These might be the most important words in comics: "Hey, have you read that?" The medium's lifeblood has always been the word-of-mouth that passes from one reader to another. The only query that might surpass the above is "So, what'd you think?"
Evan: Gentlemen, there were many good comics this past week. Let's start with Batman/Superman #1
Graeme: Now that was a beautiful looking comic book.
Evan: I liked it, just not as much as I was hoping to.
Graeme: I agree; the art was staggeringly good, but the story felt unclear at times.
Douglas: Jae Lee has become a really remarkable image designer, and page designer — one of my favourite pieces of original art I own is a page from that Ultimate Fantastic Four story he did where all the characters were just silhouettes all through the issue.
Evan: Pak has impressed me over the years with his superhero work, especially with how he draws emotional tensions between a story's players, but there wasn't enough of that for me. And this was certainly too confusing for a first issue.
Douglas: Exactly: the heart of this story is a conflict between two characters whose basic positions it's both redefining and expecting us to take for granted, and it's not a moody/evocative story, which means it doesn't play to Lee's strengths.
Graeme: I feel as if it should've been double-length from a story perspective. After reading it, I wasn't entirely sure if there had actually been enough of an introduction to anything, and the cliffhanger was oddly obtuse.
Douglas: The solicitation for this issue also only mentioned Jae Lee, and while it kind of made story sense for the art to switch where it did (to the section drawn by Ben Oliver), I have to worry if this is DC running up against deadline issues again.
Graeme: It's almost definitely deadline issues - The book was also two weeks late.
Evan: It also seemed like that that shift at the end was that meant to convey some kind of displacement.
Douglas: Oh boy. So maybe there wasn't a ton of lead time on this one, as opposed to Before Watchmen, e.g.
Graeme: I have to say, I liked Oliver's work, and thought it worked well with Lee's, better than I would've expected to be honest. That it happened with the shift to (I assume) another world was a nice touch.
Douglas: Most of all, I don't get what the premise for this series is — even what the premise for this initial story is — and that's a serious failing for a first issue.
Like, why is this series going to be about Batman and Superman together every issue, when it goes out of its way to indicate that they don't really have anything in common?
Evan: Yeah, if Lee doesn't keep pace on this book, I won't stay with it.
Graeme: Yeah, exactly. I feel like there's some attempt at "They're contrasting!" but that's nowhere near enough for a series. Pak needed to work harder at establishing what Batman/Superman is all about. And Evan, I really doubt we'll see Lee past the first storyline.
Douglas: Also, has it now been established in the DCU that the Kents died in a _car accident_?
Graeme: Yeah, that was in Action.
Evan: Man, that confused me, too!
Douglas: OK, I missed that.
Graeme: Morrison established that the Kents died in a car accident because of Vyndytvek or whatever he was called.
Evan: But that ties into a complaint I have about the current DCU: the new mythos hasn't had time to take root.
Graeme: But again, it was taking too much for granted in this first issue to know that - It's hardly a well-known change.
Evan: Exactly, Graeme
Graeme: Definitely - And there's too much "HOW WILL THIS CHANGE THE STATUS QUO" in their stories, whereas there doesn't feel like there's any status quo anymore. "WHAT IF PA KENT DIDN'T DIE IN A CAR ACCIDENT YOU DIDN'T KNOW HE DIED IN ANYWAY?"
Douglas: That's a very good point.
Graeme: It's very insular, and insular only for those keeping track of the New 52 as is. Even lapsed Superman fans would probably think that Pa was still alive seeing as he was around from 1986 through whenever Geoff Johns killed him (2010?).
Evan: It also brings up another element of reading DC's output right now…
Douglas: I'm willing to give Pak a bit of rope — he's very good at planning out long-range storylines — but this is an unpromising beginning, as beautiful as it looks.
Evan: Part of me is always wondering how much of a given title has been left free of editorial edict.
Graeme: Batman/Superman was very much a "Come for the art, read the words afterwards" comic, Douglas.
