Earlier this week one of the greatest comic book writers of all time was interviewed by the British newspaper “The Guardian” where he expressed some pointed thoughts on the success of the “Avengers” movie and superheroes in general. Moore stated that he found the success of the film “alarming” in the sense that adults were being entertained by characters and concepts originally meant to entertain them as children. Before that, he also said that superheroes were not being used in their intended way to expand the imaginations of nine-to-thirteen-year-olds, with their current adult audience utilizing the term “graphic novel” in a way to justify their continued following of these characters without appearing emotionally subnormal.
As the title implies, this is the setup to the big “All Out War” storyline of which the first issue is the biggest-selling comic of the year so far. (Thanks to its fifteen interlocking covers celebrating the comic’s tenth anniversary.) Seeing Rick forge together a coalition to take on Negan and his Saviors is a rickety effort, full of ambition, false starts, backstabbing and enough pitfalls to make you wonder if anyone on either side of the equation knows what they’re doing. I mean this all in the most complimentary way for the book, though.
So yeah, my expectations for this were not all that high after the “Animal Man” half of the “Rotworld” crossover. Seeing as how almost half of the content here has been re-printed from that other volume, it would seem that picking up this volume is more of an act of masochism masquerading under whatever duty I feel as a reviewer here. That’s borne out here, mostly, as Scott Snyder doesn’t fare much better in making Swamp Thing’s journey through Rotworld particularly imaginative or creative. We get lots of fighting with rot-ified versions of superheroes like the Teen Titans, another showdown with little Billy Arcane, and find out that Batman even had a plan for this even if it didn’t do him much good in the end. It’s all fairly predictable and straightforward, without much fun to be had even from Abby’s travails in returning home to stop her uncle’s madness permanently. At least the art from Yanick Paquette and Marco Rudy, beautifully detailed with creative layouts, keeps this side of the story visually interesting
What I will give Snyder is that he manages a far better final issue to his volume, which is also his last for the series, than Lemire did with “Animal Man.” Granted, all he had to do was not break Swamp Thing as a character, but the final confrontation with Arcane feels appropriately dramatic. I also liked the change to Abby’s status quo which not only allows her to be pretty badass in that moment, yet also adds an element of tragedy to her relationship with the title character. It’s a good note for the writer to go out on and makes for a convenient stopping point for the reader as well. I’m inclined to do that too, though morbid curiosity does have me wondering how incoming writer Charles Soule will fare with this relatively intact setup compared to the work Lemire is going to have to do to rebuild his character.
Hmm… “Morbid Curiosity.” Sounds like a good name for a podcast. Expect my thoughts on both volumes in that form sometime in 2014.
Someone at Marvel is clearly determined to find this character a series that sticks. This is in spite of substantial evidence to the contrary that it may be a lost cause. To that end, let’s recap the recent history of the character’s publications:
Keeping with a Vertical trend for this weekend, here we are with the second volume of this shonen soap opera romance. Though the first one had its issues, I wasn’t about to write it off because there was the chance that it could pull out a revelation about main female protagonist Emiru’s “sickness of despair” that could make it all worthwhile. This may have seemed like a longshot given the over-the-top melodrama what vol. 1 trafficked in, but to my surprise writer Hikaru Asada has actually pulled it off. Not only is there a good reason for Emiru’s despair, it also comes in the form of a clever “everything you knew was” wrong twist. We find this out early on and this left me excited to find out what the rest of the story had to offer. That wound up being the other revelation that her therapist/lover Kazuma is a selfish creep whose actions are disturbing enough to make the title’s key love story more skin-crawling than anything else.
(It’s also impossible to properly address how these actions ultimately sink the story without spoiling the main plot twist. Full spoilers for this volume await after the break.)
I should’ve seen it coming through the boob window.
With a cover like that, how could I actually expect the first volume of “From the New World” to be any good? Because it was being published by Vertical, that’s why! For years the company has put out some of the most interesting non-mainstream manga and I’ve done my best to pick up everything they’ve put out. After all, they’re the ones who have brought us the best of Osamu Tezuka in English with “Ode to Kirihito,” “Black Jack,” and “Buddha,” old-school shojo manga in “To Terra,” quirky sci-fi in “Knights of Sidonia,” and some titles that took their time but eventually won me over in “Twin Spica” and “The Flowers of Evil.” Yeah, they’ve also given us some titles whose appeal was limited only to fans of the genre in “Limit” and some genuine crap like “Velveteen and Mandala.” Yet the majority of their output for years has been such that I’ve been inclined to check it all out. Call it the “Vertical Halo” if you will and it’s served me well. Until now, that is.
On one hand, this series continues to showcase plenty of cool ideas and images that make it well worth reading. Harry Daghlian’s transformation from man to irradiated skeleton. Enrico Fermi winding up on the business end of Albert Einstein’s chainsaw. JFK as a paranoid anti-communist coke fiend. The war of the Infinite Oppenheimers. Between the existing plot threads and Jonathan Hickman’s re-casting of previous scenes in a new light, you can sit back and enjoy the book on its subplots alone. Things only get better when you consider Nick Pitarra’s typically strong artwork, and the surreal Oppenheimer warfare rendered by guest artist Ryan “God Hates Astronauts” Browne.
On the other, it’s a good thing that the subplots are so interesting because I’m starting to wonder where “The Manhattan Projects” is going. The main thread seems to be Oppenheimer’s machinations, yet there’s so much else going on here that it doesn’t get a whole lot of momentum going in this volume. While Hickman is known for his meticulously planned-out stories, it feels like he’s testing himself to see how many subplots he can throw in before the narrative buckles under the weight of it all. It hasn’t yet, but unless we get some of that forward momentum going on them it’ll happen soon. The title does remain, for now, one of the most distinctive and demented series out there.
So the word on the street this week is that the latest issue of Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s “Sex Criminals” is worth picking up now as opposed to waiting for the trade. The short version is that the two were planning on doing a “musical” sequence in this issue set to “Fat Bottom Girls” by “Queen.” Appropriateness of the song notwithstanding, they couldn’t get the rights sorted out in time so they improvised in as clever a manner as you’d expect from Fraction. Did it convince me to pick it up? No, but I’m still planning on buying the trade when it comes out.
Pun. Not. Intended.
For this title, having its latest storyline revolve around an “evil school for mutants” is certainly more crazy than fighting Wolverine’s brother in the Savage Land, but less so than having the school face off against FRANKENSTEIN’S MURDER CIRCUS. So we’ve reached a nice middle ground of insanity here. The important thing is that with the title set to wrap up with its next volume (after two crossover issues of “Battle of the Atom”) Jason Aaron pulls together the plot threads he’s been developing over the past few volume and brings his run on this title to a satisfying climax.