The Weekly Pull – 7/4/12

     

This week, we look at DETECTIVE COMICS #11, EARTH 2 #3, DIAL H #3, THE PUNISHER #13, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #689, and AVENGERS VS X-MEN #7.

First is DETECTIVE COMICS #11, which sort of explains why the creative team is going to be changed soon. Indeed, DC recently announced the creative team for Detective Comics is getting an overhaul, and honestly I agree with it. For the last few issues, in fact nearly every issue since the end of the Dollmaker storyline, have been generally underwhelming. Not bad, just nothing special. I blame the last few issues prior to the relaunch, written by Scott Snyder. Those issues were damn good, but also got me too used to astoundingly good stories that now I feel let down.

From the last issue, Batman continues his investigation of a series of melted humans and an armored car robbery of lab materials by a group of armed, identical people in Batman disguises. Turns out it involves cloning, a large Hadron Collider, and a conspiracy of vague description. Maybe I’m just not in the right state of mind at the time of this writing, but it’s all very confusing and obtuse. Then again, this all means I’m buying the next issue just to figure out what’s going on.

So as a mystery, it succeeds? You tell me.

We also have the end of the Two Face backup story, and frankly it underwhelmed me too. Two Face barges into a meeting between the two guys that hired the monks out to kill him – the monks, by the way, that wouldn’t kill him because they sensed good in him. Alright. There’s also the bit with the conjoined twin on one of the villains, which just left me confused. And at the end, it doesn’t seem like anything was accomplished. Even Two Face seems barely affected by the stuff that happened to him, which I understand is probably due to not wanting to change the status quo on him.

Not to mention how the art style, admirable though it may be, makes it all murky and hard to understand. But I’ve mentioned this before, so no use dwelling on it. I miss that Hugo Strange subplot the book had going before. It had so much promise simply wasted.

Next is EARTH 2 #3, which shows the modern origin of Green Lantern Alan Scott, in full glorious detail. Alan’s boyfriend is dead, their train having exploded due to agents unknown. Yet he survived, thanks to the timely intervention of a green inferno that represents the power of the Earth itself. And it has a message for the man who lamented the passing of heroes: an evil greater than Apokolips is on its way, and the planet is fresh out of champions. They need a new crop to face the coming hoard.

This scene is amazing. Alan Scott faces the reality that the one he loved, the one he wanted to marry and spend the rest of his life with, is dead. And the peace his heroes fought and died for is now threatened by even greater evil. He takes up the mantle of Green Lantern with both sorrow and righteous determination. The scene also spells out the nature of Scott’s abilities, and why he has the costume and ring he has, which is more personal to his character. Still not too big on the current design – I still prefer the red shirt and cape myself – but it’s significantly different from the regular Green Lantern uniform over in Earth 1, so that’s good. It makes him more unique.

It helps that the art makes great use of green and fire. It’s like a greener, gayer version of the burning bush. But instead of stone tablets with rules, it’s superpowers.

Meanwhile, Jay Garrick meets up with Hawkgirl in Poland. As I suspected, the book is revitalizing many of the old JSA heroes, with a new Hawkgirl and a passing mention of Doctor Fate. As a fan of the JSA, I shudder in equal parts anticipation and dread at what the new version of Doctor Fate will be. These scenes also establish the new dynamic for Earth 2. Whereas in years past the JSA members were all experienced, a few even going back decades of fighting evil; in turn, it was the newcomers to the business that the JSA would teach. They were the elders, and part of the style brought in the most recent books was that of the elders teaching a new generation of heroes. And when it came to guys like Green Lantern and the Flash, the older guys, while not necessarily as powerful as the younger incarnations, had a wealth of knowledge to impart on them.

But here we have in many ways an inverse. Alan Scott and Jay Garrick have just gained their powers (in the process losing the ones who gave them powers, Mercury and the mysterious intelligence of the green flame), whilst Earth One’s counterparts have had years to develop their skill. Which is good for new readers, because we now have a new Green Lantern and the new Flash to follow as their mature and grow as heroes. While I’ll miss the legacy aspect of the JSA, I’m more optimistic now than I’ve been in a while.

Next is the other really good new book from the New 52 Second Wave, DIAL H #3. The mysterious Manteau saves Nelson from imminent death, and extradites him to her home. But in the process, the rotary dial in the phone booth is damaged, and while they manage to get it away as well, it’s obvious it won’t work quite as well as it used to.

Not that the dials ever worked correctly to begin with. This is a plot point, and a genius one at that.

Manteau gives Nelson – and by proxy us the readers – an exposition dump about the general origins of the dials, namely that a byproduct of their development by a mysterious creator was all telephones. And also that Nelson really should have done more to prevent himself from forgetting that, regardless of what hero he turns into, he’s still supposed to be Nelson. This is a theme that’s been building up to this point, that Nelson has used the dial up until now to avoid being himself, and that doing so is slowly causing the boundary between himself and the myriad heroes to blur.

Meanwhile, we finally get an idea of what the antagonists, Squid and Ex Nihilo (the woman that showed up a couple times at random so far in the story) are gunning for. Not a great idea because the ultimate ends are up in the air, but the basic goal is apparent: the two want to open a gate to the realm of nothingness and summon a demon of emptiness. All this is key to accomplishing the two’s seperate but parallel goals. It’s all very abstract, but gives a sort of consistency to the antagonists.

It’s nice every once in a while to see opposing forces that aren’t necessarily opposed on principle, just in their ends and means. In this case, we have people with dials that turn them into superheroes, which may or may not have anything to do with the forces of nothingness they’re currently fighting. The book even acknowledges they aren’t fighting for any other reason than because they pissed each other off. Or maybe not, it’s all up in the air as I said.

