Jason Schachat's Weekly Breakdown
Schachat wants Hal Jordan to work on it some more...
September 17, 2004
week, Jason Schachat takes you along for his ride on the
four-colored pulp pony. Feed the addiction, and the addiction
I feared this week.
you laugh all you want; when you have a dozen X-Men spinoffs
and “Disassembled” tie-ins staring you down
from the racks, you’ll be wetting your pants and crying
for mama like the four year old I knocked down to get my
copy of The Batman Strikes #1 did.
DC let Marvel rule the shelves, no question.
of the two DC titles Diamond neglected to list this week,
it appears only Adventures of Superman #632
actually shipped (yes, Superman/Batman #12 has
been delayed AGAIN). Does it live up to expectations? Well,
what do you expect to happen after Lois Lane gets shot?
Supes rushes to the warzone the instant
his super-hearing picks up the gunshot from around the world
(Hey, it could happen!), and he whisks her bloodied form
to the nearest army hospital, where wounded soldiers beg
him to heal with his touch. Meanwhile, the Metropolis S.C.U.
cleans up after last issue’s showdown with Ruin, carting
he and Xlim (or is it Xilm… whatever) off to prison.
But, as the Justice League scrambles to treat Lois’
in their own facilities, Ruin sucks the life from his guards
and tracks down his hostages to complete their hideous transformations.
And Superman? What can he do but sit by Lois’ bedside
Greg Rucka’s run on this book has
been pretty bumpy. Blending the realistic reporter story
with standard hero elements made for an awkward read and
adding the seductive S.C.U. lieutenant and an appearance
by Mr. Mxyzptlk pushed the book to the limits of schizophrenia.
Of course, that tends to happen when you drag in a multi-dimensional
imp, but let’s not dwell.
power of this entrée comes from Superman’s
reaction to Lois’ injury. Identity Crisis
helped bring back into perspective the danger superhero
spouses face every day, yet Superman is a very special case.
Without Lois, the man has very little to tie him to humanity
(though Ma and Pa Kent help out). Besides kryptonite, Supes’
number one problem is that he thinks like a human being
when, for the most part, he’s a god. Love and morality
are both his most appealing aspects and his greatest weaknesses.
The way he caves when Lois falls… it rings true. In
the constant struggles with remnants of Krypton and flavor
of the month baddies, we tend to forget the only way to
truly destroy the man. It’s good to be reminded.
me remind you of something else, in case you forgot: I hate
Cable. Know how I said I hate Gambit? I hate Cable at least
as much. Few characters have made such a mess of comic continuity,
and, frankly, no other bastard child of Rob Liefeld has
survived like ol’ one eye, so it’s only justified
to project my hatred onto him. That said, I actually liked
Cable & Deadpool #7 and feel
a bit dirty for admitting it. Especially considering how
the issue ends. Blooargh!
Odd Couple of comics...
there’s something appealing about Cable’s new
role as an all-powerful uber-messiah (think Neo at the end
of The Matrix, before the sequels showed us he
was just the same old dork with the ability to fly). Following
his genetic merge with Deadpool, Cable’s used his
new healing ability to ward off the technovirus and unleash
the full extent of ever-growing telepathic and telekinetic
powers. Refugees have been saved, villains thwarted, rain
forests preserved, and he even got his old spaceship back!
Deadpool, meanwhile, crosses swords with The Cat, another
stealthy assassin-type who’s seeking out the same
piece of technology DP’s hunting for.
Now, I’d rather not summarize Deadpool’s
fights and endless banter, but it really is the driving
force behind this book. Cable’s tenure as mystery
man, brooding soldier, and gun-toting renegade have never
interested me in the slightest, and the new characterization
can only last so long before his powers get nixed. Fabian
Nicieza’s writing for this series has been strongest
when he stops trying to take things even remotely seriously
and mocks everything in existence. Does everything hit?
Nah, but enough did to make me laugh out loud. Of course,
this could all change next month, what with the new contenders
introduced at the end of this issue. Recommended for now,
#64 wraps up damn near everything that’s
been going on for the last year. Matt Murdock’s brownstone
gets broken into by Jigsaw and his gang, but, rather than
face them and prove to the world he’s Daredevil, Matt
patiently phones the police. Black Widow’s storyline
comes to a close with the almost lackluster nabbing of Quinn,
the chatty assassin who’s been hired to kill her,
yet things move along at such a breakneck pace you hardly
have time to be disappointed. Matt’s estranged marriage?
