Saturday, December 23, 2006

Comic musings for 12/20

I got a number of books this week, but not a whole lot grabbed me one way or another, good or bad. I've taken so long to review in order to think about the ones I wanted to review and what to say about them. Even so, this is not going to be a terribly long post, I'm afraid.

Spoilers ho!

Fables 56 -- In the title that has become one of my very favorites, both for its story and its commiment to long-term story-telling, Bill Willingham decides to take on the Christmas fable. It's Christmas Eve at the Wolf household, and all the Wolf children are decorating the tree as their happy parents look on. When Aunt Rose arrives, she tells them that they can talk to Santa and ask him one question, with the cost of that question being their only gift from Santa that year. The children gather and draw straws, and it is left to Ambrose, drawn exactly as if he had escaped from a 30s MGM Christmas cartoon, to ask the children's question, how can they assure themselves of getting the very best gifts the next year? But when Santa arrives, Ambrose instead asks him how he is able to make all his deliveries in one night. At the same time, Santa is visiting the other Ambrose, "Flycatcher", and making him fully human again as well as giving him back his memories, telling him that he is going to have a dangerous year ahead of him and all the fables need him at his best.

Willingham and his artist team tell a wonderful Christmas story, but at the same time draw on the last fifty issues to warn of the events to follow. A regular reader knows something about what is likely to come as they have been building for some time, and a new reader gets the dual gifts of the ongoing charm of the ongoing story as well as a taste of some of the seriousness that underlies it. As a result, this issue make a fine jumping-on point as well as a delightful traditional Christmas story.

Secret Six 6 -- In this, the final issue of the follow-up series from Villains United and Infinite Crisis, Gail Simone twists her way through the long-awaited confrontation between Vandal Savage and his prodigal daughter, Scandal. All the loose plot-strings from the previous five issues are more or less resolved, and yet we are given surprises along the way. The ongoing dialogue between Catman and Cheshire is hysterical and we rediscover why the Six wanted Mad Hatter on the team start with. The moral of the story, if there is one, is to never underestimate Mad Hatter, and that Ragdoll may be even more dangerously insane, in a brilliantly normal sort of way. While the plot of the arc is resolved, a tiny openng is left at the end for an ongoing series, and DC should do everything they can to make sure it happens. Simone remains one of the best, if not The Best, writer currently in the DC stable , and Brad Walker's art is perfect for where Simone takes her characters.

Teen Titans 42 -- This issue is a bridge for Kid Devil, giving his background to those readers who don't know who he is and then explaining the origin of his new-found powers for those of us who do recognize him. (In a triumph for Bill Willingham, the Oblivion Bar makes it appearance in the third different series this week, a testament to the work he is doing on Shadowpact.) Anyone who knows Western legends knows how this story is going to turn out, especially anyone who recognizes the name Neron from the DC pantheon. The writer, Geoff Johns, does a workmanlike job of getting all the elements of the story together and setting a milepost for future issues, but there really is nothing very new here. Johns again shows off his knowledge of the DC universe, but it rates only slightly better than braggadocchio in this issue. The fill-in art, by Peter Snejbjerg, is satisfactory but not great. Overall the issue does what it is supposed to, fill in while the regular artist catches up, but with this issue the title loses a lot of momentum it had picked up in the last story arc. And I'm willing to bet that the title will forget the deadline imposed on itself in this issue. Johns has a trail of broken story arcs in his wake, and I don't expect this one will be any more important than the other ones left unanswered.

New Avengers 26 -- I'm including this one entirely on potential. I really despise a lot of what Bendis has done to story-telling in mainstream comics; decompression is not a good thing. This issue of New Avengers is a perfect example of it, as the story involves two characters who are not in the New Avengers at all. And therein lies the problem for such a casual Marvel reader as me; clearly something momentous is happening here, but I don't know enough about the characters to know what it is. The pages virtually drip with import, in no small part thanks to the beautiful art of Alex Maleev. Nothing from the New Avengers or from the ongoing Civil War in the Marvel universe is advanced by this story, and I'm pretty sure its repercussions will be dealt with in some other title. But I would love to see Maleev doing other things, especially as his style seems ideally suited to Vertigo titles.

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