Jason Schachat's Weekly Breakdown
Schachat now has it in for donkeys...
September 3, 2004
week, Jason Schachat takes you along for his ride on the
four-colored pulp pony. Feed the addiction, and the addiction
feeds you. This week Jason was late because of a weird confluence
of Hurricane Frances and Paramount Pictures. It was such
a wacky excuse that it had to be real. So pretend you're
reading this last Friday...
For some reason, I had the “Batgirl
Theme” from Batman: The Animated Series trilling through
my head for days last week, and I haven’t seen any
of those episodes in years.
Is the DVD god commanding me to buy the
premiere team continues to disassemble this week in Avengers
#501, which lands half the team in hospitals,
morgues, labs, and warehouses while the rest crumble under
the absurdity of what’s going on. Iron Man is forced
to resign as Secretary of Defense after his drunken tirade
in the last issue, then conveniently shows up to one-punch
the rampaging She-Hulk and drag Captain America out from
under a truck. And then they all squabble and cry for the
rest of the issue. Now, I may have painted this as poor
drama, but Brian Michael Bendis DOES strike some chords
and delivers a well written destruction of the beloved team.
we still have to question if “Disassembled”
is necessary. Do the Avengers really need to go through
hell again? After the strides made in She-Hulk,
the last thing I wanted to see was her on another ill-timed
berserker rage. Tony coping with alcoholism, Yellowjacket
grief-stricken at Wasp’s bedside, Cap playing the
silent, well-intentioned, ineffectual leader; it’s
just not a ton of fun.
Avengers fans were going to be pissed off,
no matter what, but the way Marvel’s reveling in their
promised bloodbath may chase a lot of old schoolers away.
At the same time, there are far too many references and
old conflicts at work to attract new blood. And THEN they
have to slap “Disassembled” on every damn book
associated with the team, ruining a bunch of other series
for a conflict they don’t even seem to tie into.
yes, I’ll use this as an opportunity to go on a rant:
Crossovers need to stop. Sure, there has been the occasional
novel idea that’s justified a crossover (the Bat-books’
“No Man’s Land” kicked off really nicely
with the opener that Back to the Future scribe
Bob Gale did), but crossovers have rarely been designed
to do anything other than make money by dragging readers
from one title to another. Well, kids, you know what happened
after I read the first few issues of this summer’s
Batman crossover (“War Games”)? Aside from Robin,
I dropped every Bat-book I’ve been reading. Now, this
might just be my own kooky brain at work, but I can’t
imagine other fans wanting to slog through these expensive
and unrewarding endeavors any more than I would.
has thankfully kept its involvement in running storylines
to a relative minimum, and we haven’t needed to buy
other titles to understand the Avengers plot, but even the
stupid logo has been enough to make me think twice about
picking up a title. Avengers #501 makes for a decent
read, and David Finch’s art (aside from the horrible
faces) is great, but I have no idea who to recommend this
book to. Bendis-junkies, I guess.
Oh, and a note to Marvel and DC: You want
to tell big, expensive cross-title stories? Just cram ‘em
straight into anthologies. These crossovers are broken,
old warhorses that need to be put down.
in point: Captain America and The Falcon #7.
The thoroughly uninteresting war on a drug cartel has been
momentarily placed on hold to catch-up to the events of
Avengers #500, and I’m still confused as
all hell. Christopher Priest has Falcon acting like a street
pimp while Cap hallucinates through the day after opening
new romantic doors with Scarlet Witch, yet otherwise remains
well-intentioned and ineffectual. And, dammit, they keep
dwelling on damn Bucky Barnes, again. By the end, it seems
like they’re dovetailing into Tony Stark’s UN
speech, though the timing may not match up quite as realistically
as they’d like to think.
I will admit that Joe Bennett’s art
has made this series a few thousand times better than it
was with Bart Sears at the helm, but there’s still
NOTHING happening. They just sit around. They argue. They
sit around. They mouth exposition. They sit around. JUST
FRIKKIN BLOW SOMETHING UP, ALREADY!
So, no, I wouldn’t recommend it.
it’s just me, but Firestorm is feeling more
and more like DC’s answer to Ultimate Spider-Man.