Yup, they tie that up, too.
begs the question “What’s gonna happen in the
big 60th anniversary issue next month?” Since most
of the threads have been pretty well tied in this issue,
I can only surmise that a big new conflict lurks on the
horizon (remember how excited we all got when Bendis introduced
Black Cat in Ultimate Spider-Man #50?), but it
could just peter out in a few issues (remember how bored
we were when Bendis wrapped the Black Cat story in Ultimate
Spider-Man #53?). Definitely recommended, but don’t
think it’ll rock your world.
Target, however, comes through strong this
month by avoiding its two most readily available pitfalls:
1) Stories that AREN’T about identity and the layers
of a person’s psyche. 2) Stories about L.A. What’s
all the more impressive is this new arc about a young California
messiah practically had booster rockets waiting to thrust
it off in either direction, but Peter Milligan makes his
story much more an examination of religion and persona.
Issue #14 starts out pretty smoothly, introducing
young Paul James as an awkward youth looked upon with suspicion
by the members of his community-- Until he lays hands upon
a terminally ill child and instantly cures her, that is.
Some time later, Paul leads a new religious movement, attracting
the hopeless and hopeful alike, including the daughter of
a wealthy man; an insanely wealthy man who wants his child
back from this so-called cult, even if it means Paul’s
death. Sound like someone could use Christopher Chance as
a body double?
of the best things about this arc is the return of Cliff
Chiang, who’s brushwork has had me hooked since his
gorgeous miniseries Beware the Creeper. Which isn’t
to say that Javier Pulido isn’t capable, but all his
work on this series pales in comparison to the clarity and
style of Human Target: Final Cut (though, to be
fair, that book had Dave Stewart doing the same amazing
coloring he’s been treating us to on DC: The New
continues to write this series as a smart examination of
our society, which may sound a bit pretentious but is sleek
and rarely preachy on the page. Having plumbed the depths
of identity crises in 1999’s Human Target mini
and peeled aside the façade that hides the ugliness
of L.A. in Final Cut, it’s nice to see the
franchise has grown so far past simple musings on how fake
people can be. Definitely recommended.
summer’s big Identity Crisis
continues the superhero spouse killings with styling issue
#4, yet I find my interest is starting to wane. Oh, again,
there’s no doubt that Brad Meltzer’s storytelling
is damn fun to read. His insights and little heroic moments
(like when The Atom cuts a taut noose by burrowing into
the cords and enlarging himself) are a joy to read and quite
refreshing after all the other crap I’ve been slogging
looks like Wonder Woman is about to go to war...
a SECRET war...
However, this is another one of those issues
that’ll send some people running for the hills. Like
last issue’s battle with Deathstroke, it sets up the
non-superpowered heroes as forces to be reckoned with while
Superman acts like a meathead and Wonder Woman’s just
a chick with a magic lasso. Green Arrow again gets most
of the screen time, narrating the story as they investigate
Atom’s ex-wife’s pad for more clues, discovering
yet another former Suicide Squad’s M.O. at work. Supes
figures that makes it open and shut, but Arrow and Batman
aren’t buying it.
Boomerang continues his “estranged
son” side story and villains are still freaking out
or gloating, depending on where they stand, but most of
this issue is about simple character interaction. Villains
arguing with villains, heroes arguing with heroes, the proliferation
of Dr. Light’s mindwiping tale… It’s all
nice, I guess. The only part that really tickled me was
Ollie’s conversation with Hal Jordan (hey, if they’re
gonna axe one Green Lantern, I might as well root for another).
Rags Morales art is still beautiful, and
I have hopes for the next issue, but this one wasn’t
anything special. Especially once you get to the cliffhanger.
Recommended to anyone already following the series who can
take Supes playing the fool while Green Arrow gets the spotlight.
Secret Files & Origins 2004 makes it clear
that, no matter how many crises or zero hours we have, DC
history will never be coherent. I know that sounds a little
unfair, but when this one-shot can give us a pre-Crisis
tie in to JLA #107 while Superman/Batman
is still re-introducing us to a newly minted Kara Zor-El,
honestly, what the hell is going on?!
However, the bulk of the issue centers on
a Justice League Elite adventure involving the Spear of
Destiny and yet another covert plot to take over the world.
