Saturday 1 August 2009

Reviews: New Avengers #55, Fantastic Four #569

There's a brilliant synthesis that happens sometimes in superhero comics, where you get the right writer and the right artist working together and it just clicks. The comic feels seamless, natural – dialogue and artwork are a whole, as if they've been made by one creator rather than two (or three or four or five – if the lettering and colouring are working too, all the better). This brilliant synthesis actually happens less often than you'd hope; there are plenty of comics where there's a good writer and a good artist working together, but for some reason – something to do with complementary creativity – they're not the right writer or the right artist.

There's a neat illustration of this in two comics that came out this week. Both New Avengers #55 and Fantastic Four #569 feature Stuart Immonen artwork. Immonen's a talented artist with a flowing line and natural storytelling abilities. And yet the two comics couldn't feel more different. Fantastic Four was scripted by the British TV writer Joe Ahearne from a plot by Mark Millar, and despite lots of gorgeous panels of stuff exploding and heroes clashing, it doesn't gel. There's a disconnect between the spectacle and the script and an awkwardness to the story progression, all of which only distances the reader. It's pretty, but uninvolving.

New Avengers, on the other hand, despite consisiting of long stretches where it's essentially large groups of costumed characters talking to each other, is almost magical. Writer Brian Michael Bendis' character work is beautifully augmented by Immonen's storytelling. For instance, Spider-Man's full face mask generally makes it really hard to have him express any kind of emotion, but in a sequence where the Avengers are discussing killing Norman Osborn, Bendis' dialogue and Immonen's staging lend Spidey a surprising level of emotional intensity. One panel in particular – Spider-Man saying he'll quit the team with a dismissive hand gesture – is simple and yet incredibly effective.

New Avengers #55 may not be an important or historically noteworthy comic like, say, Watchmen or Batman: Year One, but the creative partnership here is as strong as that of Moore and Gibbons, or Miller and Mazzucchelli. It's the right writer, the right artist. It's an alchemy that's unique to the comics medium, but yet also quite rare within that medium, and so something to be celebrated.

Mind you, the cover's a bit crap.

Thursday 30 July 2009

Ill-Gotten Gain

Well, not particularly ill-gotten; I did pay for the things. But anyway, here's the list of comics wot I got this week:

Dark Reign Hood #3 (of 5)
Detective Comics #855
Fantastic Four #569
Ignition City #4
New Avengers #55
Secret Warriors #6
Superman #690
Terror Inc Apocalypse Soon #4 (of 5)
Ultimatum #5 (of 5)

It strikes me that my posting of this information every week will be of little or no interest to anyone, even if anyone is reading this blog, but I guess it'll be something I can read back over and see what I was buying on a given week. Then again, it also strikes me even I might not be interested in doing that.

Aw fuck it. I'll carry on doing it. What the hell else am I gonna write about?

Not sure what I'm looking forward to most out of these. New Avengers maybe? Ultimatum I'm only buying 'cos I wanna see how it ends; it's been pretty appalling all the way through. Fantastic Four I'm quitting after this issue. Just wanna see how Mark Millar's run finishes (although he's only co-writing at this point). And on the danger list (as in, in danger of being dropped) we have Secret Warriors and Superman. I want to see socks being pulled up pretty sharpish with those two, or else they're gone. So there.

Wednesday 29 July 2009

Late Lamented Letters Pages

Letters pages in comic books finally fizzled out a few years ago. The last one I remember seeing was in an issue of Captain America some way into Ed Brubaker's run. DC had already dropped them across their line a few years before that. Now neither Marvel nor DC run letters pages (as far as I'm aware). Which is a shame, because that's a window on the readership that's going to be lost for anyone looking back. Sure, there's the various internet message boards, but those threads don't necessarily stay around forever. Whereas a letters page in a physical comic book acts as a near-as-dammit permanent time capsule, shedding light on what the most fervent fans were thinking at the time.

Why is that important? Honestly, I don't know if it is. But I've been re-reading old Alan Moore Swamp Things, and the letters pages are often fascinating: the shock in the missives at Moore's first few issues (where Swampy's origin was stood on its head); the arrival as editor of Karen Berger, future Vertigo supremo. If you check the names of letter-writers in old comics, you'll often recognize a future comics writer or artist, firing off adolescent fanmail to their favourite book. In years to come, will we be able to look back at archived message board threads and spot the stars of tomorrow? Or have we lost something unique, something maybe even worthwhile?

Monday 27 July 2009

Am I right in thinking

that the one truly noteworthy news story from San Diego – Marvel picking up the rights to publish Marvelman/Miracleman/Marvelman/whatever the fuck he's called now – leaves anyone who's been following the Marvelman rights clusterfuck since Eclipse went down the pan in exactly the same position as before, i.e., not knowing if or when or even if ever Neil Gaiman's run will be finished or if there'll be new material or, or, or anything really?

OK, well I'm glad we got that cleared up.