I read comics. So should you.

The Stack-4/19/17

In new books, rants, reviews on April 20, 2017 at 11:16 am

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This week in comics: Event season approaches (so that we can all complain about fatigue instead of just, I don’t know, NOT BUYING THOSE BOOKS), Warren Ellis hits us with his writing stick twice in one week, and Image launches some dark number ones (that Garth Ennis kind of dark). But first, I need to clear something up in the new Cave Carson, since it’s all pixelated out:

wang

Really? You’re going to censor some wang? In a MATURE READERS book? Can we please get past this Puritanical fear of nudity, particularly the double standard of male nudity?

This was a monster Wednesday, not just in terms of quantity, but also quality. I cannot remember the last time I tore through a stack with such ecstatic abandon AND felt so satisfied at the conclusion. This is the week that you should take your family member or friend who is on the fence about comics to your local shop, give them the grand tour, put a floppy in their hands that aligns with their interests, and expand our ranks with fresh blood gently coax them into a lifelong love affair with the medium.

Injection #12 (Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, Jordie Bellaire, Fonografiks-Image): The mighty Warren Ellis has a unique skill set in the world of comics, and this is one of those titles where he employs every last razor-sharp tool in his kit. There’s a big, mad idea, wrapped in a teased-out mystery, populated with haggard reimagined archetypes who do not suffer fools gladly, demanding sandwiches and spitting cruel, dry humor as they get down to the business of crafting the future. Brigid Roth is investigating a bizarre stone ring out on a Cornish moor, and its link to the faery world. In this issue there is a genuinely creepy exchange between her and a local professor, as well as a jar containing what could be the sorcerous penis of Rasputin. Enjoy.

The Wild Storm #3 (Warren Ellis, Jon Davis-Hunt, Steve Buccellato, Simon Bowland-DC): There’s a wonderful synergy that can be achieved between the typically dichotomous. You can go on about theoretical science and corporate espionage, and still get in action sequences that blow your damn doors off, and Ellis has been able to achieve this when paired with artists up to the challenge, giants like John Cassaday, Bryan Hitch, and now Jon Davis-Hunt (fresh off of the sadly cancelled Clean Room). Things go boom and ratatattat, but we also get a brilliant four page sequence (featuring a much beloved character from Authority) showing a curious young woman apparently traveling from place to place via electronic screens on devices like phones and billboards. I love the way Ellis is weaving together his version of the Wildstorm universe, and these twenty four issues will go by way too fast.

Letter 44 #32 (Charles Soule, Langdon Foss, Dan Jackson, Crank!-Oni Press): Telling a story about alien life is an enormously difficult task, which I suppose is why so many stories just make them essentially humans that are a different color or part insect or something. Charles Soule is up to the challenge of making his visitors something beyond that in Letter 44: tentacled, featureless beings responsible for entire galaxies of techno-organic creation, with behavior, drives, and hubris that is immediately recognizable, so that we may see just enough of ourselves in them to empathize with their plight. We finally see the event that led to everything in this series, crafted with such mind-melting detail and color that I truly believe that this issue needs some awards heaped upon it.

God Country #4 (Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw, Jason Wordie, John J. Hill-Image): Emmett has taken his huge talking sword and charged into an aspect of Hell in order to rescue his granddaughter from Balegrim, a powerful being who wants the sword returned to his father. Meanwhile, his son and his daughter-in-law, besieged by the undead, have the kind of argument about faith you can only have when confronted with the impossible. This book is raw emotion and southern swagger, and it is going to not only put Donny Cates on the map, it is going to add a new country to it, adjacent to Jason Aaron’s, I would think.

Redneck #1 (Donny Cates, Lisandro Estherren, Dee Cunniffe, Joe Sabrino-Image): It’s a Donny Cates double feature! What we have here is a family of restless vampires, laying low on the outskirts of an east Texas town, doing a poor job of avoiding getting hunted by the local god-fearing populace. What really made this stand out, apart from Lisandro Estherren’s gritty, brooding artwork, is the turn it takes at the end, communicating the panic one experiences when they get blind drunk and wake to discover that they have torn their life down, and have no recollection of it whatsoever. This one is going to be quite a ride.

