Greetings once again, Bully-fans! My little stuffed self is reporting from the road this week, back in the green and pleasant land of Seattle, Washington, where I helped John a lot in selling new Norton books to Amazon by leaping up and squeaking in excitement every time he told Mister Mulliner about some especially-keen new book. (My self-serving pick for fantastic photo gift book of the fall is the amazing and oversized America by the Yard, which features early Cirkut camera panorama photos, many reproduced in their original "yard-long" format that I got winded at just running from one end to the other! Seriously, if you want a photo book gift idea for this holiday, your dad, mom, or little stuffed bull will definitely love this.)
All sales rep work and no comic book play makes Bully a Dully, however, so of course there was time to hit Seattle's wonderful Zanadu Comics and pick up this week's books. I couldn't wait to read 'em on the plane like last time, so if you're wonderin' "were they fun?", well, just read on, true believer!
MARTIAN MANHUNTER #1: This comic is not fun. One of the comics I'd looked forward to following DC's Brave New World proved to be a big disappointment on the patented Bully fun-ness scale this week. I'm a big fan of J'onn J'onnz, but he's been handled in so many different waysnot necessary mishandled, but written inconsistentlythat's it's got to be harder to please the Manhunter's fans, but it can be done, most recently in last week's Justice League Unlimited #24. But removed from the League in his new series, J'onn seems talky and reactive (rather than active) and is trapped in a clichéd plot of government black ops agents and an "everything you know is wrong" twist on his origin as "Last Martian Alive." That's an approach that's been potentially tricky for DC's more iconic JLA heroes like Superman and Batman, so it seems a risky move for a more minor character. More to the point, what's missing here is the promise of fun and adventure in this new series: it's fairly incomprehensible if you didn't read the teaser chapter in Brave New World, and for a character that seems to have found his best ground in recent years as the JLA's "heart," it's a remarkably soulless and emotionless comic. J'onn isn't Spock, and I don't like he's written that way. Although Martian Manhunter #1 was my Pick Up One New Comic Title I Haven't Been Reading book for this week, I won't be around for the second issue.
FANTASTIC FOUR: FIRST FAMILY #6: This comic is fun. I sat in a Borders this afternoon and read the entire X-Men: Deadly Genesis graphic novel in one sitting. Yes, I have used a national bookstore chain as my personal library this afternoon! Why do I mention that while reviewing First Family? Because I want to argue that you can create an extensive continuity implant story that's different, entertaining, and yet doesn't violate the spirit of the original stories and characters it's being implanted into. I groaned at how Deadly Genesis served as a vehicle to "prove" that Professor X was all the time a manipulative mind-wiping controller covering up gruesome and tragic deaths and his own hand in the tragedy. I winced that the deus ex disaster setting Deadly Genesis in motion was a never-before-heard-of continuity implant Mary Sue character who was smarter, faster, stronger and better than the X-Men. I sighed when I turned the last page and realized it was all a set-up for the current year's worth of Shi’ar-focused X-Men stories. And I smiled when I put it back on the shelf and realized I didn't have to pay for having read it. My own questionable reading practices aside, I didn't at all like Deadly Genesis. But there's nothing wrong with the general concept of a continuity implant, because First Family is proof that you can do one that celebrates and honors the characters created by those before you, not pee all over them. (Ick.) Even though it's taking place concurrent with the first few issues of FF, First Family's final issue veers a good distance away from Jack-'n'-Stan's Fantastic Fourthere's a Grant Morrison psych-tech that feels utterly modernand yet that didn't bother me in the least because Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben are absolutely believable and their personalities and actions don't violate what has come before.
ESCAPIST #2: This comic is fun. I loves me the concept of the Escapist comic books: anthology adventure mixed with a fictional history of the comic books behind the character that's so earnest and loving that you have to call the whole concept fun and not just the books. To make another continuity implant comparison with a Marvel comic book, the recent "Sentry" storyline in New Avengers blurred the lines between reality and comic books in what seemed like more of an attempt to shoehorn a Thor-level superhero onto the Avengers than to celebrate the goofiness and charm of comic books. I'm sad to see the regular Escapist series has been cancelled (as confirmed in the pages of The Escapists) but if this is our even-temporary replacement, then I'm not going to complain. Brian K. Vaughan's story gives a new spin to the old chestnut of "what if an ordinary guy tried to be a superhero in our world," and the artwork of Jason Alexander (hey! I loved you in Seinfeld!) and Steve Rolston more than make up for my disappointment that Phillip Bond wasn't going to continue this serial. More than anything, the enthusiasm of Max, Case, and Denny mirror my own sense of wonder with superheroes and their mythology. If you haven't started picking up this series, don't wait for the trade, check it out now. The fun but subtle breaking of the fourth wall, the backwards switch between "cartoony" and "real-world" art, and the care and grace given to this concept not only make it the most fun comic of the week, but a comic that does the late great team of Kavalier and Clay proud.
52 WEEK 14: This comic is fun. After a few slumping weeks I'm pleased to see 52 is returning to some of the elements that intrigued me most about it: the darkening mystery and clues behind the scenes of Kahndaq, Steel, and the disappearing scientists. Sure, you probably need to suspend your disbelief higher than Pinocchio, especially in the scenes where Montoya and the Question seemingly just waltz into Kahndaq, but I'll definitely forgive that in an issue that gives us a heartbreaking scene of Dr. Will Magnus trying to resurrect one of his Metal Men (don't be too sad; there's a nice twist at the end), and where we start to see some of the dangling plotlines come together in a locked room mystery of the sort only the Elongated Man can solve. I'm okay with a few slow storylines of 52 as long as we get issues like this more often than not. If you're like me, you'll be grinning as wide as Doc Magnus by the end of this issue, coz I love a mystery, and this one's drawn me in like a siren.
SHE-HULK #10: This comic is fun. For the second issue in a long series of complaints, this time I have absolutely no problem with Greg Horn's cover on this book: a fun and campy movie-poster parody that's even complete with fake fold marks. No comic celebrates the diversity and goofy appeal of the Marvel Universe like Slott's She-Hulk, and even if you're just aboard for the cameos (Hellcat, Ruby Thursday, the Grey Gargoyle, and the #1 mailman of fiction, Willie Lumpkin), the storyline they're stirred into will capture your attention and sense of fun. Unlike a huge percentage of Marvel Universe comics, She-Hulk deftly juggles a half-dozen plots and finds space and logical progression for each of them, rewarding careful reading but never confusing the new or casual reader. I'm pleased to see that the Starfox rape trial storyline I didn't much care for in issue #7 is not over: I stand by my initial belief that it's a subject that jars horribly with the fun and light tone of this book (not to mention driving Google-searchers for the phrase "superheroine rape" to my site...seriously, ick), but Slott looks like he knows where he's going with this and he's definitely not done with the story, so I'm interested to see where it's heading. There's even more subplots thrown into the mix here: the mystery of Artie Zix takes a deadly turn and you've gotta love the return of seventies mainstay Man-Wolf! And, oh yeah, the best line of the week: "So I won't have to 'pull a Parker'?". Nobody wants to pull a Parker, I'm telling you, but if I gotta have a Civil War tie-in, this one's definitely the most fun!