Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bryant Has Issues #11

No time to waste, kiddies: let's dive right in.  This week in comics, your friendly neighborhood geek's pull list included the following:







I was rather enthusiastic about issue #1 of Lord of Nightmares, the new American Vampire spinoff miniseries.  And guess what?  I'm rather enthusiastic about issue #2, as well.

Spoiler time.  There was something at the end of issue #1 that I was loath to reveal when reviewing it, but since it's out in the open now, I'm going to start talking about it in a moment.

So if you plan on reading this and don't want to know what happens, bail out now.  I've already told you it's good, so you've got the yay-or-nay already.


Still here?

You're about to find out...

...that...

the Vassals of the Morning Star have apparently had Dracula under lock and key for quite some time, except not so much any more; his coffin has been liberated, ad apparently he's got major mind-control powers.

As explained by Scott Snyder, this isn't Bram Stoker's Dracula, exactly; instead, in the world of American Vampire, Stoker overheard someone in a mental institution talking about the "real" Dracula, and it gave him an idea for a rad novel.

So, first Hobbs delivers some of the "real" Dracula's backstory to Felicia.  This comes complete with some fairly awesome art by Dustin Nguyen:






Just when you think the issue is in danger of being a big old expository-information-dump, the scene shifts, and we find ourselves in France, where some Soviet military types are interacting that the bespectacled Renfield-esque fellow who we met at the beginning of issue #1.

This fellow does something that is really quite gross.

And that's all I have to say about that, except to note that American Vampire continues to be an excellent title.  Go get you one!

Let's stick with Scott Snyder for a bit.  Next up:




Batman #11 brings the much-lauded story arc "The Court of Owls" to a close.

There was a BIG shakeup to established Batman lore in issue #10, and -- naturally -- #11 follows up on that without missing a beat.  I was a bit ambivalent about that element of #10, and I'm equally ambivalent about the fact that it is seemingly reversed in #11.

I'm being vague.  So let's cut that shit out, and talk about specifics.  Here's my yay-or-nay: it's a yay ... but only a tentative one, because I have problems with this issue.

So now, if you don't want to know more, bug out.

3...

2...

1...

In #10, it was apparently revealed that the figure lurking behind the current Court of Owls activity was none other than Lincoln March, and it was further revealed that March is actually -- dum-da-dum! -- Bruce's long-lost abandoned brother, Thomas.  "Oh no," I thought when I read #10, "not the long-lost-brother-seeking-revenge card!  Don't play that card, Scott Snyder!"  Then he plaed it.

Now, in #11, he plays the "or was he?" card, and as he plays it, I feel myself losing interest in this series.  Plot twists are fie, and twists on top of twists are fine, but I don't necessarily feel like these paid off all that well.  The problem is that #11 is a resolution that resolves virtually nothing.  Bruce and "Thomas" have an epic fight, "Thomas" is apparently exploded at least once only to somehow survive, and then he disappears.  The Court of Owls has been dispersed, but we don't get the sense that it's a real victory; "Thomas" has been defeated, and Bruce seems to be convinced that he is merely an unwitting impostor, but we get suppositions rather than information.

Dramatically, I'm not sure it works; I'm pretty sure I feel like Snyder fumbled this one inside the red zone and had to settle for a field goal.

Maybe it will all read better as a complete story; and maybe someday, I'll revisit it.  But for now, I'm a little bit bummed out because a great story came to a less-than-great conclusion.  Like a few Stephen King novels I could maybe name...





Snyder is also the scripter of the moment on Swamp Thing, and as you may recall, I was really quite bored by the previous issue.  Does #11 improve things?

Honestly, not all that much.  A bit, though.  Still, this issue and the previous one feel like a hell of a lot of wheel spinning to me; a biding of time until the big crossover with Animal Man happens in #12 of each series.  As with #10, this isn't bad, but it's simply not up to the standard of what I came to expect from Snyder's Swamp Thing for the first nine installments.

There is some pretty good art by Marco Rudy, though, so it's not a total waste by any means.  Here's a taste:




Rudy is proving to be more than competent at replicating that flowing layout style that series artist Yanick Paquette has done so well in previous issues.

I'm still totally onboard with the series, and I'm really looking forward to the Animal Man crossover.  But, yeah, the past couple of issues have seemed like a step down in the story department.  Is the invincible Scott Snyder finally showing some chinks in his armor?  Is he trying to write too many series at once?

Beats me, but things will have to get worse than this for me to even consider giving up on him.

Speaking of giving up on things...




You may recall that last week, I was floating the idea of giving up on Before Watchmen.  I'd hated the first issue of Nite Owl, and felt ambivalent-leaning-toward-disdainful as regarded the first issue of Ozymandias (excepting the awesome Jae Lee art).

