Art by Joe Quinones and Laura Allred, Writing by Matt Fraction
Published by Marvel
There’s hardly any momentum going as far as the future-Human Torch or Dr. Doom plots that began a few issues ago, and only a sliver of development on the “Medusa is working with the Frightful Four” plot. The whole idea of “filler” issues carries this pejorative air, but that’s exactly what this issue is and it is perfectly fine because of it. What we get here are some vignettes: Dragon Man searching for Bentley-23, Ant-Man and Darla running afoul the Yancy Street Gang (reimagined as Anonymous), and one of the Moloid children deciding he is really a she. There’s a little less of the Arrested Development/Royal Tenenbaums dysfunctional family dynamics/celebrity gossip culture hybrid this issue–just that Yancy Street stuff–but that was more in the Allreds’ wheelhouse; this script’s more internal, with Joe Quinones drawing more inset panels focusing on the character’s puzzling, grimacing, or beaming over their situations (two of Scott “Ant Man” Lang’s scenes, for instance, have panels where a dream of his deceased daughter cut into the page). It’s easy to forget this is a superhero comic most of the time, and that is not a failing. Too much of this stuff has become about one thing and only one thing: punching. Roughly 52 times a month, DC tries to publish comics that are just hero A punching costumed person B in the most violent ways. The better ones (all five of them) come up with compelling reasons, but most only facilitate this fanboy shit for its own sake. This, on the other hand, is all about a dad who can’t get over his daughter’s death or a green-skinned child skipping around in a pink dress because that’s what s/he is comfortable with. Y’know, entirely normal stuff.
Crawling Sky #3
Art by Brian Denham, Writing by Joe & Kieth Landsdale
Published by Antarctic Press
On the other hand, this is just slow. A one issue horror story stretched well past its breaking point. And it’s not scary to begin with. Brian Denham’s artwork is much more consistent this issue, likely due to every shot being either a closeup or in tight quarters, so he doesn’t get to screw up proportions on medium-distance shots like he did previously. About the only thing spectacular about Crawling Sky is how Denham reminds me of Terry Moore (if he were to do a mix of charcoal gradient, woodcuts, and traditional pencils ‘n’ ink), which only makes me think I should either go back to reading Strangers in Paradise or suck it up and buy Rachel Rising or Echo.
Batman Incorporated #10
Art by Chris Burnham, Jason Masters, and Andrei Bressan, Writing by Grant Morrison
Published by DC
It’s been interesting how Morrison, Burnham, et al. have essentially been running the same game as Snyder/Capullo over in Batman Vanilla: secret societies bent on controlling/destroying Gotham, demolition of the Bat-Family, illogical detours, and a fixation on the grotesque. Where Night of the Owls and Death of the Family are kind of dreary and navel-gazing attempts at shocking readers for praise (and money), Batman Incorporated would rather give a callback to Miller/Mazzucchelli’s Batman: Year One by having Bruce Wayne take the whole “I shall become a bat” thing to a very literal conclusion.
(What? It’s not like that wasn’t on the comic’s cover?)
This isn’t a battle between the Silver Age and the grim’n’gritty era, it’s a mashup. A remix. A sampling of all the great Batman tunes. There’s a sly little joke where Talia–all decked in a freakier-than-thou skull mask–discovers Batman has taken the Man-Bat formula she’s weaponized during Morrison’s run, and says “No. He wouldn’t…” But of course he would! Batman’s all about coping with grief. About us wrapping ourselves in myths and iconography to get through senseless tragedy, whether it’s a flag, a cross, or even a mask. It’s not necessarily healthy (which has driven the deconstruction/reconstruction Morrison’s been doing his entire run), but it’s how we handle things. And there’s few things more traumatic to someone than burying their own child. Snyder can pour all the ammonia he wants. That goofy stuff? It’s hiding demons.