The pace, the main character, the small-world problems overwhelming
a super-powered youth… Firestorm #5
continues Jason’s crisis with Casey, his polymorphic
first fan/nemesis. Of course, our young hero can’t
summon his “nuclear” power if he doesn’t
absorb someone, so he nabs a female jogger in the park who
turns out to be a cop. Nice. Then he discovers that his
touch has twisted the already murderously unbalanced Casey
into an unstoppable rock monster. Double nice. Oh, and later
Superman shows up to give him a stern talking to a la Ward
Cleaver. Man, everything’s coming up roses for Jason.
pacing on Firestorm has been gradual to a fault,
so I only ever find myself just so hyped about it. However,
Dan Jolley’s approach to the “teenager in over
his head” story is just different enough from the
slew of others piled on the racks to keep readers around
for the long haul. In a lot of ways, this issue is similar
to last month’s meeting with the JLA/battle with Casey,
but there’s a sly build up going on, here. Ultimate
Spider-Man is about Peter’s constant struggle
against being a superhero, even though he’s pretty
good at it. Jason is a terrible superhero wielding nearly
limitless power, yet he’s positive he’s making
the world a better place. This could be fun…
Cross’ pencils take over wherever Jolley leaves us
hanging, and you just have to love the way he makes Casey
feminine yet pants-wettingly terrifying (…not that
I… Moving on--). Chris Sotomayor’s colors exploit
every shine and glow Cross offers, and, considering this
is a book about a man with a flaming head, that’s
a helluva lotta glow. I have my doubts as to where the next
month’s tie-in to Identity Crisis will lead
us (starting to have some doubts about Identity Crisis,
for that matter), but I can pretty safely recommend this
issue. Unless you have something against Superman talking
down to another superhero like he’s their father,
kids, I recently said I wasn’t a Gambit fan. And I
stand by that statement, even though it may make me seem
a bit biased going into Gambit #1;
let me assure you that, despite the fact I have no clue
what the appeal of said Cajun is, I judge a comic more on
the quality of the story than any attachment to a character.
(For example, I like Garth Ennis’ run on The Punisher
even though I find the character to be shallow, pointless,
and dull. Ain’t I just nutty?)
Seriously, though, I put aside any lingering
hatred I had and whole-heartedly absorbed Gambit’s
return to New Orleans and the lifestyle of a gun-for-hire,
and, much to my surprise, found I almost liked it. Almost.
I’m not upset by the references to Magneto and Gambit’s
lack of physical disabilities setting this either well in
the past or somewhere in the future, but the story doesn’t
build much on the character’s history (which may actually
be a good thing, when you look at where that’s landed
us in the past) and left me feeling like any number of comic
book heroes could be filling-in, here.
The plot is the usual tale of a romantic
scoundrel coming home for some sin and excitement, and there’s
a lot more potential here than I would’ve imagined.
However, Georges Jeanty’s smooth pencils don’t
cover for the lack of conflict throughout most of the issue.
If you’re a Gambit fan or think you can stick it out
to see if things pick up by next issue, go for it. Anyone
else should beware the voodoo.
the curse of the DC Focus line, Hard Time
has grown into a title I look forward to so much, it nearly
makes up for this week’s drought. The story, for anyone
unfamiliar, asks what would’ve happened if, in a high
school shootout like Columbine, one of the gunmen not only
never fired a shot, but also survived the incident so the
law could send him to prison for life. Oh, and the incident
awakens telekinetic abilities, too. Sounds crazy, no? Sounds
like more fodder DC threw on the pile to justify a new imprint,
doesn’t it? Why, just the very notion probably makes
you want to laugh!
that looks suspiciously like the Thunderbolt after
too many days eating at the Circus Circus buffet...
You make me sick…
no, really, this series captures the slow yet suffocatingly
rich prison drama that comics and TV are perfectly built
for. Not as scary as OZ or as warm and fuzzy as
The Shawshank Redemption, Hard Time pushes the
limits of DC’s non-Mature Readers books while proving
that comics can be better when they revel in the world of
a prison rather than focusing solely on action-packed breakouts.
