Monday, April 29, 2013

X-Men Legacy: Back to School (comics)

Rogue's pretty chill for someone
with a dislocated kneecap

Writer: Christos Gage
Artists: David Baldeon, Rafa Sandoval
Collects: X-Men Legacy #250.1, #261-265

As you might recall I gave up on this book completely somewhere around the creepy "no means yes" Rogue and Magneto hookup*. I didn't exactly have any intention of going back either. But the split of the X franchise saw this book fall into the Wolverine half. Apparently it acquired a new writer since the last time I read it too. I much prefer the school setting and I'm an easy mark for Gambit, so I figured there was no harm if seeing whether the franchises new lease on life translated here.

It's a little bit of yes and a little bit of no.

We start off pretty good. An innocent little screwup leads to the X-Men having to fight legally distinct versions of the Xenomorphs from Aliens. If you know me at all, you know I'm all over that. It's a fun little one-shot that even manages to work in some effective comic relief in the faculty trying to keep the war going on outside from the kids.

Next is a small arc centered around the return of some dude named Exodus. Who he is or what he can do isn't adequetly explained; we get some exposition about the last time they fought him, but nothing on why we should care while his powers seem to be "whatever the hell he feels like doing". I imagine he's from Carey's run. The stuff I didn't read.

The Rogue and Magneto... "thing" remains at the fore. This is, after all, Rogues book, despite the expanded focus. I guess the X split left them on a weird long distance note. The "Age of X" nonsense that started the whole thing isn't even mentioned anymore; it's like they're some normal couple going through some distance issues. Rest assured, book, that I sure as hell haven't forgotten that creepy shit.

Rogue, the master of questionable decisions, makes a few with the potential to be interesting. She's the independent one, liable to disobey orders if she feels she's right. Trouble is, like most characters of that ilk, she isn't always right and her decisions come back to bite her in the ass. Turns out the call to Utopia she made - which Wolverine explicitly told her not to - brought the Utopia kids to the battle, putting them in danger and only strengthening their belief that Wolverine and company are only fooling themselves. This, of course, weighs heavily on her, made worse by the clear fact that it's partly because of Magneto, which she is thankfully called out on.

We end on a two parter about a couple of villains - who are basically BFF's - trying to get help from Wolverines X-Men. Weapon Omega's powers are going out of control and he's basically going to explode if something isn't done. What follows is a race against the clock to try and save him - villain or not - in any way they can. It's downright heartwarming at times.

Legacy still struggles with keeping artists for an entire volume at the least. Thankfully, it has two very good ones in Baldeon and Sandoval. I like their styles, so at least the work is good this time. The ridiculous art issues that plagued a past volume or two are thankfully absent this go around.

Is this an improvement? I suppose. Enough of one to bother continuing? I wouldn't go that far.

My Opinion: Skip It

At this point Avengers vs X-Men was just around the corner and after that wrapped Legacy was relaunched with a new mission statement. It isn't even worth attempting to connect with the new status quo unless you just really like these characters. You won't miss anything.

* In case you think I'm kidding, prior to the Aftermath volume, Rogue had been pretty consistent in saying "no, I'm not interested" to Magneto's advances, while he just kept on keeping on with it. After Age of X, we're told their alternate universe selves had feelings for each other - we saw nothing of the sort and if anything there was more there reinforcing Gambit and Rogue than anything - and since Rogue kept all those memories and had some odd form of PTSD she was suddenly shacking up with Magneto, a guy who basically mind-raped her - her words - at one point and killed several of her friends. I can't recall a situation so completely wrongheaded short of that time Carol Danvers was pregnant with her rapist who rapidly aged to adulthood and went off with Danvers who suddenly decided she loved him in the worst case of Stockholm syndrome I've ever seen in fiction**.

** Chris Claremont cleared that one up. He pulled a "what the hell hero" on the Avengers for letting it happen and salvaged Danvers. Sadly, there isn't a Claremont around to play cleanup on Rogue and Magneto.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Cold Space (comic)

Writers: Samuel L Jackson, Eric Calderon
Artist: Jeremy Rock
Collects: Cold Space #1-4

So tell me. Are you, by chance, interested in a comic written by Samuel L Jackson, starring Samuel L Jackson doing Samuel L Jackson things for eighty pages? If so, well, Cold Space has plenty of that.

So, Samuel L Jackson is an outlaw who ends up in a space dogfight when he's caught doing... outlaw things. He subdues them, something goes wrong and he crash lands on a fairly desolate planet. Turns out it has a town straight out of the Wild West. This is alright, because we could all use more Space Western Samuel L Jackson in our lives. As you might guess, he plays both sides of the fence, things go wrong and shit starts blowing up.

Cerebral, it is not - or particularly original, as the foreword all but admits it's basically Yojimbo In Space - but I've had worse ways to kill an hour. It's got some good lines peppered throughout and while no scene stands out as truly exceptional, nothing about the story reeks either. It feels like a couple of guys not used to writing comics working out the kinks. Cold Space ends on a note that feels as though this were meant to be the start of something more. The first "episode" if you will.

That's the problem.

One of the practices that has taken root over the past decade is the movie pitch disguised as a comic. It's beyond cynical, essentially using comics as a stepping stone to more "important" things. Mark Millar is the king of it; half the shit he's put out since Wanted end up reading like it was written with a movie adaption in mind*.

