So this week brings us the latest issues of FINAL CRISIS, a book that comes out very slowly, but lots happens in it when it does, and SECRET INVASION, a book that comes out with clockwork regularity but very little actually happens in it. Somewhere, in between these two extremes, is the perfect crossover event that will make everyone everywhere squeal with bliss. Until then...
SECRET INVASION has turned into a book that I read more and more quickly with each installment, due to a lack of interest in the storyline and the fact that each successive issue has turned into a series of double spreads of hundreds of characters punching Skrulls. I suppose when all of the important backstory actually takes place in umpty-gazillion other tie-in titles (mostly NEW AVENGERS and MIGHTY AVENGERS), that leaves lots of room for a massive fight scene between all the superheroes and the alien invasion that has been continuing in New York City for about, oh, five or six issues by my estimation. This is what I imagine all superhero comic books look like to people who don't read the ones that are good. At least the art by Leinil Francis Yu, Mark Morales, and Laura Martin is sharp (I really hope this artistic combination reunites for a better series later on). Still, I don't know if I should blame them or Bendis's scripting for the multiple times per issue where something of some apparent significance takes place and I have no idea what it was supposed to be.
FINAL CRISIS finally returns after a "planned break" following issue three's run into the future with the Flashes, but I think it was a longer break than was planned, maybe? It sure felt like a while. Darkseid, his loyal elite, and his growing number of "Justifier" troops have more or less conquered the planet after unleashing the Anti-Life Equation onto the internet last time, and the remaining heroes have set up a resistance force across the globe. Morrison throws tons of amazing ideas into the air here, such as multiple JLA Watchtowers in cool, exotic locations (The Fortress of Solitude! Gorilla City! The Great Wall of China!), the Tattoed Man hiding Metron's weird God-symbol circuit thingy and its hidden powers within his tattoos for later activation, and a secret internet used exclusively by the supervillain community (the "Unternet", with umlauts and everything!). On the artistic front, there's bad news and good news: the bad news is, the art is now done by committee--Carlos Pacheco and Jesus Merino step up to do most of this issue's art, as J.G. Jones has fallen seriously behind schedule (the January solicitations tell us that Doug Mahnke is doing the entirety of the final issue's art as well). The good news is, all of these artistic additions are dudes whose work is quite solid--in fact, seeing Pacheco's work on this issue kinda made me wish he was doing it from the start. His stuff just has a vitality to it that Jones's work, while still impressive, was definitely lacking. One more thing, though--FC is definitely not immune to the Marvel method of overpriced, unnecessary crossovers, even when Morrison writes them himself. This week also brought us FINAL CRISIS: SUBMIT, which shows how Black Lightning supplied Tattoed Man with Metron's symbol, but isn't good for much else. Especially for four dollars, and SUPER-ESPECIALLY after Morrison summed up everything that happens in this issue in about three lines of dialogue in FC #4. "Submit", indeed.
Let's see, what else? IDW released G.I. JOE #0 this week, which is quite a bargain for a buck--it appears to be a ground-level relaunch of the entire concept of Hasbro's "Real American Hero", with writers like Chuck Dixon and 1980s JOE mastermind Larry Hama pulling the strings. Less a goofy toy commercial (I can't front, though, I still have a soft spot for that "Silent Interlude" issue and the two-part "Origin of Snake-Eyes" from the original series) and more of a black-ops type action drama, this introductory issue contains three short stories that set the stage for...what? THREE new titles launching in spring of 2009? Are you kidding me? Sheesh, you'd think these guys were gearing up for a big-budget August-opening blockbuster directed by the guy who made VAN HELSING or something. This stuff's not bad, but walk before you run, guys. I think the Marvel G.I. JOE series went, like, fifty issues before G.I. JOE: SPECIAL MISSIONS was launched, and that was back in the days when comics still regularly sold in the hundreds of thousands.
Issue #7 of Terry's Moore's ECHO is out this week, which, like Jeff Smith's RASL, is a strange left turn into SF territory for an indie creator known for much different stuff. Unlike RASL, though, Moore manages to get this title out pretty much monthly, and the result is a cool mix of military intrigue, sci-fi, and relationship drama with very impressively detailed and expressive art. The series' protagonist, Julie Martin, is on the run from the government after being showered with a mysterious, experimental liquid skin that may or may not be radioactive. There's also a crazy old man who seems to be sporting the same liquid metal crap on his hand, a psychotic monkey who maybe explodes (I'm not really sure what happened at the end), and a sinister government agent named Ivy Raven. Seriously, though, with a name like that, of COURSE you're going to be a sinister government agent. Or a member of Fox Force Five.