Hot Ink Reviews– Old Man Logan Giant-Size #1, Detective Comics #857, No Hero #7
ComicsAlliance’s Chris Murphy reviews the biggest — and best — books coming out this week.
SOMETIMES PEOPLE DON’T LIKE THEIR REVENGE COLD — Wolverine: Old Man Logan Giant-Size #1
I would generally consider myself to be a fan of Mark Millar. I know there are people out there who aren’t that pleased with his work, who say that his comics feel too much like a summer blockbuster action film, or that they’re particularly unsubtle in getting across whatever message Millar happens to be pushing. And I’ll usually defend him, not rabidly, but I’ll politely point out that I usually enjoy the political elements he injects into his work, even if they’re not thought out to C-SPAN2 levels of depth, and I’ll say that I enjoy the fact that he places his heroes in difficult situations and forces them to make tough decisions that I’m not always going to agree with.
In the end that makes them feel more realistic and more likable, at least for me. But what I’m always quick to forget is that as much as I like Millar, I’m never that impressed by his endings. So I always get an unpleasant reminder of just how unsatisfying his resolutions tend to be whenever I reach the last issue or so of his story. Which is all my way of saying I was extremely disappointed by “Wolverine: Old Man Logan Giant-Size #1.”With Millar, I sometimes get the feeling that he sees things like character development, storytelling and dialogue as work that he has to do in order to earn the right to have fun at the end. Fun being, in his case, an issue long fight scene that ends his story. See his run on the “Ultimates,” where that final fight scene actually covered several issues. See “Civil War.” And now add “Old Man Logan” to the list.
Never mind that some of us actually enjoyed the story that got us here, actually liked the character moments we’d read with Logan and Hawkeye. There’s none of that to be found. Instead, we pick up from the end of the last issue, when Logan returned home to find his family dead at the hands of the Hulk gang and swore revenge. Given an extra long issue to resolve this story, Millar proceeds to write it in a manner something like this: “And on this page, Wolverine silently kills a guy in a different way than he did on the page before, and also in a different way than he will do on the following page.”
Interspersed are multiple jokes about rednecks, which were cheap and quickly became tiresome for me, and multiple jokes about how terrible Jim Belushi films are, which were cheap and I snickered at to the last. But aside from the fun I got out of Logan’s no-holds barred fight with a small, elderly, bespectacled Bruce Banner, I did not like any of the first twenty-six pages of the book.
I’m not saying it’s the worst story I’ve ever seen centering around a protagonist brutally killing an entire community of people as revenge for the loss of loved ones. But the only other example I can think of is Anakin Skywalker versus the Sand People in “Attack of the Clones.” And if you’re only beating out Hayden Christensen and George Lucas, well, that’s not really victory at all, is it?
So here’s me, a self-proclaimed Millar fan, a guy who’s not going to get tired of Wolverine stories no matter how many of them are released (yes, I’m the one, it’s all my fault, and I apologize for nothing), and someone who loved the series up to this point. And I’m really unimpressed with the final issue of Old Man Logan. I actually did enjoy the final five pages, when the story felt more like what I’d enjoyed up to this point. But it wasn’t enough to wash the taste of the rest of the issue out of my mouth.
I NEVER THOUGHT I’D SAY THIS, BUT BRUCE WAYNE CAN TAKE HIS TIME COMING BACK — Detective Comics #857
This is the best looking issue of the best looking book either of the big two is currently producing. And the story’s pretty good on top of that. Detective 857 wraps up the first story arc of Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III’s Batwoman series in Detective Comics. I have to say, I’m not the sort of reader who usually notices pictures before the words in my comics. I tend to focus on the story first, and then the art’s an afterthought. And Rucka’s writing is certainly good in this one, as it’s been in the last three. But the layout of each and every page is simply so beautifully done that I can’t help but single out Williams’ art as creating an experience unlike anything else I’m reading right now.
In particular there are three fight scenes in this issue, two double-page spreads and a third consisting of one page leading into a double-pager, that would each be good enough on their own to make me single this book out as one that needs to be seen. The first and third beautifully arrange action panels around a single centered image. The second of the three left me in awe, and that’s all I’ll say about it. And then I’ll once more urge you to go buy a copy of this book so you can hold the pages in your hand and see them for yourself.
