12 February 2005

ménage à trois: 2/9/05

[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.]

It was a strong week for indies big and small, overshadowing the Big Two's output as everything from Grant Morrison's entertaining oddball, Vinamarama, to the intriguing Captain Gravity and the Power of the Vril, to the satsifying conclusions of Lurkers and Ezra made into my stack. The announcement of Ed Brubaker's signing an exclusive with Marvel finally tempted me into checking out his efforts on the relaunched Captain America, and going back a couple of weeks for the most recent issue of Sleeper. It also made the latest Greg Rucka-penned issue of Gotham Central that much more special.

Twenty-eight issues in and Gotham Central is still going strong, one of the consistently best-written comics being published today. Greg Rucka kicks off a new story arc in issue #28, with Stefano Gaudiano stepping out of Michael Lark's shadow - he inked many of Lark's earlier issues - and proving to be a worthy successor, nailing the murky, atmospheric style that's as much a part of the series as Rucka and Brubaker's great scripts have been. Rucka's favorite cop, Renee Montoya, returns to her old neighborhood to investigate a secret basement lab a couple of kids stumble upon that turns out to belong to one of the Flash's Rogues, and results in a police officer being horribly burned as he tries to save them. Montoya's still on shaky ground here, having to fight for the assignment because of her personal connections to it and her recent history, and Rucka balances the requisite police procedural aspects with some personal tension as Montoya's father, who disowned her a while back when she was outed as a lesbian, is in the crowd. Gotham Central is as reliable as a comic book gets: 9 Minutes

Oh Captain! My Captain! Marvel's red-white-and-blue, shield-throwing relic ranks up there with Superman on my list of men in tights I have little interest in. The Pollyana-ish aspects of both have always been a turnoff to me. And yet, since Greg Rucka has managed to keep me hooked for nearly a year on Adventures of Superman, I figured Brubaker deserved a shot at doing the same with the Captain, especially considering Michael Lark had joined him on the title (also having signed a Marvel exclusive deal recently) to provide some flashback artwork. Unlike Superman, who everybody knows something about, Captain America is more of a mystery to me, so the combination of the flashbacks to his World War II history and the fact that he is still brooding over the events of Avengers Disassembled, means Brubaker is able to fill in the blanks while having an emotional foundation to work from and move the story forward. Issue #3 is a nice mix of exposition and action, as Cap and S.H.I.E.L.D. race to London trying to track down the Cosmic Cube which was stolen from an assassinated Red Skull in the first issue. There's a great, almost wordless, five-page fight scene that reminds you that Captain America is one of Marvel's badasses and artist Steve Epting makes it look convincing. And because Brubaker is no slouch, it doesn't feel like decompression. He ends on a cliff-hanger involving someone named Jack Monroe that would have been a bit more effective if I'd had any idea who he was. (A quick Google search later revealed his identity, but I won't spoil it here.) Nevertheless, Brubaker has my attention and Captain America has landed on my pull list: 8 Minutes

From work-for-hire to creator-owned properties, the sign of a true talent is that there's little difference in the quality of the work they do in either arena. I hate excuses I've seen for some writers that claim they're much better with their own characters. If you're going to phone it in because you don't own it, don't bother! Comic books are too expensive for that kind of [lack of] work ethic. Thankfully, Brubaker isn't one of those writers as his work on Gotham Central and Captain America is as good as, if not better than, what he does in his own Wildstorm series, Sleeper. I missed out on the acclaimed Season One, but was intrigued by the buzz and jumped onboard when Season Two started. Six issues later, I was ready to jump off the bandwagon, though, as the story had bogged down a bit. Something was missing for me, but I couldn't figure out what it was until issue #8 made it clear: the supporting cast wasn't developed enough to really care about what was going on. All the intrigue, all the action, after a while it started feeling like it was spinning its wheels because Brubaker hadn't developed anyone but his main character. This issue, Miss Misery takes center stage, though, and delivers a knockout performance that injects some much-needed energy into the series. One thing Rucka and Brubaker have in common is they write strong, complex female characters; not a shrinking violet in the bunch. I like strong, complex women: 9 Minutes


Greg said...

Guy: I hate to bug you, but what issue of Captain Gravity are you talking about? I have the first two, and didn't know if the next one came out. If it's #3, I'll have to have a chat with the guys at my store ...

Always fun to read what others are reading! Keep it up!

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

No, it's issue #2. Thought it just came out but maybe I just noticed it for the first time since I was actually looking for it. It was YOUR recommendation over at "Hey Grown-Ups" that turned me on to it. Good stuff!