If you had cornered the 12-year-old me and asked him if he liked Superman, he would have likely responded with a derisive laugh. For what it is worth back then I certainly enjoyed the spectacle of the Death of Superman and the following Reign of the Supermen, but I never would ever in a million years would ever have called myself a Superman fan. Cut forward 15 years, and enter New Krypton. Suddenly I was sold. All of a sudden I’m buying not one Super title but three, religiously following the exploits of Supes and his family as the sudden appearance of Kandor, rescued from its bottle city, opened up a fascinating new element in the Superman mythos. While that arc ended with War of the Supermen, and I’m still on board for J. Michael Straczynski’s “Grounded” arc happening in Superman. However, “Grounded” is a far cry from sci-fi tinged action of New Krypton and War of the Supermen so, just I was starting to miss the big action of the last few years of Superman titles the JMS penned graphic novel Superman: Earth One was released last week.
I buy a lot of comics. More than I should. I rarely talk about them. I’m going to due my best to change that right here. I won’t go into detail with every comic I’ve bought in a given week rather I’ll try to highlight the standouts from the previous week. Last Thursday’s email debacle kept me occupied to the point of major distraction so I missed on posting this then. Last week was an all Marvel week for me with three titles that had me pretty well floored (note: All three featured Wolverine, this is a problem Marvel has. That dude is everywhere).
Whiteout Vol. 1 (The Definitive Edition)
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by Steve Lieber
Oni Press, 2007
I kept hearing that Whiteout is being made into a movie and since I’ve enjoyed Rucka’s work on Superman (a comic I’d normally steer clear of) as of late figured I’d give this one a shot. It helped that I managed to pick it up at BEA though only rediscovered tucked away on a bookshelf just this month. I have a fondness for the stories featuring the barren arctic (Steve Niles’ 30 Days of Night on the opposite hemisphere and Lovecraft’s epicly awesome At the Mountains of Madness being two favorites; not to mention the ever classic Carpenter version of The Thing)there is something wondrous about the setting. Maybe it is the beauty combined with the constant struggle for survival that somehow manages to evoke a certain bleakness of tone that I always find particularly compelling.
In this case the story is a murder mystery/thriller that takes some hard-boiled/noirish tropes and transposes them to the harshness of the Antarctic continent. U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko is a sort of exile, banished to serve down in the Antarctic as punishment for an earlier botched mission. Stetko is haunted by her past, battling with alcoholism as well as the loneliness and desperation of the ice. Being on an entirely different continent doesn’t stop Stetko from being harassed by her boss and I suppose no detective story would really be complete without our hero being harassed by an authority figure. When an American turns up dead on the ice it is up to Stetko to uncover the the truth behind his murder.
My first experience with Chuckles was G. I. Joe: the Movie; a film that gave birth to the horrific Cobra-La, the kind cool but not really Nemesis Enforcer, the snake-faced Cobra Commander, and the death of Duke. Thankfully the Chuckles seen in G. I. Joe: Cobra is nothing like the briefly glimpsed animated version. No this Chuckles is an ice cold, charismatic, undercover badass sent on a mission to infiltrate Cobra from the ground up. His handler, another familiar face, Jynx his only contact to his superiors.
While the rest of the IDW reboot of the G. I. Joe hasn’t got me really excited this comic has been the kind of update the series needed. The cartoon Cobra has always been a bit silly, to put it mildly, so turning them and their larger than life characters into an actual threat isn’t the easiest of tasks. While the main series is currently tasked with fleshing out the Destro/Baronness relationship (with really bad scottish dialects that I can’t quite get into) the real grounds eye view of Cobra as seen through Chuckles’ eyes is the first time I’ve ever truly believed that Cobra could be a living, breathing terrorist organization.
We’re only four issues into the series and we’ve seen a handful of fantastic updates on classic Joe elements including the BATS and the Crimson Guard. It was a bit of a sedate start, but in a good way, slowly building up to some amazing plot twists and hardcore action. Christos Gage and Mike Costa have absolutley nailed the behind enemy lines vibe. Artist Antonia Fuso manages to impart that same oppressive atmospher with his art while at the same time pencils some exciting actions scenes. This is some great stuff and if you were a Joe fan growing up you won’t want to miss out.
So this past Wednesday I picked up a copy of Marvel’s X-Force. It is my first issue since #3 hit and I got kind of tired of it’s ultraviolent schtick. X-Force, for those who don’t know, is a new team formed by Cyclops to do the X-Men’s dirty work. Where the X-Men are the face of mutant world, X-Force are the shadowy underbelly subscribing to a “by any means necessary” modus opporundi that typically sees their hands (claws, knives, etc.) drenched liberally in crimson. Given the rough times mutants have had in the past, and the events surrounding M-Day, a team that is willing to strike at enemies before those enemies strike at them is something I’m at least willing to buy.
I should preface this by saying that I was never a big Superman fan. I never found him that compelling a character but a preview a month or two back for New Krypton Special got me sufficiently intrigued to start reading…and I got hooked. Read on for some brief synopsis and my impressions…
It was a year of “big events” for comics from the X-Men’s Messiah Complex, to Secret Invasion, to the still ongoing Final Crisis you couldn’t barely pick up a comic that wasn’t tied to some sort of major event. This was, in my opinion, to the detriment of most comics involved. In 2008 no comic was an island unto intself which was a shame for those of who love solid stories of superheroic shenanigans contained in one, or at most two, titles. That being said 2008 was the year of sci-fi super-heroics for me and my most pleasurable reading moments were courtesy of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning.
