Wake Up, Wake Up It's Best of the Month: May 2010

Return of Bruce Wayne #1 & #2 by Grant Morrison, Chris Sprouse, and Frazier Irving.
Didn't really expect these to be as good as they are, but Morrison always finds ways of taking a "cool" idea and adding extra layers onto it. Here, the layer is Superman's squad time-hopping around, trying to stop Batman from coming back to the present, which. Issue #2 tackles it mostly and artist Frazier Irving draw Superman as thin and vaguely wimpy, which actually goes along well with the hyper-sincere tone Morrison's adopted for Superman since All Star Superman and Final Crisis.

The first issue is just paced perfectly. With not a lot of dialogue, the story moves along really quickly but somehow keeps you fixated on each and every panel too, like there's caves of meaning in every sequence. And it uses simple comics tricks, like weird colored skys and backgrounds to enhance the time travel element of the story, and make the world of the cavemen seem like it's forever on the verge of violence. Little tricks like reversing expectation and having Bruce Wayne's speech incomprehensible and not the cavemen is subtle and just good, smart comic book stuff.

Issue #2 pumps up the dialogue and almost lost me in the mix a couple of times, but as the issue pushes on it picks up steam. Things become more frenetic for both Superman and Bruce towards the end of the issue and Morrison/Irving do a good job of slowly modulating the pace as it goes on. Throwing in these hints of the Batman/DC history we all know, such as Bruce's familiarity with the cave and Annie's Wonder Woman connection are once again, fun comics nerd things but they also highlight the sad, fleeting connections that this dip through time allows.

Spider-Man Fever #2 by Brendan McCarthy.
A big improvement over the clunky first issue, this issue sheds most of the weak humor of the first issue and replaces it with more intense images that are spooky, bizarre, and even, strangely beautiful. The plot now revealed, McCarthy sinks his teeth into the meat of the story with Spider-Man and Dr. Strange on duel quests in a bizarre magical realm.

The story actually retells Spider-Man's origin as a magical event and not a science-based one--which is actually a pretty ballsy move, even out of continuity. It turns out the spider that bit him is part of the weird spider cult that has abducted him in this magical realm--or something--and he's creepily turning into a giant spider, kind of like the six-armed Spider-Man in the 90s cartoon.

Strange's and Spider-Man story go well together, each having to deal with the inhabitants of this odd territory and both making it work. Strange is obviously in his magical element, but Spider-Man feels oddly at home too, hanging out with spiders and the nomad/wanderer look really works with his character.

Wolverine #900 by Various.
The curiously numbered Wolverine #900 is just Wolverine doing what he does best: one shots. The issue is crammed with 104 pages and a bunch of solid, one-shot stories. There seems to be a never ending stream of sad ass Wolverine one-shots, and this issue dares you to get tired of them, but it's one of those things that only the most obsequious comics nerd gets mad about--too much of a good thing.

The stand out tale is by far the Wells/Rivera "Birthday Boy." Wells' Wolverine has a palpable inner sadness that's in lots of Wolverine stories but is sensitively done here. Wolverine's emotionally locked away, aware of his position in the world as a killer and maybe murderer and struggling with it. Basically, Wolverine gets Spider-Man to hang out with him because Spider-Man's a decent guy and sees the good in Wolverine, and he doesn't want to feel like a shit on this night.

Wolverine and Spider-Man are philosophical opposites--Spider-Man as a young naive "Good Guy" and Wolverine as a proud cynical hard-ass--and as the story progresses, you get glimpses of ways they meet in the middle. That's the emotional tension of the story, but the big reveal, the devastating detail that makes this story so great is Wolverine's last-page reveal as to why he convinced Spidey to come out and hang: It's his birthday.

It's borders on sentimentality, but Wells holds back and lets the reader wonder, and even sympathize with Spiderman's whining, until the end when Spiderman finally gets it and feels bad for giving Wolverine a hard time. Rivera's art is perfect as always, and helps add a bunch of little touches that give this story a subtlety and nuance that makes the entire issue worth the $5 price tag.

Free Comic Book Day:
Weathercraft and other Strange Tales by Jim Woodring.
I'm not a big fan of Woodring's Jim or Frank and things are even kinda similar in Weathercraft, but take out the words and replace cute characters with a weird piggy man and things work out pretty well. The plot is told remarkably well for being silent and the whole thing does a good job of focusing on the main character's spiritual-esque journey. The tale could easily be a scene out of the movie Holy Mountain or something, particularly the comic book transcendent ending in which Weathercraft's absorbed by the space around him. It has the same sort of uncomfortable power of Jodorowsky's film.

Iron Man/Thor by Matt Fraction and John Romita Jr.
Just a well characterized, drawn, and composed, team-up of two characters who spend a lot of time in each other's company but don't necessarily interact all that often. They always seem to be fighting and yelling and never just have a conversation. Similar to "Birthday Boy", here are two characters who are really different and nearly opposites just hanging out. Thor's old fashioned and his power comes from an inner strength, while Iron Man basically lives in the future and his power comes from his ability to be on the bleeding-edge of technology.

Although they clash in certain respects, they end up complimenting each other as a team. The story's subtext highlights Thor as a God which is often forgotten or just kinda accepted without comment in the comics. As Thor talks to Iron Man on the moon, Iron Man suddenly realizes that Thor is talking in space and how every once in a while Thor will just do something impossible like that--because he's a God and all. Like Iron Man 2's characterization of Stark/Iron Man, it breaks down his techno-futurist edge and reveals his knowing, child-like sense of wonder.

Others: Orc Stain #3, King City #8, Joe the Barbarian #5.

No comments: