As the kids these days say, OMG. I have, like, this totally freakin’ huge backlog o’ books, and I’m all intimidated by it. OMG indeed. So, fuck it, let me just get to a partial round-up of graphic novels.
- Spider-Man: The Other: Evolve Or Die violates the Statute of Subtitle Limitations, and just as that other notorious offender, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life, it pays the penalty by kind of sucking. Which is to say, the book is okay and all, and it adequately fulfills my obsessive need for more Spider-Man, but it’s not actually good as such. I mean, the main plot here is that Spider-Man dies. Who, for one moment, believes that Spider-Man will stay dead more than five minutes? Nobody, that’s who. And, shockingly, he doesn’t. The writers strive hard to pull emotional punch from an event that’s obviously fake to everyone reading, and they don’t pull it off.
- A couple of Bendis “event” books, Secret War and House of M , are up next. The weird thing about Bendis is that he has certain characters he loves to death (all of whom are now in the Avengers), and he deploys them all — inappropriately, I’d say — in Secret War, in service of some lame-ass spy story. If it’s spy stories you’re after, stick with Queen and Country, because this doesn’t have much going for it. On the other hand, if it’s fancy alternate reality versions of Marvel characters you want, House of M is a pretty good bet; it’s better than Gaiman’s 1602, anyway. The story is both too slow and rushed, but it’s fundamentally decent enough. But man, I’m so sick of the Scarlet Witch as demi-god.
- Serenity: Those Left Behind is basically fanfic. Unobjectionable fanfic with, I gather, a certain amount of input from Joss himself, but fanfic. Do you read Star Wars tie-ins and Star Trek novels? If so, read this. If not, you can skip it.
- More Bendis! The New Avengers, vols. 2 and 3 continue the story of Bendis’ star-studded Avengers cast. The second volume got perilously close to excessive meta-ness, but stepped back from the brink at the last, and from there it’s been smooth sailing. If you read the first volume and liked it, keep reading.
- Orson Scott Card’s Ultimate Iron Man, vol. 1 is a superb reinvention of Iron Man. Card indulges his warrior-kids obsession with an origin/coming-of-age story that’s light years better than the regular book’s ‘Nam (or was it Korea? Ah, sliding timelines and the continuity havoc they wreak!) bit. This is genuinely well-done and innovative, though — like most of the Ultimate books — I can’t help but think that it works best for somebody who already loves the character being Ultimatized.
- J. Michael Straczynski’s Fantastic Four, vol. 1 tries to do for the FF what he did for Spider-Man: Re-tell the existing origin story in a way that casts new light on the heroes’ powers and decades of heroing, without feeling like a too-heavy retcon. As in his Spider-Man books, Straczynski manages the feat with aplomb, resulting in a tale that manages to add new dimensions to characters who’ve been around since before I was born. Impressive stuff.