Oct 112011
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My name is Jet Wolf, and I’m addicted to comic books. Since picking up my first issue of X-Men way back in the late 80s, comic books have been a focal point of my life. I can’t imagine a world without superheroes flying around in brightly coloured and impractical costumes, punching out bad guys and sometimes each other. May the Pull List be eternal. Here’s what was on it this week.

I got a copy of Animal Man #1 last week, but I haven’t read it yet. I also picked up Animal Man #2 this week but, as you might imagine, didn’t read that one yet either. By the time #3 comes out (assuming I like the first two as much as I’m hoping I will), I should be caught up and ready to spout my opinions at great length.

Action Comics #2    Chew #21    Detective Comics #2    Static Shock #2    X-Men #19    X-Men: Schism #5    
Action Comics #2 | Chew #21 | Detective Comics #2 | Static Shock #2 | X-Men #19 | X-Men: Schism #5

Action Comics #2 3 of 5 stars

Action Comics #2

Action Comics #2, cover by Rags Morales & Brad Anderson

Writer: Grant Morrison
Pencillers: Rags Morales & Brent Anderson
Inkers: Rick Bryant & Brent Anderson
Colourist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Patrick Brosseau

There’s a lot of setting up in Action Comics #2. Superman is put through insane levels of torture, showing that while he’s not the same all-powerful pre-Crisis superhero of before, he’s still Superman and this is what that means. Lex too is put through the wringer, at least mentally, going from a position of complete domination and control to having no ability to really hurt Superman whatsoever and getting busted up for his efforts. Lois’s military ex-boyfriend(?) guy takes a step toward whatever his future-and-doubtless-adversarial-role will be. Lois’s dad appears complicit in the torture, and Lois comes out strongly pro-Superman but is thus far unaware of just what he’s gone through. And at the end Lex is getting nudges and hints about Superman from what appears to be a cyborg Flying Spaghetti Monster in space.

So yeah, much arranging of pieces.

Unfortunately nothing really grabbed me much this week, which I found both a surprise and a disappointment in the wake of how much I enjoyed the first issue. I’ve been trying to decide what happened, and while I’m not 100%, I suspect it’s just the Supermaniness. I’ve said before how I’m a much greater fan of the idea of Superman over his actual presence, and I think that may be what’s playing out here. Superman’s immediate world is expanded in this issue, with a little more focus on Lex and the military reaction, showing Lois and getting her involved in what happens, a bit of foreshadowing, a touch of Krypton, and about halfway through my eyes just began to glaze over. But I think that’s me, and no fault of the comic; I suspect I’m just going to have to try a little bit harder and give it a bit more time to be fully won over.

Grant Morrison is, as ever, a great comic book writer. While last issue focused on class inequality, this one painted a target on racism. The military in general and Lex in particular feel that Superman, as an alien, has no rights. A being without rights is essentially a being beneath laws, and they feel perfectly justified in doing whatever it takes to get answers that will benefit them. It’s an uncomfortable stance to take, and one that evokes not the tiniest whiff of Nazism which I feel quite comfortable in saying was exactly Morrison’s point.

Art-wise, I found it all quite serviceable, if not remarkable. I had a bit of a problem with the facial expressions at times, with most everybody looking either angry or bored, and there were moments of between-panel ballooning from the characters, like they had spontaneous water weight gain. But I followed along well enough, and I do quite like how Rags Morales draws a statuesque chest-puffing Superman.

What’s really going to be interesting about this will be the reactions of Lex and Superman. The things Superman goes through in this issue (and in the many hours before page one) are horrific – so how will he respond? For all his powers, will Superman seek revenge? Will he forgive? Will it make him angry and isolated, or empathic and galvanized? It’s important to remember that this is a Superman now completely without a touchstone. Ma and Pa Kent are dead. There is no Krypton. He’s at a crossroads in his life, determining his place and his role in the world. How will he be influenced? What path will he take? Whatever it is, it’s all him, and by sharing these emotionally and physically painful first few months, it will give his decisions that much more weight.

Lex, of course, is the flip of that coin. Where Superman will choose to do good, Lex will let it consume him. For now he has a degree of detachment from Superman, probing him and experimenting on him with no more care than he would give to a lab rat. But as Superman foiled him this time – and, we know, will foil him again and again and again – we’ll see Lex’s hatred grow. While their paths are already fated, the ride holds promise.

If I can just get over the Supermaniness of it all.

Chew #21 5 of 5 stars

Chew #21

Chew #21, cover by Rob Guillory

Writer: John Layman
Artist: Rob Guillory
Colourist: Rob Guillory
Letterer: John Layman

Tony Chu, cibopath, begins a new job in this first issue of the new storyline, “Major League Chew”. His boss at the FDA absolutely hates him, as does just about everybody else there, being creeped out more than a little by Tony’s abilities. It’s taken these past 20 issues, but finally there’s a reason to demote Tony and get him out of the FDA, and his boss eagerly leaps on it.

Today, Special Agent Tony Chu begins working as a traffic cop.

The traffic cops have no power and less respect. His uniform consists of a kilt and a helmet with a light on top. He spends the day issuing tickets and getting kittens out of trees.

