Hot Ink — Blackest Night #8, She-Hulk Sensational One-Shot, RASL #7
ComicsAlliance reviews the biggest, best, and most interesting comics that hit the shelves this week. SPOILERS FOLLOW.
DOWNPLAYING TURNING THIRTY - She-Hulk Sensational One-Shot
This year marks She-Hulk's thirtieth anniversary, which puts Marvel in a bit of a pickle because they'd like to celebrate it but Jennifer Walters doesn't actually have her own book at the moment. The solution? Bring in writers Peter David and Brian Reed and artists Jonboy Meyers and Iban Coello for a super-sized single issue. And there's a classic John Byrne story thrown in.
I'm torn about that one, to be honest. Certainly it's a story that lot of new readers have never seen and it does seem fitting to acknowledge the character's past here. On the other hand for an anniversary special issue I would have liked to have seen more than two new stories for the character, and just tacking an existing full issue onto the end of this one isn't as much fun as, for example, "Amazing Spider-Man" 600, which had several short stories from a variety of creators added in after the main section.
As for the other pieces, let's start with Peter David's. In the true spirit of recent She-Hulk books, David's story does more structural damage the fourth wall than an inebriated Godzilla does to the entirety of metropolitan Tokyo. The story employs the "Christmas Carol" parody structure to examine the character's previous incarnations and examine how often she's ended up forced to follow in the footsteps of her cousin. There are cameo appearances by Spider-Man, many of She-Hulk's former coworkers, adversaries and love interests, and also by Marvel's own Stan Lee and Dan Slott. The story's fun, although I'm not sure I'm entirely onboard with Meyers' more anime-influenced art style, if only because it feels weird to not have a more traditional depiction of the character in an anniversary issue.
Then there's Reed's story. It's not that it's bad, it's just that this piece, which involves Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk accidentally stumbling upon a Hydra operation that's been infiltrated by Spider-Woman. My problem with this one is that it feels more like either Ms. Marvel's or Spider-Woman's story than it does She-Hulk's, effectively relegating Jennifer to a guest star in the second of two original stories in her own special giant size anniversary issue. That said Reed writes interactions between the characters well, playing up the confusion between She-Hulk and Ms. Marvel to both comedic and action-packed payoffs.
I like She-Hulk as a character, and if you do then this is certainly a book you'll want to pick up. I still feel as though, aside from David's story, she got a little short-changed for her anniversary story. But with not as many opportunities to see the character have the spotlight in a book, I'll take stories like these when I can get them.
FOR THE DURATION OF THIS REVIEW I WILL TRY TO KEEP THE RED RING OFF. IT WILL NOT BE EASY - Blackest Night 8
Last week, in my review of "Green Lantern" #52, I talked about how the one pleasant surprise to come from the end of the "Blackest Night" was Sinestro, rather than Hal Jordan, becoming the White Lantern. I speculated that such a responsibility being placed on Sinestro had the potential to create an engaging interplay between the longtime villain and his rival Jordan, himself a man regularly troubled by efforts to make amends for blood that has been on his hands. At the same time I voiced a concern that, based on the event's track record so far, it seemed far too likely that Sinestro's time as a White Lantern would be brief, he would be replaced by Jordan, and the series would take the easy and dull way out.
So guess what happened this week.
"Blackest Night" #8 is a predictable end to a series that has consistently chosen cliches over more thoughtful story directions and favored impressive visuals over plot. This has been an event that has repeatedly offered a quick glimpse of what could be the beginning a clever thread only to instantly ignore it or worse yet replace it with characters making simple declarations of basic feelings that should be obvious through facial expressions before stopping for a multiple page-long laser light show. So it's only fitting that this is the manner in which it chooses to end.
Jordan takes the power of the white light, albeit temporarily, and brings a whole bunch of people back to life, creating a full corps of White Lanterns that sticks around just long enough to take out Nekron and then bring back to life all, or at least most, of the Black Lanterns created over the course of the series. So the net result of an event that was supposed to examine the ease between which superheroes switch between life and death is that a bunch of dead superheroes get a quick and easy fold-out page resurrection. In the past, superhero resurrections were something handled with care, each rebirth giving the opportunity to examine once more the importance of that character to the universe. Now it's being done in bulk. And why do some, like Hawk, Jade, Firestorm and Maxwell Lord come back to life while others, like Ralph and Sue Dibny, don't? That's answered later in the comic. The answer? "There's a bigger picture, one we'll eventually see . . ." In other words, the creative team on "Brightest Day" decided that these would be nice characters to come back and so they're the ones that did, and that's all the explanation you need.
