Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
You don’t know exactly when you fall in love with someone, do you? There isn’t that sudden moment when the music stops and you look into one another’s eyes for the first time, or whatever. Well, maybe it’s like that for some people, but not me. I had a friend who told me she fell for a boy when she woke up in the morning and realized he didn’t snore. It doesn’t sound much, does it? Except it sounds true. (Julian Barnes, from Talking It Over)
New year, new decade, new features, new quotes, new totally random lyrics, new panels of awesome … same old crappy, half-assed reviews! Oh well – you can’t have everything!
I’m a bit disappointed by this issue of Fearless Dawn, because it looks a bit rushed. It’s a bit more cartoonish than the first issue, and while there’s nothing wrong with cartoonish per se, the first issue was more precise and Mannion’s cheescake art was really fun to look at. His story continues to be nothing to write home about, as Dawn and Number Seven escape the Nazis, fight them, get recaptured, and then get rescued by Dawn’s old nemesis-turned-best friend, Betty, and while it has plenty of energy, the fact that the art looks a bit sloppy doesn’t help. I think it’s intentional, because some parts of the book look finely delineated, like the first issue, while the more slapstick parts (and I use that term intentionally, even though the characters have been turned into monsters and are smashing Nazis) are more cartoonish. If it is intentional, I wish Mannion wouldn’t do it, because part of the joy of looking at his art is the marvelous detail he puts into things, and the cartoonish art robs it of that. Some of the pages – Betty’s first appearance, the plane attacking Helga von Krause and the General – are very well done, and I wonder if it’s not a coincidence that they’re full splash pages. This is still a goofy, fun, cheesecakey comic, and good guys killing Nazis is never a bad thing, but if the art is like this because it’s rushed, I wouldn’t mind waiting a little bit longer for issue #3 to come out (it’s due in March). The cover of that one features Dawn fighting what looks like a giant frog underwater, which ought to be fairly awesome, I reckon!
One panel of awesome:
Gigantic finally finishes, many months after issue #4, and it’s not really worth it. I was already on the fence about this, and I only got issue #5 because it was the final issue (I wouldn’t have sprung for an issue #5 and 6, in other words). It had such potential – a giant robot shows up on Earth, causes havoc, and then it’s revealed the Earth was created as part of a television program where fights are staged for the amusement of aliens. What a concept! Remender, however, never makes it work as more than a cool concept. We get a lot of fights, some attempts at pathos, and some obvious plotting. In this issue, Gigantic redeems himself, but we never care too much about him, so his redemption has very little impact. Remender, who is an extremely up-and-down writer, has made sudden death a crucial part of something like Fear Agent, but it works in that book. I’m not sure why. In this book, it feels really callous and somewhat sadistic. It’s odd.
Remender isn’t helped by Nguyen, who’s not a bad artist but has some problems in this issue. The blend of photo-reference and “regular” art doesn’t work too well, and while a fight between giant robots is naturally going to be a bit confused, but it’s still a bit of a mess. There’s no flow to it, and it often looks like the components of each panel were assembled separately and then placed into the panel, and it robs the book of any spontaneity and energy. A fight between giant robots should leap off the page, and it just doesn’t.
Remender isn’t a great writer but he can be good (we’ll see an example of a good Remender comic below!), but this is a misfire. The concept is cool, but it just doesn’t work. Too bad!
One panel of awesome:
Ostrander and Truman end their latest opus with: John Gaunt flying through Samurai Salamanders on a hoverbike, slaughtering as he goes (“Texas rules applied,” he narrates, “They needed killing.”); John Gaunt laying a smooch on Darlin’ Lil to break the spell the cat goddess (Mannachs) has over her; Lil fighting a monstrous creature who’s trying to stop them from reaching Mannachs; Mannachs using the horrors from Gaunt’s past to try to stop him, of which he’s having none (see below); Blackjac macking with Mannachs because he’s under her spell, and Gaunt making the inevitable “pussy” joke (and yeah, I laughed despite myself); Blackjac fighting Gaunt before Gaunt manages to snap him out of the spell; Mannachs torturing Bob the Lizard to make him sing, which makes people relive their deepest pain; Gaunt using the knives of St. John of Knives to wound Mannachs; and Gaunt using Bob’s song for an entirely different reason. Yes, this is the second comic book in the past year in which the climax comes down to an alien being singing. Who’da thunk it?
