Friday, May 31, 2002

A couple of runs of comics:

Justice League Europe, #1-11 (1989-90) - At the time I loved Keith Giffen's broad comic take on Ambush Bug and the Legion of Substitute Heroes but this series appeared just after I stopped paying attention to comics. Since then, I'd heard good things and picked them up cheap. Giffen tosses in some decent ideas like European resistence to a group composed mainly of Americans and the characters' awareness of being second-tier heroes but he often seems hedged in. The characters are usually marked with one or two primary traits so there's an uneasiness between such rudimentary construction and attempts at more open storytelling. The series isn't helped by the weak art and poor printing common to so many comics from these years. Still, it definitely improves and always manages to stay mildly interesting so maybe someday I'll get to the remaining issues.

Fantastic Four, volume 3, #39-49 (2001-2) - As usual, the FF seems burdened by stories so broadly cosmic that they're kind of goofy but the art certainly looks nice. The first arc finds most of the team trapped in the Negative Zone fending off poachers--a promising idea that's too opaquely handled though the parallel story about Johnny forming another team on Earth works much better. (There's a nice one-page meeting with Spider-Man that hints at the potential of putting comics history in the service of conventional notions of characterization.) The second arc shows the problems inherent in cosmic conflict when a being named after an old Santana album decides to destroy, well, Everything Everywhere and Everywhen. For one thing, there's hardly a way to present any plausible motive for such an action; sure this could work as a confrontation with the essential mystery of the universe or some such (& despite all the SF trappings creatures like Abraxas and Galactus are basically gods so the religious tone is appropriate) but this rarely makes for stories of any interest. Second, it's a bit hard to care much about entire realities being destroyed because that's too abstract and more than a bit silly. Third, narrative structure tends to be quite arbitrary. Why is the location to an ultimate weapon hidden in three different realities? Just because. Even worse for this arc is that the ending resolution comes out of nowhere: Gosh who woulda thought that so and so would have a hidden power to do, er, something that doesn't make a bit of sense but apparently saves Everything Etc. Maybe if I'd read the past 20 years of FF this might have worked but even so in terms of this story it's a cheat to bring in material completely unmentioned earlier and still not have it work out sensibly. By the way, there are three credited writers! Just a few tweaks and these issues could have been much better (the alternate realities are for once kinda fun--in one Reed is a Doc Savage figure--and might have been worth expanding) or at least the letters page on the later issues could have filled in background like the earlier ones did. Would be a better use of the space than letting people whine about what they didn't like.