Friday, September 25, 2009
For me the top five stories were Strange Adventures, Flash, Kamandi, Deadman, and Supergirl. Yes, Supergirl. It took me a few weeks to get into her story, but once I accepted that it was aspiring to nothing more than a cute, all ages tale, I grew to like it more and more. As for the other four, they each told great stories and used the new format to their best advantage. The writers paced the stories well, giving us a reward for reading each week and the art made good use of the whole page and recognized the possibilities in the larger canvas. My only reservations with these stories is that I found Kamandi’s use of caption narration distancing. It took me out of the story. And Deadman spent a little too long in a bust up with the main villain early in the tale, but moved past it. Pope’s Strange Adventures got a lot of well deserved praise, but Flash, which was one of the more innovative in the bunch, deserved to have gotten a lot more.
The Middle Ground:
These four stories can be divided in half, with two stories that were okay, but didn’t appeal to me, and two stories that I think were interesting failures. The ones that didn’t appeal to me were Metal Men and The Demon and Catwoman. I can’t really fault Metal Men in terms of story or story structure or art, and it really seemed to reach out in many ways for the same tone Supergirl did, but I have never really been a fan of the group (never a detractor, just not a fan) and nothing in the story really drew me in. As for The Demon and Catwoman, too much Demon and not enough Catwoman. Actually, too much Morgan Le Fay. Some stories just don’t reach you.
The two interesting failures were Metamorpho and Wonder Woman. I wanted to like Metamorpho more than I did, but it didn’t make it easy. The problem was clearly demonstrated when Metamorpho and two other element characters are chasing each other through the element table. The names of the various elements are worked into the dialogue, but that proves difficult, so Gaiman has the characters start referring to them directly. Then, after a week of this joke not quite working, they bring it back and fail to make it work again. A lot of promise, but an so-so delivery. With Wonder Woman, I got the idea that Caldwell was trying everything he could think of, but it took him the length of the run to get a handle on the pacing and paneling. The story itself wasn’t that interesting, and was further weakened by being a dream - Were there consequences? Could Diana have simply woken up? - and by its muddy coloring.
Interestingly, the stories featuring the DCU’s so-called “Trinity” were amongst the weakest. Wonder Woman stands above Batman and Superman only for being a more interesting failure.
Whenever I watch Batman: The Animated Series with my 2 year old, and there is an extended scene with Bruce Wayne, I am treated to a constant chorus of ‘Where’s Batman? Where’s Batman?’ until he reappears. I started thinking the same thing myself when reading the Batman story. A too obvious murder mystery and not enough Batman. The last Batman story I read by Azzarello and Risso was Broken City (perhaps their only story) had great art and a so-so story. This time the art wasn’t enough to make up for the story. I just don’t think Azzarello’s noir-ish style is a good fit for Batman. And nobody liked the Superman story, and for good reason. A meandering story about an emo Superman? Arcudi has been doing such a great job with the BPRD lately, I guess he was due for a misfire.
As for the rest, Teen Titans featured a bland story, with indistinct art, that was too dully colored, and Green Lantern, Hawkman, and Sgt. Rock featured poor pacing, poor art or both. In Green Lantern, I liked the art, but we had three or four pages of story stretched out to fit twelve weeks. The stories were stretched too thin in the other tales too, but the art in Hawkman was terrible - with far too much use of the cut-and-paste feature of whatever art program Baker was using, and Kubert’s Sgt. Rock completely missed the point of the new format, offering nothing more than your standard six panel grid blown up in size.
I really hope to see more of this. The weakness of the format is that it doesn’t really lend itself to a collection. Well, some of the stories do, but you really couldn’t get away with shrinking others (such as Wonder Woman) down. But I do want to see more. Imagine giving someone like JH Williams III a monthly in this format! The potential is just too great to let it die now.