A quest for the finest in sequential art

Comic Book Marathon

Thursday, July 21, 2005

My Comics Can Beat Up Your Comics - 07/20/05

Well, my local store is starting to feel the effects of the shutdown of its closest (and more mainstream) competitor, as a half-hour after they opened on Wednesday, there were a number of people in the store complaining that they were sold out of Astonishing X-Men and House of M. (The manager was placing reorders like mad, so it looks like he will be able to make everyone happy). None of that affects me, but when they run out of PLASTIC MAN, that's just not right! No, I kid because I love, and I wish my store the best with its new influx of Marvel zombies!


The drier-than-dry humor of Michael Kupperman, the man behind Snake 'n' Bacon Cartoon Cabaret, is back and it is like nothing else out there. Difficult to describe and almost impentrable to your average Everybody Loves Raymond fan, strips like "Uncle Billy's Drunken, Bitter Guide to the Animal Kingdom," "Mickey Rourke's Public Hair Stencils for Men," "Cut Out N' Play Soccer Joust," "Cousin Grampa," and "Amoeba Car Grampa" make me laugh and shake my head at the same time. So wrong and so strange, and yet so great. If you've never read his stuff before (or seen his cartoon shorts on TV Funhouse) here's a cheap pamphlet of goodness for your sampling.


Well, here it is, my two pre-teen comic book favorites (Dr. Strange and the Giffen-era Justice League) smooshed into one comic. Can't say that I saw that coming. Anyway, arch-villain Nightmare warns of an impending an unstoppable doom that will come to be Dr. Strange's greatest challenge, in the form of Dormammu and Umar seeking to invade the earth creatively (again!). The seams of the plot are terribly obvious (Strange can teleport the Hulk into danger, but not out of it? Wha huh?), but this being a Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire book, the plot is expected to take a back seat to characterization and humor. And that's all right for what it is, except Nightmare's personality graft is wholly unconvincing. The recruitment scenes are well done and some of the jokes are laugh-out-loud funny, but this book needs more room to convince me that these versions of the characters will work. The proof will be in the next few issues.


Featuring classic stories from the cast of The Defenders that also serve to advertise for the Marvel Masterworks hardcovers.

First up is Dr. Strange from Marvel Premiere #3: This Stan Lee tale is a definite classic, a solid magical suspense one-off by Lee from when his hands-on writing was rare in the early 70's. Arch-villain Nightmare warns of an impending and unstoppable doom that will come to be Dr. Strange's greatest challenge (sound familiar?). It's gorgeously illustrated by the man now known as Barry Windsor-Smith with some amazing colors that were missing in the recent Essential Dr. Strange Vol 2. However, if you already have the Marvel Visionaries: Stan Lee volume, you already have this reprint and you can probably pass on this.

Since that tale takes up more than half the issue, the rest of the content is short stories from Fantastic Four Annual #5 (Lee & Jack Kirby on Silver Surfer), Marvel Comics#1 (from the Golden Age with the Sub-Mariner), and Hulk #3 (a 3-page origin re-cap by Lee & Kirby). Even though I find Golden Age Marvel to be unreadable and the Hulk tale is inconsequential, this issue is worth it just for the Dr. Strange story in glossy color and the fun Silver Surfer story, if you don't have them already.


The problem? The dead are coming back to life, in possession of thousands of teenagers. The solution? A million words of exposition as our protagonists walk through some investigative procedural work on the "problem" with the smartest man in the world. The result? I am dulled to death.

P.S. John McCrea is a very imaginative artist, even if he isn't very flashy. So why does he keep getting assigned to projects that require very little imagination? John McCrea's talking head sketchbook is not really what I'm looking for in a comic book.


Well, my store ran out of them, but should have more next week. What's your excuse?

Other Stuff of Interest

Lost of reasons to wait for the trade this week: DAREDEVIL #75, DETECTIVE COMICS #808, EX MACHINA #13, GIRLS #3, GOON #13, HELLBOY THE ISLAND #2, ULTIMATES 2 #7, X-MEN KITTY PRYDE SHADOW & FLAME #2

THE PULSE VOL 2 SECRET WAR TP - Flip-throughs on this book make it hard for me to believe that this is really the natural successor to Bendis's Alias. It seems similar to taking the twisted characters from a Coen Brothers movie and having them star in a generic Law & Order-type show. It's not that it wouldn't be quality, but what's the point?

Mickey Rourke's Pubic Hair Stencil #18: Death of a Bullfighter
"This one I started as a novel, but then I realized the story would work better within the medium of pubic hair"

Monday, July 18, 2005

My Comics Can Beat Up Your Comics - 07/13/05

The internet is abuzz with news from San Diego Comic Con, or rather the lack of it. Seems to me, though, that we get plenty of great (or at least notable) news on the internet each week about upcoming projects, so I'm not too surprised that there wasn't much to reveal at SDCC.

