Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
The thousands stand and chant. Around them in the world, people ride escalators going up and sneak secret glances at the faces going down. People dangle teabags over hot water in white cups. Cars run silently on the autobahns, streaks of painted light. People sit at desks and stare at office walls. They smell their shirts and drop them in the hamper. People bind themselves into numbered seats and fly across time zones and high cirrus and deep night, knowing there is something they’ve forgotten to do.
The future belongs to crowds. (Don DeLillo, from Mao II)
My comics shoppe didn’t get their books until Thursday through some strange machinations of fate, so this is late. So sorry!
So, um, SPOILERS. Sorry.
I am more willing to forgive a creator for choices in a creator-owned comic than in one of the corporate ones, mainly because the creator often has a vision that we can’t see after a few issues and isn’t being watched by editorial to make changes based on what’s coming up in the next big crossover. I’ve been enjoying The Anchor, and I’m certainly going to wait and see about what’s going on, because in this issue, we get what I can only call two, count ‘em, two examples of “women in refrigerators,” one of which is continued from last issue, but still. In the past, Clement’s soul is pretty much saved by a novitiate nun who then gets killed, giving Clement one more lesson in the process. If the defintion of “women in refrigerators” is that a woman dies simply to give the male lead something to avenge, this pretty much fits it. Of course, much like a great deal of entertainment, when Isemay first shows up, you might as well paint a target on her forehead – it isn’t limited to women, because a lot of men end up that way, too (as you know, I’m a fan of 24, and when “Owen” showed up a while back, my wife and I both started a countdown to his bloody death … well, that and saying “OHHHHwen!” like Anne Ramsey whenever he showed up, because my wife and I are perfect for each other) – but it’s still annoying. Then, in the present, we learn that Hofi, well, she really is dead, as we thought last issue. I wasn’t sure, but they zip her up in a body bag, and then we learn something interesting about her. If she’s really dead, that bugs me even more, because Isemay was specifically created to be killed, and as I pointed out, that’s not exclusively something that happens to women in entertainment. But Hofi was an interesting character, and I really can’t believe that Hester would kill her off like that. Very weird.
I’m going to keep buying this book because it’s pretty good, but this issue bothered me. Of course, I’m also very happy that Hester is bringing so much Christianity into it without denigrating it. Clement’s evolution as a character is very neat, and I’m interested to see more of it. I really hope he’s going somewhere with Hofi, and not just letting her be wormfood.
One panel of awesome:
Choker is the first of a few books I got that didn’t come out this week. It came out last week, and I saw it at my shoppe, but for some reason I just had one of them there brain farts and didn’t pick it up. Strange.
After a solid first issue, this isn’t quite as good, and the series hinges, I think, on the next issue. There’s nothing terribly wrong with the issue, which continues John Jackson’s return to active police duty and shows him his interaction with his new, ball-breaking partner, but it feels a bit familiar. There’s some evil dude orchestrating the “vampire plague,” and Jackson’s partner is in on it. The bad guy Jackson is supposed to bring in shows up, showing us how evil he is. And even though Walker is in cahoots with the big bad guy and she’s kind of a bitch, I can’t help liking her. But as far as plot goes, there’s not a lot that’s dynamic in this issue. The two things that make it kind of keen is how Jackson seems really intimidated by Walker and by being back on the force – he just doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing, which is a nice contrast with the bad-ass he was in issue #1 (when he was in his element) – and by what happens to him while he’s sleeping. That was a pretty groovy couple of pages. I hope McCool keeps going with Jackson and how he acts, because that’s a nifty part of the book. I don’t mind the plot, but Jackson’s personality and his secrets are neat.
On his blog, McCool mentions that he just completed a tour of the colonies, including, and I quote, “the heinously hot Arizona desert of Phoenix.” I don’t know where he was signing, but I wish I’d known, because I always like meeting comics creators. Also, if he thinks Phoenix in March is hot (last week it reached the mid-80s, but it’s usually in the mid-70s), he should avoid at all costs coming here in July or August. He might die! Save yourself, Mr. McCool!
One panel of awesome:
Here’s the second book that didn’t come out this week. It came out two weeks ago, and for some reason, I didn’t get it. So my shoppe tracked it down and sold me one. How swell of them!
