Friday, February 16, 2007

Big Pile 'O' Crap

Wolverine: Origins #11

I think there's some sort of hard-and-fast rule about the fact that, whenever you've got a long-standing adventure character, the moment you run out of stories to tell that don't involve chipping away at that characters' origins and defining moments, you have officially entered a baroque period of steadily diminishing returns. So when I see a comic book with Wolverine's long-lost son (heretofore known as "Poochie"), I can only think that somewhere along the line someone at Marvel totally lost the plot. Yeah - Wolverine, one of the most prominent super-heroes in the Marvel Universe, just happens to have a long-lost son, and he's slimy Eurotrash, and he's got claws coming out of both sides of his wrist - oh yeah, this is just a fantastic idea. I think he needs a skateboard to go with those totally extreme tattoos. At least Wolverine's nubile teenage girl clone was nice enough to look at.

But man, Steve Dillon is still one of the best. I have to think he is having a ball drawing this crap, because the alternative is just depressing.

Thunderbolts #111

One of the great things about comics - well, strike that, all entertainment period, but comics especially - is that whenever an old idea stops selling, the Powers That Be can always be counted on to totally screw up the original concept in the name of trying to squeeze more money out of an existing trademark. This is an important distinction for anyone involved in corporate comics, and I daresay it is a simple enough rule that it can be distilled into a mathematical formula:

Trademark > High Concept

Having a book on the stands that exploits the Thunderbolts brand is much more important than keeping the brand cohesive; given how hostile the market remains to even established brand names, it is considered prudent to squeeze every possible ounce of juice out of every recognizable brand. It's not that the new Thunderbolts is even a bad idea for a book: in the wake of Civil War, the government sponsors a team of the world's most dangerous super-villains to take down rogue superheroes. Sure, it's essentially Suicide Squad with Venom and Bullseye. And the post-Civil War world building is hokey and contrived. But there's a germ of an idea there. The problem is, the idea is not the Thunderbolts.

I have intermittently kept an eye on the Thunderbolts since the very beginning - I bought the first issue off a supermarket spinner-rack, if you can believe that. I haven't always bought the book but I have always liked the idea. It's a simple idea: reformed villains seeking redemption. That's it. It's so simple, it almost writes itself: redemption. You can do a lot with that. There's the "will-they-or-won't-they" tension of morally-ambiguous "heroes", there's the distrust from established superheroes, there's the "misunderstood-criminals-on-the-run" shtick. But at the end of the day, if you don't have a group of super-villains who, by hook or crook, are trying to improve their lives, it's not the Thunderbolts, it's something else entirely. Call it something else if you wish, but it's not the Thunderbolts.

So yeah, put the Green Goblin, Venom, Bullseye and S&M Speedball together. Make it so that S&M Speedball loses a massive amount of blood whenever he uses his powers - great idea. Throw in Moonstone - she was never anyone's favorite anyway. But leave Songbird and the Radioactive Man - two characters who Kurt Busiek and Fabian Nicieza have spent years trying to redeem - out of it. Because putting those characters in this book is just an awkward fit, and sort of an insult to the fans and creators who followed them in the old book. They're not household names, they could easily do the book without them. When the hell are we going to see Songbird join the Avengers, a la Avengers Forever? Every issue that the character is involved in this deplorable mess, that day becomes more and more distant, which is a damn shame. That might have been fun - this is just depressing. I've always believed that Mark Gruenwald was 100% correct when he sad that it was a creators' responsibility to leave a character in better shape than when he found them, but apparently Warren Ellis believes that it is his responsibility to break all the toys.

Ghost Rider #8

This was a perfectly fine comic book, with no catastrophic errors in judgment on the part of the creative team. It looks great. Javier Salteres and Mark Texeira were made to draw Ghost Rider: just one of those weird things. Daniel Way seems to be working on an extremely old-school interpretation of the character, and given all the crap that Ghosty has been through in the last decade or so, that's probably for the best. Back to basics.

But - wow, this issue has nothing at all to do with Civil War - despite the Casualties of War banner on the top, there is nothing to indicate that this comic even occurs in the same universe as Civil War. One character mentions the events in passing, and that's it. Maybe next issue will see a full-on crossover, with SHIELD going after the Ghost Rider, but wow, if I bought this issue for a Civil War tie-in, I'd be pissed.

And there is the small matter that this issue seems to have the exact same plot as the last Ghost Rider comics I read - which just happened to be the most recent issues of Ghost Rider, the Richard Corben arc. Johnny Blaze stumbles into town and is immediately taken into police custody for a crime he didn't commit... wow, what a concept. Where are the editors?

Justice Society of America #3

Hey! Howabout a superhero comic that doesn't involve lots of innocent people being gruesomely murdered by neo-Nazis? No? Oh, damn.

Could you at least give me one that doesn't involve Wildcat's long-lost son turning into a giant kitty? No? Oh, double damn.

Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes II #6

What's that you say? The Wasp is hot? Yes she is.

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