Thursday, October 6, 2011

Books I read: Action Comics, Animal Man, Huntress, Swamp Thing

Yes, I do plan on spending some time this month reviewing some of the non-DC/Marvel comics on my pull list. But that doesn't mean I stop covering the New 52. Here are some quick thoughts on the new issues I read this week.

Action Comics #2
Written by Grant Morrison; pencils by Rags Morales and Brent Anderson; inks by Rick Bryant and Brent Anderson; colours by Brad Anderson; DC 

One of my biggest concerns with DC's relaunch is that their commitment to shipping all the books on time will lead to more unsolicited fill-in artists. I hate unsolicited fill-in artists with the passion of a thousand suns. I understand that artists need a break from time to time. But I think how much work an artist can handle should be planned into the schedule. Either alternate between two art teams, or plan for guest artists between story arcs. It's simply not acceptable to announce a book with one creative team and then ship it with a different (and most of the time inferior) creative team.

Consistency of art is really important to me. I have a feeling that I'm in the minority, but whatever. As a consumer, I'm just not willing to keep supporting books that constantly disappoint me in that department. I've learned my lesson from DC in recent months, and one of the conditions I set for myself when I decided to try out some of these New 52 issues was that the moment an unsolicited fill-in artist would appear in a book, that book would get dropped from my pull list.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, Action Comics made it through one-and-a-half issue before Rags Morales needed some help. The art in the second issue is wildly inconsistent. I'm assuming that the pages not drawn by Morales are the ones that feature Lois Lane. That would certainly explain why she looks like a completely different character in every panel she appears in.

The patch-up art job is already enough for me to stop buying this book. But there's another reason. This book costs $3.99. If I remember correctly, the justification for the extra dollar on some of the New 52 books (despite DC's much publicized "holding the line" campaign pre-September and their promises to stick to $2.99 till the end of the year) was that it's a longer than the standard 20 pages we get in other books. Well, I counted the story pages in this issue and there are 20. The rest are bonus material, ads and a preview for some Batman graphic novel. So where's my extra dollar going? Hint: It's not "bonus" material if I have to pay extra for it.

All this ranting and I haven't even talked about the content yet. Is this a terrible comic? No. It's an average comic book that I already wasn't that stoked on after the first issue, but I figured I would give it a chance. I did. And now it's over. I will not be buying issue #3.

Animal Man #2
Written by Jeff Lemire; art by Travel Foreman; colours by Lovern Kindzierski; DC

I didn't enjoy this issue quite as much as I enjoyed the first one. I think it's because of the way Maxine feels more like a plot device than a character. I find it a little bit of a cop out that Buddy doesn't really have to do any work to figure out what is going on. All he has to do is listen to his daughter explain everything to him and guide him to this magical world nobody knew existed just 24 hours earlier. It's just awfully convenient that Maxine has all the answers.

In spite of that, I did enjoy the issue. I still think the art is visually striking and original. I think those who weren't sold on the art in the first issue will probably have even more problems with it in this one, but I actually find it refreshing to have a comic that is so stylistically different from anything else that DC puts out each month. It's about as far away from a conventional "house style" as you can get.

Still a strong title and in no real danger of getting bumped off my pull list for the foreseeable future.

Huntress #1
Written by Paul Levitz; pencils by Marcus To; inks by John Dell; colours by Andrew Dalhouse; DC

This is the first of a six-issue mini-series. The first thing that struck me about it is how unfortunate it is that DC hired Guillem March to do the covers instead of letting Marcus To handle them. The difference between the tacky mess of a cover and the gorgeous, classy art inside is almost shocking as you open the book. Marcus To was fantastic on Red Robin and here he continues to impress me with his clean lines and layouts. The only criticism I have of the art is that there isn't much to differentiate the women's faces from one another, but that's a very common problem in comics. In any case, it's not really a big enough deal to take anything away from my enjoyment of this first issue.

Paul Levitz has a good handle on the character. This was a good, introduction to what seems like it's going to be a pretty straightforward (but potentially very satisfying) story. Helena's character doesn't seem to be affected by the relaunch at all (from what I can tell), so if you're a fan of the character you won't be disappointed.

Solid first issue. I'm onboard.

Swamp Thing #2
Written by Scott Snyder; art by Yanick Paquette; colours by Nathan Fairbairn; DC

The first issue was good, but this second issue is even better. Paquette's art (helped by Fairbairn's detailed colours) is blowing my mind.

A large part of this issue is mostly just an info dump, as (one version of) Swamp Thing explains to Alec Holland what the deal is with the Green, the Parliament of Trees, and his connection to Swamp Thing. I was a little bit worried when I found out a few months ago that Swamp Thing was coming back to the DCU and that Alec Holland would be resurrected. I don't worship Alan Moore's work, but I think some of the concepts he established in in run on Swamp Thing are really rich and fascinating, and I didn't want to see that get wiped out of continuity.

What's amazing is that Scott Snyder somehow manages to honour Moore's run while establishing a new status quo for the character. Instead of just retconning Moore's run, he adds new elements that force us to reinterpret it. I don't know how interesting it is to new readers, but I thought all the back story in this issue was great. And now I'm really excited to see where it's all going to lead.

Scott Snyder is simply amazing. There's no doubt in my mind now that he's the best writer working for DC. I am so completely sold on what he's doing here and in Batman (and in his creator-owned work) that I'm basically just going to buy anything and everything he writes from now on. You want good comics? I suggest you do the same.


Ed Howard October 6, 2011 at 6:54 AM  

I understand why people are so annoyed by the pricing of Action Comics... but reading a download of it, I thought it was a blast, and I'm so completely sold on what Morrison is doing with Superman. Badass Superman tearing shit up for most of the issue, laughing and wisecracking his way through it? Yes, please. I agree that the fill-in art is disappointing, DC's commitment to getting books out on time sounds like a good thing but is actually annoying if it's going to cause stuff like this.

Animal Man is again the best comic of the relaunch by far. Just amazing. I thought it was even better than the great first issue.

On the other hand Swamp Thing was a bit of a letdown. As you say, it's mostly just a big infodump. A fairly interesting and gorgeously drawn infodump, but still. I have a lot of confidence that Snyder is going somewhere great with this, he's just not quite there yet.

Yan Basque October 7, 2011 at 1:21 AM  

Honestly, I'm not all that thrilled with Action Comics anyway, so even if it was 2.99 and didn't have shitty fill-in artists, I might not have dropped it right away but I don't know how long I would stick with it. I think Superman was always badass. I don't really equate cocky and arrogant with badassary. That's one thing that really annoys me about the New 52. It seems like there are no sympathetic characters anymore. Based on the first issue of Justice League, it's like all the heroes are just going to be cocky assholes now.

I don't know. Maybe Morrison has something really awesome in store for us, but I'm not really feeling it so far.

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