The Weekly Pull – 1/4/12

    

 

Good news, bad news time. The good news is that this week I bought more than three issues, and not all of them were DC. The bad news is that there are now seven books to talk about. Seven individual issues that need to be explained, and it might take a while to do it. I debated whether to break the Weekly Pull into two parts, then decided against it.

Just hope I can fit all the covers on one line.

First up, naturally, are DC books, which begin with DETECTIVE COMICS #5. It’s the beginning of a new story arc; a couple new story arcs in fact. The Dollmaker from the first four issues has been put away, but the Joker (sans face) still roams free. And worse, rumors spread throughout the city that Batman killed the Joker, leading to protests from disenfranchised youth wearing clown masks against the Dark Knight.

There’s also a side plot introduced with Catwoman (and thus the cameos begin, or at least continue) and the illegitimate son of Hugo Strange. Those who played Batman: Arkham City will remember him as the primary antagonist, during those times when the player wasn’t experiencing Mark Hamill’s last performance as the voice of the Joker. Or just going around, finding out the video game Rat-catcher was killed by the Penguin.

Let’s talk about the Penguin for a second. At the end (kinda) of the issue the Penguin is introduced for the next issue. His demeanor suggests a more classic depiction of the villain, though I’m sure Tony Daniel will give him all the weight he deserves for Detective Comics. The problem is that this reveal just happens to coincide with the second to last issue in Penguin: Pain and Prejudice.

PENGUIN: PAIN AND PREJUDICE #4 continues the sad look into the life of the Penguin, and it also continues to be a very excellent character study. This isn’t Burgess Meredith’s Penguin, though by no means do I seek to undermine Meredith’s accomplishments or importance. In all honesty, Meredith portrayed the Penguin exactly as he was in the Batman comics at the time, back when the Batman universe took a turn for the goofy and nonthreatening.

However, times have changed and the Batman comics have long regained the pulp-inspired grittiness of its earliest incarnation, and the Penguin can be a legitimate crime lord. And at the rate it’s going, Penguin: Pain and Prejudice is set to be one of the most definitive depictions of the character in comic history. Which is why it’s so jarring that it coincides with his depiction in Detective Comics at this time.

My guess is that either a major coincidence happened here, or editorial mandate required that the Penguin miniseries and the Detective Comics story arc overlap so that one could hitch a ride on the other’s popularity. Which is at the very least sound logic so far as business is concerned, but I think from a narrative standpoint this will turn out to be a misstep. No doubt Detective Comics will make a good Batman fights Penguin story, but it could never be as deep or sympathetic as P:PaP. And the last issue of the miniseries comes out the same week that we get this new story, so it’ll be extra jarring for readers.

I’m just saying maybe the Penguin storyline should have been postponed for a few months, and get another villain to do the second arc. It’s not like Batman’s short on them.

Moving away from the darker (and Bat shaped) books, we come to OMAC #5, featuring a crossover with Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E. When Frankenstein was announced as one of the books in the relaunch, I honestly had no interest whatsoever. But in retrospect, people have said how great it was, making me regret not buying it instead of things like Batwoman or I, Vampire. I still haven’t gotten into it, mostly because there’s simply so many ongoings I read right now that catching up would increase the weight on the pocketbook. That and because the old issues were starting to disappear by the time I wanted to read things like that and Animal Man.

Maybe I’ll buy them off digital download or buy the trade paperbacks when those come out. If I get the trades, I’ll be sure to talk about them in Trade Secrets.

In the meantime, OMAC continues to be amazing and fun, in all its retro comics glory. This issue illustrates a point about OMAC himself. In the end, he’s basically just a Hulk ripoff, while guys like Frankenstein legitimately know how to fight and strategize. One of the worst things a creator can do in any medium, aside from physically assaulting the audience, is to make a character whose primary attribute is being perfect and unstoppable. Nigh invincibility can work if done right, just ask Alucard. But when the main character rushes through enemies like nothing, there’s no tension. So kudos to OMAC for using a crossover to teach us a lesson about dramatic tension.

And since OMAC will appear in Frankenstein’s book, maybe I’ll check that out when it comes.

You know what else OMAC #5 did right? The cover was consistent with the contents of the issue. Unlike RED LANTERNS #5, which basically blew an aspect of the contents out of proportion for dramatic effect. I’ll get back to unreliable covers in a minute, but suffice to say this kind of thing is a trend. In this month’s Red Lanterns, there is a fight between Atrocitus and Bleez to be sure, but it’s more of a scuffle which ends in them cooperating for the rest of the issue.

