Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What I've Been Reading - High Moon, Uncle Sam, Fables and The Flash

Welcome to another edition of What I've Been Reading. Today I am taking a look at Fables Vol 11, the Alex Ross Uncle Sam project from Vertigo, The Flash: Ignition collection from Geoff Johns's run on the title as well as the print collection for High Moon from DC's Zuda imprint. Hit the jump to see what I though of these comics.

Written by David Gallaher
Art by Steve Ellis

I was interested in the concept when DC originally announced their Zuda online imprint, but I didn't keep up with it because I absolutely hated the player they used and it hasn't gotten any better the couple of times I checked it out afterward. Anyway, I was interested in the comics they were producing but, so far, only two have gotten print versions. I didn't hear that many good things about Zuda's first release, Bayou, but I heard better things about High Moon, so I checked it out despite not liking their horror/supernatural or western stories. Overall, I did enjoy High Moon but it wasn't perfect.

My biggest problem with the story is that the first chapter is almost entirely unrelated to the rest of the volume. It introduces a character who appears to be the main character but actually isn't since he is killed off by the end of the first chapter, which also introduces the actual main character. So, the first chapter feels like a waste at this point since most of the introductory aspects were tossed aside. The main character, Conroy MacGregor, doesn't really get a proper introduction either but you can piece enough together from the story to get a decent understanding of the character.

The second major problem is that there are parts of the story that seem to be missing. It's not that the story is incomplete but that readers have to make certain inferences about the parts of the story. Well, I guess you could take it the story being incomplete but there are not major chunks of the story that are missing and make it unreadable and the blanks could possibly be filled in later on as well, but it's just that it feels as though plot points that should have been explicit are not.

Those two problems aside, the rest of the collection was pretty good. The western and horror aspects didn't annoy me and there are a lot of interesting ideas as well. I also enjoyed the fact that each chapter told a complete story while continuing an ongoing narrative from the earlier chapter. The art was also pretty good. Ellis's style matches the tone and mood of Gallaher's story pretty well. I did like the coloruing, but I thought it was a little too dark at times. Now, whether that was because the comic used newsprint or the coloring was just too dark I don't know.

While I did enjoy the collection on a whole, I think part of that enjoyment comes from the potential that High Moon has rather than just the quality. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy the material but a lot collection seems to involve setting up future plot lines as it does just telling the story at hand, which I don't have a problem with. The thing is that I was more interested in the future potential of High Moon rather than the current stories. I think that partially has to do with the fact that stories in the collection felt like they were missing things so I couldn't get into them fully. Overall, I'd give the collection a Check It which is based on the skills of the creators and partly on the potential the series has.

Written by Steve Darnall and Alex Ross
Art by Alex Ross
Collects Uncle Sam #1-2

As someone who is in no way an Alex Ross fan, I enjoyed this. A lot. Seriously, it's great stuff. I think I like it so much since it is basically an anti-Kingdom Come. While Kingdom Come was a trite and confused comic that didn't know the first thing about symbolism or how to use icons, Uncle Sam has a surprising amount of depth and actually does some interesting things with the premise. Whether this is because Ross isn't working with his childhood heroes or Mark Waid I can't say for sure, but it's probably a combination of both.

The story involves a homeless man who thinks that he is Uncle Sam, the propaganda icon not the DC superhero, travelling the American landscape and dealing with the reality of America's often distorted history and self-image. As a history buff, I like this kind of stuff*, so it appealed to me on that level, but Ross and Darnall manage to keep it apolitical as well. For example, there is an election going on during the story and Sam meets both candidates but you never learn which party either is from. It's also surprising how relevant the commentary is considering it was originally released over a decade ago.

Ross's art is also perfectly suited to the work given his photo realistic style. His story telling is also much stronger and his imagery, which I think often looks stale in his Marvel or DC works, looks dynamic and awe inspiring here. For example, his image of a corrupt Uncle Sam sitting on a throne of TVs and using the Capital building as a foot rest was just magnificent. I simply can't recommend this book enough.

*Mostly because actual American history is just so much more interesting than the sanitized bullshit you learn in high school.

Written by Geoff Johns
Art by Alberto Dose and Howard Porter
Collects The Flash #201-206

This was an interesting comic for me in the sense that it is one of two Geoff Johns Flash trades that my library has, and the first that I got my hands on, and it's not a bad jumping on point. The story starts up after Hal Jordan, as the Spectre, has wiped the knowledge of the secret identity of the Flash from the minds of everyone in the world, including Wally West. So, no one knows who the Flash is, including Wally, and Keystone City is in something of a crisis since the Flash is no longer around.

The main thrust of the story is Wally dealing with becoming the Flash again after his being the Flash caused his wife to have a miscarriage because of a showdown with Zoom. The thing that stood out most to me is that this basically seems like Johns stuck the Flash in a Spider-Man story and, as such, I was mostly bored by it. Spider-Man makes up a large chunk my comic reader experience at this point, so I've seen it all before, and Johns does nothing new or interesting with it and, I have to say, if this is anyway representative of Johns's run on the title I'd have to say I'm not impressed.

