The Twelve 0 (J. Michael Straczynski/Chris Weston; Marvel)
The Twelve features characters resurrected from Marvel's pre-Marvel days, back in the Atlas and Timely Production pre-war years. Issue 0 isn't necessarily required for the series, from the look of it. Although it's entertaining to see the differences between what people were willing to accept then and now from their stories. I mean, if you think that the whole Batman/Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent/Superman secret identity thing is a bit strained, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Take the Phantom Reporter, who appears to have two different secret identities. There's Dick Jones, Cub Reporter; strangely, despite the fact that he never seems to bring back the story, every story to which he's assigned somehow miraculously gets resolved. Secret Identity 2 is Mr. Van Ergen, a Park Avenue playboy whose father left him $50 million. The hero -- entirely without powers of any sort -- is the Phantom Reporter. All three of them wear blue business suits. Van Ergen and the Reporter both wear bright red capes. The Reporter adds a glowing red domino mask; I'm guessing that the glow manages to distract people from anything important. (The clothing problem, by the by, is only going to get worse in the new series, if the triple identity remains, since, due to two characters with similar designs, Weston changed the color of the Phantom Reporter's suit to a lovely shade of magenta. Magenta business suits, then and now, being so overwhelmingly common as to pass without notice, of course.
Anyway, aside from the character designs, there's not a lot to comment on, as aside from those designs, issue 0 only contains three of the old Daring and USA Comics reprints. Fun stories, though, even with massive gaping plotholes. It's interesting to note that people of 60 years ago were willing to tolerate far more in the way of violence than we are now. Every single one of the heroes in those old stories kills someone, sometimes several people, and they get away with it, and it's seen as a good thing. I suspect that one of the things the heroes will have to deal with is the fact that killing with such impunity is no longer accepted.
The revised character designs are ... intriguing, let's say. Have a look at Captain Wonder, for example. Bare legs will certainly be an interesting thing to carry forward. (And I wonder how long it will be before Weston gets massively tired of doing the hairs on the legs like that). But ... well, thing about bare legs is, they draw your gaze down. And Captain Wonder ... kind of ain't so wonderful in certain areas, if you see what I mean. Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that the character ought to be Captain Steel'd, so to speak --- wait, yes, I am saying that. Poor man has a negadick right now. The thing about bare legs is that it draws your attention to how the anatomy fits together, and really, there ought to be a bit more there there. Of course, as soon as you do that, the fanboy masses scream. I have to admit, I don't entirely get that, but I think that's a rant for another time. I'm also curious about the Blue Blade, especially given Weston's character notes on that page. And I'm really curious as to what Marvel lets Straczynski get away with for these characters. They let him pull Squadron Supreme over to Marvel MAX, allowing for more in the way of violence and boobies. This appears to be on themain Marvel label, judging from the announcements and issue 0, so I'm guessing not so much with the boobies this time.
Kind of recommended, for the fun if exceeding violent old stories, but not actually required.
Robin 169 (Milligan/Baldeon/Bird; DC): ... Eergh. I'm beginning to think that Milligan should never be allowed near regular superhero series, because his brand of weird just doesn't work for them. Infinity Inc. is well-nigh incomprehensible -- though it may work better as a collection when done -- and Tim Drake is savagely out of character for this story. (Though the graveyard story in Robin Annual that was the first part of this crossover now feels a bit more connected.) He's just not stupid enough to do this, especially after he's been kidnapped, dragged all over the world, threatened with death, etc. The only purpose this issue serves is to produce the Nightwing/Robin smackdown due in next week's Nightwing. I will say that this Bat-crossover is being handled with amazing dispatch -- all of the issues have been on time, at least -- but starting with the end of the last issue and continuing with this one, it's gone rather impressively off the rails. I'll probably keep reading -- or rather, I'll look at next week's Nightwing to see if there's anything other than a smackdown with a pre-ordained conclusion -- but I couldn't seriously recommend that anyone else even look at the thing.
Invincible 47 (Kirkman/Ottley; Image): Mostly marking time on the way to The Super! Spectacular! Smackdown! In Issue 50! (Yes, yes, we know, issue 50 is going to be The Epic to End All Epics.) It felt very much like a chess-piece issue -- people all being moved where they need to be either physically or emotionally for issue 50 -- but a surprisingly enjoyable chess piece issue.
An Open Plea to Comics Writers: Could we please please PLEASE confine the zombie thing to Marvel Zombies and Walking Dead? PLEASE?
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #9: No Future for You part 4 (Brian K. Vaughan/Georges Jeanty)
...Well, thank goodness that's over.
