Action Comics #3
by Grant Morrison, Rags Morales, and Gene Ha
This comic is good, okay? Fast-paced, don't-let-it-catch-you-sleeping action, equally tricksy character development, some really nice artwork from a guy who not only knows anatomy, but is also good at camera placement and visual storytelling... It's a class act all the way around. And this issue also gives us a peek at life on Krypton, illuminated by the incomparable Gene Ha, including a cameo by Krypto. It's the best thing to come out of DC's New 52 by far, with nothing else even close to being in its league.
So. Action Comics. Grade A. Got it? We all in agreement? Good! Now that we've got the "review" part of this review out of the way, we can move on to more interesting things...
Three issues in, the larger plot is starting to really take shape. This issue, we discover that Clark Kent has a secret source, a "Deep Throat" if you will, feeding him information on corrupt businessman Glen Glenmorgan. Deep Throat has some pretty specific knowledge of the events of issue one, and he's egging Clark on to keep pushing against the man known as "Mr. Metropolis." It's clear at this point is that someone is manipulating the major players in Metropolis. But who?
Is it Lex Luthor, using Glenmorgan's desire to bury incriminating secrets to bankroll his delivery of Superman to General Lane, then setting Clark up to take Glenmorgan down with inside info? While simultaneously making a thus-far-ill-defined deal with the incoming Brainiac? It's certainly the kind of complicated, "playing all sides against the middle" super-genius plan Morrison might concoct for a character like Luthor. Even Clark's code word with Deep Throat feels like something Luthor might come up with: it's "Icarus," which indicates that Deep Throat thinks he's leading Our Hero to his doom by goading him into flying too close to the sun.
So Luthor seems a pretty good candidate to me. We're lacking any sort of motivation, of course, but the character's past history (which, admittedly, now no longer happened) would lead me to believe that taking down the current "Mr. Metropolis" and taking his place might be something Luthor would be interested in. I think he'd enjoy the power that the role of "millionaire industrialist with military ties" would bring him, don't you?
There's another player on the board here, though, and after a re-read of the series to date, I've become far more interested in him. I'm always wrong about things like this, of course, but still. Bear with me for a minute.
We know that Luthor knew about Glenmorgan's plan to blow up the bullet train, because he used it to deliver Superman to the military. There's also dialogue evidence indicating that Glenmorgan was involved in the plan to take Superman down. But that dialogue actually only indicates that Glenmorgan agreed to let the military herd Superman onto some properties he was anxious to get rid of anyway. We have no evidence that Luthor made any deal of any kind with Glenmorgan directly. In fact, we know that he didn't. That deal was actually made by an odd little man with spindly limbs and an over-sized head. They're calling him "Teetotal" over on the DC Boards (based on his refusal of a celebratory drink), and that's too great a name not to use until his real one's revealed.
Anyway. I'd been assuming that Teetotal was working for Luthor, but what if that's not the case? What if he's the one making the deals and doing the dirty work, with Luthor and Glenmorgan merely operating as clients to him? That makes him a much bigger player that I first thought, which in turn makes me wonder who the hell he really is. Well... So far in this opening arc, we've seen Luthor, Brainiac, and now Metallo. In the hierarchy of classic Superman villains, that really only leaves us two guys unaccounted for: Bizarro, who was really more nuisance than villain, and Mr. Mxyzptlk, who's typically depicted as... an odd little man with spindly limbs and an over-sized head...
Considering Morrison's perspective on higher-dimensional entities, that's a terrifying prospect. Much as I like the idea of Luthor being a big enough super-genius to plot out this web of deceit, I think I like the idea of Mxyzptlk as some kind of evil quadruple-crossing imp, sowing the seeds of change and chaos, like Superman's version of the Invisibles' Mr. Quimper, even more.
But, you know. Like I said. I'm always wrong.
Still, though. Good funnybook.
The Boys #60
by Garth Ennis and Russ Braun
So in this issue, the President gets his face ripped off by a little boy's pet wolverine, and the Homelander spots Queen Maeve playing with her bugs.
And if you've been following this book at all, you know what that means: the shit is now really and truly hitting the goddamn fan.
We're close to the endgame on this one, folks, and I couldn't be more excited.
Animal Man #3
by Jeff Lemire and Travel Foreman
You know how I said last month that I really wanted to love this book, and just didn't? That it was lacking some essential visceral quality that kept me from connecting with it?
