Friday, January 29, 2010

Lost in the library #2 – Werthem was right!

Hulk vol 2: Red and Green
By Loeb, Adams and Cho

Reading other people’s reviews can alter the way you approach a comic book, in a way that isn’t always fair. There is no way anybody with the slightest bit of interest could read something like, say, Ultimatum, without being influenced a tidal wave of terrible reviews.

While the comic itself might not be as bad as this negativity suggests, it would still be sticking in the mind before the first page is opened. Chances are it’s going to be fucking rubbish anyway, but it’s hobbled from the start.

And sometimes the reviews can be truly deceptive. It was easy to put off reading the second Dark Knight series for a couple of years when everybody was sneering at it, and those low expectations made the eventual experience far richer than expected.

Sometimes when I read a review, I become convinced that it couldn’t be that bad. Surely.

The best example of this in recent times was J. Caleb Mozzocco’s brilliant takedown of the second Loeb Hulk trade at his Every Day Is Like Wednesday blog. Caleb is one of the best regular reviewers of superhero comics on the web, and his blog is the first place to read strong reviews of the latest super-releases every single week.

But the Hulk book couldn’t be as bad as Caleb made out. It couldn’t be as incoherent as he said. Maybe he missed some vital line of dialogue that explained why Bruce Banner goes from under lock and key to wandering around Vegas. It couldn’t be that bad. Could it?

Yeah, it could. Caleb was right - basic coherence goes out the window in this book. There are lines of dialogue, earth-changing events and entire scenes that make no sense at all.

It’s almost charming in its idiotic simplicity, the way characters drift on and out of the scenes, often with no explanation for what they’re even doing there in the first place.

But since this is a Jeph Loeb comic, charm is on the fritz, and the Hulk randomly changing colour – apparently because he just feels like it – isn’t much of a substitute.

But as Caleb also pointed out – it does have some gorgeous art, courtesy of the great Art Adams. Adams’ hyper-rendered artwork is always welcome, and the man’s grasp of body language and facial expressions is better than it has ever been.

It’s just a shame he’s given this nonsense to work with.

* * *

Green Arrow: The Archer’s Quest
By Meltzer and Hester

After the horrific seriousness of Identity Crisis, the vague fumbling of his JLA run and the massively irritating tendency of his characters to use secret identity names openly in front of psychopathic criminals, I really wasn’t expecting to enjoy Brad Meltzer’s first crack at superheroics.

So I was pretty fucking surprised when I genuinely did like The Archers Quest.

It doesn’t sound very appetising – a self-referential trip up the arse end of memory lane, lots of pointless nostalgic mooning over the good ol’ days – but turned out to be a surprisingly effective detour into Oliver Queen’s life.

It’s certainly helped by the art of Phil Hester, who can draw the hell out of a scene featuring a character sadly looking at an old photo, while also giving beasts like Solomon Grundy real weight and menace.

There is the roots of the clumsy super-mawkishness that dragged down Meltzer’s later super-work, and the ability to successfully pull off this story may have encouraged him to head in that direction, which is a shame. Because when Big Brad isn’t beating you over the head with the worthy stick, he actually has something interesting to say.

* * *

Skaar: Son of Hulk
By Pak and Garney

Some alien guys stab some other alien guys and then other aliens stand around jabbering about political and blood feuds that were probably all explained somewhere else and then a younger, grumpier version of the Hulk goes “Yaaa!” and some of the art is really nice (with an always welcome cameo from dirty ol’ Tim Truman) and some of the art is just the usual in the mighty modern Marvel manner of mediocrity and then the Silver Surfer shows up and it all ends and then they try to get people here to pay more than $60 for it.

Good luck with that, Marvel.

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