Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Comics Review: January 10

Y: The Last Man #41

Another standalone issue, this time delving into the backstory of Agent 355. It isn't quite as good as the Beth-1 and Beth-2 stories that preceded it, primarily because there's nothing particularly surprising about the information we're given. Also, the framing sequence for the flashbacks is a bit too thin.

The problem with standalone stories within a larger narrative is that, more often than not, the ongoing plot is put on hold while they play out. Now, if the story is entertaining enough, it's not really a problem - "Hero's Journey" back in issue 27 was essential reading in its own right, and I doubt many Y fans were complaining about issue 36's "Boy Loses Girl".

By comparison, there's just not that much to say about this one. It's very by-the-numbers, and strangely predictable for a Vaughan story. Better luck next time.


Hard Time #2

I only realized this in hindsight, but by keeping Ethan mostly isolated from the rest of the prison, Steve Gerber has come up with the perfect way to insert new players into the mix: whenever a character is introduced, it's not that much of a stretch to believe he was always there and just hasn't crossed paths with our protagonist until now. He's certainly done a good job of crafting some unique and unusual types, such as the Samoan candy addict Kilo.

Gerber also takes this opportunity to give Ethan (and the readers) a long-overdue lesson on how prison life works, as well as introduce a foreboding new character straight out of Arkham Asylum. Since most of the issue is given over to the explanations, not much happens on the level of plot, although Ethan again manifests his power in a new, slightly confusing way. More on that as it develops, I suppose.


Colossus: Bloodline

Ouch. Points to Hine for giving it the old college try, but this one goes off the rails very, very badly.

To be fair, the premise of "Bloodline" is one that absolutely necessitated a miniseries, if not a storyline in the main ongoing. One criticism I have to agree with regarding Joss Whedon's "Astonishing X-Men" run is, having brought Colossus back from the dead in a particularly traumatic way, Whedon hasn't done much of anything with him so far. Hine picks up on that with this story, which promised to explore the psychological ramifications of Colossus' return.

(As an aside, this seems to be a regular thing for Hine, who's also writing "X-Men: The 198" and "Son of M", more books resuming discarded threads by other writers. Not quite the prestige you'd expect from a member of the "Ten Terrific", but I suppose money is money.)

However, having based the plot on Colossus, and having delivered a first issue heavily focusing on how his imprisonment has changed him, Hine proceeds to tell a completely different story about Grigory Rasputin and a bunch of Peter's relatives we've never seen before. How shoehorned does it get? Mr. Sinister is wheeled in to deliver two solid issues of exposition monologue. I'll repeat that: Mister Sinister Explains It All for two issues. Clearly, Hine got a little sidetracked into exploring the myth of Rasputin, creating a tenuous (not to mention ridiculous) connection to the mental instability often experienced by Colossus and his siblings (Mikhail and Illyana).

Bafflingly, the end result of Hine's story is attributing Peter's unstable behavior to another external force altogether - as if his imprisonment had no effect on him at all. Hine ends up undermining himself; having set up the dominos, he goes outside for a game of soccer. All this story achieves is yet another send-off for Mikhail, with Colossus himself going right back to where he started at the end of the miniseries.

Extremely disappointing.