SPIDER-MANDATE: The Lowe-down on "Secret Wars," Tie-Ins and Stacey Lee
I’m currently in the midst of interviewing cartoonist Graham Annable over email for Robot 6 as he has a new book coming out any day now from Dark Horse and thought, as long as I was conversing with him, why not see if he’d like to be our special guest for this week’s edition of What Are You Reading? And so he did! Click on the link to find out what he and everyone else is reading this week.
Tom Bondurant: Thanks to Fantagraphics/W.W. Norton, I enjoyed Ho Che Anderson’s Sand & Fury. It’s a slightly twisty tale of sex, serial killers, and the supernatural, told very stylishly in black, white, and red. Blood and shadows therefore get a lot of play across Anderson’s desolate southwestern landscapes; and although his lines can be thick and blocky, his figures evoke a good bit of emotion. There’s a lot of nudity, a whole lot of violence, and so the plot can be boiled down to a very simple level: revenge, good vs. evil, etc. However, Anderson’s anonymous main character, and the people she befriends, are more than just nominally sympathetic. I feel like I’m not doing the book justice, because it is a very raw tale, full of death and sex, and I liked it a lot.
It may take a couple more trips through Sparta USA for me to decide how I feel about it, because I found the first issue fairly confusing. Mostly this had to do with the idea of a little town of less than 10,000 people being cut off almost completely from the outside world, and yet still being ruled by a pretty modern sports culture. When the logistics get in the way of the storytelling, it’s never a good sign.
I thought the Milestone line got a nice sendoff in Milestone Forever #2 (which might well have been called Hardware And Static: The End). I didn’t connect Hardware’s tribulations with Dwayne McDuffie’s DC troubles, but now of course that seems pretty obvious. The Static story was just the kind of witty fun I had loved about that series, and it closed the book out on a high note. The epilogue, where cosmic hoo-hah basically folds Milestone’s history into DC’s, was optimistic and decent, but I suppose how you feel about the “merger” depends largely on how you feel about DC’s superhero line.
The ending of Mike Grell’s Warlord #12 wasn’t much of a surprise. Even if I hadn’t read the solicits, the big plot points
were telegraphed pretty blatantly. Still, this series has showcased some of Grell’s best work as an artist, and it’s not like folks haven’t come back from the dead in Warlord before.
Finally, during my unforeseen absence, I did get a chance to finish an actual prose book, Joseph Heller’s 25-year-old God Knows. It’s an anachronistic “autobiography” of King David, told from the perspective of his advanced age, when his wife Bathsheba won’t have sex with him because she’s more interested in promoting their son Solomon as David’s successor. It draws pretty heavily on the Bible, of course, not just for the plot but also in Heller’s choice of language. David lapses occasionally into the rhythms of Psalms and Proverbs (including a funny bit when he rips apart “The Lord is my shepherd”), and drops in phrases from Shakespeare and other classical literature. I wondered as I read it how a comics adaptation would work, but ultimately I decided that the prose was too important. (Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon, though — that’s a comics miniseries I’d read!)
Tim O’Shea: The fifth and final installment of Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber’s Underground was worth the wait (it was slightly delayed). I’d love to know if the guys had to get permission to use the NPR logo (as occurs at the end of the tale)–and honestly that small (incredibly small) detail took me out of the narrative for a moment. That’s my one minor complaint. I would love to see another story with these characters (hell, after this issue, I’m begging for a Ranger Lloyd miniseries). It’s a testament to Parker and Lieber that they made even the most minor of characters interesting in this series. Here’s hoping the trade sales on this series makes feasible for Parker and Lieber to do more with these folks beyond Stillwater Cave.
Somehow I neglected to pick up Amazing Spider-Man 623 on Wednesday, so I went to the trouble of heading back to the store this evening to snag it. Why? Because it’s co-author on this week’s issue (along with Mark Waid) is Tom Peyer. For my money, Peyer is the one of the most underutilized writers in comics at present. Artist Paul Azaceta seems to be improving as a Spider-Man artist, giving readers some great action scenes in small spaces. For instance, there’s a simple chase scene in the hallways of the mayor’s office that succeeds in bolstering the plot’s tension, thanks to Azaceta.
Kurt Busiek’s Astro City The Dark Age Book Four #2 was a solid read for me as usual, but what really caught my attention was Busiek’s letters column. Consider what he wrote in response to one letter writer: “I’ve always thought one of the coolest things about a superhero world–or a fantasy or science-fiction world–is the idea that there’s always more to discover around the corner or down the street, that any complex world should be as full of surprises as our
own. So I try to write Astro City with that in mind–we’re telling a story, and you get to see those parts of the world that impinge on it.”
Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love 5 has to be seen, if for nothing else, the gun-toting polar bears. That’s right, gun-toting polar bears drawn by Shawn McManus.
I think my expectations may have been too high for Girl Comics 1 (of 3). I always enjoy Colleen Coover, but unfortunately she only provided an intro two-pager in this first installment. Some of the stories, while artistically strong, fell flat for me on the writing end (namely Robin Furth & Agnes Garbowska’s Franklin & Valeria Richards tale as well as Devin Grayson’s Jean Grey/Scott Summers piece). I would like to see more work in the vein of the Trina Robbins/Stephanie Buscema 1969 piece, honestly. But my favorite part in this issue were the mini-biographies (two pagers) on Flo Steinberg and Marie Severin.
I’ve never really noticed Billy Tucci’s art before this month’s Jonah Hex 53–so that was a pleasant surprise. Tucci’s ability to render violence with a unique mixture of clarity and ferocity is compelling. Part of Tucci’s success in this issue is due to colorist Paul Mounts. I cannot praise Justin Gray/Jimmy Palmiotti’s ability to do standalone stories every month. In this ever-increasing editing-for-the- collection industry era, I’m grateful for series like Jonah Hex.
I’ve run out of hyperbole to properly convey my appreciation of Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth. So instead I’m redirecting who I rave about. In issue 7, there is a three-page scene where the sky is a mixture of sunlight and darkening clouds that Jose Villarrubia colors so effectively that Lemire’s foreground elements seemingly leap off the page.
Chris Mautner: I actually didn’t read very much this week — barely much of anything honestly. Instead I’ve been spending what little free time I have playing Jeanne D’Arc on my little PlayStation Portable. It’s an odd premise — a mash-up between an average Japanese strategy RPG and the true-life story of Joan of Arc, with Joan not only defending France but battling alongside elves and dwarves and fighting against skeletons, trolls and other mythical monsters. Oh, and she also has a mystical amulet that allows her to transform into a super-warrior and a pet frog that chews up magic gems and spits them out to make super-special new gems (Spoiler: The frog turns out to be the true king of England).
I gotta say, as these things go, it’s a pretty entertaining game. The battles occasionally get a bit repetitive and I never like having to grind up my character levels, but the overall premise and design is odd and well-written enough to keep me going until the end.
Matthew Maxwell: ALL-NEW ALL-RESEARCH EDITION!
FUGITIVE LANDSCAPES: THE FORGOTTEN HISTORY OF THE US-MEXICO BORDERLANDS
I sure hope you really want to learn about the history of the copper mining industry in the Sonoran frontier, ’cause that’s all you’re getting with this.
THE MAYA: 7th ed.
Maya, Maya, and more Maya. When you’re done with that, we’ve got a side of Popol Vuh and Xibalba and the Nine Lords of the Underworld providing a little spice.
will be batting cleanup on my brain. 1491 and A FOREST OF KINGS will be waiting on the bench to finish pulverizing my gray matter.
I haven’t read a comic in two weeks and am not sure when I’ll rectify that. Perhaps when the last issue of the current CRIMINAL series hits.
Graham Annable: Little Lulu #18 – I’ve only recently discovered the genius of Little Lulu. I’ve been sporadically picking up volumes over that last year and I can’t get enough of them. The stories are so inventive! I love that you never really know where they’re going to go any point.
The Speed Abater by Christophe Blain- This is an earlier graphic novel by Christophe Blain that I’d been unaware of. It definitely feels like an earlier work but all the great elements of Blain’s storytelling style are there. The visuals of these guys climbing deeper and deeper into the belly of a massive ship is totally fascinating.
Creepy volumes- I remember Creepy being around the magazine stands as a kid and I’d bravely sneak a peek now and then but it seemed to scary to handle at the time. Beyond the Frazetta covers I had no idea of the level of art contained within. These have been an absolute joy to discover!
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle- I read “The Hound of the Baskervilles” in high school and a few short stories by Doyle but I’d never sat down and read all the Sherlock stories until now. I couldn’t put this book down. The pairing of Watson and Holmes is truly one of the most enjoyable friendships ever to read. Sherlock’s ability to deduce so much from so little is pretty much the best superhuman power ever.