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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Comic Reviews--Week of May 5th

DC:

Jonah Hex #55: Where to begin? This was yet another quality issue of Jonah Hex from start to finish. Thought it didn't carry quite the same thematic weight as the last two issues, The Brief Life of Billy Dynamite is a memorable enough story of misguided violence and Jonah Hex's response to second-hand guilt. Kind of a "Aw shucks, Jonah Hex kills some guys, so he really did care" story. Though I can say, I wish there was more Billy Dynamite stories out there to be read. He's sort of like the Dennis the Menace of the Old West...except he puts firecrackers in mouths, not mailboxes. This issue was also a real treat for long time Jonah Hex fans, as veteran Hex artist Vicente Alcazar returned to his 70s stomping grounds. The rotating artists on Jonah Hex are always top-notch, but even in this talented company, Alcazar's art stands out. It's very much of the iconic 1970s DC style, without feeling stale, derivative, or boring.


IMAGE:

Orc Stain #3: Though I love the plot of Orc Stain just as much as the art, it's really hard to talk about this book without focusing on James Stokoe's incredibly dense, incredibly imaginative style. Really, nobody draws like this. I could go on and on about it, but let's just shorten this a bit and call it Heavy Metal on mushrooms. Another thing I love about Orc Stain is the value of this book. Excuse me will I digress into finances for a minute. Orc Stain is a three dollar comic, which sucks, but at least with this book those three bucks gets you about 30 pages of uninterrupted action and storytelling. No ads, no filler. Not to sound too much like a salesman, but you just can't mess with those numbers. There's even an original drawing on the back cover of every issue. I can't stress it enough: if you like your fantasy stories gory, funny, and highly stylized, you need to be reading Orc Stain.


MARVEL:

Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine #1: If Whedon's Astonishing X-Men was any indication of the quality of Marvel's new "Astonishing" line of comics, then we've had reason to be excited for Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine for sometime. Now that the first issue is out, I feel like Marvel might have found their very own Brave and the Bold. Now, that's not to say that the big two are just mirroring each other (no, who would ever accuse them of that), but it's pretty damn close. The major difference is that Marvel's "Astonishing," or at least Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine, is a mini-series instead of a series of single issue stories. Though I've praised the one-and-done quite a bit in my reviews, I have to say that this time around I'm happy to have six issues of ASMW, because it's exactly what you want out of a Spider-Man/Wolverine team-up. Jason Aaron has perfectly bottled the dynamic between the two characters, and Adam Kubert's art is nothing short of...well...astounding. There's no doubt that this book is better than it should be; after all, Spider-Man and Wolverine are two of the most marketed (and marketable) comic book characters of all time, characters that we should logically be sick of by now. However, Aaron and Kubert might have accomplished something truly remarkable with Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine: a story that reminds us why these two characters are so damn popular in the first place.

Philip K. Dick's Electric Ant #2: After reading the second issue of Electric Ant, I fear that my initial reservations about the book are going to prove valid. It's not a horrible comic, but it is pretty mundane. To anybody who is familiar with Philip K. Dick's work, this effort just comes off as watered down Dick. Which is to say, it feels like exactly what it is: a Philip K. Dick story without Philip K. Dick. Though it's not nearly as bad as say, Spielberg's A.I., which was Kubrick without Kubrick, the comparison did come to mind. Two issues in, and Marvel's interpretation of Electric Ant remains woefully underwhelming.

Spider-Man: Fever #2: What a good, weird week for Spider-Man fans. After reading the second issue of Spider-Man: Fever (and Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine), I realized that non-continuity books are really books are really the best superhero offerings on the market right now. When you're operating outside of a set continuity, good creators get to actually use their talents to tell a different kind of story. There's no three-year plot to worry about, no fan backlash or long-term sales to consider. Familiar characters, sure, but at least the writers and artists are allowed to paint outside the lines. And man, if there's one thing Fever does well, it's paint way, way outside the lines. The story, which is about Dr. Strange's race to save a poisoned Spider-Man from his spider-demon hallucinations is great, so good in fact that just typing it out made me want to go back and re-read this issue (I'm a sucker for Dr. Strange stories). This was like the mainstream Orc Stain of last week; great, fantastically bizarre story with incredible art. Though McCarthy's style is decidedly looser than Stokoe's, it is just as dense and imaginative. Like a shot of prog-rock acid to the arm, Spider-Man: Fever is pure, psychedelic joy.


