Wednesday, November 20, 2013
I got into them kind of late in the game, as you can guess. They've been around since the 80's, after all. Luckily, I skipped the 90's, which was when they were stuck in Replacement Singer Hell. It was around 2000, so I must have been thirteen or fourteen. Dad picked up their Somewhere in Time album to replace a copy he lost a long time prior. At first I didn't pay it much heed, but eventually I listened to it. I was hooked immediately. I rushed to devour every prior album all the way up to the 1990's.
Around this time, Maiden made their comeback. They reunited with their most popular singer and guitarist, made a new album and almost immediately set out on the road to tour. I bought that album of course- its title was Brave New World - and fell in love with it. After my parents bought me the Rock in Rio tape, one thought stuck with me. "I have to see these guys live".
It's funny how many old bands have made triumphant comebacks in the 2000's. Several of my old favorites have returned, putting out amazing new albums that earned a place in my CD collection. They practically defied conventional wisdom; it's usually said - and most of the time it's true - that eventually a band is going to taper off in quality before sinking into the depths of irrelevance.
Maybe it's just bias on my part, but no one bucked conventional wisdom more than Maiden. Of the four albums they've put out, only one was anything even remotely resembling a disappointment and that's only when compared to the other albums released during this comeback period. I'd go so far as to say their most recent - The Final Frontier - is as good as anything they've done in the past. Maiden didn't just age gracefully. Musically, they're far better than they've ever been.
I bought all four of those albums when they came out, of course. For some reason or another, I didn't get to see them live for the longest time. Tour after tour passed me by. It wasn't until last year that I finally managed to see them in concert. It wasn't until this year that I'd know what that night would mean to me.
My mother could never get around well. Hit by a drunk driver when she was seventeen, her knees slowly degenerated over the years, leaving her all but crippled. By last year, she could barely get around with a cane and my arm for support. Much of my life over the past several years has revolved around taking care of her.
I took pride in it. She was a wonderful lady who, despite her lot in life, loved her kids and would do anything for us. It felt like a small way to pay her back. Plus I got to spend a lot of time with her. She was, without question, my best friend and the person I looked up to most in life. I managed to get paid for taking care of her; it wasn't a ton, but it was enough. I'd always had plans for afterwards; she was going to get knee replacement surgery and as soon as I felt I could be away for a while without worry, I intended to go to a training school.
She, as I recall, was the one who convinced me we should go to the concert. She wasn't as excited as I was about it - she had, after all, seen Maiden in their prime and had her stories, which she loved to tell - but she wanted to go to keep me company. Not to mention the fact that Alice Cooper was the opening act; Cooper was one of the few rock bands she had never attended a concert for, even in her youth. So we bought our tickets and when the time came we made the journey down to Darien Lake.
We had a wonderful time. It was hard on her, of course - the simple act of walking was agony for her - but she managed. We took pictures, bought overpriced shirts to remember the occasion by and revelled in the experience. She was enthralled by Cooper, who put on a great show as always. For me, it was the main event that hooked me. You'd never guess the members of Iron Maiden were in their fifties judging by how effortlessly Bruce Dickinson raced across the stage. The energy he possesses is enough to be the envy of men half his age.
After the show, we ate at Denny's and holed up in a motel for the night. I was too exhausted from the show to safely make the drive home. It wasn't some big vacation, but we had a great time. We always figured there would be more to come; she'd get her knee surgery, I'd get a decent job and I'd take her with me to see all sorts of different places. It wasn't supposed to be the last time we got to do anything big together.
Turns out it was.
My mother died this year on the 13th of July around 11 AM*. I'll never forget it. Three days later and it would have been exactly a year from our trip. I still don't know what happened. I still don't understand why. She didn't deserve it. There was so much left for her to see and do. There's so much left we never got to do. So much left, stolen from us without warning. I miss her all the time, months later. The tears have dried, but everything's changed. What I wouldn't give to go back in time.