How the Spear relates to Norse mythology is beyond me, though
the story tries to draw more attention to Flash’s
dual membership with the Elite and the JLA. That’s
nice and all, but I still can’t get past how a quest
for the spear that bled Christ while he was on the cross
conjures up zombie valkyries or how it connects to the lineage
of Adolf Hitler.
Sure, everyone knows Hitler was obsessed
with antiquities (if you don’t, you clearly haven’t
watched enough Indiana Jones or played enough Wolfenstein),
but I can’t recall any story suggesting his blood
was this strongly connected to the Spear. I’ll even
forgive the fact that all those years of rigorous documentation
never once recorded Der Fuhrer having a kid because, dammit,
comics rely on these leaps of faith. But, when the end result
is this muddled, all those shortcuts downgrade a fun read
to a mediocre one.
The second story tells the tale of the last
nation to fall before the might of the Crime Syndicate of
Amerika. Er, sorta. It really spends a lot more time refreshing
our memories of the alternate Earth where good guys were
bad guys and vice versa. Well, until the multiverse was
trash-compacted into the cluttered mess it is now…
Anyways, the CSA runs amok and takes over the world, finding
they have no heroes left to fight after all their hard work
and, thus, no purpose. Alas, Johnny Quick (think evil Flash)
gets thrown forth and back in time, returning with news
that, shucks, nothing even exists in their future.
this is one of the reasons I hate time travel. Crisis
on Infinite Earths was supposed to be retroactive.
Dimension hopping got nixed for all but a few, time travel
was limited, and things like crossing the threshold of pre/post
Crisis were effectively forbidden. Did it have to happen
in the first place? No, but the constant reneging makes
it a friggin headache to remember what exists and what doesn’t.
Granted, future comic fans may not have these problems,
what with the new multiverse that’s creeped onto DC.
Me? I just want some Tylenol. Despite some
enjoyable moments, this book is too confusing to justify
the price tag, and only Elite completists should look into
may not be buying Mary Jane, but
it’s such a fun little teen drama, it hurts to hear
about the proposed hiatus. This is really the only Marvel
Age book I have any faith in. There’s something for
the manga otaku, something for the romance people, something
for the superhero geeks, something for boys, something for
girls... In fact, if I were going to give ANY comic to a
girl ages seven through fourteen, this would be it. What’s
even better is I can tell just about anybody to pick it
up and know it won’t turn them off.
#4 finds MJ late for school when she spots Spider-Man crawling
out the window of the main building. She seizes the opportunity
and finally asks him to the Homecoming Dance, his rejection
leading her to ask his identity, which, of course, ends
the conversation. It also leaves her feeling pretty awkward
when boyfriend Harry tries to give her a goodbye kiss later
on, but things only get worse when Liz tells her Flash Thompson
seems to have a crush on someone else. Of course, MJ doesn’t
have the heart to tell her she found Flash’s notebook
full of “Flash+MJ” doodles…
let her get away!
I don’t want to give the impression that Mary
Jane is anything more than it sets out to be. This
is a girls’ romance comic to the core. What’s
notable is how thoroughly it succeeds in the attempt where
all other books from the big two are dismal failures (die,
Emma Frost, die!). All-too-often I speed read through
the parts in comics where kids get dialogue, but writer
Sean McKeever actually has me caring for these brats. They
aren’t the fish kid from X-Men, the dumb
jock from Amazing Fantasy, the chola from Jubilee,
the urchins from Excalibur, or the dozens of forgettable
drones from the other Marvel Age books, and I’ll be
sad to see THESE whiney teenagers go.
Miyazawa, Norman Lee, and Christina Strain’s coloring
team also get big props for making a great looking Spidey
who wasn’t carbon-copied off the pages of Amazing
Spider-Man or Ultimate Spider-Man. Recommended.
cloned and crossbred a random selection of cyberpunk and
Sci-Fi anime, the inevitable result would read something
like Megacity909. Not that that’s
necessarily a bad thing, but the proposition of a future
where mankind has adopted cybernetic implants that reign
in our baser instincts, giving rise to a golden age where
everyone thinks eternal peace has flowered (“They
were wrong.”), only to find non-corporeal lifeforms
called Pulses have risen up to slaughter mankind willy-nilly--
Gee, I think we’ve read this book before.
