This Week In Comics: 9/5/12

“You know, the generic, samey origin stories are definitely my favorite part about superheroes,” said no comic book reader ever, and yet, this week in comics sees DC’s questionable Zero Issue month begin. So, yay for that.

This is a thing that is new.

Action Comics #0

Because Grant Morrison has been involved in a year-long ‘origin story’ for Superman, this is one of the very few #0 issues that really doesn’t interrupt the flow of the title at all.  In fact, “The Boy Who Stole Superman’s Cape” is up there with some of the best Superman stories of all time.  New artist Ben Oliver and colorist Brian Reber give the book a slightly more realistic (and periodically muddy) look than its traditionally had, which works extremely well for a story that follows an abused child stealing the cape off an unconscious Superman.  There are one or two small problems with the issue, including a weaker-than-usual back-up feature, but overall, Action Comics #0 is a stunning success. (A+. DC Comics, $3.99)

Animal Man #0

Animal Man may no longer be my favorite New 52 title, but it still manages to tell a compelling story now and again.  This is not one of those instances.  Revisiting Animal Man‘s origin yet again, we see Anton Arcane killing the previous Animal Man, sending the Red into a panic.  Unfortunately, this just raises more questions than it answers – if Anton killed Alec Holland and Animal Man five years ago, what the hell has he been doing since? – and none of them are interesting.  The Rot is a great idea, but the storyline surrounding it has been nonsensical at best, and downright terrible at its worst.  The strongest moments in this issue focus on Buddy becoming a hero, as the Red remakes him into Animal Man as a last-ditch defense against the Rot and dresses him up in superhero gear to give him a more believable origin story.  There’s some clever stuff here, but not nearly enough.  (C. DC Comics, $2.99)

Before Watchmen: Silk Spectre #3 (of 4)

Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Connor’s Silk Spectre is one of the only titles from the Before Watchmen line – only Minutemen  matches it – to justify its own existence, creatively speaking.  Amanda Connor’s cartoony art is perfect here, fluid and exciting in the action scenes, genuinely bizarre while Silk Spectre is tripping from a drugged drink, and her handle on facial expressions, body language and shadow make her characters feels distinctive.  The book’s story remains its weakest point, a mostly goofy mess of Summer of Love stereotypes, but the rest of the book more than redeems that one flaw. (A-. DC Comics, $3.99)

Hawkeye #2

The disjointed, free form style employed by Fraction and Aja on Hawkeye is a joy to read, an intense, exciting style of comics that takes action storytelling in a completely different direction than the post-Authority boom of the 2000s.  This issue widens Clint’s supporting cast yet again, suggesting that Kate Bishop will be a regular in the book, and the issue does a good job at setting up some pretty major conflicts for Clint going forward.  This is an action comic with a rock-solid sense of pacing, plot, and characterization, three traits missing from a staggering amount of modern comics.  I really can’t recommend the book enough.  (A. Marvel Comics, $2.99)

The Phantom Stranger #0

Some questions are better off unanswered.  Take, for example, the Phantom Stranger.  Who is he?  What is he?  What does he want?  These are all compelling questions, and by leaving them shrouded in mystery, they took a fairly generic looking character and made him into one of DC’s most iconic mystic boogeymen.  Of course, that can’t stand.  The Phantom Stranger #0 gives us the definitive answer to many of those questions – He is Judas Iscariot. He doesn’t know why he does what he does, because he’s too busy pitying himself for centuries on end – and almost none of them are interesting. In fact, The Phantom Stranger #0 removes all agency from our hero, making him into a puppet for powers we don’t understand.  Which, it turns out, is not terribly interesting to read about.  This issue is extremely rushed – the Spectre’s first appearance here is laughable, and that’s not an easy character to laugh at – though there are some stronger moments here and there.  Didio has a classic style that could jive well with the character, and that’s only enhanced by Brent Anderson’s art, but the issue is so dedicated to answering questions, it completely fails to give us anything to care about. (C-. DC Comics, $2.99)

Swamp Thing #0

As I put down this month’s issue of Swamp Thing, I had a realization: This is far and away the worst comic series I’m still reading, but, because of the impending crossover with the still-sometimes-enjoyable Animal Man, I have continued to purchase both books.  If nothing else, I think Swamp Thing #0 – which reminds us how eeeeevil Anton Arcane is, to no purpose and for no reason – has cured me of that.  Snyder can still tell a hell of a story, as he demonstrated last month on Batman #12, but his Swamp Thing run just isn’t working on any level. (D. DC Comics, $2.99)


2 thoughts on “This Week In Comics: 9/5/12

  1. I couldn’t agree less about Swamp Thing. I thought it was an amazing issue in showing just how messed up Anton is with the scene in the nursery. Some of the art was nice too with creative spreads like the stitched up page of Anton dragging corpses.

    Out of the 8 DC titles i still read it’s still my most anticipated every month.

    • Pretty much everything, honestly. It was, I thought, exactly what I feared the 0 issues would be – dull, portentous filler.

      The issue follows Anton Arcane, but there’s no sense of drama or characterization present. He likes killing avatars, he likes killing babies, and he likes killing other things too. But he’s terrible at it. He literally had a knife at Holland’s back and a shotgun a few feet away while Alec didn’t even know he was there… and opted to set a fire and hope for the best AND THEN watch him run into the heart of the Green’s power instead of just, y’know, stabbing him. Why the disguise, if he was just going to set a random housefire and then run away?

      Furthermore, why did he narrate the first three pages in the voice of the girl whose skin he was wearing? I understand why the exposition was necessary, but it makes no sort of internal sense at all. It’s a twist for the sake of a twist, but it’s a twist that doesn’t make any sense given thirty seconds of thought.

      Arcane’s design is dull, monotonous, and easily forgettable. His plan thus far seems to be to kill things for funsies (remind me again: why did he trick us into thinking Abby and his nephew were both avatars when he was freewheeling about for a hundredsome years before then, with absolutely no threat to his power, without attempting anything?) His narration is so cliche ‘cool badass’ Liefeld would laugh – we spent an entire issue in his head, and we learned nothing about who he is, what he wants, why he does what he does, Alec’s life, Abby’s life, the Rotworld concept in general or anything.

      The story’s structure was formless and the plot was borderline nonexistant. There was minimal dialogue. There was no character growth or surprising revelations. It was a very matter of fact set of flashbacks to a character we know nothing about killing a bunch of Swamp Things for no discernible reason.

      It was the shallow pursuit of ‘edgy’ at all costs. It’s all the worst parts of the mid-90’s boom of extreme comics. Oh, man, he’s a skin-wearing baby-killer who’s just super into death. How risque.

      The sole redeeming factor came from Kano, who managed to cook up some nice creature design – the brainhand thing – and kept the layouts inventive and enticing, as they’ve been since the beginning. Otherwise, I literally can’t find a single pleasant thing to say about the issue.

      I’m not judging you for liking it, by the way, and I totally apologize if this post came off like that. I just really can’t state how horrible I thought this issue was. Snyder is normally a pretty talented creator, but this was just embarrassing. What did enjoy about it?

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