Now I’ve talked before about how writer Robert Venditti has been getting work at DC on projects both low-profile (“Demon Knights”) and high (“Green Lantern”). This comes in spite of the fact that he hasn’t been a very prolific or well-known person in the industry, though his best-known project “The Surrogates” was adapted into a movie a few years back. So, when I saw this on sale at WonderCon I decided to pick it up and see what I had been missing. Between this and “The Surrogates,” was I behind the curve in appreciating the writer’s talents, or has DC made a big mistake in asking him to lead the “Green Lantern” franchise into the post-Geoff Johns era? As it’s always the case when two extremes like that are posited, the answer is somewhere in the middle. “The Homeland Directive” is a political thriller that’s as slickly made as it is familiar.
“Dial H For Hero” is an oddball superhero concept from DC that has been revived several times over the years with, at best, modest amounts of success. It’s not hard to understand why it keeps being brought back as having a telephone dial that grants superpowers to ordinary people is a versatile setup that lends itself to reinvention and reinterpretation. Enter China Mieville. Author of “Perdido Street Station” (which I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed) and several other highly-regarded works, he was originally slated to work on a revamp of “Swamp Thing” at Vertigo before the character was drafted back into the DC Universe. Now, Mieville is working in the DCU with a take on “Dial H” that feels like it wouldn’t have been out of place at Vertigo when they were doing things like this all the time back when the imprint was first formed. That said, it doesn’t have the coherence of the best revamps of old ideas and some are likely to find it too off-puttingly weird for its own good. However, it’s also the kind of work that rewards close attention and a re-reading.
The only conventional things about this volume are the challenges its protagonists face. After the crew of the Manhattan Projects reached the stars (and wiped out an alien race in the process), the next step is to consolidate forces on Earth. This means teaming up with their Russian counterparts in Star City and taking out the real people in power behind the scenes of the planet. Including President Truman. Who has to postpone the orgy as a result. Everything else is glorious, demented fun as “The Manhattan Projects” continues with its bizarro approach to the great scientists of the WWII era to show us things we didn’t know we needed.
For a series that advertises itself as a surreal mystery, getting Damon Lindelof (co-creator and co-showrunner of “Lost”) to write the introduction to this first volume of “Mind MGMT” does not exactly inspire confidence. While I certainly don’t regret investing my time in the six seasons of that show, the fact that he and the rest of the writing staff constantly set up little mysteries and at least one major plot thread (Walt!) that they either had no intention of answering or were ultimately not able to follow up on sours my memories of it. The good news is that this first volume of “Mind MGMT” doesn’t have that problem. Its problem is that we’re told too much... and that the story here hinges upon an awful trope.
It feels weird reading this when I still haven’t finished Jonathan Hickman’s run on the title (the last volumes of “FF” and “Fantastic Four” will be arriving in June and July, respectively). However, Marvel has decided to be more judicious with their premiere hardcover line so we’re getting this first collection of Matt Fraction’s take on the franchise now. Some of you may recall that I was looking forward to picking up spinoff title “FF” instead of “Fantastic Four” itself as the former has art by the incredible Mike Allred and a quirky storyline -- Ant-Man, She-Hulk, Medusa of the Inhumans, and Johnny Storm’s girlfriend Darla Deering stand in for the team -- that looked to play to his strengths. As for the main title, it was going to feature art from the ever-reliable Mark Bagley as the family left on a year-long expedition to the far reaches of the galaxy.
In what is one of the company’s best marketing ideas in some time, they’ve collected the first three issues of both titles here. So if you’re like me and were planning on skipping one while buying the other, you get to see them both and maybe find something to like about that title you weren’t interested in. Having read both now, I can say that while Fraction/Bagley isn’t bad, Fraction/Allred is the real deal here.
I read four different volumes of manga this week and all of them had a cliffhanger ending of some sort. That’s why I’ll be talking about all of them in the same post. So if you want to know what I thought of the endings, and a little of what came before them, in “Slam Dunk vol. 26,” “Knights of Sidonia vol. 2,” “Bokurano vol. 8,” and “The Flowers of Evil vol. 5,” just click on through.
It would have been ideal for me to do this column last week when the big “Saga”/Comixology/Apple controversy was going. In case you missed it, people were up in arms over Apple apparently banning “Saga” #12 from sale on iOS due to a miniscule amount of gay sex (really, finding it was like playing “Where’s Waldo?” at first) when in actuality it was Comixology who didn’t submit the issue for their review in the first place. So Comixology winds up looking very foolish, Apple gets a pass and more titles like Joe Casey’s “Sex” and “The Boys: Herogasm” wind up being sold on the platform, and “Saga” will likely see a nice little bump in sales due to all of the controversy around it. Now that things have died down, it would appear that people have either come out ahead or learned a valuable lesson from all this. Apparently, a little controversy did help here.
Word on the street is that after decades of legal wrangling and acrimony, “Marvelman” may finally be coming back into print. Mark Buckingham, who drew the parts of Neil Gaiman’s stories with the character that saw print, appears to be optimistic about it too so it might be that Marvel has finally gotten all of their ducks in a row with this. I know they’ve been working with Gaiman on this part for years since part of the proceeds from “1602” and “Eternals” went to fund the efforts. Additionally, while I’m sure they’ll be duly feted for getting this great work back into print I’m fairly certain that doing so will finally give them the title they need to crack the bookstore market after all these years. They’ve been getting roundly trounced by DC, Image, and just about every manga publisher because they trade mainly in superhero stories and those aren’t the dominant kind in that market. Still, having one of such mythic repute (and let me tell you, that reputation is well-deserved) written by Alan Moore is certain to deliver some massive sales at first and may even turn into an evergreen property along the lines of “Watchmen” and “V For Vendetta.” Expect more news around the time of Comic-Con, and until then...
Not really a WWII story per se, but the story of one German intelligence operative turning on his masters for his own personal gain. “Broken Wings” is a translation of a European graphic novel from a writer, Herik Hanna, that I’ve never heard of and an artist, Trevor Hairsine, who I’m quite familiar with due to his work at Marvel. It’s a densely, and tightly-plotted story that is never less than involving as the operative, who is only identified by his rank of “Major,” goes about his business for the Reich and setting up his own treachery as well. Our main character has charisma and style to spare, so seeing him through all of this is a lot of fun. I do wish that Hairsine’s art was less rough overall. His work gets the job done but it lacks the smoothness and attention to detail that is characteristic of the European style.
Unfortunately, the book is saddled with a last-minute twist that pretty much sinks the whole story. Not only does it make what we have here feel like a three-act-endeavor that only had its first two see print, but it flies in the face of the meticulous planning that the Major has been engaging in since the start. Toss in the fact that the twist hinges upon something that wasn’t properly foreshadowed and is a fairly arbitrary bit of military minutiae, the kind that Ennis gave a right kicking to in “Adventures in the Rifle Brigade,” and you really have to wonder what Hanna was thinking when he came up for it. It’s a real shame because everything up to that point was great. It’d make for a good movie in the right hands, so long as they realize that a proper third act is needed here.