Sunday, December 30, 2007

Comics for 28 December

Let’s see if I can remember how to do this.

Spoilers ho!

JLA Classified 49 – Every now and again someone comes up with the idea of examining the lives of the companions of the heroes in a comic. The stories are generally pretty predictable; I suppose it would be interesting if the superhero died and we were spotlighting the side characters when it happened, but then there would be an uproar about not giving the main character enough respect to be the focus of attention when he or she died. In this case, the JLA has been summoned to Mars to fight off an invading species and our viewpoint remains on Earth as we follow the loved ones as they wait for information about the battle and its results.

There really isn’t any new ground covered here. It takes a really inept writer to cause a story of this nature to not have resonance with its readers, and Andrew Kreisberg doesn’t do anything that causes the story to fall apart. New readers may be confused by the timeline for the story: Linda Park is still a reporter and Hippolyta greets Wonder Woman upon her return, so it is pretty clear this takes place early in the previous run of Justice League.

No, what really stands out to me about this issue is the outstanding artwork by Paulo Siqueira. Doing a little research I found that is the same artist who worked on the recent Black Canary series, but nothing about it really jumped out at me like this one did. Each face is individual and expressive, and the lines are extremely clean. I really look forward to seeing more of his work in the future.

Green Lantern/Sinestro Corps: Secret Files 1 – The cover says it best: over 200 Green Lanterns described, and quite a few of the Sinestro Corps as well. There’s nothing really outstanding about the work here, although some of the tiny drawings of the characters have fine touches about them. Someone, however, has to recognize the work an archivist had to have done on this. I wonder if these all came from the notes of Geoff Johns, but I doubt it. The information in this comic is a GL fanboy’s dream and something to behold. It will take the longest to read of any comic this week.

Pax Romana 1 – I read about the premise of this Image comic online and felt it was a really strong science fiction story, so I put it on my pull list. In a distant future, the Catholic Church decides to use the recent invention of time travel to go back in time and arrange events so that it can retain its authority and power over the centuries instead of becoming little more than a cult. This first issue deals with introducing all the main players as time travel is discovered and brought to the attention of the Pope. I especially like the throwaway line that the inventors of the time travel process “disproved paradox”; think about that for a bit—how would you know if you had avoided paradox, if time had changed upstream from you so that the past you once knew wasn’t the past any more? But beyond this perhaps minor gaffe, the idea is fascinating.

Here’s the bad news: the author, Jonathan Hickman, is also the artist. And the art is excruciatingly experimental. Reading much more like an illustrated novel than a comic book, the pages are dominated by text set in word balloons or in asides like print-outs, providing background information that could not be delivered by the characters. The font is computerized and not at all inviting, and the art is depressingly static, generally relying on shades of a single color (often brown) in front of a background that is either all white or generic abstract washes of color.

The story in this first issue moves fast in order to cover a lot of ground. However, conflict between the major parties of the time travelers—the church leadership and the military men who are given carte blanche to do what the church decides is appropriate. The conflict is even resolved, a little obviously in hindsight, but I was so busy trying to parse the book that I didn’t see the resolution coming. I also thought that the conflict would last throughout the series, so didn’t expect it quite so early. But this also shows the hand of a creator willing to break expectations to tell an original story, which is always a good thing.

Hickman has clearly spent time thinking about this series and its background. I see a lot of potential here and will continue to get this for a few issues to see if I can adapt to its difficult nature or if, perhaps, it begins to follow a more expected comic book format.

Blue Beetle 22 - Everything has begun to come together. In what would otherwise be a clunky bit of exposition, Jaime (and writer John Rogers) pulls together the strings of the last few issues in a decisive fashion. While the reader may have felt like the story was a series of tenuously connected arcs, it turns out that everything is related, and now Jaime has the evidence he needs to prove the evil intent of The Reach.

One of DC's best ongoing series, despite the pedestrian efforts of the artist, Blue Beetle is headed for a rousing climax, leaving me to wonder what the series can do to go from here. Packed with action and adventure as well as poignant emotional moments with Jaime's parents, the moral fulcrums of the series, know, parental and stuff. Grab this while you can, and if you can't find back issues, get some trades. We'll have to see how well Jaime is written by other creators as he starts spreading out into other titles, but until that happens. revel in what's going on with him now.

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