Thursday, July 15, 2010

What I've Been Reading - New Avengers: The Reunion, Green Arrow and Wednesday Comics

Today I'm taking a look at a trio of superhero comics from Marvel and DC. First up, from Marvel, I picked up New Avengers: The Reunion from the library since Hawkeye & Mockingbird was getting some positive buzz. Then, from DC, I take a look at the recent Green Arrow relaunch and the experimental weekly comic Wednesday Comics. Hit the jump to see what I thought of these these comics.

Written by Jim McCann
Art by David Lopez
Collects New Avengers: The Reunion #1-4 and material from Dark Reign: New Nation

Marvel often gets accused of being, well, a dick towards DC nowadays. Usually, it's because of something someone like Tom Brevoort or C.B Cebulski says on Twitter or a blog. Personally, I find this highly amusing and I'm more disappointed by the fact that DC metaphorically goes off and pouts in the corner rather than respond back. Yeah, some of the stuff Marvel staff say is hypocritical, astoundingly so sometimes, but, until I read this collection, I've never felt that Marvel was being unduly "mean" to DC since they do put out horrendous comics like Justice League: Rise of Arsenal on what seems like a regular basis. In the comic, Clint Barton calls Mockingbird "birdie" and it read like Marvel was taking a really cheap shot at DC. It felt like they were saying that they could produce a better Green Arrow comic than DC could, which, being fair, this is probably better than most of the Green Arrow from the last five years, or longer, from what I've heard. Still, it felt like a really low blow since, as far as I know, it's Marvel changing Barton's characterization to just take a shot a DC, which does seem needlessly petty.

As for the actual content, it's just another one of those mediocre, not terribly bad but not particularly good comics that Marvel and DC fill the selves with these days. Honestly, I'm not even sure why the series was put out other than Ronin and Mockingbird had a slightly higher profile post-Secret Invasion so they'd better put out a comic to capitalize on that and it shows. The story is just a by-the-numbers stop-a-terrorist plot and, while I suppose you could say the point of the series is the characters, neither Ronin nor Mockingbird are particularly interesting they just bicker and fight the entire time and their relationship seems as by-the-numbers as the story. Having never read that many comics with Mockingbird before Secret Invasion, this series never gave me a particular reason to care about her or even suggest that she's an interesting character that was brought back for some other reason than because someone at Marvel felt like it. And, this being a modern Marvel superhero comic, there is a rather unnecessary reference to the West Coast Avengers with Mockingbird's new World Counterterrorism Agency, because pointless nostalgia makes everything better.

Verdict - Avoid It.

Still interested in New Avengers: The Reunion TPB? Buy it on and help support the Weekly Crisis!

Written by J.T. Krul
Art by Diogenes Neves

Speaking of Green Arrow, I decided to check out the current relaunch for two reasons. The lesser and "nicer to DC" reason why is that Green Arrow is one of the characters that I got interested in because of the Justice League animated series so I usually keep an eye on them to see if I'd be interested in reading their comics. The main reason why I got this though is that I thought it was going to be incredibly stupid and just had to see it for myself, which ended up being so stupid that I'm trying to think of a better way to say "really fucking stupid," since that is the perfect way to describe this comic, but I can't I'm just going to say it - this comic is really fucking stupid. I'm really curious to know why DC thought it would be a good idea to take their metaphorical Robin Hood character and turn him into a literal Robin Hood. It's basically admitting you have no imagination or clue as to what to do with the character. Again, it is possible DC thinks this is a good idea. After all, Krul keeps making painful references to it, almost as if he's proud of it.

The other major problem is an almost complete lack of subtlety, which is another possible reason for all of the direct Robin Hood references - DC wants to make sure sure none of their readers miss the painfully obvious. Every possible nuance is beaten with the obvious stick just to make sure the readers doesn't miss any of the not-so-clever and already blatant allusions that clog up the comic. In fact, Krul has a character just come out and say that Green Arrow is Robin Hood on page 14. Granted, subtlety generally isn't a strong suit of superhero comics, which is perfectly fine as they tend to work pretty good that way. That said, Krul is going for a more street level approach to the character, editor Adam Schlagman names Longbow Hunter as a direct influence on the current run, and you do need a more nuanced approach when are trying to go that route, even more so when you are bringing political themes into the story. So far, aside from a few trying-to-make-a-point one-liners and general corruption theme, Krul hasn't done much with the political aspect of the character but it looks more decorative than substantive at this point, which I don't think Krul was going for. Finally, to be fair to Krul, this is a decent scene where it's hinted at that Green Arrow might have killed someone but that's immediately followed up with more dumb Robin Hood references and other stupidity.

