Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
Welcome to this week’s edition of What Are You Reading?, and a big thanks to Chris Mautner for helping out last week.
Our special guest this week is Larry Young, AiT/Planet Lar publisher and one of the editors behind the Kickstart Comics. To see what Larry and the rest of the Robot 6 crew have been reading, make with the click below …
After hearing Darwyn Cooke talking about The New Frontier at NYCC, I really wanted to read it, for two reasons: I like Cooke’s work, and I want to read about superheroes without all the complications of continuity. Cooke’s style is fresh and accessible and he does a good job of creating the world, even adding in a fake newspaper story for context. What makes the book hard to follow is that the stories are told in tiny slices—three or four pages on one character and then off to the next. I was somewhat familiar with the characters, so I had an idea of where it was going and who was who, but I can see the book being confusing for a complete newbie. Still, this is the first superhero comic I have enjoyed in a long time, and I’m looking forward to reading the second volume.
I also read Daniel Clowes’s Wilson for the first time. I felt like I already knew the book because I have read so many reviews and commentaries—if it’s not the best book of the past year, it’s certainly the most talked about. What I came to appreciate in actually reading it is the way Wilson reflects popular wisdom, the sort of empty wall of rationalization that you see in self-help books and mass-market magazines. Clowes captures that very well. And although the book is done in a variety of styles, there is a unity to it, not just with the storyline but in the way that the style of each page matches Wilson’s mood in that moment. On the downside, there were too many gaps in the story—I felt like we had the framework but not the connecting pieces—and I kept wanting more depth in Wilson’s feelings and reactions. But I guess that’s the point, isn’t it?
Finally, I read CBGB, which is due out from Boom’s indie imprint Boom Town next month, having already been released as four single-issue comics. It’s great! The first story is an introduction to punk rock and to CBGB’s, via a riff on Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, and from there it goes off in all sorts of different directions. I particularly liked Ana Matronic’s story of a writer who finds her muse at CBGBs and Kelly Sue DeConnick’s tale of a young girl who comes to New York and finds love and friendship there. As with all anthologies, it’s a bit uneven, but every work has something to recommend it; while Kim Krizan’s story of the primitive precursors of CBGB’s inhabitants stretched on a bit too long, Toby Cypress’s lovely art made it more than tolerable. There’s something sort of young and eager about this anthology—it’s a real fan’s book—and I hope it finds its audience.
Taking a break from Showcase Presents Legion of Super-Heroes Vol. 4 to crack open the paperback of Legion Of Three Worlds is kind of like going from a 200-level class to advanced graduate studies. I am not really a Legion scholar — at first I thought the threeboot’s Element Lad was its Sun Boy — but I am familiar with crowded, detail-intensive George Perez events, and of course I read LO3W when it first came out. Even so, re-reading the collection was at once mesmerizing and frustrating. There is just so much going on in practically every panel, not just with Perez’s Easter eggs but with Geoff Johns’ breathless plotting, that I felt myself being hustled through the story when I kept wanting to slow down and drink it all in. I mean, Johns is weaving together plot elements from Action Comics, Justice Society, and Green Lantern in order to revive Superboy and Kid Flash and (oh by the way) re-establish the Legion and the 31st Century’s Green Lantern Corps. And yet it doesn’t feel cluttered or impenetrable, mostly because Johns’ script and Perez’ layouts are so efficient. I imagine that’s a nice way of saying there’s not much room to get bogged down in things like characterization or nuance, so you don’t notice their absence. Still, LO3W‘s enthusiasm is hard to resist, and it’s the kind of book which would have encouraged Young Tom to dig deeper into the Legion’s past.
And obviously, the digging continues with the aforementioned Showcase Presents. This volume covers the Legion’s farewell to Adventure Comics and its time in the wilderness of Action Comics backups (where I am presently) before finding a new long-term home in Superboy. It’s also the end of the Jim Shooter era, which apparently is going out with a “parents just don’t understand” vibe. The story I finished most recently comes from Action #381 (October 1969) and concerns Matter-Eater Lad’s rebellion against his working-class background. He supports his parents with his Legion paycheck, but his dad is a chronic gambler, yadda yadda yadda. It’s all too much for MEL, so he blows off steam by treating himself and Shrinking Violet to an ultra-fancy, super-expensive date. That turns out not to be the point of the story –Violet still loves Duplicate Boy, who’s stuck off-world — but MEL’s actions end up convincing his dad to stop gambling. I know there’s only so much you can do in 12 pages, but I was surprised that Shooter tried to do so much, and clearly with an eye towards injecting some “realism” into the world of the Legion. It’s not a bad story, especially when MEL brushes aside Duplicate Boy’s wrath, but I suspect it’s indicative of the Legion’s late-Silver-Age growing pains.
