Thursday, May 11, 2006

SUBZERO is not crazy - just confused

After ripping out the weeds which we in Germany call Löwenzahn ( also known as Taraxacum offincinale - look it up ) between the cracks of the museum stairs of Kornwestheim for the whole week I found the time to write again. So let´s get right to the point : what have I read since last post ?


The second issue after the ONE YEAR LATER leap. Don´t want to spoil too much let me just say Superman´s new status was explored a little more and leave it at that. Of course Lex is always the schemer and the last page makes you wonder just what he´s planning for.


Now this is one of the best JLA books ever written. I don´t know what it is but reading this comic ( or watching the cartoon ) you just wonder why so many JLA stories suck or are just too confusing. The secret of the animated comic´s success seems to be : they love the JLA and they GET it. They understand the big idea behind the team and that sometimes you don´t need Superman to beat the bad guys. Sometimes the world´s only hope is Green Arrow or Bwana Beast. Another fact that shows that the creators of this comic love the JLA is that they always manage to find out what makes each character cool and unique and they show it to the reader. Because the stories in this book are not about the big fights or guys in costumes showing off their powers and striking poses - it´s about the people IN the costumes who are as human as you and I even when they were born on Mars or Krypton. That´s consistent with the cartoon where the charactes were often ten times of cool compared to their comic versions. My favorite example is Aquaman who never got any respect in his comic incarnation and is just soooo kick-ass in the cartoon. They even came up with a cool Kill-Bill-kind of way how he lost his hand instead of the stupid " some fishies ate it " nonsense.

And you just have to love the digest format. It´s easier to carry, you can read it on the bus or on the train. It takes less space to store and it´s not so expensive. Now, I wish it was priced at 4,99 instead of 6,99 which I find almost too much. Almost. I mean at five issues for seven bucks it´s still worth it. Now the art is just made for the digest format, with the strong and clear layout and art by Wizard winner Carlo Barberi and Ethan Beavers and Walden Wong. The stories in this compilation focus on the b-list charactes like Vixen, The Question ( who never was as cool as in the cartoon ) and the Creeper among others and what their moments of doubts and triumph are. There is one negative thing I have to mention : the comic is just over too soon. Can´t we just make it 400 pages, please ? And what´s up with the big GRAPHIC NOVELS FOR KIDS sign on the front ? No need to rub it in, okay ?

I wish this series was translated to german because it´s the kind of comic that the german comic market needs : good one issue stories, good art, enjoyable for kids as for grown ups and it ties in with a wellknown franchise that also has a cartoon show on tv. I think it´s no coincidence that the last comic boom started in Germany when a little publisher started with the BATMAN ADVENTURES. And it´s neither a coincidence that comic sales are not so good now that none of the similar series are published.

  • JLU 19
  • / JLU 20 / JLU 21

    NEXTWAVE 1 & 2, NEXTWAVE : AGENTS OF H.A.T.E. 3 & 4 ( 1 as DIRECTOR´S cut because it had the same price as the regular edition )

    Speaking about people in costumes showing off their powers and striking poses you can find plenty of that in Nextwave. I´m still not sure about the premise of the book.
    After reading the first issue I thought it´s just like X-STATIC one of the superhero comics published by Marvel for people who don´t like superhero comics. And I never really understood the idea behind that.

    I mean, okay, you can trick people who don´t like superhero comics into spending money for superhero comics but I don´t think they will be picking up any issues of Captain America or Young Avengers no matter how well written these books are. One of the things I always liked on X-STATIC were the letters that began " Dear X-STATIC, I´ve never read a superhero comic...". Newsflash, buddy, you still are not reading any right now. You´re reading a comic specially designed to guys like you who think superhero comics are beneath him because they are just escapist power trips for fourteen year olds and they are just too intelectually enlightened for that.

    A bit of celebrity name dropping, a little soap opera love triangles, a bit of critique about our consumer´s society and the media in general( yes, we´re totally commercial and cliche ridden but we also make fun of it and we´re hip so it´s okay ) and always reminding the reader that this is unlike any other super hero book. Just forget about subtile hints and whack the reader on the head with our message - otherwise it´s lost on the mtv-generation. And why make comics for the people who hate you ? Wouldn´t it be easier to make comics for people who like what you do ? It also baffled me why people like Garth Ennis would spend so much time on something they clearly hate. Always striked me as kind of masochistic because I know the guy hates superheroes and still needs to get it out of his system obviously but is it worth the time and effort ? We already know he hates superheroes and no we don´t need any more series like THE PRO which I personally found a little bit lacking. I´ve read better anti super hero propaganda in MARSHALL LAW and it just was some kind of lite version of former hate and bile. Okay, I don´t want to drag out this point I just want to read more work like PREACHER and less like THE PRO. If you hate superhero comics just write westerns. Or pirate comics. Pirates are always good. Remember EL CAZADOR ? That was great wasn´t it ?

    But back to the first four issues. I am still not sure what comic this is : a comic for people who hate superheroes, a comic for people who like superhero comics but like to make fun of the things they don´t understand like their fixation with underpants......I don´t know, maybe it´s just a really weird comic with a strange kind of humor. Because humor in comics can get weird. I read the whole DEFENDERS miniseries and couldn´t find one joke in all five issues. Okay, spoiler alert, because I will now mention a few things from the plot. ( Danger, Will Robinson ! - Don´t ask. Just listen to Los Comic Geekos already. ) I mean this is Warren Ellis who wrote AUTHORITY and PLANETARY, we all know he doesn´t hate superheroes. He wrote some of their best series and stuff like TRANSMETROPOLITAN.

