Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My Pull List - Comic Reviews for 8/1/2012

- Animal Man #12
- Avengers Vs. X-Men #9
- Batwing #12
- Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe #1
- Earth 2 #4
- Swamp Thing #12


Animal Man #12 and Swamp Thing #12

Since these two comics are sharing the same storyline, I kind of have to review them together. I have to say, I've been dying for this crossover to happen since I first realized that their stories were connected. Comic crossovers can often be contrived and blatantly commercial. They slow down or sidetrack the plot of a series for the sake of marketing. The same can be said for event tie-ins.

In this case, the Animal Man/Swamp Thing crossover was an inevitability. The fact that they were fighting a common enemy made sense. Creating this new pantheon behind the forces of nature (the Green, the Red, and the Rot) is probably my favorite thing about the New 52. The connection between these two books felt logical.

The end result reflects that. These two issues are just as good as any of the other issues in either series. The crossover works and is exciting.

While I like these two issues, they are not flawless.

Alec and Buddy are very reactionary in these stories. "Swamp Thing" has had this problem to a degree, but it has worked because the central conflict was often about Alec Holland's acceptance of his destiny and how he decides to go about it. Buddy, similarly, has been dragged around through a lot of "Animal Man", but his relationship with his family have given him something to fight for.

In these comics, the two heroes resolve to take a stand and enter the Rot, but beyond that, they don't really have a goal. Once they enter the Rot, they have no plan. They literally can't do anything BUT react. They are both separated from their loved ones, they have resolved their individual conflicts for the time being, and they are wandering around aimlessly.

Additionally, the reveal at the end is that the post-apocalyptic world that was hinted in "Animal Man Annual #1" has come to pass. Their time in the Rot was much longer than it seemed and the world went to shit in the meantime. This basically means that we are pretty much guaranteed to see no real consequences out of this storyline. Time will get reversed somehow and the status quo will be restored. I'm sure this will affect the CHARACTERS in some capacity -- maybe some aren't going to make it back -- but it's hard to be shocked that the world has gone to shit or really get invested in said world when I know that it will all probably stop mattering in a few more issues.

These aren't MAJOR problems, mind you, but as someone who has been waiting for this crossover for months, I'm a little underwhelmed so far, and so I can't help but notice the things that don't work. We have a rare occasion where a crossover WORKS, and all they decide to do is retread the usual "Days of Future Past" storyline. I mean, I LIKE "Days of Future Past", but I guess I just expected something more unique from these two titles, as good as they are.

Avenger Vs. X-Men #9

This issue was awesome. Really, I haven't felt this good about this event since Issue #0 (which also had Jason Aaron on script). This issue is primarily carried through Spider-Man's POV, and it really works. It's one of those rare moments where a writer actually tries to get down to what makes Spider-Man special. Aaron shows us Spider-Man's vulnerability, which he's hiding with his usual humor. He also gives Hope some of the best advice anyone has ever given the girl, advice which he then has to live up to by the end of the issue in a truly heroic fashion. And not only does he throw himself into a situation with suicidal odds, he manages to actually SUCCEED, not with force or plot contrivance, but through cleverness. This is something you almost never see in event comics. Typically, big bads are taken down with plot devices, deus ex machinae, or just a really powerful character. Jason Aaron deserves props for Spider-Man's victory. Yes, it's not exactly inspired, original, or unexpected, but it DOES work. Maybe my standards for this event are low enough where that makes this seem way better than it is, but for me, I dug the hell out of Spider-Man's journey here.

We also have some great smaller moments with Emma Frost, Storm, and Black Panther. All in all, I can't really think of any part of this book that DIDN'T work. Honestly, if the entire event had been written and drawn like this, there would probably be a lot fewer complaints.

Batwing #12

OK, last month's issue was less than stellar in terms of plot coherence, but this issue made it work. Once again we have a crossover event, but honestly, I don't think the crossover was very commercially-motivated. In this issue, Batwing crosses over with Justice League International, whose book has just now been canceled. I don't think DC was thinking their inclusion would boost sales. Also, their inclusion makes sense given how they are basically acting on behalf of the U.N. to stop the big bad.

One thing that makes "Batwing" succeed is how it tries to address bigger ideas in small ways. In this case, we have a big bad guy who is given god-like powers within the confines of his nation, but once removed from said location, his power fails and his nation deteriorates.