THE COMICS JOURNAL #269 - The Shoujo Manga Issue

Despite being someone interested in avant-garde comics, I've barely scratched the surface when it comes to Japanese comic imports. Thus, when my favorite comics magazine devotes an issue to reviewing a few dozen manga titles, this is right up my alley. Like The Comics Journal Special Edition 2005, this issue takes a look at a number of titles that transcend cultures with their amazing quality, uniqueness, and innovation. In his introduction, Dirk Deppey refers to this issue as year-long "labor of love," and as far as I can tell the outcome has resulted in a fine and essential overview of the shoujo manga class of comics.

In my opinion, such "themed" issues of this magazine are better suited to particular genres and markets than they are to individual creators and works (recent themed issues/sections on Will Eisner, Steve Ditko, and Dave Sim have been particularly dry). The first issue of TCJ that I bought was the James Robinson issue back in 1997; I've bought every issue since, but not because of that interview (though it was good). The highlight for that issue was a commentary section by a number of columnists on what could be done to reverse the freefall of the comic book market (including Gary Groth's famous assertion that there's nothing wrong with being a ghetto-ized industry because that allows a certain artistic freedom, a suggestion I still ponder to this day). Multiple observations on a single subject or class of subjects by intelligent observers? Yeah, I can do that. Give me more.


Someone commented to me recently that this series "isn't going anywhere." I can see their point. The event in volume 1 that caused the extinction of (almost) all men has barely been addressed, even though it is supposedly the impetus for the protagonists' quest. But based on the strong readership for this book, I'm not the only one who doesn't mind. Though volume 4 got a little silly with a too-convenient ending to the S&M storyline, for the most part this series has provided stories that take advantage of a compelling backdrop in order to take a look at gender issues in a post-catastrophe world.

To me, the gold standard for science fiction is the work of Ray Bradbury. His "sci-fi" tales were never about the science fiction itself; they were about people's reactions to sudden and drastic changes in their lives brought on by otherworldy forces. Y: The Last Man presents the same type of human-driven drama and does it well.


Since there wasn't anything new and arty of interest that I noticed this week, I picked up this volume because, um, I though it was by Henrik Rehr. Nope, this book is by Hans Rickheit, an entirely different comic creator, oops. Still, this tale of a young woman in a rural area searching for meaning as the world around her becomes increasingly ugly and surreal looks pretty good, reminiscent of Charles Burns. Worth a look. [Published in 2002]

Other Stuff of Interest


JUSTICE LEAGUE COMPANION Vol 1 SC - Hee, hee. Geeky fun. Maybe later.

"Some people sing love songs, everybody's got one
This isn't my love song, it's more like my love gone wrong song"

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

My Comics Can Beat Up Your Comics - 07/07/05

Hm, quite late, but at least I got to read most of my purchases already. Next weeks column will be similarly late, since I will be out of town.


Will Eisner, in his final graphic novel, attempts to right an injustice against the Jewish people. This nonfiction graphic novel tells the story of a series of faked documents that "proved" of a Jewish plot to overthrow late 19th-Century governments. Apparently, these documents are still circulated around the world as "evidence" of a Jewish conspiracy, and have been used many times in the past justify anti-Semitic policies. While Eisner may get his point across, the result is not especially entertaining.

The problem with this graphic novel, I think, is that when writing about a nefarious conspiracy to defame, the author needs to be careful not to embellish or deviate from proven facts. Otherwise, the writer would be partially guilty of the same sort of truth distortion that his subjects are. Eisner seems to acheive this impartiality, but at the expense of an interesting narrative. The book is as dry and unartistic as a statistical pamphlet. Perhaps this novel will stand a testament of Eisner's belief in fairness and justice, but unfortunately it remains a poor example of why the man is considered a master of the sequential arts.


This series is turning into quite a nice surprise. Nothing particularly groundbreaking or new here, just a solid adventure story about a young man and his brother who are on a quest to restore their humanity after an alchemy experiment goes wrong and causes them to change from flesh to metal. A variety of a colorful alchemists and enemies keeps the series light, while the underlying quest gives the series a dark undercurrent reminiscent of The Fugitive and Cowboy Bebop. Highly entertaining and engrossing.


More silly surrealism in the vein of Scott Pilgrim and Street Angel. But is it as successful as those groundbreaking projects? The problem with this kind of thing is that it isn't very deep, so if it doesn't grab you right away, it falls pretty flat. I would put this in the "flat" category (especially when the zombies show up, ugh) but there's a definite sense of inventiveness here. So, kinda neutral, but enough to look out for the second volume. [Full issue #4 online]


It's a fine tradition.


Gone missing at my shop. Should be in next week. *sob*

Other Stuff of Interest

DAREDEVIL VS PUNISHER #1 (OF 6) - WFTT, David Lapham's year of the mainstream continues...

VILLAINS UNITED #3 (OF 6) - WFTT. I also heard that Suicide Squad might be showing up in the new Justice League cartoon? Hmmm...

Y: THE LAST MAN #35 - WFTT. For better or for worse, Brian K. Vaughan may be the most consistent mainstream writer in the business. I tend to think it's for the better.

"You wasted life, why wouldn't you waste the afterlife?"