Issue #8 builds upon the story, showing
Ethan (our super-powered convict in question) pushing his
power to the limit as he discovers his mother in the arms
of his appeal counselor. Unfortunately, his reverie is broken
and he finds he can’t re-enter the trance, making
his remaining days in solitary confinement… well,
punishing. Swift, the Neo-Nazi who made Ethan’s first
days so unpleasant, continues to smack around his “girlfriend”
Cindy when Turo, rising member of the latino Diablos, overhears
his boss has a beef with Swift that, if resolved, could
help Turo find a home for his pregnant girlfriend.
Time accomplishes what every monthly title needs to
if the current comic format is going to survive; strong
characters, numerous intertwined threads, steady mysteries,
and nearly limitless potential that’ll keep us coming
back every month. I was late in getting to this book, and
I’ve regretted it ever since. Whether the Focus imprint
survives or not, we can be sure that, as long as Steve Gerber
and Brian Hurtt can keep it going, this book will last for
a while. Strongly recommended.
so, this may be a stupid question, but what the hell’s
the point of Hulk & Thing: Hard Knocks #1?
After all the weeks of seeing those damn banner ads with
The Thing chewing on Hulk’s head, I had to know what
was going on, but, now, I’m even more confused than
I was going in. It seems to be about The Thing tracking
down Bruce Banner so he can have another freak to talk to.
Or maybe it’s about the two of them brawling for some
reason. This issue, however, seems to be about The Thing
jawing-on about some fight with Dr. Doom where he got called
See? It’s just-- why?!?
As uninspiring as Bruce Jones’ writing
is, Jae Lee’s art is just confusing. Having visited
many red rock deserts, I have to call them on creating one
(in America, mind you) where featureless red dirt stretches
out to the horizon in all directions, except in the one
opening shot where pinnacles and a cactus make it look like
Wile E. Coyote’s Monument Valley. If this were Krazy
Kat, I’d be fine with that, but it just looks bizarre
juxtaposed against the realistic foregrounds. Then Lee follows
the grand tradition of bad movies and makes every vehicle
outside the café a 40’s relic with tires that
screech as they tear down a dirt road. But the greatest
sin has to be the sheer confusion the panel transitions
create. When you can’t even tell what you’re
LOOKING at, it’s time to put the book down and head
home. That’s what I’m advising, in this case.
of a welcome return home, Jubilee #1
finally gives fans of the spunky Chinese-American mutant
what they’ve always wanted-- okay, that’s a
lie. Frankly, I don’t think anyone wanted this series.
And, no, I don’t think there is such a thing as a
Jubilee fan. Well, at least I’ve never met one. Could
be one of those things like Bigfoot…
Anyways, the story lands Jubes in L.A. with
her estranged auntie and a brand new high school that isn’t
quite ready for her kind. (So original it HURTS, dammit.)
She soon makes friends with the school geek, crushes on
the handsome yet sensitive alpha-jock, and brawls with his
insanely jealous, popular girlfriend. (Indeed, comics may
never be the same.)
book isn’t as D.O.A. as Amazing Fantasy,
but it has none of the charm or joy that makes me hold Mary
Jane so highly. It’s a title that proves just
how bland an “All Ages” book can be. Robert
Kirkman’s signature sense of humor is completely absent
from this tale, and there just isn’t any synergy with
Derec Donovan’s artwork. In fact, if this issue does
one thing, it proves what amazing finds Kirkman’s
prior collaborators have been, as Donovan demonstrates decent
artistic ability (Jubilee actually looks Chinese. How often
does that happen?) that doesn’t meld like Kirkman’s
work with E.J. Su, Tony Moore, or Ryan Ottley (It doesn’t
help that Donovan draws all the teenage girls like supermodels,
though). In case you don’t already know it, steer
clear of this one, folks.
we’re on the subject of Robert Kirkman, I don’t
think it’s necessary to review Invincible
#15 and crab about how not enough people are
buying it, but I’ll still recommend it; especially
to people who’ll enjoy the tie-in to last week’s
SuperPatriot: War on Terror #1.)
#6, the OTHER DC Focus book that’s justified
its existence (yeah, looks like there are only two), sinks
young Tom deeper into the pits of super-powered teenage
depression when he attempts to apologize to the girl he’s
crushing on after snubbing her in the school cafeteria.
