Thursday, February 26, 2009

Reviews: A messy end for Blue Beetle

Things have been busy at work the last few days, which is why posting has slowed to a crawl lately (NOT THAT I BLOG FROM WORK). Hell, I haven't even been able to read all of the comics I got this week. I have managed to squeeze in a few though, so here are a few quick thoughts on some of this week's books:

Blue Beetle #36: This was the last issue of the now-canceled series, and instead of crossing the finish line with arms raised in triumph, it more or less staggered with a noticeable limp. You can't really fault writer Matthew Sturges, though; the obviously compacted and rushed issue blew by plot points and ideas likely meant to be explored more fully across several storylines, and it's easy to get the feeling he was trying to get as much out there as he could before the door closed on the title.

It's a shame Sturges won't be able to more fully flesh out the future of Blue Beetle as a rapidly maturing young superhero now touched by tragedy, because I think he would have some interesting stories to tell. Instead we have to be satisfied with a pretty big clue about who probably becomes the future Black Beetle and an ambiguous ending to what had been one of the better superhero comics on the rack.

Green Lantern #38: Well, it seems pretty obvious Hal's going to end up wearing a ring from every corps there is before this story is through — and I'm OK with that. It seems a little contrived (just like Carol joining the Star Sapphires ... again), but seeing Hal go through dramatic Wolf-Man-like transformations while his uniform turns into a patchwork quilt is so Silver Age goofy it's fun.

I still don't get the whole blood-rage-vomit thing (and I'm not sure how I feel about basically the same effect being used for Scar's Black Lantern tears o' death), but I'm trying to ignore it in favor of electric chair-Sinestro and flying elephant men.

Umbrella Academy #4 (vol. 2): This comic amazes me every issue with its ability to make me like it even more than I did the month before. Weird, clever and smart, Umbrella Academy is also gleefully violent and action-packed (even when nothing is really going on besides people standing in a room talking). I especially like how smart this title is, unraveling some horrible mystery you both dread and welcome because, dammit, how's it going to end?!

Say what you will about his band, but it has nothing to do with this comic; Gerard Way is writing a great book here, with characters you care about and an outcome you become fully invested in. And the art by Gabriel Ba? If I could I would eat it, it's that good. This is currently one of my favorite books, and you should be reading it. (preview)

Unknown Soldier #5: Brutal, unrelenting and a damn-near perfect war book about a war that's gone largely unnoticed by most people. Writer Joshua Dysart has updated the Unknown Soldier character by putting him in the middle of 2002 Uganda — a country that has spent years tearing itself apart with violence, corruption and atrocity — and making him a product of that battered and blood-caked nation.

It works incredibly well, and a reader can tell Dysart is using his story to both entertain and educate (his monthly background essays on Uganda's strife should be required reading). This title is mean in all the right ways. Likewise, the frenetic art by Alberto Ponticelli has that "Vertigo" style to it, but it completely suits the characters and the chaotic tone of the script. Since he's drawing a character who is fast becoming a bogeyman of war, it's appropriate that his Unknown Soldier is scary as hell.


Khairul H. said...

"electric chair-Sinestro and flying elephant men"

See, this is why I still look forward to reading superhero comics. Flying elephant men, people!!

rob! said...

I never bought Blue Beetle, so maybe I have no right to criticize DC for cancelling it, but considering that BB is a frequently recurring character on Brave and the Bold, you'd think maybe DC could stick it out to see if there's any sales uptick from all that TV exposure.

Maxo said...

Khairul: You and me both, brother.

Rob: You'd think; Blue Beetle has also been getting some play over in Teen Titans, but for some reason the character's seeming popularity didn't translate into readership. In my heart of hearts, I hope there's still a future for the character and his awesome supporting cast.

And you should check out the trades! I think you'd dig it.

Maxo said...

Whoops! I should specify; Blue Beetle has been showing up in the Teen Titans comic, as well as the new Batman: The Brave and The Bold title. And yup, he's showing up in the cartoon, too!

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