I guess my Monday deadline somehow morphed into Thursday….
Hello, readers. Guess what? I read some books! And I have opinions about them! Shocker, I know. Also, I totally lied with half those covers I posted last week. Sorry about that.
I’m sad. :(
I’m sad because I really want to like this title. I really, really do. But it’s so … it’s so … I don’t know how to explain why it isn’t working for me. I guess, when it comes down to it, honestly … it doesn’t feel like Barbara. It just doesn’t feel like her to me. This new role of hers, it’s so … “forced” is the best word I can think of to describe it. It’s not Barbara—not the one I know—and that’s kind of shocking considering that Barbara Gordon is Gail Simone’s bread and butter. If anyone at all understands that character, it’s Gail—they’re practically interchangeable. Yet, as much as I want this to succeed, it just isn’t firing for me.
I wish I could explain it better … it’s just not right. It doesn’t feel right. And the writing style … there’s so much narration. That worked in Gail’s Birds of Prey when you needed the POVs of several characters, but it’s not clicking here. There’s too much of it; there’s too much telling and not enough showing. It’s so flat, and I … I don’t know how much more of this I can back. And that makes me so, so sad.
You know what else? I have read this story before. I think that’s what’s really bothering me more than anything here, is that it still feels like we’re going backwards. Which, we are—literally, we’re dialing back the clock in terms of character ages and whatnot, but I also mean to say that we’re going backwards allegorically. The stories and the progressions of these characters have taken giant steps downward. This idea of a character called Batgirl finding her footing—I have read this before. I read it in Bryan Q. Miller’s Batgirl run, and I even read it in Chuck Dixon’s Batgirl: Year One. Why am I reading it again? I’m not getting anything different this time, not one bit. Barbara healing and regaining use of her legs is only influencing this story on a very minor level—it isn’t enough to make these issues feel fresh or different. This issue was all about reuniting Batgirl and Nightwing. I should have been moved by it, but I wasn’t. Not even close. I put this book down, blinked a few times, and wondered what was wrong with me for leaving it feeling absolutely nothing.
So … what does one do in this situation? Do I keep reading this in the hope that once the groundwork is laid and some of the setup “fluff” is out of the way, I might have a more interesting story? Might I feel more for this character by issue #13, as opposed to issue #3, and is it even fair to have to wait that long? Ardian Syaf’s artwork has been great. Other than that, I haven’t got much. A part of me doesn’t want to give up on the title, because I do love Barbara and this is apparently the only Barbara that I’m going to get for the foreseeable future. I also have a certain level of faith and respect for Simone, and I want to be able to lean on that. But with every issue of this so far, I’ve only left feeling disappointment. And I never thought I’d say that.
…And with that, an interesting idea turns into utter horse poop, as Nick Spencer fills this issue with preachy drivel and a needlessly despicable downturn that I guess is meant to be humor. Biggest waste of $3.50. To say I was mortified while reading this on the train is a massive understatement. And to top things off, I read the solicit for #4 to find it isn’t even due on the shelves until April. Buhbye; I’m OUT.
I was a little worried when this was first solicited, because with a title like “Not a Hero,” my immediate thoughts were that they were turning Magneto into a villain again. That would be the worst thing you could do to the character in my opinion, and just as bad a regression as Barbara Gordon re-donning the Bat cowl. Magneto has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years, and I’ve always enjoyed him as a villain, but I find I love him even more on the side of the angels. His presence is still so very grey—he’s so ambiguous, and in the hands of a writer who knows how to use it, that’s an invaluable quality. And so I shook my fist at the sky for a bit at the thought that this wonderful drama might be taken away for something as utterly boring as Magneto turning “bad” again. Happily, upon reading this issue, I find that this is not the case. Not yet, anyway.
Our introduction to this story centers around what is something of a storytelling cliché—Magneto is being framed for murder. Exciting, right? Bet you’ve never read anything like that before. It’s okay, though, because there are things here that make up for the questionable originality, and by the end of issue one, we can see that ultimately the story is going to deal with much more than who’s framing Magneto. I have to hand it to Skottie Young—everyone knows him for his great artistic talents, but he’s making a transition to writing here, and he’s not doing a bad job of it at all. It most certainly beats out a majority of the crap you see on the Marvel shelves these days, and rather easily at that. Young has a good handle on the characters in issue one, particularly in a scene that involves Captain America and Iron Man calling out Cyclops and Mags to get their act together. The cliffhanger reveal at the end—I really should have seen it coming. I can’t believe I didn’t. It’s some good stuff.
And Clay Mann on art duties … wow. What can I possibly say to do this guy justice? In a short couple of years, he’s hands-down become one of my favorites, and every book he’s on makes me drool a little bit. He’s wonderful. He’s coming to Boston Comic Con next year, and I am getting a sketch from him if I have to wait in line all weekend. Outstanding.
Did this book blow my mind? No, but it did some things well, did other things great, and was all around an enjoyable read. I wasn’t asking for much more than that.
More happiness! Have you seen this little bit of WIN called Princeless #1? Well if you haven’t, then you’re sorely missing out.
It’s soooooo great. It’s so great. I remember reading about this on the internet somewhere and I wasn’t really planning on checking it out, but then I found it on the shelf and read the first three pages and was like OH MY GOD, THIS IS SO WONDERFUL. Three pages—that’s all it took. And, you know, that’s kind of a big deal in a situation where you’re paying four bucks for a book when you weren’t anticipating having the expense at all. But this was so worth it, and I absolutely can’t wait to have the next issue in my hands.
This is a story about a princess named Adrienne who grows up being read stories about other princesses who get locked up in towers and have to be rescued by handsome princes who slay dragons and ultimately win the princesses’ hearts. Adrienne is baffled and outraged by this idea, criticizing and belittling the stories, and makes her mother promise her not to lock her up in a tower, only … of course you know that’s exactly what happens, right? The resulting scenario is nothing short of hilarious, adorable, brave, and pretty much unlike anything else on the comic racks right now. Whitley’s writing is beyond clever, and I found myself laughing at something on every page of the book. It’s smart enough for adults to enjoy, yet still written with a young audience in mind. This is exactly the type of thing you should be giving to the little girls in your life. Introduce them to comics now, with this. And actually, I take that back—it isn’t just for little girls; not even close. Adrienne is not the only character in this book—don’t let the “princess” thing fool you. Boys will enjoy this as well, and I encourage you to pick it up to find out why.
If I could get you to read one book and only one book this week, I would give you Princeless #1, and I wouldn’t even blink.
Since the debut of this title, I’ve had nothing but praise for Uncanny X-Force and Rick Remender. That hasn’t changed yet, and I don’t see it on horizon any time soon. Just when I think the story has reached a plateau and couldn’t possibly get any better, another issue comes out and BAM—I’m smacked in the face with the awesome.
The problem with loving a book this much is that it makes it insanely difficult to review. When you have no criticisms, there isn’t much left to say beyond shameless, unabashed gushing. And you have to admit, that’s kind of boring to read.
But I literally have nothing bad to say. There is nothing I would change about this book—not a thing. Not the writing, not the pencils, not the pacing, not the colors. Well … I suppose I might change the price … and maybe I’d make it ship twice a month, because I can’t get enough of it. But that’s all. Not much to ask.
If you’ve been subbing to this title, you know that Remender has been building up the Dark Angel Saga for quite some time—since day one, in fact. It’s some of the most well-timed and patient writing I’ve seen in recent memory. The thing I love about this book is that when I pick up an issue, I can tell that Remender has taken his time with it. He isn’t writing with collected editions in mind or decompressing the story, as one might accuse of Bendis’ Avengers titles. No; there’s a level of thought and care and precision to what Remender does, and it comes through in his scenes and character interplay. It’s harmonious. It’s a melody to which I never want to stop listening. If even a quarter of the other books Marvel puts out demonstrated this much attention to their craft, I’d be a much happier comics reader.
Jerome Opeña on art is no different. You look at these pages, and you know instantly that these babies were not rushed to meet looming deadlines. Opeña is careful, crafty, and deliberate, and the results are a joy.
On the surface, this is a black ops book. It’s assassinations and unspeakable deeds; it’s an X-Men book that’s not very X-Men-like. But read deeper, and you know these characters are about much more than that. This isn’t just about taking out threats before they become threats; this is a story of addiction, inferiority, self-worth and self-hate, fear and perceived altruism … and so much more. But Remender lets you figure that out for yourself; it’s underlying, and he doesn’t beat you over the head with it. I love that. The mark of a good writer.
Big changes are coming up for this team, and I can’t wait to find out what Remender has planned for the next year of this book. Best one on the X-shelf.
Oh, what a pleasant surprise. I have to be honest, I kind of just picked this up on a whim. I’ve always had a passing interest in Cloak and Dagger—while I’ve never actively sought them out, I always appreciated them when they made appearances in various titles I’d be reading. Hearing about this miniseries, I was a little turned off at first by the idea that it’s a tie-in to the “Spider Island” event. Oh, another event? Another tie-in? I was ready to pass on this. I was gonna pass on it so hard, its face was gonna hurt.
Well, something obviously changed my tune. I’m not sure if it was the preview art, the fact that there was a female creator on the book, or just the overall badassery of Cloak and Dagger that convinced me to give it a try, but I’m glad I did. This was enjoyable.
While this story does function as a tie-in to Spider Island, I’d argue that it’s a pretty loose one. I’m not reading Spider Island at all, but I could get into the setting for the story quite easily from the recap page, and then it’s all more or less relegated to the background from there. This is not so much about Cloak and Dagger reacting to Spider Island as it is just about Cloak and Dagger themselves, their relationship, and what makes them tick in the midst of all the action. These are the types of stories I always want to read, and Nick Spencer, despite being quite a busy man these days, appears to deliver. Here, we learn that the duo is being evicted from their makeshift home inside a church. Cloak takes matters into his own hands and arranges a “Heroes for Hire” type of setup for the pair, of which Dagger is critical. What makes the events and discussions in this issue so interesting, though, is how it’s all laid out for us by Emma Rios. The artwork most certainly amplifies the dialogue coming out of the characters’ mouths, particularly during one double-page spread that’s done just achingly well. Rios plays with Cloak and Dagger’s dark and light, yin and yang, form and function aspects of their personalities, and it accompanies the script in a way that’s complementary, not overbearing.
If I have any reservations regarding the script, I’m worried Nick Spencer will just beat us over the head with this yin yang analogy for the rest of the mini, but I’m hoping that isn’t the case. I feel like he’s a talented enough guy not to go that route, and I think the remaining issues should be equally good if not better. Oh, one weird thing—there’s a part where the Avengers show up, and Wolverine has some pretty skeevy dialogue when talking to Dagger. I don’t really get it. It seemed noticeably off to me. Meh—if that’s the worst thing, I’ll take it. I’m actually kind of anxious to learn what happens, especially when you consider who the villain of this is—which I’ll let you find out for yourselves.
If you’ve got some room in your pull list to play around, check out Cloak and Dagger.
Well … that was fun while it lasted. I guess this isn’t a review of this issue alone so much as of the series overall, as Bryan Q. Miller wraps up two years writing what has been a truly wonderful book. I’ve voiced my devout love of this series before on this blog, so it’s probably unsurprising that I was nearly in tears reading the final issue of something I have cherished for the last 24 months. That’s how good this title has been, that I can get this emotional over its ending. Although I’m looking forward to reading the “New 52” Barbara GordonBatgirl under Gail Simone, I can’t help but feel major heartbreak over losing a character I never expected to love this much—Stephanie Brown.
Bryan Q. Miller does a great job in concluding the series with this issue. Readers from the last issue will recall the unexpected appearance of Stephanie Brown’s father, Cluemaster—the catalyst that set Stephanie off parading as a vigilante in the first place during her Spoiler days. This is Steph’s first meeting with her dad since she was “killed,” and it’s a dramatic one. I only wish Miller had more time and more issues to write and develop this encounter (his plans were cut short via the reboot mandate; read the interview here). As it is, he uses this opportunity to bring Steph on a “what if” style adventure—what could have been for her, what she dreams of her legacy as part of the Bat family, what could await her in the future, etc. I’ll leave it to you to discover the plot device Miller uses to bring all this about; it’s something I haven’t seen in a while, so there’s a bit of nostalgia there, and I really enjoyed it. The artwork by Pere Perez does a lovely job of conveying the ideas present, and Dustin Nguyen’s cover is beautiful and perfect—as his stuff always is. Man … this is depressing. I’m going to miss this book so hard.
If you’ve never read this title, you’ve really missed out on something special. Fans who once clamored for Cassandra Cain are now clamoring for Cass AND Steph, and hey—how awesome would a TEAM BATGIRL book be?! We struck gold with this incarnation of Batgirl, and all I can do is wait patiently for Steph’s triumphant return. Her happy-go-lucky, never-say-die attitude means she’s bound to come back eventually. Right?
After only two issues, Nick Spencer’s Infinite Vacation has been much-praised by readers and reviewers alike. I would like to say I didn’t fall prey to all of the hype, but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate. While I had no interest or knowledge of this series at first, a quick sell-out of the first issue caught my attention, and I decided I needed to know what I was missing. I can tell you now that I’m glad I dove in (even despite having The Go-Go’s “Vacation” stuck in my head now).
Any sci-fi or fantasy geek can tell you about the theory of time-travel and dimension-hopping. Nick Spencer takes these theories and incorporates them together to a level where, through technology (cell phones, of course), ordinary people can “vacation” to an “infinite” number of past, future, and potential lives, provided they have the money to buy and sell whichever life they’re currently living. Our protagonist, Mark, takes this to a bit of an extreme in that he chooses to avoid his actual, “real” life as much as possible by vacationing to as many alternate versions of himself as he can—from being President of the U.S. to being a jailed criminal—and yet, still not finding one that makes him happy or quells his boredom. Unfulfilled no matter what life he lives, Mark is feeling pretty devoid of purpose … until, of course, he meets a girl. It’s always about the girl, isn’t it? The trouble for Mark is that this girl is in his real, present day life, and she wants nothing to do with the technological escapism to which Mark is so addicted.
Things get dicey when, due to his incessant vacationing, Mark accidentally gets mixed up in the case of the murder of one of his alternate selves. Before you know it, there are Marks all over the place, and “our” Mark is forced to go into hiding, lest he be caught and punished; i.e., killed. The villain of the story—an incredibly creepy and yet completely believable businessman—is the very same man who invented the software that made Mark’s life vacations possible. He’s your typical dirty, despicable creature, and at the risk of revealing too much, the people he employs may be even worse.
The thing that sucks the reader into this is that Mark is essentially the every guy. It’s easy to relate to or understand his desire for contentment. Despite being in an extraordinary setting, he remains a realistic character. Spencer takes this character and gives him every opportunity and possibility, and yet the results are far from virtuous—pretty much what the average cynic would expect. You WANT to have a sense of hope while reading this—you want to believe in the light at the end of the tunnel, not only for Mark, but for all of us in the real world who are finding ourselves eerily connected to what he’s feeling here—and it’s that hope and connection that’s ultimately going to keep driving me to pick up the next issue. I hope Nick Spencer doesn’t lose me.
One thing I realize may not float everyone’s boat is the artwork. I happen to like it a lot—it’s different, and since the book itself is “different,” it serves its purpose. We’re looking mostly at some trippy colorwork throughout, except for a few pages of photorealism. Those photographic pages are the only ones that repel me; luckily, they’ve been few, and since they’re only used during the intervening scenes that explain the infinite vacation technology, the fact that they come off like a cheap ad works.
Infinite Vacation isn’t a superhero book. It’s not comedy, not horror, and even though a murder takes place, it really isn’t a murder-mystery either. It’s just its own thing. There isn’t much I can compare it to … but it’s worth the temporary escape.
“Vacation, all I ever wanted…”