I know this was available on-line for free, but I really don’t mind paying for it when it’s this kick-ass. A letter writer wonders why Ostrander throws in so many wild ideas and then just moves on (the Samurai Salamanders, for instance), but I love that aspect of the comic – it’s one of the things we love about the God of All Comics, too, so why not here? Ostrander and Truman obviously have a blast doing this, and I’m certainly along for any other John Gaunt stories they want to tell!
One panel of awesome:
Here’s our second Rick Remender book of the week, even though this came out a few weeks ago. The fine folk at Radical sent this along to me, so I’d like to thank them for that. I wrote about the short preview that Radical put out a while back, and that it seemed like a fairly decent heist story. And what do you know, it is!
Remender introduces us to Graham Bricke, a career criminal who has one last heist planned. It’s not the boring old reason that he wants to have one last score and then retire – he’s being forced to retire. The United States government is doing two things very soon – they are going to broadcast a signal that will make it impossible for anyone to knowingly commit a crime, and they’re getting rid of cash and switching to a credit card system. Graham wants to hack into the card system before it goes on-line, which will allow him and his cronies to have an unlimited supply of credit, and then flee to Canada. But he has only two weeks.
If we ignore the fuzzy science and the even fuzzier ethics and politics of this move (really, everyone is on board with removing everyone’s free will?), it’s a nifty story. Graham needs new partners quickly because his first one started talking about the job (Graham doesn’t like this), so he hooks up with a fairly psychotic killer and his safe-cracking girlfriend … who, just before her boyfriend showed up, took Graham into the bathroom and fucked the hell out of him. So there’s some tension, you betcha! And we find out more about Shelby that isn’t too charming, either. Oh, and the guy Graham’s first partner told is gunning for our “hero.” It’s just that kind of twisted heist story.
Remender does a pretty good job with it, too – perhaps he needs this kind of protagonist for his books to work. Graham is a scumbag, of course, but he’s still an interesting fellow who’s nice to his mother (seriously). In this moral morass of near-future Los Angeles, Graham’s the least jerky of all the people, so we’re sort of on his side. And if we get past the silly plot set-up, breaking into an impregnable vault with a couple of crazy people (Kevin and Shelby are certainly a bit loopy) is always a fun story. Remender seems to do this kind of thing well, so I’m interested to see where he’s going with it.
The real star of the book is Tocchini, who’s absolutely wonderful. He makes Los Angeles seedy but still captivating, and his character work is tremendous. The first conversation between Graham and Shelby, before she lures him into the bathroom, is beautifully flirty and dangerous, with each character hiding so much but still revealing some crucial things. Remender deserves some credit, but Tocchini’s excellent work makes the words deeper and more delicious. The sex scene manages to be pretty steamy (which, honestly, is tough to do in comics) but also pretty creepy (see below). Tocchini also excels with the wide-open scenes and the violence, which comes later in the book. Remender’s script works pretty well, but Tocchini really makes this a comic to check out.
I have some reservations about Shelby, but I’ll keep those on hold until issue #2. Maybe I’ll read it, if Gianluca sends it to me! Actually, if issue #2 shows up at my comics shoppe in February (I don’t know if they ordered one), I might have to get it. I like Tocchini’s art that much!
One panel of awesome:
Marvel Boy: The Uranian #1 (of 3) (“Call me … The Uranian!”) by Jeff Parker (writer), Felix Ruiz (artist/letterer), and Val Staples (colorist). $3.99, 22 pgs + 17 pgs of 2 back-up stories, FC, Marvel.
