Time for more shenanigans in time, space, and the dance floor. The best new character Marvel has introduced in years, a bad fit for one of the oldest, and some early-career Dorkin wonderfulness are ours to discuss, along with the best Volume Two of the year, and more bitching about Batgirl. It’s all good, clean fun.
Avengers: Back to Basics
Ms Marvel has developed into a great jumping-on point for young readers coming to Marvel comics for the first time, as well as a refreshing breath of simple innocence to a Universe that has become so muddled that the lines between right and wrong became indistinguishable countless pointless crossover events ago. So dropping her into some rebooted classic tales is a clever idea. It gives newer readers a quick who’s-who-in-the-zoo guided tour of characters they may only have experienced through the movies, while letting more jaded grizzled types like me remember the sensawunda that brought us to comics in the first place. It’s all carried off with vim and verve, and a breathless joy that brought a smile to my face throughout. All good, clean, innocent fun centred round a character that should be central to Marvel’s thinking going forward.
Doctor Strange: Across the Universe.
All the magic in the world has disappeared, so the solution for Dr Strange is simple: go to other worlds, and harvest the lost magic of the Universe to replenish Earth’s stocks. It’s a fantastic idea, but it fails to deliver in a tale that reads like an identikit Strange/Iron Man/Thor cookie cutter: yous picks your beardie, and yous takes your chances. Doctor Strange should be weird, off-putting, and well, strange, no matter where in the many universes you drop him. Turning him into a mirror-Stark just isn’t playing to the character’s strengths.
Batgirl Vol 6: Old Enemies.
See, now this: this is what I was bitching about in the last review. Batgirl takes on a political campaign totally not at all like the Boss Thorne Batman stories, then tangles with a group of animal-headed rich master criminals that totally don’t reek of the Court of Owls… it’s all just so reminiscent of things that have been done before. There is some small light of future hope, here, though, in the form of some interplay with her psychotic brother James Gordon Jr. It’s an inkling of where the series could stand out from its many (oh, so many) brethren– no other Batsidekick has siblings, and none has such a problem with issues of personal touch and space (Both JJ and the Joker have had their effect). This could be a truly intriguing series, if the very idea of Batgirl didn’t consistently result in diluted Batman plots for tweeners. Once again: Barbara Gordon is great, but she needs her own identity, removed from the outdated idea that girls need a Batbook ‘of their own’.
Planetary Book Two.
Oh, my goodness. And I thought the first volume was good. All those disparate elements, all those little side stories and partial quests: they open up like an origami flower to reveal the macro-plot that’s been arching over the whole series. And holy mother of Satan, it’s a beautiful thing to behold. A couple of little post-epilogue Elseworlds-style bits of fluff at the end aside, this series has definitely been the high point of my reading so far this year. It’s not only by far the best thing Ellis has ever done, it would be the best thing almost every team-spandex comic creator had done, were it on their resume.
Hectic Planet Book 1: Dim Future.
Evan Dorkin is an acquired taste, and there’s no doubting I acquired it pretty hard back in the day. There’s a lot to love in this volume, and not just if you’re a fan of tragicomic ska-driven space opera crime romance hijinks (although who isn’t?). For all the hipster cynicism and whatevs-man attitude, Dorkin’s greatest strength has always been in creating solid, believable narratives, no matter the accessories. This is very early-career stuff, but that strength is already on display. You can’t help but care about Ron, Halby, Blue, and the whole crew of much-put-upon discards who follow them. The series really hits its high point in the next volume, but this is engaging, finely crafted stuff.