Douglas: And "editorial edict," where current DC is concerned, tends to mean "random nonsensical imposition" rather than "clarifying guideline."
Graeme: Evan, DC in general has a real problem with the concept of "creator-led" books right now; even when it's the case, there's always the suspicion that it's all really the work of an editorial hive mind handing down edicts, just because we've seen so many creators complaining of that.
Douglas: Did you read that Sean Howe history of Marvel? There's a bit where the then-current editor-in-chief demanded that every comic had to have an "I can't!... But I must!..." moment within the first four pages.
Evan: Yeah, and even when it might not be true with the “creator-led” thing, it still feels like it might be. Bad problem for them to have. Douglas, I didn't read the Howe book but that's an amazing detail.
Douglas: How many DC titles at the moment really seem like they're a franchise handed over to a gifted creator or two that they totally trust & who can then take it to fresh new places? I count about three
Graeme: What're the three?!?
Douglas: Wonder Woman, Flash, Batwoman
Evan: *opens iPad*
Graeme: What's funny is that I am actually enjoying a lot of DC books right now, more than for a while, but there are few that I genuinely adore. It's a lot of "Oh, hey, that's fun," if that makes sense.
Douglas: Graeme, which are the ones you're enjoying most?
Graeme: The most? Hrm. Justice League Dark, Flash, Suicide Squad off the top of my head.
I have really enjoyed the first month of new creators on Green Lantern, too. But I'm a sucker for Green Lantern in general and so glad to see new blood that isn't Geoff Johns.
Douglas: I did appreciate the Suicide Squad storyline being named after Foucault's "Discipline and Punish."
Evan: I really like Batgirl, too.
Douglas: On the other hand, as happy as I am to see the Giffen/DeMatteis team doing their thing, the fact that there is now a Larfleeze ongoing title speaks to a certain amount of conceptual desperation.
Graeme: Batgirl is a little too dark for me, to be honest. But James Gordon Jr. is in Suicide Squad now... (Spoilers?)
Agreed, Douglas. And the rumoured Sinestro Corps title is the same.
Evan: I need to catch up on Suicide Squad, Kotaku bossman Stephen Totilo says it's great.
Graeme: The last couple issues are a stealth reboot. Worth checking out.
Evan: If anything they need to contract the GL books, I think.
Douglas: What else did y'all enjoy this week?
Graeme: (Agreed re: contracting GL franchise, BTW).
Graeme: Oh, this is where I'm the grouch again.
Douglas: I wouldn't go so far as saying that Hawkeye #11 was "the best comic book of the year," but it's a really terrific idea, nicely executed.
Evan: It's why you're here, Graeme!
Graeme: THANK YOU, DOUGLAS.
Douglas: Graeme, be a grouch, please! In the meantime, I'll be a cheerleader.
Graeme: I agree, it's a well-done and cute comic, but seeing people go overboard with praise is making me grumpy. I'm very happy that Fraction and Aja like Chris Ware so much, let's just put it that way.
Evan: Here's why I liked it: Fraction and Aja are carrying the tonal shift of the last few issues through a incredibly unique set of mechanics
Douglas: I love that it's a straight-up Chris Ware homage, actually. (Plus that Far Side "what we say to dogs/what they hear" cartoon)
Evan: Things are not so happy-go-lucky anymore and it'd be easy to have that communicated through people talking at each other.
Graeme: Yeah, the Larson thing makes me laugh but also made me all "I don't think that's the way dogs' brains work" because I am anal.
Evan: But focusing on Pizza Dog is a great way to keep some humour and stay on the arc that they're on.
Douglas: Aja and Hollingsworth both have an incredible sense of design — I mean , that's a radical piece of cover design (and the "RUFF RUFF RUFF" where the credits usually go made me snicker).
Graeme: The Ruff Ruff Ruff thing was great. Kudos to Steve Wacker on that one, definitely.
Douglas: Can we also please shout out Hollingsworth's colour design for this issue, in particular? OF COURSE: dogs are colorblind!
