Is there an upside to all of the creative turmoil over at DC these days? There is if you’re Brian Bendis. Not only did he snag Kevin Maguire to do the issue of “Guardians of the Galaxy” shipping this month, but the man has apparently convinced J.H. Williams III to come do something for the company after his work on “The Sandman: Overture” is done. Of course, all of this creative turnover is cyclical and these creators may find more work in a few years at DC. Or they’ll just realize that they could be making more money with the right writer on a creator-owned book and take off for Image or thereabouts. I know which outcome I’d like to see.
However, even if Bendis’ work here has provided the highlight of Rob Liefeld’s year so far, I don’t think we should be holding our breath for their revamp of “Millie the Model” anytime soon.
There are those comics you read that give you a specific idea of how they should be translated into other media. Like this one would make a great movie, or this one would be a fantastic videogame. Others tend to provoke a specialized version of this response; such as, this one would make a fantastic TV movie pilot for a regular series. It’s into that category that writer Peter Hogan and artist Steve Parkhouse’s “Resident Alien” falls. Here we have an alien masquerading as a human doctor, Dr. Harry Vanderspiegel to be precise, while he waits for word of his situation to reach his people across the galaxy. However, his status as a doctor attracts attention from the small mountain community he has tried to maintain a low profile in once the doctor-on-call is murdered. Reluctantly, “Harry” goes along with the requests of local law enforcement to help in their investigation and only finds himself being dragged further into society as a result.
As I said before, the first volume of this series, titled “The Strange Talent of Luther Strode,” was “‘Kick-Ass’ done right.” Of course it also ended with the main character losing almost everything and everyone important to him and then going on to fake his death via “suicide by cop.” It doesn’t exactly set things up for a sequel, but that can be an advantage in itself since the reader won’t have any expectations about where you’re going next time. Writer Justin Jordan utilizes that pretty well early on in this volume as the implication is that it’s going to be about the title character’s actions as a crimefighting urban legend. Then he shifts gears to deliver what is easily one of the most violent and gory spectacles I’ve ever seen in comics.
“Ten Grand” by J. Michael Straczynski and Ben Templesmith has been one of Image’s biggest launches this year, spurred on by the reputations of its creators. However, a good launch doesn’t guarantee long-term success -- one only needs to look at how fast the Kirkman/Liefeld collaboration “The Infinite” sunk in four issues. While overall quality is certainly the key to a series’ long run, creative stability is one of the main contributors to this. What does this have to do with “Ten Grand?” About a week ago, an announcement went out from Straczynski that he was replacing Templesmith with artist C.P. Smith after the former stopped communicating with him about a month ago. I was prepared for another round of creator-driven internet drama, but the catch here was that no one had heard from Templesmith in the last month. Fortunately, within 24 hours of the story breaking Templesmith came online and reassured everyone that he was alive and that his silence was down to a bad moving experience and other personal drama. Though he patched things up with Straczynski in the process, “Ten Grand” will be moving on without him. Whether or not the creative turmoil here has an effect on the title’s sales is yet to be seen, but my magic 8-ball says, “Signs are not good.”
Templesmith is a fantastic artist with a distinct macabre style and I’m sure he’ll land on his feet with another project in due course. I can only hope that the result is more issues of his and Warren Ellis’ “Fell,” assuming the writer has been quietly producing scripts for it in the past few years.
The big story that “Animal Man” and “Swamp Thing” have been building towards is finally here and… it’s rather underwhelming. We’ve had nearly a full year of good buildup to this point under Jeff Lemire’s stewardship of this title, so I was expecting to be entertained. What we wind up getting here is a kind of “Age of Apocalypse” lite where the characters are plugged into the standard templates for this story. Lemire is a smart enough writer to keep the momentum going through the story and throw in a few clever surprises, but there’s very little imagination on display in the world of the crossover and the overall plotting. Between all this and an epilogue that does its best to fundamentally break the character’s appeal and I can see why readers started leaving the title in droves during and after the crossover.
The latest furor to erupt over at DC (and it’s getting hard to keep track of them all these days) involves the exodus of writers J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman from “Batwoman.” Essentially it came down to their frustration with the company’s editorial directives which nixed their plans to have the title character get married, after they had already cleared the storyline beforehand. Co-Publisher Dan Didio came out and said that this was down to the company being anti-marriage as that’s viewed as a drama killer amongst most superhero titles. I don’t think that’s necessarily true as you just have to be more creative with the drama you come up with. (I’ll be talking about that a bit tomorrow with the third volume of “Animal Man.”) That said, I wouldn’t worry too much about any of the parties involved as the creators are talented enough to land on their feet elsewhere, “Batwoman” already has a new writer in Marc Andreyko (co-creator of “Torso” with Brian Michael Bendis and author of a well-received run on DC’s “Manhunter” a few years back) and the company still has plenty of creators beating down their doors to write these characters.
I’d say that they can’t keep up alienating creators like this, but at the rate things have been going it’s looking like they can do just that.
Paul Cornell has a quirky sensibility that has served him well in books like “Captain Britain & MI-13,” “Superman: The Black Ring,” and “Demon Knights.” He’s demonstrated a great familiarity with the requirements of the superhero genre, but likes to infuse his takes with fun bits of weirdness and wit that enliven the overall experience. That should make him an ideal candidate for a character like Wolverine who, given the number of comics he appears in, is never wanting for a new twist to his circumstances. Cornell doesn’t quite succeed here as “Hunting Season” is a generally fun story and also one that doesn’t really offer us anything we haven’t seen elsewhere with the character.
The last time I talked about this series, it was regarding how writer John Layman managed to push protagonist Tony Chu’s ongoing bad fortune past the point it could be reasonably tolerated. It’s been clear that the man is a living shit-magnet, but the abuse he suffered in vol. 5 made the overall experience no fun for everyone involved. That didn’t get me to stop reading the series, though. You didn’t see me talk about vol. 6 because, well, that can be chalked up to general laziness. It was an interesting diversion which focused on Tony’s sister Toni (or Antoinelle if you prefer) and her unfortunate fate which managed to sidestep the issues in the previous volume. With “Bad Apples,” Layman hits them head on and throws some interesting twists into the formula as the title passes the halfway point in its narrative.
This was another Image title that had popped up on my radar a while back. I got the first volume at WonderCon and I didn’t dislike it. The series is a fact-based take on American covert intelligence and espionage activities that follows the exploits of a small group of highly trained operatives, known as Team Omaha as they are sent out on missions across the globe. On one hand, writer Nathan Edmonson’s no-nonsense approach to the team’s exploits is refreshing. We don’t get bogged down in their personal dramas and no time is wasted in the narrative or the action. On the other, we’re left with very little personal investment or reason to care about these people while the stories themselves often lack proper resolution or even a defined narrative arc. I get that Edmonson is trying to show us what it’s really like for these people in the field, but if I wanted that kind of realism I’d just turn on the news or read one of the books he recommends at the end of this volume.