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The Stack-6/7/17

In new books, rants, reviews on June 8, 2017 at 7:46 pm

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This week in comics: A trio of comics dealing with the consequences of pursuing vengeance, Shade helps us come to terms with our impending decrepitude, and a boring hetero cis dude for some reason feels compelled to talk about how Iceman tackles coming out as a gay superhero. But first, it’s time to play, ‘What lame-ass stunt are collectors hoarding this week?’:

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This. It’s this utter nonsense right here. Now I think our heroes should be allowed to be happy, but this is so out of character for Bats.

There wasn’t a whole lot of levity in this week’s pile, and that’s fine. Just because your granny still calls them ‘funnybooks’ does not mean that they have to be a constant chucklefest. Within the pages of the incredibly strong number ones and assorted ongoing storylines, shit did indeed get real. And it was oh so good. Let’s take a closer look.

Victor LaValle’s Destroyer #1 (Victor LaValle, Dietrich Smith, Joana Lafuente, Jim Campbell-Boom! Studios): You have to be cautious and respectful when building upon a classic story, and you have to possess a clear purpose, or it’s just more lazy fanfic. LaValle understands this, and his vision for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein brings its characters into the modern world in clever and heartbreaking ways, while keeping true to the themes of conquering death and exploring the darker side of humanity. The monster, up until now exiled in Antarctica, is suddenly and violently reunited with us, and the remaining scientists aware of his existence are attempting to mobilize to greet him. History repeats itself, but with shiny new technology, and the added tragedy of race relations and gun violence in America. UPDATE: I realize this book is two weeks old, but Diamond shorted me and I only just got it now. It made such an impact that I just had to add it to the official stack anyway.

Extremity #4 (Daniel Warren Johnson, Mike Spicer, Rus Wooton-Image): I don’t know how they do it. This series is a story of bloody revenge, dressed in a world of fantastic post-apocalyptic tribalism, and it manages to be completely fresh and engaging despite how familiar those concepts are in modern fiction. I suspect it’s primarily because the human (and even not-so-human) emotion on display is genuinely complex, warts and all. It hits the heart as hard as the lush, kinetic artwork hits the eyeballs. And if that is too touchy-feely for you, I’ll have you know that there’s badass airships, giant spider creatures, and lots of punching, too.

Spider-Man #17 (Brian Michael Bendis, Oscar Bazaldua, Justin Ponsor, VC’s Cory Petit-Marvel): Miles has been struggling with a lot lately. Ever since receiving the vision that showed him killing Captain America during the last Civil War event, he’s been worried that he’ll snap and go too far. He’s had a crisis of confidence, and it has only gotten worse since he beat up everyone in a bar while pursuing a purse snatcher. SPOILERS After seeing his friend Bombshell hospitalized from an encounter with Hammerhead, rage takes over and he foolishly puts himself in a very dangerous situation–one which could cost him his life. I always enjoy storylines that remind us that superheroing is, even for those with special powers, insanely stupid and dangerous business. You can bitch about grim and gritty™ all you like; without stakes that we can relate to, there’s no story, and no reason to engage with it.

Shade the Changing Girl #9 (Cecil Castellucci, Marley Zarcone, Ande Parks, Kelly Fitzpatrick, Saida Temofonte-DC/Young Animal): Have I mentioned before that this book is brilliant? I did? Several times? Well, it is. There’s so much to chew on in each issue, regardless of whether you’re a new reader or an old fart like me who considers the Milligan run their prized possession. Speaking of the elderly, in this issue Shade delves deeper into Gotham City, attending a concert featuring her favorite Earth band, The Sonic Booms. The problem is, in her excitement, she forgot how long transmissions from our planet take to reach her home of Meta. The Booms are well beyond their prime, and so are all of their human fans. Not satisfied with this revelation, she uses her madness powers to try to help everyone recapture those glory days, if only briefly. Then, it’s on to the next adventure. Ah, youth…

The Unsound #1 (Cullen Bunn, Jack T. Cole, Jim Campbell-Boom! Studios): This one gets filed under ‘Things You Don’t See Much in Comics and There’s Probably a Very Good Reason For That’. The thing in this case is madness. Many of the best horror stories focus on it, and that’s understandable, since there isn’t much that’s more terrifying than learning that your senses and intellect, the very things that read and interpret the world around you, are possibly unreliable, and may actually be turning against you. It can be hard to communicate that feeling convincingly, in any kind of narrative, but this creative team has nailed it. There’s page after page of images that will elicit the following reactions: “Well that’s not right”, “What the hell am I looking at?”, and “NOPE NOPE NOPE”. Asylums have not been this unsettling since they let Grant Morrison play in Arkham.

Iceman #1 (Sina Grace, Alessandro Vitti, Rachelle Rosenberg, VC’s Joe Sabino-Marvel): Okay, I need to preface this review with full disclosure. What you’re about to read is written by a heterosexual man whose understanding of being homosexual comes from friends, a mishmash of entertainment that runs the gamut from insultingly uninformed to explicit and enlightening, and the Babadook. What I’m getting at is that while I’m not qualified to speak about this with anything close to authority or experience, I’m an ally who is doing his best, and I mean no disrespect or harm. Okay, on we go.

Bobby Drake, the mutant known as Iceman, has recently met his younger self (X-Men are always involved in wacky time displacement crap that makes little to no sense), and it sparked a profound, live-changing epiphany. Bobby is gay, and he’s not sure what to do with that knowledge. He isn’t ready to share this with his family, since they are still not handling his life as a superhero very well. He wants to get out there and date, but his day-to-day is utter chaos, and besides, teaching and training the kids at The Xavier Institute is a full time job. Those lame dad jokes aren’t going to tell themselves.

The thing about this issue, and again, this is just the two cents from someone on the outside, is that Bobby and his struggle feel very true-to-life. He isn’t presented as a stereotype, and he’s allowed plenty of room to just do his thing. Alone in his room, trying to think up a description of himself for a dating site, or talking to himself outside a hospital after the adrenaline from a fight spins down, he takes a look at his situation and arrives at the conclusion that most of us do, from any walk of life:

*shrug*

That does it for this week. As always, thanks for reading, and for reading comics. You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter at the links below, and feel free to comment, complain, and share. Don’t forget to support your local shops, be good, and I’ll see you in seven.

 

The Stack-5/31/17

In art, new books, rants, reviews on June 1, 2017 at 1:04 pm

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This week in comics: Saga returns, with some of its darkest humor yet, Jeff Lemire ends his remarkable run on Moon Knight, and I come clean regarding my feelings about Rob Liefeld and his body of work. But first, before it gets too late, I’d like to congratulate this year’s Eisner Award nominees (The full list can be found here):

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Fifth Wednesdays are unusual little beasties. They tend to be filled with annuals, books that don’t have a hard monthly release date, and other outcasts that don’t get much love normally. This time around there was a fair amount of storyline endings and changing of creative teams, which lent a bittersweet feel to things. Change is in the air. Let’s get into it.