Evan: yeah, it's a different kind of beautiful from what Jae Lee does
Graeme: Jae Lee does a... traditionally beautiful beautiful, whereas Aja is a chameleon, and in this one, it's the reduction that works so beautifully (for me, at least).
Douglas: It also makes me wonder: why can't more serial comics have this sort of sense of play and experimentation? It's not like it doesn't sell, because Hawkeye is proving that it DOES.
Graeme: Well, ish. It's hardly massively successful by Marvel standards.
Evan: One other thing about this issue: I was so caught up about seeing things from the dog's-eye-view that I was genuinely surprised at hitting the end of the book
Graeme: Surprised in what way, Evan?
Douglas: It seems to be selling incredibly well as a trade, though, and that's where the long-term money is.
Evan: It just wound up in a place I wasn't expecting.
Graeme: Talking about it with you guys is zeroing me in on what I didn't like about it, by the way: it's that the writing tended towards the cute in a way that the art/colors didn't. Am I alone in thinking that? Douglas, agreed on trade success, but Marvel rarely judges success on that basis, sadly.
Evan: I didn't get that, Graeme
Douglas: I didn't find a lot of cuteness in the writing, aside from the scene with Lucky and his girlfriend. This was a very emotionally dark story as far as I was concerned...
Graeme: Kieron Gillen had a great line somewhere about the reason there isn't more creativity in mainstream superhero comics being because creators feel more restricted than they actually are. Do you guys agree?
Douglas: That's a chicken/egg question, but it's also fair to say that lots of creators don't want to lose a gig over being "obscure."
Graeme: Douglas, the girlfriend was one of the cute scenes, definitely. But also the teatime with the thugs and the standing guard outside the building page felt a little... I don't know... cute is the only way I can put it. Trying too hard? Too on the nose? I don't know.
Evan: That, and experimenting takes time
Douglas: And speaking of Gillen! I enjoyed this week's Young Avengers a ton, although we've sung that series' praises here before.
Graeme: Experimenting also takes confidence and intent. It's one thing to go "I'm gonna be DIFFERENT!" and another to say "I'm trying to DO THIS." Yes to Young Avengers. I am loving that series a lot. Kate Brown's art was also lovely. Is this a week of lovely art?
Douglas: Graeme, true. The point of actual experiments is that they might work and might not. Sure seems to have been a lovely art week, between all of those, Daredevil, Jupiter's Legacy, Prophet, Lazarus...
Evan: And for comparison's sake, I felt like I got what I needed to know about characters I didn't really know anything about, like Prodigy
Graeme: Evan, yes: I have never read a Prodigy comic before, but I knew who he was. Everything I needed was in the issue.
Evan: Whereas Bats/Supes left me in the dark about what I was supposed to focus on regarding its main characters.
Douglas: Gillen's really good at getting across necessary info without giving the impression that he's info-dumping.
Evan: Let's move to Daredevil, if we may
Graeme: Daredevil this week was one of those times when I realise how spoiled I am with the book.
Douglas: How so?
Graeme: It was REALLY, REALLY good, but for some reason it didn't click for me as previous issues have, and so I felt more a sense of disappointment than I did over Batman/Superman, which is almost definitely of lower quality. Even Samnee's art felt "not as good" this time around, and it's not as if it EVER approaches disappointing.
Douglas: I think the past few issues have been cranking the tone up — the revelation of Ikari and the nearly-locked-in Bullseye at the end of last issue was a peak moment — and this one had nowhere to go from there but to see it out.
Evan: I loved this issue and it stood out to me as feeling satisfying, when so many endings for big story arcs haven't felt that way.
Graeme: Story arcs in general or in Daredevil, Evan? Because I think Waid's been good at sticking the landing throughout on this series.
Evan: In general.
Douglas: But yeah, one of the things I have liked so much about the Waid-era Daredevil is that nearly every issue expands the series' horizons and possibilities, and this one, of necessity, had to cut off a few. It's not like I'm not itching to read the next one, though.
