Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Comics: Stormwatch, issues #7-12

Four months ago, I did a brief write up on the first six issues of the new Stormwatch series launched in the wake of the DC New 52 initiative. Those issues were written by Paul Cornell, the guy behind Knight and Squire, the Batman and Robin arc Sum of Her Parts, the run of Action Comics which features Lex Luthor as a protagonist while he fucks a robot Lois (aka, Superman: The Black Ring), all of which were awesome.

But if Cornell smoothed the felt, racked the balls, then broke and sunk half the solids, the subsequent work has been largely continued with pogo sticks used as pool cues and half the balls hermaphroditically swapping their color patterns. By the time #12 slides across the line in preparation for #0[1], the score is 15 to X with each camouflage ball counting for half a parsec, depending on its quantum state.

It's not that I have no idea what's going on; it's that the book doesn't know and isn't paying attention.

"Jack! Hang on! Your appearances after this issue get pretty scarce! Milk your page count! 
Miiiiiiiiiiiilllllkkk your paaaaaaaaage count!"

Issues #7-8, The Gravity Miners, by Paul Jenkins
Take the Gravity Miners story; Gravity Miners are a high-density concept amongst lightweights, and yet they aren't that fantastic.  After all, if there's a particle that creates gravity, taking it might be an idea for beings from other universes. Of course, the story establishes a pattern for the series; make up magic villains, have them do magic things relevant to the conflict needed, then Jenny Quantum magics them away, where all that magic comes wrapped in a quantum physics technobabble equations.

The original dialog adds the following to the second panel:
Apollo: "mrmurph mr murmemm'my"
Jenny & J'onn: "We're not reversing the polarity!"

It's good though. While there's barely any Jack, Angie's defined by her isolation as leader, and J'onn's largely characterized by his mentoring of Jenny, I'm not one to complain that the series focuses on Apollo, Midnighter, and Jenny MacGuffin

My main bitch is that--despite expecting some hyperbolic language from the genre, the concept, and the trying-to-be-more-relevant-than-they-are team[2]--these hyperbolic things are not consistent. At various times, The Gravity Miners are going to obliterate, implode, absorb, disassemble, and make massless our entire universe OR galaxy. Now, you can assume that by taking all of our mass-causing subatomic particles into another dimension, the remainder of our universe--and all of the galaxies within it--would fall apart; disassembling and obliterating all of it. While that makes most of the consequences levied during this storyline work technically, it doesn't read well and it isn't consistent. It comes out sounding like Jenkins is making shit up (he is, but the first rule to faking is consistency).

Whoo! Batman! 

Issues #9-12 by Peter Milligan
Good things...

...things about these four comics...

...things...that are...good...

Okay. There are a lot of stories seeded here. We get a dispersed superweapon, Red Lanterns, a Devolver, some movement on the Harry Tanner plot, and a pretty good Engineer issue(which does not have any Batman in it). However, that's the first time we get an internal view of The Engineer since issue #4[3]. The Harry Tanner story moves forward only because Angie is portrayed (intentionally?) as such a fantastically bad leader.

...and that's the good stuff, there are bad jokes and flat lines of dialog that are as unnecessary as they are unfathomable in their context.

Yeah, why do something as primitive as telegraphing your punches when you can just make them a Facebook event?

Worse, there's almost nothing for Martian Midnighter to do until he leaves, Hawksmoor's only characterization is that roadmap background in his speech bubbles. With the exception of The Engineer getter her own issue, it's been like the Hawksmoor/Engineer/Martian Manhunter half of the team do nothing but exposit, tell terrible jokes, and get their asses saved by the Jenny/Apollo/Goddamn-Midnighter half.

No. You are not sorry, Jack. If you were sorry--and you should fucking be sorry--you would've left the book like J'onn did.

No! You didn't. At no point in the previous ten issues--and I fucking triple-checked--did you and The Engineer talk about her culinary tastes, dietary habits, or that one time she had a fucking twinkie right before going to bed! Never. Like, three pages before this we're shown that her guts are made of tubes! Tubes! People with vacuum tubes for guts probably don't eat much. I'll admit that jokes don't usually garner this much analysis, but there are two counterpoints to that: 1) If the joke makes no goddamn sense and you start exploring a context in which it might be funny only to discover that it makes even less sense, then you're allowed to bring that evidence to comedy court for consideration in the summary judgment. 2) This isn't a joke!

I'm disappointed. The high concept is high enough the the Midnighter quotient is only a bit on the high side, but I am disappointed with this mcmansion of a book. It features a good cast, strong metaplot, and satisfactory art, but the dialog and balance make me question how much attention is being paid to the details. I'm sure the story and some of the dead-end plot threads will go somewhere, but with the next issue being a stupid #0[1], "Origin of Stormwatch" bullshit, I am out.

I'm thinking of X-Factor as a replacement, but it depends on whether or not Jamie Madrox is still creep-fucking Layla.
[1] One of my most hated of comic conventions. It's not #0. It's #13. Quit dumbing.
[2] Another constant irritation, though it shouldn't really be counted against the comic.
[3] And even then, that wasn't much.

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