Monday, February 19, 2007

The problem with super-cheap jump-on issues - they leave everyone unhappy

Godland #16 is one of those extra-cheap issues (60 cents, to be exact) that the Big Three seem to offer every once in a while in order to drum-up interest and sales. I can't imagine that these promotions are ever much fun for the people who are already reading month-in and month-out. Typically, they're just full of exposition that's aimed at people who have probably never even heard of the book before. Robert Kirkman's Invincible had one of these issues a year or two ago and it was, to its credit, quite readable. But not terribly exciting.

Godland is Jack Kirbyesque in nearly every way possible. Tom Scioli's layouts, designs, and action sequences are even more evocative of Kirby than Ladronn's art, and the content of the story - cosmically-powered hero Adam Archer seeks cosmically-missing sister, as well as the cosmically-mysterious source of his powers - is no less an obvious and loving homage. (The art seems a little muddled in the same way that Chris Bachalo's overly detailed panels sometimes leave your eye confused as to where it should be looking, but the wonderful coloring does much to minimize the distraction.) The issue does an serviceable job in explaining everything we absolutely need to know, as well as introducing us to Archer's supporting cast, his ambivalent military superiors, and his rogues gallery. Quite readable.

Quite readable isn't quite enough, though. What the book fails to do entirely is give us a reason to care about Adam Archer and his cohort. So much time and space is spent in relaying details that those details never coalesce into an interesting narrative - or at least a narrative worth our interest. Who is Archer, exactly? Is he paranoid and delusional like his sisters seem to believe? Is he really the menace that the military thinks he is? Is he a nice guy? Does he prefer dry wit or slapstick comedy? We really don't know. Archer takes off into space on the third page and never returns. Who are all these villains, government personnel, and quirky aliens that are marched past us afterward? I have only the vaguest idea in many cases, and absolutely no idea in many others.

I suppose that these 'special price' issues should be measured, in the end, by the enthusiasm that they generate in new readers and the success with which they convert that enthusiasm and those new readers into repeat readers. Casey and Scioli have done plenty of work to catch me up on the story to this point, but I can't say that they've given me much reason to want to see how it ends.

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