Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Quick reviews: Children's Crusade, Detective Comics, Xombi

Avengers: The Children's Crusade #6 (of 9)
Written by Allan Heinberg; pencils by Jim Cheung; Inks by Mark Morales, John Livesay, Dave Meikis; colours by Justin Ponsor; Marvel.

So for several issues now the Avengers have been in pursuit of the Young Avengers, who disobeyed their orders and set off on a quest to find and rescue Wanda Maximoff, aka the Scarlet Witch. Halfway through this issue, there's a scene where all the big guns, including Iron Man, Captain America, Wolverine and a bunch of other very important and powerful and angry characters, are shown rushing toward the scene where Wanda and the Young Avengers are. Tony tells Hawkeye, who's there with the Witch and the kids, to "Make sure they stay there, you hear me? No one leaves the compound. Do whatever you have to do." You'd think this was all leading to some big confrontation, right? But no. Two pages later, we're in a completely different location, an unspecified amount of time has passed, and we have no idea how any of the characters got there, why Hawkey let them leave, or what happened when the Avengers showed up and realized they'd rushed there for no reason. Absolutely zero pay off for all that build-up.

Why am I reading this book? It's an incredibly convoluted story that relies heavily on the reader's knowledge of Marvel continuity over the past decade or so, referencing stories like Avengers Disassembled, House of M, and God knows what else, none of which I've read. I seem to have picked the worst possible series for a total Marvel noob to pick up. As a result, this barely makes any sense to me and it's very difficult for me to care about what happens. The art is very pretty, so that helps a little, but I'm having a very hard time justifying why I've stuck with it for six issues (over 12 months). It almost seems silly for me to drop it after having gotten that far, but whatever. This is obviously not written for me.



Detective Comics #878
Written by Scott Snyder; art by Jock; Colours by David Baron; DC.

I couldn't help but think of the old Adam West TV series as I was reading the opening scene of this comic. Batman is hanging upside down over a very angry killer whale, while the villains soliloquy about why they do what they do and what's going to happen to Batman now that he's tried to interfere with their plans. Classic (and a little ridiculous) superhero tropes, but thanks to Synder and Jock's perfect pacing and tone, it feels fresh and exciting. After the action-packed opener, which occupies the first 11 pages of the comic, we get a brief and quiet scene with James Gordon, then a visit to Sonia Branch (aka Zucco), and finally a two-page shocker that will send chills down your spine. I have to give a shout-out to colourist David Baron, who really captures the changing light as the day progresses - from the bright white backgrounds of the opening scene, to the warm sunset tones during Dick's meeting with James, to the purple night skies for the rooftop scene with Sonia - it really helps to show the passage of time, as well as to give each scene a distinct look and feel.



Xombi #4
Written by John Rozum; art by Frazer Irving; DC.

This whole issue, up until the last few pages, is one big exposition dump. Maybe this is the comic Dan DiDio and company had in mind when they said that starting in September DC Comics would not feature any talking heads going on for page after page. (And John Irving literally draws them as floating disembodied talking heads!) I certainly hope not, because this is still a damn good comic. We've just had three issues of pretty crazy action, and this slower paced issue where the characters actually all sit together and have bagels and talk about what just happened and what they're going to do next feels exactly right. Rozum keeps the dialogue interesting with his weird sense of humour and throwaway high concepts that make you stop and think about all the stories that could be written about them ("pearls of wisdom collected from oysters grown in the Sea of Tears"), while Irving  pretty much blows your mind on every page with his expressive faces and unconventional use of colours. This is the best comic book that DC is publishing right now and I'm incredibly sad that it's apparently getting cancelled after only six issues to make way for DC's relaunch. Xombi hasn't been solicited as one of the 52 books coming out in September. When I asked Frazer Irving if there was a chance of the book coming back at a later date, he said he couldn't comment, which I took as a hopeful maybe. Fingers crossed.



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