So, last night, I was online, finishing up a little historical research, when I happened across my old Stargate address. Wonder what the old gang is doing?, I wondered. Well, there was only one way to find out. I sent out a bunch of emails before calling it a night. This morning, I woke up to a couple of dozen replies. Turns out I have a lot of catching up to do. Making plans to do some coffees, lunches, and dinners – in addition to attending the Stargate Christmas reunion being organized by the lovely Tanja Balic.
Things are moving along nicely on the Dark Matter front. As you know, the comic book launches on January 11, 2012 and the plan is to use it as a springboard to a television series. Big conference call planned for next week to discuss strategy – and a brilliant suggestion by my Canadian agent that, if it pans out, should result in the rest of the pieces falling into place quite nicely.
Well, I’m back in the comic book swing of things and, in order to figure out which books I should be following, I’ve elected to go the “trial and error” route by buying three issues of every ongoing title out there and giving them a shot. If they impress after three, I’ll keep picking them up. If not, I’ll drop them. Presumably, this method will allow me to whittle down my choices to the select few books I’ll continue to follow to my dying days.
Anyhoo, kicked things off a couple of entries back with my thoughts of the new Batman & Robin relaunch. Today, I’ve got some catching up to do…
I’ve always enjoyed the Batman line for its gritty, grounded stories and darker tone. Even the most colorful members of the Dark Knight’s rogue’s gallery are more sinister than silly, less the over-the-top villains found in other titles and more of the believable threats one would expect from a more mature narrative (movies notwithstanding). This new Batman title did not disappoint, weaving an engaging and eerily unnerving narrative involving a grisly murder, an attempt on the life of Bruce Wayne, and a secret society known as The Court of Owls. Lots to like here.
Verdict: Scott Snyder’s opening story is tightly written and well-paced. Definitely continuing with this series.
THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN (“SPIDER ISLAND STORYLINE”) #666-673
Like Batman, Spiderman is a character I’ve always enjoyed reading although the tone of his books tend to contrast greatly with that of the Dark Knight’s. The Spiderman books have always been far more colorful with grand, over-the-top villains and stories. Of course, that never made Spiderman less enjoyable. Usually. There were always certain storylines that felt more cartoonish and silly but, really, they could be excused as more a change of pace than the norm, narrative blips that never really marred the whole. In the case of the big multi-issue/cross-over Spider Island event, it was a little harder to ignore. Even by Spidey’s generally broader arcs, this one felt a little OTT. The inclusion of other Marvel heavy-hitters seemed beside the point as they just seemed on hand to provide spectacular background combat while the true story moved along. I quite liked the character moments – particularly Pete’s moments with MJ in those final two issues – but thought that Peter’s new girlfriend made a huge leap in logic in concluding he was Spiderman. As far as major events go, the Spider Island arc paled in comparison to far more provocative events like Civil War. P.S. Peter Parker has a long lost brother named Kaine? Just like the Undertaker in WWE? For real?
Verdict: Really liked the character moments but the whole Spider Island menace ultimately felt insubstantial to me, a less inspired threat than its premise. Read the first issue of the following story-arc and that didn’t really grab me either. Sadly, I think I’m going to move on.
GREEN LANTERN CORPS #1-3
Now this title surprised me, setting up a nice mystery in its opening issue and introducing an interesting character in the affable Guy Gardner, a character I never really liked in the past who comes across as strangely endearing in GLC. Love the art and the SF trappings and, while the story seems to slow down after the first issue, devolving into an extended fight sequence, it holds much promise.
Verdict: I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Hopefully, the pace will pick up in issue #4. Will definitely be continuing with this one to see how things progress.
One of the drawbacks of reading an established title is you go in with the knowledge that, barring some pre-announced shake-up, there aren’t going to be any big surprises. Small surprises, sure, but not the shocking, earths-shattering developments whose ramifications resonate throughout the superheroic universe – like, say, the death of Spiderman, because you know Spiderman is a bread and butter character and there’s no way Marvel would…oh, check that. Marvel DID kill off Spiderman (R.I.P. Peter Parker), albeit in an alternate timeline. And this is why the Ultimates titles appeal to me. I don’t want to go in knowing that a book’s writer has been given free reign to play in the sandbox so long as they remember to put all the toys back when they’re done. I like surprises. And this new incarnation of the Ultimates delivers with a story at times more SF than superhero-inspired, with plenty of big concept twists, shocking turns, and a genuinely suspenseful build-up to what could well be a hopeless showdown with a seemingly superior foe. Serious and smart.
Verdict: I’m on the edge of my seat. Of course I’ll be picking up the next issue!
Oof. I like dark characters and villains in particular (loved Gail Simone’s Secret Six), but only if I, as a reader, can connect with them on some level. They don’t even have to be likable necessarily, simply engaging or worthy of respect. Unfortunately, Deathstroke in this book is a far cry from Deadshot. While both, for the most part, come across as assholes, Deadshot possesses a depth and humor that redeems him to a certain extent. Deathstroke, on the other hand, is an incredibly unlikable character doing repugnant things. There is one point in the opening arc in which he chases down a middle-man who helped set up a deal, leading to a major, messy, violent scenario – a scenario, Deathstroke later admits, that he merely set up to gain some cred. Seemingly lost in all the pyrotechnics is the innocent bystander, a woman in a car, who takes a headshot while it’s all going down. By the end of the third issue, when we find out who is coming after Deathstroke and why, I can actually empathize with their cause and wish they would actually succeed.
Verdict: An incredibly unlikable character in Slade Wilson makes for a difficult read. Pass.
ULTIMATE SPIDERMAN #1-4
To be honest, I was very wary about this one going in. Despite my respect for the talented Mr. Bendis, I was a little concerned about the decision to move so far away from the established mythology by passing the mantle from Peter Parker to an all-new Spiderman. Who am I kidding? I was a lot concerned – but the story and its characters thoroughly won me over. Bendis strengths are in full display here, creating and developing grounded, believable, multi-layered characters as they relate to superhuman struggles. A lot of nice, little touches in the book, humorous and poignant, especially when it comes to the supporting players. Love Miles’ awestruck sidekick, Ganke.
Verdict: Terrific. Definitely on my to-read list.