I'm two days away from my 27th birthday. I can't help but think of her and think of where my life is right now. I put so much into helping her and I can't help but ask myself what I have to show for it? Aside from my father and sister, I'm alone. I haven't had a girlfriend in years. I'm struggling to get everything in order so I can go on with the plans I made well before she passed. What do I really have?
She'll never see me get married. When I have kids, she'll never get to meet them. She'll never see me make it in anything I want to do. It wasn't supposed to be this way. I'm still struggling to figure my life out. To figure out where I go from here. It isn't easy.
One thing I do still have are memories. A big one is that concert. If Iron Maiden weren't around anymore, I wouldn't have that memory.
I guess when it comes down to it, that's part of the point of this. In some way, it made a band I already loved special to me in a different way. I guess I can never make fun of the Rolling Stones again for the fact that they're still around despite being half dead.
So keep on upping the irons, Maiden. Keep going until the six of you are a bunch of skeletons performing on stage if you want. I'll be there. I like to think Mom will be there with me in spirit.
* Yes, this is why the blog has been reduced to maybe a post a month.
Sunday, October 6, 2013
|Not the face I expected to think of when|
considering the king of modern platformers*
Then, lo and behold, Rayman Origins released and suddenly Rayman was cool, possibly for the first time. Bright, clean, colorful graphics, responsive control, excellent co-op, tons of secrets, bitchin' level design, challenge factor, especially if you made it all the way to Land of the Livid Dead. The game had it all. Then Legends came along and somehow took it even further.
Rayman is kind of an anamoly these days. At some point early in the previous decade, the idea of the video game mascot just sort of died off. It wouldn't be a stretch to say the jump to 3D models and environments is what did it; even Sonic, a king of the 2D era, took years to finally get it right. Several saw their franchises die with a bad 3D entry.
Times change, of course. We finally got out heads out of our collective asses on the whole 3D thing. So isn't it about time for a comeback?
Seriously, gaming's missing something these days. Nowadays it's all about guns and war. Drab, dull soldiers running around drab, dull, brown landscapes shooting drab, dull enemies. I've never been against those type of games and have enjoyed my fair share but it makes for most of the industries modern output. Not helping matters is the fact that the shooter has become a safe bet; video game companies got the idea in their heads that anything that isn't a First Person Shooter is a tough sell and adjusted accordingly.
Lately, I find I've drifted away from that. What catches my eye these days is the colorful, the crazy, the out there idea, even in modern genres. It's no secret that I'm not a huge fan of GTA IV, a game that, in its quest to tell a serious, heavy story about the nature of the American Dream, kind of forgot it was supposed to be fun. Then I discovered Saints Row the Third, an entry in a franchise I had previously dismissed. It was off the chain. Any and everything could happen. The laws of physics might not apply, zombies might show up, you might hang out with a luchador or a pimp that speaks in autotune. It was bombastic, crazy and unafraid to throw the rules out the window if it might make for a good time. But more than that, it was fun. It was everything Grand Theft Auto used to be.
It's not an isolated incident. I've retained my love for Sonic the Hedgehog, a franchise that's finally embraced what it used to be and stopped trying to be so damn serious. Rayman has obviously won my heart. I wasn't thrilled with how far back it threw, but Mega Man 9 was decent and 10 was godly. The Katamari games never innovate, but they're consistently wacky and always a good time. Bionic Commando: ReArmed was excellent. Then we have Ducktales and Castle of Illusion finding themselves remade for modern day.
You'll notice a pattern here. Truth is, a lot of the things I love about these games were the norm back in the 90's. You know, back when family friendly mascots ruled the game systems.
Lest you think I'm just being nostalgic, I assure you I'm not viewing this with rose tinted glasses. I remember the duds. Seemed like everyone was in a rush to rip Sonic the Hedgehog off wholesale in the hopes of getting a fraction of his sales, leading to abominations like Bubsy. I don't forget the blatant advertising, either; people bitch about it in modern games, but back then they'd make entire games centered around the mascots for soda or cheese crunchies. Most of them sucked**.