Evan: Waid's work homes in on one of the realities of writing superhero comics in 2013.
Graeme: Yeah, even being disappointed in this - which really does feel selfish - I am eagerly awaiting the next issue.
Evan: which is that there's a element of... recursive syncretism? to a creator's stewardship.
Graeme: You're going to have to unpack that for me, Evan.
Evan: You go back over what's been done before and figure out a way to synthesize it into something simultaneously new and familiar. There's a bit of Stan Lee, Gene Colan, even Frank Miller in this run, but he's taken those tonal elements and reconfigured proportions.
Douglas: I don't know that that really applies to Hawkeye, though. Or Young Avengers.
Evan: Agreed. I shouldn't say that everyone does it or needs to but it makes Daredevil stand out for me.
Douglas: I do think it applies much more to Fraction's Fantastic Four/FF, which are very deliberate attempts to find another new path into the Lee/Kirby FF canon — and I'm not sure there's a new path left there.
Graeme: I think both Hawkeye and YA are very aware of their contexts and histories, even if it's genre history in the case of YA instead of character history, Douglas. But that might just be me...?
Evan: Good point, Graeme
Graeme: I think Fraction's F4/FF have been very deliberate attempts to do what Evan's describing (Especially FF's remixing of the Lee/Kirby originals), but not entirely successful.
Douglas: True, but I don't think either of them lean too hard on familiarity. (That was in reference to Hawkeye/YA)
Graeme: I think Hawkeye is a reaction TO the stylistic/tonal history of the character, so a response but in the different direction.
Evan: Oh, absolutely
Douglas: Did we have any feelings about the end of Age of Ultron and/or AoU #10AI? "Feelings"!!
Evan: Oh, yeah. Age of Ultron felt like it just ended. Like the words and pictures just stopped.
Graeme: I had "feelings," alright. Wait, does alternating weeping and laughing count as a feeling?
Graeme: Age of Ultron's ending was, fittingly, out of nowhere like the rest of the series.
Douglas: I found the end of Age of Ultron incredibly frustrating–fumbling with and then hitting the cosmic reset button, and tacking on teasers for three more events, is not any kind of dramatic resolution.
Graeme: The big reveals in the epilogues were laughably weightless, I thought, especially the three pages of Angela.
Douglas: Yes. "And we care because...?"
Graeme: Age of Ultron as a whole felt like Bendis had an idea he was continually failing to articulate, and getting distracted from.
Evan: Yeah, those beginning issues were so great
Graeme: "So, I'm gonna tell a story about time travel, no wait, let's spend half the series in a time that won't exist and then, wait, what if there's an alternate reality and, hang on, everyone likes dragons, wait" and so on.
Douglas: It's not like Marvel doesn't know how to do events that can push parts of the line in a new direction — AvX actually did that pretty nicely. But this produced very little of value.
Evan: It felt like it was going to be more character-focused but then veered into all this bombast.
Graeme: AoU felt like a contractual obligation instead of a story. "Oh, hey, we have these five issues of Bryan Hitch art..."
Douglas: (In AoU itself, I thought the scene of the two Wolverines working out which one of them is going to kill the other was kind of fantastic; outside AoU proper, I loved the two tie-in issues of Avengers Assemble.)
Graeme: Agreed on Avengers Assemble tie-ins, Douglas. Best part of the whole thing.
Evan: There was a good Fantastic Four one, too.
Douglas: You probably got many more of the jokes in the second one than I did (even with the annotations), but yes — really really really well-done.
Graeme: Al Ewing doing Mighty Avengers is easily the best mainstream comics news I've seen in a long time.
Evan: I'm hopeful even though that's spinning out of another big event.Piggybacking on your point Douglas, it feels like these events are fine when they have impact.
Graeme: I think impact is often the point of these events, and this one was clearly meant to have some with the "time is broken" epilogues. It's just that that idea feels entirely disconnected from the rest of the series.