Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
Above him there was now nothing but the sky – the lofty sky, not clear yet still immeasurably lofty, with gray clouds gliding slowly across it. “How quiet, peaceful, and solemn; not at all as I ran,” thought Prince Andrew — “not as we ran, shouting and fighting, not at all as the gunner and the Frenchman with frightened and angry faces struggled for the mop: how differently do those clouds glide across that lofty infinite sky! How was it I did not see that lofty sky before? And how happy I am to have found it at last! Yes! All is vanity, all falsehood, except that infinite sky. There is nothing, nothing, but that. But even it does not exist, there is nothing but peace and quiet. Thank God! …” (Leo Tolstoy, going all emo, from War and Peace)
A few things about that cover: Molly and Mettle in the foreground are awesome. David LaFuente turns Molly’s frog hat (which she’s wearing in the actual issue) and turns it into something far scarier, as those eyes look almost alive. It looks a lot like Zuzu, Bowie’s sentient scarf in Orc Stain, and he’s a bad-ass. Plus, I love how she’s hit Mettle so damned hard that his eyes are screwed up. Dang, that’s hard! I do, however, loathe what they’ve done to that cover. I’ve often said I miss text on covers, but I mean as part of the actual cover. On this issue we get the idiotic Avengers vs. X-Men shit on the top (why is the “It’s Coming” in quotation marks? is someone saying it, or are they being ironic?), but we also get the side bar telling us that the Runaways are guest-starring in this issue, which I guess we needed because it’s not like they’re right there on the cover. (My wife and I love it when a television show shows us something in flashback that happened ten minutes earlier, because we know they’re just doing it because some viewers are so stupid that they wouldn’t remember it just happened. This cover seems to speak to that mentality, because can’t people look at the cover and figure out that someone is guest-starring, even if they’re not familiar with the Runaways? Because if they’re not, telling us that the Runaways are guest-starring isn’t going to help.) All this text obscures LaFuente’s nice cover, and that’s a shame. Bad Marvel! You go to your room!
Once we get into the issue, it’s fine. In fact, it’s quite a hilarious issue. Moline is yet another decent artist on this book who doesn’t dazzle but gets the job done, but it’s Gage’s script that makes this issue work. Julie Power thinks Brandon (Striker) is going to need help dealing with being out, but on the first two pages, Gage reminds us that Brandon is a publicity whore, and he holds a press conference to announce that he’s gay. This provides the cover for the Runaways to sneak onto the grounds, because Chase is looking for Old Lace, his pet dinosaur. Apparently he thought she was dead, but she’s not, and he needs Avengers tech to find her. This leads to the two groups of kids gradually getting to know each other (with some funny dialogue) and the Runaways not trusting the older Avengers completely (rightfully, as it turns out). They don’t quite fight in this issue, but as Nico uses that staff thing to eavesdrop on Hank and Tigra’s discussion about what to do with the younger Runaways, I’m sure there might be at least some fisticuffs next issue when the adults try to take the younger kids away from the older ones. Mainly, it’s a good issue with a lot of nice dialogue, and it continues to show that Gage is at least trying to break out of the hidebound “heroes fight each other” crap that the Big Two still think is awesome (see: Avengers vs. X-Men).
As always, I have a problem with the simplistic way superhero comics deal with real-world issues. I don’t mind that Gage has the adults talk about taking the kids away from the Runaways, but he presents them as such uncaring dicks that it kind of undermines his argument. As a parent, I totally get Tigra saying “Sometimes being an adult means doing what’s right for kids, even if it’s the last thing in the world they want,” but this is a dicey situation. First of all, Molly and Klara are not her kids. Second, Chase has already told them he’s 18, and even though his declaration that he’s their guardian is fishy, it’s still a consideration. Third, I don’t know how closely Hank and Tigra follow the news or if the California Marvel equivalent of Child Protective Services is as incompetent as the one in Arizona, but getting CPS involved in anything turns things into a clusterfuck. (Seriously, Google “Laurie Roberts CPS”) and you can see all the horror stories about it in Arizona, and even if Ms. Roberts is wrong about half of what she writes, CPS is a horrible, horrible organization.) So for Hank and Tigra to sound so cold when they ought to know better is strange and off-putting, and I can only conclude Gage did it because it’s more fun to read a punch-up between the two teams than a debate between them. Which is another argument for avoiding “real-world” problems in superhero comics.
But it’s still a good comic. And it has a lot of funny stuff in it. I’m curious to see how Gage resolves it, and because he seems to doing a good job with that, I keep coming back!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
According to Brubaker, Fatale is the most successful project he and Phillips have ever done together. That’s great, but I have trouble believing that an Image book is more popular than a Marvel comic or a Wildstorm comic. It would be wonderful it it were, but I still have trouble believing it. He also writes that Fatale was originally supposed to be 12 issues, but it’s already going to be longer than that, and Brubaker doesn’t really know how long it will be when it’s all said and done. To which I say, Bring it on, motherfucker! We can always use more good comics, right?