Look, it's not that it was badly written. And I understand that it was a means to an end; the slayers organization would need some way to go after rogue slayers. AFter all, not every single one of the thousands of girls who received superpowers on that day is going to be filled with the desire to save the world. It makes sense that Giles wants to protect Buffy from knowing what needs to be done or that he's doing it or from having to handle it herself, because he knows she really couldn't; it's consistent with what happened in "The Gift", when he killed Ben and never told Buffy what happened. Now that Buffy is really and truly the leader of thousands, she can't be seen to be sanctioning the murders of some of them. It even makes sense that Faith and Giles would be the ones to do what needs to be done; they're the two characters most likely to be able to live with it. However, to get there, Vaughan essentially ignored everything that happened with Faith in Angel and in the last season of Buffy. She grew up and changed in ways that just aren't reflected in "No future for you". (We will serenely ignore the sheer lunacy of Faith being trained to act as an English aristocrat, because the very concept is so absurd that you have to simply accept it as the story's "god point" to read the thing.)
If this were Faith right after the bodyswap episodes (which I can't remember the titles of), then yes, it works really well. That Faith was still bone-deep furious with and jealous of Buffy. If that's supposed to be Faith after she helped Buffy and the slayerettes save the world, then it simply doesn't work at all.
Atomic Robo #3 (Clevinger/Wegener/Pattison; Red 5): Man, that was just an unreasonable amount of fun. Intelligent robots, wandering attack pyramids in Egypt, stuff blowing up ... it's like BPRD as funneled through Raiders of the Lost Ark, in a way. It even manages to do the zombie thing in a not-at-all-annoying way. The sort of story that appeals to your inner kid. Plus one that you can give to your outer kid, if you happen to have one around. It doesn't stand alone; if you haven't read issue 2, you're going to be a bit lost, but only a bit. Highly recommended.
The Sword #3 (Luna Brothers; Image): In which the story moves forward incrementally, and a whole lotta people die. Lots and lots and LOTS of people. If you like sheer gory mayhem, this is your issue right here. In terms of story beats, mostly, it allows a lot of people to find out about Dara and the sword. Judging from the cover of issue 4, things are about to get very very sticky.
Dynamo 5 #9 (Faerber/Asrar/Riley): In which we discover new aspects to Scatterbrain's powers, and he gets intriguingly pissed off about something that happened while he was in a coma. I'm looking forward to seeing what exactly the explanation for his reaction is; it seems like the sort of thing that can only really go in one of three directions (with all of them carrying a certain element of "How dare you do that while you were pretending to be me!") and it's going to be interesting to see which of those directions Faerber picks.
Resurrection #1 (Marc Guggenheim/David Dumeer; Oni Press)
As Guggenheim says in the letters column, the base concept behind the story is "What happens next?" What happens after all the aliens have been killed in "Independence Day", for example? All the capitals and major cities of the world have been substantially destroyed; millions upon millions have been killed. In Guggenheim's case, he says he was inspired by "V: The Final Battle", which is essentially the same situation, except that in the V miniserieses, considerably more was left intact. In this case, it looks as though while V may have been a source of inspiration, Independence Day was a more direct antecedent. The aliens and the humans have been fighting across the surface of the world for over a decade, driving humans to live in underground bunkers the past few years. Oddly, later in the story, we discover that the aliens were here for considerably longer before fighting broke out, making one wonder why this all happened. (You also wnder how people have survived; it's clear that there can't have been any agriculture or manufacturing or transport during the worst of the wars, and this would have been the case world wide. So how did they manage to live?)
People are, depressingly, pretty much what you think they'd be after spending years underground. A gunfight nearly breaks out among some of the first to emerge. Sara, a youngish woman, gets disgusted by them all and sets out to walk to Washington DC, to see if anything is left. The government, it turns out, has been moved to, apparently, Berlin, New Hampshire, but Sara doesnt know that. On the way, she decides first to visit her son, and she happens to run into Ben, another refugee, and they decide to travel together.
I am, I must admit, very curious to see where this story goes. To see just how far "what happens next" can go. Dumeer's black and white art works really well most of the time, although there are places where he uses shadows in a way that make people faces look very eerie, in a way that the story doesn't quite seem to support. Are we meant to think of these people as creepy in that way? I guess we'll find out.
I do wonder how long this series is meant to run. Guggenheim's comments sound as though he's got a specific endpoint planned, and I suspect this may be more enjoyable as a whole than as a serial. Any road, recommended.
