All right. Time to clear up the intimidating backlog of comics.
- I’m really sick of Superman pastiche, so J. Michael Straczynski’s Supreme Power failed to impress me, despite it’s basic okayness. Its main twist is that the U.S. government found and raised a Superman-esque baby in a hyper-propagandized way to use as a weapon. Been there, done that.
- I’m really sick of Superman pastiche, but Robert Kirkman’s Invincible was pretty decent. Its main twist is that a Superman-esque character got married to a normal woman and had a kid, who’s just starting to find out his powers — it’s not really a Superman story, it’s a Superman’s son story. Like most superhero comics, it’s best when it’s focusing on the human side of things, and not the superhero side (there are exceptions to this rule, but this isn’t one of them); my main complaint is that there’s too much superhero and not enough civilian.
- In Ed Brubaker, Brian K. Vaughan, Steve Aylette, and Mark Schultz’s Tom Strong, Book Five , Alan Moore hands off the series to a bunch of different writers. The result: Tom Strong stories that feel pretty much like Moore’s own. Eerie.
- Dan Slott’s Great Lakes Avengers: GLA Misassembled is the jokey story of a highly unofficial Avengers branch set up in Milwaukee. It’s supposed to be funny, but it ends up not really managing it. The danger of telling stories about sad and pathetic characters is that it’s really easy for your story to end up just as pathetic, which is what happens to Slott here. Not worth reading.
- Kurt Busiek’s Superman: Secret Identity is a Superman story as told by Kurt Busiek in Astro City mode. The setup is almost painfully precious: A boy growing up in the normal world, named Clark Kent by parents with a bad sense of humor, is always teased about his name... and then one day, he develops powers just like Superman’s. Eye-rollingly implausible. But if you accept that and move on, it’s a pretty good story, focusing on Clark’s life as he grows up, gets married, has kids, and gets old. Busiek’s a great writer at his best; he’s not quite at his best here, but he’s good enough to make this story good enough to overcome the premise.
- Mike Carey and Mark Millar’s Ultimate Fantastic Four: Inhuman introduces the Inhumans to the Ultimate world, but it does so in a fairly perfunctory manner. It’s also filled with all sorts of winks and nods that will sit there not connecting with you if you don’t know a lot about the Inhumans. I know I missed a bunch of them. This is very much a “keep reading if you’re already reading, but don’t start just for this” kind of volume.
- I should have read Paul Jenkins’ Inhumans before the Fantastic Four book, because this is a solidly long mini-series dealing with the Inhumans in enough detail that I’d’ve caught the winks and nods. The overall plot of the book is that a bunch of humans have found the Inhumans’ secret city of Attilan, and are trying to invade, aided by certain elements within the city. It’s a bit lacking in tension (there are maybe about two pages when you actually think that the Inhumans are in any real danger), and there’s maybe too much portentous narration about Black Bolt; but fundamentally, it’s a pretty decent superhero story.
- Wil Pfeifer’s H.E.R.O.: Powers and Abilities is the story of a magical device that can turn people into superheroes, a different one each time it’s used. Neat concept, but the execution is bleak. All the people who find the device are losers, leading lives of loud desperation — and becoming heroes only makes their lives worse. Depressing, and not in any good way.
- Finally, Ed Brubaker’s Captain America: Winter Soldier . I bought this because I really liked Brubaker’s Sleeper and was hoping for something in the same mold. Not quite. This might well be a very good Captain America story, but I’ve never really liked Captain America, so can’t judge. If you’re not already a Captain America fan, don’t bother with this.