Sadly, as is Tom’s fate, his efforts are thwarted
when his perch outside her window ends up being the perfect
vantage point when she decides to undress. Our hero then
uses his powers to help his mom move furniture and mopes
around outside the mall, pondering how he could use his
new abilities to better the world before realizing he’d
rather just drop-kick the fat guy taking up half the bench
he’s sitting on.
it sounds pretty weird, and Kinetic is a pretty
weird book, but it honestly feels like what an introverted
young teen would be going through once he got super-powers.
This isn’t an X-book where some kid suddenly discovers
he can melt things with his sweat and suits up in brightly
colored spandex. This is a high school drama where a virtual
bubble-boy is cured and has to adapt to the new world around
qualm with this story is the languid pacing. Don’t
get me wrong, it’s a style that suits the book perfectly,
but it feeds the argument of not getting “enough bang
for your buck." Warren Pleece’s art fits the
moody, stark nature of the book and Kelley Puckett’s
restraint as a wordsmith is to be admired, but it doesn’t
leap off the shelves like one of Marvel’s mutant teenager
tales and lacks the explosive moments that keep stretched
out narratives like Ultimate Spider-Man selling.
Definitely recommended, but I fear this ugly duckling may
not survive the rigors of the monthly format much longer.
Majestic’s misadventures in Metropolis take a “normal”
new twist in Majestic #2 when,
failing in his attempt to return to the Wildstorm Universe,
Majestros settles in as an elementary school groundskeeper.
The story then shifts back and forth between his youth on
Kera, Eradicator’s reboot and latest bid against Majestic,
and the wanderings of the Daemonite who started this whole
series of dimensional leaps.
is this 'Groundskeeper Willie' you speak of?"
It’s fun to revisit the elements that
would eventually come together in the first WildC.A.T.S.
team, and Majestic’s attempt to create a secret identity
somehow manages to avoid the completely cookie-cutter path
laid out in front of it, but I think nearly all the credit
this time has to go to the art team. Karl Kerschl is just
too damn good not to be getting more high profile work and,
once again, Carrie Strahan’s colors are spot on.
I will give props to Abnett and Lanning
for using this mini to give the superhero without an alter-ego
a taste of what he’s missing, but, looking at the
small picture, things are moving very slowly and gradually.
I can appreciate the way this let’s Kerschl’s
art sprawl across the pages, but there’s a lack of
excitement and tension to give the story a push. I’m
not saying it needs fight scenes shoe-horned in, but you
get the impression issues #2 and #3 of this mini will mostly
act as filler. A mildly recommended read.
Thing #7 picks up from Andy Diggle’s
stripping the franchise back to basics with its own two-issue
fill in about a cryptozoologist and a rare animal hunter’s
attempts to track down the mysterious Swamp Thing. Will
Pfeifer’s story, while drizzled with nice little cryptozoological
tidbits, fails to go well beyond the numerous Swampy stories
done in this vein. Richard Corben’s art is as cartoonily
filthy as anyone familiar with his underground stories would
expect, but, without knowing just what’s going on
now that Swampy’s a lonely plant elemental once more,
it’s hard to pull much more from this than a few fond
grins mixed with queasy moments. It’s okay, but not
strong enough to recommend.
Sylvia Faust #1 was kinda like
squinting at a standard “young mystic ventures out
into the modern world” tale after spending an entire
day in an over-chlorinated pool. The art was just so roughly
drawn, I kept rubbing my eyes to make sure they were working,
but that only made it worse. Eventually, I started to get
into the story of the bar owner trying to nail down an indie
filmmaker scheduled for a big screening event at the bar,
but Sylvia didn’t do much more than the generic stuff
we expect. This book feels more like Sabrina the So-Called
Teenage Witch in the Big City than a comic you’d pick
up every month.
And, again, the art was just hard on the
eyes. I’m guessing the roughness is intended to cover
up the extreme photo-reference work, but, man, this is so
thoroughly photo-referenced it looks like tracery, half
the time. Take a look at it if you want to know what a young
Kyle Baker and Brian Michael Bendis on meth might doodle
on bar napkins together. Otherwise, pass.
the downer/hangover after The Fury’s attack, what
do we get in Uncanny X-Men #448?
Can you say “cheap wrap-up," boys and girls?