Brubillips returns to the present to catch up with Nicolas, who’s getting around on his prosthetic leg pretty well and still trying to figure out what’s going on. I like that at the end of the last issue, we got a feeling something really bad was going to happen to Hank’s wife, and in this issue, instead of continuing directly on that issue, we go back to the present, where Nicolas finds out that she really did come to a nasty end. It’s a clever way to do it without being too graphic, and Brubaker does a good job to circle back around to the events when Hank returns home after hanging out with Josephine doing sexy time stuff. Josephine also lures him into doing something for her, but that’s her thing, innit?
Phillips and Stewart are a nice team, which isn’t surprising. Stewart is a bit more traditional, I suppose, than Val Staples (who had been working with these two on a lot of their Icon work), but that’s not a good thing or a bad thing, just a different thing. The violent panels are in bright, red-based colors rather than the drabber stuff that we see throughout the issue, which helps them stand out nicely. He does a very nice job on the last page, which shows Hank coming home to find the police, and the lights from their cars stain the scene blood-red very well. It’s a cool page, but then again, most of the pages that Phillips draws for these series look cool.
Fatale is pretty awesome. Duh!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Hickman’s latest series is, as the cover tells us, about all the research and development that was really going on while the scientists in World War II were supposed to be creating the atomic bomb. In this issue, we meet Robert Oppenheimer, who’s told by some unnamed high-ranking soldier (is he a colonel?) that he needs to come with the atom bomb, but they’re doing a lot more cool, comic-book SCIENCE! kind of stuff that is far more fun. Just to prove it, in the middle of the book, the Japanese attack by sending a “red torii,” “Zen-powered by Death Buddhists” into the facility, belching out a bunch of kamikaze samurai robots. You know, like they do. Oh, and the soldier has Albert Einstein locked in a room staring at an Arthur C. Clarke-looking block of stone. Because, why not?
It’s a pretty good comic, despite Hickman going to the twin well, which I’m on record as not liking in fiction. He invents a twin for Oppenheimer, so we can kind of figure out where the book is going, but the title of the issue leads to something a bit more interesting than just using twins, so I can forgive it, for the most part. It’s a pretty killer final page, actually, which throws us for a bit of a loop. I’m sure that this comic will be mind-bending – that’s what Hickman likes – so it’s good to have an interesting hook, and for me, at least, the final page is a good one. I can forgive the silliness of kamikaze samurai robots when we get a cool page like that. Hickman has a good grasp of fake science, too, so his comics “sound” correct. That’s nice.
Pitarra is a good artist, although some things do bug me. His Oppenheimer is too old – it’s easy to find pictures of him from the 1940s, and he looks far younger than this Oppenheimer, who looks like he’s in his sixties (Oppenheimer is 38 in this comic). Pitarra also gives the colonel (general?) really thin legs in a couple of panels, and it’s really weird. Oppenheimer’s legs are skinny, too, but he’s a skinny dude – the colonel is beefy on top, but in a few places, his legs are like sticks. It’s strange. Pitarra has a bit of a Quitely/Burnham thing going on, which makes his figures a bit elongated anyway, so there’s that. He does a nice job with the art overall, and the flashback scenes showing Robert and his twin growing up are handled well and colored very nicely by Peter. Pitarra and Peter do a nice job with the last page, too, helping make its impact even stronger.
I’m still waiting for the latest Hickman-drawn one-shot from Image, but at least his ongoings are getting going, because it’s always cool to see what he’s doing outside of Marvel. Hmmm … maybe I am an indie comics hipster. So sad!
(I do like that there’s an advert for Butcher Baker in the back of the book reading “Patience.” It’s nice to know that the book hasn’t died an ignoble death!)
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
One totally Airwolf panel:
Batman: Birth of the Demon by Mike W. Barr (writer), Jerry Bingham (artist/colorist), John Costanza (letterer), Tom Grindberg (artist), Eva Grindberg (colorist), Gaspar Saladino (letterer), Dennis O’Neil (writer), Norm Breyfogle (artist/colorist), and Ken Bruzenak (letterer). $29.99, 279 pgs, FC, DC.
I own the first two stories in this, but not the Breyfogle one, which is odd given my love of Breyfogle. Beats me why I missed it the first time around. Anyway, this might be worth it just for Son of the Demon, which gave the world Bruce and Talia’s child. I bought it very early in my comics-buying career (it came out a year before I started collecting) and was blown away by how good it was. I mean, the story was pretty good, but Jerry Bingham’s art was phenomenal. I’m still impressed by the page layouts and the pencil work and the coloring … man, it’s a good comic. Tom Grindberg’s art in Bride of the Demon is a bit of a comedown, but it’s still good and it’s part of the reason I tend to give Grindberg a bit of a break when I see his art, because I know what he can do. Breyfogle’s work on Birth of the Demon looks like it was colored straight from pencils, and it’s really impressive. This might be 30 bucks, but it’s totally worth it, especially if you’ve never read these before. They’re Batman in his “international man of mystery” mode, and who doesn’t love that Batman?
