Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
“Today’s lesson is, if someone puts poison in your tea, don’t drink it.” (Christopher Moore, from Lamb)
Aladdin: Legacy of the Lost #2 (of 3) by Ian Edginton (writer), Patrick Reilly (artist), Stjepan Šejić (artist), Richard Starkings (letterer), and Jimmy Betancourt (letterer). $4.99, 46 pgs, FC, Radical Comics.
Gianluca Glazer at Radical sends me almost every issue his company publishes, and I appreciate it because I don’t love everything his company publishes, yet he keeps sending them to me. So that’s awfully nice of him. Every so often, though, he sends me an issue that I really, really like, and this issue of Aladdin is one of them. I shouldn’t be surprised – Edginton almost always is worth a look, and the first issue was a decent introduction to the story, but this issue was really enjoyable. Edginton gives Sinbad more screen time in this issue, as Aladdin’s schemes as a new “prince” fall apart and he’s forced to go on the lam. Oh dear. Sinbad takes him to see the Mantis Queen, who takes fifteen years of Aladdin’s life in exchange for showing him how to find Qassim and Princess Soraya, whom he (Qassim, that is) kidnapped. You know, you really shouldn’t trust a woman whose lower half is insectoid. I mean, come on – that’s Good Guy 101, Aladdin! You can’t trust the woman with mantis legs, man!
As I mentioned, this is very entertaining. We get Qassim turning people into dogs and pigs, we have the aforementioned Mantis Queen and her creepy minions, we have floating palaces and a giant octopus (no one says “Release the Kraken,” though), a hawk-headed soldier dude, a djinn, and some nice banter between Aladdin and Soraya. The art is strange, because Reilly and Šejić have such different styles, but at least the shift occurs when Aladdin leaves Shambhalla and visits the Mantis Queen – if you’re going to switch artists with differing styles, that’s a good place for it. Reilly’s art is much more cartoonish, and while Šejić might not be to everyone’s taste, I find his odd, slick, painted, photo-realistic style quite neat. But that’s just me.
I should point out, as it will be necessary to bring this up in more detail below, that everyone looks Middle Eastern/Indian in this comic. Their coloring is slightly duskier than it would be if they were Caucasian, for instance. It fits the book well. Another book below has some issues with the coloring, and I’d like to point out that Aladdin: Legacy of the Lost gets it right. For what that’s worth!
One panel of awesome:
Batman and Robin #11 (“Batman vs. Robin Part 2: Boneyard”) by Grant “That’s way too easy, fanboys!” Morrison (writer), Andy Clarke (penciller), Scott Hanna (inker), Alex Sinclair (colorist), Tony Aviña (colorist), and Patrick Brosseau (letterer). $2.99, 22 pgs, FC, DC.
I’ve remarked before that it annoyed me that the God of All Comics referenced only Silver Age stories in his Batman run, because so many writers who work on the character simply ignore almost everything that came before – maybe a character or two, but nothing else. There’s so many cool stories from the 1970s on that writers just ignore, and it bothered me. Well, I forgot to mention this last time, because I recognized the name scrawled on the wall in the secret chamber that Dick finds, but in this issue it’s more explicit – G-Mozz is referring to “Dark Knight, Dark City,” the Peter Milligan/Kieron Dwyer arc from Batman #452-454. Whee-hoo! Now, Thomas Wayne wasn’t in that story, but a little retcon never hurt anyone, did it? I love that Morrison simply used a plot point that has been lying around for twenty years instead of coming up with his own demon – someone already did that, so why not use it? Yes, I know that I often rail against today’s writers referencing obscure stories that I don’t know but they do, but this is different, because it really doesn’t matter if you know the older story or not – Alfred explains basically what happens that’s pertinent to the story (Thomas Wayne and some cohorts raised a demon). That’s where continuity works – you don’t need to know that Milligan laid the groundwork, but it’s fun if you do.
Meanwhile, I’m still bothered by Talia and her plot against Dick. Talia is a bad character because nobody ever writes her consistently – first she rebels against her father, then she’s loyal, then she loves Bruce, then she can’t love him because it would destroy her father – so this characterization shouldn’t bother me, as it’s as inconsistent as any other appearance by Talia. But the one thing it seems Talia doesn’t do is kill people Bruce was close to. I know she wants Damian to take over as Batman and Dick is standing in the way, but this just feels off, somehow.
