Are they serious with this?

Don’t know if you’ve heard yet, but I guess the Internet has decreed that a “backlash” against the work of Brian Michael Bendis is well underway, and that he’s somehow losing his creative sheen in recent months. An “interesting” theory to say the least, and one that’s addressed in detail this week, along with some impressions from the week’s hottest titles. Full head of steam after taking a column off, so let’s get started.


Warlock #1 (Greg Pak/Charlie Adlard)

Warlock is probably too smart to live. On paper, this looks like an incredibly tough sell, combining a relatively unknown writer with an underrated artist, on a character that I’m fairly confident the masses weren’t beating down the industry’s door to see return.

The J.H. Williams covers are attention grabbers, and Marvel has been heralding Pak as the “best writer that nobody’s heard of,” but when we’re talking Big Two releases, crowded marketplaces, and shrinking budgets, this title looks thrown to the proverbial wolves. Which is disappointing, because this is a smart, interesting book only one issue in.

The prospect of a broken future is something that will always strike a chord with me, and I don’t know if that’s my cynicism or my love of science fiction talking. Regardless, why Pak succeeds is because his title is set clearly outside Marvel Universe proper, and only takes a few lateral moves to establish its setting. It’s not hard to accept a world experiencing an ongoing war, rising tides, and a poisoned atmosphere, all at once.

It’s also quite believable to learn that a group of brilliant scientists are working tirelessly to save mankind, despite its obvious failings. Sliding the book into its own frame gives it a very transitory feel, as there is little to securely link it into Marvel’s ongoing publishing schemes, so it’ll just have to survive on its own creative merits, which is sometimes a frightening possibility.

But there’s a lot to enjoy here, from Janie Chin and her friend Danny, to the secret behind Beehive Productions, Pak navigates his characters and plot with clever dialogue, a little misdirection, and expressive artwork from Adlard. Here’s hoping it’s enough to keep Warlock around long enough to explore a truly progressive premise that positions this world’s first “superhero” toward the most obvious end point…that of savior.


Gotham Central #23 (Greg Rucka/Michael Lark/Stephen Gaudiano)

This War Games crossover can go to Hell, and usually I won’t condemn things that I’m actively not reading, but you know, forget it, War Games can go to hell. DC has made it remarkably easy to ignore the entire line of Bat books for a few months, and after making it incredibly obvious that this is being done primarily to juice the sales, the title most deserving of the extra attention, Gotham Central, is left out in the cold.

Now, this could be a creative choice, Rucka and Brubaker not wanting to get wrapped up in a terribly complex crossover, but if War Games isn’t benefiting the best title in the entire family of books, what’s really the point? This issue has enough of a connection to things to warrant a cover blurb at the very least, especially since this is a remarkable jumping on point, featuring two of the strongest characters in the book.

Detectives Montoya and Allen are chilling out at a local pizza joint, when they cross paths with a gang of armed gunmen storming a tenement building, and it isn’t long until the bullets start flying. But this isn’t your ordinary comic, ladies and gentlemen, because when these cops squeeze the trigger, they’ve got Internal Affairs up their ass, investigating the whole thing, soon as the smoke clears.

GC has made a habit of being an incredibly engaging read, with the characters, the plots, and the twists that great comics are made of. And surprise, surprise, Gotham Central #23 is a great comic, a perfect opportunity to get on board, and a bit of a wasted one on DC’s part, in regards to getting more people reading this book.


Fallen Angel #15 (Peter David/David Lopez/Fernando Blanco)

Now on the flip side, we have DC literally giving away free copies of this book’s first issue to spread the love, and based on the contents of #15, this is the perfect storyline to take all aspects of this book to the next level. And honestly, I almost gave up on this book in the first arc, because I felt that its sense of mystery was overpowering its storytelling, but thankfully, I stuck around and here we are, with one of the strongest monthly offerings from DC.

David has been setting up his board, and it doesn’t take much to realize that Fallen Angel is about to become incredibly explosive over the next few months, with the powers that be finally making a major move against the “angel.” We’ve been told for months that what happens within the borders of Bete Noire influences the rest of mankind, and finally, we’re granted a glimpse at just how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Sorry, sorry, couldn’t resist, but when reading this book, and being immersed in its claustrophobic surroundings, you form an idea of what the larger city actually looks like, its size and scale. Well, at the risk of venturing into spoiler territory, this entire story is SO much larger than David has led us to believe, and in only two pages, you feel it.

It’s also another opportunity for series artist David Lopez to really open it up, and his contributions should definitely not be overlooked, as he always finds the right angle to perfectly accentuate the mood David’s stories are calling for. He throws the shadows around, tilts the camera, nails the backgrounds, and manages to inject life into potentially static scenes and panels. Artistic consistency is hard to find, especially heading well into the year plus mark, and Lopez ensures that the book looks as good as it reads.