Grant is an Australian cartoonist, and this book is about Australians in a small town confronting their history. Plus, surfing. It looks very cool, and Grant has a text piece in the back of the book about his own comics history, among other things. I happened to flip through and saw this:
[Fantastic Four #48 is] the issue where the Silver Surfer makes his first appearance. But when I made my way through to this comic, looking for whatever it was that everyone found in it, all I saw was the dickhead on the longboard. My first impression was that old Jack didn’t get enough time looking at the fluid dynamics of surfboards and breaking waves, and that the Silver Surfer’s stance was just plain stupid. To me, it was self-evident: Kirby don’t surf.
I love when people take shots at sacred cows, whether it’s warranted or not. Grant’s impression may have changed – he was young when he had this thought – but it’s still awesome. He also calls Cerebus “unreadable.” Awesome.
King City by Brandon Graham (writer/artist). $19.99, 424 pgs, BW (with some FC), Image.
People love this. Will I? Stay tuned!
This is a comic about weird crap going on in the London underworld. The art is phenomenal. I’m looking forward to reading this sucker!
This is fairly interesting. The writers look at each current major network (no DuMont, in other words) and try to determine their best season. It’s pretty interesting – heavily skewed toward more modern stuff, but the one for CBS is fascinating – remember when CBS was full of cutting-edge programming? Yeah, me neither. That’s because it happened in the 1970s, man. The Seventies are weird, man. We elected a peanut farmer as the president, and another president was forced to resign for doing something that today would get ignored because Snooki might be pregnant. Insane, man.
So the wife and I have been watching Alcatraz, which is goofy but decent enough (even though it’s probably going to get cancelled soon). We’re trying to ignore the fact that there’s an Indian female doctor working on Alcatraz in 1960, but it still bugs me (they hand-waved it away in an early episode). They haven’t done too badly with Hurley’s comic book store, but in one episode, his employee actually said nervously that there was a girl in the store while said female was standing right in front of him. I get the idiotic stereotype, but if the dude lives in his mother’s basement and has never even kissed a girl, would he say that out loud? Whatever. Anyway, the show has two crush-worthy actresses, Sarah Jones and Parminder Nagra, plus the medical examiner ain’t bad either. Don’t you judge television shows by how many cute actresses are on them, just a little? You can admit it! And hey, remember when Sam Neil was on Amerika? That show motherfucking rocked. Television needs more mini-series, damn it!
My superb daughter Norah (remember to follow her on Twitter!) has again put Greg Land to shame with her latest free-hand drawing, this time of the father of our country:
She didn’t know which picture she used as a model, but doesn’t he look shifty? “I’m about to abandon New York to the British, but I can’t let my troops know!” “I’m about to cheat on Martha, but I can’t let the old battleaxe know!” “I’m about to pants John Adams, but I can’t let him know!” Who knows what lurks in the mind of G. Washington? Perhaps only Norah knows!
How about we move on to The Ten Most Recent Songs On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):
1. “Clint Eastwood” – Gorillaz (2001) “You see with your eyes and see destruction and demise, corruption in disguise”1
2. “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” – John Legend and the Roots (2010) “How sweet it would be, if I found I could fly”
3. “Mountains of Burma” – Midnight Oil (1990) “Will the sons of Solidarity still march on May Day?”
4. “A Hundred Camels” – Horse Flies (2008) “You didn’t ask for all the things that stupid people do”
5. “Sack Full of Silver” – Thin White Rope (1990) “I’ve been telling you, so you ought to know what will happen unless you forego”
6. “Add It Up” – Violent Femmes (1983) “He’s walking around like he’s number one, went downtown and you got him a gun”
7. “Classic Girl” – Jane’s Addiction (1990) “They may say, Those were the days … but in a way, you know, for us these are the days”
8. “In My Time of Dying” – Led Zeppelin (1975) “If my wings should fail me, Lord, please meet me with another pair”2
9. “A Rush of Blood to the Head” – Coldplay (2002) “So I’m gonna buy a gun and start a war if you can tell me something worth fighting for”
10. “Just a Man” – Faith No More (1995) “A star is out, I will not touch you, I am just a man”
1 I ought to get more Gorillaz, oughtn’t I?
2 You know, you can have your Keith Moon and your Neil Peart. John Bonham is the greatest drummer in rock history mainly because of this song. It’s ten minutes long and it feels half that because Bonham simply drives you through the song relentlessly. I love this song for a lot of reasons, but mainly because of the drums.
So yeah. Only three single issues this week. It was a decent week because of the other stuff, but if it’s a small week for non-Big Two comics, I’m just not going to get a lot. Sorry for the weak sauce, but that’s just the way it is. Swamp Thing looked pretty cool this week, didn’t it? I also received some Kirby stuff from Amazon – the first Fourth World trade, and the first Fantastic Four Masterworks, which I didn’t know Marvel was now doing in softcovers. That’s pretty awesome, because those Masterworks hardcovers go for, what, 50 bucks? and I got the trade for 16. I may have to start catching up on my 1960s Marvel comics!
I hope everyone has a nice day and weekend. Be excellent to each other!
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