But then... how often did we get a winner out of the deal? Guys like Sonic, Mario and Mega Man go without saying***. But what about Sparkster (or Rocket Knight if you prefer)? Or guys like Earthworm Jim, whose world had all the wacky hijinks and off the wall humor you could handle? He's fallen far since then, but everyone loves the first three Crash Bandicoot games. Spyro had a great trilogy, too. They've never been my thing, but many swore by the Banjo Kazooie games. Vectorman? Bomberman? The modern age had a few great ones too, with fare like Sly Cooper and Jak picking up the slack.
I recognize there's a sound argument to be made that if I got my way, we'd be trading one set of samey crap for another. But think about it. Even the duds rarely resembled each other in look, style or design. Take your modern shooters, on the other hand; at times, it's difficult to tell them apart. Do we really need another Tom Clancy? Call of Duty? Generic Shooter #476? Is there anything substantial enough to set each of them apart?
I don't know about you, but I'd rather have a crapload of colorful mascots traversing diverse, out there world, even if half of them were crap, as opposed to a crapload of drab, boring shooters that look and play the exact same. Doesn't it get depressing, looking at all that brown? All those dark colors? I'm tired of depressing. I want fun.
* Yes, I'm going to far as to say Rayman's dethroned Mario, at least for the time being. Think about it. When's the last time a Mario game felt particularly inspired? Or even fresh? The first Galaxy? Maybe the second, which refined and polished everything that made the first one great. Since then, it's mostly been a revival of sub-brands like Land and World. Even Mario's recent return to 2D - New Super Mario Brothers - simply cannot hold a candle to Rayman's recent offerings. Nintendo needs to step it up.
** Cool Spot's one of the few exceptions, but his games are remembered better than they actually were. There's a difference between being a good game and a great one, a distinction few make when it comes to Cool Spot. But that's splitting hairs; they're better than you'd expect a blatant product advertisement to be, which we can probably thank David Perry and Tommy Tallarico for.
*** Even if Mega Man's all but dropped off the map thanks to a hissy fit Capcom threw when Keji Inafune left the company.
Monday, September 23, 2013
Artist: Nicola Scott
Collects: Earth 2 #1-6
This is blasphemy of the highest order, but I never could get into Starman. Everyone and their grandmother claims it's a classic, but I tried the first volume and didn't make it past the first issue. It felt like someone vomited words onto page after page. It was like somebody forgot they were writing a comic and just started writing a novel instead. It wasn't long before I tapped and went to read something else.
Earth 2 is better in this regard, but only just. Starman began and ended in the 90's. Earth 2 debuted in 2012. Not a whole lot of forward progression.
Ultimately, this is the problem with James Robinsons writing. He's way too verbose, seeming to forget that we left the Bronze Age of Comics a long time ago. This is more of a problem for some than others; given my attention issues, it's no surprise I have difficulty with his work as well as older comics. Still, I feel like I expect - and should expect - him to progress in this regard.
I hope I'm not coming off too harsh here, because this is not going to be a scathing review. Despite all this, Earth 2 did what Starman could not. It kept my interest.
While I've established that Robinsons weakness is his overly purple prose, his strength is, without question, his ability to build worlds. I didn't make it through Starman*, but I read more than enough about it to appreciate just how much work and thought he put into that series. Worldbuilding is an important skill, especially when doing what Robinson does here; essentially reworking common tropes into an alternate universe rich enough to stand on its own.
Earth 2 does that well, even without the big marquee heroes that prop up the regular line of DC Comics. Don't let the cover fool you; Earth 2 Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman are important to this universe, but as it's backstory. They're off the table two thirds of the way through the first issue.
No, a retread of the typical DC Universe with a different coat of paint is not what this series is about. Robinson is essentially given the keys to the group of characters he obviously has the most affection for - the Justice Society of America - and he builds an entire world around them, reminiscent of the old days of the multiverse. Only this time, they're not old timers who fought Hitler and aged gracefully, eventually mentoring the next generation. This is their genesis; here, we see their start, in the present day as young heroes just coming on to the scene of a world that has gone a long time without heroes.
The prose may be stuck in the 70's or the 80's, but the retool feels modern, which does make for an odd clash in style.
