21 January 2005

ménage à trois: 1/19/05

[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.]

Back-to-back trips to Miami and Ft. Collins, CO last week meant a double dose of comic books this week as I missed my pick-up for January 12th and, as such, was unable to post its ménage à trois. The good news, though, is that this week I get to pick the best from two weeks worth of comics and, instead of ripping a disappointing dud like Wolverine: [Not Really] The End #6 like I would have done, I get to moon over my first ever issue of Ultimate X-Men (#54), along with Teen Titans #20 and Azteca Productions' El Gato Negro: Nocturnal Warrior #1.

Brian K. Vaughan became one of my favorite comic book writers purely on the basis of his superlative Ex Machina. After reading the first Y: The Last Man TPB, he became one of those writers that I seek out their other work. I drew the line at the Ultimate X-Men, though, because as much good as I'd heard about the series, I just wasn't trying to go there. But then I saw Vaughan would be introducing Ultimate Longshot, one of my absolute favorite characters from my younger days, and that he was paired up with Stuart Immonen and Wade von Grawbadger, whose artwork I loved on Ultimate Fantastic Four, I couldn't resist. I'm not sure if Vaughan is simply a better writer than Mark Millar, or my connection to the regular X-Men was even more tenuous than that to the Avengers, but whatever the case, his revamped X-Men ring truer than Millar's Ultimates despite their arguably being even more drastically different. A badass Colossus, formerly of the Russian Mafiya, makes more sense to me than a Rambofied Captain America, and a punked-out Dazzler is like making gold from lead. But, for me, this is mainly about Longshot, and how Vaughan has completely revised his admittedly ridiculous original story while still retaining its heart. On an island off of Genosha, mutant "criminals" are hunted as part of its highest-rated TV show, Hunt For Justice, a Running Man knockoff, and Arthur Centino, aka Longshot, is its longest running contestant, but is running out of time. His archnemesis Mojo has been reenvisioned as a slimy, albino TV executive - "There are merits to storytelling tools like decompression." - who produces the spectacle. Professor X sends his "more passably human X-Men" to investigate, leaving his more action-oriented students behind, itching to jump into the fray. Like bumping into an old high school girlfriend, only hotter and more experienced: 10 Minutes

For everyone that complained about Identity Crisis leaving too many plot threads hanging, Geoff Johns' latest issue of Teen Titans nicely picks up a couple of them - Lex Luthor's battlesuit and Dr. Light - weaving them around Tim Drake's (Robin) emotional breakthrough/down while [not] dealing with his father's death. Johns possesses as deft a pen as there is in comics today, able to juggle action, characterization, and multiple plotlines without missing a beat. Summarizing things is pointless as Johns tightly weaves what at first seems like a standalone story told through Robin's eyes but quickly becomes a key link between the events of Identity Crisis and this summer's big event that kicks off in the highly anticipated DC Countdown in March. I have a feeling the time travel storyline currently in Johns' other team book, JSA, is ultimately connected to that same big picture. There's something to be said for reliability and consistency: 8 Minutes

At first glance, El Gato Negro: Nocturnal Warrior has all the signs of a vanity project gone awry. The anachronistic Japanese-styled title logo, the derivative hero name and costume, the black-and-white art that randomly varies between moderately detailed to pictograph-simple, sometimes in the same panel! And yet, underneath it all is a solid story introducing a Chicano-flavored hero in a full-length 32-page comic. No decompression here! Reading it, I couldn't help but remember my own Elementary School efforts at creating a comic book with my best friend, Tracy, the heart and soul we put into it, despite being in way over our heads. There's a similar energy here in Michael S. Moore's scripting and Efren Molina (credited as a "guest" penciler? in the first issue?) and Richard Dominguez' artwork that it keeps you turning the pages, overlooking some of the clichés and half-finished panels, and simply focusing on the beauty that lie just between the lines. El Gato Negro, the Black Cat, is a legendary South Texas vigilante from the sixties, an "old wives tale," who has seemingly reappeared, fighting crime once again, much to the underworld's, and at least one law enforcer's, chagrin. Dominguez is credited as the creator, co-plotter, inker, letterer and publisher, marking this as a labor of love to the nth degree, and one that I will happily drop another $3 towards for the next issue. Energy and ambition can take you a long way sometimes: 8 Minutes

1 comment:

SMASHER said...

Hey Guy,

Nice post. Give me a buzz. I've got my hands on a Geoff Johns script. Really great stuff.