Now that we’ve seen what Moon and Bá are doing with each issue of Daytripper, it’s kind of difficult to read one without wondering how it’s going to end. I don’t really mind it, though, because this isn’t about the end, it’s about the way the creators are continuing to show the things that happening in Brás’ life and what impact they have on him. In this issue, it’s the birth of his child, which comes on the heels of his father’s death (in the same hospital, of course). While the timeline seems, to this cynical American, a bit off (Brás’ wife goes into the hospital with contractions the day his father dies, and she’s still in there through the funeral and then has the baby – wouldn’t she just get sent home when the contractions stop, or is Brazilian health care so Dyn-O-Mite that she gets to hang out in the hospital until the kid comes out?), it’s still a good (if slightly clichéd – circle of life and all that) way to tell the story. I don’t want to say much more, because it’s clear that this is what each issue is going to be like, and as long as Moon and Bá keep drawing it so well and giving us nice touches about Brás and his family, I’ll be cool with it.
(I’d like to apologize to Eric for not being clearer with this. I don’t want to spoil it for the people who are waiting for a trade, and giving away the ending kind of robs it of something. But I find what Moon and Bá are doing is kind of neat, especially given what Brás does for a living.)
One panel of awesome:
Elephantmen #24 (“Questionable Things Part One of Seven: 7 Days of Smog Conclusion: Walking Wounded”) by Richard Starkings (writer), Moritat (artist), André Szymanowicz (artist, splash page), Chris Burnham (artist, epilogue), Gregory Wright (colorist), with art assists by Ian Churchill, Boo Cook, and Steve Buccellato. $3.50, 26 pgs, FC, Image.
As usual, I received this for free, which I must disclose! It came out a few weeks ago, but I just got it late last week. It’s always cool of Starkings to zip this over to me. He’s a brick.
This is one of the most oddly-named comics I can recall. Issue #23 was the final one of the “Dangerous Liaisons” “arc” (which was only loosely an arc), and it’s the final one in the latest collection. But this issue, which starts a new “arc,” is the final issue of a story that began in “Dangerous Liaisons” – meaning this is part one of seven of a new storyline that will be collected in a trade eventually, but also the conclusion of a shorter story-within-a-story. That’s because Starkings is wacky. In the best possible way.
As much as I like this series (and I do), this isn’t the best issue, and I think it’s because Starkings uses too much omniscient narration. The last issue came out in December, so perhaps he’s just trying to get everyone up to speed, but we don’t really need it all. The “pain suppression implants” that are the focus of this story, as the remnants of the Mappo Corp. start reactivating them in our main characters, which makes them easily controllable and not a little nutty, have been explained before, and Starkings could cut back a bit and still get the main point across. Moritat’s art, good as ever, gives us plenty of information about what happens when the “imperiumites” are activated, so we don’t need all the words. So many words! The narration about Samuel Purchase is better, because it’s crisp and to the point, giving us some good information without overwhelming the poor reader. As the issue is mostly a brutal fight between Hip Flask and Ebony Hide, maybe Starkings was feeling left out. Don’t feel bad, sir! The issue does end very well, however, as something bad happens that really changes the dynamic of the relationships between the hybrids and the humans, as well as an update on that dude who went to see Obadiah with Vanity – the one who got shot in the head. The issue takes a bit to get going, but it ends with with some very good developments. And as usual, we always get nice teases about upcoming events. Starkings has been good at that since the book started!
One panel of awesome:
Hellblazer #265 (“No Future Part One: Return Of The Evil Ones”) by Peter Milligan (writer), Simon Bisley (artist), Trish Mulvihill (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.
Whenever a writer gets it in his (or her) head to write a comic that is blatantly political, I tend to react negatively. It’s mainly because it’s so over-the-top in terms of good and evil, whether it’s a liberal writer (the usual) or a conservative writer (which does happen, though not often). In the space of a comic book, it’s very difficult to get into the nuances of politics, and frankly, much of politics is fairly dry. So Milligan turning his attention to the “new conservatives” in this arc doesn’t fill me with confidence. Yes, Milligan has always been a bit fascinated by John’s reaction to Thatcher (this goes back to that one arc in Shade, the Changing Man, when he plucked John out of the timestream on the day Thatcher took over), and yes, John has always hated all politicians, but he doesn’t fight bad guys who want to expand the dole, does he? And the idea that these punks (in the musical sense) would sell out to the conservatives seems a bit weird. It doesn’t fit right.