The issue also has a lot of other, slightly less glaring problems as well. The opening scene is a surprisingly good example of a couple of the worst trends in DC's comics right and the rest of the scene that's not in the preview isn't much better. Neves's art is pretty bland and his action sequences are so jumbled that they  make that much sense and there is little connection between what should be going and is actually going on. The supporting characters are equally bland and uninspired, even if the new villain has a distinctive look. The sentence "Major player in the Soviet private sector." is used at one point, though this is more of a nitpick on my part than anything else. All in all, Green Arrow #1 is a bad comic that highlights a lot of what's wrong with DC these days.

Verdict - Avoid It.

Written by Various
Art by Various
Collects Wednesday Comics #1-12

Overall, Wednesday Comics was a let down for me because, although most of the strips were not bad, most of them were pretty average and many failed to really make use of the larger page size. While many of the strips took into account the bigger page size, using larger panels and more panels per page, most of them didn't feel like they needed to be produced on the bigger page size. The biggest offender of this would be the Sgt. Rock strip by Adam and Joe Kubert, which was always laid out in a nine panel grid. One strip though, Wonder Woman by Ben Caldwell, had the opposite problem of putting too many panels on the pages and everything ended up kind of cramped. The worst part though is that a lot of talented writers and artists worked on the project so it's disappointing seeing them not taking advantage of it.

Like I said, many of the stories are perfectly fine even though they don't really do anything interesting most of the time. The Teen Titans strip, by Eddie Berganza and Sean Galloway, is the only strip I found awful while the Superman, by John Arcudi and Lee Bermejo, and Batman, by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, strips were the only ones I'd call below average but not outright bad since they were rather cliched and covered well worn territory, which is disappointing given the creative teams.

The Titans strip though, does rate special mention for its awfulness because it was written by one of the few DC editor's I can actually name, which is a very bad thing. It's not so much a story as series of things that happened. The narrative is weak since it starts mid-story, for no particularly reason, doesn't get to the point of the strip till almost the last chapter and, even then, it's a poor twist reveal with a horrible, sudden ending that doesn't resolve any of what little conflict there was in the story. Other problems include a Robin who does nothing but bitch and moan the entire strip, a whole chapter wasted on making a really stupid point focusing on an annoying supporting character, what I'm guessing is a really juvenile joke with the line "Thanks, Nightwing. Dick." and other things not particularly worth getting into. One thing that was unintentionally hilarious, given DC's seeming tone deafness regarding race recently, was Blue Beetle's characterization since Berganza inserts Spanish phrases into his dialog even though the character has never talked like that before and makes him look like the token Hispanic character. All in all, the strip ends up being the only real failing in an otherwise solid collection.

While most of the content in the collection was mediocre, there were some strips I did enjoy. Metamorpho, by Neil Gaiman an Mike Allred, was a fun and campy strip that had lots of humor and an enjoyable plot with wonderful, tongue-in-cheek storytelling. Chapters eight and nine made great use of the format even if I think it could have been done a little better. Green Lantern, by Kurt Busiek and Joe Quinones, and Supergirl, by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner, are takes on the characters that I would buy as monthlies, given a little tweaking to make them work in that format. The thing I enjoyed most about the Green Lantern strip was that Busiek placed the story in the 60's, where I think Hal Jordan works best. There his being a test pilot actually has some meaning and relevance for the character and his cocky attitude feels a lot less out of place and more natural than it does in a modern story, where Jordan can come off as an ass rather than confident a lot of the times. Quinones has a clean style that also works well with the time period and highlights the era in a way that reinforces Busiek's script. Supergirl was just a fun story with plenty of humor that was brought to life by Conner's art. The team should get a lot of credit for keeping well worn material from feeling stale and especially for their hilarious and awesome use of Aquaman.