Saga #43 (Fiona Staples, Brian K. Vaughan, Fonografiks-Image): The crew on this book wastes no time whatsoever; From the opening splash page you’ll be alternately laughing and gasping. It’s a truly admirable thing they shoot for: to address big issues like women’s reproductive freedom and health, and perception of the transgender community, but to do so with a lighter overall tone, presenting it with dark, inappropriate humor. This special jumping-on point story was only twenty-five cents, so there’s very little risk involved in discovering if this fan favorite phenom is your sort of jam. Believe me, you’ll know pretty much right away, not unlike with the very first issue.

Moon Knight #14 (Jeff Lemire, Greg Smallwood, Jordie Bellaire, VC’s Cory Petit-Marvel): Time for the final showdown, between Marc Spector/Steven Grant/Jake Lockley and Khonshu/human madness. It’s a satisfying, cathartic conclusion, balancing acceptance and peace with a remaining sense of ambiguity. Take note, comics creators: this run has been a master class on craft, blending theme and content with pacing, panel usage, color, and general art style. These fourteen issues, along with titles like The Vision, are some of the best that Marvel has offered up in recent memory, and show that it’s coming from the fringes of the company, from talent unfettered by event continuity and business-as-usual guidelines.

Motor Girl #6 (Terry Moore-Abstract Studio): There’s not really another comic out there right now like this one. Terry Moore always has that symbiosis of big ideas and down-to-earth drama in his work, and his latest is no exception. There’s a wild backdrop of alien abduction and experimentation here, while in the foreground the heart of the book is the struggle of a woman deeply wounded in combat overseas, carving out a life beyond the armed forces, guided by an imaginary gorilla. It vacillates in tone from silly to disturbing, similar to something like Twin Peaks. This issue reveals to us how Sam got hurt, and it’s profoundly heartbreaking.

Doctor Strange #21 (Dennis Hopeless, Niko Henrichon, VC’s Cory Petit-Marvel): Here we have a comic with not one, but TWO aspects that bring me outside of my comfort zone. First, it’s an event tie-in, getting us caught up with what is happening now that Strange and many other New York-based heroes are trapped in a Darkforce bubble created by the higher ups at Hydra, from back in the zero issue of Secret Empire. Second, we have a new creative team guiding the ship in writer Dennis Hopeless and artist Niko Henrichon. The verdict? It’s really good. Hopeless covers a lot of ground here, and does it with all of the aplomb he showed making his recent run on Spider-Woman so good, and Henrichron brings his full crayon box of demonic texture and color to the party. It’s good to see that this will remain a quality flagship title going forward.

So recently, a friend of mine shared a post that announced Rob Liefeld as Wizard World Philadelphia’s first ever Hall of Legends ceremony guest. He did this knowing that it would get some sort of angry, eye-rolley reaction from me. And it did. But let’s rewind a bit and explain, just in case you haven’t already chosen a side in this ongoing debate.

Twenty-five years ago, Rob Liefeld, along with some other hotshot superhero comic artists of the era, left Marvel and founded their own company, Image Comics, soon finding themselves awash in cash and notoriety in our small corner of the world. As their chosen name implied, this solidified the importance of the art over other aspects in a comic book’s creation, a notion that prevailed until after the industry pulled itself from the wreckage of the collector’s boom, and focus shifted to writers.

So WHO exactly IS Rob Liefeld? Well, chances are you’ve seen his work here or there. He rose to fame drawing many of Marvel’s mutant characters, creating a bunch of his own that have endured to this day, and then taking that formula over to his own publishing company with books like Youngblood and Supreme. He’s the guy who created Deadpool, a character now fully out there in the world thanks in no small part to the recent Ryan Reynolds movie, though there’s a whole argument behind just how original this character really is, and if Liefeld deserves any real credit for it, since other writers crafted the mercenary’s personality more into what is known and loved today.

He is a highly contentious and divisive figure in the comic book community, and it really all comes to down to this: His artistic methodology, endlessly dissected and copied, is the single best example we have for style over fundamentals. Rob loves what he loves. A child of the 80’s, he adores the action films of that period, and action in general. He loves giant, menacing weapons, cheesy one-liners, and big, bulging dudes. This informs his approach to genre comic book making. It’s action all the time, fights and gore and empty shells pouring onto smoky ruins. He has no time for subtlety. Everything is, like the namesake of his own studio, EXTREME. This is rendered on the page as a series of sharp, kinetic hatch lines and impractical (and sometimes downright impossible) poses, the details of the characters always taking precedence over the any detail in the background. It looks like this:

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And this:

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As you can see, very little time is spent on the basics: anatomy, composition, line weight and shadow, storytelling, etc. Here’s where fans and critics break off into two camps. You either prize what he achieves through glossy embellishment and excitement, or you see it as hollow and ignorant, nothing more than a popcorn movie on a piece of Bristol board. Both sides have their points, and we’re all certainly free to make up our own minds and enjoy what we please. It’s really about a perception of high art versus low art, and personal aesthetics.

And that brings it back to what I think about this guy, and the fact that he is being honored at a comic book convention (really more of a pop culture convention these days) nearby. I’m sure you can figure out where I land on this if you’ve been reading my blog. And look, I try very hard not to make it personal. I’ve seen Rob around, and I’ve heard his interviews. He’s a very pleasant, positive, and grateful fellow by most accounts. So I just focus on his work. I DO NOT like it. I’m a substance guy. I’m more of the nerdy, scholarly type of fan, and I’m big on always working towards improvement. Rob’s work is kind of stuck in amber, a frozen moment in time that is uniquely his. An embodiment of all of the stuff he treasures, and he’s not alone in his sensibilities. It’s just not for me. I love to see a variety of styles in the medium, but not at the expense of craft and form and content. You CAN do both. I’d wish him all the best, but he’s rich and has a legion of loyal fans, so he needs my well-wishing about as much as Cable needs a place to keep his car keys (got in the obligatory pouch joke-ZING!).

So that’s that. Thanks for reading, and for reading comics. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram at the links below, and feel free to comment and share. Be sure to support your local shops, be good, and I’ll see you in seven.

 

The Stack-5/24/17

In new books, rants, reviews on May 26, 2017 at 10:23 am

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This week in comics: Paul Cornell and IDW show us proof of life beyond cancellation, we get a double dose of Jonathan Hickman, and I do my best to explain why I’ve chosen to focus exclusively on comics. But first, it’s time for nostalgia’s weekly kicking in the taint:

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Are you fucking serious? So first we got a toy universe from IDW, and now an Atari universe from Dynamite? Yes, I realize Centipede actually came with a comic (I’m an old person, after all), but can’t we just enjoy the past without trotting out its dolled-up corpse every few years?

The best way to sum up my picks this week is with the word ‘struggle’. Not in the sense that I had to struggle my way through reading them, because that is certainly not the case. No, just in terms of narrative. This moment in comic book history mirrors a real, universal moment, where it feels as though most of us are slogging through, trying to maintain our stamina, winning small victories where we can. We are pushing into the murky space between dark second act and denouement. Let’s see what that struggle yields.