The hero’s a member of a squad that
hunts the Pulses (who take root in a human host and give
spoooooooky smoke powers), and, as it turns out, was himself
taken over by a Pulse as a child. This first issue dances
around for a while, but, seeping around the action scene
and obligatory gym visit and female-agent-bathing scene,
we get a taste of themes indicating the Pulses aren’t
demonic so much as creatures from the id amplified by the
futuristic wetware. Or sentient computer viruses. God, I
hope they’re not sentient computer viruses…
Zen City looks like the latest incarnation of NeoTokyo,
the team owes some of their look to Ghost in the Shell,
the Director wears sunglasses and speaks into his folded
hands when addressing a board room full of black and red
monoliths JUST like in Neon Genesis Evangelion,
and the number of leather and vinyl outfits confirm that,
in the future, love handles have been eliminated.
On the surface, the art’s very pretty,
but more than a cursory glance will find flaws in anatomy
and a bunch of inconsistencies from panel to panel. Hopefully,
this book can pick up some more story for the next issue.
Otherwise, it’s only the decent pricetag that makes
this worth your buck. Very mildly recommended.
not sure why, but New X-Men: Academy X #5
seemed ripe for failure. This is, after all, the least action-oriented
of all the X-books, and that damn cover speaks volumes about
its soap-opera/romance leanings. It may sound hypocritical
after going on about how Mary Jane is so refreshing,
but the X-Men have a long and boring tradition of running
melodrama through the wringer until there’s nothing
left to squeeze out. New X-Men looked to be cranking
away when it spent so much of the last issue building up
love triangles, crushes, and flirtation.
Surprise, surprise; the book still works.
There’s a bit of tension during New Mutant team members
Josh and Laurie’s date that could have sunk into the
abyss when Rahne Sinclair arrived on the scene, but conflicts
center on Kevin, the boy who can rot organic matter with
his touch, and how the FBI has tracked him down for the
murder of his father. Not giving in to stereotypes, the
writers show that he loved his father dearly and, when the
other students gossip about how he’s a killed, it’s
Hellion, of all people, who comes to his defense.
And I think that’s what this book
comes down to: not giving in to stereotypes. We’ve
seen a lot of these threads before. Young mutants get in
trouble, unrequited love creates enemies, pompous students
become acolytes of Magneto; it’s in the telling that
New X-men remains interesting. There’s no clear cut
evil, no major revelations we can see a mile away, and no
five page long discussions about how “he doesn’t
love me any more”. Instead, we get the solid rebellious
teenager foundation with just enough of a twist to spice
things up. Recommended.
tried and true tale, but for thrifty comic fans, Strange
#1 gives enough story to choke a whale in
a mere 22 pages by flooding its layouts with panels and
huge word balloons to hurry along what already looks to
be a massive origin story.
We open with young Stephen Strange working
at a small volunteer camp in Nepal. He notices a ruined
monastery on a faraway cliff one day and makes a point of
hiking to it when he meets a wizened old man along the way.
They discuss Strange’s choice to become a doctor and
visit Tibet, but the old man probes deeper, hoping to discover
what the young doctor really WANTS. They’re interrupted
by Stephen’s friend and, when Stephen turns back,
the old man is gone. Later that night, he vows to return
to Tibet. Three years later, he still hasn’t. More
and more time passes and it becomes clear that Stephen chose
the wrong path when he went into cosmetic surgery and, as
the reader can see, he indeed has the power to do more.
There are some plusses and minuses to this
story. It’s well written, but old schoolers are already
familiar with Strange’s tutelage under the Ancient
One and may be itching for an immediate adventure. The slow
start has a certain charm in its attempt to tell a complete
story, but newbies may get thrown off, wondering why they
should care for this pompous bastard. A lot of plot and
character development is delivered, but it makes the book
an exhausting read that STILL ends with a cliffhanger. I
can recommend it for the fine writing and great art that,
admittedly, doesn’t always mesh. However, if we don’t
start hearing words like “Dormamu” soon, this
series could move from exhausting to comatose.
was a bit of a sleeper, for me. The first issue didn’t
really sing, and then Mark Millar went and botched the ending
of Ultimates’ first volume. What’s
more, I’ve always felt that a more human supervillain
team would make such a good long-running series that yet
ANOTHER mini seemed insulting. And the hero looked like
Eminem. I mean, c’mon, that’s what he looks
like! But, somehow, Millar kept the supervillain-ruled world
of Wanted interesting enough to keep me on this
year long journey (though we still have one issue left),
and I still don’t regret it.