For the past year or so, I’ve been trying to skip DC and Marvel’s mini-series. I know they’re going to be released in trade paperback, and they’ll probably be cheaper or at least just as much as single issues, and they won’t have advertisements. I don’t always follow that course, but I’ve been trying to do so. Marvel, however, has looked deep into my soul and figured out how to stymie me: Release three-issue mini-series! Why does this stymie me? Well, these series aren’t long enough to earn their own trade paperback, so they combine them in trades with other series I don’t want and then charge more than I would pay for the three issues. Consider probably their best mini-series last year (yes, I’m working on a best-of-the-year post; don’t rush me!): Joe Casey and Nathan Fox’s Zodiac. It was three issues for $4 a pop, which means $12 (thanks, multiplication skillz!) for the series. The trade collected those three issues, Lethal Legion #1-3, and Mr. Negative #1-3. Now, that’s nine issues for $25, which is a fine value, but it’s also six issues I had no interest in reading. So it was better for me, personally, to buy the single issues. And now Marvel has done it again! I’d probably buy this anyway, as it presumably has something to do with the Agents of Atlas, but I wonder when it’s in trade if it will be packaged with one or two other mini-series that I don’t care about. Who’s the clever one now, Marvel???? (Yeah, probably still not me. Oh well.)
And, to be fair, this is $3.99 for a 22-page story plus two Marvel Boy stories from the early 1950s, one drawn by Russ Heath and the other drawn by Bill Everett, so it’s a pretty nifty package. And, although it’s mostly set-up for how Bob Grayson came to Earth, decided against calling himself “The Uranian” and switched to “Marvel Boy” and therefore doesn’t kick too much ass in the story department (I’ll get back to the story, however), it’s almost worth getting it just for the art. Ruiz is phenomenal.
I’ll tell you a story (that’s why we’re here, aren’t we?). My wife and I have a habit when we watch television or movies (to be honest, we have several habits, among them discussing when a “Lumumba moment” occurs, but it’s not the time for that!). If we see a celebrity who resembles another celebrity but who isn’t as famous (or usually older) than that celebrity, the first one becomes a “low-rent” version of the second. You’ve done this too, I bet – who didn’t see Scream the first time and instantly think “Skeet Ulrich sure is a low-rent Johnny Depp”? Leelee Sobieski is a low-rent Helen Hunt, in another example. Anyway, this isn’t to disparage the less famous celebrity – they just haven’t been around as the more famous one and therefore can’t charge as much! So I hope Felix Ruiz (if, perhaps, he reads this) won’t take it as an insult when I say he’s a low-rent Bill Sienkiewicz. Because I flippin’ love Bill Sienkiewicz. Ruiz’s doesn’t look like Sienkiewicz’s today, as Sienkiewicz has become more and more experimental in recent years. Ruiz is more like Sienkiewicz on New Mutants or even later issues of Moon Knight, when he started to be a bit more wild in his style but wasn’t going full multimedia and collage-like, as he did in later years. Ruiz is a bit more cartoonish than Sienkiewicz, but that works fine for this slightly (just slightly) silly superhero story. I mean, Ruiz has to draw a bunch of robed people standing in a dome on Uranus, so we can’t take the book too seriously. But he’s up to the task, and he gives us a really nice two-page spread when Bob narrates his history. It’s dynamite stuff!
Parker has fun with this, too, which is nice. It’s basically a short fight showing us Bob’s technological marvels, some backstory about his origin, some xenophobia as the United States government reacts unfavorably to Bob, and the beginning of a story about Bob meeting a creator for Timely Comics, who wants to put Bob in a book and convinces him to change his name. It’s a fairly packed book, story-wise, but it’s a lot of set-up (not that there’s anything wrong with that). It’s a charming tale, full of references to Marvel Comics in the 1950s as well as a nifty reference to This Island Earth, the movie featured in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie. I’m a bit puzzled about Bob’s age – from what he says about when he was born, it sounds like it was sometime during World War II, and in between he and his father went to Uranus. Now it’s 1950 and he’s a grown-up? Odd. Maybe he’s supposed to be a teenager, but the oldest he could possibly be is 17. It’s not that big a deal, but I thought Parker would address it with some kind of time-bending, comic-booky explanation. Oh well.
Anyway, this is a typically fun Parker comic with fantastic art. It’s all good!
One panel of awesome:
Starstruck #5 (of 13) (“Hugs and Kisses”/”A Friend in Deed”) by Elaine Lee (writer), Michael Wm. Kaluta (artist), Charles Vess (inker, “A Friend in Deed”), Lee Moyer (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $3.99, 26 pgs, FC, IDW.