MISC:

The Boys #42 (DYNAMITE): Recently, I saw Tom DeFalco give a lecture about writing for comics. At one point during the talk, he said one of the most important things to do in comics is treat your characters with cruelty. Man, I don't know if DeFalco has read the Boys, but holy sh*t does Garth Ennis know how to treat his characters with the utmost cruelty. Now, nothing physically brutal happens in this issue, but there's one scene involving Starlight that is rough in a totally different way, yet still as distressing as any on-panel stomping. At that point, I realized something: for all the gory ridiculousness, for all the extreme sex (and sexual violence), the thing that unsettles me the most when reading the Boys is how this is all going to impact Hughie. Call me a softy, but he is our point of reference, our anchor, and I'm seriously starting to worry about his fate. Don't get me wrong; Ennis proved with Preacher that he's a fan of happy endings, so most likely things will be a-OK. In the meantime, I'll continue to worry, and continue to look at the Boys as one of the most daring, offensive, and enjoyable books on the shelves.

Hellboy En Mexico (DARK HORSE): Hellboy fights vampires in 1950s Mexico with a team of masked wrestlers. One of them gets turned into a vampire demon. He challenges Hellboy to a wrestling match inside Tenochtitlan. Why aren't you out buying this right now?

The Killer: Modus Vivendi #1 (ARCHAIA): For the uninitiated, the Killer is a French comic originally published by Franco-Belgian publisher Casterman from 1998-2007. Archaia Studios Press started to reissue the Killer in English for the first time back in '07. Written by Matz (a.k.a. Alexis Nolent) and drawn by Luc Jacamon, the Killer follows a nameless hit man as he navigates the seedy channels of the murder-for-hire business. Sounds like a pretty standard set-up, no? Well, the Killer is so much more than it's premise. This reads more like a comic about French existentialism with some blood, bullets, and nudity thrown in for good measure. There's a lot to love about this book, so in the sake of keeping it short, I'll focus on what really sticks out to me about the Killer which is the pace. Reading the Killer, one feels as if time is moving at the same speed as the Killer's gun-cold logic. Matz and Jacamon are masters at creating tension and mood, two traits severely lacking in many mainstream books. If you like Criminal, 100 Bullets, or noir/crime stories in general, you owe it to yourself to start reading the Killer.

Muppet King Arthur #4 (BOOM KIDS!): Every time a new issue of Muppet King Arthur comes out, I'm forced to repeat myself, because Davide Peterson's Muppet King Arthur covers are always the best thing about the series. I mean, just look at it! This series has been worth picking up for the Peterson covers alone. Moving onto the actual story, inside we get a pun-filed conclusion to Kermit and Robin's power struggle, as well as a bit of foreshadowing for Sam the Eagle. Now that the series is over, we can pretty much say that Muppet King Arthur wasn't the best comic around, but it was entertaining enough so I'm not going to hate on it. It's hard to say mean things about any kids book, especially a Muppet book geared toward winning over a generation that never saw the original Muppet Show on television. For that reason alone, it deserves credit.

The Muppet Show #5 (BOOM KIDS!): As I just finished saying, it's hard to rate the quality of a Muppet comic for kids without coming off as a crusty crumb-bum, a right bastard of the "wasn't-it-better-back-when" club. So, instead of doing that, I'll just say thank you once again to Roger Langridge for his epic revitalization of the original Muppet Show skits and characters. Amy Mebberson's art is good, but I have to say that I do tend to like the comic more when Langridge does both the art and the writing. The main reason for this is that it seems to work better when you've got one person telling the joke, rather than somebody writing said joke and another person interpreting it. Other than that, I say keep supporting Muppet Show Comics, as one day some executive is bound to turn them into CGI ghouls.

GATTS BOOK OF THE WEEK:

Hellboy En Mexico (DARK HORSE, Mike Mignolia, Richard Corben, Dave Stewart): With two awesome Spider-Man books and a new issue of the Killer out this week, it was pretty hard to choose this round's book of the week, but I'm going to have to give it Hellboy En Mexico for a couple of reasons. First off, Hellboy wrestles a Mexican wrestler-turned-vampire, and that alone is worth your $3.50. Second, the Mike Mignolia alternate cover kicks-ass in a classic Hellboy fashion. Third, it was Cinco De Mayo, so Hellboy en Mexico was destined to win; but more than that, (and this is my final reason for picking it) Hellboy en Mexico was a perfect example of how non-continuity stories are the best for well-known superheroes. See a theme developing here? We had two examples for Spider-Man this week, but neither of them was really as purely enjoyable as Hellboy en Mexico. This is a comic you could pick up and read without knowing much of anything about the character (or his world) and you'd still enjoy it. Which brings us to my main criteria when it comes to book of the week, being, "could I find this comic on a bench and still enjoy it?" In the case of Hellboy en Mexico, the answer here is a resounding si SeƱor.

2 comments:

  1. Man, I should start reading some of these "comic books" huh?

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  2. Jon --

    Loved your Spider-Man: Fever review. It's certainly a trippy book, and the art definitely makes you feel like you're on drugs.

    And The Boys?!? My God, man! I love that you brought it back to Hughie because he definitely is the heart of the piece. These later issues don't feel as deep as the earlier issues, but I think it's because they're setting up for a big drop.

    And lastly, I love Whedon. The man knows how to write comics. I'll have to pick that ish up.

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