Saucer State #1 (Paul Cornell, Ryan Kelly, Adam Guzowski, Simon Bowland-IDW): This is SO encouraging to see! Cancelled Vertigo book Saucer Country returns to us as Saucer State, picking up right where it left off. Arcadia Alvarado, former Governor of New Mexico and alien abductee, is now the President, using her position and resources to get to the bottom of her experience. There’s greys, microwave projectors, and cake-loving space faeries, all illustrated beautifully by Ryan Kelly, whose work just keeps getting better and better. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up, and grab the trades from Vertigo while you’re at it.

East of West #33 (Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta, Frank Martin, Rus Wooton-Image): Full disclosure: I am a total Hickman fanboy. I have been reading his work since The Nightly News, I loved what he did with The Fantastic Four and Avengers, and I eagerly await Frontier. East of West has been a notably longer story, a Science Fiction dystopia based on a version of The United States that is broken up racially and ideologically, staring down the barrel of the apocalypse. A lot has happened in thirty-three issues, but this latest one feels almost like it could act as a jumping-on point or a one-shot. It is bookended with the concept of burning your leaders, amped up with revolution, and at its center is a love story. Artist Nick Dragotta has been absolutely killing it on this book, bringing human emotion into this swirl of conflict on a grand scale. Give it a look.

Infamous Iron Man #8 (Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev, Matt Hollingsworth, VC’s Clayton Cowles-Marvel): I know, I gush about this book almost every month. But you guuuyyyyys, it’s SO damn good. I can’t really get into why without SPOILERS, so here we go. In this issue, Riri Williams, the new Iron Man, goes to Latveria and confronts Victor Von Doom, who is also acting as the new Iron Man, and asks him to stand down, despite being COMPLETELY outmatched. What he asks of her in return is quite unexpected, and brings us to yet another huge end-of-issue reveal. Speaking of those, now that Reed Richards has revealed himself to Ben, he tries to convince his old friend that it really is him with a lovely anecdote that only they would appreciate. And as always, the art team just blows us away, Maleev’s shadow and Hollingsworth’s glow tag-teaming to punch your eyeballs in.

The Old Guard #4 (Greg Rucka, Leandro Fernández, Daniela Miwa, Jodi Wynne-Image): Moving on to another new series that I’m silly in love with, Rucka’s latest tale, one about a small group of immortals working as mercenaries. The focus so far has been both on how much immortality and thus time itself sucks, and that despite all that the rich and powerful will go to extreme lengths to get their hands on this perceived ‘gift’. This month’s installment, with art that comes across as a juxtaposition of life and death in much the same way that the writing does, is absolutely BRUTAL.

Mother Panic #7 (Jody Houser, John Paul Leon, Dave Stewart, John Workman-DC/Young Animal): Mother Panic is BACK! New story arc, new artist (the amazing darkness and grit of John Paul Leon), and a new villain: a killer dressed in a body bag (“Everyone in this fucking city has to have a shtick”). This book continues to be Batman for people who want an even more tragic and more foul-mouthed Batman, and it does that incredibly well. It has such great quotability (“Trash spilling into our backyard. And I’m the fucking garbage man”), like it’s a vigilante comic written by Sam Raimi or Guy Ritchie in their heyday. And I love the way that the setting of Gotham City is acknowledged without being annoyingly fan-servicey, like in this issue where we just see a dark cape on a rooftop. After a few issues of stumbling, this comic is back on its feet, ready to plant them firmly into our asses.

Rounding out the week, here are a few one-sentence reflections on some other comics. Please note: I do not do this to diminish these books in any way. I’m just short on time, and think it’s amusing. Hopefully you do as well. We shall see.

Seven to Eternity #6 (Rick Remender, Jerome Opeña, Matt Hollingsworth, Rus Wooton-Image): It has just occurred to me that Adam Osidis looks exactly like MMA fighter Conor McGregor.

Letter 44 #33 (Charles Soule, Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque, Dan Jackson, Crank!-Oni Press): It is so marvelously satisfying to see Carroll get his comeuppance.

Black Hammer #9 (Jeff Lemire, David Rubín-Dark Horse): Just what in the hell are you up to, Colonel Weird?

Ringside #10 (Joe Keatinge, Nick Barber, Simon Gough, Ariana Maher-Image): Just like in professional wrestling, this heel turn felt really forced.

Plastic #2 (Doug Wagner, Daniel Hillyard, Laura Martin, Ed Dukeshire-Image): Despite the gore, this comic made me hungry for donuts.

And now: A mission statement clarification! Yay!

Some of you might be wondering why I don’t talk about the greater world of comics-related things: movies, television shows, toys, etc. Well, there are a couple of reasons for this intentional omission.

First of all, comics are my first love. They are my favorite form of entertainment, and have been since before I learned to read. I don’t want to dilute that by talking about other mediums that are tangentially connected. Movies, television, and collectibles are inherently more popular in the mainstream, and honestly don’t need the signal boost the way that comics do. This makes no sense to me. Comics are the wellspring of these fantastic ideas and characters, yet most people don’t read them. My mission is to win people over, and get them reading. Comics are a creative a motherland, yet sales slump, creators make little money and receive little recognition, and corporations treat them essentially as intellectual property farms, their niche money tolerated because the ideas can be crafted into a mass market product.

Second, the culture is absolutely choked with this concept of ‘geek culture’, and it has been crassly adopted and enforced everywhere you look. Understand, I’m not above this. I too watch the movies and the shows, and buy the t-shirts. I’m not a gatekeeper. I don’t think this expansion of comics is inherently bad. I want EVERYONE reading the books, and not viewing them as a lesser form of entertainment. I’m tired of the community kissing Hollywood’s ass, and even adopting the lexicon of that world (such as ‘Director’s Cut’) in the hope that it lends us credibility and brings in a larger audience. I do this for me and for comics, and that’s the way it will continue to be. Want to find out if exposure, popularity, or actually getting paid for my opinions shatter that scrap of integrity? Share this blog far and wide and let’s find out (shameless plug/desperate plea-winky face emoji).

So now you know. I may come across as too cool for school, or a cranky purist, but just understand that it comes from a well-meaning place, and a lifelong respect and passion for the medium. So many people have worked so hard to make so many magnificent stories come to life, and they all deserve better. The world is starting to understand that comic books are cool. Let’s work together to make them that kind of cool that people will pay money for, and proudly consume and discuss in public. Rant over.

That’s all for this week. Thank you for reading, and for reading comics. Feel free to comment and share, and you can follow me on Twitter @rabbit11comics, and see my art stuff on Instagram at rabbit11comics. Be sure to support your local shops, be good, and I’ll see you in seven.

The Stack-5/17+5/10 & FCBD

In new books, rants, reviews on May 19, 2017 at 12:12 am

It’s been a whole damn month, but I’m back, I’m tipsy, and I have OH so much to share with you from Free Comic Book Day up to this week’s picks. Strap on your crash helmets and pull up your Gallagher (TM) brand plastic tarps, and let’s get messy.