As for those people who think Oberon Sexton is Bruce Wayne (like Damian himself) – isn’t that just too obvious? I mean, writers just don’t do obvious things like that, right? A writer would never, say, make the one character everyone thinks is going to be a White Lantern the actual White Lantern, right? That’s just crazy! So Morrison wouldn’t make the one character everyone thinks is going to be Bruce Wayne actually Bruce Wayne, right? Maybe Oberon Sexton is … Jason Todd! Or J’onn J’onzz! Or Ralph Dibny! Or Bruce’s father! Or Lucius Fox! Come on, people, think outside the box!
One panel of awesome:
If you’ve read anything I’ve written at this blog with any consistency, you know that I love spy comics. I dig the espionage, the double-crossing, the codes, the cloak-and-dagger shit. So Codebreakers ought to be right up my alley. What I didn’t expect for an issue that basically sets everything up is how damned good this is. A lot has to do with Godlewski’s very good art, which kind of has a Rafael Albuquerque vibe going on (and Albuquerque, remember, is very good). Godlewski’s character designs and body language are excellent, as we really get the sense that the people are having a conversation instead of just spouting dialogue – their facial expressions change, they move their hands, that sort of thing. Godlewski doesn’t have a lot of opportunity to show off in this issue, but one nice full-page spread shows how one cryptographer sizes up a room, and Godlewski does a nice job leading the eye all around it even though nothing is, you know, moving. It’s a cool trick.
Malloy, meanwhile, does a good job with the set-up. Four FBI cryptographers have their morning meeting, which allows Malloy to show them in their element, and then one of them – Stanley Grouse, whose mother thinks he works at a computer store (yes, just like Chuck) – gets an unusual encrypted e-mail, which leads to him jumping off a bridge (somehow; the connection isn’t clear, although Malloy wants us to believe one led to the other). His boss doesn’t believe he’s dead, and he and the other two members of the team are going off the reservation to find him. Of course, we know he’s not dead, and his boss is right – he was abducted to work on a very difficult code that can’t be good for the country. Won’t someone think of the country?!?!?
For an issue that simply sets everything up, Malloy gets in a lot of information. The characters are well conceived, and Godlewski manages to keep things visually interesting even as Malloy is packing a lot into the book. That’s always a neat trick.
Do yourself a favor and check out Codebreakers. It’s a nifty comic.
One panel of awesome:
I’ve been worried about Linda, our hero’s widowed sister-in-law, for the entire run of this series. She’s just a Woman in a Refrigerator waiting to happen, as she’s in an exposed farmstead and John and Tonto don’t really try that hard to hide their involvement with her. I mean, now she’s making time with Tonto, right out in the open! Such miscegenation will not stand!* So I’ve been worried about her, and hoped that Matthews wouldn’t go there … but he does, in this issue. Now, we won’t know until next issue what actually happens to her, but it just can’t be good. That’s too bad, because she just started getting on with life and getting it on with the real man in the book! Sucks to be Linda, I guess. I really hope I’m wrong, but I doubt that I’m going to be.
Otherwise, this is another gripping read. The final few pages are really tense, too, as Dan, Linda’s son, has a terrible dream that turns into an even more terrible reality, and Linda shows that she has plenty of fight. Good stuff. We’ll see what Matthews has in store for next issue. Even if something bad happens to Linda, it doesn’t make it a bad book. It’s what Matthews does with that and how things play out that matter. We shall see, shan’t we?
* I just love the word ‘miscegenation,’ because it feels so antique. It’s used pejoratively most of the time, which is why you hardly hear it anymore, so I just wanted to use it. I trust none of you think I’m serious about being angry about Linda and Tonto mackin’. That’s silly.