Well, The Minutemen #2 restores my interest somewhat.  I liked the first issue of Darwyn Cooke's take on the old-school "super"-team, and if anything, I liked the second issue even more.  Thanks to his art style, this miniseries is never going to be able to quite gel with Watchmen, but tonally, Cooke seems to be in lockstep with Moore and Gibbons better than any of the other books have managed so far.  There is a subversive quality to what's going on here, and I got the feeling in this issue that Cooke's attitude toward Before Watchmen as a whole might be more complicated than you might suspect.

Here's a hint, delivered during a scene in which Hollis Mason (the original Nite Owl) discusses his impending autobiography with the former talent agent who represented the group:




That sure does seem like it could be a middle finger hoisted in the general vicinity of DC.  Maybe it isn't ... but, then, maybe it is.

If so, even Alan Moore might get a kick out of that.  Cooke also does a good job elsewhere in the issue of replicating the kind of weirdness and kinkiness that came out of Moore's original.  The whole thing ends on a big-ass bummer, but one that seems very appropriate.

My big reservations in this issue involve a scene in which Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis are engaging in some S&M.  That's fine by me; however, the scene is intercut with a scene involving a child being kidnapped, and I'm a little uncomfortable with the juxtaposition.  S&M between two consenting costumed dudes is one thing; seemingly equating it with kidnapping and possible molestation is another thing entirely.  I'm not sure that's what's going on here; future issues may spell it out one way or the other.  But it did give me pause.

Still, on the whole, this was good stuff.  I especially enjoyed the seemingly-budding partnership between Nite Owl and Silhouette.

So, yeah, you've earned a stay of sentencing, Before Watchmen.  But you're still suspect.




Meanwhile, in tinfoil-hatsville, Saucer Country wraps its first story arc.  It didn't necessarily feel like the end of a story arc to me, but hey, that's okay.

Much of the isue revolves around a sort of reverse-mind-game played by Arcadia during hypnosis.  I'm not sure I understand what happened in this scene.

All in all, this was my least-favorite issue of the series so far, and I really don't have a whole fuck of a lot to say about it.  I'm sticking with the series, but one or two more indifferent reactions like this, and I'll be bailing like a bondsman.




We appear to have reached the portion of tonight's column wherein I take a crap on things: I didn't like this new issue of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9 much at all. A new story arc begins in this issue; I was only fitfully entertained by the previous arc, which involved a lot of robot stuff and a lot of "zompires" and whatnot.  This issue starts off a new story in which Buffy takes a job with Kennedy as a bodyguard for rich people.

Okay, look, that's really not what I want from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Namechecking Wolfram and Hart right at the end is an indication that I may be too negative too quickly, but hey, I gots to be honest, and honestly, I didn't like this issue at all.  I feel like Joss Whedon may have left the building permanently as regards Buffy (and maybe Angel, too), and if that feeling continues to persist, I'll have found a quick way to repurpose $6 on a monthly basis.  Annually-speaking, that's $72 I could be applying toward tracking down those original Richard Bachman paperbacks I've always wanted, so damn it, Whedonverse, you'd better start impressing my ass again real soon.





Finally, I wish I could tell you I'm enjoying Spider-Men, but I'm kinda not.  It isn't bad, but I'm starting to get the suspicion that this whole crossover-between-universes thing was only a scam to boost sales.  I mean, of course it was a cash grab; it always was, because what isn't?  But I hoped and expected that Brian Michael Bendis had a real story up his sleeve.  You know, something to justify the event.

Instead, this issue is mainly just Peter and Miles battling Mysterio, which, of course, means battling the illusion of former foes.  This does at least allow us to tentatively place the series in terms of where it fits in with Miles's overall story: there is a reference to the fact that Uncle Aaron is dead, which tells us that Spider-Men takes place at some point after the most recent issue of Ultimate Comics Spider-Man.

I continue to enjoy that series a lot, but this miniseries here is starting to smell like a bust to me.  Only two issues remain; maybe they'll improve things, but for now, I'm feeling glad that I'll only be spending an additional $8 on this disappointing crossover.

*****

That's all for this week, y'all.  I apologize for all the negativity, but hey, some weeks are bound to be better than others when it comes to comics.

2 comments:

  1. I had the same reservation with the S&M scene at the end of Minutemen #2 and was relieved to see this resolved by the ending. In context of how the story wraps up, the juxtaposition ended up making a great deal of sense and working as foreshadowing and subtext.

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    1. Yeah, I thought "Minutemen" was really quite good overall. If all of "Before Watchmen" could have been as good, it would have been nice; but that was not the case.

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