The Infinite Horizon #1 (Gerry Duggan/Phil Moto; Image)
Retelling the story of the Odyssey, updated to the modern day. In this story a soldier identified only as "The Captain" is in Syria, fighting what appears to be an ever expanding, never-ending war of the US versus the Middle East, when suddenly the entire world goes to hell in a handbasket. And through all of this, the Captain needs to get his men back home, through intractably hostile territory. Meanwhile, back at home, his wife Penelope tries to keep things going, standing between neighbors hostile to each other, but not to her. However far in the future this is, it appears that the water situation in this country has gotten peculiarly bad, perhaps due to some war-related cause we haven't yet seen or due to global warming; peculiar because absent major weather changes, the Catskills in New York shouldn't be experiencing the sorts of water shortages that would bring people to blows. (Then again, neither should Georgia in the here and now, and we all know how that's going, so maybe not so far fetched after all.)
Honestly, nothing about this story really grabbed me all that much. Part of it is just typical first-chapter expositionitis; we need to get at least a general idea of who people are and what's going on, and there's not a lot you can do to avoid exposition dumps for that. Part of it is that the art is so stylized that it doesn't quite feel like a good match to the story to me -- although, that said, I think the artist may be trying to faintly echo ancient Greek art, which makes sense.
I don't know if I'm curious enough to see what happens in issue 2, despite the fact that a lot more ought to be happening -- and it's not as though a lot didn't happen in issue 1, expositionitis or not. Just not my taste, I suspect.
Will Eisner's The Spirit #11, "Day of the Dead" (Cooke/Bone/Stewart; DC):
In which the interminable zombie plot finally comes to an end. And, to be fair, a very satisfying grand-guignol sort of end. And hey! there's a gay couple! This being a superhero story, they end about as well as you'd expect, especially given that they're one-shot supporting characters.
The story is a hard leadout from issue 10, starting with Ebony bandaging Denny's injuries from the beating he took at Montez' hands last issue. The story takes place on the night of November 2, el Dia de los Muertos, very appropriate to undead like Montez and Denny Colt, as Denny himself notes. Ellen goes to see a former fiancee, name of Argonaut Bones (...and, you know, after Ginger Coffee, the names in this series shouldn't get to me, but still, how can you not roll your eyes a little at that?). She's gone to see him because he's the most knowledgeable person she knows on the topic of folklore and zombies. He doesn't entirely believe her, but decides to go with her, and, of course, is rapidly made to believe by the zombie infestation spreading across the middle of Central City. It turns out that Argo and Ellen wind up being key elements of the story. (The nice thing about Ellen, overall, is that she's not merely a damsel to be distressed and rescued; in fact, she's been unusually UN-distressed, for a superhero's girlfriend, through the course of this series. She doesn't actually appear a lot, but when she dies, she's usually fairly important in the story.) This issue does form a reasonably satisfying ending to the Montez arc -- though perhaps it might leave Denny with a few psychological issues relating to his ongoing semi-zombiehood.
I am beginning to wonder if maybe I've just read the wrong stories in forming my opinion of what Eisner's Spirit actually was. This is the second time in four issues where you could reasonably approach Cooke's version by talking about the sheer overwhelming body count -- not just of the zombies, but of all the people they kill. Central City's police department, especially, has had the crap hammered out of it in those two issues; you wonder if anyone but Chief Dolan is even still alive. That, combined with the casual approach taken in the original issues of The Twelve (see above) to heroes killing off the bad guys makes me wonder if maybe there are a lot of issues that Eisner wrote where Denny does in the criminals then goes out singing a jaunty version of "Je ne regrette rien". And also makes me wonder if Frank Miller's approach to the film maybe isn't as wrongheaded as it sounds. Then I think, "Six villains! One movie!" and I get over that, at least. But I digress.
Dan Dare #1 (Garth Ennis/Gary Erskine; Virgin Comics)
Man, Ennis can be fun to read in a good old-fashioned comics way, when he decides to indulge himself.
"Dan Dare" resurrects an old British title, much as Ennis did last year with Battler Britton for DC/Wildstorm. Dan Dare himself was an international space pilot, back in the day. He fought the good fight, then retired (to a most surprising place) when Britain changed into something that he could no longer fight for. In the meantime, the rest of the world went to hell, with nuclear war bustin' out all over, and Britain surviving only because they had an effective SDI. The US is essentially a land of blasted craters where cities ought to be, as are Canada and Mexico. In any event, it turns out that the beings that Britain thought they'd defeated back in Dan Dare's day are still very much alive, and have retrenched to become more effective enemies. The British go to Dan Dare to recruit him to rejoin the fight, and of course he eventually agrees, because we wouldn't have any story if he didn't. Erskine's art is just perfect, matching that sort of old-time storytelling while being perfectly clean and modern. Looks like the story is going to be good old fashioned space-fighting fun. (So to speak.) Highly recommended.
Purchased but not reviewed: The Overman #1, Northlanders #1 -- I think I need to see issue 2 of both of those before I can express an opinion.