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The Non-Marvel Action Hour – 9/17/8

The Ultimate Man, the ultimate woman, the Great Machine, the fall of civilization, Obergeist, and ‘Mazing Man.

Employee’s Pick

Aztek: The Ultimate Man 1

[DC] Aztek: The Ultimate Man #1-10

Writers: Grant Morrison, Mark Millar
Penciler: N. Steven Harris

Aztek has one of the best beginnings I’ve seen in a series. It firmly establishes the hero alongside a well orchestrated mystery, hooking the reader with classic concepts set in a modern world. Despite several guest stars from around the DCU, this could easily be an independent comic. Aztek takes over superheroing in the city of Vanity, which previously did not exist, and encounters several characters who’d be more at home in another universe. His whole schtick is that he’s the only person who can stop a certain uberpowerful creature, also heretofore not a part of the DCU, which is always harder to buy when Superman and Green Lantern are around. The concept’s sold well enough; Aztek isn’t necessarily more powerful than Superman, it’s that he’s trained all his life to face this particular threat.

Aztek 2

The quality stays high throughout the series, but issue four takes us away from conventional superheroics and begins to pepper the book with the sort of bizarre concepts Morrison’s come to be known for. Like a machine that sucks "all the goodness" out of people, turning them into shriveled up, infant-sized monstrosities in order to serve as… pilots for robots.. Because mind control and subterfuge would be too simple. When Morrison wants to convince you a character is crazy, he goes for the hard sell.

Aztek 1

The idea is that Vanity has an aura of evil about it, a corrupting influence on its inhabitants, or perhaps a weirdness magnet. It gets a bit hard to follow, and then it’s over. The final issue is an unashamed tease, parading subplots before you that, had the book continued, would provide years of plotty goodness. Aztek’s mom? Superhero stalker? Evil understudy? The, um… Quizler? Maybe these were eventually addressed in Morrison’s JLA, where Aztek was a part-time member. Regardless, they’re better off in a solo title, where they can be given full attention.

New-Type Books

Wonder Woman 24

[DC] Wonder Woman Vol. 3 #24

Writer: Gail Simone
Artist: Bernard Chang

This issue has two stories. Diana and Tom "Nemesis" Tresser go to Themyscira, where Tom talks to Wonder Mother Hippolyta and we gain further insight into what it means to be (and court) an amazon. Then Diana heads to Hollywood to check up on some people making a movie of her life. Turns out a bit more exciting than the production of the real Wonder Woman movie.

Nemesis 1

No Aaron Lopresti this month or next. Sad times. Chang’s a decent fill-in, though. Sketchy at times, great when he isn’t rushed. I like this much more than his last fill-in; Wondy no longer looks like a housewife and Hippolyta is duly majestic. Still, I’ll be thrilled when Lopresti’s back to doing more than the covers. Seems a bit odd not to have the book’s regular artist around for an anniversary issue, but this series didn’t truly begin until issue fourteen. Besides, arbitrarily assigned anniversaries are overrated.

Ex Machina 38

[DC] Ex Machina #38
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Penciler: Tony Harris

Eliot Spitzer joke. Nice. Gotta love topical humor from a comic set four years in the past. This is much better than the last few issues. Tension, snappy dialogue, Kremlin, subplots converging. Not much in the way of action, but it feels like we’re moving forward with a purpose again. Convention’s coming, Hundred’s giving a speech, and someone might die.

Back Issues

Obergeist 1

[Image] Obergeist: The Empty Locket #1

Writer: Dan Jolley
Penciler: Tony Harris

"Maybe now things will finally start happening." The last line of the issue, the protagonist echoing the thoughts of the reader. Maybe something will happen next issue. Here, there is only prologue, murky setup that may or may not lead anywhere interesting. A german doctor who served in WWI hooks up with the infamous Josef Mengele to do controversial and probably evil experiments on humans. Also, he’s impotent. What does it all mean? Good question. I bought this for Harris’ art, and I was not disappointed in that regard.

'Mazing Man 1

[DC] ‘Mazing Man #1
Writer: Bob Rozakis

Penciler:
Stephen DeStefano

D’awwwwww. Li’l ol’ ‘Mazing Man is here to save the day and steal your hearts, with his boxers on over his pants and a half-man/half-dog (mog?) sidekick. He might be crazy, he might have superpowers, he might be more pathetic than admirable. All I know for certain is he’s adorable. The world needs more people like him.

Trade

[DC] Superman: Camelot Falls Vol. 1
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Penciler: Carlos Pacheco

I could look at this all day. People have been saying for years that Pacheco’s a great superhero artist, but I was skeptical. I’d seen his work on X-Men in the 90’s and, marred beyond recognition by digital coloring, it seemed nothing special. Wrong wrong wrong. The colors here, by Dave Stewart, are subdued, they don’t drown out the pencils and inks. You can see the art, and it is wondrous. The detail in every action is breathtaking. Superman’s cape is practically a supporting character, a silent partner in fighting crime.

It’s generally a good sign when the cover and interior artists are one and the same. Comic companies want to grab you with a beautiful cover image. You’re lucky if they put the same effort into making sure the story itself is illustrated well. Here, it’s twenty-three pages of non-stop pulchritude, from Lois in her underwear to the many manic fight scenes.

Supercape

The art feels wasted here, but so does the writing. They aren’t truly, it’s just that Superman as a character is so overused that it’s hard to seriously compare this to other comics. If there’s any reason not to recommend this alongside the highlights of other heroes’ careers, it’s that the status quo is never threatened. The story is about the fall of civilization, and includes a look at a postapocalyptic world in which Superman dies and survivors struggle against the environment and each other, but although the tale doesn’t conclude until volume two, you know Superman will save the day without any major consequences. The journey’s still worth taking, though you know the destination. It’s a solid superhero story, beautifully illustrated, something several DC heroes would kill to have. Superman gets it, and it fits him as well as his cape.

Truncation

Aztek – Would be a rousing success today on the strength of its writers’ names. Never stood a chance in the 90’s.
Wonder Woman – Another excellent issue.
Ex Machina – Best issue in a while.
Obergeist – Vague.
‘Mazing Man – Cute!
Superman – Delightful.

 


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