As for some other stuff. First, Johns's Batman at this point has only one personality trait - being a prick. I don't like it, even though I can barely tolerate it in Green Lantern: Rebirth, mostly because there is no reason for it, unlike with, say, Frank Miller's depiction of the character. There is a method to his madness while Johns's take is all madness, no method. Second, and finally, the art by Alberto Dose is pretty average, standard stuff and I was disappointed that Scott Kolins didn't do the arc since I had heard so many good things about his Flash work. All in all, this trade is pretty average and was mostly a let down after hearing so many great things about Johns's Flash.

Written by Bill Willingham
Art by Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, Niko Henrichon and Andrew Pepoy
Collect Fables #70-75

Well, Fables has lost it's charm. War and Pieces isn't particularly worse that any other Fables volume. Well, part of it is, but whatever made me enjoy the earlier volumes isn't there anymore. Not sure quite why that is though. Maybe it's because I've read volume eight and onward from the library and don't feel like I need to invest in the stories anymore since I read them for free? Maybe it's because my comic reading horizons have expanded exponential between the time I read volume ten and this one and Fables doesn't really hold up anymore? Maybe it's the fact that Willingham is a MASSIVE ASS** and that's made me dislike not only him but his writing? Probably all of the above.

Anyway, War and Pieces was the long awaited showdown between Fabletown and the Adversary and it was a massive letdown and incredibly anti-climatic. The reason why is because the Fables win way too easily. They have almost no trouble at all and while they do incur some losses, it's they still win way, way too easily. I guess I could credit Willingham for doing a good job of making it believable but I won't since it was just boring. If it had been interesting then, yes, I would credit Willingham but it wasn't. It read like something from the worst tendencies of superhero comics where they always win since they are superheroes, and I can enjoy when done well in superhero stories, but Fables isn't a superhero comic so I didn't care for it. Anyway, all around, a very disappointing book and I'm done with the series.

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Ryan K Lindsay said...

I found the Zuda player makes my cursor, and page, flicker, so I just don't go there, which is a shame, I want to check High Moon out.

I also need to check out my local library, see if Aussie ones have trades as well.

Frank said...

I have to completely disagree with you about Fables. War and Pieces was exactly what it needed to be, and once you read volume 12 you'll understand that the "victory" was anything but easy.

Also, I'm not sure why you'd fault Wellingham for being passed at the squatters in his panel. Frankly, I have no compassion for someone that steals seats from a high priced convention just to jump ahead in line. It was SDCC's fault for letting it happen in the first place, but they're still jerks for squatting his panel and deserve every bit of ribbing they receive.

KentL said...

You picked the wrong Flash story to start with. Ignition was definitely Johns' weakest storyline. He was trying to prove a point and it just kinda fell flat. Start with "Blood Will Run" and work from there.

smkedtky said...

Not for any personal faults but I find (just about) anything I read from Willingham to be a little boring (Sturges, too, for that matter). Their JSA stuff has been pretty bad and I was never able to get into FABLES.

You picked one of the worst arcs of Johns FLASH to read with that arc. The stories leading up to that and the IRON HEIGHTS one-shot were the best FLASH stories I ever read.

David Gallaher said...

Thank you for taking the time to read HIGH MOON.

- David Gallaher

Anonymous said...

if you're done wid fables then you are missing one of the best arcs...."witches".....

SRK Wrestling said...

The Iron Heights one-shot is collected with the new Blood Will Run trade. That >>> Ignition.

Eric Rupe said...

Frank - the "panel squatting," or whatever you want to call it, is pretty much common practice at events like SDCC. Plus, instead of insulting the VB fans, Willingham could have tried to get them interesting in Fables and increase it's readership.

KentL, smkedtky, SRK Wrestling - Like I said, Ignition was all the library had at the time so it's what I got.

David Gallaher - No problem. I enjoyed and I'll be getting the second volume as well.

smkedtky said...

Just letting you know that IGNITION was not, in "any way representative of Johns's run on the title".

The Dangster said...

Kingdom Come wasn't thaaat bad.

Datta said...

//Just letting you know that IGNITION was not, in "any way representative of Johns's run on the title"...//

my thoughts exactly...it was the arc where we take a breath before things get worse

Frank said...

Eric - The squatting is only common practice at SDCC because their management sucks. They should be providing dedicated panel space for everyone, and if they can't then they need a lottery system so that a Fables fan can sit in on their panel and not be bumped by a squatter that will be playing their DS instead of listening to the speakers.

Just 'cause everyone does it doesn't make it right...

Eric said...

I don't understand how someone could be done with Fables. I thought War and Pieces was a great arc, where Willingham really did something unexpected. Most longtime readers, myself included, assumed that the battle between Fabletown and the Adversary, would end the series. It was nice to see Willingham really turn that on it's head and take the book into a new direction. I read Fables on a monthly basis and month in and month out it is one of the most dependable, fantastic, beautifully drawn books I read. It does take the occasional misstep, The Good Prince arc that preceded War and Pieces being a couple issues two long, and the Great Fables Crossover debacle among them, but on the whole, it is great reading.

Ben Macleod said...

but to be fair, ignition came along years before Spider-man brand new day or whatever it is called,

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