Cold Space is nowhere near that bad, but something about it comes off as if the idea didn't start life with a comic in mind. It felt as though this were originally meant to be a pilot for an animated TV miniseries much like Afro Samurai, which Samuel L Jackson and Eric Calderon also co-wrote. It starts with the art, which feels very "animation friendly" and stretches all the way to the ending, which all but states there's more to come**. But this is also simply how it felt to me; the "TV pilot" feel could just come down to the fact that comics aren't exactly what they're used to rather than repurposing an idea meant for another medium.

Regardless, that's not enough to sink it. Oh no. The knockout blow? That one comes from the price. Cold Space is collected in a softcover Digest-esque size and the story is a good eighty pages. Guess what it goes for? If you said eight to ten dollars, you're thinking rationally. Boom wants fifteen. I've got Specials and Anniversary issues with as many pages for less than that. Cold Space is pretty alright, but that's more money than it's worth.

My Opinion: Try It

Cold Space is not great, but it's not particularly bad either. It sits somewhere in the realm of mediocrity, maybe just a hair above that given who is behind it. If you can find it in the library, it might be worth a flip through for you. Purchasing it is another matter entirely; it's just not worth the cash they want for it.

* I imagine what we got for a film version of Wanted didn't help matters. Aside from character names and the closing minutes the amount of things the film had in common with the comic are jack and shit. May as well just write them like you would a movie in that case, eh?

** As of the date I wrote this, I haven't heard anything about a second miniseries. Probably not TOO surprising, as Samuel L Jackson is a busy guy in Hollywood. Regardless, Cold Space feels like something they meant to come back to down the line, so I won't be too awful shocked to hear about a sequel at some point.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Brightest Day vol. 3 (comic)

Writers: Geoff Johns, Peter Tomasi
Artists: Ivan Reis, Patrick Gleason, Joe Prado, Ardian Syaf, Scott Clark
Collects: Brightest Day #17-24

Well, the fourth time is clearly the charm, because DC finally got the weekly* series they were aiming for all this time, just in time for not a god damn lick of it to be followed up on.

Brightest Day, while rough in spots, holds together much, much better as the "spine" of the DCU. A lot of that is because - as is made crystal clear over the course of this volume - it was clearly well thought out in advance. Everything that has happened thus far links up for the finale in a way none of the previous series pulled off**. Even the tie-ins starring the characters the core maxiseries didn't focus on, while not essential, clearly had their own role to play in the endgame.

Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi clearly knew what they were doing all along.

The endgame is done pretty well. This is where the individual plotlines reach critical mass, each reaching some measure of conclusion. The problem each hero faces is cleverly tied to their purpose, meaning the reason they were brought back to life. Each task was clearly meant to ready them for their role in the climax and the puzzle pieces slotting into place is fairly satisfying to read. While a thing or two got the short shrift - the final battle between the Dark Avatar and the Light Avatar could have stood to have more page space devoted to it - everyone got their moment to shine and most of them walked out of the series with an interesting status quo to explore. Which is the problem.

Brightest Day was almost immediately followed with the announcement that DC was relaunching the DC Universe. Some characters, like Batman or Green Lantern, kept the vast majority of their history. Others were rebooted entirely. Sadly, most of the star characters this series intended to breathe new life into - and succeeded, at that - were given a total reboot.

Obviously, this isn't a big problem for a guy like Hawkman, who's a general bore to read anytime he's not beating dinosaurs into submission with a mace. But for a guy like Firestorm, this is a travesty, as their new status quo coming out of Brightest Day was arguably the most interesting of the setups we got. It wasn't followed up on at all. Not even a six issue miniseries just to see the idea through.

Figures, right?

Despite that issue, I'd be willing to call Brightest Day a success. Most of the competition wasn't exactly stiff - everyone is still trying to forget Countdown exists while everyone forgot about Trinity halfway through - but it's still one of DC's best weeklies and may even be somewhere near 52. To be honest, with a few alterations and a couple removed pages, it could have even been made to be sort of a "happy ending" for the old DCU prior to the New 52. Shame they didn't go with that, because while it's not an all time classic, it's not a bad note to go out on.

You could have worse in your collection of DC trades. Hell, you probably do.

My Opinion: Read It

Taken as its own thing - maybe even as the logical ending of the Blackest Night saga - Brightest Day is still a pretty entertaining story. High art it is not - and the whole thing could easily have done without the uber violence Johns has become oddly attached to - but it's a fun, universe-wide romp that would have revitalized some of DC's most storied characters, had the relaunch never happened. The Hawks still suck though, but to be fair, I'm not sure even Grant Morrison himself could make them cool.

* Well, sort of. It was actually bi-weekly. It alternated weeks with JLI: Generation Lost for a year. JLI had ties to Brightest Day but was mostly its own thing, functioning as a sort of "lets get the band back together" for the Justice League International characters to fight a world altering threat.

** 52 is well regarded by fans as an overall story, but it ended up resembling more of an anthology that happened to have each plot end around the same time. Countdown was such a bizzare mess no one can figure out if it had a point, mess less if it all tied together in the end; if Countdown was the spine of the DCU, then the DCU must be a hunchback. Trinity put everyone to sleep in the middle third, so no one really knows if it concluded or if it was all a fever dream.