Last week saw some major movement on the Blackest Night front and some really sweet moments over in the Marvel Universe.
Here are some of the highlights.
Click on the thumbnails for a full-page excerpt.
First of all, I've got to admit that Ian Churchill's "Dick Tracy"-style illustrations for this storyline have really grown on me. The cantilevered cheekbones... the gritted teeth... the squity eyes... they all bugged the heck out of me at first, but after a while they really fit the storytelling nicely. And the two-page spread in which Red Hulk drags Red She-Hulk to the top of a New York skyscraper (with the Baxter Building nestled into the skyline) to threaten a confession out of her was breathtaking in its simple, direct linework and deft use of color. This is becoming one of the best-looking titles on the shelf.
Of course, the wily Red Shulk turns the tables on her captor and kicks him off the ledge, causing him to crash to the pavement below with such force that it actually manages to shake the Baxter Building (which is some feat because you just know
that Reed had some sort of unstable-molecule shock-absorber things installed in the foundation). It shakes the building so badly that is shakes the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing out of his bed!
Thing: Who? What? Where? When?
S'Okay. When I finds out who disturbed the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing's beauty sleep -- THERE'S GONNA BE HECK TO PAY!
The real charm here isn't the appropriately hammy dialogue. Once again, it's Ian's visuals. He presents the Thing's bed as a stainless steel, pop-riveted slab (what did you expect -- bedrock?
) and, of course, ubiquitous FF branding.
Y'know, the Fantastic Four is so well-branded, they must
have a full-time marketing guy who just goes around slapping those logos on everything that doesn't move fast enough. I mean, I love Evil Inc
, but I couldn't imagine slapping the logo on my bed, fer cryin' out loud. At some point, you leave work at the office, y'know...?
Speaking of the FF and comfort...
Fantastic Four #573
Don'tcha just love it when a transition writes itself?
In FF #573, the Thing and Human Torch (and the stowaway Richards kids) visit NuWorld, an extra-dimensional, pre-fab Earth created by Ted Castle and his wife (and Reed Richards' ex-lover) Alyssa Moy. Their plan is a little R&R. What they got was neither restful nor relaxing. It seems NuWorld's star has collapsed, forming a black hole, and time has stretched out (the past few weeks were eight years on NuWorld). And in that time, things have de-evolved quickly, with Alex Ultron and Lightwave placing much of the planet under martial law.
So, understandably, things have been pretty difficult for people like Ted Castle, who had come to appreciate his exile on NuWorld. So tough that a simple thing like a little boy's sandwich could deliver immense comfort.
Franklin Richards: You want a sandwich?
Castle: Thank you.
, it's the visual that carries the day. Castle doesn't simply bite into the sandwich -- he nestles it under his nose to breath in that yeasty aroma and tenderly samples a taste he clearly hasn't enjoyed in nearly a decade. It's an excellent interpretation by penciller Neal Edwards, and it delivers an emotional punch. And every parent looking in was vicariously proud of the toe-headed Richards boy for making the heartfelt offer in the first place.
House of Ideas, meet the House of Boingo
Amazing Spider-Man #613
storyline continues with Electro tightening his grip on New York City. As we discussed earlier
, this arc has brought Electro to an all-time high in his 45-year career. He succeeds in generating the cash flow needed to get the Mad Thinker to help him gain control of his powers once more, but as the Thinker's gene-splicer does its job, Spidey crashes the party and brings the process to an abrupt end. Web Head's intervention, it seems, makes Electro even more
Mad Thinker: ...Good Lord, Spider-Man's interference has turned Dillon into a living thunderbolt! Uncontrollable! Unbeatable! I believe out work here is done, Annie.
Electro (bathed in arcs of electricity): GHUHGGGHUH.
Spider-Man: What did you say?
"Ghuhgggghuh?" The sound Homer Simpson makes when he thinks about food? That is the worst battle cry I have ever heard. Please tell me you're a little embarrassed.
Arkham? Nearly KILLED 'im!
Arkham Reborn #2
Well, the lunatics aren't in charge of the asylum (yet), but the real question is "who is
?" It sure ain't director Jeremiah Arkham. In fact, it seems to be his haunting assistant Alyce Skinner. With a little help from the Black Mask. In the first issue of the series, the two decide they don't like the way Jeremiah is running the new, revamped asylum, and they're going to usurp him, enacting the "Amadeus Code" -- named for Jeremiah's uncle (and former head of the Asylum) who patiently waited six months to get his revenge on an inmate who murdered the director's own wife and daughter.
Meanwhile, Alyce has an abundance of issues of her own, wrapping her hair in scarlet ribbons -- ostensibly with the "seven deadly sins" written on them. Lust is clearly on her mind -- as well as in her hair -- as she attempts to seduce ol' skullface.
Alyce: There was a boyfriend once who would have done anything for me. He would have died for me.
Black Mask: And where is this love of your life now?
Alyce: He died.
Care Bears Revisited
Blackest Night #5
It seems as the comments of myself
and others on the hokey nature of this whole multi-colored-lantern-corps-joining-to-fight-the-dark-forces-of-bad thing have gotten to writer Geoff Johns. He makes no fewer than three self-referential comments about it in the fifth issue of Blackest Night. Hal calls the team-up of chosen representatives of each corps the "Rainbow Rodeo" and the "color-coded calvary." But Star Sapphire gets it right on the nose.
Star Sapphire: I think I saw this on a Saturday morning cartoon.
If more Saturday-morning-cartoon characters dressed like Star Sapphire, I'd still be rolling out of bed at 7 a.m. and plodding downstairs with my Star Wars sleeping bag and a bowl of Cocoa Pebbles. But I digress.
Let's talk writing strategy for a moment here. When you're facing a group of fans who are disappointed with a story you're writing, the easiest way possible to wriggle out of the cross-hairs is to join
them. In making these comments, Johns is saying: "Hey, I think this is just as silly as you do." He becomes one of us. He allows our own disappointment with this storyline to air in the very pages of the comic he's writing.
It's an attempt to separate himself from the idea that he himself created.
Now I love me some Geoff Johns. The guy's a pro at the very top of his game. I have every confidence that he's got something eye-popping planned. Believe it or not, this "color-coded calvary" thing has serious potential. And if there's anybody who can pull it off, it's Johns. At its heart, this is a story about making enemies work as a team to defeat a common foe. That's good story-stuff right there.
But, so far, we've only seen a few panels of this group dynamic (in this issue and in Green Lantern #48
, to be fair). What we've seen way more of is gratuitous shots of familiar heroes and villains getting their hearts ripped out.
I'm hanging with Blackest Night
. I've spent too much money on it to pull out now. But I will not let Johns separate himself from his idea to put this Saturday Morning Rainbow Rodeo at the heart of the story. It's his. He did it.
Don't apologize for it -- make it work. We know you can. Apologies are beneath you.
Um... We're Standing Right Here...
Green Lantern #48
I'm going to ignore the repeated comparison of Larfleeze to Uncle Scrooge and Gonzo in this issue. It's very clear to me that, if the Orange Lantern resembles anyone, it's not Gonzo, but it's his fellow muppet Uncle Deadly
In issue #48, Sinestro shows the stuff that makes him one of the most captivating black-capes in the DCU. In an all-too rare scene that goes directly to the kind of story-telling I was referring to in the preceding paragraph, he brokers a deal with Larfleeze and the Red Lantern Atrocitus. He uses a well-phrased threat on Larfleeze and offers his Sinestro Corps to Atrocitius -- to join with the Red Lanterns to destroy the Green Lanterns.
Star Sapphire: Um. Hal's right here.
Green Lantern: He knows that, Carol.