The leader of the Red Lantern Corps has thrown a number of his mindless raging underlings into a sea of blood, with the hopes that the dip will give them the extra clarity needed to aid him in his quest for vengeance. But mystery is afoot, as the body of Krona, Atrocitus’ hated enemy, disappears. Has Krona, the mad guardian who slaughtered an entire space sector and basically created the multiverse, returned to life? Or is some other form of foul play involved by agents unknown? I don’t know, but it’ll sure be fun finding out.

Also, we finally get a human Red Lantern. Which is awesome. Oh sure, we’ve had Earthlings wear a red ring before, but nothing permanent. This plot point has been long stewing, and the payoff, while not surprising, will throw some for a loop. And here I was actually considering dropping this book. Silly me, DC has its claws in me and has no interest in letting go.

And if it keeps this up, I will begrudgingly continue buying their books en masse.

Next is the other title I’ve been thinking of dropping, but which gets to stay in my pull list by pulling out a last-second KO of goodness. The first thing to be said about SWAMP THING #5 is that the cover art finally dropped the pretense that this book directly featured Swamp Thing in all his swampy glory. It was a persistent annoyance in the previous issues, but now that it’s stopped I think I finally understand why it was done.

For those not in the know, the Swamp Thing proper hasn’t exactly appeared in the book. Alec Holland, the man whose memories fueled classic Swamp Thing, is the one who the readers have followed throughout this series so far. It’s not like the storyline has been any weaker for lack of a proper Swamp Thing as a protagonist. One of the interesting plot threads has been Alec fighting against the will of the Green to make him into a plant elemental like he was always supposed to (but couldn’t because he died). It just seemed deceptive.

In hindsight, it makes perfect sense why they’d keep the charade up for four issues. Comics are typically made well in advance of when they’re put out to market. I remember being able to read plot synopsis of books two to three issues in advance of what was actually out at the time. So naturally, DC had to pull a fast one for a while to keep people from being disappointed that the Swamp Thing doesn’t actually appear in the book that he’s named after.

Ironically, it’s at this point, when the covers drop the charade and reveal that the book is about Alec Holland and his struggle between being human or swampy, that he actually begins to manifest powers of a swamp elemental. Weird. But at least the book has hit its stride.

Moving out of the realm of DC (finally), we have some Marvel books to talk about. First up, THE PUNISHER #7. In my First Impressions of Carnage, USA, I referred to a set of four characters in the Marvel universe that were all anti-heroes, all became ridiculously popular when they first came out, then suffered from overexposure, before settling in a status quo. One of those was Venom, and another was our good friend the Punisher.

In my opinion, the Punisher suffered the most from overexposure because, at his very core, his appeal comes most from the novelty of his persona. He’s a vigilante that relentlessly hunts lawbreakers and kills them without remorse. I think iFanboy put it best; as a character he scratches a itch, but too much scratching in one place can cause bloody sores to form and the pleasure turns to infected pain.

This is why I have such high hopes for this new series. The Punisher looks more from the perspective of those living in the world with the Punisher. This issue in particular works more like a police procedural show, kinda like Gotham Central did for the Batman universe. Also, the issue takes it a lot slower than previous ones; taking its time to develop some characters before the next eventual huge fight.

Also, Daredevil makes a cameo via flashback, which sort of ties into the new Daredevil series. That’s another series I’ve been meaning to pick up, if only my plate wasn’t already swamped with other books.

Books like THE DEFENDERS #2. Has it really been a month since I started this blog? Time sure flies when comics need reading. Simply put, The Defenders continues to be awesome. The problem with talking about something one likes is that it takes even more work to talk about it. A bad comic would elicit a stream of words describing how it fails or fumbles. And good comic leaves one scratching one’s head as to what to say.

Well, tension is building. The characters play off each other well and have interesting personality traits. And Red She-Hulk is an absolute delight. I don’t know how one could better characterize a strong, independent woman than to have her lift a tiger-man off the ground with one hand and demand the return of her big-ass sword. And those were her words, not mine.

If there’s one complaint I have, it’s that we’re only at the second issue, and the Defenders already have in front of them a MacGuffin that, if destroyed by Nul the World Breaker, will destroy the universe. Two issues in, and we’re already up to the destruction of the universe. If the Defenders will be ongoing, where do we go from here? Once they stop Nul from destroying the universe, what’s next? I’ve complained about some DC books in the new line moving very slowly, only getting around to truly epic things four or five issues in. And here we have a book whose main problem may be moving so quickly as to start off at galactic level calamity. But then again, I guess I would rather the book start out strong rather than meandering for a while.

This was a long post. Why do they need to put all the best stuff at the beginning of the month?

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