Is It Wednesday Yet?
21 April 2009 — Here we are again with another installment of your favorite comic book review series. As always, the reviews are free of spoilers, so read on without fear of having your experience ruined!
Our grading scale is simple:
Buy: An excellent comic book.
Borrow: A good comic, but save yourself some money by reading a friend's copy.
Flip Through: Give it a once-over at the comic shop.
Skip: This doesn't need to be explained.
Daredevil: Noir #1
Released: 08 April 2009
Writer: Alexander Irvine
Artist: Tomm Coker
Colorist: Daniel Freedman
Letterer: VC's Joe Caramagna
Cover: Tomm Coker
Matt Murdock is just the latest in a string of Marvel characters to find himself transplanted into the 1930s with a decidedly darker, grittier atmosphere as a backdrop. That's right, following in the footsteps of Spider-Man, the X-Men and Wolverine, this month Daredevil has undergone the noir treatment. In this instance specifically, I know, the premise sounds like an exercise in redundancy. The regular Daredevil series has been an excellent example of modern noir for years now, why bother giving it an out-of-continuity, genre-specific miniseries?
Strangely enough, it's actually worth a closer look. Daredevil: Noir knows better than to directly match the direction of Murdock's regular ongoing series, choosing instead to turn back the clock to a slightly more innocent time in the crime fighter's life. Alexander Irvine's story deals with a more ingenuous, perhaps naïve, protagonist. He fights crime the old fashioned way: by knocking down the pawns until one of them screams loudly enough to identify their king. Freed of years' worth of hardship, suffering and firsthand experience with the failings of the judicial system, Matt seems to be a completely different man. It's a rare chance to start over for the maligned character, and seeing his enthusiasm and blind ambition (no pun intended) to right what he sees as the wrongs within his city is a reminder of what I've found so appealing with the core of his personality for years.
That's really why this story succeeds. Irvine changes a few things to fit the situation, but he keeps enough essential pieces in place to ensure the character remains identifiable. Matt still has the same powers, but he's a private eye instead of a lawyer. He still wears red, but the costume looks more homemade. His mutual respect with the Kingpin is still in place, but the specifics of their first encounter are completely different. Call me crazy, but this just works.
Tomm Coker's accompanying artwork is simply breathtaking, and could easily carry the show by itself. Sharp, vivid lines, beautiful decaying cityscapes, efficient use of pointillism and constant throwbacks to the early days of comics abound, and I couldn't get enough. His work is an amalgam of the photography and illustrations you'd find in an era-appropriate newspaper. It's gorgeous both in its restraint and in its vivid realism. Whether his aim is heartstring-tugging emotion, cold, brutal violence or simple, everyday reality, Coker delivers. With luck, he's impressed enough of the right people with this issue to merit a run with the ongoing series.
I came into Daredevil: Noir expecting the worst and stepped away mightily impressed. Does the story recycle a few ideas, borrowed both from the Daredevil mythos and from the films it aspires to mimic? Yes. Does that take away from the big picture? In my opinion, it does not. This is a great series, matching well-timed storytelling with masterful artwork. As someone who's getting really sick of all the retellings going on these days, it's nice to see one story that can manage to do so without making me yawn. Buy it.
Timestorm 2009/2099 #1
Released: 08 April 2009
Writer: Brian Reed
Penciler: Eric Battle
Inkers: Andrew Hennessy and Vincente Cifuentes
Colorist: Bruno Hang
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Cover: Christopher Shy
Remember Marvel's 2099 Universe? Maybe I should preface that by asking if you were following the industry in the early 1990s, when the line was launched, expanded, downsized and then discontinued within only a few short years. If you were, chances are good you can't help but remember. Well, if you hadn't noticed, the present year also ends in a nine, and since Marvel missed the boat last decade, now's as good a time as any to return to those forgotten characters to see what they've been up to.
In Timestorm 2009/2099, Brian Reed shares the story of the modern Spider-Man and Wolverine's journey through time, where they'll undoubtedly run into descendants, old enemies and futuristic versions of themselves. Reed gets the time frame and many of the basic nuances of the old 2099 line correct, but never manages to deliver on most of the universe's darker overtones. At their core, these books were a warning against the downfalls of trusting a super-corporation and the consequences of ignoring the environment. Were those deeper connotations accompanied by a bright neon cityscape and a very slightly altered dialect? Sure, but that was never the line's focus. Captain Planet-like as they might seem in retrospect, at least that direction gave the books a certain personality and shared vision.
It's not that I have a big problem with the writer's decision to investigate the shallower aspects of life in the future. Surely that kind of focus could be every bit as intriguing as the time we've already spent digging at the roots of this society. It's more his lack of ingenuity, elaboration and originality that's turned me off to this story. Everything's taken at face value: touched on the surface and then written off as fact without any further time dedicated to explanation. Why not give a bit of background to the history of the Mad Max-style "Ultimate Combat Arena" when the story arrives there? How about the nondescript laser pistol that somehow teleported Spidey into the land of tomorrow? I've found that much of the appeal of future-focused storytelling is in the details, but those seem to be the last thing this writer has an interest in exposing.
Artist Eric Battle matches that reluctance every step of the way. Reed presents Spider-Man and Logan as simple cardboard cutouts, spraying catchphrases just to make sure we recognize them, and Battle visualizes them just as generically. Every male character in this universe is thick and ripped, including the traditionally slender Peter Parker, while all the ladies could share a single dress size. Battle recognizes the potential of the brightly glowing city skylines on the few chances he's given to do so, but they aren't nearly as imposing and impressive as they were when I first saw them 15 years ago.
This is all around mediocre. Brian Reed somehow manages to miss out on the appeal of both the modern Marvel Universe and its 2099 counterpart, and Eric Battle doesn't exactly make things any easier on us. This isn't horrible, but it is terribly carefree. I'd welcome a proper return to the better parts of the 2099 Universe, but this isn't the kind of homecoming it deserves. Flip through it. It isn't bad enough to recommend a skip, but it also isn't good enough to merit a closer look.
Publisher: DC Comics
Released: 08 April 2009
Writer: Mike Grell
Penciler: Joe Prado
Inker: Walden Wong
Colorist: David Curiel
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Cover: Mike Grell
Review: Preston Nelson
I don't know one person who actually digs the "land trapped behind time" comics. Be it Ka-Zar in Marvel's Savage Land or DC's Warlord of Shamballah, I have never met anyone who likes these books enough to actively search for them. That's not to say that they're bad all the time, it's just a hard sell to most. They'll buy the alien powered by yellow sunlight, and they'll go along with the guy dressed like a bat, but as soon as you get a dude in a loincloth fighting dinosaurs with swords, most people zone out. And maybe that's because it's just so separated from our own world. At the end of the day, Batman and Superman are rushing through cities that look like our cities, and protecting ordinary people like you and me. Warlord doesn't have that grounding factor, so for it to be successful, it's going to have to be really good.
Sad to say, it's not.
I don't know who Mike Grell talked into letting him bring back his creation, but that guy was wrong in letting this happen. The book opens with narration so hammy that I'm pretty sure it's not kosher, detailing the dangers and rewards of the Himalayas, before the young lady involved stumbles across a cave full of frozen dinosaurs. She, of course, decides that the best course of action would be assembling a team comprised of a paleontologist, an adventurer, a photographer, a Sherpa and several other disposables that don't really matter. To convince the paleontologist to come along, she reveals that she sawed off the head of one of the frozen dinosaurs, for proof.
Think about that. The first discovery of a dinosaur with skin still on the bones, and she sawed its head off!
Rather than being pissed, like any other rational human being, the paleontologist agrees to go along on the expedition, and do I even have to finish? The art is unremarkable, but the story is just so damn stupid that I don't care. Though, come to think of it, there are far more splash pages than a book like this requires. Yes, I know the Himalayan Mountains are large, you don't need to blow four pages showing me that.
There's a nice little preview of Power Girl in the back, and that's the best thing in here. Warlord needed to hit it out of the park, instead it seems like it was already hit in the helmet, and just kind of slumped over home plate, drooling a little bit, cuddling its bat like a teddy bear. Skip it.
Wolverine: Weapon X #1
Released: 08 April 2009
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Ron Garney
Colorist: Jason Keith
Letterer: VC's Cory Petit
Cover: Ron Garney
Review: Preston Nelson
I know this won't endear me to people, but before I review this, it needs to be said: I totally hate Wolverine. Partially due to his massive overexposure. Partially due to the fact that he seems to ruin everything I love. Partially due to the fact that his healing factor has turned him into an unstoppable antihero. Hell, even his continuity makes my brain hurt, riddled with darn near every cliché in the book. And the worst part is, I like most of his supporting characters. Sabretooth is one of my favorite sadistic villains. I would marry Deadpool if inter-fiction marriage laws ever get passed. (Vote Yes on Prop. 735!) And guys like Maverick and Alpha Flight have a special place in my heart. But for whatever reason, from his boots to his goofy haircut, I hate Wolverine.
That being said, this issue wasn't terrible. Nothing in it offended my sensibilities to the point of rage. The story is actually (at this point) a reasonably low-key mystery, complete with clichéd meeting at the docks, but nothing really stands out. And for this book, that's a huge problem. When you take a character that's only featured in one book, you can afford to knock out a so-so issue here and there. Say Daredevil for instance. If the creative team puts out a mediocre book, it will still sell because it's the only place we're going to see the guy. But with Wolverine, he has appearances in many more books this month. What's stopping someone from buying X-Force or Wolverine, New Avengers or Uncanny X-Men for their Wolverine fix?
The story is fine and the art is pretty strong at points, but there's nothing here that really matters. Wolverine's past comes back to haunt him yet again. It's been done to death and then some. I don't know how many times we've seen Logan have to deal with the remains of the remains of the Weapon X organization, but I can tell you one thing, it's too damn many.
I guess it's worthy of a flip through, but honestly, I can't see why you'd want to.