Unfortunately, we don't get far enough in this volume for the series to really get going. The six issues do "wonders"** for set-up purposes, but in six issues we barely get past the first threat. Robinsons verbosity is part of the problem; the sequence where Mercury meets Jay Garrick and gives the man his powers is a good six pages of exposition that could have been pared down to three, maybe four. Mercury just will not shut up. Hell, no one will in this book. Earth 2 needed a pass or two by the trusty red marker.
None of this is to say the page space is entirely wasted. As I said, Robinsons specialty is worldbuilding and while this arc could have used some trimming, he still manages to cram in quite a bit. By the end of the volume we know more about the world and its inhabitants in six issues than we do the Justice League after two years of the New 52 series.
Nicola Scott may be a least a part of why Earth 2 kept my interest while prior Robinson comics didn't. Her artwork is gorgeous the whole way through. I don't know if it was her doing, but I particularly liked the costume design of just about everyone in the book, especially the Green Lantern. Superman's another I enjoyed. His costume is a major improvement over the pseudo-armor of the regular version; it's kind of a shame we have it for all of one issue.
Typical extras round out the collection. Character sketches, pencil pages. The usual. They're always welcome, mind you, just sort of expected.
My Opinion: Read It
This was one of the tougher scores to give. I have my misgivings, but I still enjoyed the book and I think the series has potential. I'm a little wary going forward, though; I hear the series only gets wordier as it progresses. Still, it's worth the time.
* I may give Starman another shot in the future. I tried it years ago, after all. I might have an easier time sitting through it now. Who knows.
** I really liked how the superheroes were referred to as "wonders" in this world. As if they were a new set of modern "Wonders of the World". Fitting, not to mention it feels natural. I could see the world latching on to something like that when they first arrived on the scene. It's a far sight better than that turd of a line we got in Justice League, "you're the worlds greatest super-heroes". Ugh...
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Artists: Tony Daniel, Ed Benes, Pere Perez and a metric ton of others in the backups
Collects: Detective Comics (vol. 2) #8-12, #0, Detective Comics Annual #1, plus all the backups
Volume One was a swing and a miss. The focus on a new villain was laudable, but Daniel forgot to make him interesting, despite having six issues to do it. Volume Two manages to fix some of the issues that plagued the first, enough to be worth the read, but it's also Daniels last. He seemed to catch on to what needed fixing just as he was leaving.
Length has a lot to do with the improvement. Perhaps it's because he was winding down his run, but Daniel decided not to go with another six issue plotline; instead, he busts the page space into smaller chunks. None of the stories go past three issues. In fact, the majority of them are all of a single issue. As regards actually writing a comic, Tony Daniel is as hit or miss as they come. By keeping the length under control, he's made it easier to deal with the losers of the bunch; after all, if a given story is a dud, it's far easier to sit through when it's only a single issue as opposed to six.
As a side benefit, there's a fair bit of variety to Scare Tactics. The Court of Owls are around for an issue, the Mad Hatter pops up, Dr. Strange cameos, Daniel introduces what I believe is a new villain in Mr. Toxic - who holds the only multi issue plot in the volume - and Catwoman even pops in for a few pages. Scarecrow's around too, but despite the obvious allusion to him in the title, he's there for all of two pages. The book doesn't just sit around, content to stick with one focus; since one issue stories make up the majority of the volume, we're constantly moving to something different.
The annual is the last issue Tony Daniel scripted. In a way, it's his run on the character coming full circle. Life After Death was far from the greatest comic to ever hit the racks, but it's easily the biggest story Tony Daniel ever did with Batman; it warranted tie-ins, a miniseries that acted as a prologue or side story and references throughout the line. Fitting then that Daniel revisits the Black Mask one more time before departing.
It's the quintessential "putting the toys back in the toybox" story. Life After Death was meant to retool the Black Mask character in the wake of his death way back when, putting a new face beneath the mask. With the relaunch, that's no longer necessary - plus that story sort of removed the one Arkham figurehead Batman could interact with - so with a a cursory reference to his death and a handwave, Roman Sionis is back. It serves its purpose - and what follows is a fairly decent little adventure - but it's far from remarkable.