Yeah, just forget I ever said that. That's page two, and trust me, it only gets more bizarre from there. As the threat level increases, so does the biological wrongness (and, in turn, the fictional RIGHTness). I spent most of this issue chuckling in disbelief at the horrors on display, and that's a very good thing indeed. So Jeff Lemire's won me over at last, and guaranteed Animal Man a spot on my reading list for a good while to come.
Swamp Thing #3
by Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette
This book, on the other hand, just keeps pissing me off. Sure, it's got a nice opening, a pitch-black little gag that pays off with the kind of horrific inevitability that Alan Moore once brought to the title. Or that he would have brought to it, if he was a more obvious and slightly less interesting writer.
That sounds more harsh than maybe it should. Snyder's tale of the boy in the plastic bubble isn't bad. It's just... not as good as the stuff Moore pulled off when he wrote his Swamp Thing story about damaged kids living in an institution. It's more rote, falls back more on stereotypes, and is just more predictable in general. Maybe that's not a fair comparison to make, but any Swamp Thing story that brings back Abby Arcane and takes place partially in a children's hospital kind of BEGS that comparison. And creepy as it is, I'm sorry. This thing doesn't hold a candle to that crazy-ass white monkey.
Of course, I'm predisposed not to like this issue anyway, because it introduces a concept that brings DC's mystical life-force cosmology a bit too close to Geoff Johns' Rainbow Lantern bullshit for my taste. Alan Moore (him again!) gave us The Green, the plant consciousness of the Earth, and somebody on one of the post-Morrison Animal Man runs gave us The Red, which is the same thing but for animals. Well, now Snyder's giving us The Black, which is the consciousness of rotting dead things, and I've got problems with this idea top to bottom.
First of all, being rotten and dead would seem to preclude the presence of any consciousness at all. Rot isn't any sort of animating force. It's the absence of such, and giving it any kind of animating uni-mind doesn't quite sit right with me. Snyder's also trying to sell the Arcane family as avatars of the Black, which bugs me on a thematic level if nothing else. Abby Arcane was the bride of the Swamp Thing, after all, and her uncle Anton was connected to biological mad science, actually creating life in his laboratory, and then gaining demonic powers of creation after his death. Nothing about them screams "ROT!" to me, so it feels like Snyder's trying to hammer a square peg into a round thematic hole.
But, whatever. Even accepting all that (which I will not do without one hell of a fight, I assure you), I simply cannot buy what Abby says about how she's been resisting the Black's influence: she's been living in the swamp, where the Black has no power. Yeah, because nothing EVER rots in a freaking swamp!
And this is where the idea just completely breaks down for me. Setting up rot as the enemy of plants doesn't make sense. It's rot, after all, that returns nutrients to the soil that the plants need to survive. Lots of things rot in the swamp, which is what makes it such a good place for plantlife to thrive. So while no living thing wants to rot and die, they have to for the next generation to live. Plants and rot aren't enemies so much as they're locked into symbiotic stalemate. One can't exist without the other, so any kind of fight between them is... kinda dumb.
But, hey. At least there was this page:
So this issue wasn't a total waste of my three bucks. Yanick Paquette's artwork in general, in fact, is very very nice. Still... I think Swamp Thing's off the pull list as of now. Maybe I'll go one-month-later digital with it. There's still some decent horror stuff here, and for two bucks I may be better-able to overlook the thematic weaknesses.
Sweet Tooth #27
by Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt
This second intriguing chapter of the story behind the plague brings Eskimo mysticism into the mix, and suddenly I don't think I'm reading the kind of story I thought I was. Neat.
Fear Itself 7.1: Captain America
by Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice
I can't discuss this issue without giving away the plot, so...
[SPOILER] Whatever emotional resonance Bucky's death brought to Fear Itself is completely undermined this issue, as we find out that he wasn't really dead after all.
Christ. Talk about not even letting the body get cold...
I won't say I feel cheated, exactly. There's no actual literary cheat going on. It just turns out he wasn't dead. It's played well, and there are valid in-story reasons his survival was kept from Captain America until the war against the Serpent was won. Plus, it keeps a very successful Marvel character going while still putting Steve Rogers back behind the shield. But, man. It really does rob Fear Itself of some of its power. And because of that, I think I'm just a bit... disappointed. It makes me not wanna come back for more, which I'm sure isn't the intended effect. [/SPOILER]
It's a well-done funnybook, in spite of all that. Both Brubaker and Guice are at the top of their game here. Guice, in particular, turns in a great job. He juxtaposes a stylish realism in the dramatic scenes with a Kirby-style cartoon energy whenever a fight breaks out. It shouldn't work, but it does. Marvelously. So the grade here is tough. Let's say...
Emotional Resonance: D