But there are some interesting parts of this issue. John visits an old friend who’s convinced the spirit of Sid Vicious lives in a shrine he’s constructed, and John senses something, at least, is in there (whether it’s Sid or not is TBD). As usual with Milligan’s run on this book so far, John’s odd interactions with people are the best bits – his relationship with Epiphany goes a new way in this book (not exactly romantic, but …), and there’s a beautiful scene between the two of them in an elevator. It’s always a pleasure to see Bisley’s interior work, and I’m glad he’s kind of Artist 1a for this run. The point where John realizes “Sid” might be something stranger than just a shrine is a marvelously creepy moment.
This continues to be a strange comic, because after over a year, I can’t really tell what Milligan is doing on it. The plots haven’t been great, but his John is fascinating. Milligan has always been good with characters, and I obviously like this enough to keep getting it, but it’s just a little bit weird. Oh well. I enjoy it, and that’s what matters, right?
One panel of awesome:
I hate to write this, but there’s not much else I can write about this arc. It’s six chapters in, only two to go, and everything continues to spiral into darkness. Gunborg continues to sink into deeper madness, Hilda and Karin continue to hold on, even though something happens at the end of this issue that might force Hilda’s hand, and Boris allies himself more closely with Hilda because he has to. It’s a gripping read, but what else can I say? Fernandez also continues to shine, as he and McCaig just make this world feel so cold and horrible. The warriors become demons, their helmets obscuring their faces, as they prowl through the settlement on Gunborg’s order, slaughtering those who they deem worthless. Gunborg, meanwhile, sits in the shadows, drunk with power and becoming more of a monster. It’s a terrifying comic mostly because Wood and Fernandez are able to show with stark power what happens to desperate men cut off from the world. It’s a great comic. But you already knew that.
One panel of awesome:
Hey, did you hear about the funny prank that DC is playing? The one where Judd Winick is taking over writing this book with issue #13 and DC expects it to last? The one where Amanda Conner is no longer drawing it and DC expects it to last? Yeah, that’s a good one.
I don’t mean to be harsh, but I can’t imagine this book surviving for too long past issue #12. I have never read a Winick superhero comic that I’ve enjoyed, and he doesn’t appear to be such a big-time writer that many people who aren’t already reading this will jump on board. Sami Basri, who’s taking over art, is one of those artists whose work is shiny and cold (although his PG seems less pneumatic than Conner’s), unlike Conner’s far more down-to-earth stuff. I’m not sure why Conner is leaving the book anyway (her departure prompted Palmiotti and Gray to leave, in case you didn’t know). I’m certainly impressed that she managed twelve straight issues, but couldn’t she take an arc off and come back? This is kind of the perfect book for her, and it’s about 80% of why I buy this. Fringe comics these days have become so associated with their creators that switching creative teams seems weird. It didn’t work with Checkmate and I doubt it will work with Secret Six if Simone ever gets bored with that. Why would it work with this?
Anyway, in this issue, Power Girl visits the world’s worst comic book store (they don’t appear to stock Marvel comcs!) with that blackmailing kid so he’ll destroy the photos of her revealing her secret identity (she also has to “take care of” some bullies who are picking on him and help him get a date, but those are for later issues, apparently). It’s a funny scene. Meanwhile, Terra is acting weirdly. And Satanna makes a good point about superheroes and the names they choose. It’s a fairly typical issue of Power Girl, in other words.
I wish the best for these creators when they leave. And no, I won’t even give issue #13 a chance. Sorry, Mr. Winick!
One panel of awesome:
Scalped #36 (“A Fine Action Of An Honorable And Catholic Spaniard”) by Jason Aaron (writer), Davide Furnò (artist), Giulia Brusco (colorist), and Steve Wands (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC/Vertigo.
Hey, you know that SPOILER warning I gave above. Well, consider this another one. Seriously.
Are you getting me? Okay, here we go!
So this issue focuses on Shunka, Lincoln Red Crow’s right-hand man, who is sent to Michigan on a mission. He visits a casino and tells the guy running it, Greenwood, that Red Crow is a bit grumpy that Greenwood is telling acts to skip the Red Crow’s casino. Greenwood says no problem, and all is well. But wait, that’s only on page 8! What else could happen? Well, it turns out that Greenwood has a problem that maybe Shunka could help him with. The former tribal leader, Joseph Crane, is causing trouble. He got everything organized to get the casino going, but then he did something wrong: He came out of the closet. Now he’s going to hold a gay pride protest at the casino, and Greenwood would like Shunka to discourage him. Shunka tries to scare him a bit, and all seems well.
