Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What I've Been Reading - Captain Britain, Invincible, Joker & More

I read a lot comics. Probably more comics than what would be considered sane, if such a thing existed. I, of course, review some of the comics I read, but I don't really have enough time to review all of them and, honestly, some of them are not worth reviewing, hence this new, semi-recurring feature whenever I pile up a few books I want to talk about, but don't want to dedicate a full review towards either.

The books I'll be talking about today consist of recently purchased comics, comics from the library or something I am simply rereading again from the back issue bins. These are not really reviews, though some comics may get a proper review down the line, but are, rather, general thoughts on comics that I've read recently. Some may be review-ish, and I may throw out a rating here or there, while some may just be simple rants. It's an easy way for me to discuss some of the comics I've been reading without having to write a full review. So, hit the jump to see what I've been reading.

Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Ryan Ottley
Collects Invincible #48-53

Thanks to the library, I am able to read a lot comics out of curiosity without having to spend money on them. Invincible is a book that I get from the library out of morbid curiosity and I mean that in a pretty literal sense. I find Invincible to be one of the most overrated comics currently on the market yet it keeps getting loads of praise, so I keep wanting to read it and find out why.

For whatever reason, I  intensely dislike the series. Not because it's strictly bad, though it does have those kind of moments, but, rather, because it's so aggressively average. Invincible has the opportunity to avoid all of the horrible story telling problems that plague Marvel and DC, but, by and large, it doesn't. This volume is a perfect example of that.

In it, Invincible find outs that his boss, Cecil, is employing murderers and using zombie cyborg killing machines and there is a massively anti-climatic confrontation over it and nothing immediately changes because of it. Cecil is still around doing his thing and Invincible continues to do his thing. I mean, things could change down the road between them, but I find that highly unlike. What was the whole point of that then? Nothing substantive came of it! It just seems like the typical smoke and mirrors crap Marvel and DC pull all of the time.

Also, straight out of the 90s, Invincible contemplates that maybe killing of the criminals that are constant nuances, and nothing more, isn't such a bad idea. Again, I find it highly unlikely that he actually ends up doing so. He also gets a new costume, but Kirkman has already announced the return of the original costume, along with a "bold new era." It's this aggressive preservation of the status quo, the avoidance of a massive deviation or the return to the status quo ante up style writing that makes me dislike the series so much. Creator owned books have so much potential, but Kirkman refuses to make use of it!

Honestly, you could replace Invincible, the character and his supporting cast, with one of dozens and dozens of Marvel or DC characters and you would get exactly the same book that Marvel and DC already produces and that is why Invincible is one of, if not the most, overrated comic out on the market right now.

Written by Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman
Art by Anzu

This is a manga adaptation of the X-Men, combining them the shoujo genre, for lack of better word, of manga. On the one hand, it's kind of brilliant because it easily works with the soap opera stuff Chris Claremont used to great success, though a Claremont fan would probably want to set fire to this, and could appeal to both long time X-Men fans and new readers, oddly enough.

That said, it's not that good and doesn't really do anything new. Sure, some of the characters do get some radical re-imaginings, but, at the same time, it also falls on standard X-Men cliches, and, according to people who would know, shoujo cliches.

For example, on the X-Men side of things, Magneto is probably going to end up being a villain, if they get any at some point, and Xavier is crippled by the end of this volume. It's interesting in that it radically reworks parts of the X-Men concept, but there really isn't much substance to it. Definitely something you should read if your library has it for the simply curiosity factor, but it's not really worth buying.

Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Leonard Kirk, Mike Collins and Ardian Syaf
Collects Captain Britain and MI:13 #10-15 and Annual #1

Although I'm not enamored with the third volume as I was with the first, this is still one of the Top 5 superhero books from either Marvel or DC for 2009. Cornell does a good job of wrapping up most of his recurring subplots in a mostly satisfactory manner and the story is pretty good, overall, though he had a tendency to use a lot of, well, cheap sleight of hand tactics to make it all work out (Plokta and dream sequences for one example), but it does work out well in the end, which is a testament to his skills as a writer. He does a good job of building up his story and making it interesting and is probably a better example of an event comic, in the scale of the story, done right than most event comics end up being. The only bad part? Not enough Dr. Doom.

Written by Ron Marz and Barbara Kesel
Art by Jim Cheung, Rick Leonardi and Claudio Castellini
Collects Scion #1-7 and CrossGen Chronicles #1

I actually read this because I was interested in checking out some more of Ron Marz's work, I had no interest in the fact that it was a CrossGen book, despite the recent rumblings about it's possible return.

I wasn't expecting much from it, but, lo and behold, there was a real treat to be found - some magnificent artwork by Jim Cheung. I mean, it's some really awesome stuff. It makes all of this Marvel work look like amateur hour.

Scion is a sci-fi/fantasy book and Cheung's style is not only a perfect match, but there is also a lot more energy behind it. I wouldn't be surprised if that's because Cheung enjoys working on those kinds of stories over superheroes. As for the concept, it's most a fantasy, coming of age story with some sci-fi trappings and Marz does a good job of blending the concepts and Cheung does the same thing with the visual elements.

I mean, this is really just a wonderful trade with excellent art, an interesting concept and a top notch execution. The only bad thing about it was that it tied into the whole Sigilverse shared universe nonsense that CrossGen came up with, but that only cropped up at the end of the volume, so it really didn't get in the way of my enjoyment of the collection.

Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Lee Bermejo

I found this to be mostly a waste of time. There are two problems with it. One, it wants to be a gritty crime drama and two, it wants to be a great Joker story, but it's not really either one of those.

