Schachat's Weekly Breakdowns
Schachat dreamed of his tricycle talking to him...
January 31, 2005
folks, why aren’t we making more giant robot comics,
these days? The Japanese are slaughtering us in this market,
and now Dreamwave’s Transformers is being
put out to pasture. I ask you: have we learned nothing from
economy car and personal stereo markets of the past?
Damn, we must be getting behind in education
well, imagine you’re writing Amazing Spider-Man.
You’ve already reinterpreted Spidey’s origin,
rewritten his history, and (through no fault of your own)
lost the use of major nemeses to other series. It’s
issue #516. The fans are crying out for your head on a pike.
What do you do?
Why, you rewrite the character’s history
and origin some MORE to create an ALL-NEW nemesis, of course!
To be fair, the seemingly impervious Charlie
Weiderman did get his start last issue, but this month we
see him rise from the ashes of his old lab wearing the supposedly
indestructible skinsuit that promises to get some Spider-Senses
tingling. When Peter Parker hears about the disastrous explosion
over the morning news, he rushes out to the scene, but,
as you might guess, Charlie has fled the scene, prompting
a flashback sequence which reveals he may not have been
such a nice guy after all.
it's tingling, that means it's working...
say I’m really torn by this story. The present day
sequences done by Mike Deodato and company look gorgeous,
but half the book consists of ugly flashback sequences by
Mark Brooks and a different production team. What makes
it so hard to digest is the shoddy attempt to make it feel
like a four-color flashback when NOTHING in the art feels
Silver Age. It’s the kind of work I’d expect
to see on one of the new Marvel Age titles; not Amazing
And, much as I defend JMS’s extreme
story choices, some of the simple details he writes here
don’t work so well. Seeing someone as wise and peaceful
as Uncle Ben beating the crap out of a group of teenagers
just doesn’t ring true. Then seeing him suddenly and
angrily forbid young Peter from being friends with Charlie
puts the nails in the coffin.
that weren’t enough, we’re left to question
why Peter would choose to defend the weak as Spider-Man
when his first attempt to stick up for someone ended with
them taking advantage of his kindness. Hell, we then have
to wonder why Peter would help him do it on an even greater
scale years later.
While I like some of the things going on
and think the creators came up with a decent concept for
a new villain, the execution just isn’t up to snuff.
Hopefully, things will come together in an issue or two.
Then again, we said the same about the last
Spidey arc, and look how THAT divided the fans.
I don’t think anyone disagreed that the new volume
of Amazing Fantasy was in big trouble, which is
why the restart as Arana: Heart of the Spider
#1 was quite a good idea. The original first
issue of this storyline gave us a spidergirl who wasn’t
Spider-Girl and did so very, very little in three issues
that I gave up on the title completely. But all that’s
changed, now… right?
a full-fledged wallcrawler with her own unique powers these
days (some kinda of carapace armor) and a group of spider-friends
to help her save the world from the Sisterhood of the Wasp.
After a standard beating of street thugs to get info on
bigger fish, she and her pals saddle up to take out a crooked
judge. If only Anya’s cold weren’t messing with
the good news is this issue gives us a definite good guy
with an evil organization to fight and a mystery to uncover.
The bad news is I still don’t really care. Fiona Avery’s
solo work with the mystical spider origin she and JMS wrote
into Spider-Man’s history just hasn’t done much
for me. She’s got magical spider powers. Great. And?
Admittedly, the carapace is better than
nothing, but it seems about as useful as rollerblading gear.
I mean, what kind of ancient bloodline protects its avatars
with a temperamental quasi-spider symbiote that leaves her
torso unprotected? Sure, she’s kicking ass now, but
Anya’s just waiting to be gutshot. All in all, this
title’s gone from boring to mediocre. If that’s
enough to earn your coin, so be it.
#134 just weirded me out. It doesn’t
push the limits of storytelling or make bold artistic strides.
It doesn’t challenge notions of superheroes and their
place in the world. It doesn’t force the reader to
closely examine its details. Most of all, it doesn’t
got a new box of crayons!
Tim visits stepmom Dana at a rest home where
she’s still recuperating from “War Games”
(aren’t we all?), and, while she’s not well,
we can also rest assured she’s not crazy. However,
as Bruce Wayne discovers, she’s not Tim’s legal
guardian, either. Left without a parent, Tim gets the surprise
of his life when Bruce offers to actually adopt him and
make him his son.