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That other week in comics: Holy shitballs Free Comic Book Day was awesome, the Allred clan serves up some quality quirk, and I continue smooching Image’s butt like they’re sending me original pages from The Maxx. But first, let us pay our respects to a tragically co-opted character:

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You’re in a better place now. One where Richard Spencer can’t get you.

Here comes the Free Comic Book Lightning Round!

Secret Empire/Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man (Nick Spencer, Andrea Sorrentino, VC’s Travis Lanham, Chip Zdarsky, Paulo Siqueira, Walden Wong, Cam Smith, Jay Leisten, Frank D’Armata-Marvel): The book’s first half, with haunting, gorgeously designed visuals, will no doubt split readers into two camps: those who think Nick Spencer and Marvel are trolling them, and those who come away with the realization that Mjolnir’s most terrifying aspect (and this has been beautifully extrapolated upon courtesy of Jason Aaron and the various Thor books of the last few years) is that ironclad conviction can be perceived as worthiness, and thus leads both good AND evil to power. But enough of that heavy stuff. Let’s talk about how Chip Zdarsky was born to write Peter Parker, and how this book’s Vulture zingers are the proof of that. Love the bold kineticism from the art team, too. There, we talked about it.

I Hate Image (Skottie Young, Jean-Francois Beaulieu, Nate Piekos-Image): Gert from I Hate Fairyland goes on a murderous rampage through Bitch Planet, Saga, The Walking Dead, Spawn, Paper Girls, and more, poking fun along the way. It is the greatest and I love it. I love it into little bitty widdle pieces.

X-O Manowar/Secret Weapons/Bloodshot Salvation (Matt Kindt, Cafu, Andrew Dalhouse, Dave Sharpe, Eric Heisserer, Raúl Allén, Patricia Martín, David Lafuente, Jeff Lemire, Juan José Ryp, Simon Bowland-Valiant): Like the whole Valiant line in general, not a bad one in the bunch, whether it’s watching a barbarian stab aliens, a young woman talk to birds, or nanites trying to understand human memories.

Boom! Studios 2017 Summer Blast (David Petersen, Sam Sykes, Selina Espiritu, Sarah Stern, Jim Campbell, Liz Prince, Amanda Kirk, Hannah Fisher-Boom!): All ages fun galore, from the always-amazing fantasy adventure of Mouse Guard to the manga-inspired culinary silliness of Brave Chef Brianna to the musical, Wawa hoagie-worshipping high jinks of Coady and the Creepies.

Big Brass Balls Award 2017 goes to:

Spongebob Freestyle Funnies, for dropping some truth about our dysfunctional relationship with Diamond Distribution. Savage.

Moving on to the picks of last week:

Bug! The Adventures of Forager #1 (Lee Allred, Michael Allred, Laura Allred, Nate Piekos-DC Young Animal): So this is what happens when the zany creator of classics like Madman gets his whole family involved with cherished characters from the mind of the one and only Jack Kirby. You get trippy dream worlds, jokes about Camus, all kinds of pop culture references, and the sort of high-energy heroics that are worthy of the source material. Young Animal does it again. Two antennae up.

The Fix #9 (Nick Spencer, Steve Lieber, Ryan Hill, Ironbark-Image): This comic consistently makes me literally (yes, I’m using it correctly here; If you mean figuratively, then fucking SAY figuratively) laugh out loud, and that is something that few books can do. Johnny the Homicidal Maniac did it. Dork did it. Now this does. There’s meth jokes and granny innuendo jokes and Hollywood jokes and BDSM jokes and it all lands every time. Oh, and there’s a cute dog. So you can always buy it for that.

Regression #1 (Cullen Bunn, Danny Luckert, Marie Enger-Image): I needed some more gross-out horror in my life. No, wait, that isn’t true at all. I don’t need it. I just like it. Because of chemical imbalances and an adolescence spent watching Troma films. Anyway, Regression delivers on that end, delving into the creepy world of hypnotherapy and past lives, and doing so with an art team that can deftly juxtapose bros at a cookout with bugs shooting out of corpses. Grab the popcorn!

Shade the Changing Girl #8 (Cecil Castellucci, Marley Zarcone, Ande Parks, Kelly Fitzpatrick, Saida Temofonte-DC Young Animal): The soul of an alien poet, set loose among the grimdark bustle of Gotham. This creative team has done something truly special, and they have more than earned the right to continue the Shade story. This is something that we’ll all be coming back to decipher, years down the road. It’s your teenage shadow talking to you, through that wild place inside that you rarely visit anymore.

Black Cloud #2 (Jason Latour, Ivan Brandon, Greg Hinkle, Matt Wilson, Dee Cunniffe, Aditya Bidikar-Image): There was some blowback on the first issue of this one, with cries of ‘too impenetrable’ rising above the usual critical din. Me, I love a good mystery, and I especially love when a story unfolds organically, without a visit from the condescending Exposition Fairy. This issue drops lots of hints through the dialogue, like the characters don’t even care that there’s an audience present, trying desperately to piece together their dilemma. I like that. Your mileage may vary. Bonus points for mocking Trump’s stupid red MAGA hats.

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Now then, THIS week in comics: Marvel cements those new legacy characters in place with feels, DC finally gives us some follow through on Geoff Johns and his nutty Watchmen idea, and #teammargaret gets a big old PLOT TWIST (cue air horn). But first, I just want to give a shout to my main man Rahzzah, who has two new and kick-ass covers out this week:

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Invincible Iron Man #7 (Brian Michael Bendis, Stefano Caselli, Marte Gracia, VC’s Clayton Cowles-Marvel): At last the cold, hard truth gets addressed: Riri is a kid, and has nearly zero experience fighting super villains. Her mind is elsewhere when she runs into Will O’ The Wisp, and she gets knocked out, saved only by the swift intervention of the Tony Stark AI. Now please understand, I love this book, but I’m hoping we soon see one of the supporting characters step in and just say what we’re all thinking: It is GROSSLY negligent to let this young woman act as Iron Man. Genius-level intellect is great, but it won’t help much when the punching starts. She has her whole life ahead of her, and Secret Empire is right up in her grill, and it won’t end well without better planning and a LOT more training. Do it, Bendis.

The Wild Storm #4 (Warren Ellis, Jon Davis-Hunt, Steve Buccellato, Simon Bowland-DC): Sure, there’s a lot going on in this issue, what with all the Covert Action Team stuff and the shooty and the boom-boom. But let’s fast-forward to Weatherman. He arrives on his space station and proceeds to dress down every subordinate within earshot, and it is just Ellis at his cranky best. The banter between he and Ms. Pennington is reminiscent of Spider Jerusalem and his ‘filthy assistants’ from the deservedly praised Transmetropolitan. And the art is just goddamn majestic. This crew makes the man-made downright picturesque.

Curse Words #5 (Charles Soule, Ryan Browne, Michael Garland, Michael Parkinson, Chris Crank-Image): Here we go. Wizord versus Ruby Stitch. The battle rages over Las Vegas, and our hero taps into the power of luck to recharge the magical batteries, so that he can. . . um. . . SPOILERS animate a fake Eiffel Tower. Yeah. That goes about as well as you’re thinking. Meanwhile, in flashback, we discover the scandalous truth about Margaret: she’s the daughter of these two, and for some reason none of them recall this fact. Ruby relents when Wizord concedes, and Sizzajee cuts her loose. So much drama! In pretty much unrelated news, the awesome Van Tour for this comic will NOT be coming to my shop, and it makes me incredibly sad. If you’re near any of the stops this Summer, do yourself a favor and check it out. It will be magical and beardy!

