So some of you may know that I'm busily reading every graphic novel and/or comic I can get my hands on for free -- taking full advantage of the L.A. Public Library's vast resources, putting everything on hold on-line and waiting for them to call me to let me know there are a stack of comics to pick up (it beats having to look for them myself).
The upside: totally free. The downside: lots of crappy comics.
Case in point: Superman: Critical Condition. Suffice it to say, this sucked big time. No -- on second thought, that doesn't suffice at all. The storyline is weak (Superman has been killed, but is now alive again, but now he's again). The art is inconsistent (can we please choose either real perspective or isometric? My eyes hurt). The lettering is so fake, so not-hand-done, so poor an approximation of real lettering, and by a number of different letters, so I know it's the fault off the art director. The plot mixes science, magic, auras, deus ex machina by the buttload (that's a phrase you don't read very often, I'll wager), references to other comics that you haven't read and so leave you quite in the dark... it's relentlessly poor throughout.
On the other hand, Kurt Busiek's Astro City is almost all great. In "Tales From the Big City," for example, the first story is called "In Dreams," and it presents an in-the-head profile of the Samaritan, Busiek's homage to Superman. It is so far superior to "Critical Condition" that it seems unfair to present the two side-by-side. The characters are well thought-out and evoke sympathy and empathy. The story is clear and the motivation believable. The art is consistent and smart, and the old-time style evoked by the lettering is just so pleasant as to be transparent in its effect.
So I'm glad that I can waste time and energy reading comics without spending a dime, and I'll gladly take the good with the bad -- as long as I get a lot of good. But seriously, DC -- stick to Frank Miller and Alan Moore and fire everyone else.