I should’ve known better. After I was less than impressed with Matt Fraction’s first arc on the regular “Thor” series, “The World Eaters,” passing on this volume should’ve been a no-brainer. But continuing goodwill from the writer’s “Ages of Thunder” stories with the character and the fact that I think he’s a decent writer convinced me to pick this up in paperback. Unfortunately “The Galactus Seed” is a lethargic drag of a storyline that has an epic scale, but not the energy to sustain it.
Now that the title character has passed on, it’s time for those closest to him to begin the healing process. Coincidentally, as he was close to pretty much everyone in the Ultimate Universe it also gives us a chance to check in on what they’re doing and see a showcase for the soft relaunch for the imprint. This miniseries is essentially a long-form version of those teaser books that Marvel puts out from time to time to spotlight new stories and status quos in the wake of a major crossover, or to hype upcoming storylines as was the case with their recent “Point One” one-shot. If the book is going to be judged on how excited it gets me for the new Ultimate titles, then it pretty much fails despite being a (mostly) competent display of craft from all parties involved.
Tom Morello’s “Spartacus of Whores” epic “Orchid” is missing from this month’s solicitations after #8 was solicited for June. I’d heard it was supposed to last twelve issues though the last solicitation had it as an ongoing. Though I have yet to read any of it, I find it a little depressing that the series crashed and burned so badly because I am a fan of Morello’s music. Maybe the book is another victim of Dark Horse’s inability to sell material that can’t sell itself, or maybe it was just that bad. Anyway, this makes me more inclined to pick up the still-scheduled collection of the first four issues just to see what went wrong.
This second volume shows that, much like the first, when you have this much style you don’t need to have that much substance (or coherence, for that matter). The main characters are still the members of the secret organization “Libra,” and they’re still trying to maintain the peace between the many different creatures and factions that inhabit the transmogrified version of New York known as “Jerusalem’s Lot.” After the previous volume focused on mostly normal new recruit Leonard and the hot-headed and hot-blooded (*rimshot*) enforcer Zap, we get to see more of the other members of this organization in action. So we get to see things like Klaus’ 99-hour “prosfair” deathmatch, and my vote for the sensational character find of 2012: Lucky Abrahms. He’s the world’s leading expert on vampires, and has suffered a multitude of curses as a result of his work. The “lucky” bit comes from the fact that while he is effectively immune to them, they’re still in effect and wreaking havoc on anyone in their vicinity.
You know how Image has been cranking out acclaimed, sellout series one after another this year? Well August is when the trades for a lot of these start arriving. It’s going to be a busy month for me...
Lots of talk about “buzz” after the break.
I finally got my hands on the last of Jonathan Hickman’s pre-Marvel Image projects and it turned out to be one of his more successful endeavors. On paper it’s the story of superpowered individuals in the future working to combat the threat of an unstoppable alien horde coming to annihilate the Earth. While everyone is coming together to fight this threat, the sole holdout is the most powerful metahuman in the Solar System -- Mars. He’s the story’s Superman analogue and what sets him apart from other takes on the character is that this being was originally raised in the hard times of the Dark Ages. So aside from being over a thousand years old, he also has some particular and violent ideas about how society should function. Characterization (when he’s not working with characters who have an established history) isn’t one of Hickman’s strong suits, so Mars and the rest of the cast aren’t as fleshed out as they could’ve and should’ve been.
Really, these people wind up being soundpieces for the writer’s strength: his ideas, and there are some novel ones here. At its core is the progression of the ideal utopia from eternity, to liberty, to equality, and finally fraternity in the space of the four issues collected here. Each issue tackles a single idea and does so in a surprisingly logical way by first establishing Mars as the story’s Superman/God figure, and then showing the rest of the superhumans’ efforts to solve the problem without him. There are also plenty of other interesting ideas strewn throughout the story such as the control-based ideology of the aliens, Ars Poetica -- The God Gun, and a Frenchman killing English to ensure the supremacy of the English language. Ryan Bodenheim also gives us some strong, finely detailed art though the constantly changing color scheme of the book seems to be done just because it can rather than for any good reason. If you needed more proof of why Hickman is one of the premier talents in the industry today, then you’ll find that here.
So you know all that hand-wringing and second-guessing I was doing about the fate of Marvel’s cosmic characters? Turns out it’s all for naught as Bendis is bringing them back himself. Hot on the heels of “You Know Who” appearing in the end credits of “The Avengers” the Guardians of the Galaxy will be back in issue six of “Avengers Assemble.” This comes after “You Know Who” himself has put in an appearance in the third issue of that series. It’s nice that they’re giving the characters a push like this even though the thinking behind the book itself annoys the hell out of me. See, “Avengers Assemble” is an “Avengers” book with a team made up of the members from the recent movie with the idea being that it can then be pitched to said movie with a minimum of fuss. As Marvel has demonstrated over the years, this NEVER results in attracting new readers beyond the first issue as sales promptly crash afterwards. One needs to look no further than “The Invincible Iron Man,” “The Mighty Thor,” and “Captain America” for proof of this. Still, someone keeps thinking this is a good idea, so we’re going to keep seeing it for the forseeable future. At least the titles themselves have produced some worthwhile stories... without any pretense of trying to appeal to fans of said movies.
This month sees the return of another old comics tradition: annuals. Originally they were meant to be extra-sized issues which served as the culmination for a year’s worth of stories. At least, that’s what I remember hearing. One time. Somewhere on the internet. Anyway, the reason you don’t see them as much now is that they eventually became a kind of vestigal part of comics publishing -- something that they did because you had to have an annual every year, even if it didn’t tie into the main title. They were eventually scaled way back, to the point where whenever you did see one it was usually because it had a story necessary to the main title that couldn’t be fit in otherwise. They’re back now and most of them seem appropriately vestigal. The sole exception appears to be the “Green Lantern” one by Johns and Van Sciver which wraps up the current “Revenge of the Black Hand” arc. Probably not a surprise to see that the one example of how to do these things is coming from them..