To top that off, the story’s a good ending to the first arc. After spending time before this series as a damsel in distress and running into some difficulties in the first issues, Kate Kane’s now a hero who’s earned the bat-symbol on her chest. Everything she does in Detective 857 feels awesome on a level equal to Batman, an honor so high that science has yet to create a substance worthy enough to forge a medal to bestow on those who’ve earned it. Alice, the book’s villain, continues to be given the most wonderfully evil lines. And the issue ends with a good twist that’s going to provide more great storytelling opportunities to come. Either you already are aware of everything I just said, or you should be reading this book.
OKAY. HE’S NOT A NICE GUY. I GET IT — No Hero #7
When last we saw Joshua Carver, the protagonist of “No Hero,” he had ripped the spinal column out of the person who’d been, up to that point in the book, the closest thing he’d had to a friend, and then chosen to wear it as an impromptu phallus. This served to correct the fact that he’d lost his genitals in a horrific accident resulting from the medical treatment used to make him a superhero. Did I mention this is a Warren Ellis book, or had you already correctly made that guess?
Admittedly you might have thought this was a creation of Garth Ennis, the other writer from the British isles with a five letter long last name beginning with E who seems to put out a book a week from Avatar Press. But I doubt that many of you unfamiliar with No Hero heard that summary and assumed that Chris Ware was attempting a drastic new direction with his work.
As “No Hero” 7, the final issue in Ellis and Juan Jose Ryp’s miniseries, begins, Carver still has that spinal column in place, proud and erect in all its blood-dripping glory. It stays there for most of the issue. So, you know, if you like Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s “Kick-Ass,” if you enjoy its often violent, gritty take on what the realities of a world that encouraged vigilante crimefighting would be, but feel that its graphic depictions of violence are not disturbing enough, then you might want to give “No Hero” a look if you haven’t yet.
Me? Honestly, it’s not the imagery that’s left me less than thrilled with the series. It’s a little much, and the v
iolence is almost always horrific gore for the sake of showing horrific gore. But my problem is the book feels like twenty-five ounces of story poured into a five-ounce container. In some cases that sentence could be a compliment, but this time it’s not intended as one. Every single character and organization in the book feels as though they’ve got pages and pages worth of backstory that we never see, that’s only hinted at instead. And rather than making it feel like this is a well developed world with a rich pre-existing history that infused the events portrayed with an organic reality, in “No Hero” it’s presented in a way that feels like there are large chunks of story missing.
Arguments are made and facts are presented to justify actions that characters take, but far too often they feel like ideas pulled out of nowhere to either trigger a fight scene or simply sound cool and stall for time before someone else’s face gets punched off. If all this had been allowed to breathe into a twenty or thirty issue series instead of seven, I might have ended up very happy with the series. Instead I’m left with a bunch of admittedly thought-provoking ideas that don’t really go anywhere mixed liberally with gruesome violence.
I like a lot of Warren Ellis’ stuff, but he’s a prolific writer and what that sometimes means is that there’s not a consistent level of quality to everything he produces. Now that I’ve seen the conclusion of “No Hero,” I’d have to rank it toward the lower end of his works. Unless you’ve read just about everything else he’s already written, I wouldn’t recommend investing your time in this one. Just off the top of my head, I’d say now’s a good time to refresh yourself on “Planetary,” which includes some storylines examining what happens when people of questionable motivations gain superpowers (like “No Hero” does) and sees its 27th and final issue released October 7th after a long, long wait. “No Hero,” on the other hand is unfortunately going to be something I’ll probably quickly forget. Save, perhaps, for a few choice images that I’m going to be hoping don’t haunt my nightmares.
QUICK RECOMMENDATION FOR THIS WEEK – Fantastic Four 571
After noting how successful Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III have been in making me enjoy a character I’d been initially skeptical about, I should also point out that the second issue of Jonathan Hickman and Dale Eaglesham’s run on the Fantastic Four has turned the Marvel superhero team I used to routinely ignore into a must read title for me. Start getting this one if you haven’t yet.