reworking other peoples’ characters.

But on the other hand. The only reason that this is happening is because this isn’t his work, he doesn’t own it, because he and Gibbons signed a contract in good faith with DC, with every expectation that the rights would be returned to him a year after they stopped printing Watchmen and DC decided maybe it’d be better to just never stop printing Watchmen so they could take all the profits forever. And then never even really make an attempt at making things right, because why repay some crazy beard man when you could just make endless hollow knockoffs of his work?

My question is, what do they think they’re going to add? Watchmen‘s already a perfectly structured complete world presented in 12 issues. All these characters histories and fates are laid out already. All the interesting parts. And now DC’s saying, hey, if you liked that, here’s 34 more issues of irrelevant backstory! That’s THREE TIMES AS LONG as the original. And if it sells well you bet your ass they’re going to make more.

Now some of these creative teams look OK (well, 50% ok and 50% awful), but I’d much rather see them actually try out something new instead of strip-mining the past forever. I realize that repurposing the past is what superhero comics are based on, but the good ones always iterate one step ahead. The bad ones just rehash the same stories over and over, because if you love something once you’ll love it again in a slightly different form right?

Maybe it’ll be alright, maybe it won’t, it’s kind of too early to pass judgment on whether something’s good until, you know, it’s actually out. But here’s a thought: you’d probably be morally justified in downloading all the issues illegally, and then not paying DC back until a year after they leave print.


What I Read This Week – 1/25/12

SECRET AVENGERS #21.1

So far in the tradeoff between Ellis and Remender it looks like this series is going to lose some of the total weirdness (count me disappointed that they just fight run-of-the-mill supervillains this issue) and gained some actual characterization. The cast members actually have distinct personalities now! It’ll be interesting to see what the rest of the team dynamic is like. Please add more hyperdimensional threats though.

JUSTICE LEAGUE #5

I am officially bored of this book though I will probably stick around for the next issue to see Jim Lee draw Apokalips. Though with Geoff Johns writing it it’ll probably just be boringly generic. Also EVERYBODY KNOWS OMEGA BEAMS CANNOT BE TRICKED INTO HITTING OBSTACLES, THEY WILL JUST GO AROUND THEM. Darkseid is supposed to be all-pervasive, inevitable, yet fatally human. Here he is just another bad guy to be smashed. Read the rest of this entry »


Breaking the Vicious Circle

Written for the Women Write About Comics blog carnival, but also written because it needs to be. The topic: Women In Refrigerators 13 Years Later.

During the latter decades of comics, following the “social relevance” of the ’70s and the “gritty realism” of Watchmen (those quotes are more or less deserved), the threat of real violence entered the utopian world of the superhero. Rape and murder were now on the table for any villain seeking to prove themselves as a real threat. The superheroes’ non-superpowered significant others became targets to be victimized. And since most superheroes were men, that meant that it was the helpless women that got killed.

It’s not that it couldn’t hypothetically happen to men. If, say, Wonder Woman had some cute-but-mortal boyfriend (like Steve Rogers? Does she still date Steve Rogers? I can’t keep track of these things), and some XTREME new villain called BLOODICIDE or PAINSPIKE or similar came along looking to prove how HARDCORE EVIL he was, then poor hapless non-superpowered guy (who might be Steve Rogers) probably fits in a refrigerator just the same as any girl. But when was the last time a superwoman had a stable relationship with a regular guy? If she’s in a team book she’s probably seeing somebody on the team for purposes of narrative convenience. Only in the solo series where the characters date normal people so they have someone to keep their secret identity hidden from, and 99.999999999999999% of all solo series are about men.

Superheroes are a men-centric world. Written and drawn by men, assuming a male audience, with male central characters. Thus the women are incidental, usually side characters, objects to be desired or protected, defined entirely by their relationships with the men of the series. And they’re drawn to reflect that. Sure, there’s body dysmorphism for both sexes in comics, but it’s only the women that get distorted into sex objects that always pose for maximum T&A. The men are always hypersculpted icons of power, with nary a hint of sexual characteristics even when wearing a skintight body suit that ought to leave nothing to the imagination. Read the rest of this entry »


What I Read This Week – 1/18/2012

We’ll say it’s late due to snow, yeah, that’s as good an excuse as any.

PROPHET #21

The internet said this was going to be good and indeed it was! You know what this reminds me of actually is a hyperviolent Rice Boy, what with them both beind about an outsider journeying across a weird land to resurrect God. Between this and Spaceman it might be a good time for science fiction comics. Break the superhero’s hold on the direct market! Fight the power! But I suppose a lot of the enduring power of superheroes is that you can take any kind of genre and wrap a superhero costume around it. I mean, Green Lantern is basically 100% sci-fi-action-adventure. Maybe we can see some more quiet and socially oriented science fiction comics, like the New Wave authors of old? No, there is no room for that in comics. It must have explosions! And alien sex!

UNCANNY X-FORCE #20

I actually consider it a sign of a good series when I pick it up in the middle and have no idea what the hell is going on. That means it’s taking advantage of the unrestrained insanity of superhero mythology. The incomprehensible arcana. Something like that. There is Nightcrawler in this now but he isn’t the regular Nightcrawler, instead he is a jerk? I enjoy that. What I do not enjoy as much are those thick, chunky lines which render things visually incomprehensible too. Read the rest of this entry »


The Murderous Feminine in Mythology: Why Poison Ivy Shouldn’t Wear Clothes

I came to a realization when I was playing Arkham City: Poison Ivy looks weird wearing clothes. She’s been through many looks of course, all the way from Bettie Page in a green leotard to photosynthetic skin and ivy covering her naughty bits. It’s just her particular look in Arkham City, where she’s wearing a belly shirt and nothing else, looks so odd. Why (I mean, other than ratings reasons) would she even wear clothes at all?

Poison Ivy is beyond human society. The world of men is corrupt and hypocritical, and Ivy is liberated from that. She wouldn’t hide her natural body under man-made clothes. Plus clothes are generally made out of exploited plants. Ivy wearing a cotton shirt would be like a vegan wearing leather. If she does wear clothes at all, they would be made out of living plants that willingly give themselves to protect their Earth-mother from the poisoned atmosphere of the urban world.

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