Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Mutants, Supermen, Aces and Crooks

Here's some quick thoughts on some of the comics I've been reading recently.

Astonishing X-Men: Torn by Joss Whedon. Third volume of the Buffy-man's X-book. Plenty of action and humour along with some nice character moments. Whedon's a big Chris Claremont fan so the book has a classic feel but with a modern sheen. One problem with the book might be X-continuity, if you haven't read enough of Claremont or Grant Morrison's runs you might not quite get who some of the villains and supporting characters are supposed to be. But if you're an X-expert I'm told that some of the plot twists are a little predictable as they're new takes on old ideas. Fortunately I seem to have just the right amount of continuity knowledge for neither of these problems to bother me.

All Star Superman by Grant Morrison. An attempt to squeeze all the essential elements of Superman lore into one book. So sarky Lois Lane doesn't realise that klutzy, awkward Clark Kent is really Superman. Jimmy Olsen is a master of disguise. Lex Luthor is a hissably evil megalomaniac. Superman's powers can be distilled into a poition. Supermen of the future drop by at a moment's notice. It's all very Silver Age with a large splash of Christopher Reeve's take on Clark Kent but Morrison seems to be trying too hard. For all the book's brightly coloured sense of wonder Morrison has never been great at writing characters I can warm to, the archness of his style creating distance. He does try to generate emotion but he always seems more interested in moving on to the next piece of crazy super-powered sci-fi.

Battler Britton by Garth Ennis. North Africa WWII. Wing Commander Robert Britton and his squadron are assigned a bunch of US pilots and are told to show them the ropes. Cue much bickering between the war weary Brits and the trigger-happy Yanks. Ennis does his best to make this interesting, with a mixture of idiots and sympathetic characters in both camps but this still feels like storytelling by numbers. The cast is too large for anyone to develop a real personality and having everyone in uniform sometimes makes it a little difficult to distinguish between characters. Still, Ennis obviously has fun writing the exploits of one of his childhood comic book heroes. And he drops in lots of authentic details about WWII aerial tactics.

Criminal: Coward by Ed Brubaker. Picked this one up on a reccomendation from Simon. Leo is a planner, and a cautious one at that. The first sign that one of his criminal schemes might go awry and he's out of there. He never takes risks. But of course that makes for a very boring story so he ends up being coerced into a job where he has to take risks. Lots of them. Gritty characters spout gritty dialogue as they doublecross each other. Much more subdued take on crime than say Sin City, with the emphasis on character interaction over mindless violence. Even so, you know it's just a matter of time before the bullets start flying.


Gary said...

I read the Battler Briton series and have to agree; a little by the numbers but generally fun.

If you get the chance (and aren't already) try Ennis's Chronicles of Wormwood for some Biblical fun featuring a reluctant Anti-Christ and his mate... er... Christ. And please tell me you're picking up The Boys.

Am waiting for the whole All Star Superman run to be collected before picking that up.

nomis said...

But did you like Criminal?

As for AS Superman, I love every silver-agey pagey of it.

Stuart Young said...

Gary, waiting for a Wormwood TPB. As for The Boys I've heard very mixed reviews on that one and whenever I've browsed an issue it hasn't looked that great.

Simon, yes, I liked Criminal. Btw, is it a different protagonist in each story arc?

Chris said...

But, comics for kids, right? ;-)

nomis said...

"Criminal" is going to work in the shared-universe mode, where each story is about a different character, but they live in the same world. In fact, I think, like "Sin City", the bar will be a constant in all the books.

The new story-line, Lawless (I think!), is a Get Carter story.