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Posts Tagged ‘Saga’

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-1/25/17

In new books on January 26, 2017 at 11:30 am

This week was a beast, and by that I mean that there was a metric shitload (roughly one half fuck-ton in US measurement) of new books on the shelves. It was also a beast in the sense that many of these comics were gritty (like Jason Latour’s new Loose Ends), macabre (for example, the new Black Mask cannibal story The Dregs), and just downright METAL AS FUCK (the Nazi-stabbing bloodbath that is Slayer: Repentless). Combine that with the final images from Marvel’s Civil War 2 epilogue, The Oath, and you can get a pretty clear snapshot of the zeitgeist in 2017.

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Oh Nick Spencer, you prognosticating rabble-rouser, you.

But I digress. Let’s continue talking about the most noteworthy new comics. In addition to those I linked to above, I also highly recommend the following:

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Saga #42 (Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples, Fonografiks-Image): HOLY SHIT. If you’ve been reading this comic (and you should be–the hype is entirely justified), you know that Vaughan has never been too precious with his characters. They suffer, they get horribly damaged, and they die. The backdrop, after all, is a massive war between bitter enemies. So it won’t surprise you when you see what happens in this issue, but the real curveball is how much of an emotional gut punch it is, even after forty-one issues of love amidst carnage. Here’s the only spoiler I’ll share: The final six pages are completely black, and it’s heartbreakingly perfect.

Animosity: The Rise #1 (Marguerite Bennett, Juan Doe, Marshall Dillon-Aftershock): This spinoff title builds on ‘the wake’ event from the core book, following an understandably freaked out veterinarian as he saves a sea lion’s life during the initial chaos and earns himself protection from the VERY pissed off animals who have taken control of the city. One thing that’s really been fascinating/terrifying about this premise is watching how each animal reacts to their new consciousness and power of speech. Some of it is funny, like how the pelicans want to steal every electronic device they can from smug tourists, some of it is exactly what you would expect (newsflash: dolphins are assholes), but most is disturbing in some fashion.

Ether #3 (Matt Kindt, David Rubín-Dark Horse): Boone Diaz continues his murder investigation in a strange world that tries to defy him and his scientific method at every turn. He and his companion, Glum, trail a copper golem into the fairie kingdom looking for answers. What I find even more interesting than this main narrative is the back story of Boone, seen in brief flashbacks, and watching him interact with everyone else in this book, whether they’re real people or creatures from the Ether. This character is a total jackass, and in a way that I haven’t seen in many other stories. He is dismissive of everything that isn’t hard science, and is in love with demystifying the world (and the sound of his own voice), and everything and everyone else takes a back seat. This makes him more than a little off-putting, but I trust that it’s all part of Matt Kindt’s plan.

Doom Patrol #4 (Gerard Way, Nick Derington, Tamra Bonvillain, Todd Klein-DC/Young Animal): Just recapping the plot of each issue tells you all you need to know about how bizarrely untethered this comic is, and you will either be obsessed with it or walk away bewildered. First, we meet Lucius, who is trying to become a sorcerer, even though his family does not approve. Then, Larry and Cliff confront N’Hal of the Negative Space, and make a case for personal choice. Niles Caulder once again gets into mischief behind the scenes, Casey learns about her powers via organic cassette tape, and we learn much more about Danny and what he was up to before he was captured by aliens who want to turn him into stress-free burger. Man I love this book. Oh yeah, and at the end there’s a Bane coloring section. No, seriously:

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You color like a younger man, with nothing held back. Admirable, but mistaken.

I want to say a bit about the new edition of Ronald Wimberly’s Prince of Cats that came out this week, so perhaps it’s time for a regular post devoted to trade paperbacks and graphic novels. What do you think? What are you reading this week? Leave a comment. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to support your local shop!