Plastic Man 5

Quick Rating: Et tu…
Title: Despair

Writer: Kyle Baker
Artist: Kyle Baker
Editor: Joey Cavalieri

I had started to lose faith. My attention had begun to wander. Somehow I really liked this issue. Maybe it was the occasional surprise. Maybe the pacing just felt a little better. Maybe it was just nice to finally be able to sit outside and read a comic book. But I liked this sad, sad issue. Woozy is dead and it is funeral time. The investigation into Plastic Man’s crimes finally takes a turn in his favor. All in all, I felt like stuff happened. I like it when stuff happens.

Kyle Baker continues to draw as though he learned by tracing Ren and Stimpy off his television screen. And if you’ve ever tried, you know that’s not easy with all the static electricity. No other superhero than Plastic Man is so perfect for this style. Somewhere, I hope Jack Cole rests peacefully, knowing that one of his most famous creations is in good hands.

So, why do we still publish periodic comics in pamphlet format? Is there any remotely good reason? It costs more in resources and to the ultimate consumer than collected format. Even the lengthiest Victorian serial had more occur in each individual installment (and was usually published on a much more rapid schedule). Why tolerate a format which promises little and usually delivers? Does it actually take you an hour to read a three dollar comic?

It is arguably unfair to complain about comic book formats when reviewing a particular comic, especially one that I liked. And I realize that I’m not the first to suggest the demise of the pamphlet format. Yet, Plastic Man is seemingly destined for the trade paperback world. It is carrying a long story arc that requires knowledge of the previous issues. At times, events move at a glacial pace. Subtle references might be missed unless you’re inclined to reread the prior issues upon acquisition of each new one. All of this is true of many of the best titles over the years: Grendel, Usagi Yojimbo, Watchmen, Swamp Thing, Sandman, etc. In all those cases, the trade paperbacks made a big splash. Perhaps it’s time to stop subscribing to comic books.

Hey, issue four sold much better than most of Vertigo’s output in March, so maybe Plastic Man will make the long haul.

May, 2004

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