It can't be the gritty crime drama because it's starring the Joker, so Azzarello can only go so far. It's also not really a great Joker story either since Azzarello doesn't really do or say anything new about the character, so it doesn't really work on that level either.

Although it's probably a Check It, going strictly by quality, this isn't really worth buying as there are far better stories, both in the genre and about the Joker, out there worth spending money on.

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smkedtky said...

I also loved CAPTAIN BRITAIN AND MI13. However, I thought it closed out just as strongly as it opened. The Plokta issue, while seeming cheap in some ways, was also a great tie-in to the books own (short-lived) legacy. It was proof that Cornell knew what he was doing and where he was going from day 1. I remember first reading it and knowing it never had a chance but sticking with it hoping that others would catch on to one of the best new super-hero titles in recent memory. I will miss this book more than any other that has been cancelled in recent memory.

Daryll B. said...

Wow eric way to drop the boom...about each of your reviews:

Invincible: I think I like it more than you do although I have to agree that in reading the trades it like one good one bad for me. Storylines do tend run tedious for too long.

X-Men Misfits: As an anime fan and a x-men fan I pretty much hated it. The X-Men versions used in the defunct Marvel MangaVerse line had more depth than this. I equate this to the love I had for MiniMarvels vs the hate I have for SuperHero Squad.

Captain Britain and M13: I am still mourning this loss although Marvel isn't too dumb. They put Cornell back to work right away with Dark X-Men...although I would rather have more Cap. Britain.

Scion: Underrated book by underrated creators. BTW any word on when Cheung and Heinberg will come back to Young Avengers? Or what happened to all those Marz haters over Kyle Rayner?

Joker: Liked the writing but I am sorry as a character why does the Joker still exist? For all the people he has killed, dude should be dead. Even Captain America has tried to kill the Red Skull after all....

Thx Eric for making me think...

JimYung said...

Wholeheartedly agree on Invincible. Too many storylines dangling, poor character interaction and development as well for me. And now they have his step brother giving the reader the evil eye. What a horrible turn of events. Dead characters like Angstrom that weren't that interesting should stay dead.

Joker - I liked it a bit more than you did but wasn't sure where this fit into the Batman timeline/continuity. Characters seemed slightly reimagined and with all the chaos that the Joker was creating, no Batman in sight until Two Face calls him in? Weird.

Flip The Page said...

I can't stand Joker on the simple fact that.. well, i HATE the joker. He's not that good for me outside of killing joke.

As for Captain Britain I agree wholeheartedly and wished the panini comics (uk) version of the volume would come out (mainly cause i'm hoping cornell will do another awesome foreword)

Eric Rupe said...

smkedtky - No, I completely agree. The slight of hand stuff works because Cornell had planned it all out. It's a very good use of that kind of writing.

Daryll B - Quesada has said that Heinberg and Cheung are working another Young Avengers project but who knows if that will see the light of day.

JimYung - Angstrom annoys since he won't stay dead despite dying like ten times and he really doesn't have any superhuman strength or anything like that.

Also, the Joker is it's own continuity so that's why all of the characters are different.

Flip The Page - I like the Joker in small doses but he is definitely one of those characters that can go wrong pretty quickly if he's written badly.

MIkey Donuts said...

I loved this Joker story and I agree with some of the other commenters that the Joker as an institution shouldn't exist anymore. He's just a man, why hasn't one of the crueler bat cronies or even one of the other Gotham heavies taken him out?

However, this story really makes me see what it must be like to have an absolute psychopath around. The fear of Joker's completely unpredictable violence must be very difficult to endure. How many times does a guy get skinned alive in your circle?

Andrenn said...

I can't honestly see why you don't like Invincible. You make points that I guess make sense for you but to me they don't make sense. I don't see how bland Invincible is or how replacable he is. I love the characters and can't see how their so replacable like you make them seem.

Also I loved the Joker OGN but i can understand more how that could be a love/hate book.

Van said...

I honestly don't understand how you can hate Invincible. Not every story line is great, but that "sticking to the status quo" bit is nonsense. It's one of the few books that has actually stayed fresh over time. I think you're confusing "sticking to the status quo" with the writer allowing the plot to develop slowly, which is fine by me.

Totally agree about Scion though. That was a gorgeuous series. But the plot was thin and if I rememeber correctly it got pretty inconsitent. Oh well.

The Joker story was a major let down. There was so much hype around that book, but it was just standard Joker tripe. Blah.

Eric Rupe said...

Andrenn - A friend of mine once described Invincible as "What If Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive Kryptonian" and Invincible is very much part of that teen Spider-Man tradition. Balancing life with superheroics, power and responsibility, father issues, teen hero, the whole deal. Yeah, he isn't a bad character and by no means a direct knock off, for the most part, but he isn't that original either.

Same with a lot of the cast who seem like either Marvel or DC characters with a power set of one character and the personality of another. Granted, part of this is simply because of how thoroughly Marvel and DC have covered the genre over the past 50 odd years so Kirkman's creations are going draw comparisons and the fact that some of them are pretty blatant (Guardians of the Globe for example) really doesn't help.

It also doesn't look when compared to something like Umbrella Academy and Way's truly original creations. That's said, I do love Atom Eve and think Kirkman has mostly done a good job with the character.

Van - I think the Cecil/Invincible confrontation is a good example of this. Kirkman has been building it up for a while yet, when it happens, nothing really changes. Cecil continues on with everything that he was doing and Invincible is still able to be a hero so what came of it all? Nothing really. That's what I'm talking about.

btownlegend said...

I enjoyed the Joker in 52.

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