So, there was a Comic Con last week. Things were announced, most of which I have nothing to say about. It is cute, however, that Marvel’s Avengers sequel is going to have a subtitle sharing that of recent terrible-superhero-crossover/eugenics endorsement Age of Ultron. I imagine the film will have a weak ending, followed by a non-sequitur to promote another five movies coming out months after it, because that’s what Age of Ultron did. Come to think of it, that’s how the movies end, too. Brand synergy, people!
Dinosaurs Attack #1
Art by Herb Trimpe and Earl Norem
Writing by Gary Gerani
Published by IDW
It’s not a surprise Dinosaurs Attack is schlock. Topps Trading’s spiritual sequel to its Mars Attacks card series–which IDW revived to commercial success last year–aims directly at adolescent fascination with gore and shock imagery. This comic adaptation (a reprint of Eclipse Comics’ failed attempt at a mini-series back in the 80s) holds off on those pleasures until the closing moments, previewing mayhem and blasphemy (a triceratops goring churchgoers) along with punk rock humor (a vacationing family unaware of its youngest son being snatched by a dinosaur). Earl Norem’s paintings don’t settle for mere pulp homage. They also attack Norman Rockwell sentimentality: an idyllic park scene is first interrupted by a teen joyrider drinking beer, who becomes the first casualty of the time-traveling dinosaur invasion. Artist Herb Trimpe, who does the bulk of the storytelling, doesn’t fare as well. Scenes involving the “Timescan,” a device used for viewing the past (in IMAX, no less), lend an eerily godlike presence to prehistoric vistas and a pair of reptilian eyes that end up staring back at the audience, but continuity gaffes dog Trimpe at every turn (characters change wardrobe from panel to panel).
What Trimpe does do consistently is uphold the moral undercurrent of Gary Gerani’s script. PSA tactics like the drunk driver or a reminder to not litter aside, there’s a legitimate progressive streak to the characters. Divorced scientists Helen and Elias are equal in stature, even as they spar in public and private (being more considerate of their daughter than their egos). That their bickering leads to introspection, and later fucking, reads less like the emotional abuse of pick-up artists and more a complex understanding of romance and sex post-feminism (he a traditional man, she an independent woman). Trimpe depicts Helen in strong, confident stances, as opposed to demure, available pose. This may be lost on fanboys, who long since replaced history with nostalgia (and made Geoff Johns their Messiah), but it is a reminder of the comic book’s often populist, accidentally forward-thinking roots.
Art and Story by Giannis Milonogiannis
Published by Image
Taking on writing and art duties this issue, Milonogiannis runs free with his use of open space. There’s less dialogue and narration than normal, and Prophet under Brandon Graham and Simon Roy has already gotten sparse with both, as a lone Prophet clone is sent into an ancient space station to activate a machine. A suicide mission, really. The nature of clone John Atum’s duty, coupled with surroundings bordering on the agoraphobic (with little room to hide in the cavernous ruin, he’s hunted by a security system reminiscent of the shadows in Ico), makes clear the series’ Earth Empire holds little regard for the value of human life. Even Atum’s name (from the Egyptian creator god) implies he, like the other Prophet clones, are meant for single purposes, and then to be discarded when they can no longer be used. A quiet horror amidst cosmic serenity.
Art by Stefano Caselli
Writing by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Spencer
Published by Marvel
If any of Marvel’s “architects” was suited for this double-shipping scheme, it’s Jonathan Hickman. Reams of characters speaking cryptic, circular dialogue (“It never ends until it has to end, and then too late to begin.”) chased by odd panels of posing characters without dialogue or context (this time it’s the Space Knights, of Rom fame) is Hickman’s specialty, mistaking obtuseness for mystery and rambling for complexity. In essence, there isn’t much separating this volume of Avengers from the previous one heralded by Brian Michael Bendis: a mega-arc which is only ever vaguely pointed towards, so as best to form a spine for the next summer crossover, a large cast of characters serving as background fodder (would anyone notice that Master of Kung-Fu‘s Shang-Chi even appears in this issue?), and so clinically distant a view of mass murder it ventures into apathy. The threats Hickman (and co-writer Nick Spencer) regularly tosses out have “countless” death tolls, yet his characters show little concern for bystanders. Similarly, the art shows little consideration for the physicality of its action scenes. Stefano Caselli and Frank Martin create images with the over-posed quality of John Cassaday, but with none of the deliberate choreography and spatial relations: one nonsensical sequence has Bruce Banner turning into the Hulk, smashing a desk, and causing a SHIELD agent 10 feet behind him to fly up in the air as if uppercut. Martin’s coloring, in particular, overdoes the digital effects (it certainly doesn’t match his work in last year’s Thunderbolts #171, where his cold hues captured the horror of recidivism). The result is a comic that is, with all its plot mechanics spinning and hopping about each page, strangely inert. Monolithic, even.
This is even before Hickman’s Captain Universe (the most vaguely-written character at his disposal) demands that the Avengers “Must get bigger,” in order to combat some approaching, unseen threat. It’s a statement endemic of the current Marvel tradition to have super-teams composed of hundreds of characters–all the better for merchandising–with these many elites vigilant for foreign threats. And yet, they must always get bigger, more powerful in order to protect us (Captain Universe again portends:”To protect a world you must possess the power to destroy a world,” a nihilistic counterpoint to Byrne and Claremont’s Dark Phoenix Saga; another character is even developing along these lines in the most boring Dragon Ball Z reenactment ever). All the better to watch you, as you buy drip-fed plots from week to week.