Yes, the team meets with Brian Braddock and Meggan to discuss
whatever the hell brought The Fury back to life. Only problem:
Brian has no idea. Why, things are just peachy keen around
Braddock Manor! So, the X-Men trot off to dinner with the
Queen at Buckingham Palace, only to stumble into the clutches
of Viper, who whisks them away to the deathtraps of Murderworld.
yes, we’ve moved all the way from old school into
cliché. Thank you, Chris Claremont. The saddest thing
about this issue is it doesn’t have Alan Davis’
gorgeous art to prop up the author in his time of need.
Olivier Coipel doesn’t do a bad job, but there’s
no way it can compare to Davis unleashed. I’m not
going to say that Uncanny X-Men had redeemed itself
after being at the bottom of the barrel for so long, but
there was enough going on to make me take notice.
Well, I can’t think of a single reason to read this.
It is the definitive mediocre X-Men comic. Been there, done
that. Of course, if you’ve never been there, you might
possibly find it amusing. Everyone else should wait ‘til
District X #5 comes out next week.
Y: The Last Man #26 is the best
comic of the week. Yes, Y tops it again.
me to rage for a moment: There was a rather high profile
article in July 11th’s New York Times called “Not
Funnies” that a lot of people in the online community
touted as vindication for the years comics have spent as
a bastard art form. I was hyped up and excited about such
glowing praise from a “legitimate” source…
until I got to the part where it slammed superhero comics,
specifically citing Y: The Last Man as (and I’m
paraphrasing, since you now have to purchase the article
for 3 bucks in order to VIEW it online) some fantasy where
the last man on Earth battles Amazon lesbians. Now, far
be it for me, a lowly webcritic, to claim Review Editor
Charles McGrath isn’t an expert on the subject of
graphic narrative and sequential art -- but Chuckles can
cram it with walnuts.
The Last Man is brilliant storytelling (wholly unrelated
to superhero books or power fantasies) beyond the status
quo of popular television, cinema, literature, or even the
dreary, depressing, masturbation-filled “graphic novels”
certain pompous culturati think we’re not smart enough
This month’s issue takes us on the
trip we’ve been anticipating for nearly two years:
the story of Yorick’s sister, Hero. Brian K. Vaughan
begins his story with a flashback to the siblings’
childhood, when Hero took Yorick to a statue she called
Queen Victoria which she then used to reprimand Yorick for
taking their parents’ attention away from her; “Snips
and snails…” Flash-forward to Hero’s mid-teens,
where she struggles with both her unusual name and acute
acne, but still manages to wipe her tears away after an
embarrassing party and bed the host’s college-aged
to college grad Hero’s argument with her parents that
she’s going to abandon a possibly lucrative career
as a writer to become a Boston paramedic. Unfortunately,
the folks see it’s just another instance of her following
a boy, and Yorick’s attempts to break the tension
only piss Hero off more. Flash-forward to Hero’s final
patient — her paramedic boyfriend who died with all
the other men. Flash-forward to the store where Hero struggles
to open a can of cat food, the first meal she’s seen
in a week, only to be ambushed by Amazon gang members, fighting
until their leader, Victoria, breaks up the brawl and welcomes
her into the fold.
From there, readers can remember Hero’s
time as an Amazon and how she later attempted to murder
Yorick, but the blanks that are filled in… oh, it’s
good. And the irony of Hero’s name (after the wrongly
accused maiden from Shakespeare’s “Much Ado
About Nothing”) twists and turns enough in this issue
to make your head spin.
The Last Man has transcended the stigma of entertaining
comics having to center on muscles, flying people, fantasy
monsters, or mass destruction. We’ve known this for
a long time. But, this issue is a simple, exemplary proof
of the power in this material. Humans thrive on conflict,
and much of our conflict arises from obvious differences
between people. But what could be more unendingly divisive
say it now so I don’t have to say it again: Y:
The Last Man is a classic. It’s passed from blockbuster
debut to sophomoric musing to crowning glory of the Vertigo
line, and it stayed true to itself the whole time. I don’t
give a damn what critic attempts to label it without even
cracking open an issue; this is the whole reason we read
Predictions for Next Week: District X #5, Fables
#29, Pulse #5, She-Hulk #7, and Wanted #5.