Thursday, March 12, 2009

Comic Book Wednesday: Team Theme

This week, to shake things up a bit, I'm looking at 3 ensemble cast books. Let's go!

Guardians of the Galaxy 11. By Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning & Wes Craig. Comic books nowadays basically have two types of space stories. First, there’s the space myth: big universe-level movers and shakers that often represent abstract concepts, interacting and battling it out on a galactic scale. Basically, it’s god-type mythology, but set in space. Example: Eternity vs Entropy. The other kind is what I’m calling the space opera: dozens of interspatial species mingling cultures and going to war. Basically, it’s George R. R. Martin, but in space. Example: (for Marvel, at least) Skrulls vs. Kree. (There’s more to it than big fights, but I’m simplifying here.)There are other types of space stories (the colonizing cowboys, the man vs. nature story), but for the Big Two comic companies, it’s all myth and opera. The nice thing is, Guardians of the Galaxy can do both kinds of stories at once.

But not this time.

This time, it’s entirely a space myth story, as Drax and Phyla find out that they’re “dead”, but not dead, as well as the reason why, via the presence of a villain last seen being outwitted by the leader of the Great Lake Avengers (spoiler). The rest of the cast does not show up. I understand that they’re building to the War of Kings arc, but the appeal of Guardians, to me, is its ensemble cast. And unless Drax and Phyla are your favorites (and really, in a team that includes Rocket Raccoon, how could that be?), there’s not a lot here. (Actually, I think I like Drax a little better, but he’s a character whose personality changes virtually every time he is resurrected, which suggests the guy I’m currently rooting for may not be around much longer.) The story is okay, the dialogue is an intriguing discussion on the purpose of death, and the art is very, very pretty. It’s all right for a single issue, but I wouldn’t want to hang out with these two 24/7.

Fables 82. By Bill Willingham and David Hahn. The Fables deal with the big question: how do you mourn the death of someone who was supposed to be immortal? A good, but not great issue. Hahn’s art seems a little too much like it’s trying to hit Buckingham, the regular artist, but missing. And it’s a much better send-off of Blue’s character than the last issue was. It’s interesting to see what all the different characters think about Blue’s death, and what it says about the character: Rose assumes he’ll return so she has a chance to redeem herself, Flycatcher thinks he’ll stay dead, and the Barnyard fables have their own opinions. It’s also pretty clear, with the discussion of the Fables’ creators, that they’re gearing up for the big crossover, and the flow is not entirely organic. The “cliff-hanger” ending seems a little out of place, as it’s a problem that can easily be solved by the right character showing up in the next panel or two. The Mogli story also wraps up, with the Fables poised to carve up a big chunk of the Homelands for themselves. That could prove interesting, although clearly not until the cliffhanger is behind us. I guess we’ll have to see where things go from here.

Captain Britain and MI 13 #11. Paul Cornell & Leonard Kirk and Mike Collins. The MI 13 group reel from the vampire attack, and try to assemble some sort of counter. Hmm. That was interesting. The plot, at the moment, boils down to a simple, if delightfully insane concept: Dracula is using the chaos caused by the Skrull invasion to stage his own invasion of Britain, and claim it for his people—you know, vampires. Cornell really gets the most out of his ensemble cast here. Everyone gets at least a moment to shine. Particularly shiny is the cast member he’s created, Dr. Faizia Hussain. She’s hit hardest by Dracula’s first wave, and Cornell emphasizes the character in a really notable scene of one page of text interspersed with pictures. I haven’t seen this done since Grant Morrison did it in the pages of Batman, but this works so much better: the text is clear yet impactful, and a single page of it makes it feel like something special without being a novelty. But everyone, from Pete Wisdom, to Blade, to Spitfire, get their moment in the sun. (Not literally for Spitfire, ‘cause you know: vampire.) The change in art style is a little jarring, but other than that, a great book.

Later Days.

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