The Comic Book Club: Soldier Zero and Vertigo Resurrected

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DOUGLAS: I’m with you there. Also, Javier Pina’s artwork this issue? Totally competent, totally generic. There is no excuse for that at this stage of the game. Looking at the other comics I picked up this week, Frazer Irving’s artwork in Batman & Robin #15 is deep and wild and distinctive, Chris Samnee is drawing the hell out of Marvel’s third-tier Thor series, Roger Langridge is drawing what has to be an incredibly tightly controlled licensed title, The Muppet Show, and giving it personal character and flair… And on the first issue of a new superhero series–the first issue of a new imprint–we get something this by-the-numbers?

GRAEME: Yeah, it all felt very generic. I got the Green Lantern bite, but it felt like Kyle Rayner Green Lantern, not even Hal Jordan – Very familiar, very done before. Cornell’s dialogue feels… off, I guess? It’s not the attempt at naturalistic dialogue, but it seems very “someone who doesn’t live in America’s attempt at American,” for want of a better way to put it, and made all of the characters immediately seem bland and unrealistic as a result (especially the conversation between the two women early in the issue, which was just surreally awkward). It’s a shame, considering it’s the start of a line that I have some interest in (I’m looking forward to Mark Waid’s time travel series in particular), but this was just dull.

(More on Techland: The Comic Book Club: “Love & Rockets” and “X-23”)

MIKE: I thought maybe at times I was enjoying this book, but now that I’m done, I think no, no I didn’t. I realize now it’s because it was half Avatar and half Green Lantern. Unfortunately, every time I see a character that springs from a wheelchair to suddenly have super powers I think of that joke of a TV series M.A.N.T.I.S., and that is not a good thing. I feel as though I can already see the first few story arcs in the series. He’s going to battle a pile of aliens sure but he’s also going to come to grips with his powers. He’s going to experiment with his new suit and make some strange discovery as to its origin or power source. He’s going to have a dramatic breakup with his new girlfriend because she can’t understand what it’s like being a disabled man who is secretly a cape. Then he’ll probably have to rescue her from some mustache twiddler. Blah, blah, blah, when do the 32 individual Stan Lee hockey books come out?

EVAN: Hey. HEY! Don’t talk trash about my M.A.N.T.I.S. Yes, the series sucked, but damn if that pilot wasn’t 10 kinds of awesome.

MIKE: So YOU were the one watching it? Well, I guess I watched my share of episodes as well.

Oh, and Douglas, forget about the fact that Stan’s name is on the cover twice: how about the interior credits page where he is listed, on his own line, as the Grand Poobah? Why not Comics Shaman or the Earl of Character Creation?

DOUGLAS: Well, it’s gotta be something. As I understand, he’s participating in this line in some capacity–maybe vetting things or making suggestions–but it’s not any of the standard roles.

(More on Techland: The Comic Book Club: “You’ll Never Know” and “Action Comics”)

Anyway: on to Vertigo Resurrected #1. The point of this one seems to be to publish “Shoot,” the story about school murders in America by Warren Ellis and Phil Jimenez, originally scheduled for Hellblazer #141 but unpublished until now (it was completed before Columbine, scheduled to appear shortly after it, and shelved when Ellis refused to make changes in it); it’s one of DC’s new $8, 100-page reprint books, filled out with one-off stories from various 1997-2000 anthology titles.

The reputation of “Shoot” has probably been enormously enhanced by its having been “banned”; it’s really not a particularly good story at all. Ellis sets up a mystery–how is it that this mysterious John Constantine fellow keeps turning up in pictures of schoolyard killings? And then he doesn’t resolve it–he just has Constantine come on and give a self-righteous lecture. (And I have to say: it’s not that school murders are off-limits, or aren’t a fertile subject for interesting art. I actually just read an absolutely fascinating novel, Adam Levin’s The Instructions, which is more or less about that–but its analysis is a good deal more inventive and thoughtful than “you know why kids kill kids? Because American kids are so miserable that they totally want to die.”) The interesting thing is that Jimenez is absolutely at the top of his form here–he’s got a story that’s mostly talking heads and still photos, and he stages it so well and so dramatically that it looks exciting all the way through.

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