I’d like to take a moment this week and give a shout-out to Koyama Press, which has been stealthily releasing a number of exemplary comics recently, such as Michael DeForge’s fantastic Lose.
Koyama recently published Diary Comics by Dustin Harbin, a collection of … well, you figure it out. These sorts of autobiographical comics can be hit or miss with me, but Harbin has a self-effacing, witty sense of humor that carries him through the more mundane aspects of his daily life. What’s also nice is the book starts out all loose and sketchy but gradually tightens up and becomes more detailed over time. I love seeing that sort of process unfold as a read.
Koyama also recently published Spirit City Toronto by Aaron Leighton. It’s basically a series of photographs of the city with various “creatures” drawn in them to make it look like their part of the landscape. Leighton’s spirits are cute and colorful, and they’re composed nicely within the picture as well, but they’re a mostly twee lot — they don’t carry any sense of awe or menace that would levitate a project of this nature into “truly inspired” country. In fact, in some cases I’d say the photos were lovely enough on their own that the art’s inclusion only served to clutter it up. I had fun flipping through Spirit City, but I can’t say it will linger in my brain for very long.
Sean T. Collins
LOVE AND ROCKTOBER marches on as I continue reading and reviewing my way through Los Bros Hernandez’s Love and Rockets, starting with Jaime’s “Locas” stories. This week I read the Jaime collection The Education of Hopey Glass and his contributions to Love and Rockets Vol. 2 #20 Love and Rockets: New Stories #1-2. From schoolteachers to superheroines, they’re a suite of stories about the Locas (and Ray) coming to terms with bona-fide adulthood. Click the links for full reviews!
First off, what with all the stuff going on in October, it seems I can never do APE. But all my pals come into town and tell me about all the best stuff, so it seems to me like I went. Just without all the schlepping. This year, my good friend Rich Starkings turned me on to Pixar artist Josh Cooley’s MOVIES R FUN:
It’s an incredibly charming little book, printed in the style of toddlers’ books; you know, that honkin’ chipboard stuff that ostensibly makes the books impervious to hard playing but in reality ends up being the kids’ first exposure to a high-fiber diet? Each page features a scene from a great sci-fi or action movie, done in the style of an easy reader. Rich bought me two autographed prints from my two favorite movies:
…and a spooky one of HAL from 2001 telling Dave he can’t do that. Check out Cooley’s site for more, including scenes from LEON, TERMINATOR 2, and THE BIG LEBOWSKI.
• I’ve very much enjoyed CHANGING WAYS by Justin Randall and published by Wolf Bylsma’s Gestalt Publishing. I’m not that big a fan of horror books, but this one is such a perfectly-paced, perfectly illustrated masterstroke, it’s hard to ignore its superiority. Check out these sample pages, and then order it, read it, devour it. Or it might just get you, first.
• Everyone knows I love beer. Even artist/writer Stephenny Godfrey’s parents know I love beer, so much so that they muled two bottles of my Absolute Favorite Beer of All Time over to the States for my birthday.
…and what goes better with beer than reading about beer? BEER (The Newsstand’s Most Desirable Beer Magazine) is an enthusiasts’ dream. No dry tome about hops and sugars, this one sports articles about drinking beer and ghost-chasing, brewery tours, recipes, gear, the whole nine yards.
• I’ve also been reading the latest CINEFEX, which puzzles out some of the shots in INCEPTION and that crazy tank shot in THE A-TEAM. But the one I’m paging through like Oliver Stone watching the Zapruder film is the glorious MAKING OF THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Hard to believe that movie’s thirty years old, but it’s about time someone did such an in-depth survey of it. I’m also about to crack open Russell T. Davies’ THE WRITER’S TALE, but I think I’m going to have to have one of those Speight’s to steel myself for that 704-page leviathan.