|Like Spider-Woman in Avengers #12.1 , Steve Who Does|
Comics is surrounded by enemies wherever he goes!
And I reply, "You half-witted dolt! Of course it's still 1978! Why, if it wasn't, Brian and Michael wouldn't still be Number 1 with their moving tribute to LS Lowry!"
"Get with it, grandad!" they retort. "Brian and Michael haven't been Number 1 for weeks! It's the Bee Gees now, with their latest smash Night Fever! How can you keep up with current trends if you don't even watch Top of the Pops!?!"
To address this very issue, the other day I decided to take advantage of Free Comic Day and scoop up a pile of more modern comics than I'm used to dealing with, from Comixology. To keep it balanced, I chose some titles I was familiar with and some I'd never heard of before. Having not read a new comic since 1996, I shall at last find out what's been happening in the world of panels since those halcyon days of yore.
Avengers Vol 4 #12.1
By Brian Michael Bendis & Bryan Hitch.
Hooray! The Avengers! We all love the Avengers!
On the hunt for aliens, Spider-Woman's been kidnapped by a gang of arch-villains, and the Avengers go to her rescue.
The first thing that struck me about this is every super-hero in the world now seems to be in the Avengers - including Spider-Man and Wolverine, two characters who should surely never be in the Avengers.
It's all very nicely drawn - and beautifully coloured but somewhat bland in both its visual and verbal story-telling, and the sheer overabundance of heroes and villains makes it oddly uninvolving.
Even the return of Ultron, which lends the tale its climax, seems strangely flat when it should feel like the most mind-searingly thrilling thing ever to have happened, ever.
Strange also that none of the bad guys recognise Ultron when they see him.
Batman Black & White: A Black & White World
By Neil Gaiman and Simon Bisley.
A short story that works on the conceit that Batman and the Joker are basically actors playing a part and are chatting to each other whilst waiting to do their scenes.
It's all very pleasant but, as so often with Gaiman, feels suspiciously like it might, deep down, just be punchless whimsy.
Class War #1
by Rob Williams & Trevor Hairsine.
I must admit to being impressed that there're people called Trevor working in the modern industry. I like to think he smokes a pipe as he draws, and wears a cable-knit sweater.
But this is more like it. A government-appointed super-hero discovers just how bad the American government is and decides to turn against it.
I do worry that this comic's aimed at conspiracy theorists and the sort of people who have bunkers in their backyards, full of assault rifles for when, "The Day," comes. Also, the characters aren't properly introduced, making it a little confusing in places but, unlike the previous comics I've looked at here, it has a strong premise and an emotional thrust that does mean I'd be interested in seeing what happens next.
The Evil Tree #1
by Erik Hendrix and Daniel Thollin.
This is a horror tale about some people driving around in the snow.
At least, the bit I read was.
I must admit I gave up after a few pages. It seemed like fairly standard horror fare and was very badly drawn.
Obviously, it was deliberately badly drawn, to suit its genre but the combination of ugly artwork and unengaging writing put me off before I could get very far into it.
Guardians of the Galaxy Infinite Comic #1.
by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming.
I always loved the Guardians of the Galaxy, so I was always going to be drawn to this one.
Drax is sat around, minding his own business, when he's attacked and has a fight that goes on for page after page until it ends. Then some bloke turns up and says he's needed elsewhere.
Erm, that's it in terms of story.
On the plus side, the thing's been put together with electronic reading in mind, which means it tells the tale with fresh panels popping up over already displaying pages, rather than everything appearing sequentially, demonstrating that some sort of thought's been put into its structuring.
On the downside, it has virtually no dialogue, characterisation, wit, plot, intelligence or point and the artwork is awful. Given the ambitious story-telling style of Drax's creator, I can't help feeling Jim Starlin would be turning in his grave if he were dead.
Mouse Guard Fall 1152 #1
by David Petersen.
I can't deny it, I got this one because it's about mice - and who doesn't love mice?
What happens is some talking mice set out to find a missing talking mouse but instead find he had a dark secret.
This has a children's storybook feel to it, which automatically lends it a certain charm. It's not what you could call the most involving story of all time - in fact, the writing's pretty much as dull as it could be - but it is very nicely drawn and stars mice, so it gets a thumbs up from me.
Superman: War of the Supermen #0
by Sterling Gates/James Robinson and Various.
General Zod's back, is now leader of the Kandorians and wants to invade our planet. Meanwhile, dark forces are stirring on Earth.
This is a lot more violent than the good old days of Curt Swan.
That's not necessarily a bad thing but it is a shock to the system for the older-style reader.
It all seems to be well done and its various artists make up for an appallingly bad cover by giving us a lovely - if vaguely fascistic - splash page of the Kandorians heading toward Earth to give it a good smacking.
I don't know if I like the comic or not. I'd probably have to read more in order to make my mind up.
But it does have to be said that, with his seeming inability to grasp that all Kryptonians have the same powers that he has, Superman does come across as not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
My favourite for writing was Class War - which had flaws but was at least taut - and, for art, it was Mouse Guard.
I can make few conclusions on the state of modern comics because I'd need a bigger sample to get a proper overview of that. But, The Evil Tree and Guardians of the Galaxy aside, the experience wasn't as bad as I'd feared.
One of the reasons I gave up comics in the mid-1990s was because of rampantly self-indulgent artwork that made it impossible to understand what was actually going on. Apart from the odd lapse, none of these comics had that flaw. And one thing that does seem to have improved since then is that not one of them was drawn by someone who draws like Jim Lee with a broken arm.