What I like about this book is that, unlike other series which start out wanting to set up things before letting it coast along on whatever plot the writers contrive for that particular arc, DIAL H seems to have an end in mind. Everything seems planned out, probably a result of having a novelist with experience in writing contained, ordered, and above all finite stories. Naturally this implies finiteness in length for the series, but knowing the fickle hand of the comic buying audience this book has a limited life anyway. Better to work towards a coherent narrative early on, and then need to figure out more stuff if it succeeds, than to prepare for a long haul and mysteries solved over an extended run, and then have it canceled before most of it can be touched upon.

If I believed in jinxes, I’d think I just did one myself. Since I don’t however, I’m confident DIAL H will pass or fail regardless of whether I think it will.

Moving on to Marvel comics, THE PUNISHER #13 takes place on a boat. Insert your own Lonely Island joke here. With their internal issues worked out, the two Punishers infiltrate a yacht party and tech auction for the super criminal underworld. Various villains, weapons dealers, and at least one Hydra goon are mulling around, being decadent and evil.

Naturally, Punisher and Punishette go to work ruining their fun. And that’s about it. There’s not a lot to be said about this issue other than the art being a little off. Apparently Checchetto is off art duties for this issue, though whether he’s taking a break or off Punisher for good is unknown. To me at least. I didn’t care much for the new penciler, Suayan. His faces have a lot of random lines and other quirks that make me miss Checchetto. Oh well.

Next up is AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #689. Tell me Marvel, why do I have to talk about Amazing Spider-man just a week after the last time? Don’t get me wrong, I love the series well enough. I just find it irksome when I must talk about the same series multiple times in a row. Having Amazing Spider-man double shipped every month is bad enough, but what was the point of starting off this month’s issues just after the last one?

Whatever, we have a good issue here folks. Last time, Spiderman collaborated with Dr. Morbius and the staff at Horizon to track and capture the Lizard. And at the end, they succeeded in using Morbius’ formula to cure Curt Connors and revert him to human form, complete with missing arm. Why Connors loses his arm every time he reverts, even though getting a new arm was the entire point of his experiments, and it should at least revert him back with a whole arm.

Oh, and Connors’ human personality is supposedly gone for good, leaving only the Lizard personality to drive his human form…or is it?

This issue also deals with Spiderman’s shortening patience with the amoral freaks that surround him, in this case with Morbius. See, last issue Morbius had to exhume the body of Connors’ son Billy, which he did on his own, in order to develop the cure for the Lizard. Yet despite the fact that doing so eliminated an active threat to New York and (allegedly) cured a man of his horrible fate, practically no one wants to cut Morbius some slack. Yes, he did it mostly to test if his cure would work so he could try it on himself, but you would too if you had a horrible, debilitating thirst for human blood.

However, I’m willing to chalk this all up to really good writing. It seems like a whole lot of misunderstandings and short fuses are firing off in rapid succession, leading to one really explosive end. Probably resulting in death and lost friendships. At least one guy in this issue got the nasty end of the stick because of all the confusion. It’s like a ten-car pileup. Many things set up in defiance of reasonableness or forethought, resulting in carnage.

If that’s the case, the cars are starting to collide. And it only gets worse (see also better) from here.

Finally, we have AVENGERS VS X-MEN #7, where the conflict really starts to heat up.

Will I ever stop talking in cliches? What can I say? Cliches are useful.

With Hope in the care of the Avengers, Cyclops has had it with being boxed further into a corner. Last issue ended with Cyclops declaring “No More Avengers”, and this issue sees the Phoenix Five make good on their promise. They systematically take down the Avengers’ network and facilities, all while making them into hated figures for the public. Not that we actually see either of these things happening, we’re just told as much. We don’t see more than one thing get compromised, that being the Stark building as the Avengers headquarters – sealed in a magic field in all of one panel – and not a single scene of propaganda against the Avengers or any of the public saying they’re evil.

Knowing J. Jonah Jameson, though, I can guess he’s actively supporting this initiative if only because Spiderman is an Avenger.

So what do the Avengers do with their facilities falling one by one and their members captured just as sequentially (another thing we get little evidence of in this issue)? Stall for time and us the Scarlet Witch – the only person who can hurt the Phoenix Five by the way – to send them packing. I do like how this issue portrays the feelings of frustration on the side of the Avengers, having to dance around and avoid getting stepped on by giants that now really want them squashed. Tony Stark continues his guilt trip over splitting the Phoenix Force, Captain America is impatiently asking for options, and Hope can’t help but worry about her friends in the X-Men, knowing they have no idea what powers they wield.

Speaking of Hope, she seems about to do something, with Iron Fist and Lei Kung (don’t ask me who he is, he’s a kung fu guy and that’s all you need to know) knowing what to do to prepare the mutant messiah for the coming calamity. It would have been nice to see Iron Fist meeting with Lei Kung about this business, but a persistent problem with AVX, especially here, is how much is going on that simply cannot be shown because of time. This easily could have stretched into a yearlong event, if only to properly show the stuff they have to tell. Maybe some of this comes up in the tie-in issues for the various Avengers and X-Men series, but I maintain an event ought to be able to tell a full story in the pages of the event itself.

In the case of AVX, it seems like it wants to tell a big story – one with a lot of interesting elements – but can’t because of a tight schedule. This issue is damn entertaining and interesting on its own, by the way. It could just have been two fleshed out issues instead of one. Given what we’ve seen here, AVX at the very least has hit its stride in a big way.

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