"U.S.Avengers": A Guide to Marvel's New Patriotic Superhero Team
You may or may not have noticed that I’m actually supposed to be posting here. I’m kinda the Halley’s Comet of the CSBG crew. I turn up very rarely, there’s a brief flurry of excitement and then I vanish for an interminable period of time.
Anyway, one of the reasons for this is that, well, most comics these days just don’t light a fire under me. The blog is called ‘Comics Should Be Good’ after all, and, well, I’m finding that most of what flits under my nose these days is kind of mediocre.
Not bad, per se, just not ‘good’.
Which leads us to Jamie Smart and ‘Space Raoul’.
Jamie Smart is a plucky British cartoonist most known for ‘Bear’ a neat little comic which came out in the wake of Jhonen Vasquez’ ‘Johnny the Homicidal Maniac’ when publishers were scrambling for the next thing which they could trademark and then proceed to smear all over clothing, stickers and lunchboxes and flog off to pimply, middle class goth kids at Hot Topic for a vastly inflated price.
Amongst the wave of forgettable detritus, there was something about ‘Bear’ which made me think it wasn’t the usual load of cobbled-together crap trying in vain to replicate the ‘kowaii’ (cute but scary) work of Japanese artists like Junko Mizuno.
For one thing, it was actually funny, while pretty much everything else could, at best, manage a sort of tired, self referential wink (“Oh, look, it’s a cute teddy bear… but it’s evil… how potently ironic… oh, I may swoon…”), and on the other hand, it was competently executed.
Which brings us back to ‘Space Raoul’.
Space Raoul is a plucky, bold and ever-so-British space hero who travels the galaxy with his trusty pal, Quibble, battling Space Ne’er-do-wells, encountering strange space races and weird space phenomena, and eating cake (possibly some sort of Space cake, but more likely some good, stout-hearted British cake he’s packed especially for the journey). He’s a short, pinkish-red doggy-looking thing with a bubble helmet, a star on his chest and a pipe.
And he’s utterly delightful.
In fact, so euphorically delightful that it took all my efforts to write this review and not just write SPACE RAOUL over and over again in big letters, enthusiastically pounding and flailing my hands, arms, elbows and face into the keyboard.
So yes, the upshot is that, after doing a bunch of ‘Space Raoul’ pieces for a bunch of people, the kindly folks at Slave Labour Graphics have compiled them into a handy-dandy single-volume thing. At first, it seems rather slight, but one thing with Smart is that he crams the story into every spare corner of his page, and there’s quite a bit to read here.
There’s some neat subtexts about imperialism, Britishness, the hubris of the middle-class and so forth, but mostly it’s jolly all-ages space fun which entertains and amuses without talking down to its audience.
If I had one quibble (besides our hero’s trusty co-pilot), it’s that, in replicating stuff that originally appeared in British Tabloid-sized comics into a digest-sized tpb, some of the script does tend towards the teeny. But aside from that, it’s all jolly and pip-pip and what ho.
Do feel free to ‘get amongst it’.
It’s the civilised thing to do.
I work in a comic shop, and I try and take at least a cursory look at everything.
I admit, I’m pretty damn jaded with maybe 90% of comics these days. Of the other 10%, maybe 9/10ths is fun, entertaining stuff. It massages my brain in a pleasant way… so yeah, I’d definitely call it ‘good’, but I don’t really see much that I regard as exceptionally so.
So when, two weeks in a row, I manage to grab two exceptionally good pieces of work (albeit, both of which were initially published twenty years ago or more), well, that’s PRETTY DAMN GOOD. Continue Reading »
It’s always nice to receive mail. Especially unexpected mail.
And one of the perks is that sometimes, lovely people all over the world will send me things in the hopes that I’ll say something about them (hopefully nice) here. And so, we come to ‘The Hunter’.
‘The Hunter’ is a prestige-format comic from Dare Comics. It retails at $5.95 US and at first glance, is pretty well presented. The cover art is simple, but striking, reminding me a bit of Ken Steacy’s work. Presentation is crisp, clear and uncluttered. Continue Reading »
Marvel hasn’t had a lot of luck with trends.
For decades now, they’ve given us a bunch of series based on ‘that kooky stuff the young’uns seem to like s’much’ with the result that they usually come in at least a year after the trend’s been relegated to the 5 for a dollar bargain bin.
