Week’s Best Double Shot 1/30 and 2/6

Last week’s top three (note: the newest Cap was sold out, though I’m sure it would have made this list, if you’re not reading Brubaker’s Cap then you, frankly, are a frickin’ idiot):

Avengers: The Initiative #9, Slott and Caselli
The rampage of the “perfect” human MVP clone (calling himself KIA) armed with a deadly alien weapon continues. Casualties occur left and right and some of the characters we have come to like bite the big one plus…a skrull! The appearance of Trauma counseling Cloud 9 makes me wonder if any of this is really happening, but next months confrontation between The Gauntlet (also bearing alien weapon) and KIA looks to be pretty badass. A great book taking a look at the new heroes of the Initiative being manipulated by the corrupt bureaucracy. Slott rocks, as usual, though his humor is toned down quite a bit here. Caselli does a fine job on the art; his inking (it’s NOT tracing) in particular lends a  gloomy air to the hardcore proceedings. A top shelf title that should be on everyone’s pull list.
Green Lantern #27, Johns and McKone
The Alpha Lanterns are revealed and it’s bad news.   A powered up internal police force to watch over the other police (Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?) they just seem like an all around bad idea on the Guardian’s part. It was great to see John Stewart acknowledged for being that badass that he is and I was proud to see that, being an earth native, he knows how to ask questions before jumping into something. The Sinestro Corps War was prelude to something much larger and I’m excited to see what that is. Things are changing in the cosmic world of DC and it’ll be a fun ride; especially with Johns at the helm.
Countdown to Adventure #6 of 8, Beechen/Gray and Goldman/Ferreira
One of the 2 countdown related titles I’ve been reading; mainly because of the interesting cast. I find the Adam Strange, Starfire, and Animal Man team an exciting trio and I’ve had fun viewing their interactions. The Starfire/Animal Man tension has been good and Adam Strange has been showing he can still kick ass; though it a little disappointing the that it has taken 6 issue to get all three back together again. This issue was interesting in that it focused attention on the significant others of both Animal Man and Adam Strange; both playing a large role in saving their husbands from certain doom. I don’t see any ties to Countdown, which is good, and this title would be a fun read without being tied to that cluster-f.  I do like the Forerunner backup, she is actually an interesting character and you can’t help but hope that her quest for revenge, against both the Monitors and Monarch, succeeds. Worth a look if you’re into the sci-fi space opera comics that both of the Big Two have been putting out.

Week’s Best, 2/6:

JSA #12, Johns/Ross and Eaglesham/Jose
This title is still getting its legs after that “Lightning Saga” garbage but things are looking better. More legacies show up (ncluding the return of Jakeem Thunder) one of which (in addition to the shadow of the villain) further ties into “Kingdom Come.” Things are looking bad for the DCU if that is the direction they’re heading. This title was a little late (last issue was in December) but we get two this month so things are improving. I’m really starting to like the new members and, despite the legacy throwback feel to many of them, all seem like they’re going to be a helluva lot of fun to read.
Annihilation: Conquest #4, Adnet/Lanning, Raney
If you can look past Adam Strange’s Madman/Captain Marvel knockoff costume you’ll find a good book, not as a good as Annihilation, but a good book. Things still look bleak for the captured, and now tortured, Starlord and his stranded crew as Mantis does her best to shelter Peter’s mind and learns of Ultron’s plans. Meanwhile Ronan, Wraith and others cook up a plan to attack the Phalanx on Hala, and it isn’t what you might think. Things are heating up but I still don’t see a way to beat the Phalanx (but I do see the potential of last minute, hail mary, save by Richard Ryder aka Nova down the line). Also can we get a Groot/Rocket Raccoon mini? Please?  That “I am Groot!” line was pitch perfect deadpan humor.
Uncanny X-Men #495, Brubaker and Choi
Have I mentioned that Brubaker rocks? This is a nice quiet issue that some fans might balk at (especially after the madcap pace of Messiah Complex) but that I found pretty enjoyable. It explores the Emma/Scott relationship in some detail, particularly from Emma’s perspective and, you know what, I buy it. It’s a bit romantic, a bit sappy, but it works within the context of the Marvel U and I like it. There is one attempted humorous line that falls a bit flat to my ear but other than that the writing is top shelf. The Iron Man/Cyclops confrontation in particular was worthwhile and Cyke raised some valid points and I’m glad to see him finally maturing (in Messiah Complex and here) into the leader he is supposed to be. I’m not too sure of the ending lead-in to the next big conflict but I’m willing to run with it as Brubaker and company continue to explore the concept of an X-Men without Xavier.

On Spiderman…

If this were a true and just world you would likely be seeing Amazing Spiderman #549 would be on my top three list of comics this week.   Now that my rage has somewhat abated I can understand the editorial need to steer Spiderman back towards his roots, I don’t have to agree with it, but I can understand it.  I can also see that choosing top shelf writers and artists was absolutely necessary if they wanted to maintain at least some sort of viable fan base.  Slott (Month 1) had the hardest job.  Introducing readers to a new continuity, reintroducing old characters, and basically doing his damnedest to set up some interesting plot twists.  Poor bastard.  From what I understand, isolated from the context which the whole “Brand New Day” concept emerges from, Slott did a pretty good job.  Which makes that little caveat all the harder to swallow because I find separating this run from what came before night impossible.

That being said I managed to breeze through Guggenheim’s first issue and found myself enjoying it.  Guggenheim has a real handle on Spidey’s voice; enough to the point where I could almost jump on this whole “Brand New Day” bandwagon.  Jackpot, the red-haired superheroine introduced in this issue, has a personality similar to Peter and is almost so obviously Mary Jane that I could almost believe it isn’t actually her.  The banter between the characters is reminiscent of some of the best issues of Ultimate Spiderman.

And therein lies another major contention with “Brand New Day.”   Sure the Ultimate titles lay outside the purview of the main Marvel U but the Spidey there and the Spidey currently running around in Amazing are far too similar.  Was Spidey a darker title than usual in the last couple of years?  Yes.  Was the adult Peter Parker further removed from the comics reading youth of today?  Yes.  Does that mean he wasn’t an interest or relatable (sorry Dr. Shannon) character?  No.   Does that make retconning the near-entirety of a writers (lengthy) run a justifiable action?  I certainly don’t thinks so.

For an industry filled to the brim with seemingly static characters who change only in small ways (costumes and powers mostly) Spiderman was one of the few who had evolved into something, or someone, (slightly) more mature than he started out as.  Not only did he evolve but he evolved in no small part thanks to his famous mantra: “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.”   A mantra that is, in my own humble opinion, directly contradictory to even the mere contemplation of a deal with the devil.  I can’t help but feeling betrayed by that.  As a result I find myself unable, or perhaps unwilling, to stop seeing Brand New Day through the lens of that betrayal.

So…kudos to you Mr. Guggenheim on what seems to be a solid grip on Spiderman, and on the crafting of what looks to be an interesting and exciting run.  I just hope Joe Q doesn’t suddenly decide to erase all your creative ideas from continuity because it doesn’t fit with his editorial vision.

Once I’m done going through this week’s stack I’ll have top picks chosen.  With a couple from last week for good measure.

eBooks – e + i = Badass!?

Jim Lynch, from Extremetech has a decent discussion of the possibility of an Apple produced eBook reader; including a nice summary of supporting rumors floating around the net.  The Amazon kindle is the newest competitor in the eBook field and is rather tempting….if you have the $400 to drop on it.  eBooks are a strange phenomenon but one I would wholeheartedly like to see succeed.   While I doubt the eBook will eclipse the printed book in my lifetime there is the possibility that, given a really sweet device, the younger generation(s) could finally take the eBook more mainstream.  Apple with its “hip” young image (at 25 it feels weird to say that) is THE company that could give ebooks the appeal, and sexiness, they need to make it in our digital world.

Quick Review: War Machine, Andy Remic

War Machine

War Machine by Andy Remic, Solaris Books, 2007.

This is the high octane summer blockbuster action movie version of sci-fi. Aliens, Total Recall, Commando, and Predator all rolled up into one well-paced package. The novel follows Keenan and his Combat-K squad on a quest to recover an item that may lead him to discover the individual that killed his family. The quest is only a backdrop for an exploration of the bonds between the members of the Combat-K squad, the politics and other forces that are moving them, and the mysterious history of the Combat-K Universe. The novel is full of unique characters, from the dry witted security bot Cam to the bat-shit crazy Franco (think Murdoch from the A-Team but violent and slightly more delusional), and big action set pieces that keep what is familiar ground remain interesting.

I can’t say I was a big fan of the ending but the entirety of War Machine, from its breakneck action to surprising plot twists certainly made it an enjoyable read. I still prefer the more epic scale of Space Opera but this novel does the down and dirty damned fine.

C+, recommended but not required…see your local library.