Well, at least if I don’t have to do any important grown-up things over the next couple of weeks, like herd the next generation of community leaders towards understanding why new dialogue should always start on a new line, at least I can do important grown-up things like read comic books and catch up on my Lego reviews.
Being grown up. Because they won’t let me be a kid anymore.
So let’s talk Justice League, X-Men, independent titles from decades ago that you’ve never heard of, and why you can’t go 80+ years without creating some absolute dud characters along the way…
Justice League Vol 2: The Villain’s Journey (New 52).
Like his work or not, there’s no doubt that Geoff Johns has been one of the most consistent comic book creators of the last 30 years. And he specialises in ensemble books: witness his work in turning Green Lantern into a veritable cast-of-just-about-everybody that is a core element of the DC mythos. So why does this title suck so hard? GL’s a blazing idiot, Flash is a goofball jockbro, Steve Trevor is a love-sick dumbbell GI type, everybody else is an emotionless cipher somewhere on the autism-stereotype-spectrum, and the whole thing reads like it was written by the Plot-o-matic 3000.
Bizarrely, this is the best treatment of Cyborg I’ve seen in a Justice League book so far: I’ve been saying for a long time that he belongs in this group, he’s served his Titans apprenticeship, and he has the capacity to be both immensely identifiable and genuinely interesting vis a vis his power set. Johns nails that part of it, but the rest is just awful.
Asgardians of the Galaxy: The Infinity Armada.
You can’t be around as long as Marvel and not hit the occasional dud character. But why, oh why, did someone feel it necessary to gather a whole bunch of them together under the dumbest joke title in history, and try to persuade us to read this is if it were some sort of good thing? If Thunderstrike II, the frog Thor, Kid Loki, and Skurge are your kind of thing, well, god bless ya. Add Angela, Neil Gaiman’s most misbegotten half-arse abortion of a creation, and a sort of pale vanilla version of Valkyrie devoid of any personality whatsoever, and it’s a recipe for… well…
Okay, you know what? It’s fourth-rate Thor cast-offs in a third rate Guardians of the Galaxy reject script, thrown together by a decent writer in Cullen Bunn who should know the hell better, and I wouldn’t recommend this even if you found it in a 10 for $10 bargain bin and they threw in a free Mercedes.
I mean, fucking Angela. Ugh.
Remember way back when, back in the day, in that rosy dawn of time, in those glorious days of possibility when the graphic novel was new, and it seemed like a format with unlimited potential to tell stories unbounded by the limitations of a 24-page pamphlet, before DC and Marvel used the format just to ram together a bunch of pamphlets and persuade us to shell out 50 bucks on something we’d already read? Well, this is one of those books that had the chance to show us something new and amazing… and gave us a badly-coloured, hand-drawn, Flash Gordon script with requisite scantily-clad giant balloon tits and dialogue so stilted even Stan Lee couldn’t puke up.
It’s fun, it’s cheesy, it’s a mystery as to why it’s in my local library, and it should be enjoyed and forgotten for what it is: a stuttering step on the way to beige corporate domination.
Uncanny Vol 1: Season of Angry Ghosts.
This has promise. A solid comic book veteran with a penchant for working at the slightly weird end of the spandex spectrum (and lots and lots of Judge Dredd), writing a gritty crime-style thriller with a subdued ‘super’ component, for an independent publisher that doesn’t have to fulfill the same set of expectations as the big two. And for the most part, Uncanny develops most interestingly. The very few ‘powered’ people in the world live life on the fringes, and are being collected up by a pair of competing corporate behemoths to perform black-ops industrial espionage against each other. Of course, things go bad ™ and shit gets real ™ as expected, but there’s promise here.
Diggle’s writing is tight, Aaron Campbell’s art is suitably scratchy and uneven, the colour mix is muted and shadowy, and the whole thing has an attractive and enjoyable noir streak running through its centre. Volume 2 is one I’ll be keeping an eye out for.
X-Men Legacy: Divided He Stands.
Sigh. Look, I love the X-Men as much as the next emotionally stunted aging fanboy with a latex fetish. But honestly, this is the title that made “nobody in comics ever truly dies” a truism, then a joke, then a pastiche, and these days, a tiresome blight on an art form that should be reaching some sort of maturity by now. So Professor X is dead, except he isn’t, except now he’s back, but he’s not the Professor X he once was blah blah blah blurch. I mean, who cares?
Stop. Just stop.
I understand that it’s hard to know what to do with a title that’s been around 50 years, has literally hundreds of characters to choose from, and was once so popular it had something like a dozen spin-off titles publishing simultaneously at one point. But it all feels so tired, now. It might be time to wonder if there is anything left for the X-Men to really say. Because if there is, this certainly isn’t it.