Mark, being more proactive this weekend than I, takes the lead this week. I only actually bought one comic (in addition to a swish box to keep my burgeoning collection in) and I have chipped in where necessary.
May 15th 2013
Iron Man #10, Kieron Gillen, Dale Eaglesham, Marvel (Mark)
“The Secret Origin of Tony Stark” kicks off proper after last issue’s prologue, which saw the space-faring Stark on the hunt for a genocidal robot named 451 but betrayed at the last moment by his supposed partner and control of his armour wrested from him, only to be forced to watch a filmed message from Tony’s father, Howard. We pick up shortly after that film has ended, leaving Tony in a state of disbelief at the actions his mother and father took, and the bulk of the issue is a flashback to daddy Stark’s days trying to find a way for his and his wife Maria’s unborn son to come to term, a process made difficult by an undefined affliction.
What follows is a snapshot tour of Marvel’s many scientists and magic users who can’t help but eventually lead him to the aforementioned 451…who’s imprisoned in a Vegas casino run by little grey men. So, naturally, Howard has to gather a team of blasts from Marvel’s past to Danny Ocean his way in (something of a recurring trope in Marvel comics of late…), and while it’s nice to see Johnny Woo and Dum-Dum Dugan every once in a while the whole episode feels a bit ephemeral – though much more entertaining than Hickman’s recent folly, certainly. Gillen’s flair for witty dialogue and economical characterisation (“Just pay me enough to keep me in dog food and gin,” for example, says all I need to know about Howard’s demolitions expert) carry the scenes that feel a little lacking, though honestly there aren’t really that many, mainly due to the constant forward momentum he brings and the elegant, expressive linework of Dale Eaglesham, who actually brought me back to this series after Greg Land drove me away back at issue #1. Suffice it to say that there’s enough in this story to keep me coming back next month.
The Dream Merchant #1, Nathan Edmonson, Konstantin Novosadov, Image (Mark)
…Whereas in this new series from Image there’s not nearly enough in an entire double-sized issue to interest me in repeat business, unfortunately. A mildly interesting premise – a young man visits a strange world in his dreams and becomes unable to differentiate between them and reality, resulting in his committal to a psychiatric hospital – gives way to a drawn-out, ill-paced and obtuse book that fails to excite even when hooded figures chase our hero and a hospital-cook-cum-accomplice and they’re forced to go on the lam. The “dream merchant” of the title makes an appearance late in the issue, but little is revealed about his true purpose and, to be frank, I’m not all that interested in finding out what that is.
I’m sure there’s an interesting backstory to some of this, but the writing from Edmonson just didn’t compel me, with a lot of clumsy dialogue leading to unnecessary exposition and attempted characterisation taking far too many pages to make a character barely relatable when we could be getting on with the story. The issue’s at its best near the beginning when it’s in flashback mode, giving us a snapshots of the protagonist’s life and getting necessary information to us quickly and effectively, but artist Konstantin Novosadov’s style was much too sketchy for me to really be drawn into the world and his colour palette gives a samey murkiness to the pages that makes it hard to differentiate between panels, let alone tell what’s going on in wider shots. Not one I’ll be picking up again unless the trade gets great reviews, I’m afraid.
Jack: This is the only book I bought this week and honestly, I couldn’t disagree more with Mark. I thought it was wonderfully drawn –except for the way Novosadov draws noses head on. I loved the artwork, which really drew me into the book. Maybe that’s because the characters kind of look how I doodle people when I’m waiting for the dilapidated computer system we use at work to save larger files only 2,386 times better. I also especially liked the use of colour in the dream sequences.
Writing-wise I thought that The Dream Merchant offered a fairly measured account of mental illness and the tolls that has on those that suffer from it. Sure, we don’t know a whole lot about what’s going on but I was intrigued by this. The double sized issue felt like decent bang for your buck to me and I had no problem with the pacing. I’d go as far as to say I was actively thinking how much I liked where it was going and at an appropriate speed. As a limited series, I feel satisfied that we’re going to get a decent story in six issues. I liked both of the main characters and I think Edmonson has done a lot with very little to suggest the complexities of their relationship. The only real criticism I do have is for Image themselves, who described the book as a sci-fi on their site, which on the evidence of this book seems inappropriate. It’s much closer to a fantastical, magic-realism type thing, which I was pretty happy with.
FF #7, Matt Fraction, Michael Allred, Marvel (Mark)
Now, I know I probably seem like a bit of a Fraction groupie from these reviews, but the guy just keeps knocking them out of the park. I’ve already written about his Fantastic Four, and FF is great for a lot of the same reasons – chief among them being an understanding of the characters as real (enough) people and allowing each their moments to shine – but issue #7 really excels at demonstrating both the playfulness and pathos that makes it something special.
Having been transported – along with the entire Baxter Building – to the Negative Zone by the new Frightful Four (which includes a mind-controlled FF member Medusa among their number), so that clone-of-a-super-villain Bentley-23 (it’s a long story, but it doesn’t really matter) the FF decide to take the fight to their attackers. And that means ALL of the Future Foundation, including the children they’ve had to take under their wing. As Onome, a young girl, points to current Ant-Man Scott Lang, shouldn’t he be worried about them getting hurt or even dying?
But that’s where the book really steps up: he knows all too well that there’s every chance they’ll get hurt and join his daughter Cassie on the other side, but tells his charges that the world’s not going to get any safer just because they are. The ethos of the book and Scott’s struggle to look after these children are gorgeously rendered by the Allreds, who can flip from wacky to heart-achey in a moment. That pretty much sums up what’s great about FF for me.
Well, that and lines like, “Holy cats! It worked!”