Today, for the first time, Tony loves his job.

But there’s always tomorrow.

As has become the norm for Chew, John Layman and Rob Guillory create a wonderful story that becomes a perfectly believable parody of itself. Nothing is done halfway in Tony’s world. Humiliation isn’t just humiliation, it’s got to be wearing a kilt and riding a segway. Applebee isn’t just happy as he anticipates firing Tony, he leaps about town like a jubilant character in a Tex Avery cartoon, spinning around lightposts as a smiling sun beams down from overhead. Everything is an extreme, which only makes the high moments higher and the low moments lower. Chew is always filled with both.

The threat of those lows are steadily approaching. This is after all a series that randomly gave us a full issue more than a year into the future, where the main character is lying comatose in a hospital, and we still don’t have the slightest hint about what put him there. Then there’s Tony’s daughter, Olive, who was kidnapped at the end of last storyline. Dark days are coming – but it’s easy to forget that in the face of Tony’s joy as he declares, as much to his surprise as our own, that he thinks he loves his new job. And then the final splash page. Oh, Chew.

There’s absolutely nothing I can think to nitpick about in this book. As the beginning of a new arc it’s completely accessible to a new reader – a skill at which Layman has become a master. Guillory’s art style is unique and engaging, filled with animated characters who are just the right amount of over-the-top. The book is funny with genuine laughs on every page, either overt or tucked neatly into the background somewhere. All of these pieces melt together to create a whole that is brilliant in its effortlessness.

Read Chew. The end.

Detective Comics #2 1 of 5 stars

Detective Comics #2

Detective Comics #2, cover by Tony Salvador Daniel, Ryan Winn & Tomeu Morey

Writer: Tony Salvador Daniel
Penciller: Tony Salvador Daniel
Inkers: Ryan Winn & Sanou Florea
Colourist: Tomeu Morey
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher

I know I said last month that I’d see out this storyline, but I gotta say, sitting right here right now I don’t know that I can make it.

Last issue I was saying how it felt like Batman-by-numbers? This issue adds to that stellar review by giving us Bruce-Wayne-by-numbers. Bruce is fit, Bruce is devoted to Gotham, Bruce is unconventional but savvy at business, Bruce loves the ladies. Someone actually calls him “a young billionaire playboy” to his face in a completely non-ironic way, and then that someone, who happens to be a reporter who is falling out of her top, is banged by said playboy not twenty seconds later. These are things that are happening and there’s such a seriousness about it all that I just feel sad.

And shall I mention the new other-billionaire who Bruce is dealing with? The one who spontaneously strips off his shirt and joins Bruce in his indoor rock climbing? The one who is easily able to match Bruce physically and who was not at all named Bob FutureVillain from EvilCo? That’s bad enough, but then check out this dialogue exchange:

Bob FutureVillain (after being offered a harness to rock climb): Nonsense! Like Mr. Wayne I prefer to operate without a net.

Bruce: I hope you have good insurance!

Bob FutureVillain: I like your wit, Mr. Wayne.

If Character A is going to compliment Character B on his wit, shouldn’t Character B have, I don’t know, maybe been witty? I talk crazy, I know.

The internal dialogue is no better. Batman talks to himself like a noir character; it’s part of his charm, and a necessary part of him that enables us to connect with a character so stoic and impossible to read otherwise. But Batman carries with him a certain expectation, an expectation that is completely undermined by thoughts like, “How can a person be practically untraceable one night and act like a bull in the proverbial china shop the next?” Not only are point one and point two completely separate ideas, but the simile is so cliche that it’s embarrassing. Using the word “proverbial” doesn’t suddenly make it smarter, it just means Batman is a pretentious douche who is fully aware of how cliche it is and adds four more syllables to a painfully overdone sentence just to be extra douchey.

I’m nitpicking, I know, but any value in the larger work suffers because the details are so sloppy. I grant that the Dollmaker and his underlings works decently as the villain, but I suspect it’ll be less psychological Psycho-style horror and more Texas Chainsaw Massacre gore; I just don’t have faith in Daniels to pull off anything more subtle than a power tool to my face.

Static Shock #2 2 of 5 stars

Static Shock #2

Static Shock #2, cover by Chris Brunner with Rico Renzi

Writer: Scott McDaniel and John Rozum
Penciller: Scott McDaniel
Inker: Andy Owens
Colourist: Guy Major
Letterer: Dezi Sienty

Oh Static Shock, why can’t I like you like I want to like you?

I’ve been test driving this series, but I think after this one I’m going to give up. I think that this is a great concept for a book – DC totally needs an accessible young Spider-Man type in their roster and I really think Static has the potential to be that character. Unfortunately I’m not sure Rozum and McDaniel have the savvy to pull it off.

This book is encumbered by its own exposition, and to make it worse it never answers any question I’m asking. I’m still not positive what Static’s powers are or why he moved or what he’s doing with this high tech Batcave (Staticave?) The single most interesting story element introduced in this issue – the fact that his sister has a clone and both are living in the house because nobody knows which is which – is dropped casually in the middle of a single narration box without any context whatsoever. Meanwhile we get three pages talking up a band of motorcycle Power Rangers, and despite finishing the issue less than ten minutes ago I couldn’t tell you a single thing about them.

