Friday, December 7, 2012

Paul's Picks! - December 5, 2012

Well, it's that time again folks: Wednesday! And you know what Wednesday is?... Well, of course you do, you're reading a blog about comics, so you obviously know it's New Comics Day, a.k.a. Paul's favorite weekly holiday! And now for his much-anticipated pick-of-the-week...

Welcome back everyone! It's a cool, cloudy Friday morning, and what better time to sit back and give you all my review for Paul's Pick this week? I've been anxious to get on and share with you all my thoughts about this weeks comics, so without a lot of fluff at the top, let's get right down to business, shall we?

Action Comics #15 by Grant Morrison, art by Rags Morales and Brad Walker

The reaction Morrison's Action Comics run here at the Ancillary Characters has been, well, mixed. Which is saying something since Seth and I typically jump at the chance to gush on all of your love for Grant's work on our favorite characters from the DCU (Batman and Robin anyone?). With that being said, there has just been something lacking this time around. The art has been hit or miss, and the be honest the stories have fallen short of what I've come to expect from one of his books, especially Superman. I mean, when you've got a series like All Star Superman to hold this up against, it has basically failed to come even close to the quality and spirit of what we know is possible.

That is, until issue 15. Don't get me wrong, there have been a few issues that struck a right note through this arc, but not one issue has taken my imagination and heart by the reigns in the way that this one did. From the very opening scene, I know that this must be the story that Grant has been wanting to tell. There have been little hints and tidbits dropped here and there ever since the first issue of the relaunch, and in the token Morrison way, all of those pieces are finally coming together for a story that is both epic in proportion and moving on an emotional level.

Before I let myself go off on a tangent and start writing a massive editorial about why I love everything Grant Morrison, let's talk about Action #15 specifically. In my (newly) typical format, I'll break this down into three main points, if I can keep it down to three...

1. This is most Morrisonian issue to come from this series. If you follow me on Twitter (@jollygreen05), then you may have seen my post that this was easily his best issue of Superman since All Star. This comes from the fact that this book is incredibly Morrisonian in nature. If you're a fan, then you'll know exactly what I mean by that from the moment that you start the book. For those of you that may not know Morrisonism is within a comic, I'm referring to the high-concept style of his books that come together from many different points, making many potentially incoherent parts come together into one cohesive plot. However, there is a vital ingredient to a book like this that has been lacking throughout the last year: all kinds of heart. There have been glimpses from both sides of this during the last 14 issues, from the high-concept (yet confusing) origin arc drawn by the fantastic Andy Kubert to the all-heart Halloween issue. However, there has yet to be an issue or arc that managed to strike that perfect balance of insane plot and heartfelt storytelling.

The over-the-top plot comes in the form of the 5th dimension, involving classic Superman characters such as powerful imp Mxyzptlk. Mxy comes into the tale here, but this time around he isn't filling the form of the villain. Instead we are given a fantastical tale of love and betrayal, all against the backdrop of a Superman that has only lived a portion of the time-warping attacks from an unknown 5th dimensional enemy, who we learn is a jaded figure turned villain due to damaged pride and unrequited love: Vyndktvx. Superman is learning this Shakespearean tale along with the reader, and Morrison is revealing to us how that Vyndktvx has been striking against Sups throughout his lifetime: in the past with the death of his parents and in the future when a group of his enemies are hunting him on an earth with a red son. That is as insane as it sounds, but it hits every single mark that it needed to hit.

2. It's old characters with old stories told in a completely new way. We've all read the stories about the fifth dimension, and you either loved or hated the inclusion of Bat Mite back in Morrison's seminal Batman run. But this is not the Myxzpltk that we all know and love-or-hate. Morrison has taken a character that has traditionally been considered goofy to a fault and made me, the reader, care about his story on a deeply emotional level. Staggered against the backdrop of the fun and zany tale of Myxzpltk the court jester, we have the tale of Myx and his wife, the princess, who fled to our dimension in hiding so that they could live their life in peace. It is a truly tragic tale, and in the span of just a few pages, Grant managed to pull the heart strings so hard that a person could even be reduced to tears by this. It is deeply moving story that accomplishes something with Superman's rogue gallery that I never would have expected. It reminds me of issue 6 of All Star Superman in its ability to balance the insane concepts with the deeply moving, much like the Chronovore against the death and funeral of Jonathan Kent. Here we have exactly what we need from a New 52 Superman title: the old school characters represented in ways that are both surprising but still respectful of their source. Fantastic.

3. The Best. Art. Yet. My personal reaction to Rags Morales art has been a roller coaster. At times I see that Identity Crisis level of quality shining through, and then I'll turn the page and see his Harry Potter version of Clark Kent that I just, well, couldn't stand. That said? This issue nails it. Perhaps it is the fact that he shares responsibilities with Brad Walker, making it easily differentiable between the 5th dimension stories and the real world, but every single page and panel knocks it out of the park. By the time I had finished this story, all of the inconsistencies from the last 14 issues faded back into past memory; perhaps not completely forgiven, but at the very least they were somewhat redeemed.

So that's enough gushing from me this week. If you passed on this issue do to past bungles, do yourself a favor and go pick it up. Any Morrison fan will fall in love with this book, and I daresay the rest of you will at the very least find yourself happily surprised by the pure quality of this issue. Enjoy friends!

Love it? Hate it? Let me know on Twitter! Also, check out yesterday's new episode of the podcast!

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