Oh, and afterwards there's the promise, from Hal, that with Nekron gone "dead is dead from here on out." Really, major publisher in the comics industry? You really expect us to believe that one of your stock plotlines that's always brought in readership is something you're going to abandon just like that? Of course it isn't. Heroes are still going to come back to life, because killing superheroes sells books, until eventually some fans start to miss them and then bringing those heroes back sells books. What's more, that's a throwaway line at the end of the story. It didn't need to be there.
So what happened, after all that, over the course of "Blackest Night"? Nothing. Nothing important happened. Some people dressed up in color coded suits and shot matching rays and made statements like "It's not working" or "Shoot lasers together and it'll work then." But the characters as they are now are essentially the same characters they were when this whole mess started. We haven't really learned anything new about who these people are. No important themes have been examined. There was no thought provoking exploration of why superheroes seem to die and come back so often, only a terse "Uh, Nekron did it," with no further explanation of motivation or even an attempt to say how.
There wasn't even a real conclusion of anything, other than perhaps Nekron's destruction. There's no finality here, only a direct continuation into "Brightest Day." Oh, and then the DC creative staff found an easy way to bring back a bunch of dead heroes and villains they wanted to bring back without even attempting any real justification to expalin why. And it should go without saying that the characters who have been brought back to life are the same as they were before they died, too. If you went into a coma the day before "Blackest Night" started and awoke again today, all you'd need to be brought up to speed in the DC Universe is to be given a short list of who's not dead now. And if it's that easy to skip the entire event and read the
new one, then what was the point of reading it in the first place?
For all the mixed reaction to DC's last big event, "Final Crisis", at least it tried. It tried to be thought-provoking, and sometimes it was. It tried to tell a story that meant something, that had a set beginning and a set ending that could be appreciated on its own within the series. If "Blackest Night" is one of the markers of the end of the age of mega-crossover event comics, it isn't a triumphant conclusion. It's a sign that the well is dry and that we need to move on.
TESLA DID IT - RASL 7
If popular fiction is to be believed, then there aren't many mysterious historical events occurring between roughly 1880 and 1940 that genius, eccentric inventor-scientist Nikola Tesla was not in some way responsible for. At this point I'm thoroughly convinced that it was Tesla who caused the 1908 Tunguska Event, in which a massive explosion of unknown origins devastated a forest in Siberia. Sure "scientific" evidence may point to the contrary. But "Atomic Robo" said it was Tesla. The video game "Assassin's Creed 2" said it was Tesla. And now the seventh issue of "RASL" says it was Tesla. Should I really ask for more proof than that?
Really, it's quite an entertaining game. Pick a strange historical event of your choice. Then come up with the best explanation you can of how Tesla did it. For example:
1912 - The Titanic. Tesla's using his Wardenclyffe Tower (the same structure that blew up Tunguska) to secretly stay in communication with the grand cruise ship for its owners, the White Star Line. Unbeknownst to Tesla, however, the signal he's sending out is creating a powerful magnetic charge in the ship itself. So powerful that it's attracting small deposits of iron particles that have settled on nearby ice floes. Days later the world is faced with the tragedy of over a thousand deaths, compounded by the further tragedy decades later of James Cameron getting it into his head to make awful blockbuster movies. I forgive you, Nikola. I know you didn't mean it.
1918 - The Curse of the Bambino - Sure, the popular explanation for the Boston Red Sox going winless in the world series from 1918 until 2004 is the team's trade of Babe Ruth to the Yankees. The real reason? Tesla, of course. Tesla wanted to show his adopted city of New York a token of appreciation, and so in a display of civic pride he and a few assistants snuck into Fenway Park one cold December day in the winter of 1918. He infused the stadium with an undetectable electromagnetic field that sapped the energy out of anyone setting foot in it. As a result Boston's own players were always more affected over the course of a season than visiting players, hamstringing the Yankees' biggest rivals for nearly one hundred years until the field wore off. And don't even get me started on the theory that 1986 World Series goat Bill Buckner was actually Tesla himself, time traveling to the future for unrelated reasons and helping a New York team win while he was there.
Right, right, the comic. As you can plainly see, I actually do enjoy all the Tesla stuff. In all seriousness, Jeff Smith's series has done a good job transposing the life of the failed genius with the story of his own main character, whose experiences are just as full of others doubting his theories and standing in his way. The book feels slow at times, with events proceeding at a cautious pace and issues only released every few months. But whenever one comes out I do enjoy it. This week's story opens the window into RASL's past a little bit wider, showing the reader exactly how he lost his job researching scientific discoveries that followed in Tesla's footsteps. It also explains a little more about the mystery man who's been following him, explores the moral implications of knowing of the existence of multiple parallel universes, and sets a threatening deadline on RASL himself. I wish I could say that this one looks to be headed for a dramatic revelation next issue, but Smith has often been content to slowly feed bits of information and I don't see that suddenly changing. Still, there's enough here to keep me interested.