Black Hammer #8 (Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston, Dave Stewart, Todd Klein-Dark Horse): This issue is just jam-packed with tragedy. There are lots of folks out there who are fond of the whole ‘comics will break your heart’ quote, and this right here is a prime example of a story doing just that (though that old chestnut is more about things like creators getting shit on, and how stigmatized the medium is, even to this day). Gail continues to reflect and break down, Lucy investigates the mystery around the town of Rockwood, Mark continues his flirtations, and the ending . . . HOLY SHIT the ending.

Plastic #1 (Doug Wagner, Daniel Hillyard, Laura Martin, Ed Dukeshire-Image): Sometimes a comic comes along and immediately achieves a certain infamy. You will lend it to your friends as a dare, something to test their limits and talk about later. This is one of those comics. It is SO fucked up. If you too are attracted to things of that sort, I highly recommend getting a copy.

Invincible Iron Man #6 (Brian Michael Bendis, Stefano Caselli, Marte Gracia, VC’s Clayton Cowles-Marvel): Perhaps up to this point you’re still not sure if you are interested in Riri Williams, the super-genius teen who is stepping into Tony Stark’s rocket-powered shoes. I’ll tell you right now, after this issue, you will adore her. You know, unless you’re some hateful, stuck-in-the-past grognard. The way she views Tony’s collection of armor with total fangirl reverence, her banter with everyone around her, her desire to genuinely do good in the world . . . if you don’t connect with that, why the hell are you reading superhero comics in the first place? Also in this issue: The Bendis finally addresses what is to become of Latveria now that Doom has abandoned it, and the Champions make an offer.

Royal City #2 (Jeff Lemire, Steve Wands-Image): Apparently it’s the Warren Ellis, Donny Cates, AND Jeff Lemire double feature this week! Getting back to recommending books to people you know-If someone in your life is addicted to TV dramas, THIS is the book you give them. There’s tons of family tension, a crumbling marriage, debt to local criminals that gets someone roughed up, dealing with middle age and burnout, and just a hint of metaphysical mystery to chew on and speculate about. AND a mixtape list, for all us aging hipsters, as well as the fact that it’s only on issue two, and thus easy to catch up on.

Fighting the ol’ OCD beast can be a challenge for most comic book readers, but it’s a fight worth participating in, and I’ll gladly tell you why, free of charge.

In this blog I have a tendency to dump all over collectors, and collectibles. My point of view is simple: Comic books are an interactive storytelling experience, so to merely regard them as art objects or sources of revenue is crass and hurtful. To attain things merely to attain them, to just engage in an empty Capitalist ritual, is no way to live one’s life. Don’t just give in to being a completionist. Don’t fill in a run of books just to have a complete run. If you don’t like where a story is going, or what is happening to the characters, or you feel that the current roster of creators are a bunch of hacks, then just STOP BUYING THAT BOOK. Fight the urge. Send a clearer impression to your local retailers and the publishers. You vote with your dollar. There’s a giant pool of talent and ideas out there, and our comics should be good ones, so support those that are, and help give the axe to those that are lacking.

I bring this up again and again not only because I constantly see these bad habits, or because people tend to talk a good game about improving the comic book landscape but then let great works die from poor sales, but also because it’s event time again. This week saw the release of Marvel’s Secret Empire #0, and the Batman/Flash Watchmen button crossover with its (FACEPALM) lenticular variant cover, and there’s more stuff like this in the pipe. Now I’ve read these, and actually enjoyed them, but they aren’t essential. Fans love to whine and bitch about ‘event fatigue’, but no one is making you participate. We know the deal by now: There will be core books and spin-offs and crossovers, all built around some neat idea that cannot possibly be sustained throughout this many titles. If you’re not interested, or if you don’t want to move outside of your current list of weeklies, then don’t feel pressured to buy them. Simple. Writers have become quite adept at the unenviable and difficult task of writing a story that stays within its own borders while also massaging in the event material. You’ll be just fine, I assure you.

Well, that’s all for now. Feel free to share my ramblings with others, comment and share your picks, and as always, thank you for reading, and for reading this. Be good, support your local brick and mortar shops, and I’ll see you in seven.

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