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #20 (Ryan North, Erica Henderson, Rico Renzi, Travis Lanham-Marvel): So Melissa Morbeck has devices that allow her to control animals, and is using them to frame Colleen while also framing Doctor Doom. It’s a villain scheme, so naturally it’s unnecessarily complex and therefore full of opportunities for thwarting. Guess what? That is exactly what happens. You knew that was going to happen, but think of how much we learned along the way. We found out that freshwater snail parasites kill a LOT of people, that there is a squirrel in New York named Li’l Busta, that helicopters are super noisy, and that EMPs make sounds when required by the drama of a story. Beat THAT, Bill Nye!

The Wicked + The Divine 455 (Kieron Gillen, André Araújo, Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles, Dee Cunniffe-Image): Kieron asks a lot of his audience. You have to know all this stuff about gods and mythology, and then all this other stuff about pop stars and usually some obscure Britpop junk, and NOW he wants you to recall your Roman history. Jeez, dude. Remember Julius Caesar? Well, according to the conceit of this comic, he’s actually Lucifer, and he wants nothing less than to deny his destiny and be the Emperor of Rome. It does not end well for him. Don’t worry, Ananke will fix it, and keep the history books just the way we remember them. You know, IF we had read them, and not doodled phalluses in them instead.

Quick news update: This November, DC is going to release Doomsday Clock, which will tell the story that Geoff Johns initially envisioned about the role that the Watchmen play in this newly reborn universe. If it is true that it is stand-alone, was inspired by the current zeitgeist, and gives us more than the recent lenticular Flashfest known as ‘The Button’ did, then I’ll gladly pick it up. Though it’s Alan Moore blasphemy of the highest order, I’m curious to see what Johns has in mind, and what it says about the ‘grim and gritty’ era finally meeting its maker at this particular publisher. To be continued.

Well, I hope that somewhat made up for my extended absence. As always, thank you for reading, and for reading this blog. You can follow my silly ass on Twitter at @rabbit11comics , and on Instagram at rabbit11comics. Feel free to comment and share, be sure to support your local shops, be good, and I’ll see you in seven.

No, seriously. This will be weekly again.

 

 

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:

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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.

The Stack-4/12/17

In new books, rants, reviews on April 13, 2017 at 1:45 pm

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This week in comics: Science Fiction front and center, Nick Spencer has the American milieu on speed dial, and the bizarre controversy around X-Men Gold #1. But first, one of many reasons I adore Valiant Comics:

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Not only does the comic sound cool, but you have to do two very important things to acquire it: ruin the book this coupon is in, and take it to your local shop. Thanks for driving business to brick and mortar, and for driving collectors insane.

The genre of Science Fiction is stronger than ever, especially in comics, which I largely attribute to a notable handful of visionaries like Warren Ellis, Rick Remender, and the folks at Image, and if that’s your bag then this week was a treat. Some kind of alien treat, served in a space ship. There was sports Sci-Fi (Motor Crush), Fantasy/Sci-Fi twist (Green Valley AND Seven to Eternity), Western/Sci-Fi (Copperhead), and also . . .

Redline #2 (Neal Holman, Clayton McCormack, Kelly Fitzpatrick, Crank!-Oni Press): Redline is probably most accurately described as MILITARY Sci-Fi. The point of view is from the troops on the ground on Mars, caught between corporate warmongers and a mysterious race of aliens. The humor is gloriously inappropriate, the kind of detached and lovingly insulting bonding that you tend to encounter in high-stress situations. Suicide bombers, wild hallucinations, shootouts in strip clubs, or brushes with alien life: It all gets treated with off-color zingers and dick jokes, which does a highly entertaining job of grounding the unbelievable in the unseemly. It’s so good.

Immortal Brothers: The Tale of the Green Knight #1 (Fred Van Lente, Cary Nord, Clayton Henry, Mark Morales, Brian Reber-Valiant): A one-shot about Gilad, Ivar, and Aram, and their version of the events of the Arthurian tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight? Oh HELL YES. Faith, of the Harbinger Renegades, is sick in bed, and Archer decides to tell her the story, as Armstrong told it to him, all Princess Bride-style. Heads get lopped, squires get acquired, and the truth about Morgan Le Fey and the Lady of the Lake is uncovered. It’s so well done that you can enjoy this book without any knowledge of the Valiant universe. If that’s the case, you might soon find yourself snapping up back issues of Archer & Armstrong, Faith, and Wrath of the Eternal Warrior, just FYI.

The Unbeatable Squirrel-Girl #19 (Ryan North, Erica Henderson, Rico Renzi, Travis Lanham-Marvel): Doreen is facing down her worst nightmare: A REALLY long villain monologue. It turns out that SPOILERS Melissa Morbeck, who was previously seen as a friend and benefactor, is a big-time baddie, and has been reverse engineering tech that will allow her to control nearly every animal that has come into human contact on Earth. To what end? To rule, and to blame it all on Doctor Doom, since that name carries more weight in the grand scheme of evil things. Can she, Koi Boi, Chipmunk Hunk, and Nancy save the day? Will her new suspicions ruin her friendship with Howard the Duck? Will things work out for Alfredo the Chicken? Read the issue, snort-laugh your butt off, and find out!

The Wicked + The Divine #28 (Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles, Dee Cunniffe-Image): A Great Darkness approaches mankind, and the one force that can stop it, a pantheon of gods reborn into the bodies of various young people, is too busy being assholes to bother. Some are digging up dirt, some are getting their party and orgy on, some are enduring abuse, and some are busy murdering. In a flashback, the one who sought to manipulate these deities is literally weeping for the future. This issue, oddly enough, shares a common thread with the recent Marvel works of Jason Aaron: Gods are in fact not far removed from us, and thus are capable of sucking just as hard as we can.

Godshaper #1 (Simon Spurrier, Jonas Goonface, Colin Bell-Boom! Studios): Speaking of gods, there was a brilliant new entry from Boom this week, all about an alternate version of our world where physics misbehaved, and resulted in human beings getting personal gods do their bidding in exchange for worship. The wrinkle is that not everyone got a god, but instead the ability to manipulate these gods, changing their appearance and power sets. Ennay, a wandering musician, is one of these ‘Godshapers’, and is about to get involved in the shady dealings lurking beneath the latest midwestern shithole he’s journeyed into. There’s nothing out there quite like this comic, a sexy amalgam of Pokemon, Rockabilly, and hobo culture, illustrated with colorful abandon by Jonas Goonface. I highly recommend giving it a read.