The best strips were, by far, Strange Tales, by Paul Pope, and The Flash, by Karl Kerschl and Brenden Fletcher. Both were great takes on well established characters and made great use of the project's format. Strange Tales is a wonderful, old-fashioned action/adventure story with some great modern touches. Pope also has a fantastic take on Adam Strange that is a nice twist on the character's central conceit and his art is as great as ever and works well with the tone of the story he is going for. The Flash though, is one of the best time travel stories I have ever read with Kerschl and Fletcher taking a very methodical approach to the plot that pays off with a rewarding story that doesn't leave you scratching your head wondering how it all worked out. The resolution was kind of a cop out though but it's forgivable since the final chapter was a wonderful cap on the story and the 11th chapter, which contained the story's resolution, still had a great moment between Barry and Iris in it. They also make wonderful use of a dual narrative in each page that lets the story unfold in an interesting way that works well with the time travel sequences. Add in some awesome pseudo-science and amazing artwork and you have the best strip in the entire collection.

Verdict - Check It.

Interested in Wednesday Comics? Buy it on and help support the Weekly Crisis!

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homiegfunk03 said...

Yikes. Bad day?

The Reunion had solid art (Lopez is one of those guys with a knack for facial expressions). Green Arrow's tease of the Merry Men, which according to you is simply a "dumb Robin Hood reference", looks to spotlight and expand his supporting cast (which is something this very site is championing), and Wednesday Comics wide array of stories took some risks and provided at the very least provided some excellent art.

I understand your disappointment with each of these projects and can see what you're talking about when referencing the cliche plots, but you know what's one of the worst cliches? The unable to be pleased comics "fan" who'd rather talk about how "dumb", "stupid", and "pointless" the things he claims to enjoy are.

You can be critical, even harsh, but spitting venomous hyperbole isn't proving that Marvel is hypocritical or that everything is wrong is DC, it's proving that people in the comics community are insufferable.

Anonymous said...


I liked Green arrow #1, I know for sure that it was bland, it was not good but it diserves a 6 from 10 stars.

JT Krul is new to the bussiness but I do not think he is that bad, he is just using what they gave him. I bet that with time his writing will improve. Also I liked the art of Diogenes it has a jim lee-Graham Nolan feel to it.

Jonathan said...

I don't understand how having Hawkeye refer to MockingBIRD as "birdie" is an insult to DC...?
I sorry to say that I really feel you're grasping at straws, here, as I think it's more intended as a "pet name" or nickname, which includes part of her codename.

twobitspecialist said...

Jonathan's got a point. Care to elaborate, Eric?

Eric Rupe said...

homiegfunk03 - Out of the last 18 verdicts I've given out only 4 have been negative. Overall, I do talk about comics I enjoy a lot more than those I don't. And, just because I enjoy comics, which I do, that doesn't mean I have to be positive all the time. I can't possibly write about all of the comics I read and I write about things that are one my mind whenever I have to write, whether it's about comic I like or a comic I don't like. There are plenty of great comics that I've love but haven't written because I just simply wasn't able to concentrate on them whenever I had time to write.

Jolles - Krul isn't actually a new writer and has been working in the industry for six years as far as I can tell.

Jonathan/twobitspecialist - I thought I included it in the post but I'm 99% sure Green Arrow has referred to Black Canary using the same or a very similar term. Beyond that though, the whole nickname is generally a DC thing, not Marvel, and I've never really seen Barton use them a lot.

Simon McDonald said...

I really enjoyed New Avengers: The Reunion. No, it wasn't anything revolutionary but I thought it was a thoroughly entertaining mini-series. The plot wasn't as innovative as it could have / should have been - but the interactions between Barton and Mockingbird really sold me. Loved it.

It's been great to see the creative team improve in the pages of 'Hawkeye & Mockingbird,' too.

Kirk Warren said...

Im a fan of New Avengers The Reunion. I thought it hit all the right notes for the style of story it was going for with teh Mr and Mrs Smith vibe. Solid art, good back and forth between them, not a great comic, but definitely a solid, fun read.

As for the nickname, black Canary is 'pretty bird' or some variation of that to Ollie.

Jonathan said...

Respectfully, I'll still have to disagree. Although I confess to not having followed all Green Arrow/Black Canary stories, the reference still escapes me. I'm not sure I can believe that Marvel is--as you say--"changing Barton's characterization just to take a shot at DC."

Knowing that Jim McCann wrote the script, and knowing what a charming and personable fellow he is, I'm hard-pressed to think of an instance in which he would change his story to include some snark at a competitor.

Having read NA: The Reunion and Hawkeye & Mockingbird, I tend to agree that it may be a by-the-numbers story, but it's a rather fun one at that. I'd suggest you give the new H&M series another look, as it's already quite engaging and going beyond the surface-level "fun" book Reunion was at times.

