I hope nobody thinks I forgot about them last week. I didn’t have a lot of books in my pull list last week, so I decided to wait and cover two weeks with one update. Brace yourselves, because things get a little rocky.
There are two Captain America books to talk about this week, but I’d gladly settle for just one decent one. Nick Spencer is writing both, and I’m sorry to say he’s doing an exceptionally poor job of it. Steve Rogers: Captain America #2 came out last week, so I’ll start there. We get a bit of an explanation behind Hydra-Cap AKA the revelation that Steve Rogers has been a Hydra agent all along. I blasted Spencer and Marvel for this when it dropped, and I take absolutely none of it back. Issue #2 is devoted to explaining away the twist, and its exactly what you’d expect, some Cosmic Cube nonsense, but even its execution, this is an objectively bad book. Spencer buries the issue in speech bubble after speech bubble dripping with exposition and clunky dialogue. In fact, let me illustrate my point by sharing a couple panels with you.
Here is Dr. Selvig explaining every single thing about every single thing.
And on the next page we have Red Skull
It’s fitting these panels appear as they do in the book, but Skull’s proclamation of boredom is completely separate, I assure you. It’s not some breaking of the fourth-wall, but he’s complaining about the meal his kitchen staff made. The arm in the panel belongs to a chef whom he murdered because he made a soup with a celery base. That’s not a joke. That’s actually what happened. Therein lies the other problem with Spencer’s writing. It lacks any nuance whatsoever.
Sam Wilson: Captain America #11 suffers from the same lack of approach. It’s another Civil War II tie-in, which I detest, but unlike last issue it doesn’t grind Sam’s story to as much of a halt. We do get some relation to the conflict with Americops, but it’s more of the same from Spencer. He’s overreaching for relevance, and it’s beginning to read like some angst-laden teenager’s anti-government blog. It’s not even that he’s wrong about any particular thing, it’s just that he’s not saying anything new, or in any interesting fashion. Nothing about this book says “Marvel Comics” to me. It’s more like a rejected Buzzfeed article.
Amazing Spider-man #15 was the lone exception for Marvel in my eyes. This has been a consistently solid title, and though I never invested all that much in Regent as a character, it managed to keep my attention. As long as it took this arc to build, Mary Jane coming to save the day in a handful of panels makes the story feel a little rushed. If there’s one thing I can really gig this arc on, it’s the pacing, but I think I value titles like ASM and Daredevil so much because they’re some of the only Marvel books I still recognize these days. The ending to this arc may have come a bit too easily, but I look forward to the next one, and that’s all any of us can expect when we follow a series.
On the DC side of things, it wasn’t all roses, just in case I’m sounding more and more biased. Justice League Rebirth #1 probably fell flattest for me on that side of the big two. It wasn’t a bad book, but it didn’t really offer much. We got a look at Clark and his family, which we’ve gotten from other books, a parallel story about the JL going on without a Superman, and a decision for the new (old?) Superman to throw in with them. Again, nothing wrong with any of that necessarily, but it’s just sort of a long-winded introduction. Aside from the writing, Henriques’ art was a bit inconsistent. I’ll go so far as to say some of his panels with the league fighting to save the infected were downright ugly. I’m not put off from picking up the series, but I’m not pumped for it, either.
Speaking of wonky art, that was my big gripe with Superman #2. Gleason’s art is never ugly, but it’s sometimes uneven. I was particularly thrown by some of his work with faces. In a couple panels, he gives Clark an almost Joker-like smile, and the characters lose their facial features more than once, even in what are meant to be static panels. The story itself was a little more of the same. We get a little character development, particularly with young Jonathan, and while it isn’t bad, I’m not that invested in the “Smith” family (Kent family in hiding). What saves the book is the ending. Here is where the Fortress of Solitude is broken into, and we get our first look at what the big threat is in this book. It sounds interesting enough, and I’m hopeful it will bring Superman back to being the focus of his own book. If nothing else, there was a definite sense of momentum building with this issue.
Lastly, Batman #2 delivered a solid issue. We got a little team-up with Gotham and Gotham Girl working alongside Bruce. The creative team still isn’t tipping their hand with the new heroes yet, but they’ve given us enough to keep the interest up. King’s writing here shows some of the subtlety that Nick Spencer’s (on the Marvel side of things) hopelessly lacks. We know Batman doesn’t trust the newcomers, but he doesn’t need to go on for page after page about it. He lets Alfred tell an anecdote about Bruce that highlights his suspicious nature, and he trusts us to know the character ourselves. That way, he can state the issue, move on, and let the story build instead of bogging us down with trying to sell us on something we already know, like that Red Skull is not a nice guy.
I’ll be at O Comic Con this weekend. If you’re in the area, come on out and support a growing young con. If you see me, say hello and we talk about comics, TV shows, movies, or why Yogi Bear wears a hat and tie, but no pants.