Bottom of the Pile - Dec. 10th, 2014
Amazing Spider-Man Annual
Unintentionally or not, this issue showed me how people can dislike Peter Parker. He's supposed to be in charge of his own company, with dozens of employees that depend on him, and he can't even read a report? He spends the whole issue web-slinging about doing things that could've been done by the freaking police. Look at that last panel! He just looks like an impulsive man-child who can't sit still long enough to do his job. Jeez. Maybe Otto was superior.
Let's set aside the gorgeous Alex Ross cover. Set aside the fact that, after doing a story about a transgender villain-turned-hero, Kurt Busiek just decided he'd go ahead and give us one about a country girl who raised her family by herself and became a superhero after her father went to jail for being a bad guy. Those things, plus Brent Andersen's perfect artistic storytelling technique alone make this a worthwhile read for any comic book fan, whether you've been a fan of Astro City or not.
Instead, let's look at these two characters: Crackerjack, and Quarrel. This story could have been told in any number of superhero comics, but only Astro City could have given it the proper impact and gravitas. These two characters have been around since the early nineties--we saw them in the very first volume of Astro City. No, we haven't been apart of their adventures month in and month out like we are with Superman or Batman. But that's not how life works, is it? Sometimes it's years, or even decades, before we cross paths with a friend again. And since time in Astro City is usually day-and-date with real life, we visit these heroes not a few months later when they're still at their peak, but almost two decades later. The story resonates because it uses one of life's most evident truths; that we all eventually get old. Sometimes, even too old to do the things we love.
That's why Astro City remains my favorite comic book--every month Kurt does something unexpected with a genre that should have long told every story it had to tell, and he does it with a vigor and a sense of brightness that can only come from someone who loves superheroes.
I'm quite fond of Carol Danvers (a.k.a., Captain Marvel), so it's too bad she gets literally knocked out of the atmosphere by the Hulk a few pages later in this issue. Of course, that's what she gets for breaking the same rules Tony Stark and so many other people have broken--you don't fight the Hulk hand-to-hand. It never works, and yet someone always thinks of themselves as the exception.
Make no mistake--the creative team on Batgirl definitely made a wrong turn with the "twist" of this story. It was insensitive, and someone really should've caught that long before it went to print. And that's a shame, because this issue is otherwise pretty much up to standard. It's brilliantly directed from an artistic standard--Babs Tarr should work on as much superhero stuff as possible. With it's delightfully expressive sound effects, Batgirl seems to have found the colorful bits of Gotham that Adam West's Batman used to inhabit forty years ago, and I'm really hoping we get to spend more time in it.
....Seriously? The (considerable) amount of cool points this series has gotten since issue one are cut in half if the fucking Riddler is behind this. First Joker bitches the Justice League, now Riddler's some super-genius who's orchestrated a gigantic plan to bring Gotham to its knees and the Dark Knight along with it? The New 52 seems to have given all of Batman's villains major upgrades, I guess.
Earth 2: World's End
And, on Earth-2, Lois and Clark get to share a heartwarming moment together. Sadly, I don't think it will last. The "gimmick" of Earth-2 is that the Trinity of Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman are dead, so the other heroes are forced to step up. Sad, really. Earth-2 is technically the home of the "original" Superman--but apparently writers are incapable of telling stories about characters besides him and the original Bruce and Diana unless they're dead.
Guardians of the Galaxy Annual
Okay, for all the stories about Frank Cho and his talent for cheesecake, this annual has taught me he's an excellent emotional storyteller. There are a lot of hot artists who can't nail an emotional expression in a single panel like this. As a side note, I'm always impressed when someone from Marvel represents past continuity (because as mentioned in past columns, it usually only exists when it has to), even when it's just a small thing like the first panel there. Carol's been on a lot of Avengers teams, so it's only natural for her to feel nostalgic for them when she's thrown into some weird new situation with what's basically the superhero version of the cast of Farscape.
Also, if there's one thing from the movie I don't actually mind taking, it's making Groot the "heart" of the team. That works. Keep it.
Justice League United
Take note: When you do finally re-introduce The Legion to the DC Universe again, don't do it like this. That's like, ten characters who we barely know, and Timber Wolf's hinting that there's even more of them? They might as well be Strong Legion, Smart Legion, Black Legion, Bug Legion, Blonde Legion, etc. etc. etc. To be sure, there's nothing wrong with Jeff Lemire's story and I actually really appreciate him bringing back the team for even a couple issues, but if the inevitable relaunch handles it the same way, then you can safely set the "cancel clock" for twenty issues, give or take an event sales boost or two.
Is that how telepathy works? Can you really just think one thing and DO another, 'cause if so then telepaths got a whole lot weaker. Admittedly, it's not like it matters, since theoretically they should've just been able to shut his mind down. But then, under Chris Claremont's pen mutants always seemed a lot less overpowered than they were when written by other people. Claremont's Wolverine could only recover from some possibly fatal stab wounds and even that would max him out, while other guys had him survivng fucking nukes.
Anyway, Nightcrawler's canceled as of issue 12. Kind of sad too, because this is probably the only place you're going to get 80's/90's era superhero storytelling.
Man, you just know 60's Spider-Man wanted to say, "You're a negro!", but current-era S&P is like, "Nope, we're not going down that well!" Also, Drake Bell Spider-Man is probably the safest Spider-Man not from the Marvel Universe proper there is. He's got an ongoing cartoon--you can't actually kill him. If he dies, expect them all to come back via some last minute maguffin/plot device.
New 52 - Futures End
Can Father Time and "Fifty Sue" just be tossed into a room together so they can kill each other? I'm about done with overpowered, pain-in-the-ass adolescents.
It's been three issues, and I'm still pretty in love with the new Thor. My only complaint is that keeping her identity a secret is a poor idea, because it'll get spoiled before it's actually revealed. As far as this page, well...the old Thor is now "unworthy", but so far he's still been doing heroic acts. I guess Jason Aaron's finally decided to show us why the Odinson is no longer favored by the hammer, because so far the new Thor's done nothing to show she DOESN'T deserve it, so why ask her to give the hammer up?
I'm still two weeks behind (if you count this week), but I'll probably put up last week's tomorrow, and the second one by the weekend.
Author's Note: Bottom of the Pile is a weekly column (or at least, my attempt at said) in which I cover the comics that found their way to the bottom of my pile, thus being the best as I've always been a proponent of "saving the best for last". Since bog standard reviews can be found literally anywhere, coverage can range from mini-reviews to funny comments to commentary on a creator's run or comics as a whole, depending on a wide range of factors including the comic itself, the amount of time I have, and my general mood.