Captain America: Sam Wilson #21 (Nick Spencer, Daniel Acuña, Rachelle Rosenberg, VC’s Joe Caramagna-Marvel): SPOILERS Here we are. After twenty issues, Sam has made a decision, informed by everything he’s been through, including the fact that Rage was recently put into a coma for daring to stand up to both the Americops and his criminal past. He’s moving on, returning to his life as Falcon, and passing the shield back to Steve Rogers. If all of this was planned in detail by Nick Spencer, then that cements him as one of the best writers in comics as far as I’m concerned. He’s done nothing less than tell one of the most timely and compelling stories about superhero legacy ever. He has taken the character on a journey that examined race, politics, fandom, and abuse of power, and for as sad as this ending is, and knowing just how bad it’s about to get in the big Secret Empire event, it feels like this is exactly how it needed to happen. Sam needed to feel the shadow of Cap and the disapproval of those fans, he needed to be true to himself and pay a huge price for it, and most importantly, he needed to decide to fight on despite the weight of the world crushing him and those closest to him. This is who he is, and he’s going to do what he thinks is right on his own terms again. No matter how hard he tried, he was never going to fill those boots, but it didn’t stop him from actually trying, and it didn’t stop him from inspiring people along the way. The tragically ironic thing is that those actions make him more worthy of being Captain America than the current version of Steve Rogers, but the extremely vocal opposition will not have it. That’s the world that we and these characters live in now, but if we refuse to give up, it CAN and WILL change.

Moving on, I suppose I should touch on the controversy of the week, involving X-Men Gold #1. The short version is that comics artist Ardian Syaf put references to the Indonesian interpretation of the Quran in the issue, and that these references allude to religious hatred and the current political climate in that area. It was a foolish, self-serving thing to do, and it cost him a career that many of us only dream about. For more in-depth information, I suggest checking out the Tumblr of G. Willow Wilson, writer of books like Ms. Marvel, which can be found here.

Then there’s the after-effects that this little fiasco has caused in the retail and collector’s worlds. I have had my shop’s phone ringing ever since, bombarded with would-be speculators looking to make a buck off of one idiot’s misguided attempts at a statement. The issue is going for upwards of $40 on places like Ebay as I write this, which is a fact that makes me physically ill. That anyone wants to make thirty bucks off of religious animosity is disgusting, and is exactly the kind of bullshit that we do not need. I talk a great deal about how comics are for everyone, and that all are welcome. Let me make an amendment to that. Insensitive scumbags treating it like the nerd stock market can just fuck right off. Speculators, online flippers, unscrupulous retailers and dealers, and anyone else who thinks this is acceptable:

road house

Allow me to show you the fucking door, amigo.

Thanks for fighting the good fight with me, and thank you for reading comic books. Feel free to share your thoughts and your pulls in the comments. Be good, support your local shops, and I’ll see you in seven.

The Stack-4/5/17

In new books, rants, reviews on April 7, 2017 at 9:41 am

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This week in comics: Wonderful number ones and twos, bracing for more cancellations, and The Bendis shows us just how poorly superheroics and family mix. But first, in the battle of band-inspired books, who wins?

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This?

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Or this?

(Here’s a hint: IT’S FUCKING SLAYER)

Eleanor & the Egret #1 (John Layman, Sam Keith, Ronda Pattison-Aftershock): What do you get when you put the creators of Chew and The Maxx on the same title? You get the quirky story of an art thief and her magical talking bird. You get the full Sam Keith experience, including unconventional page layouts, coloring that pops and swirls, figures clad in flowing fabrics and towering hats, and unnecessary yet charming reminder balloons. You get a book unlike any other on the shelves. Got it? Good.

Shade the Changing Girl #7 (Cecil Castellucci, Marguerite Sauvage, Becky Cloonan, Saida Temofonte-DC/Young Animal): Shade has been living up to its pedigree and potential each month, carving out its own unique path while maintaining a tether to the works of Peter Milligan and company that came before it. This story of an alien that traveled to our planet and found itself in the body of a high school bully has been an inferno of emotion, poetry, and psychedelia, and I really think it all starts to gel in the best possible way with this latest issue. Here we get some much-needed back story on the Avian formerly known as Loma, and where their wanderlust came from, as well as all sorts of parallels they share with the former Shade. After the flashbacks, the issue builds to a moment when those wronged by Megan, the girl Loma now inhabits, get their revenge, and the realization hits that it’s time to outrun the past and see what Earth has to offer. All of this is illustrated beautifully by Marguerite Sauvage, and it’s a feast for the eyes.

Black Cloud #1 (Jason Latour, Ivan Brandon, Greg Hinkle, Matt Wilson, Dee Cunniffe, Aditya Bidikar, Tom Muller-Image): This is my favorite kind of story, for two reasons. First, it’s the kind that is difficult to describe to other people. My recommendation to friends and customers ends up being, “Just read it!” ( I promise this speaks more about the creator’s wild imagination, and less about my laziness and habit of stumbling over my words). Second, it’s a story about the power of stories, so it’s a mysterious little imp of a meta-narrative. It revolves around a woman who is a homeless nobody in our world, staying alive by giving the disenchanted rich a tour through other realms. Beyond that, issue one is a sublimely rendered collection of questions, with answers looming in the distance. Dive right in, you won’t be disappointed.

Champions #7 (Mark Waid, Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba, Edgar Delgado, VC’s Clayton Cowles-Marvel): Champions is a book about youth, the good and the bad. Cyclops, Hulk, Ms. Marvel, Nova, Spider-Man, and Viv made a decision to form a team of their own, separate from those like The Avengers, with a mission statement full of wide-eyed optimism, social media connection, and solving problems without all the property damage and dead bodies. This particular issue is all about the naivete of that stance, as they deal with getting set up by The Freelancers, a team with a completely mercenary approach and no moral compass. In a final cruel twist, SPOILERS the heroes are confronted with their logo, now trademarked by their enemies and splashed across products that are completely antithetical to what they stand for. The lesson: Be ever vigilant, or evil will totally co-opt your shit.

Extremity #2 (Daniel Warren Johnson, Mike Spicer, Rus Wooton-Image): Let me start off by apologizing for not covering issue one of this series. It slipped past my radar, and I did not get to read it until just recently. But when I finally sat down and cracked open a copy, it absolutely rocked my damn world. It’s a Sci-Fi adventure drama, a tale of revenge and tribal warfare, and it lives in a fascinating and fully realized world of massive airships and deadly beasts and terrifying cruelty. I am now a total fanboy for creator Daniel Warren Johnson. His art is stunningly visceral, reminiscent of greats like Paul Pope and Geof Darrow, and it pulls me into each and every page. I can’t recommend this one enough.

Motor Girl #5 (Terry Moore-Abstract Studio): I absolutely adore Terry Moore’s work. From Strangers in Paradise to Rachel Rising and now Motor Girl, you will always find a very human center to whatever madness is happening in the narrative, driven by strong, compelling characters, and a joyfully independent spirit that permeates everything. Case in point: Sam, a former Marine Sergeant who was beaten and tortured by the enemy while deployed, has visions of a big friendly Gorilla who is her only close companion now that she works alone in a junkyard. Her and her employer, a fiery old lady named Libby, are caught in the middle of a bizarre alien visitation and the weapon developer who wants to intercept it. How can you NOT read that? And if you dare to complain that the comic is in black and white I will throw extra ripe durian fruit at you.

