GEN 13 VOLUME 2: ROAD TRIP (WildStorm)
Written by Gail Simone, drawn by Alvin Lee, Carlo Barberi, Sunny Lee and Kevin West
Collects Gen 13 (current series) #7-13
I’ve had a long and tumultuous history with Gen 13. I first read about them in Wizard in the 90s and got very interested. I picked up an issue at the shop which immediately hooked me and I set out to collect every Gen13 appearance from there on out. This might sound odd to some people, but Gen 13 was basically my Teen Titans or New X-Men because they were young, fresh characters who also happened to be super powered beings with what seemed like the whole world against them. What teenager couldn’t relate? Anyway, I read that book through it’s pretty terrible completion and then the completely awful Chris Claremont relaunch. So, when the whole WorldStorm thing happened in the WildStorm universe, I was curious but cautious to see what Simone’s plans were for Gen13. Then the book hit and I was disappointed once again. The kids were some kind of super powered sex proxies. Or something. I read one issue and was out.
But, I’m one for second chances, so when I saw the potential to read this second volume, I figured what the heck. Road Trip jumps around showing the kids still getting to know each other while facing bad guys and what not. Many of the previous plot points are retread like Sarah Rainmaker being a lesbian and Cat being a nerd who now has a hot body. Eventually it’s explained that the Gen13 kids are anomalies in the universe because of Captain Atom Armageddon and WorldStorm. In the end, as a fan, I appreciate that explanation for why they seem so vastly different compared to say the Authority whose history seemed exactly the same before and after, but in the end there wasn’t enough of interest here to keep me really interested. It’s not a bad book if you’re new to Gen 13, but if you’re a fan I would imagine it’s like watching a remake which just keeps reminding you how much you want to go back and rewatch the original. Maybe when I go home in a few weeks, I’ll bring a stack of Gen 13 comics back with me.
SPACE USAGI (Dark Horse)
Written and drawn by Stan Sakai
Collects Space Usagi: Warrior #1-3, Space Usagi: Death And Honor #1-3, Space Usagi: White Star Rising #1-3, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #47 and Usagi Yojimbo Color Special #3
I’ve never read an Usagi Yojimbo comic before. Not that I haven’t wanted to, it just seems like a difficult comic to just jump into, even though I’ve heard good things. My biggest exposure to the character was the highly coveted Usagi figure in the Ninja Turtles toy line that I didn’t get my hands on until last summer’s yard sale season kicked off. I figured this far-flung future sci-fi comic would be a pretty easy entry so gave it a shot.
Overall, it’s a pretty good book. The first story follows Usagi as his king is killed and he has to keep the prince safe while fighting all kinds of baddies. The second story is the weakest because it’s got way too many Star Wars references. Now, I know that chunks of Star Wars were taken from the classic hero story, but you’ve got the good guys teaming up with a smuggler in a crummy ship who then infiltrate the bad guy’s headquarters. There’s even a scene with the whole group in a room trying to get information until they’re surprised by relief. The third story was also pretty good and threw a good number of curveballs that I wasn’t expecting. My favorite story is the one which brings the original Usagi to the far future for a few minutes. It’s just a fun little thing that put a smile on my face.
Aside from the Star Wars riffs, I found these stories to be of a pretty great quality that kept my interested throughout. Sakai’s art looks deceptively simple at times, but turns out to be really intricate. He’s go a great mix of cartooning and comic art that makes every panel fun to stare at. Anyone know a good place to start with the regular Usagi book aside from the beginning, of course?
JLA/AVENGERS (DC & Marvel)
Written by Kurt Busiek, drawn by George Perez
Collects JLA/Avengers #1-4
It’s kind of crazy to think about how much DC and Marvel played together throughout the 90s. There was DC vs. Marvel, Amalgam, All Access and then a series of one- and two-shots bringing Captain America and Batman, Green Lantern and Silver Surfer and Darkseid and Galactus together. There’s been a pretty long dry spell lately, but the last great meeting of the two gigantic comic book minds was the long-awaited and highly anticipated JLA/Avengers from 2003 and 2004. But when it hit, I was definitely one of the people with a huge question mark hanging over my head. At the time, I was in college and only read comics whenever I went home which was about every 3 or 4 months. I think this book ended up coming out late which meant that I was reading them even further apart.
But, sitting down and reading it all in a few sittings was a joy. Yes, it’s a complex story. There’s big cosmic people playing games that effect both universes and even combine them for a time. As someone who reads through trades and comics pretty quickly, I felt like this book really gave me my money’s worth both in terms of the epic story and also in Perez’s artwork which is fantastic. I think he’s one of the few (only?) classic artists who keeps getting better. I loved his stuff in Legion Of Three Worlds last year.
Anyway, Busiek’s able to combine huge, sweeping and well choreographed fight scenes with smaller geek out moments like The Thing showing up in the Batcave or the Captain Marvels fighting alongside each other. If you’ve got a favorite Avenger or Leaguer they most likely show up in the book either throughout or during the crazy time warping battle at the end (what up Guy Gardner Warrior?!). While reading through that last issue I was struck by how complicated the script must have been and how easy Perez made it seem. I don’t remember a single time when I couldn’t keep up with what was happening on the page (at least visually, like I said, the story gets pretty dense). There’s also some fun stuff in the third issue in which the two teams seem to have been having a JLA/JSA Earth-1/Earth-2 relationship with the Avengers since the beginning. Of course, something’s not right. JLA/Avengers isn’t just for diehard fans of either series, but I wouldn’t recommend if for a complete newbie. Getting some of the history under your belt might be a good idea before diving into this bad boy, which makes sense considering how long it took to get from the page to the fans’ hands.