Starstruck rolls merrily along, as some plot threads start to come together. We follow up on the family drama between Molly Medea and her evil stepsister Maggie from last issue with Maggie, now a ridiculously wealthy entrepreneur and icky daddy’s girl (that’s her on the cover, with her father, and see below for an even creepier panel!), getting Molly arrested and then getting her exiled to a truly horrible penal colony through nefarious means. Plus, in the back-up story, there’s a soapbox race. Well, a soapbox race with rockets.
As always, it’s tough to really express how keen this comic is. I mean, you should be getting it just to see Kaluta’s art and the fancy new colors, but Lee really put a lot of work into stuffing this universe full of interesting, devious, or wacky characters, and although the main plot still escapes me, each issue adds a bit to it and each issue is a fun little story on its own. Yes, it helps to have read the previous issues (this makes much more sense if you do), but if you haven’t, Lee does a nice job making sure we get the animosity between the sisters and giving us a nice tale of one sister’s battle against oppression. And the Galactic Girl Guide back-up stories are always a treat.
Also as always, I’m going to have to re-read these when they all come out, but I’m enjoying them in single issue form as well, because they’re packed with content and they actually take longer than your usual comic to read. It’s quite the treat!
One panel of totally creepy:
I’m not sure if I’m allowed to review this book now that our own Kelly Thompson has adopted it and sung its praises, because I might have the incorrect chromosomes to do so! But ovaries be damned – I’m writing something about this!
Even though I no longer live in Portland, I feel it’s my job to let you know how Rucka is doing with the references to the Rose City in this comic. Dex, after being shot last issue under the St. Johns Bridge, ends up at Legacy Emanuel Hospital. I’m not sure if that’s the closest hospital to where she was shot, but it’s not too far, except I thought she was shot on the south side of the bridge, meaning she’d have to cross the river to get to North Portland and down to the hospital. If she was on the north side, it makes sense. But if she was on the south side, there’s probably something closer to downtown where she can go. When Dex goes downtown to identify her shooter, she’s at 1111 Southwest Second Avenue, and you can just see the towers (are they called towers?) of the Hawthorne Bridge in the background. When Isabel visits Dex, she mentions that she was going shopping at Tanasbourne and just stopped by the see Dex. Since Isabel lives on the coast, it’s not crazy to think she drove to Portland to go shopping and decided to make a side trip to see Dex, but Tanasbourne is way the hell out in Hillsboro, on the west side of town, and Dex lives in the close northeast side of town, a hearty trek from Isabel’s shopping excursion. But again, if she came all the way from the coast (it’s about two hours, if we make Lincoln City – which I believe has a casino – as a stand-in for “Coast City” in the book), what’s an out-of-the-way drive to visit Dex? Stumptown Coffee, to which Dex follows Oscar, actually exists, and this one looks suspiciously like the one at 128 Southwest Third, which puts it a bit far away from the Heathman Hotel, which is where Charlotte Suppa goes after Oscar drags her outside. The Heathman is at 1001 Southwest Broadway, so it’s a good four blocks west and nine blocks south of where Charlotte is. Even with Portland’s smaller blocks, that’s a hike. How does Charlotte get there? Perhaps Portland’s fantastic public transportation system took her there! It’s free downtown! Well, at least the light rail is – I guess the busses got too damned expensive, even for socialist-friendly Portland!
