Every week I do a column full of comic book reviews as I've done since March 2003 and currently published at Comic Book Resources. Then, after the reviews post, I try to come over to Komplicated and expand on the thoughts and ideas listed there. Why talk about stuff at some other site? Oh, like you've never done any private projects when you're at work! Sometimes things get profound, sometimes it's gibberish, but it's always about comics … let's see what we get this week!
What? This week's reviews …
ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT WAS WARREN: The done-in-one is a tough comic concept to pull off, especially with today's diminishing page counts. However, when you have a talent as refined and as brilliant as Warren Ellis, well, things going well are almost expected. Using all the tricks he learned with experiments like Fell and Red (the original thriller comic, not the equally entertaining comedy movie), Ellis crafts a tale for Lark and his artistic associates to plow through with such unreserved glee … it's great. If you loved Global Frequency, you're probably wishing that Ellis' Secret Avengers run would never end. Sure, the man blocked me when I kept correcting him about the city of Fullerton not being a suburb of Los Angeles ("You really are a bit of a queen about LA, you know that? I think you're the guy who told me I was dissing 'a lot of good people' by being inspecific about certain settings in the first arc" — yes, I was the same person, but even when I sing Freddy Mercury I'd barely qualify as any kind of "queen") and sneered at me when he appeared at Golden Apple and I asked him what was up with the term "toerag." He's still a giant in terms of writing comic books and deserves the right to do almost anything he wants as even his failures are interesting.
Yes, I wanted more from the end of Freakangels. What of it?
HOW TO SURVIVE ON THE TOY AISLE: You have no idea how much I want to like Blackhawks.
I loved the original series — the planes, the multinational crew, the missions, all of it — and when I heard the new book was coming out, I was a little geeked for it. However, the book doesn't live up to the original (not fair? We'll address that) in a variety of ways. No central, charismatic leader to be a focal point for the series. Gone is the tight tension between disparate personalities trying to work together for a righteous mission. Remember the trademark visual design, that made every issue fit together like Legos? Forget about it.
Even on its own, this series borrows the DNA of G.I. Joe but none of its thoroughness, like Pat Boone singing a song from Little Richard. For example, there's a Russian special ops guy called "Irishman." He is, as you may have guessed, not Irish. Why is he called that? I don't remember. Why? Because the reason was tossed off in throwaway dialogue gone so fast that I didn't have time to think about it. None of the characters even have enough depth to be even two dimensional, single note soliloquys that leave less of an impression than a soft breeze on an ice sculpture. Also, by trying so hard to be Real American Heroes, the cast is too big for anybody to get a moment to shine. There were never more than seven Blackhawks in the original series, a number big enough to get complex dynamics and small enough to really let you get a grasp on each one. The JLA lives by this number, and the Avengers use it often. There's a reason for that.
Writer Mike Costa has done a lot of good G.I. Joe books in the last few years, but he doesn't see what made Larry Hama's team so good — it took a long time to become a big cast, and everybody grew as characters while the team expanded. Even Ghost Rider got an issue to himself. Hama wrote the file cards, he knew every character inside and out and pretty quickly, the reader did too.
Moreover, the mission is diluted. The antagonist here is too abstract, too amorphous and doesn't have enough character on its (avoid pronoun to avoid the spoiler) own to provide a shadow that would define the protagonists' light. The old Blackhawks fought the Axis. G.I. Joe fought creatively conceived Cobras. This? What's this fight even about?
Plain and simple, the team needs file cards. Also: a reference website that makes people think they hacked into a government server. That's the problem. They have a similar esprit de corps as the Joe team, but none of the merchandising or ancilliary information to help people get into the character. The idea that Anthony Gambello was working on a master's degree in electrical engineering at night which had to be with an assumed identity because the Joes were so far off the grid (they hadn't invented The University of Phoenix yet) … that's interesting. That Cobra officers were implanted as deep cover agents at nuclear facilities and defense plants … that's something that can hook into your mind. Outside of the very peripheral characterization of the Blackhawk team, the personalities of the very large cast are painted in strokes so broad as to be almost indistinguishable from the background. Moreover, one advantage the original Blackhawks had was very distinctive vehicles — the Grumman XF5F Skyrocket for example, flying in perfect formation with the bold logo easy to see — providing a distinctive visual appeal along the lines of the original Colonial Vipers. None of that here.
Without clear, robust and engaging characters, both this and Men At War suffer, hovering around "good enough" but never ditching enough of the baggage of mediocrity to ever ascend. Come on, Blackhawks. Learn to fly.
TOO GLAD TO GET MAD: Johnny Storm? Voodoo? A red herring kiss for Cyke and Storm? Fury of Firestorm, the Nuclear Voltron? Tanarus?????
The season is too wonderful to dwell on such huge, avoidable failures.
THAT'S THE NEWS, AND I AM OUTTA HERE: "Bye everybody!" "Bye, Doctor Nick!"
Playing (Music): "You Will Know" by Stevie Wonder
[Source: Comic Book Resources]