Monday, November 02, 2009

Stuff I Read

Fantastic Four #572

It is remarkable to me that people are talking about the supposedly weird way that Dale Eaglesham draws Reed Richards, as if Reed is customarily drawn as some kind of stick figure emaciated Ditko goblin. I've been reading Fantastic Four for decades, historically it's one of my favorite books - I've got a full run of the DeFalco / Ryan run, and I actually like it, which should tell you how much I love the book even at its most questionable. So, to wit, let's look at some pictures of Reed's muscles through the years:

Fantastic Four #10, 1998. Man, I didn't know we were planning to stop by the gun show this weekend.

Fantastic Four #39, 2001. You could grate cheese off those obliques.

Fantastic Four #62, 2002. Is this more along the lines of what most people think Reed Richards looks like? Still pretty muscular.

Fantastic Four #45, 1965. ZOMG - pplz. jakc kirby TOTALLY duz not no how to drawz reed richards. look at those pythons, son!!!11 Byrne is teh BEST.

In other words: find something new to talk about, nerds. Reed can stretch his body to look like any damn thing he wishes. If he wants to be cut this month, well, he'll be cut like a knife. Really, let's just focus on the fact that in just three issues the new FF has already entirely washed away the taste of the promising, brilliant-in-moments-but-ultimately-disappointing Millar / Hitch run. Seriously, what about Star Brand Reed Richards? I'm that one guy in the back whose heart starts palpitating when he sees a Star Brand. More Star Brand!

Detective Comics # 858

You can talk all day about how purty it looks, but damned if this script isn't some thin gruel. Like, oh my god, Batwoman is a twin who lost her sister to terrorists - that's real trauma right there. I cannot wait until Williams III leaves in a couple months time - no matter how good his replacement is, he won't be this good, and I wonder how many people are going to admit that if it weren't for Williams' III art, this would be just one or two steps above Outsiders. The moment we see Batwoman talking about mud on miners' boots, well, I will not be a big enough man not to say I told you so.

X-Factor #50

Even though I've been pulling down irregular paychecks from Fantagraphics for the better part of a decade now, I still like Peter David. As mainstream writers go, he can be one of the best when he wants. Sure, he's got more than his fair share of accumulated tics and storytelling tricks, there's the annoying pop-culture shit that still pops up (but seriously, the pop culture references are nowhere near as annoying as they were twenty years back when he seemingly couldn't go ten pages without a TMBG or Ren & Stimpy reference), there's the occasional winks at Bill Mumy or another sort-of but not really famous pal. Regardless: no more annoying than Claremont's "no quarter asked, none given! / take a swim in my mind!" bullshit. Fact is, David is practically the sole surviving master of a very old storytelling style that used to be pretty much de rigeur all over the comics world: the longform serial no-particular-place-to-go comic book.

You may be asking, but Tim, what about Brubaker's Cap, with it's multi-year story arcs, or Way's Wolverine: Origins, which isn't that great but is nonetheless a pretty impressive example of a single writer sticking to an overarching macro-story for a long time? The problem with these examples is that they aren't the same thing at all, although you can trick yourself into thinking they are if you're not careful. Both these stories - and just about every long-form serial running now (maybe not Incredible Hercules) - are structured. You get the idea that somewhere Brubaker has a thick binder full of character notes and a master outline regarding exactly where his story is going. You almost get the idea that, even if some of the details changed along the way, he generally knew where he was going to be in issue #50 before he sat down to write issue #1. (I dunno where Cap's death fits into this, whether it was planned from the beginning of Brubaker's first story arc, but I would not at all be surprised if he hadn't had the idea all along, with Civil War merely a fortuitous coincidence in timing.)

What David's doing is different, and admirable: he's telling stories from month to month, with little or no care given to how they fit into the eventual trade paperback collection or Omnibus. Sometimes the results are shaggy - few people would argue that the time travel storyline from the book's past year hasn't gone on a bit too long, and that the last few issues were rather blatantly biding time for the anniversary number. But still: long term plots and long term payoffs. And if it doesn't come off as perfectly planned or exquisitely structured - if at times it feels more than a little like a long-running shaggy-dog story - there's something here, a freewheeling elasticity, that feels nice. Superhero comics used to be about just this thing - open-ended storytelling that sometimes germinated into payoff, and sometimes failed to launch altogether, but could nonetheless be interesting along the way. More importantly, David knows these characters well and has their voices down. It almost makes up for the fact that the art has been so iffy in places that, at times, "big reveals" have been flattened by the fact that we're obviously supposed to recognize a charactwr who really just looks like half-a-dozen other brown haired fellows in the same comic.

Still: not great, but good stuff, and it holds my interest precisely because it holds up far better on a month-to-month basis than it ever will in collected form. Not many people know how to do that anymore.

(One nit-picky question, however, for which I really would like an answer: if Layla Miller's origin and power set have finally been explained, then how the hell was she able to restore everyone's memory in House of M? I distinctly recall her being able to make people remember things that otherwise they would not remember, which is why she was important, and why it took more than just Wolverine [who, you recall, was the first person to realize it was all an illusion] to restore the other hero's memories. This applied not merely to the heroes who had been brainwashed in the HoM pocket universe, but also to Wolverine, whose meeting with Layla left him in possession of all his memories, even the ones that had been wiped or washed away. I suspect the answer might be something like "she can resurrect dead memories" or what not, but still, it's one of those niggling continuity questions that leaves me scratching my head late at night when I should be reading something else.)

Dark Reign: The List: The Punisher

There is something inescapably sexual here. Frank and Logan did this dance a few times, never able to consummate their suppressed desires, always left frustrated by their inability to seal the deal. (Garth Ennis had Frank blow Wolverine in half, and then a couple months later in Wolverine, Wolverine found some gay porn mags in Frank's satchel, which I've always seen as a rather gratuitous unveiling of obvious subtext, not to mention just massively homophobic.) Still, finally, Frank Castle gets to have sex with a clawed man: only it's not the father. The father wasn't man enough to seal the deal. Only Daken is man enough to finally penetrate the Punisher. (Note: that last link, probably not safe for work unless you work somewhere more interesting than I do.) I imagine when Daken and Logan meet up next, Logan will have some choice words for his son regarding his ex-lover. It's sort of like how Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd could never fuck on moonlighting, it would ruin the chemistry - Wolverine knew he and Frank could only ever dance around each other. Daken is a philistine, there is no romance in his mohawked soul.

(But really, Franken-Castle? Does no one remember Angel Punisher? Even if the story looks promising, it's just a general good rule that the Punisher and the supernatural do not mix well. Although, I will admit, the preview pages here with the Man-Thing [actually being cool and menacing for a change] and his new friends are pretty cool, and promise some interesting stuff to come. And did anyone read that last arc of Punisher? The one with the Hood? No one, it seems, was paying attention, but that last issue [#10, I believe] had the Punisher doing just about the coldest thing I've ever seen him do, Garth Ennis not excepted. I mean, really, if you haven't read it I won't give it away, but that's some unbelievably cold shit right there.)

No comments :