I mean, seriously, ‘Dazzler’? ‘Team America’? ‘US-1’? ‘Street Poet Ray’?
They’re essentially the equivalent of your uncool uncle with the socks and sandals who tries to keep up with the latest trends… or Bob Haney.
But now, they’ve realized that they can use their powers for good instead of evil. By finding really objectionable trends and using their Uncool Uncle powers to wipe them out.
So hooray Marvel, for having not one, but two superheroes who get their powers from self-mutilation. Let’s hear it for Penance of ‘The Thunderbolts’ and Sister Grimm of ‘The Runaways’. Hopefully, this means that the idea that self-mutilation, or cutting, which used to be a sign of serious psychological trauma can no longer be seen as fashionable by bored, middle class white kids who need to express the pain and horror that only having to be home by 11 p.m. or not being bought the car you wanted on your 18th birthday can bring.
C’mon Marvel, keep up the good work. Now, we just need a title featuring a Pro-Anorexic character and someone with Self-Diagnosed Aspergers’.
Do it for the kids, Marvel!
I picked up the first issue of ‘Lucha Libre’, a new prestige format 4-part miniseries from Image.
It’s not the greatest Luchador comic I’ve ever read – that honour goes to the magnificent ‘Sonambulo’ by Rafael Navarro (http://www.sonambulo.com/) – but it was good. Now, it’s no secret that I’m a big wrestling fan, and the whole image and style of the luchador (especially the masked luchador) has a healthy appeal for me, so I’m biased.
But there’s something else in this one, and I think I’ve nailed what it is. Continue Reading »
It’s not going to be easy to be objective with this, because it’s really hitting on a lot of my major comics pleasure centres.
It’s like Warren Ellis/Masumone Shirow-style technofetishism married to Paul Pope-style post-Cyberpunk romanticism, and Bryan Lee O’Malley-style absurdism with art by some sort of ungodly mutant artbaby spawn of Dan (Amazing Joy Buzzards) Hipp and Jim Mahfood. There’s even flashes of China Mieville in there somewhere. Golly. Continue Reading »
A couple of weeks back, I did an interview with a local journalism student on the current state of superhero comics, with particular reference to the Death of Captain America.
We got talking about the spate of crossovers recently, Civil War and Infinite Crisis, mainly, but I got to thinking about the way the current crop are rolling from one crossover to the next. Continue Reading »
A little while ago, I was waffling on (as is my wont) on the topic of the inherent ‘darkness’ of magical do-gooders who wear brightly coloured costumes and fight monsters, when my brane wandered down a previously unexplored pathway and came up with this.
Many of you may have already read it, but here it is for public consumption.
The Superhero as Playground Equipment Continue Reading »
‘Mighty Skullboy Army’ is a comic by Jacob Chabot (http://www.beetlebugcomics.com) which I first spotted in a Dark Horse anthology trade highlighting up-and-coming cartoonists.
For ages, I mourned of ever seeing more. The art was crisp, the gags funny, and hell, I have a real weakness for monkeys and I’ll be damned if Unit 2 isn’t the cutest li’l dickens!
So anyway, the upshot is that Dark Horse has finally released a digest-sized collection of ‘The Mighty Skullboy Army’ and I am a happy, happy feller. Continue Reading »
Those who pay attention to such things may have noticed that I don’t tend to write a lot here. Mostly because I’m trying not to wallow in cynicism and, to be perfectly honest, there really isn’t much in comics at the moment to really spark my interest.
That said, I received a review copy of Derek McCulloch and Shepherd Hendrix’s* ‘Stagger Lee’ published by Image Comics, and it would be churlish of me not to… Continue Reading »
Why should ANYONE be surprised by Thor killing a Giant?
If he had a business card, it’d be the second thing on it, right after ‘making it rain’.
So anyway, I was thinking about Chow Yun Fat. He’s great, isn’t he? Cool as hell, and with charisma to burn… yet he doesn’t seem to be able to make it in Hollywood.
Why is that? Some people put it down to him being Asian, and Asians are usually shoved into stereotypical ‘silly Chinaman’ roles… but I think it may be because he’s not an actor… he’s a Movie Star. Continue Reading »
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