Monday, May 2, 2011

Comic Book Carnage 006: Xombi #2 and Flash #11

Xombi #2
Written by John Rozum; art by Frazer Irving; DC.

Mike: The nuns with guns issue.

Yan: Yeah! Before we start, I want to mention that I read an interview with Rozum on CBR where he says they'd discussed doing this series on Vertigo, but one of the reasons it ended up in the DCU was to avoid confusion with iZombie. Which strikes me as a missed opportunity, because I feel like this book would have a much better chance of finding an audience on Vertigo. I think he said the editors also wanted to have it set in the DCU for other reasons, something about needing a book to deal with the the supernatural or magic side of the DCU.

Mike: That's ridiculous. Can you imagine The Flash rolling up to help David Kim fight, I don't know, some demonically possessed Taco Bell or whatever?

Yan: It's gonna be awful when that happens.

Mike: If they wanted a magic/supernatural book it would have made more sense to use a much more accessible character like Dr. Fate, or perhaps do that in Zatanna since it's already around. Xombi's premise is just too out there for the average DC fan, so yeah, the decision not to go on Vertigo was terrible all around. NOT that we're saying we think this book will be canceled or anything.

Yan: We're definitely not saying that. I just think the book does a fine job of creating its own universe. I don't really understand why there's any need to have it be set in the DCU. I don't really care if it's on DC or Vertigo, but the moment Batman or Superman shows up in this story, something special will be lost. Not that it has to be Batman or Superman. Maybe a guest appearance by Zatanna or Etrigan would be cool. I don't know. We'll see, I guess. I just don't want this to get hijacked into some stupid crossover.

Mike: So let's talk about the issue itself. This picks up right after things got crazy at the prison and just gets even crazier. I'm glad to see John Rozum is able to match the bizarre ideas of the last issue, my favorite being the introduction of this issue's villain/monster/concept?

Yan: Yeah, it's a cool villain. (If we can call it that.) And we really only get a glimpse of him and some foreshadowing of how dangerous he is. Definitely piqued my interest. I really liked the scene at the beginning where David Kim's arm is regenerating and he has to tell everyone to stay away from him to avoid them being used as raw material to patch up his wounds. It illustrates how weird and problematic his "powers" are.

Mike: That leads me to my one concern with this book, just how well do you think John Rozum's doing in giving David Kim a personality?

Yan: Why, you find it lacking? I think he's doing fine.

Mike: I guess I find his and most of the cast's personalities to be a bit vague. Like, other than their strange powers, there doesn't seem to be a lot done to differentiate them. I need a little more than scribbled out profanity.

Yan: I think there's a lot more. Besides, we're only two issues in and there's been lots of action, so I guess there's not a ton of time for character development, but I feel like the dialogue has enough attitude that it gives me a good idea of the characters' personalities. Plus, Frazer Irving's art helps a lot. His character designs and facial expressions and poses are excellent. You get a real sense of the characters' mannerisms and body language. Like David's face when the coins fall out of his pocket, or the flamboyant way he points down when he says, "Change back into your other half. Now." It's hard to separate who is responsible for it between Rozum and Irving, but the combined effect for me is pretty satisfying.

Mike: Well, I'll agree with you that Frazer Irving gives personality to the cast, and I would argue that it's probably his artwork that makes this book so enjoyable. The guy puts so much effort into every square inch of this book and for me that's why Xombi feels so engrossing.

Yan: The art is amazing, but I don't want to sell Rozum short. I think his dialogue goes a long way too. The only thing in this issue I thought was a little bit awkward was the third-person narration about the homunculi. I can't remember if there was a lot of third-person narration in the first issue. But in that scene, I would have preferred to get an interior monologue instead. Not only would it have been more effective for the scene, but it bothers me that the narration switched from first-person at the beginning of the issue to third-person for no real reason. Other than that, I thought this issue was great. Great marriage of writing and art. I can't imagine the book with a different creative team, so I hope they keep it going for a long run. I'll rate this one EXCELLENT.

Mike: Despite my nitpicking I will also give this book a firm EXCELLENT.

