If you, dear reader, after reading the previous batch o’ comic reviews, are thinking to yourself, “Dude! Has there been a comic written that this guy doesn’t like?”, I’m pleased to say that you’re about to get your answer, as I’ve just read three books that I was disappointed by.
First — and worst — of the most recent spate is Mark Millar’s Ultimate X-Men, vol. 3 . This book was just bad, through and through. The art was awful, with characters who looked completely different from panel to panel, but who all pretty much looked like each other; the micro-writing was bad, with clumsy expository dialogue; and the plotting was absolutely terrible, with characters acting in totally out-of-character ways to advance the plot. The plot, incidentally, involves the X-Men being taken for bad guys and (thanks to plot-characterization like Captain America becoming a genocidal psychopath) fighting the Ultimates. Now, the mistaken battle between superheroes is a classic trope of the superhero genre; but it’s also a pretty cheesy trope, and since the Ultimate line is supposed to be all about the de-cheesing, it’s disheartening to see that plot done here as cheesily as it’s ever been done. I nearly put this book down before I finished it, and if I buy the next volume, it’ll only be because ongoing series have to get really, really bad before I quit reading them.
Much less bad was Alan Moore’s Tom Strong, Book Three . I’ve really enjoyed the first two volumes of Tom Strong, and objectively speaking, this one probably isn’t much worse than those. So why didn’t I like it as much? It’s possible that I was just in the wrong mood for it; that happens. But I think a good part of it is that Tom Strong is a bit of a novelty comic, with all its era-hopping and meta-references and such-like. And novelties, no matter how good they are, wear out their welcome quickly. Affectations that are initially charming eventually just become affected. This series is still in the “enjoyable” category (unlike Moore’s dreary Promethea), but not much more than that.
“Enjoyable” is a charitable description of Alan Moore’s America’s Best Comics , a little compilation of one-offs that shares its name with his publishing company. Basically, you get in this volume: 1) A decent-but-unspectacular Tom Strong story, and 2) an anthology of four-page stories featuring each of his recent character sets (Strong, Top 10, Promethea, and the various characters from Tomorrow Stories). It’s all fine, but very slight; I think I finished the book in a half hour. If somebody gives this to you, go ahead and read it; but I can’t recommend spending the money to buy it yourself, unless you’re a total Moore completist.