One pane of awesome:
Hey, look, it’s the issue of Secret Warriors that came out a few weeks ago but which I didn’t get until this week! I guess it’s kind of pointless to write about it, as everyone who thought about buying it already did, and people who are waiting for the trade don’t care, but I will say that, in the schizophrenic nature of this comic, this is a pretty darned good issue. Hickman keeps it straight-forward, we get some backstory, and everything moves forward nicely. I do have one question about the traitor to HYDRA – it’s a problem with characters who aren’t in comics month after month and who remain in limbo for long stretches at a time. What is said traitor’s current status? It seems like this person has been back and forth from one side to the other, and while I know that Hickman has said that S.H.I.E.L.D. is only a part of HYDRA, does that explain everything? I don’t know, but the revelation of the traitor has less impact than perhaps it should have, because I’m not used to thinking of this person has a “good guy,” necessarily, so who cares if this person is a “traitor”?
Anyway, a solid issue. Which means next issue won’t be. Right?
One panel of awesome:
S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 (of 6) (“The Unholy Resurrection of Leonardo da Vinci”) by Jonathan Hickman (writer), Dustin Weaver (artist), Christina Strain (colorist), and Todd Klein (letterer). $3.99, 34 pgs, FC, Marvel.
I haven’t checked yonder wildlands of yon Internets yesterday and today, but apparently there’s a lot of squeeing going on about this title. As cool as it is (I’ve been geeked about this since I first heard about it), there are some problems with it. Let’s examine!
First, the coloring. I’m not sure where I read it (David Brothers’ place, maybe?), but there was some consternation about Imhotep, as he’s an Egyptian pharoah who looks, frankly, like a white guy. I seem to recall Weaver saying something about a coloring mistake and that Imhotep should have looked more, well, Egyptian, but that doesn’t change the fact that he looks like a white guy. Strain is a decent colorist, but I’m not sure what she or anyone else was thinking when they did that (again, I know it’s a mistake, but I wonder where the mistake was). Plus, there’s the fact that Leonardo da Vinci looks like a superhero. Da Vinci was 43 and then 51 years old when the events in this book take place, and 43 and then 51 years old in the fifteenth century was a lot harder on a person than in the twenty-first. I’m not saying that Da Vinci should be decrepit, but he’s yet another character who looks like he’s a late-20s/early-30s white guy. Weaver’s depiction of him is based on surviving self-portraits, so I’m not as bent out of shape about it as I am with regard to Imhotep, and this is a fantasy, but when he starts wearing his shirt open so he can show off his rock-hard pecs, I start to lose some suspension of disbelief (and yes, I’m saying that about a book that shows Galactus in 1582 Rome).
And then there’s Galactus. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, the conceit of this series is that S.H.I.E.L.D. has existed in some kind of capacity for over 4000 years, beginning with Imhotep. In 1953, a young man named Leonid is taken from his home by the Men In Brown and flown to Rome, where he goes underneath the city, meets a bunch of dudes with weird helmets on who tell him about the secret history of the shield (and, for what it’s worth, the spear). This allows Hickman to show (presumably) cool vignettes from Marvel history. We get Imhotep fighting the Brood (and in a cool moment, Apocalypse is standing behind the pharoah, just chillin’), a Chinese dude from AD 114 figthing an Eternal, Da Vinci trying to figure out what’s going on in the sun, and Galileo fighting Galactus. All of those are as cool as they sound, except I was bothered by the use of Galactus. First, the other events might have been lost to history, but people wrote quite a bit in 1582, so why wouldn’t anyone have written anything about Galactus? More than that, his presence in 1582 kind of messes up his first appearance in Fantastic Four. The cool thing about Galactus’ first appearance was that he had never been thwarted before, so he was kind of stunned. Plus, it’s implied that even Reed’s technology isn’t enough to stop him, and he needs to cheat. Well, if the Renaissance folk can figure out how to defeat Galactus, why the hell couldn’t Big Brain Reed? What the hell? It bugged me. Yes, something unrealistic in a comic book bugged me. Yes, I’m just as much of a weirdo as you are.
On the whole, however, this is a good issue that points toward a great series. There are a lot of keen moments, and Weaver’s art is mostly excellent. I’m not sure why Agents Richards and Stark are hanging from the ceiling, but the Night Machine is hella cool. I probably like this more because I know what Hickman has done in the past (I’m thinking of his Image work, not his Marvel work, which has been spotty) and this seems like his dream project. So I’m really, really looking forward to the continuing story, even if the actual issue was a bit uneven. Still, I love that we’re getting something like this from Marvel.
