Sean Maher's Quality Control

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Selling Out

I try to keep this an indie-focused blog for the most part. Everyone and their mother is already out there talking about Civil War already, right? One of the things I love about Fossen, for example, is all the coverage of books I don't hear about anywhere else. I try to do the same; helping spread the buzz for Mouse Guard, letting you know about awesome books like Fragile Prophet and Burying Sandwiches that I found at APE, beating the drum for modern indie classics like Elk's Run. That's generally a big part of My Thing.

But really, My Thing is what kicks ass. Quality Control: this unit examined and approved by Inspector #1, that sort of thing. If I'm writing about it, it's cause I love it and I think you might, too.

That's the general idea.

And this week was completely owned, from my vantage point, by big-name super-hero comics. A new issue of Lucifer is always good news, of course, but on the "oh, hey, here's something I really dig" front this week are The Incredible Hulk #94 and Ultimate Fantastic Four #29.

Until now, I've been waffling a little on the Planet Hulk event. I'm a huge Hulk fan from waaaaay back, but the character hasn't been what I loved in a long goddamn time. The four-issue prelude to Planet Hulk really left me cold. The opening two issues were pretty solid, but I began to worry - the concept, the pitch for the Planet Hulk story seemed like something I've seen a bunch of times before, and not necessarily something with its hooks in me. A slave becomes a gladiator becomes a revolutionary becomes the emperor of a kinder, more powerful empire than the one that enslaved him, right?

Well, whatever. Super-heroes largely need to do familiar things. The hook is in the execution. Both the writer and the artist are there to give us big, iconic moments for the heroes, and come up with chilling, fucked-up origins for the supporting characters and villains. Stuff that's fun to read.

And part three of the "Planet Hulk: Exile" story arc brings this in spades. The Hulk takes down a big-ass "precision deathfire bomb." His teammate protests, "It's too much. Even you can't--" and Hulk interrupts, "Of course I can." Slam dunk. Pak's striking a nice balance between the limitations of "Graahhh! Hulk MAD!" and the more vague incarnations the character has had in recent years.

Then we get one-page origin stories for the brood warrior and the rock-lookin'-dude on Hulk's slave-gladiator team. Both stories are awesome ideas, squeezed down into tight little one-page vignettes, making the issue feel really dense and worth reading in this format. It's even followed up with a really excellent distillation on the Hulk/Banner relationship, the words "Puny Banner" given some real meaning within the Hulk persona's outlook on life. This is the best issue of The Incredible Hulk that I've read in probably a decade.

With Marvel putting every series it publishes into trade format these days, creators are having to really up their game to make the singles worth buying, and there's a handful of 'em rising to the challenge. Brubaker's one of 'em. Greg Pak seems to be another.

And so is Mark Millar. I'm really enjoying the hyper-dense idea pitch style he's been using in his Ultimate Fantastic Four run, but I haven't quite been grooving with his characterization of Ben Grimm. I don't like a crying Ben Grimm. Tortured, lonely, tragic Ben Grimm, sure, but crying doesn't seem like his thing to me. Which is why this issue was such a fucking explosion of cool comic book badassery.

Ben Grimm single-handedly saves the world from certain doom by being his own heroic self and making a huge personal sacrifice.

Like I said further up: it's not a new idea. It's in the execution. And the execution here is really goddamn fun to read. The big moments are huge. Grimm says "It's clobberin' time!" right as the tide turns. Usual, expected moment, right? But I wanted to jump out of my fucking chair. The build up was amazing. The rest of the issue ties in earlier stuff with some wild plotting that kinda reminds me of Superman: Red Son. A lot of people think Mark Millar is the best writer of traditional, balls-out wild super-hero action on the scene right now, and issues like this one (easily the best of his run so far) go a long way towards convincing me that's true.


  • At 2:32 PM, Blogger Mark Fossen said…

    Going from Elk's Run to Mouse Guard to A Late Freeze to Planet Hulk and UFF ... that's what it's all about.

    I love comics ... all of 'em. You do, too. And many others. It's those that stick to one segment - be it indy or cape - that are the dinosaurs.

  • At 5:49 PM, Blogger Sean Maher said…

    I call you brother in arms, Mark Fossen. :)

  • At 6:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I can't believe you're not reading and writing about HAWKGIRL, LEGION, and WARLORD.

    Every once in a while I wish it was 1995 again so I could write some reviews without somebody crying on the cold tile in their bathroom about how LARRY! YOUNG! only liked the drawin's in their book and not the werd-cherces.

    Next time you're upstairs remind me to show you some acetate-covered copies of what comics blogs looked like back when we had to print them out on copy machines at work when no one was looking.


  • At 10:03 AM, Blogger Sean Maher said…

    Second time I've heard about LEGION in the last few days, and the first time I passed it off as shorthand for Legion of Super-Heroes (and Supergirl, I guess), which I've been reading since Graeme convinced me about a year ago.

    Am I wrong? LEGION ain't what I'm thinking?

  • At 10:07 AM, Blogger Sean Maher said…

    And come on: when has somebody crying on the bathroom floor over something you said ever bothered you, save that you're annoyed by the company of crying sissies? I've heard all about the Legendary Larry Young reviews but the only one I've ever read was about meeting the queen of Norway or something instead of reading the book. Bring it on back, now!

  • At 12:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The KING AND QUEEN of Norway!

    ...and I think the days I could get away with reviewing books are long gone.


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  • At 10:40 AM, Blogger Mo Soar said…

    Let's see, for April, my "non Big 2" favs were:

    Black Coat: Call to Arms #1 (Lichius/Cogan/Francavilla; APE Entertainment);
    Archenemies #1 (Melbourne/Guichet; Dark Horse);
    Lions and Tigers and Bears V2 #1 (Bullock/Lawrence; Image);
    Polly and the Pirates #5 (Ted Naifeh; Oni).

    Not making the cut: Portent (Image), Tron (yeah, yeah, okay), Past Lies GN (Image).

  • At 2:26 PM, Blogger zilla said…

    i'm w/ you on UFF's grimm... crying? the story and art in that book is pretty damn good though :)

  • At 2:26 PM, Blogger zilla said…

    ps i want more ultimate thor in my life.

  • At 6:31 PM, Blogger mmjiaxin said…

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