    The team is interesting with characters that are not so often used like Monica Rambeau ( former Avengers member captain Marvel / Photon ), Tabitha Smith ( who really should use her old name Boom Boom which is just the best superheroine name. Ever. ), Elsa Bloodstone, Aaron Stack ( former Machine Man / X 51 ) or the new member the Captain. The costumes are halfway between Ultimates costumes for the new millenium and old fashioned spandex with an overcoat on top ti get that matrix vibe going. The story is not so original so far : all members of the team belonged to a supersecret organisation but when they found out the organisation was evil they went renegade and are now fighting to bring em down. I´m sure you´ve heard something similar on tv shows like ALIAS or somewhere else. What happens in the comic is just kind of confusing for me. Like in the first issue where the Captain tells of a run-in he had with Captain America when the Captain went under the name of Captain %%%% ( in the comic there are little skulls where swear words would be ) and got the snot kicked out of him when Captain America asked him his name. And then he got his mouth washed out with soap. Now this was one of the things that made me think this is a comic for people who don´t like superhero comics. Because the only person who believes Captain America could really behave so out of character is a person who never actually read a Captain America comic because " Captain America is just this stupid boy scout and it´s all just american propaganda. Why should I read this crap. F-word Bush ! " You know those people. But then I thought : Okay, how good do we really know the Captain ? He´s clearly just making this story up to look good and all bad boy. So maybe it´s like a joke ? Or Captain America just beat him up as his kind of a joke. Like : " Dude, you don´t want to give me your real name ? You think you´re so funny let´s see you laugh this off beyotch. " My brother said that Captain America just thought he was being called Captain swearword and beat him up. And that it is funny. Like I said : confusing.

    Another strange thing for me were the already mentioned little skulls to show the swear words. I mean either you use swear words or you don´t but using them and don´t using them at the same time is just silly. Just make it like Christopher Priest and don´t use em but still show which words you would have used. I always thought that it´s better to write things like n-word, b-word, s-word or f-word instead of %%%%% or &&&&. Now Fing Fang Foom is really cool, maybe the best creation in the entire history of Marvel....but I never noticed he was wearing underpants. I read the Fing Fang Four comic and never noticed that he had them even in the original first appearance. Mainly because at first they had the same color as his body which then was orange. Somehow his body was colored green and the pants purple. Is this some kind of Hulk reference or an in-joke about superheroes ? I just never noticed the pants before Warren made them the main focus of the second issue. It just makes no sense and confuses me. Like the character Dirk Anger agent of H.A.T.E. Everybody knows he´s a Nick Fury knock-off but it just seems kind of childish. Maybe that was funny in the third grade like : " Anger, agent of H.A.T.E. and his dog Management. Together they are : anger management. " This is almost below Peter David´s Young Justice level. What I think is supposed to be funny are the running gags like Monica always metioning that she used to be in the Avengers ( kind of like Hawkman in Giffen and DeMatteis Justice League or Jubilee in GENARATION X ) or Machine Man calling humans " fleshy ones " and always talking about beer. Just strikes me as repetitive and getting old real fast and like I said : it´s supposed to be funny. Although it makes for a cool battlecry when Machine Man cries : " Death to the fleshy ones. "

    When I was much younger and just started out my comic reading career there was this one BATMAN comic where somebody was imitating the Joker to commit crimes and get away scott free. Of course Batman pretty soon discovered that it was not his old nemesis who comitted the crimes because the jokes he made were different. The jokes of the Joker are always funny, you instantly get it and even if they are sick sometimes you just can´t help but laugh. Now the jokes of the imitator were funny in the concept but they didn´t make you laugh out loud, because if you have to think too much why something is supposed to be funny it stops being funny. You understand the clever humoristic idea but the joke is lost. And that is what happens with a lot of things in this series for me : Fing Fang Foom with underpants, Anger agent of H.A.T.E. is that supposed to be funny ? With FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE JUSTICE LEAGUE or the follow up I CAN´T BELIEVE IT´S not THE JUSTICE LEAGUE I didn´t have to think so much about the jokes.

    Now to the positive things : the two issue story arcs are a good idea. On CASE CLOSED I also liked the longer stories better than the short ones and with two issues you have more space without dragging it out forever. The art by Stuart Immomen is pretty solid although he seems to get more and more cubic as he goes along. Makes me wonder how his art will have evolved when he has found his new look. The mix of members is interesting and it´s a good thing somebody resurrected these characters from comic limbo. Especially Boom Boom. Any team with Boom Boom as a member is okay in my book. I´m just not sure if her being a thief is a retcon or not. But that´s just a minor complaint because I always found it weird how some writers romanticize thieves. If anybody ever stole something of yours you know that there is nothing romantic about stealing or thieves. They are just people who take other people´s stuff. And there is no problem with portraying the b-list heroes as cool nontheless which in my opinion was one of the greatest disappointments in GREAT LAKE AVENGERS. The protagonists of a book should at least get some respect in their own series, don´t you think ? What was almost funny was the origin of the Captain. Who thankfully has not the usual generic pretty boy look of most marvel creations. It really annoyed me when they changed Cannonball´s unique look to the run of the mill dresman look of all mutants.

    So I guess I will check out future issues to find out what the hell I´m reading anyway. I´m just confused with this one. And I never trusted a comic that changed the name after the first two issues. Or has their own theme song ( which you can download on the Marvel website ). Maybe the AUTHORITY was Ellis version of mission impossible and NEXTWAVE is more like Ellis version of the dirty dozen. If you want to make up your own mind here are the links :

  • Nextwave homepage at Marvel with pages of issue 1

  • Nextwave 2

  • Nextwave 4

  • Nextwave theme song

  • So, this was the first longer review of a comic but I think it would have been unfair to just say I didn´t find it funny without explaining why.

    Remember : non scolae set vitae discimus. Stay in school kids.

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