The Best Comics in November Part 2: Tony Stark Is Such an Ass
Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review.Click here for part 1.
Multiversity: Pax Americana I'm one of the people that has called Grant Morrison's Multiversity this generation's Watchmen. It's still an incredible book, but I do think I'm going to have to walk back that statement.
Pax Americana is a fantastic read, don't get me wrong. The Question gets to take center stage for much of it, and Vic Sage is always worth reading about. He is such an unforgettable mix of genius and insanity that he damn near flies off the page. On the other hand, Morrison is so beholden to the Watchmen legacy that this issue is more of a homage than something that stands in its own right. Sage is essentially Rorschach more than The Question, and jokes to that effect never stop coming. His relationship with Blue Beetle is a mirror to the relationship Rorschach has with Nite-Owl, and even his speaking patterns take on the aspects of Alan Moore's creation.
Then there is Captain Atom as our Doctor Manhattan. He's a terribly fun character, full of meaning and depth, but no matter what he does it's clear that we're meant to simply be looking at Not-Doctor Manhattan. Add in the trendy, edgy backwards assassination in the first few pages and the homage feels kind of desperate.
Watchmen is the iconic book it is because it both explored things in comics that have never been explored before, but it also tapped into the world it was a part of of at the time. it was relevant (And remains so). Multiversity more and more feels like it's really just concerned with comics themselves and what they mean. That's fine and good, but it's navel-gazing when greater things could be happening.
Rating: 7 of 10.
Moon Knight #9 By way of contrast, there's Brian Wood's ever more brilliant Moon Knight.
I never really got into Marc Spector. He seemed silly at first and badly used in most medium. Now I'm starting to recognize him as sort of the thinking man's Deadpool. He's Batman fully aware of how mentally messed up what he does is, and still he struggles to be a hero. In many ways, he is the best mixture of many other characters.
His latest arc involves him trying to control his separate personalities through therapy, only to end up in mental battle with his psychiatrist. At first she's just keen to use him as a Manchurian Candidate to kill a warlord that slaughtered her home village, but seeing that Spector will never do so she plots to still the power of Egyptian god that makes Spector into Moon Knight.
What makes the issue and the series so amazing is that it's very much rooted in the question of what is the right way to deal with a terrible world. The man Spector's therapist wants dead has long since laid down his career as a butcher, and killing him risks martyring him. On the other hand, should such evil go unpunished, and does it encourage other would-be despots to follow suit if it does? Big, big questions that Wood handles deftly and with perfect attention to superheroics at the same time.
Rating: 8 of 10.
Django/Zorro #1 Matt Wagner and Quentin Tarantino team up to bring Tarantino's latest cinematic badass in contact with one of the most classic heroes in film and radio. Usually this sort of thing is a complete wash and of interest only to dedicated fans. This time, though, it's better than it has any right to be.
Django happens across the coach of the aging Don Diego de la Vega on his way to Phoenix. Intrigued by the bounty hunter, he offers to give the stranded Django a lift. The two quickly get involved in a fight with bandits, and de la Vega asks Django to work for him on a mission.
It's standard team-up stuff, to be sure, but both characters come to life on the page. Watching the interactions between the gruff Django and the foppish, but deadly Gay Blade makes me wish Tarantino would actually turn this into a movie it's so damned spot-on. Frankly, it's the best thing that's been done with Zorro in years. The two play off each other brilliantly. Don't miss this one.
Rating: 7 of 10.
Deadly Class #9 Rick Remender and Wes Craig's tale of a school for young assassin's slipped by my radar until this issue, and I'm going to have to go back and catch up right away. It is just what I said; a high school where killers are made into unstoppable hitmen. That said, these are still teenagers with all that entails, and it lends a really weird form of weight to typical high school drama. Think Degrassi, but directed by Martin Scorsese.
In this issue we get the back story of Maria, a young Mexican girl whose father got on the wrong side of a local gangster. He was promptly shot and crucified while the rest of the family was burned alive, but Maria was spared at the request of the gangster's son who she played with in school.
From then one she was raised to kill, and is now one of the deadliest young women in the world. She easily outclasses older, stronger students, but her mind is still raw and broken from her upbringing. Her boyfriend Marcus is doing his best to help her, but he's eaten up with his own troubles at the moment as he and a small gang do their best to use their skills to try and make a better world.
It's a dark book, no lie, but it's also a sweet book. The murder is an excellent allegory for the struggle of youth, and you warm instantly to every character for what they say about all our own school days.
Rating: 7 of 10.
Superior Iron Man #2 Following the events of Axis, Marvel heroes and villains find themselves on new sides of good and evil. None has taken that to the edge as much as Tony Stark.
Tony develops a smartphone app called Extremis which is a free download and temporarily turns the users into better, stronger, faster versions of themselves. Then he promptly ends the trial period and charges an exorbitant fee for continued use. This sparks a crime wave in San Fransisco and draws the attention of Daredevil.
Matt Murdoch attempts to take on Tony with varying degrees of success, but is largely outclassed by Iron Man. Even when he seems to get the upper hand it's only part of Tony's larger plan.
What makes the book so amazing is Stark's moral ambiguity. The hero is still in there, and it shines through at the strangest moments. It's at civil war with his desire for control and to be an egomaniacal show-off. He's probably never had a better foil than Daredevil, who is usually broke, often unappreciated, and works tirelessly to help the downtrodden for little to no reward both as a lawyer and a vigilante. He's not the paragon that is Captain America, just someone working the streets. I think that more than anything makes him a match for Stark, even if he doesn't win the fist fights.
Rating: 7 of 10.