Wasn’t that fun? Aren’t you glad you have me to squire you around the city like that? Where else in the comics blogaxy will you get service like that? NOWHERE, say I! Of course, just like issue #1, Rucka’s and Southworth’s verisimilitude doesn’t mean dick if the story and art sucks, but that’s just not possible, is it? After getting shot at the end of last issue, Dex ends up in the ER, flirts with the doctor rather nicely (it’s always fun when people flirt in comics, because they do it in real life!) and a friend of hers from the police department shows up. Dex explains the situation, runs home to get her brother ready for work, goes back downtown to look at mug shots, gets yelled at by a cop with whom she obviously has a history (Rucka does a nice job showing Dex going too far in the heat of anger and then suddenly realizing she’s gone too far, even though it’s too late), and then gets a visit from Isabel, the daughter of the mobster Dex visited last issue. Isabel and her brother Oscar are involved in something with the missing girl, Charlotte, and Rucka does a nice job showing how Dex strings everything together and ends up with an interesting conclusion (yes, she finds Charlotte, but I won’t say what’s going on when she does). Rucka has a good feel for the monotony of a private investigator’s life – Dex sits in her car a lot in this issue waiting for people to do something, and while you might think that’s boring, it’s only at the very end, and comes after several well-written conversations she has with the principals of the case. What you call boring I call slowly building tension, and it works nicely. Southworth continues to add a nice layer of grit to this noirish tale, and unlike Nguyen in Gigantic, Southworth does a nice job blending photo references with his own work. Only in a couple of places does it look out of place – the parking tickets Dex gets, a Google page – and those are so small it doesn’t matter. Southworth writes a bit about his process at the end of the book, and it’s pretty neat reading. I love stuff like that.
So Stumptown continues to be very good, and this issue should make Kelly as happy as the first one did. And if Kelly’s happy, that’s all that really matters, right?
One panel of awesome:
I was worried when I opened Suicide Squad #67, the only one of DC’s “next issues of cancelled series that tie in with Blackest Night” issues I’m going to buy. I was prepared for dead villains coming back and being all icky, but just seeing the Fiddler leading a bunch of dead guys on the second and third pages made me cringe a little. Yes, I know Blackest Night is the KEWLEST MOTHERFUCKING COMIC EVAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!, but it’s just not my thing, so I was wary about this even though it ties into Secret Six and has Ostrander returning to write characters he kills on (pun intended, I guess). And I’m still worried about the end, at which all the old villains who died during Ostrander’s run on Suicide Squad rise (I assume it’s all of them; it’s been years since I read the book and the only one I remember is Ravan) and form “The Homicide Squad” (yuck), but in between, we get a really good Suicide Squad versus Secret Six story. Amanda Waller is using a crappy assassin for Squad missions (“crappy” in that she’s not a completely ruthless killer, and isn’t it cool that even though the title was cancelled, the Squad still goes on missions?) and she wants Deadshot back. So she sets a trap, concocts a mission for the Six, and lures them to Belle Reve. Where she gets Deadshot back! Yay!
This is a “fun” issue, not that horrible killers fighting each other is fun, but because Simone and Ostrander do such a nice job with the characters themselves. The most recent issue of Secret Six, which brought Black Alice onto the team, was weirdly off, but in this issue, everything is back to crackling energy, and I love it. I mean, Bane acts like a mean older brother when Liana comes to take Scandal on a date, and it’s hilarious all around (and I love Scandal’s reaction to Liana’s motorcycle). Deadshot’s reactions to the way Amanda gets him to Belle Reve and what he finds there works very well, and the pages where he discovers it’s a trap are excellent. Black Alice narrates a bit, and that works well too, and of course, Rag Doll is completely hilarious. Sample quote: “I don’t like to hurt children. Well, yes, in fact, I do, but may I suggest that you put away your little ukelele or whatever it is and go home, darling?” Dang, I love Rag Doll. Everything clicks, and I’m glad this is less about dead villains kicking ass and more like a classic issue of Suicide Squad. Of course, we can’t keep the Homicide Squad away for too much longer, but at least in this issue they don’t do anything! And of course, much like that issue of Secret Six that featured Deadshot and Richard Craemer a few months ago, this makes me miss Suicide Squad even more. Dang, what a great series.
Oh, and Jim Calafiore draws this. Poor Bill Reed!