One panel of awesome:
Lapham gives us more information about what the heck is going on in Sparta, but still leaves a lot of questions. Basically, Godfrey starts recruiting an army after his appearance at the stadium at the end of issue #1 doesn’t go terribly well. The great thing about this army is that it’s almost entirely female – and no, I’m not being a dirty old man who likes seeing chicks with weapons; it’s that Godfrey was such a ladies’ man before he disappeared that all the honeys want to join him. Lapham has a keen sense of humor, and that makes this a bit more interesting than it might be otherwise. Especially the way the issue ends. We also get a bit more about the “survival of the fittest” mentality of life in Sparta, as the competition for starting quarterback is revealed to be a little more cutthroat than, say, Matt Leinart stealing Kurt Warner’s Bible and holding it for ransom (trust me, people here in the Basin understand that). This isn’t a great comic (yet), but it’s certainly intriguing. Timmons isn’t great, either, and the fact that he uses Colin Ferrell for some references for Godfrey is kind weird. It doesn’t look consistent, and why use someone famous anyway? Oh well. As usual with art that doesn’t make me scream in horror, Timmons gets the job done.
One panel of awesome:
Spider-Man: Fever #1 (of 3) (“Part One: Insecticide”) by Brendan McCarthy (writer/artist/colorist/letterer) and Steve Cook (colorist/letterer). $3.99, 21 pgs, FC, Marvel.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to get this or wait for the trade, but it’s so rare to see McCarthy’s art that I really couldn’t resist. I’m not terribly sure if it’s worth $4, but it might be worth a $15-trade depending on what stuff Marvel puts in it on top of the story. Visually, this is a real treat. If you’ve never seen McCarthy’s art before, you should give it a look, because he has such a fervent imagination that it’s fun to just look at his pages. He reins in the craziness a tiny bit (he often turns pages upside down or adds lots of odd prose in the margins), but then you get a page where two sentient dogs dressed in brightly-colored track suits and/or space suits casually remark on the giant spider dragging Peter Parker’s soul through a doorway. You know, normal shit. Oh, and there’s the guy clinging to a giant fly who used to be a man. Isn’t that what you always find in comics?
Story-wise, we get Peter Parker fighting the Vulture and then getting taken over by the weird spider creature from beyond this dimension! Said spider creature got into our dimension because Doctor Strange, who you’d think would know better, casually opened a magic book and released an energy stream that allowed the spider creature to get here. Good move, Steve! To be fair, he tries to stop the spider creature. And fails. Way to go, Steve! So presumably he’s going to rescue Spider-Man, which will be the basis of the rest of the series. It’s a pretty good story, although McCarthy isn’t the greatest writer – some of the dialogue is pretty stilted. It doesn’t, however, ruin things, especially when this book exists to showcase McCarthy’s insane art. Like I wrote above, I’m not sure if it’s worth the coin, but if Marvel puts a Ditko Dr. Strange issue or two with the trade, it’s definitely something to keep in mind!
One panel of awesome:
Honestly, I have nothing to say. I read this, I love it, and I soak up the art. Kaluta is masterful, with amazing detail, exciting scenes of explosions and chases through space, and Lee continues to pile plot point upon plot point. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned how very funny this comic is. The entire issue is predicated on pulling off a great prank. And people die because of it. I’m just glad IDW has reprinted these, because I had always heard good things about it and never got around to getting it. It’s exciting reading something from 30 years ago and realizing how, even today, it feels ahead of its time. That’s not a bad accomplishment.