I’m not sure it’s worth my $3 a month for the few tasty morsels I can carve out of each issue. There’s potential here, but I think the writers and I would do battle in a steel cage match over which parts those are.

X-Men #19 2 of 5 stars

X-Men #19

X-Men #19, cover by Jorge Molina

Writer: Victor Gischler
Penciller: Jorge Molina
Inkers: Norman Lee, Terry Pallot & Jorge Molina
Colourist: Guru eFX
Letterer: Joe Caramagna

See, this issue was more what I was talking about when we started this mess. Lots of action, X-Men and FF working and snarking together, characters I didn’t really care about but not spending too much time dwelling on them, and then all the toys neatly put back on the shelf when we were done. An issue could have easily been stripped out of this storyline and it would’ve been much better for it.

That isn’t to say this issue is fantastic, because it’s not. Given how often X-Men has been coming out it seems that Victor Gischler can write quickly, but I think that’s aided in part because he doesn’t have to worry about character voices. Characters say things and they have conversations but you could swivel the point of any random word balloon in any direction and in most cases it would read exactly the same. Sue sounds like Scott sounds like Lee sounds like Pixie. Emma and Doom are probably the only ones to emerge unscathed, and I suspect that’s because those characters are so fun to write why wouldn’t you stick with them?

The story itself, as predicted, was a waste of time. Even the people the X-Men and the FF teamed up to rescue choose not to be rescued in the end, which I must admit jacked the pointlessness to ridiculous levels even I didn’t anticipate. I wouldn’t mind that if the story had delivered on the entertainment but it just didn’t, not consistently.

That’s been endemic of this book. I’ve kept buying because, you know, X-Men, and that’s sort of my thing, but my confidence is at critical here. An open field unburdened by continuity with any given mutants playing with anybody else you want in the entire Marvel Universe. That’s a blank check, people, why are you making it so hard?

X-Men: Schism #5 4 of 5 stars

X-Men: Schism #5

X-Men: Schism #5, cover by Adam Kubert & Jason Keith

Writer: Jason Aaron
Penciller: Adam Kubert
Inker: Mark Roslan
Colourist: Jason Keith
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher

I’m going to open this by saying I love this cover. Great perspective, appropriately dramatic, and a perfect snapshot of the where the X-Men are right now. Stunning work by Adam Kubert.

With this issue, Schism comes to an end, and it’s probably been the oddest X-Men event I’ve ever read. Things happened – several of them actually – but mostly on a slow burn. Look back at your X-event history: Mutant Massacre, Fall of the Mutants, Inferno, X-Tinction Agenda, Messiah Complex, Second Coming. If you boil them down, they’re fights. It’s one long multi-issue fight and it’s epic and bad things happen, but there’s a whole lot of fighting and did we mention fighting? Here, the battle was a few pages last issue and about half of this one, and then we’re done. It’s weird.

But the weird works for me, especially in this issue. This event has been simmering for months now and when the action finally erupted it was quick and brutal. You truly get the sense that these wounds are not healing any time soon. Scott is righteous and shaken and Logan is tired and so done. The anger between them is so deep now that violence can’t touch it. It’s infected their relationship and it’s painful and real. Thanks to Jason Aaron, at no point did Schism feel like a gimmick, and this team division genuinely seems to be the only possible next step. That’s a tough trick to pull when it’s something that shakes the foundation this severely, but he did it.

As to this issue specifically, there’s a lot to love. The fight between Cyclops and Wolverine is viscous, but stays fair to both characters, another hallmark of this event; neither is able to get enough of a leg up on the other to be the definitive victor, and Aaron gets smart in cutting it short (and consequently unresolved) before anybody is irreparably maimed. The Hellfire Club kids pop up for another appearance, and while I’m concerned that they could quickly wear out their welcome, for now they’re still delightful.

It’s the subtle moments that really get me in this series however. The fact that it’s children that divide the X-Men, both figuratively (the philosophical differences between Scott and Logan) and literally (the Hellfire Club kids created the Sentinel that was the catalyst for all this). Both Wolverine and Cyclops staring at the same picture of the original X-Men and drawing resolve from it, but in two completely different directions. Idie’s entire arc for this storyline, culminating in her near-apathetic resolve that she’s become what Logan has always sacrificed himself to be to protect people just like her.

This entire storyline has felt tremendously personal, and I suppose that’s why it’s worked for me. It’s not about the flash or the fists or the bodycount at the end, it’s about these people pushed to the brink and taking stock of what will happen next. It’s been refreshing to read a storyline driven entirely by character, and has me more excited then I would’ve expected for Regenesis.

Team Wolverine, by the way. In case you were wondering.

  • http://www.karpweiss.com/ david_wister

    WOW!! What an
    incredible post. What can be better then these for a comic geek like me. I read
    all of the parts and the action comic part is really impressed me. Good writing
    mate! Thanks :)

    • Jet Wolf

      Thanks so much! I’m really glad you enjoyed it.