Except we know it’s not. See, Aaron begins the story after this point and then goes back in time. He begins at night, with Crane waiting for someone. He’s waiting for Shunka, whom he knows will come back. Shunka does, and when we think he’s going to kill Crane, Aaron drops the bombshell – he actually wants to, you know, get freaky with him. The splash page is magnificent, as Shunka kisses Crane violently and then, later, has violent sex with him (which Crane certainly doesn’t mind). Shunka doesn’t want anything to do with Crane after the sex, and Crane tells him about the history of homosexuality among Indians. It’s interesting, because earlier, Greenwood says that “our people just don’t abide that sort of behavior,” which puzzled me. Greenwood is Potawatomi, while Shunka is Lakota. I’m certainly not an expert on Natives, but different tribes have many, many different cultural attitudes, so Greenwood’s seemingly universal condemnation of homosexuals is odd, and it’s nice that Crane explains many of the different views different tribes had. And it’s cool that Shunka remains aloof, because that’s who he is. Of course, this is Scalped, so things go horribly wrong, but that’s something to be addressed next issue.
It’s not surprising that this is a fantastic issue of Scalped, but it’s very neat that Aaron keeps peeling away the shells of these characters to show us who they really are. I’m looking forward to what happens next issue.
One panel of awesome:
I’m a bit puzzled about Shuddertown. According to Spencer, issue #2 is supposed to be out next month (the solicitation was already in Previews). The back cover of this issue, however, claims it will be out in June. JUNE! If it’s going to be so long between issues, it’s tough to tell you to run out and buy this, because if it’s a mini-series, why didn’t they wait until Geen had more in the can? Of course, a lack of single issue sales means the chance of a trade will be less likely, so that’s a conundrum. And, naturally, if the issue sucks, that makes it easier, right? But the issue doesn’t suck, so I’m torn.
Spencer has a nice hook. Isaac Hernandez, a cop in Pittsburgh (that’s Pittsburgh’s skyline on the cover, although the city is never named), gets a new murder case. It’s a great case – plenty of forensic evidence on the victim. Except the perpetrator has been dead for two years. And then three more cases turn up with the same scenario. Oh dear. So Hernandez investigates, and some hooded figure is tracking him and beats him up at the end of the issue. Meanwhile, Hernandez has the stereotypical skeletons in the closet – something to do with abusing drugs somehow, probably, as his friend on the narcotics squad implies – and he has a big trash bag in the front seat of his car. I really don’t like the look of that trash bag. It’s a fairly good set-up issue, and who doesn’t love a creepy murder mystery? Spencer does some nice work on the prose, with Hernandez narrating about telling the truth and lying that feels fairly important. It’s pretty neat.
Geen isn’t bad, although everything is very murky. It’s obvious that he relies on photographs heavily, but there’s nothing really wrong with that as long as it’s done well. For the most part, he gives the book enough of a gritty feel that it doesn’t look as processed as some other artists who use it. Occasionally it appears that the figures don’t fit into the backgrounds, but that’s only on a few pages. His coloring, which is too dark on some pages, works very well in blending Hernandez into the scenery, an effective technique that makes him less of a person and more a cog in a machine. I don’t love Geen’s art, but it doesn’t make me want to stop buying the book, either.
I’d really like to know if the book is delayed until June. That would suck. I can’t imagine delaying it will help sales. But it’s a nifty little mystery, if you’re interested in that sort of thing!
One panel of awesome:
See, here’s the problem with doing covers so far in advance. At no time do Guido and Monet encounter dinosaurs in this comic. At no time do dinosaurs make any appearance whatsoever. I’ve heard before that sometimes covers are done so far in advance that the writer often has time to change the story entirely. I’m not sure if that’s what happened in this case or if David Yardin just thought Guido and Monet fighting dinosaurs would be hella cool, but it’s only a tiny bit annoying. It’s still a pretty cool cover.