Flash #11
Written by Geoff Johns; art by Scott Kolins; DC.

Mike: I remember when this current Flash series started, I was just starting up my blog and I had nothing but nice things to say. Now we're, what, 2 years later, and I don't even know why I liked this book to begin with.

Yan: It's only been a year, but yeah.

Mike: Oh, well, good, because 11 issues in 2 years would be shameful, but anyway. Geoff Johns is not doing his best work on this book. When I was reading this issue, I felt like I was reading a first draft, like there's good ideas in here but it's all delivered in so unfocused a manner that it loses all impact. Like this new character shows up - Patty Spivot - who is an old flame of Barry Allen's. The idea of Barry having to deal with lingering feelings for Patty would have been an interesting plot development that would help to define his personality, but instead it's handled in this aggressively vague manner. Like, I wasn't even completely sure there were supposed to be lingering feelings until Patty explicitly acknowledges them.

Yan: The Patty Spivot subplot seems unnecessary. If you're not going to have time to explore it properly, then just don't bother. I mean, this title is now officially cancelled, right? This was the last issue. If she's not playing an important role in Flashpoint, then introducing her here was a total waste of time. I guess that remains to be seen. But what bothered me more was the scene with Bart acting like a little baby because Barry didn't show up at the family picnic. WTF? That "intervention" scene was ridiculous! I mean, how much time has even passed since Barry came back. I feel like these 11 issues only span a few days. A week at the most. So Barry Allen came back to life, went back to his old job. First couple of issues showed that he had a great relationship with his wife. None of the other speedsters are even mentioned for the entire run until the stupid picnic comes up, and now all of a sudden they're having an intervention because... what exactly? I'm not even sure. This drama comes out of nowhere.

Mike: Yes, the intervention was pretty bizarre. Like there was just no way I could wrap my mind around the idea that a group of guys with very similar backgrounds couldn't accept that someone from the same background would be incapable of showing up for their picnic. Also I really hate that a picnic is the catalyst for all of this. Picnic is a goofy word, so any drama Johns was attempting was negated by the constant utterance of "picnic."

Yan: It feels like these ideas were just tossed around carelessly. Maybe Geoff Johns has too much on his hands these days with his Chief Creative Officer duties, wrapping up Brightest Day, and orchestrating the whole Flashpoint event. But this just reads as sloppy. And it comes back to what I said in my review of the previous issue, which was that this book should have been given at least a couple of years before leading to this cross-company event. There wasn't really enough space to explore everything, so it feels very rushed. Now the question is: Are you going to read any of Flashpoint?

Mike: I really hate myself for saying this, but I may pick up the first issue. I think the reason is I like The Flash, and much like seeing a close friend struggle with alcoholism, despite how bad things get I love this character too much to walk away.

Yan: I feel pretty indifferent about the character. I gave this title a shot because it launched right around the time that I started buying comics, so it seemed really convenient. And I fell in love with Francis Manapul's art, so that's what kept me onboard this long. (Speaking of whom, I wonder what he's working on now. I don't remember seeing his name on any of the solicitations for DC in the next three months.) But I think I'm going to pick up the first issue also, mostly out of morbid curiosity. There's a good chance that by the end of the summer, I'll drastically reduce the number of books I read from both DC and Marvel.

Mike: Even though I'll probably buy Flashpoint #1, I'm giving this book a SKIP/DROP

Yan: Honestly, I don't know how to rate this. Other than the ridiculous intervention scene, it's not really that much worse than all the issues that preceded it. As a lead-in story setting things up for Flashpoint, it's adequate, I suppose. But as a conclusion to an 11-issue aborted run of a new series that showed so much promise in its first couple of issues, it's just a shame. Totally unsatisfying. So I'll rate it WHATEVER.

UPDATE: It has come to my attention that this is in fact not the last issue. #12 comes out on May 11, according to DC's website, and will provide the conclusion. This doesn't really change my opinion of this issue, except for the criticism about it being a poor conclusion. We'll see whether #12 does any better at that.


Mike appears courtesy of It's a Bit of a Shame.


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