Issue #5 plays out mostly as Fox and Wesley’s
big stand against Mr. Rictus after his hostile takeover
of the American branch of the supervillain Franchise. Rictus
gloats a bit to the other heads of the organization and
a few villains gab about how good it feels to finally create
some mass destruction after nearly twenty years of occasional
murder. Then Wesley blows their heads off with a high-powered
sniper rifle. He and Fox finish off the group scouring the
city for the two rogues and finally hit their former base
to take out Rictus and the scores of super-powered maniacs
hits and misses in this one. His underlying point that supervillains
could never maintain the world simply because so many of
them are completely nuts satisfies, but he said enough of
that last time. Wesley’s ability, as The Killer, to
blow away anything that comes near him is undeniably cool,
but it makes his fight just a bit too easy. There really
isn’t any doubt in our minds that he’ll come
away without a scratch when he suddenly finds himself up
against fifty guys. He’s just THAT good. As this is
only a miniseries on its penultimate chapter, we can forgive,
but it kills my desire to see Millar make this a franchise.
As an issue goes, this one’s alright, though anyone
who missed an issue might just want to wait for the trade
paperback. A solid read, but not a must have.
first issue of Ultimate Nightmare
introduced a possible conflict, but gave us no solid information
to go on. Damn near anything could be happening. They left
us with the X-Men and the Ultimates getting ready to speed
off to a remote area of Russia where they’d figure
out what’s going on. By the end of issue #2, all they’ve
done is open the door to the secret facility. No revelations,
no big enemies, no secret plots; but, damn, does it work
gotta keep yer pimp hand strong...
Warren Ellis pens the story with that showy
brilliance that makes him so dangerous. Tidbits of historical,
technological, and military fact make it hard to tell whether
he’s making crap up or not. He manages to give Colossus
more lines than he’s had in a long time, explaining
how Tunguska is the Russian equivalent to Roswell; an area
believed to be an alien crash site that also has strange
ties to mutation. Ellis also continues the magic with Sam
Wilson (The Falcon), elaborating on Sam’s studies
of dream lore and as he ponders the possible connection
between the worldwide terror broadcast of last issue and
South American rituals that claim to open the mind to visions
of another dimension.
Of course, the work of Trevor Hairsine has
been indispensable and the images he creates here are no
less stunning than his work last time. I don’t care
how ridiculous it is to have a thoroughly un-aerodynamic
S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicruiser that looks like a naval vessel
with some rockets mounted to it— the damn thing looks
AWESOME when it bursts through the clouds and dumps a helicopter
out its ventral bay doors. Some faces still look just a
tad awkward, at times, but Hairsine deserves as much credit
as Ellis for fashioning Sam Wilson into one of the most
interesting additions to the Ultimate Universe. One to buy.
#161 makes me want to buy a crowbar and bludgeon
a small child. Well, to be fair, a lot of things do, but
this is just such a dumb soap opera loaded with images of
young mothers protecting their annoying children that I’ve
been pushed over the edge. Following last week’s sly
hint that Juggernaut may not be trustworthy (shock, horror!),
we dive into a big sloppy battle with a NEW Brotherhood
of Mutants (shock, horror!). We see just enough of Nocturne
for non-Exiles readers to wonder why the hell Nightcrawler’s
working with bad guys (note: Nocturne is Nightcrawler’s
daughter from an alternate future) before the team beats
the tar out of them and goes about whining through their
botched relationships and thoroughly uninteresting personal
positive thing about this issue are LIQUID!’s colors,
which, as on Ultimate Elektra, give a much needed
weight to Salvador Larocca’s thin linework. Chuck
Austen’s story, however, remains as shallow and tepid
as a kiddie pool in a trailer park (bear with the metaphor,
I won’t be much longer). Maybe it’s an inability
to handle multiple threads or his insistence on making character
interaction melodramatic or just plain dull, but I think
Austen should just lay off the team books for a while. Maybe
forever. Hell, Chuck, just scribble out some more Superman
stories and be happy you can at least do SOMETHING right.
Predictions for Next Week: Conan #8, Ex Machina
#4, Plastic Man #10, Runaways #18, and Ultimate Fantastic