Saturday, March 03, 2007

Saturday Morning Reviews

Hey Gang!

Every week I'm going to post reviews of three books from my pull list. Hopefully I'll stick with this regularly, and who knows, I might even add another regular feature in the future!

It looks like Marvel, like Wilco, was trying to break my heart this week. And not in that, "Oh god, Civil War!" kind of way, either.

Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #15

In case you hadn't heard, Sean McKeever, the guy writing hands down the best Spidey book on the shelves every month, is now DC Comics exclusive. To channel Charlie Brown for a moment:


So we've got to get our teenage superhero melodrama while we can.

Speaking specifically to issue #15, this is the confrontation issue, where everyone has Talks (note: big "T") with everyone else. Peter and MJ, MJ and Liz, Liz and Gwen, MJ and Spidey, Peter and Gwen, it's a round robin of romantic strife. What keeps it from becoming "The O.C./Laguna Beach/Whateverthedamnkidsarewatchingthesedays With Webs," is that every single character rings true. All of their emotions feel genuine and make sense, and even when characters make bad choices, they're not to forward a story - the choices are made because that's what the character WOULD DO.

One last related bit of praise for this book - This is the first time I have even remotely cared for Gwen Stacey. The sacred cow (an unfortunately phrased metaphor, but the most fitting one), of the Spider-Man Universe, recent writers who've tried to tackle the character have either done something fairly dull (For all my Ultimate Spider-Man love, I never cared about Ultimate Gwen), or just... just... no.

But the Gwen in this book is seemingly care-free, and I can understand completely why someone with the weight of the world on their shoulders like Pete would fall for her, and through his eyes we begin to like her a lot, too.

Daredevil #94

By all accounts, this should have been my book of the week.

Ed Brubaker managed to pick up on the momentum from Brian Bendis' work, which I will contend is the single best run on a modern Superhero title to date, so he had to do the comics-writing equivalent of leaping into the driver's seat of a speeding car. So when he knocked things out of the park with the Daredevil In Jail story arc, I could not have been more thrilled. It's been a fairly steady steam of goodness since then. So when this issue came out with the very cool John Romita (JOHN ROMITA!) cover, focusing on one of my favorite new Daredevil characters, my expectations were high.

This issue focuses on Milla Donova, Matt's WIFE. If there was ever a super-hero who would be better off single, it would be "There goes another girlfriend!" Matt Murdock. But during the Bendis run, they introduced Milla. A blind woman from Hell's Kitchen who's managed to become a hero in her own right, without the help of a radioactive isotope. When she's introduced, she's a crusader for those who slip through the cracks in the kitchen, lobbying to clean up the neighborhood she loves so much. Sound familiar?

After Daredevil saves her life, she hunts Matt down and their relationship begins. She's essentially put through Hell, but what do you expect when you date a guy who dresses up like a devil, but they stay together in the end. This issue takes a look back at the events since they've met through Milla's eyes, and I expected to get more of this already very fleshed out character,.
Unfortunately, Brubaker takes this woman strong of will, strong enough to stay with Matt, but vulnerable because of her blindness, and boils her down to something kind of dull and cliche:

Milla Donovan is essentially a policeman's wife. She sits at home, wondering if she's going to get "the call" something bad's happened while Matt punches crooks.

You know what, that's dull. Milla's been through so much more, she's here with Matt, after BULLSEYE of all people had her alone in a room... and she's worried about him, she sits up crying every night while he goes out, and it's bland.

What's more, there's a complex attraction and chemistry between the characters that I read in the Bendis run - both of them blind crusaders, both of them full of vision for their neighborhoods and how they should be - but Brubaker does the character a further disservice by having Milla tell us that she's "always had a thing for guys who would be trouble." That her friends "warned her to stay away." The good girl who loves bad boys... it's an archetype that permeates a lot of science fiction (What's up, Lost?), which may or may not stem from writers who were "the nice guy" growing up, and there's a time and place for it, but Milla Donovan? I just disagree. Whole-heartedly.

X-Factor #16

Reader poll time!

When was the last time you actually CARED for Superman's heat vision?
How about the last comic you read where you REALLY worried for the fate of Mr. Fantastic's stretchiness?

When did a super-power actually get you choked up? For me, the answer is this comic.

The latest issue of X-Factor follows Jamie as he goes around to collect another of the duplicates he's made of himself and sent out to learn the ways of the world. He's already had to deal with the aftermath of having one end up a S.H.E.I.L.D. agent, so this time he means business. But surprised yet again, this duplicate is a Reverend. With a family.

The dupe bolts and Jamie is left learning about the life he could of had, the life he more or less DOES have, and the reader goes right with him. Jamie feels for this dupe, this man of god and family, but has to take him with him anyway - even though no one wants him to. The characters debate the right to exist, weapons are drawn, and eventually a decision is made. It's really a great read.

It's also extremely rare that it's a good thing that writing draws attention to itself. Hopefully the reader should be so absorbed by character and story that the writing disappears (unless you're Grant Morrison, in which case you write yourself into the story). By making John Maddox a Reverend, Peter David gets a chance to shine through sermons, to play with words, and to examine exactly the nature of Jamie's relationship with his dupes. It was really a pleasure to read all around, and as such -

So that's it for me this week, Gentle Readers. Let me know if there's anything you read that was excellent that I missed, or if you've got something to say, just hit the comment button!
Till next week!


1 comment:

Lily said...

x-factor was so heartbreakingly GOOD this week.