Art by Carlos Magno, Writing by Paul Jenkins
Published by Boom Studios
Even though things go to hell this issue, nothing about it stands out. Not the writing. Not the art. I mean, it’s nice the characters don’t just lie down and take their fate, scrambling as they do to try and escape the facility (or, in some cases, take the chaos as a chance for revenge), but there’s nothing surprising or even all that exciting in these pages, since a few more characters we barely know the names of get killed (including a female speedster “vaporized in an instant”). Magno’s character designs–descended from the leather-fetish of Bryan Hitch’s Ultimates–aren’t distinctive enough to make most of these characters anything but hollow duplicates.
Also: I really wish Jenkins would drop the YA book naming convention he gives to the opposing cliques. “Supes” and “Fears”? Come on. It’s not insulting like “Pearls and Coals” or as silly as “Parallels and Perpendiculars“, but it sits at the same table.
Young Avengers #4
Art by Jamie McKelvie and Mike Norton, Writing by Kieron Gillen
Published by Marvel
The more telling moments in Young Avengers have to do with how these characters think. A lot of it is self-involved, discombobulated, and arrogant–demonstrated best during a diagram spread of Marvel Boy’s flashy rescue (easily the finest bit of storytelling McKelvie and Norton have done thus far)–a lot like the teen movie archetypes in Joseph Kahn’s Detention. Where a lot of middle-aged comics writers tend to go with this is pointing out how shallow these “young people” are, what with their Twitters and their textings. In superhero comics, the younger generation just simply isn’t worthy, or capable, of heroism the way precious Spider-Man and Batman are (this despite those characters also acting out teen-like behavior at various points in their adventures). At least, not without guidance from the older (conveniently more marketable) heroes.
Gillen, like maybe two or three writers of the current generation of Big Two creators (Vaughan on Runaways, Bendis in the early goings of Ultimate Spider-Man), just sees this as another personality quirk. Something to add to, not take away from, typical superhero hijinks. Like Kahn, he might play the phone-obsession and the Internet use for laughs, but it’s not the laughter of someone tisk-tisking people for being more obsessed with Youtube cat videos than the investment opportunity of soy bean futures or a 9.8 CGC-graded issue of Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four (insert whatever other thing only middle-aged men care about). It’s the laughter of someone who finds these scary “young people” genuinely amusing to observe in their natural habitat. Then suggests some Candi Staton for them to listen to.
In other words: these guys are alright.
Gold Digger #149
Art and Writing by Fred Perry
Published by Antarctic Press
Honestly, the only thing I took away from this is that Fred Perry must be using this to try and get more teenagers involved in archaeology. How else do you explain the abundance of beautiful young people dressed in tight clothing (at least before the clothes are zapped away by magic) being all nerdy and into ancient urns?
Well, okay, besides just him wanting to draw boobs and butts next to urns and ruins?
Jupiter’s Legacy #1
Art by Frank Quitely, Writing by Mark Millar
Published by Image
That whole contempt for youth thing I mentioned up above? This would be an example of that. Oh, sure, Millar is pretending to hate consumer culture/celebrity gossip/careerism along with youth by lumping them all together, but when even he is gleefully admitting to every single one of his comics really being a warm-up to a movie adaptation, does anyone actually buy that? Does anyone actually think having Quitely draw headline-news stuff on a TV in the background means this is a comic that’s actually going to have something to say? Of course not. Everyone’s just waiting for the racism, the sexism, the just flat-out gross. What everyone involved–from the creation to the distribution to the consumption–really wants out of this is to revel in our filth. It’s the same process that happens every time someone complains loudly about Jersey Shore or Honey Boo Boo or whatever other talk show freak show is making the rounds at the Enquirer or People.
And what people, especially comics people (many of which are staring down their 30s, 40s, and even 50s) , really like is anything about how awful the youth are. That’s why two pages are devoted to setting up a punchline that yes, some girl we’ll never see again is waiting to fuck one of the superheroes in the men’s room of a club.
This isn’t Millar at his most shameless. He does spend a lot of time having the older superheroes argue about how screwed up their kids are and why. And he doesn’t really give Quitely anything interesting to draw, besides a “dream-painting” a psychic uses to lull a villain while his buddies break the guy’s spine. That part’s interesting. The rest of it? Still pretending to say something about the financial crisis while it cuts up the coke.