Astro City: A Visitor's Guide
Challengers of the Unknown #5
Ex Machina #5
Fallen Angel #16
Gotham Central #24
Old-school fans will love Astro City: A Visitor's Guide. There's an
8-page short story with lots of dropped names and allusions, a history
of the area, descriptions of locations, gorgeous character pinups by
outstanding talents, and even realistic fake ads.
Me, I thought it was overkill, especially at the price. But I'm not the
kind of reader who pores over Who's Whos and loves this kind of
background filling in. I don't care how the neighborhoods all fit
together or what references imply about events not yet explained. For
those who do, this is a lovely package with some beautiful art.
Geek time: The pinups reminded me that I wish we'd see more Winged
Victory stories. I'm intrigued by Nightingale and Sunbird, because I
remember those Kandor stories with Nightwing and Flamebird, and the girl
versions are cute. The Flying Fox looks an awfully lot like how the
Huntress was on Earth-2, while the Irregulars reminded me of Blood
Syndicate. That's part of the series' fun for me, playing "who inspired
Bloodhound #4 concludes the first story arc with a number of flashbacks
that fill in Clevenger's background. Like Fallen Angel, this comic
doesn't always hold readers' hands. You have to pay attention to
dialogue and image to know what's going on. That probably doesn't bode
well for an audience that mostly wants familiar characters doing the
same thing in comics that can be understood through text alone.
The villain tells the truth when he compares the title character to a
"mad dog" because of his "brutality problem". This is not a pretty
comic. It's got a lot of violence (which is why I'm surprised I like it
so much), but that's better suited to a violent world where the
unthinkable is now a matter of course.
If you're curious as to what Superman might look like if he were created
yesterday by a couple of city teenagers, check this out. It's a truly
modern take on heroism that doesn't pull its punches. Even after having
saved the day in an impossible situation, Clevenger's back where he
started. Being the good guy doesn't always get you much, but it's the
internal code of ethics that counts.
The plotline in Challengers of the Unknown #5 -- secret organization
with advanced technology ruling the world, manipulating the economy and
the public -- isn't anything new, but it's done with such style and
energy that I find it refreshing. Lots of allusions and media parodies
add to the humor, and the images drive the story with imagination. A
great read, but unfortunately too short.
Ex Machina #5 reminded me of the curse of sophomore albums. Sometimes
the first issue is so absolutely great that the rest of the storyline
winds up a letdown. Everyone turns out to have done the right thing just
because, and everyone's plans work out oh so cleverly, and the issue
winds up not so believable as a result. Brian K. Vaughan writes the best
first issues in the business, and I hope his endings come up to that
level sometime in the future.
When I finish an issue of Fallen Angel, I usually end up reading it
through again immediately, just to make sure I caught everything that
was going on (rarely) and understood the implications. #16 is no
different. We're continuing with a series of stories that fill in
background on some of the regular characters. I don't care much for this
Shadow Boxer guy, but it's a creative power, and the ending showdown
between him, Lee, and the Magistrate confirms a revelation previously
Peter David is known for his humor, but the comedy here is all black.
There's a lot of levels working, and the more the reader puts into the
book, the more rewarding she'll find it.
I made the mistake of reading the introductory text piece to Gotham
Central #24, because I thought it was a "story so far" update. It is,
technically, but since everything it covers is also discussed in this
issue, it made the whole thing flat for me. It felt like I already knew
all the twists.
Montoya's partner is in trouble after a shooting because of liars and
thieves. In order to recover a stolen piece of evidence that will clear
him, she winds up in a fistfight. I had a hard time believing that with
two broken ribs, she could take down a healthy sleaze, but ever since
the coming-out storyline, I've suspected she gets extra power from being
a writer's pet character. Realism is a tough line to walk, anyway, in a
book about cops in a superhero's city.
Johanna Draper Carlson
Reviews of Comics Worth Reading -- http://www.comicsworthreading.com
Blogging at http://www.comicsworthreading.com/blog/cwr.html