Library Reviews 11-8-10

Batman: Heart of HushBatman: Heart of Hush by Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen

“Hush” was one of the stories that got be back into superhero comics when I was in college. I was creeping around the comic shop and saw a book drawn by Jim Lee that included a plethora of Bat-villains. It was a no-brainer. Not being knowledgeable at the time meant I enjoyed the book more than a lot of continuity-tied readers do. So, Hush may not belong in the top tier of villains, but his presence doesn’t offend me outright. This story, which fills in Hush’s backstory answers some questions, but also makes him less relatable.

The problem with Hush is that his only motivation is jealousy of Bruce Wayne. Jealousy that even drove him to kill his parents. The jealousy is the core of his character and it quickly gets overwhelming and reduces him to one dimension. Everything he does in this book is driven by wanting to get at Bruce. His plan, to give himself plastic surgery to become identical to Bruce Wayne, doesn’t make sense. One of the results of this, that he can pose as Wayne and loot his banks accounts is mental. This is the 21st century, no one under the age of 65 does banking in person. You want to loot his accounts? Get a password or pin number.

In the end, Hush comes off as an idiot. The biggest shock of the story is that Hush steals Catwoman’s heart, which he then keeps frozen and on display. Which sure pisses Batman off, but also makes it all too easy to save her life.

Thinking about this story a year later, it just seems like they needed a way handle the whole “Bruce Wayne is missing too!” question when they “killed” Batman. I don’t know, maybe this worked a lot better monthly as part of the whole Bat-continuity at the time, but upon inspection, it just falls apart.

But Dustin Nguyen is awesome.

Spider-Man: Return of the Black CatAmazing Spider-Man: Return of the Black Cat by Joe Kelly, Marc Guggenheim, Mike McKone, and a boatload of others

It was both a strength and a weakness to have rotating writers on Spider-Man. It’s like the weather in New England. You don’t like it? Wait five minutes. Here it’s “You don’t like Marc Guggenheim? Wait three weeks.”

The problem is that the collections are very uneven. Here, Joe Kelly and Mike McKone have a very fun story that takes advantage of the unmarried Peter Parker. The sexual tension between Spider-Man and Black Cat (though not necessarily Peter Parker and Felicia Hardy) ensure excitement without resorting to explosions or punching.

A slutty (I say that in the sex-positive “Yay sluts!” sort of way) Peter Parker is fun to read. He’s got the awkward tension with the roommate (Michelle), the friends with benefits that he works with (Black Cat), the ex-girlfriend (Mary Jane), and the girl with the crush on him (Norah). He’s a 20-something guy, and most 20-something guys have one or more of these in their life. It’s a nice touch.

Next, Marc Guggenheim writes an overly convoluted story involving some relics of the “Clone Saga” of the 90s. I didn’t read the “Clone Saga.” Everyone says to avoid it as it’s the paragon of what was wrong with comics in those days. The story is so elaborate that it needed a prologue in another book (Web of Spider-Man) just to get people up to speed. It didn’t work. It constantly cuts to flashbacks featuring Ben Reilly, who looks just like Peter, but isn’t part of the modern-day story. The scenes have the same villain and two heroes that look identical. Without any sort of visual competent to tell the two apart, it collapses by trying to be too clever.

Lastly, Joe Kelly comes back for a Deadpool story that is too much for me. I’ve heard Kelly is the best writer to ever work on the character, but his quips and fourth wall breaking have always turned me off. I understand that Deadpool’s juvenile is the heart of the character, but it’s not for me.

I didn’t have much investment in the Parker-Watson marriage, so I didn’t care when they were broken up. All I know is that this status-quo has some aspects that add a lot of enjoyability for me. I’d gladly read more of these stories, as lumpy as they may be.

X-Men OriginsX-Men Origins by Mike Carey, Chris Yost and more than a boatload of others

This book is hard to review as it doesn’t collect one story. It’s six one-shots, each giving the backstory a different character.  This book shines where Spider-Man failed: BALANCE. I’ve got to give the credit to editor Nick Lowe. He’s got more writers (4) and artists (6) than Steve Wacker had on Spidey, but each story succeeds in its own way, resulting in a more cohesive package.

Chris Yost shows us the duty to family and country that drives Colossus. Then he turns around and gives a clean 30-page summation of Wolverine’s days prior to Giant Size X-Men #1.

Mike Carey shows the Clark Kent, small town boy side of the Beast and later makes the best of the ridiculousness that is Gambit’s history. As a child of the 90s’ X-Men cartoon, I dig Gambit. I can’t help it. But some of the ways he’s been tied to X-continuity are a stretch. Carey streamlines it all, painting him as a man who’s looking to control his powers and have his freedom, and finding the costs are a too high.

Also in the trade, Sean McKeever shows more personality for Jean Grey than I’ve seen just about anywhere and Kieron Gillen shows Sabretooth’s favorite part of his birthday.

I won’t go into details for each of the artists, but again, Nick Lowe earned his paycheck on this one. The stories that flashback to youth (Jean, Beast) are painted in beautiful, nostalgic styles. The violent life of Wolverine gets jagged, rough lines. The fun that Sabretooth finds in fighting is reflected in the quick panels and stark colors. Gambit’s story is illustrated with all the shadows that a thief deserves. This book shows what comics are at their best: a perfect unity of writing and art telling a story.

If you have any interest in the X-Men, X-Men Origins is worth a read.

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