03 January 2005

ménage à trois: 12/29/04

[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 Big Two ended 2004 with a so-so week, the edge going to DC thanks to the New Avengers' no-show, and despite the underwhelming Legion of Superheroes relaunch. The highlight of the week, Adam Strange #4, is joined by Marvel's self-indulgent What If...Jessica Jones had Joined the Avengers and Viper Comics' acclaimed Dead@17: Revolution #2, making for a mixed bag, heavier on the tricks than treats.

While Identity Crisis has received much acclaim as the mini-series of the year, Andy Diggle and Pasqual Ferry's Adam Strange is turning out to be the sleeper hit that most people didn't see coming. Still don't see, really, judging from its modest sales numbers. I certainly didn't, only picking up the first four issues last week after reading Diggle's interview in the excellent Writers on Comics Scriptwriting 2 and realizing he had a sci-fi background from his days editing 2000 AD. Since The Losers was one of my Top 5 for 2004, I figured I'd follow him over to Adam Strange and was glad I did. Diggle writes a gritty sci-fi tale, Flash Gordon with a Lawrence Block edge, and Ferry's art complements it to a tee. (And he gets to do his own covers!) Even the lettering stands out on this title, perfectly capturing the space opera/noir tone. In this issue, Strange barely escapes being executed as a scapegoat, saved in the nick of time by a questionable ally and continuing on his mission to figure out what happened to his adopted planet Rann and his wife and daughter, all of whom have disappeared without a trace. He then runs into the Omega Men, freedom fighters from the Vega System and a group I vaguely remember from my childhood days. Together, they get closer to figuring out what's going on and, judging from the rumor that this series plays a role in DC's upcoming "Crisis 2" event later this year, it's apparently something big. Diggle does it again: 9.5 Minutes

I hated Brian Michael Bendis' Avengers Disassembled story arc. Let's just get that out of the way. And I'm not even a big old-school Avengers fan, either. It was just sloppy, ill-conceived and, judging from how good New Avengers #1 was, I suspect somewhat self-serving. Featuring his lead character from Alias/The Pulse and being told not by Uatu but by a Bendis look-alike (DC needs to snag artist Michael Gaydos for Gotham Central immediately!), What If...Jessica Jones had Joined the Avengers feels a bit like he's flipping the bird to everyone that complained about Disassembled as it imagines a completely different outcome had his heroine of choice been a member of the team. After recapping her actual origin and exit from the superhero stage, Bendis methodically posits an alternate future where Jones accepts the Avengers' offer to join the team, becoming a formidable ally, falling in love with Captain America and single-handedly averting the Scarlet Witch's mental breakdown. What If...? or Wha...huh?!?! Fan fiction is cool, in its place, even monotone stuff like this. Unfortunately, this isn't its place: 5 Minutes

The reason I've always been leery of most independent comics is that the highly acclaimed ones rarely live up to the typically hipper-than-thou hype. It's the Napoleon Dynamite syndrome. The highly-acclaimed Dead@17: Revolution doesn't quite fall into that trap, but it comes close. A potentially interesting storyline, including political intrigue and demonic possession, is hobbled a bit by its being overly reliant on a previous chapter ("season?") that I haven't read, with characters that, two issues in, I still don't have a good sense of because I feel like there's information being referenced that I'm missing. And not in an everything's a mystery kind of way; more like an inside joke I don't get. That said, the second issue tells a brisk, soap operaish story in its too brief, decompressed 19 pages. The inclusion of a 5-page sneak peek of the Oddly Normal mini-series, while intriguing in its own right, doesn't make up for the main story's shortcomings. While there's nothing wrong with a quickie now and then, even moreso with an appealing surprise guest, when you're expecting something more substantial, it's a bit of a letdown: 6 Minutes

1 comment:

SMASHER said...

Nice commentary Guy.
Y'all have made my add to favorites page.