It’s time for the Bendis double-trouble feature!

Jessica Jones #7 (Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Gaydos, Matt Hollingsworth, VC’s Cory Petit, David Mack-Marvel) & Spider-Man #15 (Brian Michael Bendis, Szymon Kudranski, Justin Ponsor, VC’s Cory Petit, Patrick Brown-Marvel): I personally enjoy that old chestnut, you may have heard of it somewhere, about great power coming with great responsibility. Superheroing ain’t easy, and that goes double if you still have family and friends in your life that you are putting in harm’s way merely by association. As a family man, I imagine this aspect is often at the forefront of the mind of The Bendis, and why it appears in his work so much. SPOILERS Jessica Jones has lost the trust of her husband by going undercover for S.H.I.E.L.D. and hiding their child from him, and her old habits are creeping in as she tries to cope. Over in Spider-Man, Miles and his father are confronted by Rio, who has finally pieced together that they have been lying to her face about their lives away from home. These resolutions go as you would expect, with forced explanations doing very little to soothe hurt feelings and uncertainty about the future. It’s in these personal and emotional stakes that we most see ourselves, and it’s how we get invested in a story. A long form genre comic that deals only in the escapism aspect will always be the lesser for ignoring that fact. Thanks, Bendis and your amazing art teams, for putting some truth about the human experience up on Front Street.

I covered a bit more than usual this week, and got delayed by storms knocking out my internet, so I’ll just briefly touch on the upcoming end of some of my favorite books, whether due to cancellation, the end of a run, or just the fact that they are only a mini-series. In the next few months we are losing Unfollow, Clean Room, Patsy Walker aka Hellcat, Letter 44, Invincible, God Country, and more. They will be missed, and I look forward to whatever these creators are up to next.

Having said that, remember that you vote with your dollar. Buy the books that mean something to you, especially if they are taking big chances and/or at a publisher that quickly drops the axe once sales hit a certain low. And DO NOT be one of those asshats that drops a title simply because it’s a mini-series. Not every story needs to go for a decade or more. We can all be better about getting the word out, so that great work is recognized and those behind it can make a living. It’s precisely why I own a comic shop, and why I make this blog. Be a one-nerd comics street team. Tell your friends and family. Share on social media. Go to conventions FOR THE ACTUAL COMICS. It’s a small community, in the greater scheme of things, but it cannot be a clubhouse. You’re all welcome, and there’s always room for more.

Be good, support your local shops, and I’ll see you in seven.

 

The Stack-3/29/17

In new books, rants, reviews on March 30, 2017 at 9:48 pm

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This week in comics: A tear-filled goodbye, the current Zeitgeist Level is ‘Shitstorm Brown’, and somehow Snagglepuss sparks a fierce debate about art styles. Before we begin, I have a burning question:

 

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Can we knock it off with this ‘director’s cut’ horseshit already? Using the terminology of another medium, particularly when it is a total misnomer, doesn’t become us, darlings.

Spider-Woman #17 (Dennis Hopeless, Veronica Fish, Rachelle Rosenberg, Andy Fish, VC’s Travis Lanham, Javier Rodriguez-Marvel): After going through trials and tribulations both deeply personal and extra punchy, Jessica Drew is ready to take a break and settle down with baby Gerry and her new beau Roger, the man formerly known as Porcupine. What writer Dennis Hopeless brought to this title that truly set it apart from nearly everything else on the shelves was heart. He chronicled the highs and lows of a burgeoning super-family, and did it without being saccharine or disingenuous. I enjoyed issue after issue of baby mama drama, and I am not a fan of babies whatsoever. What the various artists involved brought to this title was no less important: Inventive page layouts, expressive character work, and an overall aesthetic that was a refreshingly bright nod to the classics. This book was its own unique corner of the Marvel universe, and its presence will be missed. Enjoy the downtime, Arachnid Lady. You have certainly earned it.

Unfollow #17 (Rob Williams, Mike Dowling, Quinton Winter, Clem Robins, Matt Taylor-DC/Vertigo): Up to this point, Unfollow has sunk its hook into us with a very juicy directive: Imagine that a single genius introduced the world to social media, and that he is dying from cancer, and wants to play a game with us to see what we’re made of. That game involved giving away his fortune to random users of his platform, provided they could survive each other long enough to enjoy it. Recently, the game has changed. SPOILERS Our genius billionaire, Larry Ferrell, has sent his cancer into remission and had an epiphany: People have misused his tech, they are lost without it, and this money is HIS. He plans to simply kill off the remaining 140 chosen ones himself, and get back to being an ‘alpha’. It’s a twist that makes a frightening amount of sense. Rob Williams and his crew have crafted a top notch wake-up call, and I suspect there are even more surprises in store.

Clean Room #17 (Gail Simone, Walter Geovani, Quinton Winter, Todd Klein, Jenny Frison-DC/Vertigo): Next, we sidestep over to another fantastic Vertigo book, where oddly enough, the Internet has also gone dark. Oh shit–SPOILERS Whoops. The difference is, it is the terrifyingly silent opening salvo in the war between demonic entities and humans. They’re hiding among us, and they are now savoring every last bit of chaos, confusion, and suspicion that the panicked masses are experiencing. Meanwhile, in the Clean Room, Astrid is schooling the murderous stalker who has penetrated her inner circle, and is preparing for a showdown with the entity child who wants her broken and destroyed. Gail Simone is talented, funny, and prolific. She also has a dark side, and she is expressing it in a fascinating way. I want more, provided it does not manifest in horrifying ways, like it did with Grant Morrison (look up the story behind his comic, The Invisibles).

Cinema Purgatorio #9 (Alan Moore, Kevin O’Neill, Garth Ennis, Raulo Caceres, Digikore Studios, Max Brooks, Gabriel Andrade, Kieron Gillen, Nahuel Lopez, Christos Gage, Kurt Hathaway-Avatar Press): I have been meaning to discuss this excellent anthology book for months now, so let’s dive in. The main story is really just a chance for the always enchanting and cantankerous Alan Moore to dissect the dark underbelly of film and animation, in a way that only someone fucked over by that same machine can. Garth Ennis’ Code Pru is about the way we make the horror of life banal in order to contain it. A More Perfect Union is a historical fiction gorefest about armies of giant ants emerging during the time of the Civil War. Modded is quite simply Pokemon in a post apocalyptic wasteland, changing out cute monsters for actual demons. And The Vast is a kaiju story focusing on the arms race between nations trying to train giant monsters by getting them to imprint on humans when they’re babies. If you are a fan of horror and gorgeous black and white artwork that stands up on its own, you need to be reading this.