Part of the problem is that I just couldn't get used to Daniels take on Black Mask. My favorite voice for the character has always been the one we got out of Judd Winicks "Under the Hood"; Winick gave him intelligence, purpose and a dark wit that elicited sincere laughter out of me on several occasions. In comparison, Daniels take lacks personality; as a result, it feels as though he's only used so Daniel could use the relaunch to fix a few things.
None of the stories are all that remarkable, but at least I didn't forget it after about a week like the last volume. The collection finishes with a series of backup strips; I'm not a hundred percent sure, but I believe it's every one up to the last issue of this collection. They range from good to dull to outright bizzare; Two-Face chills with some zen monks or something? The one about Jokers severed face is the best. They aren't worth the price of admission alone but they're nice extras.
My Opinion: Try It
The last hurrah of Tony Daniels Detective Comics is an improvement over the prior volume, yet still far from remarkable. Worth a read if you see it in the local library, since there's no need to have read the first. Not sure it's worth a purchase though.
Monday, August 26, 2013
Artists: Joe Bennett, Art Thibert
Collects: Deathstroke (vol. 2) #1-7
It seems like no one ever manages to do a book centered around a villain properly. There's several reasons for that, but the main problem is the fact that it's difficult to make the audience care about an irredeemable scumbag. If there's nothing to latch on to or make you care, there isn't much reason to read, is there?
Final Crisis Aftermath: Run manages it by making the central character a loser who stumbles into good things and promptly blows it. More often, the writer will smooth out the rough edges of the character, making them more of an anti-hero. If they're not total scumbags, it makes it easier to root for them and to care.
Deathstroke actually had a prior book in this vein. In fairness, it wasn't a betrayal of character; Deathstroke was never flat out evil even when he'd tussle with the Teen Titans. He even helped them on occasion afterwards. But that was a long time ago; somewhere along the way they decided a mercenary who played whichever side was convenient wasn't cool enough, so they had him drop Chemo on Bludhaven. He's been a villain ever since.
Hence, we're back to the original problem; how do you make the reader want to keep up with a character who is, frankly, a douchebag? Kyle Higgins gives it his best shot and the results are surprisingly readable. Slade is not a nice guy at all, but he's interesting; we see how his choices often end up creating the problems he faces. Slades pride in his reputation causes him to do some pretty drastic things when he feels no one respects him anymore and each action he takes to rebuild it has a reaction that costs him.
The last issue - which is sort of a denouement - is pretty good too. It goes into his backstory - which, if I'm mistaken, is all new - and serves to give context to his life choices and the way he turned out. It ends up as a fitting end to the volume and shows us just how Slade ended up getting the last laugh.
Legacy contains seven issues total. Overall, it's a pretty self contained arc. Good thing too, because Deathstroke is another of those titles that had its creative team for all of one volume before a change. It's a shame; I would have liked to read a couple more volumes of Higgins Deathstroke. But then, maybe it's for the best; books like this tend not to have the sales figures to support them for long periods, so perhaps its better we get a pretty self contained seven issue arc instead of a long form story that ended up cut short by cancellation.
Rob Liefeld took over next. I won't be reviewing it. Liefelds work is... not for me. It's best to leave it at that and not even bother reciting the list of criticisms. The rest of the net has that one covered in exhausting detail.
My Opinion: Read It
I'm not sure how long Deathstroke could have continued in this vein, but what we got is well worth a read. Take it out at a library at least. It was fun while it lasted.
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Artist: Gene Ha, Jim Lee
Collects: Justice League #7-12
If I had reservations after the first volume, they have now turned to outright dismay. Origin stumbled, but it was a game attempt at giving a definitive modern story of the formation of the League. The Villains Journey skips forward five years to the present day of the DCU and it is... a "quality challenged" book.
A regular joe who was caught in the middle of Darkseids attack in Origin - he even wrote a book about the incident - lost his family from some inexplicable disease in the years following. Now he blames the League for it and has decided he'll take them down through the use of spirits and junk. But first, he needs a way to get under their skin, so he captures the League liason - Steve Trevor - and starts knocking over the dominos.
