25 November 2016

DC's 2011 Weird Worlds Revival: A Brief Foray into Space

Weird Worlds was a science fiction anthology title published by DC Comics from 1972 to 1974; it lasted ten issues. Its big claim to fame was IronWolf, a sword-and-planet epic that I will read someday. The title was revived in 2011 as a six-issue miniseries. The format was a little different here, with three stories running across all six issues, advancing ten pages at a time per issue. I picked it up as part of my ongoing reading of all DC's space-based titles, as one of the features, Kevin Maguire's "Tanga," is set in space. (So is the Lobo feature, I suppose, but my space-based interests largely exclude both Green Lantern and Lobo.) A collected edition was solicited, but never released; there was however a follow-up series, My Greatest Adventure, which I should read next month.

I like the idea of the series; the inclusion of Lobo presumably allowed DC to float a couple riskier premises in Garbage Man and Tanga, who were completely new characters. There are some pacing oddities, however, which make me think that these were originally meant to come out 20 pages at a time, or just that contemporary comics writers just don't know how to do 10-page stories.

Lobo (written by Kevin VanHook, art by Jerry Ordway, colors by Pete Pantazis, letters by Jared K. Fletcher)

A little bit of Lobo goes a long way for me. I've enjoyed him as a guest character in other stories, or when he's used sparingly. Like, I enjoyed his original stories in The Omega Men, and he was surprisingly fun in L.E.G.I.O.N. But by the time R.E.B.E.L.S. rolled around, I was tired of him. Yet in the 2000/10s, Mark Waid and Tony Bedard made good use of him in The Brave and the Bold and R.E.B.E.L.S. revivals, respectively-- because in both series he was an amusing addition, not a focus.

This is the first story I've read where Lobo is actually the main character, and it confirmed my suspicions. He just doesn't work as a main character. He's invincible and dumb; the effective humor in L.E.G.I.O.N./R.E.B.E.L.S. and The Brave and the Bold came from pairing him with characters like Vril Dox and Supergirl, who need to work with and manage him. But an invincible brawler is not much fun to watch on his own. Lobo has something he wants to do, which is kill a guy and collect some money, and despite some obstacles placed in his path and a very slight twist, pretty much just accomplishes it as is. Depressingly straightforward and tension-free.

Garbage Man (story and pencils by Aaron Lopresti, inks by Matt Ryan, colors by Dave McCaig, letters by Jared K. Fletcher)

This is one of two stories I've read this month both written and illustrated by Aaron Lopresti (the other was a Parasite story in The New 52 Villains Omnibus, review forthcoming in February), and in both I've been decently impressed. A lot of comics artists struggle as writers, but Lopresti does a great job of achieving a unified tone and vision for Garbage Man-- a creature created via an unholy unison of human consciousness with, well, garbage. There's some good stuff here.

Unfortunately, a couple things about it don't quite click. There's a plot set up with Batman that goes nowhere as Batman actually never meets Garbage Man (maybe he will finally turn up in My Greatest Adventure). The book is a bit choppy (though maybe I should be viewing it as six ten-page stories and not one sixty-page story). But the worst part is that it all feels a bit old hat: I've never actually read Swamp Thing, but all the am-I-a-man-or-a-monster stuff is so familiar anyway. He even trudges around in the swamp a lot! I'd've liked to have seen Lopresti's obvious talents be funneled into something more original. Or just have him write Swamp Thing, I guess.

Tanga (story and art by Kevin Maguire, colors by Rosemary Cheetham, letters by Jared K. Fletcher)

Tanga is a purple alien in space, flying around, looking for a good time, and getting into a lot of trouble but don't worry, she has the superpowers to handle it. Maguire is always so good with facial expressions; I get a lot of enjoyment just seeing him draw people talking because of how well he does it. I wish this felt a little less aimless-- Tanga is attacked by a random spaceship, she destroys it easily (it's automated), and it never comes up again in favor of a story about her protecting the dimwitted inhabitants of an alien world from an onslaught of monsters.

I wish this one had more of a hook, because I enjoyed it a lot, but not as much as I wanted to. Tanga just wants to have fun. This isn't quite enough to hang a serious story, and the story isn't funny enough for it to be a humorous one. Plus some jokes went on a little too long, like her attempts to drink the local alcohol on the planet she visits. But overall this is fun. I've read a number of comics drawn by Maguire, but I don't think I've ever seen him write before, and he's pretty good at it, so I look forward to seeing him wrap this up in My Greatest Adventure.

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