Saturday, September 10, 2011

New Comics Sept 2011

The first wave of DC's rebooted 52 event are out and we begin to see the outlines of the new universe. Everybody's a little younger, costumes are more Hollywood friendly and reassurances are being given that much of the past continuity is intact if slightly different.

Essentially the creators of the 52 books hitting the stands over this month appear to have been given permission to keep the bits they like and ignore the ones they don't. I'm unconvinced but I will be spending more in the short term as I plan to give almost all of them a shot. The exception is Hawk and Dove by Rob Liefeld. I flipped through it in the store and confirmed my confident suspicion that yep, Liefeld still sucks balls so I can save some money at least.

The only new 52 title I could really have been said to be enthusiastic about is Action Comics by Grant Morrison and Rags Morales.  Morrison of course, the writer who gave us such mind expanding freak outs as Doom Patrol, The Invisibles and the fourth wall breaking meta-fiction of Animal Man before moving on to bringing his mind expanding 'wide-screen' approach to more traditional super-heroics with JLA and then spent the last few years on Batman with his fascinating approach of embracing all of the characters decades of bizarrely convoluted often contradictory continuity.

Now he takes on Superman again - his Silver age worshiping All Star Superman run can be considered a continuity all its own - and he goes back to the characters earliest roots.

The earliest Superman stories in the 30's by Seigel and Shuster were the adventures of an almost crazy grinning radical with super powers who would break down the Governor's door to stop an execution, kidnap arms dealers and force them to fight on the front lines of the wars they were supplying, force mine owners to work in their own unsafe mines and smack wife beaters through walls.  When the earliest strips Seigel and Shuster had completed before selling the character to DC (then National comics) ran out, the publisher firmly mandated bringing the character in line and making him a bland and nonthreatening protector of the status quo.

Morrison presents a Superman at the beginning of his career in a DIY costume abducting corrupt executives, getting shot at by the police and bleeding when he gets hit by cannon shells.  For anyone complaining this isn't the Superman they know Morrison has the unassailable defense that he's actually returning the character to his earliest roots.

I'm in for the duration on this one not least because of Morales' lovely art.

Animal Man by Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman and Swamp Thing by Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette are more problematic but still are on my buy list on a probationary basis.  They bring in the concepts that Alan Moore and Grant Morrison explored in innovative runs in the 80's while grounding the characters in DC's mainstream superhero continuity.

Basically the plan seems to be to make Animal Man the avatar/elemental of the animal kingdom while Swamp Thing is the same for the plant world.  The art is beautiful and the writing is certainly competent, but ultimately for a long time reader of the characters this seems to be re-warmed versions of narratives I've read before with the added complication of more firmly grounding them in the world of long underwear types.

The real innovations of the Moore and Morrison runs were narrative, dialogue and character pyrotechnics that blew the lid off what readers could expect from the medium.  So far these books seem to be trying to adopt some of the story ideas of those classic runs, but in the context of more traditional comic book writing.  They have me for a few more issues at least and possibly more, but ultimately my recommendation for these characters is to pick up the trade paperback collections of the classic Moore and Morrison runs they are harking back to instead.

Also worth checking out from the new DC books this week are Batgirl by Gail Simone and Ardian Syaf.  Problematic decision to write out Barbara Gordon's paralysis notwithstanding the art and writing are beautiful.  I'll be giving a Static Shock, Batwing and Men at War a shot too .

Wow this is a tough one.  I'm a big Rick Veitch fan, his dream diary book Rare Bit Fiends is as innovative and fascinating a comic ever produced and his take on Superheroes in books like Maximortal and Brat Pack is darkly fascinating.  The Big Lie  is well written, beautifully drawn and Gary Erskine a tasty artist on his own provides a lovely gloss to Rick Veitch's pencils with his assured inking job.

But my overwhelming reaction to this book is... disappointment.

Disappointment that a creator I respect has falling down the rat hole of a conspiracy theory I most emphatically do not respect.

The book uses the framing device of a scientist from today going back in time 10 years to September 11th to try to convince her husband to get out of the Twin Towers as a framing device for all the various Truther 'facts' and 'theories'.  Lots of niggling little cavils about the inconsistencies and contradictions in the official story culminating in an unabashed statement of belief in the conspiracy theory that the Bush administration killed thousands of Americans to get the excuse they needed to attack Iraq.

I'm not going to get into the many reasons why this is nonsense, this Salon article eviscerates most of the theories in this book quite nicely and this Rushkoff piece expresses how I feel about what a waste of time and energy the Truther movement is.

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