I mentioned when Marvel solicited the trade for X-Factor in last month’s Previews that it seemed strange for Marvel to put this issue in the trade with the Invisible Woman story arc, and Michael P. mentioned that this was a single issue that Marvel just decided to tack on and next issue begins the “Second Coming” tie-in issues, so it’s a good place for a trade to end. That WOULD be an excellent explanation (and “Second Coming” is starting next issue), except that this is a Peter David comic, and therefore this is NOT a “one-and-done” issue. It ends on a fairly significant cliffhanger, actually. I assume David will return to it AFTER “Second Coming,” but if so, wouldn’t it be better for Marvel to collect the Invisible Woman story, then a Second Coming trade, and then collect this issue with the rest of the story? I get that then the Invisible Woman trade would only be three issues, but it’s still a dumb decision by Marvel. If you’re waiting for the trade on this series, I’m just going to warn you – it will end with a cliffhanger. Sorry!
As usual, it’s a good issue. Monet tries to free her father from the people who kidnapped him and finds that she’s the real target. Guido, who was separated from her when their plane was shot down, visits the local drug dealer (who looks disconcertingly like Dr. Lisa Cuddy) to find out where Monet might be, and then heads there to kick some ass … Mindless One ass, in this case. It does help if you know a bit about Monet’s past, but David does a decent job getting people up to speed on that – as much as is necessary, of course, because Monet’s past is a bit convoluted (she’s an X-character, after all). It’s a good issue, but it sure ain’t a one-and-done issue.
But I continue to be totally geeked about the new S.H.I.E.L.D. series. The house ad in this issue shows Da Vinci’s famous drawing of the dude inside the circle, except the dude is now Galactus. Dear Lord, this series can’t be as cool as I’m making it in my mind, can it?
One panel of awesome:
Shall we peruse The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle)? Of couse we shall!
1. “Blood On The Rooftops” – Genesis (1976)1 “Hypnotized by Batman, Tarzan – still surprised”
2. “Too Much Time On My Hands” – Styx (1981) “I got dozens of friends and the fun never ends that is as long as I’m buying”
3. “White Collar Money” – Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs (2001) “Little things you give up just to get more, doesn’t mean you’re turning into a whore”
4. “Here I Go Again” – Whitesnake (1987)2 “Like a drifter I was born to walk alone”3
5. “Free In You” – Indigo Girls (2004) “Love is just like breathing when it’s true”
6. “Let’s Get Lifted” – John Legend (2004) “I’ll have you spinning round and round”
7. “Put You Down” – Alice In Chains (1990) “Everything you buy is for the jingle”
8. “Innocent Party” – Fish (2003) “You blame it all on the system you worked in you helped perpetuate”
9. “Ugly In The Morning” – Faith No More (1995) “I know how piggy feels”
10. “Drink Before The War” – Sinéad O’Connor (1987) “Somebody cut out your eyes you refuse to see”
1 This is from the second all-new studio album Genesis released in 1976. Can you imagine a band doing that today?
2 The first version of this song is from 1982. They re-released it five years later and it was a big hit. I call this the “Tawny Kitaen Factor.”
3 Is this the cheesiest hair metal song from the 1980s? I mean the whole package – the bad lyrics, the big hair, the obnoxious video – it was like a perfect storm of the Eighties! And I love it!
And now, the totally easy totally random lyrics. Sorry, they’ve been in my head for days, hence their inclusion here:
Make you wanna cry
Lady do the hard sell
Know the reason why
Gettin’ ripped off
That’s how it goes
Playin’ in a band”
Finally, I’d like to point out that my five-year anniversary for writing for this here blog was this week. My first “real” post (after an introduction) was the 23rd of March, 2005. It’s been great fun writing here, and I plan on doing it for quite some time (yes, I hear the groans) even if Jonah always threatens to kill me whenever he sees me. I’d like to thank our Dread Lord and Master for inviting me to contribute to the old blog and letting me write myself into some sticky situations without smacking me upside the head (figuratively, of course, as he lives 2000 miles away from me). And I’m glad we have such a great group of readers, too, who put up with my weird ruminations on all things comicky. I enjoy the discourse here, even with the random person who calls me stupid. I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities thanks to this blog, and I always enjoy posting something new. And when Cronin takes over the world, I know I’ll get a plum job in his new regime. Sorry, suckers, you’re on the outside looking in!!!!!
Have a nice day!
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