I’m sure when the Proto-Germanic coined the word “hundrath”, they knew it’d one day become a term used to describe the number of entries a comic review site would eventually reach. Forward thinkers, they were.
One hundred posts in anything besides a genital region is an achievement, and I’d like to take a quick sec and just thank each and every person who’s ever stumbled across this site and taken a second to look on my works, ye mighty, and despair at the rambling digressions within.
You guys are pretty awesome. And pretty. Added bonus.
So, what then to mark this slightly auspicious occasion? I could tell you how great the latest Saga turned out to be, or how completely lousy Robert Venditti’s debut on Green Lantern ended up being in complete contrast. Maybe I could even throw in some incongruous nods to Trinity War, the latest poor event offering from DC in the leadup to their year-long(ish) Forever Evil thing. Actually, wait, that sounds like a good idea. Let’s go with that.
VS REVIEW TIME!!!
I’m not even gonna try finding a connecting theme between these three; it’s less a true vs. review in the spirit of my three past attempts, but more a roundup of stuff I’ve read recently that doesn’t bear going into a full-length review. I’ve shown my hand pretty early for each book’s quality, but let’s dive in anyway. It’s our hundredth postversary, after all! Anything goes! Why not wear a lampshade as a dress and quote William Blake poetry while you read? Whatever! Go for it!
Saga. Yup. It’s great. But you knew that already.
Our protagonists are still on the run, Prince Robot IV is still chasing them, and The Will is busy trying to get laid. Oversimplification, but trust me when I say writer Brian K. Vaughan finds a way to make that brief summary a hell of a lot more interesting in practice.
The reason Volume 3 won’t get a full review is because everything really great I could say about it has been said before. That’s not at all for one tenth of a picosecond suggesting that Volume 3 is bad, or not worth reading – it most certainly, absolutely and assuredly is not any of those things. Still a top-notch effort, still carrying a fantastic cast of characters with entertaining dynamics, adding pieces to a much larger story with each issue. It’s just the same praise as before, with different scenes and a few more characters. I won’t waste your time telling you what you already know, but Volume 3 is outstanding. Read it. Right now.
Green Lantern: Dark Days is the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s trash. Writer Robert Venditti had tremendously cavernous and fresh-smelling shoes to fill in the wake of Geoff Johns’s acclaimed run, and now those shoes smell like dead ferrets and failure. In a nutshell, the Green Lantern Corps is now led by its own maverick renegade Hal Jordan in the first of many status quo changes Venditti imposes in the first couple of issues. Only a few of these aid the story in any way, and the rest feel like subtle comments of “Huh, that Geoff Johns guy did a pretty great job when he was on this title and there is no way I’m gonna top that. Time to go in the opposite direction, all the way baby!”
I have no problem with a creator leaving a thumbprint on a property – just look at the various iterations of Daredevil over the last decade for an example of how that can necessarily be a good thing – but Venditti adds things that I’m almost certain no-one asked for. A lacklustre villain from a parallel universe who’s also a giant? The revelation that the emotional spectrum is actually a reservoir that gets slowly depleted each time a Lantern ring gets used? Hal no longer being cocky, arrogant or lovable in any way, shape or form and breaking up with Carol Ferris?
Somewhere inbetween both these books is Trinity War. A crossover between Justice League, Justice League Dark and Justice League of America (there’s enough League on display to displace the entirety of American football). At least, that’s what it’s touted as.
In broad terms, Superman kills another superhero; don’t worry, it’s a guy named Dr. Light, so it’s nobody you’ll care about if you’re not a long-term comics reader (or even if you are). As the Leagues of Legend scramble to uncover how that couldn’t possibly ever be something Superman would do without either coercion or some kind of mind control, a strange box shaped like a skull starts making superheroes do crazy things. It’s being hunted by Pandora, last seen giving the Flash a pep talk after he broke time and having incongruous and enigmatic dialogue with the Phantom Stranger. Apparently it holds the end of the world, or something.
Trinity War‘s an event that’s more akin to a prologue than an event proper, and thus can’t really fall under the guidelines I set out a few weeks ago for how events can be awesome. A prologue to what? Another event called Forever Evil.
Point goes to Saga.
This one’s actually a little harder to judge; all three books have sterling illustrations. Saga continues adding to what must by now surely be an immensely impressive portfolio for artist Fiona Staples, carrying the expressive, colourful awesomefest of volumes previous.
Green Lantern‘s saving grace is its pencils and colours, with artist Billy Tan giving a look distinctive enough to be carried on its own whilst still drawing inspiration from former Green Lantern mainstays like Ivan Reis and Ethan Van Sciver. Faces are a bit of a problem, with most character’s visages looking a little generic, and the main villain, Relic, doesn’t look particularly notable for his appearance (though that may have something to do with his lack of notability in the story’s context, too). On the whole, pretty decent work.
Trinity War is a mess. It’s par for the course not only on events but on books cultivating chapters from several ongoing series – since Trinity War is made up of issues from six different titles – for there to be some disparity in art styles. It is not, however, acceptable for that disparity to be so glaring that I’m hurled away from the visuals like I’m riding a catapult.
Let’s give it to Saga, with a note that DC might want to shoot for some more visually-engaging villains and consistency of artwork, respectively, when each book comes back for round two.
Green Lantern feels clunky, standard and by-the-numbers. There’s very little heart to…nah, you’ve heard that too.
And Trinity War…do I even need to bother?
Ok, so this crazy-ass random pancakes review seems to have gone off the rails more than it already was when it started. Why? Because I’m burnt out. I’m finding it harder and harder to give a crap about superhero comics, and even harder to be in DC’s corner when their books come out each week. Even Marvel, easily the better of the Big Two with the levity afforded their writers and editorial staff in comparison, is getting stale. Y’know I read Dark Days and Trinity War quite a while before I sat down to pretend to write something intelligent about both of them? Couldn’t be assed beforehand.
And why’s that?
We don’t want to take risks. We want to read the safe and familiar, and only ever so rarely take a chance on something that might step outside the bounds of the norm occasionally. We want more Transformers Baypocalypses. We want sequels to DreamWorks films we didn’t like the first time ’round. If a TV show’s not on HBO or called Breaking Bad, it has to be safe and homogenous and easily digestible.
And if we want superhero comics, we sure as hell don’t want strange and off-beat narratives that challenge the nature of decades-long canon. We aren’t after throwing old-hand heroes into settings diametrically opposed to their normal modus operandi. We’re surely not trying to diversify old concepts with new ideas. Of course, we can’t have anything written for them pesky girly-types, either. We aren’t trying to challenge ourselves with a broader range of reading.
We’re mired, much like our superheroes who will never age, will never stay dead, and, for the foreseeable future, will never stop making money.
I sound like the world’s loudest and most obnoxious broken record when I say this, but indie comics should be top of your reading pile. Saga. Revival. Chew. Sex Criminals. Fatale. Inspired, creative, envelope-pushing books, written from a spark of innovation rather than a need for greenback. Something with heart, not numbers.
I’ve had markedly more enjoyment and engagement reading Sex Criminals a couple weeks ago than I did reading almost any superhero book that’s come out in the last two months. I got through Saga curled up on my lounge with a hot chocolate, cover-to-cover, compared to the month or so I spent reading bits and pieces of Trinity War when time allowed or I felt like something mindless and unchallenging. The number of cape-and-cowl scribes actually working to innovate the genre pales compared to the army who don’t.
So, superhero comics, consider yourselves on notice: clean up your act, get back on track, or lose yourself a reader. I want to pick up the next volume of Green Lantern and enjoy a story going in a new direction from the beloved Johns arc that preceded it. I want to dive into Justice League or Forever Evil and freaking enjoy doing so. I want to recommend this stuff to my friends again, not tell them to read the early stuff and just “forget about everything after that reboot happened”.
I want my Batman back, dammit.
Whew. Wow, that was whiny. Apologies to the two or three of you who’ve been brave enough to stick through this authorial soapbox filibuster.
Oh! Right. I need to pick a winner.
And the winner of this three-way duel is…Batwoman: This Blood Is Thick. I was caught between either telling you Saga is still as brilliant as before, or giving an ironic “it wins but it’s actually terrible” award to one of the other two, so I went with a third (or fourth, in this case) option.
So yay! Congratulations Batwoman! I can’t wait to see what happens to your engaging, creative title ne–oh. Ohhhhh.
Well, at least we still have Hawkeye.
Thanks to everyone who’s read my work; first-timers and long-runners, casuals and die-hards, those who were there at the start and those who are here ’til the end. These reviews wouldn’t have made it to 100 posts without you lot reading, liking and condemning (where applicable).
Chris Kills Comics <3’s you all. Here’s to the next 100!
PUBLISHER: IMAGE COMICS
BEST QUOTE: “Would one of you overgrown condom failures kindly remove the dead f***ing dragon from my runway?” – Countess Robot X
PUBLISHER: DC COMICS
BEST QUOTE: “The boy and I are swapping voices for a bit. I sound like Squeaky, here, he gets to try on me charming baritone. Oh, and I hold onto his special word.” – John Constantine
PUBLISHER: DC COMICS
BEST QUOTE: “All will be well.” – Saint Walker (yes, the dialogue is so bad I had to use a catch-phrase first coined years ago. Thank God it was actually in this book, or this section’d be blank)