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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Comic Thoughts for the Week of 5/1/2013

Hey folks, better late than never, I bring you my thoughts on last week's comics. I bought very little last week as I refuse to fall prey to ANOTHER big Marvel crossover, so instead I fell prey to DC's ridiculous choices with Superman, and it's there that I'll lead us off. As always, spoilers are a go!

Action Comics #20 - The New 52 has not treated Superman well at all, while Action Comics got off to a pretty nice, if slightly uneven at times, run by Grant Morrison (which is really the character he excels at, even moreso than Batman I'd argue), the core Superman book could never find its footing. Readers received a milquetoast initial run by George Perez, that he'd later argue was the subject of editorial influence; either way, it was a complete bore. Afterward, Dan Jurgens and Keith Giffen took over for not offensive, basically filling the gaps arc during the short period when DC tried to shove elements of the Wildstorm Universe into almost every book that wasn't written by Scott Snyder, Grant Morrison, or Jeff Lemire. After that was put to pasture, Scott Lobdell took over with Kenneth Rocafort on pencils. It's a nice looking book with storytelling that at least goes somewhere, just not a direction that I find compelling at all. Action Comics was my Superman safe haven, at least until the Morrison run ended.

The Andy Diggle run that was supposed to occur post-Morrison lasted all of one issue, last month's Action Comics #19, and now we have Tony Daniel scripting over Andy's Diggle's plot. I'm no fan of Diggle's, though I know people who swear by his writing, I've yet to enjoy a thing he's done. His one Action issue was a tremendous disappointment post-Morrison, with a fairly ho-hum plot that wasn't outright "bad" but just incredibly mediocre, with the only inspired bit being Tony Daniel's redesign of Lex Luthor to resemble Grant Morrison himself. It was basically Superman fighting bland looking soldiers in power-suits and then he gets infected with a Kryptonian nano-virus that's taken over his hand. How much worse could Tony Daniel really do? Apparently way worse.

Where Diggle's script was dull and uninspired, Daniel's work here is not even up to that level. It's hard to delineate between what was Diggle's plot and what are Daniel's contributions to it, but much of the story here is just utterly incomprehensible. In the opening pages, we get a Lex Luthor martial arts scene that gets no call-back and seemingly has no bearing on the rest of the story, which is then followed by Superman waking up in a lab with the infected hand somehow separated from him, yet he somehow has both of his hands. We then see Superman interact with a character that apparently showed up during the Lobdell Superman run called Dr. Veritas, but since there's no context given as to who she is or what her role is in Superman's life, everything that occurs within those pages lacks meaning. This is especially a strange thing to happen, as throughout the rest of the comic, Daniel's characters overexplain everything in unnatural and stilted ways. I don't expect to have everything spoon-fed to me as a reader, like I said, I enjoy Morrison for goodness sake, but I need a little something to tell me who the heck this person is. And then after Superman gets into a brawl with Hybrid or whatever it is the infected giant hand turns into (via some very pretty pages, though Batt's inks don't work well with Daniel's pencils, certainly nowhere near as strongly as last month's issue), we get some kind of viral zombies...your guess is as good as mine.

What I find most disappointing about what DC is doing behind the scenes, isn't so much that they're putting out bad Superman books, they've done that for years. I simply take issue with the fact that they don't even seem to care who writes their oldest, and arguably richest historically, title. After this Diggle/Daniel atrocity gets put out of its misery next month, Action is being saddled with Scott Lobdell for what is being labled a fill-in arc. It hasn't been specifically announced how low that arc will last, but in my book, any Lobdell on Action is too long. With Man of Steel coming out, you would think DC would want to pump out their absolute best for the character in the hope that the mythic "movie to comic audience" might actually gravitate towards the character, but if Lobdell is the best they can secure for Action and Superman, why even bother? I appreciate the fact that there is the upcoming Scott Snyder/Jim Lee Superman Unchained coming out in June, as well as Greg Pak and Jae Lee's Batman/Superman, but don't the flagship books of the character deserve better? I know Superman will sell regardless, but why strive for mediocrity when you have writers like Jeff Parker and Jeff Lemire knocking it out of the park on the Adventures of Superman digital-first comic (that began last week), why not co-opt Parker for Action, or Matt Kindt, one of those most brilliant writers that nobody is using regularly except for the odd back-up? It just doesn't make sense. Oh well, I really enjoyed Adventures of Superman, go download that while we wait to see if Man of Steel and Superman Unchained will be worth the wait.

Action Comics - D
Adventures of Superman # 1 and 2 - A

As for the rest... 

Swamp Thing #20 - I enjoyed everything that involved Superman and the ill effects that the Scarecrow's fear toxin was causing to Alec outwardly. I was less into the hallucination scenes, which seemed somewhat ill defined. I'm interested to learn more about what looks to be Alec's ongoing attempt at hanging onto his humanity. I'll certainly give this one more issue, though the 90's Image looking character on the last page did the book no favors. B-

Earth 2 #12 - A great read, Earth 2 is a book that started off terrifically, wandered aimlessly a bit by its second arc and now that its reaching the conclusion of that story, is catching a good deal of momentum again. Robinson's scripts are still a little overly wordy in places, and I'm not sure I find Hawkgirl to be that compelling yet, but I really like the new Dr. Fate and I think this upcoming battle with Steppenwolf should be something worth seeing. A breezier and more exciting read I'm not sure I had this week, other than the above digital Superman issues. A- 

Hawkeye #11 - Fraction and Francavilla, now there's a pairing I'd like to see occur more often. I enjoyed this issue greatly, as it gave some background to our "mime assassin" that took out Grills last month. What was really surprising was how seriously the "Tracksuit Draculas" were taken for once this time around. It's nice that we're able to dig just a little bit beneath that surface as they've basically been a one-note joke the whole run. A hilarious joke mind you, but one note. Kate was at her best here as well, and her flirting interactions with the assassin during a party were well scripted. Poor Kate is just all over the place romantically it seems. The only points I can deduct are that the issue is another place-holder rather than moving the arc forward. This problem should be alleviated by next month, I hope. A-

Detective Comics #20 - Oh Layman, for every good idea, there's a poorly executed one. The idea of Oglivy souping himself up with Venom, Poison Ivy's chemicals, and the Man-Bat serum is an intriguing idea but the battle ends so abruptly and the back-up which is the actual conclusion to the story has such an eye-rolling close that I can't say I'll keep picking up the title. One more issue is likely at least. C+ 

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