First off, when the liason to your team is the most interesting, relatable character in the book, you are doing it wrong. The first issue of the volume, an interlude before the main arc, revolves around him, giving him the most exploration of any character in the entire first year. It's also the only issue of the twelve to actually try and give some character to the League. How? Through a short flashback sequence. One per member. After a year we barely even know these characters, aside from the fact that they bicker constantly. They're ciphers, serving little purpose other than the fact that we need something to center the plot around. Problem is, if you don't even give a crap about the central players, it's difficult to care about whatever fine mess they find themselves in.
It's difficult to like some of them. So tell me, Wonder Woman; any real reason you had to haul off and beat the shit out of Green Lantern, who was only trying to keep you from walking into an obvious trap without backup? He wasn't even being a dick about it either and she not only knocks him halfway across town, but actually goes after him, sword in hand, so she can presumably carve him up and beat the piss out of him some more. "I don't take pleasure in this" my ass, Wondy.
Then there's Batman, who continues his streak of uselessness in this book. Yet again, he contributes nothing to the fight, doesn't even seem to be respected by his team-mates and is pretty much just there. Had the book opened explaining Batman left the team sometime in the five years gap, I think we'd all be better off. After all, it's clear the creators don't know what to do with him and you have to figure Batman has better things to do than stick around a group that doesn't even seem to respect him.
All of which is to say the book lacks anything resembling character depth. They're all shallow, save maybe Steve Trevor. After thinking on it for a while, I realized the difference between a good comic by Johns and a bad one comes down to its focus. Much of his best work - Teen Titans, JSA, Brightest Day, 52 - was driven, at least in part, by the cast. The big plotlines were there, but Johns spent enough time with the characters themselves that anything they did or trouble they found themselves in had weight.
One of the best volumes of his Teen Titans run - and a favorite of many - is The Future is Now. At that point, we'd spent three volumes with the team and Johns had done enough character work with each for us to invest in them. So we care when they meet their possible future counterparts and find out they're villains. It has meaning. The premise would not have worked if it had been, say, the second story, which is exactly what this book attempts.
Getting back on the topic of The Villains Journey, there are also some noticeable discrepancies. I guess Johns didn't bother reading JLI before he made mention of it here, because not only does he pen a scene where Batman tells Steve Trevor the JLI are basically useless and that he wants them shut down - the exact opposite of how he felt in JLI, where he also encouraged Booster Gold to keep at it - but he kind of misses the fact that the JLI never even had the chance to become an official thing.
It doesn't feel like this team has been together for five years either, no matter what the book says. They don't listen to each other, they don't follow orders, they're often berating each other and they somehow don't know a thing about one another. Yet they've had countless adventures in that span of time. It's a story befitting of a team that just formed, not one that has supposedly kept the entire world safe for five years. It's one of the things that hurts "The Villains Journey" the most; this volume seems like it should be the endgame to, say, the first or second year the team has been together, where they finally put aside their differences and work to become the team they should be.
This all feeds into the biggest problem with the book; The Villains Journey has not earned a single one of its big moments. One instance is the big kiss that made all the headlines - not only is "we're lonely, hey, we should start a relationship" dumb*, but it's another moment ruined by the fact that we have no investment in these characters - and another is the dismissal of Steve Trevor as the League liason after all of a single volume in that role. But my prime example is a scene late in the book, where Green Lantern quits the League - saying he was responsible for the fight with Wonder Woman - so the team has a scapegoat to keep their reputation intact. It's supposed to be an emotional moment and a big deal, but it means absolutely nothing.
Not only is GL's "I started the fight" bit not what happened at all - which should be clear to any eyewitnesses - but we have no reason to care. There's this supposed five year history, but we've seen none of it, leaving us with no real idea of Lanterns experience with the team, what it means to him, how hard a choice this might be for him or how it might affect the team itself. The scene just happens and yet the creators expect it to have an impact; in reality, it just hangs there, lifeless, because it lacks the context to lend it any gravitas.