Strangely, Tim’s elated to hear this
and sees it as the logical conclusion of everything that’s
happened since he got involved with the Bat. He dances around
Bludhaven, recounts some history for new readers, and somehow
fails to notice the mysterious archer who’s shadowing
him. Until he gets a chest full of arrows, that is.
the big question we’re left with is WHY Tim wants
to be Bruce’s son after all the “I’ll
never be Batman” tirades. We’ve seen these speeches
a lot lately in Teen Titans and Robin,
and, if it had just been Geoff Johns writing it, I could
understand the sudden shift. However, getting this from
Bill Willingham after Tim’s fear of becoming the Bat
has driven him to Bludhaven… well, it’s pretty
return to high school seems like it might be a repeat of
Willingham’s early arcs, but that ends when he screams
at the student body to leave him the hell alone. At first,
I was hoping the arrow-firing stranger might be a certain
new rival of Tim’s from this month’s Green
Arrow, but the method seems wrong, and I’m beginning
to worry that Robin will get a new mentor in the form of
his newly discovered long lost uncle (no, I’m not
Robin went from being mundane to energetic
and even inventive under Bill Willingham’s steady
hand, but this post-War setting is starting to fall apart
under a confusing characterization. Damion Scott’s
art is hard on the eyes, but this month’s cover is
absolute poison. This issue is much better for new readers
than regular fans, but who’s going to plunk down cash
when your cover looks like a convention sketch? I’m
not giving up on Robin yet, but this outing won’t
be much fun for anyone following the saga of Tim Drake.
Simpsons may never end and Futurama was cut
down in its prime, but the two Matt Groening series never
managed the all-too-rare TV crossover. Well sir, unnecessary
crossovers are why the good Lord gave us comics, and why
have just one crossover when you can squeeze out more? That’s
right; apparently Futurama Simpsons Infinitely Secret
Crossover Crisis! wasn’t enough, so the folks
at Bongo Comics are doing it again with The
Simpsons Futurama Crossover Crisis II #1.
“Chapter One: Slaves of New New York”
opens with the sudden appearance of every Simpsons character
in the Futurama universe, prompting exclamations of surprise,
“What the heck’s going on?”, and “Change
the channel”. Eventually, Professor Farnsworth shows
up and disperses flashback pills to explain the bizarre
circumstance through a convenient plot device:
It seems the Prof. was attending yet another
invention convention with his newly patented self-eating
watermelon when he tripped and the stupid thing devoured
itself. Thinking fast, Farnsworth remembers that the barriers
between realities are still weak from the last crossover,
so he rigs some pinking shears to an iPod with a shiny control
nob and cuts up a Simpsons comic, releasing all the fictional
characters into the real world to be used as cheap slave
labor (one of the downsides of being fictional).
is essentially a gagfest, relying on some cheap laughs,
puns, reference humor, and familiarity with some characters
from both series. That said, if you actually get the jokes,
they’re pretty damn funny. The plot gets a little
lost in the mix, but the same happens on Simpsons
every week and you don’t see anyone complaining.
attempts at 3D comics are pretty nauseating, which is why
I’m still baffled that The Symbiotes #3
works. I wouldn’t call it beautiful, masterful, or
any of the other quote-friendly adjectives it clearly isn’t,
but it’s damn impressive to see in a 50-page book
by one artist (with some help from one other) actually come
together like this.
series’ story is both simple and absurdly complex,
borrowing elements from Lord of the Rings, Total Recall,
and numerous other Sci-fi plots to tell a tale of a group
of rebels taking on an empire. The twist is that the rebels
are super-powered part alien/part human warriors and the
empire is a humans only club.
Having fought off the Human Empire’s
forces in the last issue, the Symbiotes now drag along wounded
human soldier Khalid after he stands up against the Empire.
Meanwhile, his buddy Gustav infiltrates the Empire’s
Academy after meeting with a mysterious stranger and confiding
that he suspects Khalid is… different. True, Khalid
did have an alien in his bloodline, but he’s still
mostly human. Or is he?
There are a lot of problems with the art
in this book, mostly coming from the same reliance on programs
and templates we’ve seen in motion graphics since
a the late nineties. Lens flares abound, cloth looks unreal,
blurring covers up for mistakes, foregrounds lack detail,
and backgrounds are cluttered. But, again, I’ll forgive
a lot of that since it’s pretty much one guy putting
the whole thing together.
