19 December 2004

ménage à trois: 12/15/04

[One Marvel, one DC, both published the previous Wednesday, plus a random indie from whenever I feel like it, each reviewed quickie-style: 1 Minute=bad, 10 Minutes=good. Connections, if any at all, may be forced purely for the experience.]

"The best laid plans..." sometimes go awry, and in this case, it's Marvel's fault as I wasn't interested in anything they published this week. As such, it's a double dose of the Distinguished Competition, with Identity Crisis #7 and Batman: Gotham Knights #60 hooking up with Devil's Due's Mu #1 for an immensely satisying group session.

First up, arguably the most anticipated comic book of the year concludes DC's mega-hit mini-series Identity Crisis not with a bang, but more of a satisfying tease that promises much more to come. Those looking for the revelation of the killer to be a jaw-dropping, toe-curling moment were not only very likely disappointed, but also weren't paying close enough attention to the story Brad Meltzer was telling. One of the biggest hints was in DC's choice of artists for such a high-profile project - not the fanboy-approved stylings of a Jim Lee or Michael Turner (though they cheated a bit having Turner do the covers, wonderful though they were) but instead going with the blue collar, emotive work of Rags Morales. The tragedy of Identity Crisis goes way beyond the death of Sue Dibny which, just like in real life, is ultimately a terrible symptom of a larger ill - in this case, the dark side of being a superhero, a side DC rarely explores, especially with its major icons. Similar to M. Night Shyamalan's underappreciated Unbreakable - semantics aside, second only to The Incredibles for best superhero movie ever - Identity Crisis is about the journey its characters take and its effects on them, effects which will reveal themselves over time, in other stories. Meltzer has laid the foundation the DCU will build on over the next few years, and it's a strong one that bodes well for the future: 9 Minutes

Last year's Jeph Loeb/Jim Lee run on Batman was one of the more over-hyped, overblown events I've fallen for and I'm still a little bitter about it. Lee's stellar artwork carried Loeb's unnecessarily convoluted and unsatisfying "who-is-it?" thriller and, in the end, the best thing I took from it was accidentally buying the pencil sketch version of Batman #612 that Comics Buyers Guide claims is now worth $20. Actually, the best thing was being introduced to the writing of A.J. Lieberman who picked up the Hush storyline in Gotham Knights and made it his own in a far-superior six issue run before the War Games mega-crossover interrupted things. In GK #60, Lieberman picks up where he left off, Hush returning for another round of cat-and-mouse with Batman, kidnapping Alfred, hinting at a sinister plan, and revealing he's not who Batman thinks he is. Well-written with complementary artwork from Javi Pina and Francis Portella, this is the kind of Batman story I love: 8 Minutes

Devil's Due is still on my "coal in their stocking" list after fumbling the Micronauts' re-relaunch and blowing G.I. Joe Reloaded's potential suggested in the Cobra: Reborn one-shot, but I decided to give them another shot when I came across Mu this week. I've become a big fan of fantasy since I started playing D&D again last year and have been hungry for something other than Conan - and now Ezra - for a regular fix. The setting is pretty straightforward: a long dormant evil stirs while humanity has grown "fat and weak" during a thousand-year long period of peace. An obsessed scholar pores through the Sekronomicon, a book of ancient prophecies that reveals a great evil is about be unleashed upon Mu. Like the biblical Noah, no one believes him; and, also like Noah, he's right. Manson Khan and Andrew Dabb get off to good start, treading familiar ground but adding their own appealing spin to it all. Mark Lee and Zack Suh do a good job depicting Mu and its inhabitants, with Suh's stunning background work especially standing out. Devil's Due has my attention again: 7.5 Minutes

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