Honestly, that example is the issue with this comic in a nutshell. For this story to work at all, the book needed a couple of stories after Origin to show some early adventures. Instead, they dropped the origin, threw a five year time skip at us and then expected a plotreliant on events we haven't even seen to have weight.
At least the pacing issues that plagued Origin aren't quite as bad this time.
Making matters worse is the fact that the art is subpar Jim Lee work. Origin had the same problem. It's fairly decent most of the time, but the fact that it's not his best is inescapable. This is Lee's last volume and I hate to say it, but it might be for the best. Lee is amazing when he can take his time, but I think his Justice League run proves he can't hit a monthly deadline anymore without the quality taking a serious hit. It's a damn shame, too.
My Opinion: Skip It
Justice League: The Villains Journey just doesn't work. Most of the problems are avoidable, some are just a consequence of the circumstances and stories placement. Either way, they add up to a whole that just isn't worth the hassle. This book needs to shape up fast. The flagship book of DC's entire line should not be this screwed up.
* I'm probably not telling you anything new here, but starting a relationship based out of sheer loneliness is a recipe for disaster. I like to think Johns is aware of this and that it's a part of his plans for the book, but who knows. As it stands, it's pretty groanworthy; it doesn't help that we have no reason to care. Unless, well, you're a shipper who thought this should have happened long ago, in which case you probably cared before this, quality and sense be damned.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Artists: Jesus Merino, Nicola Scott
Collects: Superman (vol. 3) #1-6
Now it's time to tackle the other Superman comic.
So, you relaunch your entire line. Obviously you do it partly to try and get new readers to jump on with your new initiative. Preferably young readers, in contrast to the aging fanbase that's held the industry up for a decade or so. Of course you want a writer that will speak to younger readers, so the natural choice is... George Perez?
They are looking to appeal to new readers, right?
Just to be clear, this is not a knock on Perez. He's a very skilled artist and I've always loved his work. But that's the thing, he's known for his art, not writing; had he been put on a monthly to draw, this might have been an entirely different review. But he wasn't.
More than that, he's one of the "old guard", I guess you could say. I've never been as big a fan of Marvel as I am DC, but they've long been better at cultivating fresh talent while DC is more likely to stick to what it knows. Relaunching your entire line and then putting a guy you've used for decades doesn't exactly dispel that notion and it is, in fact, probably detrimental when you're looking to get new readers.
This is all important, because it's easy to tell Perez is from a different school. This comic is very wordy, to the point where, if not for the art, you could be fooled into thinking this was a Bronze Age comic. He sometimes slips into using thought balloons as well, a practice the medium has essentially abandoned in favor of the less glaring narration box.
None of this is to say the book is particularly bad. The "is the hero a magnet for the danger his people encounters" well has been hit in the past, but there's a reason for that. The story also has Superman fighting some elemental creatures and an invisible lizard, which is fun. But if I'm looking to bring new eyes to comics with one of the biggest books in the company, this is the last thing I'd slot in to kick it off. A part of monthly comics is hooking a reader, after all. It may not be a particularly elegant way to put this, but screw it; What Price Tomorrow feels like the kind of thing you'd slot in between bigger runs by name creators, not the kickoff in an initiative meant to bring fresh eyes to the product.
On the upside, Perez has some talented artistic partners. I don't really need to sing the praises of Jesus Merino and Nicola Scott, do I? Their work kind of speaks for itself. Especially Nicola Scott. George Perez himself doesn't do any interior artwork, but we do at least get some covers, so there's that.
This is another of those "one and done" volumes we've already encountered a couple times in the New 52. George Perez is gone next volume. I doubt it will be the last time this happens. DC's apparently had some serious creative issues behind the scenes ever since the regime change. Whatever's going on, they need to get it together.
My Opinion: Try It
Not exactly the direction I'd have gone, but What Price Tomorrow isn't terrible. If you like the way comics used to be written, you'll probably get a kick out of this. Can't say it's something I'd recommend purchasing though. Check the library for a copy if you're interested.