Infamous Iron Man #6 (Brian Michael Bendis, Alex Maleev, Matt Hollingsworth, VC’s Clayton Cowles-Marvel): Would you care to know where the most exciting things are happening over at Marvel? They’re happening over in the ‘silly’ wing, with books like The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. They’re happening in Jason Aaron’s Thor books. They’re happening in books that address mental health issues, like Moon Knight and Hulk. And they are happening wherever The Bendis is. Spider-Man, Jessica Jones, and the Iron Man world are amazing. Go ahead, call me an ass-kissing fanboy. It’s true and you know it. What can I say? Marvel is in rare form, and their best bald boy is leading the charge, despite whatever shit screamy right wing trolls have to say. But anyway, let’s talk Iron People, written by The Bendis. I love the idea of a repentant Victor Von Doom, a VVD that has been in the egomaniacal supervillain game so long that he truly doesn’t know how best to be a hero, even while being an unstoppable combination of technology and magic. It’s captivating, especially when SPOILERS his mother shows up, apparently in cahoots with a man who has been mysteriously absent in the current Marvel world: None other than Reed Richards. Sign. Me. Up.

It needs to be said that Alex Maleev’s artwork is a perfect pairing for the subject matter of Infamous Iron Man, and that brings me to my rant for the week, inspired by this of all goddamn things:

bananasplits

Yep. THIS came out this week. Why? I have no fucking clue. This isn’t “You put chocolate in my peanut butter”, this is “You stuck a banana in my Faygo Jello mold”. It’s a nostalgia trip cash-grab, end of story. BUT, then we get to the backup story, The Snagglepuss Chronicles. Things get sort of uncanny valley in this part of the comic.

See, the art, while beautifully rendered by folks who are clearly quite talented, kinda ruins Snagglepuss and his friends. This is a cartoon character, doing cartoon things in a cartoon setting. If you make him look more photo-realistic, it gets creepy in a BIG hurry.

snagglepuss-header

Now that is some Five Nights at Freddy’s shit right there. I know furries who are actively turned OFF by this.

And this got me thinking. Are publishers and editors making enough of an effort to match artists with writing that suits their strengths, and vice versa? It matters. Shhhhhhhh. YES. IT MATTERS. Let me be clear. I am not saying this art is bad. Far from it. But is it a good look for Snagglepuss? Not so much. Now this gets me thinking about a bunch of titles that are on the chopping block, because I am irked by this creative dissonance. For example, Mother Panic. I love this book. But it’s a dark story, and it needs to look like this:

motherpanic1

And not THIS:

motherpanic2

Again, I’m not saying the latter is bad. But it’s cartoony, with big anime eyes and blocky figures. This is a comic about an emotionally scarred vigilante, who often declares, “Fuck Batman”. You don’t want some clueless parent picking it up for their six year old.

I have this issue with some other books, like my beloved Letter 44, but I try my best to power through. You may not care. But I think creative teams need to take this into consideration, in order to deliver a final product that is tonally in sync and therefore that much more appealing. This inevitably sidetracks me with questions about style, and why more artists aren’t more flexible, but that’s a whole other can of worms for another day.

EDIT: Some updates are in order. First, after reading the Snagglepuss back-up story, I discovered that it has a great message, though I’m still not sure why this character is saying it, drawn in that style, and in this book. Second, it would appear that in a couple issues Mother Panic will be bringing John Paul Leon on board, and his artwork is a much better fit than Shawn Crystal’s is. So, hooray for not dropping a book before doing a little research, and here’s hoping that Shawn gets some gigs that mesh more with his style.

That’s enough from my big mouth for this week. Be sure to check out my nonsense every Thursday, and if you get your friends to stop by as well you’ll make me squee with unbridled joy. And feel free to comment, share what’s in YOUR stack, and debate me on my irritating pet peeves. Be good, and I’ll see you all in seven.

The Art of the Pull List

In new books, rants on February 17, 2017 at 7:32 am

Like any true Wednesday Warrior, my comic book pull list is in a constant state of flux. There ARE those people who blindly buy every book a company puts out, I suppose in some pointless display of brand loyalty, but I’ve never been one of those (Though, to be honest, I came close when Vertigo was at its peak). Recently there has been a bit of a purge, and that got me thinking about the entire process, both from a consumer and a retailer perspective. I’ve assembled here a bunch of random observations that could possibly be of some use to anyone who loves comics so much that they must have them each and every week. Enjoy.

1. The Chopping Block: Should it stay, or should it go?

There’s the obvious primary factor in choosing titles for a comic shop pull list–limits on disposable income. Sure, we’d all like to add whatever we want, and give more books a chance. But there’s that pesky rent/food/bills/depression medication thing getting in the way. So you’ve got to be kinda picky, and prioritize based on what you value most in a floppy. Maybe it’s art, maybe it’s story, or maybe it’s variant covers. Actually, if it’s variants, and you don’t just nab one here and there because it features art by someone you adore, you should probably take some time to evaluate your life. You filthy collector.

Beyond that, there’s a personal threshold that develops for everyone, and it involves a few factors. Most important is how long you intend to give a series to develop. First issues are designed to hook you, but when that wears off, the development of the plot and characters are what will keep you buying. So how long do you allow for that? Most of us will go to the conclusion of the first storyline, which is usually five or six issues. Sometimes you’re just not feeling it, in which case you should by all means drop it and move on with your life. There will be this completionist part of you that will nag at the back of your mind, trying to convince you that enduring mediocrity for the sake of a complete run is wise. Ignore that shit. Trust me. You filthy collector.

2. The Previews catalog: Your greatest friend, your greatest enemy

previews

Every single month, Diamond puts out the Previews catalog. This monstrous tree-killer lets you know about every single comic, collection, and graphic novel headed your way in about two months. Each shop gets a free copy, and any that desires staying open will at the very least let you peruse one. DO THIS. I realize that I don’t really need to emphasize this, since the thrill of the new is all the motivation you’ll need. Your wallet will hate you, and loved ones may disapprove, but you knew the risks going in. What is even more important is that you inform your shop owner as soon as you’re done looking at it, letting them know what you want to add or remove. Their initial orders each month are based primarily on pull list numbers, and the interest suggested by those numbers. You’ll get exactly what you want, and they will not be wasting time and money. It’s a wonderful bit of symbiosis, when everyone is on board with it.

3. The Social Contract: It takes two to make this thing go right

Speaking of your relationship with your local shop, let’s talk about responsibilities. YES, you have them when you start a pull list. It’s not a legally binding contract, but by ordering comics that a shop has agreed to hold for you, you have agreed to actually pick them up and pay for them. Regularly. Not put most of them back on the shelf. Not disappear for months and expect that you can just cherry-pick some when you deign to show up again. Nope. You take and pay for them all. Your shop is providing you with a service, and many of them are even giving you a discount on top of that. Be an adult and uphold your part of this deal. Let them know in a timely fashion if you have changes. If you have to or want to cancel, just say that. You might be making them less money, but you will have earned their respect. I speak from experience on this one.

I think that pretty much covers it. Don’t be scared to commit to the list. The hours of reading enjoyment are totally worth it. Just make sure you honor that commitment. It’s like having a puppy. A puppy made of paper. But there’s a new one each week. A bunch of them each week.

Okay, it’s nothing like having a puppy. Just read comic books. Please. And thank you.

You filthy collector.