The Abnett/Lanning duo reinvigorated Marvel’s space heroes in 2006 with their Annihilation mini-series. Spinning out of Annihilation was a Nova solo title and then sequel even Annihilation: Conquest. Spanning 2007/2008 saw some more great work from the duo with characters who, while long established in the Marvel Universe, were by all rights completely new and exciting to read about. Spinning out of Conquest is 2008’s best title Guardians of the Galaxy.
Guardians of the Galaxy follows a rag-tag band of heroes trying to seal rifts in the fabric of space-time. Starlord, Gamora, Quasar, Mantis, Rocket Raccoon, Drax, and Groot don’t always get along but they somehow manage to work well together as a team. Their base of operations is the hollowed out head of a Celestial, called Knowhere (and first seen in some of Abnett/Lannings earlier work) which means they get to interact with one of my favorite characters: Cosmo the intellegent and telepathic russian cosmonaut who heads up Knowhere’s security.
The Groot/Rocket Raccoon comedy due is pure genius. Never did I think that three words could ever be so consistantly entertaining (those three words being “I am Groot!”). Abnett/Lanning manage the twists and turns of an good sci-fi drama with deft hands and keen wit. Paul Pelletier does a knockout job on the art. I am particularly fond of the character designs and outfits of characters which walk the line between costume and uniform quite nicely by employing a uniform color scheme (black and red) with individual style. Pelletier excells at big action scenes and doesn’t overly rely on huge splash pages and even manages to include some rather interesting panel compositions. The series is packed full of action, drama, comedy and just plain awesome. If you aren’t already reading this book now’s the time to jump as Abnett and Lanning gear of for their War of Kings event.
Honorable Mentions: Green Lantern and Green Lantern Corps are consistantly entertaining books and Geoff Johns and company are expanding the Lantern mythology in new and interesting ways. Iconic writer Jim Starlin has had a great run on the recently cancelled Legion of Superheroes (issue 50 should be the last one). Teen drama, superheroics, and sci-fi action all rolled up in the mythology of the DC Universe makes for some great reading. The Superman titles tying in to the New Krypton arc are some great stuff as well, adding a dimension to the character that far eclipses any Superman title I’ve ever read. Last, but certainly not least, Incredible Hercules is a fun take on a character who had a true standout solo title. Much of the charm is due to teenage super-genius Amadeus Cho who manages to be great from both comic relief and actual help in the Prince of Power’s battles.
This was one of my favorite comics of ’06, and not solely for the aforementioned talking monkey or the retro-awesome robot M11, but for it’s solid art and top-notch writing.
The official Agents of Atlas site says (of the original ’06 series):
In the late 1950’s, The U.S. Government let FBI Special Agent Jimmy Woo forge a team of unlikely heroes: Together they stormed the fortress of a criminal mastermind to rescue President Eisenhower, and the group disbanded soon after. Now almost 50 years later, an unauthorized S.H.I.E.L.D. mission goes down in flames–and from the ashes arise forces from the GOLDEN AGE OF MARVEL!
The team features former Shield Agent Jimmy Woo, Marvel Boy (from the 1950s, has a fishbowlesque helmet and an honest to go flying saucer), Venus (a siren with a soul), Namora (Namor’s sister), Gorilla-Man (a mercenary cursed to be a gorilla for all eternity), and M11 (a sentiet robot with extending limbs and a death ray). Again this comics was totally fun and, as the recent Agents of Atlas appearance in Secret Invasion was proof, is going to be hella fun once again.
You can pick up the trade from your local bookstore, local comic shop, or even ask your library if they can get a copy. It’s well worth the effort. The trade is really cool as, in addition to the mini-series, it collects the character’s first appearances as well as the team’s first appearance. Great stuff.
The below picture, featured prominently over at the PW website from an blog entry claiming DC Editor-in-Chief Dan DiDio’s contract was renewed, looked oddly familiar.
A quick bit of research pinpointed the familiarity:
While Final Crisis‘ first issue was a bit disappointing the appearance of DC’s new weekly series Trinity was a welcome surprise. Out of the gate it is already better than both 52 and the abysmal Countdown to Final Crisis. The title refers to DC’s big three: Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. It also plays with the religious like mythology that surrounds and ties together those three characters. It isn’t a perfect series by any means but a solid creative team of Mark Bagely (Ultimate Spider-man) and Kurt Busiek(too many to name) keep the series from the sprawl and sporadic narrative that made 52 drag and ruined Countdown. Like both of the previously weeklies it is tied strongly with the history and unified mythology of the DC Universe. New DC fans might not like that but I imagine comic fans of all types will find something to like in the series.
To aid the newbie to DC, one not quite familiar with the lesser known faces of the DCU, one of the writers over at Newsarama is doing an annotation feature to exaplain/point out interesting facts about the characters and events in the story. Check out the series for a fun read and stop by the annotation entries for the first three issues: