Friday, September 9, 2011

Comics of the Week

One good thing about the DC reboot is that, at least this week, it was a great week for comics. That's not to say everything was a winner, but it was interesting and varied with a good chance that something would stick. Fresh takes and good set ups.

The thing about Grant Morrison is that while he can go to really trippy, surreal and nearly impossible to understand places, he can also get to the heart of what makes a character tick in a mythological sense. With Action Comics #1, he is going to the roots of Superman and doing what no one has been able to do in who knows how long now. For years I've heard (and often said) that Superman was irrelevant, too powerful, outdated, boring, etc. Something had to be done to make the character interesting again. Many attempts have been made to make him hip and relevant, but they all just tried to modernize him and mostly missed the point entirely. Morrison goes back to the forgotten roots here, giving us a Superman on the streets, without all his god-like powers yet, living on the edge in a world that fears him. From the pieced together costume to the attitude, I think this is the right way to develop the character into something that can once again be a character we can relate to. As expected, this is one of my favorite #1's and I will definitely be reading this each month.

Speaking of Morrison, his run on Animal Man in the 80's is a prime example of how a creator can take a character you normally may not be interested in and hook you. But now it's Jeff Lemire's turn and he not only brings it, he brings it to another level. This was easily my favorite of the #1's this week, and as the internets can attest, I'm not alone. Lemire is one of the best writers working today and this is a perfect example of what he does. It's a superhero story, it's a family drama, it's a horror tale, it's all of that and more. Right from the opening prose section that gives us a background on the character in a way that doesn't feel forced, it's clear Lemire is bringing a little piece of the meta aspects of Morrison's run, but making it his own. By the last page, it's something else entirely that had me say out loud "Yeah, I'm in." The art by Travel Forman is also a standout. It's clean and odd and beautiful. It makes you uneasy and captivates you all at once, which is perfect for this material. I almost didn't pick this up, because although I like Lemire, I'm not a huge Animal Man guy, but now, I can't wait for the next issue.

When the reboot titles and creative teams were announced, my biggest disappointment was probably that Scott Snyder was off Detective Comics and moved to Batman. As I've said, his run on Detective is legendary already. Instead, we get Tony Daniels, writing and drawing Detective Comics and based on his work on the Batman title before the reboot, I was not excited. I have to say, this issue was better than that. His art was never the issue, and here it is good as always, if not better. It's clear, however, that he either is getting better at the storytelling or his editors have stepped up to address some of the previous problems. The story itself is a basic Joker vs. Batman affair, with the Joker in his serial killer persona. That's all well and good. The last image is what is apparently setting something up that really could be interesting even if we have no idea at this point what it could be. Overall, though, this issue is definitely geared for the new reader. Some of the dialogue, for those of us who know Batman and have read him for years, comes off a little hokey. To someone who's never read Batman, though, I could see it working. I can't fault Daniels for that, but this may not be my Batman book. Still, I want to see where he's going with the Joker here.

Here's a book I only read because of the creator, and almost didn't. Scott Snyder's Swamp Thing may or may not hook me on the character, but that doesn't mean I won't be reading this book. At this point, if Snyder publishes a grocery list, I will consider reading it. I can't even really put my finger on exactly what makes his work excellent, but I think it's a combination of elements. Some writers you can say they are really good at this one thing, whether it's overall emotion, character, a specific genre, action, etc. With Snyder, it's a complete package type of thing that just stands out somehow. His work is somehow character driven and plot driven at the same time. It's brimming with mood and emotion and things happen organically. It doesn't hurt that he's paired with great artists who can tell a visual story with all the elements, like Yanick Paquette does in this issue. Like Animal Man, this is a horror story, but it is more than that. The word is that this will actually cross over with Animal Man and the idea of Lemire and Snyder working together on a big story boggles my mind. I'm on board with this.

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