One panel of awesome:
Well, I was giving Sweet Tooth until the end of the first story arc to decide whether I want to keep buying it, and here we are at the end of the first story arc, and I won’t keep buying it. I keep waiting for it to become really interesting, and it just … doesn’t. The ending of this arc is really the only place it could go unless Lemire wanted to keep Gus and Jepperd on the road longer, but since he doesn’t, this is kind of how it has to end. It’s not a terrible book by any means, but I imagine it will read much better in trade format, because Lemire seems to be going for a very slow burn here. There’s nothing wrong with that (I just wrote that Rucka seems to be doing that in Stumptown, and I like that book), but when, as I’ve been writing, nothing happens that we can’t completely see coming, it gets a little tiresome. There’s nothing in this book so far that can even be called “characterization,” because both Gus and Jepperd remain somewhat blank slates at the end of this arc, and even though, in Jepperd’s case, he does stuff, what he does is very predictable. I know at the end of this Lemire is going for something deep inside Jepperd that will be explored eventually (at least that’s what it feels like), but I’m just not connecting with it or the rest of the book. There’s that connection we have to have with any form of entertainment for it to work, and if it’s not there, it doesn’t matter how well it’s put together. I don’t think Lemire has figured out how to pace a monthly comic, and that’s on him, but even if that wasn’t in evidence, I’m just not feeling much for this comic. As I wrote last time, I really want to like this. I just don’t.
I wish it well. I was so jazzed to see the double-page spread early in the book where Gus passes out while Jepperd fights the bad guys, because it was so marvelously designed. If more of the book had been like that, maybe it would have been more thrilling. But unlike our next post-Apocalyptic comic that took a while to hit its stride, I don’t see too many signs of progress that this is going to. I’m kind of sad that I don’t dig this more. C’est la vie, I guess.
One panel of awesome:
Speaking of post-Apocalyptic comics that took a while to hit their strides, another issue of Wasteland finally comes out (the last one showed up in September). I know issue #25 took a lot out of the creators, but I do hope they get back to a decent schedule, because this is such a good comic and such a dense one that a few months away makes me forget things, even though Johnston handily provides a recap in each issue. There’s still a lot going on, and it’s hard to keep up!
However, the way Johnston has been structuring this latest arc is interesting, because he’s focusing on one character in each issue and taking them through the six months following the Sand-Eaters’ attack on Newbegin. This time it’s Jakob, Abi’s adopted son, who helped win the battle and therefore was accepted into Newbegin’s society. He becomes a cop in Newbegin and tries to keep the other cops off of the Sunners, who are a persecuted minority in the city. This brings him into conflict with Golden Voice, the Sun-Singer, who is plotting revolution. It’s a fairly standard plot, of course, with all the trappings of the world Johnston and Mitten have created, but Johnston tells it well, with Jakob torn between his loyalties to his fellow cops and to the people he came from. Meanwhile, Johnston is telling a bigger story of the threat to Newbegin, which the other watchmen think comes from the Sunners – Jakob, of course, has his doubts. It’s a nice complex tale, drawn with his usual excellence by Mitten, and I’m really happy to see the book return.
Now, of course, it has to come back sooner than five months! Let’s keep our fingers crossed!
One panel of awesome:
And … that’s the week. I hope you weren’t expecting something to do with Siege. I mean, really. Anyway, since totally random lyrics have been fun, I thought I’d do another music thing, but nothing you have to guess. Just another peek into my tortured and twisted psyche! Come on, it’s not that bad! Here are … The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):
1. “Misty Mountain Hop” – Led Zeppelin (1971)
2. “Ocean Size” – Jane’s Addiction (1988)
3. “Be My Girl – Sally” – The Police (1978)
4. “Bring the Noise” – Public Enemy (1987)
5. “All Fur Coat & No Knickers” – Chumbawamba (2008)
6. “Way I’ve Been” – Australian Crawl (1980)
7. “Personal Jesus” – Depeche Mode (1989)
8. “Where It’s At” – Beck (1996)
9. “Fight The Power” – Public Enemy (1989)
10. “Kickstart My Heart” – Motley Crue (1989)
Mock as you must! Now, let’s get some totally random lyrics. Two weeks ago I had what I thought was an easy one, “Reflections” by The Supremes. Oh well. Let’s see how you do with these!
“At the Patton Hotel I spent lots of time there
That’s where we decided this is where we wanted to be
And down the road on Jefferson you’ll find Steamer’s close by
If you see Mark and Steve Breen
Tell ‘em Jeff and I both said ‘hi’
But we were younger then never knowing then
That she would take us as her own
And make us part of her life
Highway to the sun we had so much fun
I can’t wait to get there and tell ‘em that I miss my second home”
Get excited! It’s a new year of comics awesomeness!
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