One panel of awesome:
I have no idea who Jonathan Ross is, so I had no idea about this comic – I bought it simply because Tommy Lee Edwards was drawing it. I’ve been a fan of Edwards for a while, but when he changed his style on The Question mini-series a few years back, he became the kind of artist whose work I’ll buy even if it’s not the greatest project (this enjoyment of his work was not enough to overcome my Mark Millar hatred, but it was enough to get me to buy Bullet Points, which was kind of mediocre). And this comic is absolutely gorgeous. Ross gives Edwards TONS to draw, and Edwards it up to the task, from the beautiful evocation of 1929 New York to the vampires (oh yes, there are vampires) to, well, the aliens. Not “aliens” as in people immigrating here from another country, but the kind you find battling in space. Oh yes, there are aliens. Edwards shifts easily from page to page – there’s one page with the aliens battling in space, and a few pages later, a corrupt cop in a seedy apartment with a dead hooker, and Edwards nails both pages wonderfully. Ross gives him a huge cast to work with, and the character designs are fantastic. It’s a tremendously good-looking comic.
Ross does a very good job with the story, as well. Mash-ups are dicey, because they’ve become so clichéd, but Ross manages to make this work. Perhaps if it was just vampires trying to take over the gangs of New York it wouldn’t work that well, but when he throws in the aliens, it rises to an insanely delightful height. Beyond the general idea, though, Ross really gives us a lot to chew on, and his characters are really well done. With only a few scenes, he breathes life into them, even someone like O’Leary, the scumbag cop. We’re instantly sympathetic to Eddie Falco, for instance, even though he’s a gangster – when he goes to get a haircut, his long-time barber freaks out and tries to kill him, and we actually feel bad for Falco, because he doesn’t know what’s going on. Susie Randall, a society reporter, is the ostensible star of the book, but even she doesn’t get a ton of screen time, yet we get a very good sense of her personality.
Turf is a really good comic. It’s not the most original idea in the world, but Ross and Edwards sell it so very well that it doesn’t matter. And you know you can’t wait until the crashlanded alien starts fucking shit up!
One panel of awesome:
I wasn’t sure if I was going to keep buying this series, because issue #6 was kind of disappointing. Then two things happened: First, I saw that Juan Jose Ryp was drawing issue #9, and I’m dying to see that. I know I could skip issues #7 and 8, as it’s a two-parter, but I know I’m buying that issue, so I figured I’d keep it up. Second, I saw the sales figures for the series, and it’s probably not long for this world, so I suppose I can keep giving it life until Hurwitz either figures out exactly what he’s doing with our hero or the book gets the axe. It’s not like I hated issue #6, so I don’t mind buying this. Aren’t you glad I explain my buying habits to you?
Anyway, this isn’t a bad issue. Yes, it guest-stars Deadpool, but he’s not too obnoxious, so that’s a plus. And, interestingly, Moon Knight is the “bad guy” in this issue – he stops Deadpool from killing some dude, but that probably wasn’t the best idea, as the dude is kind of a scumbag. So Moon Knight has a tough choice to make, especially because Deadpool susses out that he, MK, was once a gun-for-hire like he was. So Moon Knight has to deal with some temptation – not that he’s going to succumb, but it’s interesting to see Hurwitz contrast the ex-merc with a current one.*
Huat’s art has never been my cup o’ tea, but I don’t mind the softer lines he’s using these days, which retains some of his strange elongation of the characters without making them too bizarre. And I know it’s a comic book, but I do like that many artists have, apparently, never been in a hospital, because they think nurses dress like this:
Actually, I’m not sure what she’s supposed to be – she’s dressed like a slutty nurse and is, apparently, delivering beer and pizza. Is she a helpful stripper? She only appears in three panels – will she be important in the next issue? If not, fuck the heck is going on?
So it’s an enjoyable if not particularly great issue of Vengeance of the Moon Knight. I’m back at least through issue #9, and we’ll see if the series even survives past that!
* Here’s a question: Someone at my comic book store said “merc” the other day with a soft “c” at the end – “merse,” basically. I get that if you say “mercenary,” it’s a soft “c,” but I always pronounced “merc” as “merk” – well, I don’t think I’ve ever said it out loud, but when I read it, I read it with a hard “c.” What do you say? What is the accepted pronunciation of “merc”?
One panel of awesome:
Zorro: Matanzas #3 (of 4) (“Slaughter Corral”) by Don McGregor (writer), Mike Mayhew (artist), Sam Parsons (colorist), John Costanza (letterer), and Kel-O-Graphics (digital inker). $3.99, 24 pgs, FC, Dynamite Entertainment.