And, surprisingly, it works. The plot combines
enough solid elements to pull you in, weaving a bunch of
threads into a fun adventure with a dose of mystery. If
the creators could bring a few more artists to help on their
graphics, I get the feeling this could do some good business.
For now, we can just be content that the $2.99 price tag
is a bargain for 50 pages of enjoyable 3D storytelling.
Definitely give this one a flip.
admit that Ultimate Fantastic Four takes its time
setting up simple events that are long-established in the
Marvel Universe, but I’ll be damned if it ain’t
fun. Ultimate Fantastic Four #15
finally takes us into the newly discovered N-Zone with the
Four as they come to the conclusion that space is generally
pretty boring. (Well, Reed and Sue are having a ball, but
Ben and Johnny would rather be home playing PS2.)
Warren Ellis has had some fun applying his
brilliant pseudo science to how the Four can possibly exist
and how their bodies work, but here he devotes much of his
exposition to the nature of the N-Zone and how it functions
as a collapsing universe. Of course, he uses Reed and Sue
as his mouthpieces, which drives Ben to take a spacewalk
before his brain seizes up. Meanwhile, Johnny is actually
having trouble staying warm, and they’ve started to
pick up broadcasts that sound like an alien language.
Looks like the N-Zone is about to get more
Glad as I am to have Warren Ellis on this
book, the return of Adam Kubert has given us back much of
the humor and humanity that faded away in his absence. While
giant alien pterodactyl skeletons flying through space make
for a great sight, it’s the counterbalance of Johnny’s
smirks, Reed’s earnest stares, Sue’s bewilderment,
and Ben’s nearly total lack of expression that lets
readers connect with their brainy adventures.
going is still a bit slow, but when all the Ultimate Universe
storylines are rehashes of general Marvel Universe plots,
I’d rather enjoy the ride than rush through to Kree/Skrull
wars, hero deaths and resurrections, and team roster changes.
So far, Ultimate Fantastic Four is reinventing
Marvel’s First Family with just the right blend of
science fiction, teen comedy, and revisionist history to
hook you. Recommended.
going to start my review of WE3 #3
by saying it’s GODDAMN IMPOSSIBLE for me to give an
objective opinion of the series finale and I shouldn’t
even be trying but, hey, I have to. The first two issues
blew me away, so, short of delivering a hastily scribbled
diatribe on the beauty of menstruation, there wasn’t
much Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely could do to ruin this
book for me.
The great Scott McCloud once pointed out
that simplifying the appearance of a character allows us
to project our own identity on that character. That’s
all well and good for cartoons, but in the world of highly
detailed comics, it’s usually box office poison. Yet
Frank Quitely’s oddly quasi-realistic art, when applied
to household pets turned into military weapons, gives us
such a strong emotional link to these characters, it’s
traumatic when we see them suffer.
Having survived their initial escape and
run-ins with fearful civilians, the dog, cat, and rabbit
team of WE3 find themselves hiding out in a railyard where
a homeless man tries to nurse them back to health. The drugs
that keep their cybernetically-enhanced bodies going are
wearing off, 3 (the rabbit) has taken an all but fatal shot
to the head, and the military is closing in. Worse still,
the government has unleashed 4, a more heavily armed dog,
to finish off the wounded trio.
3 hobbles out of their hiding place in a
daze and is quickly disposed off by the seemingly unstoppable
4. 2 (the cat) runs into the distance just before 1 hears
their creator, Dr. Roseanne, call for him from a blind alley.
Snipers get a bead on him while the doc calms him down,
whispering his real name to him and bringing his memories
rushing back before shielding him from a hail of bullets
while he rushes off into the night.
hand, the very ending of this miniseries pulls a punch.
It rewards us with some happiness in the face of inhuman
cruelty, and, thus, doesn’t ring quite as true as
it otherwise might. But a sad ending would be so psychologically
crushing, I don’t think any reader could stand it.
As is, WE3 accomplishes the rare feat of using
the comic medium to make us think, excite us, and make us
cry all in three sparsely worded issues. This book is amazing
and I can’t give a much higher recommendation than
the one I give now. But, again, I may be a little biased.
Predictions for This Week: Detective Comics #803,
New Avengers #3, Shanna The She-Devil #1, Supreme Power
#15, and Ultimate Spider-Man #72.