No, I’m not getting bored of these yet – so have another week’s worth of one-paragraph looks at Wot Seb Read This Week. Up this time, in a surprisingly enjoyable week, are X-Factor Forever, Joe the Barbarian, Superman 80-Page Giant, Siege and Green Lantern Corps…
X-Factor Forever #1
Despite never having followed Louise Simonson’s original X-Factor run, the simple factor (heh) of the presence of the “original” X-Men team was enough to get me interested in Marvel’s latest “alternate history” nostalgia fest. Luckily, the status quo and preceding events are handily explained before, during and after the issue itself, making it a breeze to catch up on; and there’s something quite appealing about the writing, very retro (all thought bubbles and masses of exposition) in that way that wouldn’t work for a “modern” comic, but works fine for a comic produced in the here and now but intended to feel like one from fifteen years or so ago. But it’s Dan Panosian’s art that proves a particular draw, with quite superb versions of the lead characters (Scott and Jean especially). Not earth-shattering, but quite engaging and enjoyable stuff.
Joe the Barbarian #3
It’s a credit to Morrison’s imagination that he can make a fantasy world – as in, a world that within the context of the story is, apparently, pure fantasy – so appealing and engaging; it calls to mind Barbie’s “skerry” from book five of Sandman, a feeling only enhanced by a set of characters (particularly the rat Jack) as memorable as the likes of Martin Tenbones and Wilkinson. And while the story still isn’t really going in unexpected directions, it remains quite superbly executed – the first cut back to the “real” world in this issue is jarringly brilliant, and there simply aren’t enough superlatives left for Sean Murphy’s art and Dave Stewart’s colours. While the latter confirms himself as a superstar in his field, this might just be the book that establishes the former as one as well. It’s easily the most beautiful comic on the stands at the moment.
Superman 80-Page Giant #1
An odd little assortment of apparently unconnected Superman short stories – I’m not sure whether there’s supposed to be a theme, or if it’s just a collection of tales and/or writer tryouts that didn’t really have a place elsewhere. As is to be expected, they’re patchy – Mike Raicht’s “Cold” and Kathryn Immonen’s “Patience-Centred Care” both seem to miss the mark in their treatment of the character, although the latter has in its favour that it’s at least a pretty funny slice of screwball comedy. Others, such as Ben McCool’s “Got Bugs?” and Rik Hoskin’s “Five Minutes”, are simply a little bland. Better are the ones that – as the best Superman short stories tend to – look at the character’s impact on ordinary people around him. Pat McCallum gives an entertaining look at the ordinary crook’s perception of assorted cities’ major heroes with “Why Metropolis?”, while Jason Hall’s “Superman is my Co-Pilot” isn’t exactly the most original in its examination of the idea of someone coming to place too much faith in Superman, but it’s well-executed and nails the character pretty well. Two very good shorts don’t exactly make this worth rushing out to pay six dollars for – but on the other hand, nothing in it is downright poor, and the art is pretty much uniformly strong. As a supporter of anthology books, I’d definitely like to see a bit more of this sort of experimentation.
In years to come, Siege #3 may be known as The Issue Of A Marvel Event Series In Which STUFF Actually Happened. Alright, that’s probably slightly facetious, but it’s nice at least to see an event book that sets up a clear end goal (in this case, the downfall of Osborn’s empire) and actually works towards making it happen (and yes, I’m still bitter about the fact that Secret Invasion teased victory for the invaders, and that Final Crisis was supposed to Change The DC Universe Forever (Again)!) So while it’s actually a fairly straightforward three-act action story – Osborn invades Asgard/heroes attack and lose to begin with/heroes eventually win – it’s not exactly unsatisfying to see all the beats play out as they should. Especially when it comes to ol’ Norman getting punched in the face by Spider-Man. Marvellous.
Green Lantern Corps #46
Speaking of Event Books that don’t do what they say on the tin… well, look. Despite going on far too long, Blackest Night hasn’t been half bad. But it’s also not really what it was originally supposed to be – it’s become, perhaps due to necessity or perhaps due to Geoff Johns’ wishes, a full-on DCU-wide crossover, when it was originally supposed to be the long-fabled day of reckoning for the Green Lanterns in particular. But if you do want that story, then thankfully, there’s a place to get it – in the pages of this title, which somehow manages to tell its own Blackest Night story, almost entirely unreliant on the context of the wider crossover. Simply put, this is the tale of the massed Corps protecting their planet, their lives and their loved ones from the biggest threat they’ve ever faced – and Tomasi and Gleason tell the story at that level, without referring to what the likes of zombie Batman and zombie Superman are up to, exceedingly well. Guy’s confrontation with Black Lantern Ice is better than a lot of similar scenes in the main series and spinoffs have been, and there’s even time to remind us of one of comics’ most notorious incidents ever without it coming off as completely terrible (even if you wonder just how necessary it is). The rest of it is simply strong, energetic, large-scale mass action. In space. That’s surprisingly clear to follow (kudos to Gleason). What more could you want from a Green Lantern event?