Ivan said...

What Simon and Kirk said.

Brady said...

Eric you are "really fucking stupid", and by far the worst reviewer on this blog.

Lucho said...

I´m totally buying WC hardcover because I think that was a bold and original move from DC. Comics have to prove new aproachs before manga totaly eats them for good.

BTW I enjoyed Superman #701. I was surprised how much I enjoyed a story about Supes walking. For many of you sure it´s "dumb and stupid". But I liked this original take.

Anonymous said...

@Lucho: I'm with you on that man. Superman#701 was a great story, It can be cheesy but I appreciate that JMS had the balls to put superman walking and trying to be more human (involving virtues and failures) something he has laked for some years now.


Ramon Villalobos said...

Wow. I just want to preface this by saying I don't know Eric Rupe at all but I generally find his reviews on point but even if I didn't just straight up calling him "really fucking stupid" is a pretty dickish thing to do especially when what he's insulting IS, in fact, pretty fucking stupid. I love the Green Arrow character but he has been so mishandled by JT Krul that it makes Judd Winick's run look like Watchmen. Giving him a Sherwood forest is not new and original. Giving him Merry Men is not a bold and fresh new take. Those are two nauseatingly simple ideas that even fall even below the Arrowmobile and the Arrowcave of the 1960's.

So in defense of Eric, who probably doesn't want to say this because it's rude and he writes for this site, shut the hell up. He's not the one giving comic fans a bad name for negatively reviewing comics that suck. You know who do? The people that gladly buy up horribly written, horribly drawn comics that give comic books a bad name. People that get really hyped for things like X Men vs Vampires, and even casually approve of ANYTHING related to Green Arrow right now prove that comic book fans are simpletons with no taste.

And why is Superman 701 being brought up? That had nothing to do with what he reviewed.

I apologize for that rant but after agreeing with the most of what Eric wrote, I found the comments pretty unbearable.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

I'd say Brady is the "really ______ stupid" guy because he completely forgot that I write reviews here too and I'm balls at my job. Seriously, check my reviews, they read like crayon scribble on bathroom stall walls.

Aside from that, I cannot believe someone would come on a site and say that. It baffles me that someone could be like that.

Anonymous said...

Its also baffling that Eric said that about a book. You guys are usually more professional and less trolling forum poster style than that.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

I always liked this site because we interact with the community and there's a dialogue, we don't just yell and then not listen (at least, we mostly don't do that) we discuss, that's the fun of it all. I try not to engage in troll behaviour but I do like to have an open forum with the readers.

twobitspecialist said...

At least Brady had the guts to attach his name to his insult. You anonymous people ought to learn from him. I'm not condoning the guy. I think his comment was idiotic, but if you are going to insult someone, do it to their face (the Internet equivalent would be to sign in with a name).

@Eric - Dude, I am not a DC reader. I didn't know "birdie" was a nickname of Green Arrow for Black Canary. I didn't pick up on it right away until I read the other comments. That said, my interest is now piqued for New Avengers: The Reunion. I might look for it.

Stinking JMS trolls, go take the Superman discussion to the appropriate post.

Ramon Villalobos said...

I'm not sure how much credit I'd give Brady. You click his name it links to a which has a message about buying the domain name. Not exactly hiding behind an anonymous name but it's pretty close.

quietomega said...

Have the comments gotten more venomous this week or is it just me?

I mostly agree with the Wednesday Comics review. I'm surprised that you found Superman just to be "below average" since its dialogue was almost as bad as that of Teen Titans. If it weren't for Lee Bermejo's art, I wouldn't have bothered finishing that story.

I didn't really get the ending of The Flash though; it just seemed to end as a newspaper strip. Did I miss something?

Adam Strange, Kamandi and Metamorpho were easily my favorite strips. The former for all the things you said, the latter for the wonderful storytelling employed by Gibbons and the last for its utilization of the format and the tongue-in-cheek storytelling. With those three strips, I got the strongest impression that the teams involved really got how special the format was and made great use of it

Anonymous said...

less name calling and fewer personal attacks but more discussions of comic content would be appreciated. after reading what's been said about wednesday comics i'm glad i made the decision not to buy it. i was mostly concerned with the format used being bigger than standard comics. how do you make it fit with a bag and board or in a long box? and i have a natural aversion to folding comics in the first place. but if the strips were that hit and miss i'm glad i missed it. a friend has the hc collection i'll just borrow that sometime.

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