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:
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:
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.
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:
And not THIS:
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.