Last issue, a bull went a bit nuts and gored Zorro’s dad. Sucks to be him! The bad guy, Lucien Machete, decides to tackle the bull and save Don Alejandro. But why? Even he can’t say. Zorro hates him for it, and tries to stop him, which turns the crowd against him – why is Zorro fighting the man who is trying to save Don Alejandro? And then there’s a stampede. And … scene.
That’s really all that happens, but it’s kind of an interesting issue because of the way McGregor structures it. The entire issue takes place over no more than 5-10 minutes, but what’s fascinating is that the entire time Zorro is trying to stop Machete from saving Don Alejandro, the victim is lying in a pool of blood not five feet away! Wouldn’t Zorro think that just maybe he should stop trying to fight Machete and let someone maybe save his father’s life, as his father was just gored by a bull and has a gaping wound in his torso? I don’t think this was McGregor’s plan, but the issue becomes almost like a surreal comedy, as Zorro keeps fighting this man instead of either helping Don Alejandro himself or letting others help him. Machete’s plan is to make Zorro look like the villain, of course, so he’s not really fighting back (he does a tiny bit, but not much), and all Zorro has to do, really, is stop beating on Machete and, you know, help his dad. It’s really a bizarre issue. Zorro seems much more interested in beating up Machete than saving Don Alejandro. So I guess he really is the bad guy. Odd.
I’m curious to see how this ends – it’s only four issues long, so McGregor has to resolve the stampede and (presumably) figure out how Don Alejandro doesn’t die (unless, of course, he actually dies, which I doubt will happen). It’s just a weird penultimate issue, because I don’t think it was supposed to be a farce. But that’s what it is, kind of.
One panel of awesome:
As always, we fire up The Ten Most Recent Songs Played On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):
1. “Particle Man” – They Might Be Giants (1990) “He’s got a watch with a minute hand, millennium hand and an eon hand; when they meet it’s a happy land”
2. “Starfish and Coffee” – Prince (1987) “If you set your mind free, baby, maybe you’d understand”
3. “Armageddon It” – Def Leppard (1987) “You flash your bedroom eyes like a jumpin’ jack”1
4. “I Lost It” – Lucinda Williams (1998) “Never take nothing don’t belong to me, everything’s paid for, nothing’s free”
5. “Troy” – Sinéad O’Connor (1987) “You wouldn’t have begged me to hold you if we hadn’t been there in the first place”2
6. “I’m Easy” – Eric Bogle (1981) “My daughter married young and went her own way, my sons lie buried by the Burma railway”
7. “Hollywood Freaks” – Beck (1999) “Looking like jail bait, selling lots of real estate”
8. “Surprise! You’re Dead!” – Faith No More (1989) “I’ll keep killing you until the end of time”
9. “Spreading the Disease” – Queensrÿche (1988) “Selling skin, selling God – the numbers look the same on their credit cards”
10. “Principal’s Office” – Young MC (1989) “When I finished the note it was ready to pass, the teacher took it and read it right in front of the class – she read it word by word and line by line, and everybody who was laughing was a friend of mine”3
1 Really? They substitute “I’m a-gettin’ it” with “Armageddon it?” Really, gentlemen?
2 Years ago, I saw an O’Connor concert on PBS, of all places, do a chilling live version of this, where she abruptly ended the song with the last lyric, “You’re still a liar.” She spoke it, the music stopped, and the lights went off. It was really keen.
3 Young MC is still recording. I think I would be sad if I saw him in concert and he performed this song.
And then, we hit you with some totally random lyrics!
“When you get to where you want to go
And you know the things you want to know
When you said what you want to say
And you know the way you want to play it
You’ll be so high you’ll be flying”
So, to recap our #1 issues: Codebreakers: Very intriguing. S.H.I.E.L.D.: Not bad, but a bit scattershot. Spider-Man: Fever: Keen to look at, but probably better in a trade because there’s sure to be something extra. Turf: Excellent. Full of pulpy goodness, and takes a good long while to read, thanks to the compression. Go forth and seek ye the first issues of series!!!!!
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