Thursday, August 13, 2009

New Comic Cavalcade

This week our reviews include Thor #602, RASL #5 and Captain America #601. Okay, so none of these books came out this week, but whatever. If Cap can bounce through time, then so can I.

Thor #602

J. Michael Straczynski, Marko Djurdjevic, etc.

First off, let me say that it’s nice to have the real numbering back on Thor. Yes, Marvel has taken some guff for its policy of slapping numbers onto comics seemingly at random, but some titles just don’t look right with single digits. 602 is looking good on Thor.

Something else that’s looking good on Thor? The pencils of Marko Djurdjevic. Sorry to all the people who love Oliver Coipel, but I’ve had my fill of the new “fat face” look. Coipel’s Thor looks way to much like Roger Clemens for my taste; I’m surprised he can get that sweaty moonpie to fit through the neckhole of his shirt. Djurdjevic’s Thor has more of an Albert Pujols look to him; muscular, yet slender without going into Andre Dawson territory. It’s just better suited for Thor. Or, apparently, for the NL All-Star team.

As far as the actual story in #602, well, eh. Every time a new issue of Thor comes out I have to put on my sound dampening headphones to drown out the clamor of the furious fanwanking coming from my internet speakers, but personally I haven’t quite understood the love. Like, yes; love, no. I mean, I’ve liked the run and I like this issue, but the way people are talking you’d think it was the second coming of Walt Simonson – that is, if any of the people commenting have even read Walt Simonson, which I tend to doubt.

In this issue we finally learn Sif’s fate, a mere 15 issues into JMS’s run. I know decompression is all the rage, but at this point Thor has given me a massive case of the bends. There have been some very cool moments in JMS’s Thor, but they have been spaced out so much that I could drive Toothgrinder between them and have elbow room on either side. I do appreciate some of the grunt work that JMS has had to do to get Thor functional again; turning the crown over to Balder so he’s not stuck in king mode, the loss of the Odin force in this issue and the general reducing of Thor to reasonable power levels over the course of this arc are all things that should make Thor into a viable character again going forward, one that can actually interact with the rest of the Marvel Universe. But balanced against this is some weird, seemingly pointless navel gazing (I’m looking at you, state of Oklahoma) and the fact that most Asgardians still seem like immature morons.

If this all seems pretty negative, well, it’s simply my attempt to let some of the hot air out of the high flying JMS Thor hype balloon before it reaches escape velocity and shoots into outer space. The series is pretty good – the writing is pretty good and the art is pretty good and this specific issue is even pretty good. But if, like me, you think it shouldn’t take two years to say “Thor’s alive”, then you’d be better off borrowing your friend’s trade and reading it all at once. Because setting Thor up isn’t enough any more; it’s time to actually tell some stories with him.

My Grades: This issue gets a B. the run as a whole only gets a B-; some very good issues, but even more that seem like they are just filler.


Jeff Smith

I don’t know what “RASL” means. I don’t know what’s going on in this story. I don’t know why the main character kind of seems like an asswipe a lot of the time. But, there are a few things I do know about RASL and RASL #5.

Firstly, it’s all done by Jeff Smith, who did Bone, which was only one of the greatest comics of all time. I’d imagine it must be pretty hard to do something new after you finish a project like Bone. I mean, there’s just a wee bit of pressure, right? When you’ve shot the moon on your first try, you better aim for Mars with your second.

Which brings me to the second thing I can tell you, which is that it’s already pretty clear that Smith is aiming at a target I can’t even see. I don’t know just what, yet, but something is sure as hell going on in these first five issues. And if you’ve read Bone, you know that whatever you think the premise of the series is at the start, it may end up being something very different by the end from what you imagined.

Now, I know this is a bit ironic considering I just busted JMS for decompression and here I am saying that we should just give Jeff Smith as much time as he needs to develop whatever it is that he’s doing. But when Smith’s characters are talking, you feel like they’re saying something; when the characters in Thor are talking, it feels like they’re saying nothing. It could simply be the difference between a creator owned property and a title where the writer doesn’t have full power to cut loose; but even when nothing is actually happening in RASL, Smith makes you feel like that nothing is itself something.

Plus, the dude has a lettercolumn, which right there means it gets a thumbs up from me. T. M. Maple would be so proud.

My Grades:
A for the comic, B for the main character being sort of a wanker

Captain America #601

Ed Brubaker, Gene Colan

The cover announces that this is a “very special issue of Captain America”, but let me put your minds at ease: contrary to rumors, this comic does not feature a young Gary Coleman being molested by his father’s business partner. Nor is teenage pregnancy or drug use addressed.

No, the reason this is special is that it features art from living legend Gene Colan. Colan, whose first comic work appeared back in 1944, is no stranger to Captain America, having penciled a classic run that included the Falcon’s first appearance as well as the Red Skull / Cosmic Cube epic that is a clear influence on the current Brubaker run. So it would seem like this is a perfect pairing.

And it’s not half bad. Colan has been slowed recently by some reported health issues, but the art inside, while maybe not up to some of his classic work from Tomb of Dracula, is still easily recognizable; for instance, it’s not messed up like some of Kirby’s “wonky eyeball” era art. There’s just no mistaking his moody, idiosyncratic style (even though some of Carmen Infantino’s later work seemed to be gravitating towards the same ideal). The story itself is fittingly dark and atmospheric and even involves a zombie attack during World War II, which is a nice nod to Colan’s body of work.

So, yeah, it’s totally fine. What, you think I’m going to pitch an 82 year old man under the bus? C’mon. I’m not a dick like that guy from RASL. I will admit that, even though I am a big fan of Colan himself (he is a very cool guy if you have the chance to meet him) I’ve never really gotten into his art. It’s just not my thing. And I can’t say I care for Cap stories set during World War II either; is it just me, or are they uniformly and universally tedious? But considering all the strikes against it, I’d say I enjoyed this book as much as could be hoped. Who knows, you might like it more than I did.

My Grades: If I didn’t like the creators so much it would get a B-, but since I do, I’ll give it a B+.

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