The parallel is fairly obvious. If you depose the tyrant, the nation may fall with him. How many times has the world faced this complicated situation? In a way, it's fitting that JLI was brought in for this issue, because the U.N. has to face conundrums like this all the time. It's kind of cool to see it addressed in this capacity.

Issue #11 was kind of a roundabout way of getting here, but Issue #12 sticks the landing, making up for any previous shortcomings.

Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe #1

Not going to lie, I probably wasn't going to get this issue. But my little rant about this series kind of exploded in popularity (thanks for that) so I decided that it was only fair to actually read and review the series. Or at least the first issue.

Frankly, everything up until the end of this issue confirmed my suspicions about the direction of the series. Deadpool is driven crazy and goes on a killing rampage. It's ugly, it discards his core as a character, it rejects his complexity, it does some REALLY stupid things (he regenerates his full head in a matter of seconds... sorry, but NO), it wasn't even FUNNY, and I was about ready to just stop there.

And then the last couple pages happened.

Let me make myself clear, this issue sucks and this series is PROBABLY going to suck. But because of the ending of this issue, I feel like I can't in good conscience completely write off the series yet.

Let me explain.

The issue is framed as a "What If?" story told by Uatu the Watcher. He narrates as he sometimes does in stories like this. He shows us Deadpool killing the Fantastic Four, then he shows us how Deadpool got his head broke by Psycho Man, and it all goes pretty much how you would expect.

And then... well, I'll just show you.

OK, so, I have huge problems with this. I've always preferred that Deadpool's ability to break the fourth wall was ambiguous. While it was clear that he could see beyond his own world, it was never clear whether or not he actually believed that this perception was accurate and not just an hallucination. Deadpool tends to play along with his delusions (or what he assumes are delusions) but that doesn't mean he believes they aren't delusions. In fact, I've always felt that if he actually believed everything he saw, he would completely lose his grip on reality.

In this case, Deadpool seems pretty confident that the reader is actually there and that he's not delusional. He thinks there's something wrong with him, sure, but that doesn't imply disbelief.

Even so, this is pretty much exactly what I wanted to happen. Deadpool is aware that he has an audience and is thus going to spite them by killing everything they love.

This can be handled in two general ways.

The first is to make this a character-focused story. Even though I think the means by which they accomplished it is lazy and stupid, Deadpool is now free of his doubt in his mind. He has gone off the deep end and buys into his own delusions completely. He has left the real world behind. This would be a good opportunity to analyze how he's balanced his delusions with doubt and humor and morality in order to give himself purpose and keep him from being completely lost. This would actually make for a very interesting story.

Or they could go the "Funny Games" route. If you aren't familiar with the movie "Funny Games", it is an absolutely awful movie about awful people doing awful things and spending the entire duration of the film breaking the fourth wall and accusing the audience of getting off on it. This is stupid, exploitative tripe. Mark Millar at his worst is especially guilty of it (see "Wanted" or "Kick-Ass"). And frankly, this is precisely what I expect this series to do as well.

I don't think we're going to get anything particularly deep or revealing about the character. I think the writer is going to use the fourth wall gimmick to make the readers feel bad about reading the comic and Deadpool is going to play the victim the entire time. "You all want me to do this, huh? Well I just skull-fucked Captain America. Having fun yet?" Blah blah blah stupid stupid bullshit.

Even so, now that the writer has effectively doubled down, I can't just completely write this series off yet. I need to see where he's going, and so I guess I'm at least getting the next issue. I wouldn't recommend anyone else pick this up in the meantime. I don't want to recommend a series just because it MIGHT get good. But I am going to keep going for now.

Earth 2 #4

I don't have a lot to say on this one, really. It's really good. I don't know how I feel about them giving the Atom the ability to grow in size like Ant-Man. Golden Age Atom never had the ability to change size and none of the Atoms in the history of the DC Universe have had the ability to GROW. I'm not saying I DISLIKE the change, but I'm kind of on the fence.

Overall, though? This series continues to be great. It has a great cast of characters and seems to know what it's doing. Every decision feels deliberate and conscious. This is rare for a comic like this. I hope they keep it up.

1 comment:

  1. There is precisely one valid reason for Deadpool to go off the deep end and kill everyone: "Hey, it'll be fun! Besides, they'll all be back in a couple of months. Except Uncle Ben."

    If they don't have him riffing off the "only a Doombot" thing at some point, they will have truly failed.