The first issue is free, this new storyline is hot, and you’re running out of excuses.


Jinxworld

So…apparently, the Internet is rebelling against the best selling stylings of Brian
Michael Bendis. The rhythmic dialogue, the attention paid to characterization, and the multiple industry awards, have begun to lose their luster in the fan’s eyes, and it’s only a matter of time before Bendis experiences a sizable fall from comic grace…allegedly. The writing is all over the message boards man, Bendis is wack, and things will never be the same again. Especially after he had the audacity to call DC Comics out for holding an immature grudge that was preventing the Big Two from getting some money together. I mean, just who the hell does he think he is, right? People are tired of his subpar output anyway.

Yeah…right. I’m going to dip into my index for just a minute, in search of an old friend, let’s see if I can find him. Okay…okay…no, that’s not far enough, it’s before that, damn where is it? Ah…ah, there we go. Three little words…

Haters be hating.

Apparently, Bendis has just become too big for people recently, and its sparking an Internet campaign, proclaiming his creative doom. If we’re going to use this little community as a place that engenders discussion, and as the staging point for pushing the industry forward, we have GOT to stop wasting webspace on stuff like this. There are too many positive moves being made out there, and too many books with struggling sales, to key in on something like this. It’s quite obvious that even if all of us rallied together and decided that Bendis wasn’t good anymore, and that no one should buy his books, the effect would be negligible at best. If you don’t enjoy what he’s doing on The Avengers, it does not constitute backlash. If you don’t like Mark Bagley drawing The Pulse, it does not constitute backlash. If you don’t agree with him killing off Ultimate Gwen Stacy, it does not constitute backlash. If you don’t like Powers…it does not…well, you get it. There is no backlash being leveled toward Bendis, it’s all smoke, mirrors, and The Avengers.

If Bendis hadn’t ripped The Vision in half, we’d be talking about something else entirely in this space. Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of the Avengers, and don’t feel a terribly strong connection to the characters, so I’ll admit that makes me a little more flexible in regards to what’s being done with this book, but come on. First off, we’re only two issues in, and I challenge anyone to explain just what is going down at this point. Second, any character that Bendis slaps, kills, or terribly maims will one day return to normal, or come back from the dead. This is comic books, people. Magneto is back already. The shiny dude from X-Men is breathing again. Someone will rebuild The Vision.

But you know, I’m reading all of Bendis’ current releases, and own probably 95 percent of everything he’s ever put out, so I’m going to let you in on why some people aren’t feelin’ this Avengers run thus far. And I’m going to use some of his other titles to illustrate the point.

Ultimate Spider-Man #65 just came out, and it deals with the emotional repercussions of Gwen’s death, pushing Peter’s teenage frustration to the forefront, and his inability to understand or change the bad things that happen to people. The Pulse #5 is the final battle with Norman Osborn, finally outed as the Green Goblin, and features violent outbursts from both Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, when they believe their child has been endangered. Powers #4 has Detective Walker frantically searching for his missing partner, who’s trapped in a dark room with a maniac she helped put in prison.

The common thread here is an incredible sense of character, so much so, that it clearly overshadows the main plot. With Peter Parker in detention, it’s easier to chew into his unique perspective on the world, especially when contrasted to other kids his age that don’t spend their afternoons fighting costumed villains. The possibility of losing a child is not something that everyone has directly experienced, but we can imagine having the same violent reaction that Luke Cage does. And we can feel the tension building as Christian Walker worries that something terrible has happened to his friend. Strong character work at play in all three of these titles, and thus far, the true missing link in Avengers.

Two chapters in, and the focus seems to rely much more heavily on the actual plot (the Avengers being decimated by an unknown adversary), with the spectacle and explosions taking center stage. Bendis has spent years writing and developing incredible characters, so I don’t buy that his approach to the Avengers stems from a lack of understanding of the concept or the characters. If he’s choosing to focus on the decidedly “chaotic” events driving the story forward, then so be it, because if he was following a playbook, and really bringing a character or two into primary focus, people would be complaining that nothing was happening in the book. I think he’s a writer with a strong enough track record that people shouldn’t be dismissing the stuff sight half seen. And say what you want about the New Avengers line-up, but it’s going to be pretty easy to milk some decent drama and character stuff out of a team that has Luke Cage and Spider-Man on it. He’s just started, Finch is turning in career defining work, and the story is obviously getting a reaction out of people.

But a Bendis “backlash?” Uh…I don’t think so.


That’s all for this week, folks. Back in seven.

B

 

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