Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
To see what Daniel and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Dungeon Monstres Vol. 4: Night of the Ladykiller: This latest volume is much lighter in tone than the last Monstres volume, which carried a deep emotional weight as it showed how the choices of the lead characters had consequences that rippled throughout the fantasy world. Ladykiller is more of a goof, with vulture sorcerer Horus being accused of impregnating several women in the first tale, and the dim-bulb monster Grogro stumbling through a mission to a faraway land. Certainly in terms of storytelling capability, Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim have lost none of their edge, and the art by Vermot Desroches and Yoann is sumptuous to soak into, but I missed exploring the deeper undercurrents of the Dungeon universe. Consider this something of a palate-cleanser then.
Bad Island: This is the new book by Doug Tennapel, which should be out in August. It’s about a family that takes a boating vacation and (shades of Gilligan) ends up on an weird island full of strange and dangerous creatures. And, of course, through their ordeal, father, mother, son and daughter learn to bond and trust each other more than they did before and become a better, tighter family unit for their efforts. No surprises, but I did enjoy Bad Island more than Tennapel’s last book, Ghostopolis, which I felt rushed through its plot so quickly that it didn’t take enough time to build upon the interesting characters and fantasy world he had created. Bad Island‘s basic concept is simple enough that that I feel I can properly enjoy it’s frantic pace, and I think it will appeal rather well to its intended tween audience.
I came home from the San Diego Comic-Con with a whole bunch of new stuff, from an issue of Archie Comics written by my friend Alex Segura to a copy of Michael Kupperman’s Mark Twain Autobiography, 1910-2010. Unfortunately I went from the con right into some work-related stuff that kept me busy all week, so I haven’t had time to read much of my spoils.
One comic I did have the chance to read was a minicomic called Late by Joe Blablazo. Joe came to the “Indie Comics Marketing 101″ panel I was on and was kind enough to give me a copy of the book. It’s a wordless, surreal tale that’s beautifully drawn and showcases just one of several art styles he’s capable of doing (you can visit his website to see more of his stuff;
unfortunately he just has one panel from Late up on the site. update: Joe has posted the whole story online!) Joe has a more superhero-y book on the way called Deathless, and I hope to see more from him in the future.
It should surprise no one that I have been looking forward to the DC Retro-Active comics pretty much since they were announced. So far I’ve enjoyed reading them, even if they’ve been a mixed bag. This week’s titles included Superman by Martin Pasko, Eduardo Barreto, and Christian Duce; Justice League of America by Cary Bates and Gordon Purcell (and a couple of others whose names escape me); and Green Lantern by Dennis O’Neil and Mike Grell. As it happens, GL is the only one of the three with a reunited creative team, and it turned out to be the weakest. It features Green Lantern and Green Arrow in a two-track story which only comes together when the heroes catch each other up at the end. There’s not much to catch up, either — GL helps a familiar-looking extraterrestrial after his spaceship crashes in unfriendly territory; and GA tracks a rival archer who’s back to prove himself. While there are twists which I won’t spoil, they are of the “because the doctor is his mother” variety. Still, Mike Grell turns in a really fine story, full of crowd-pleasing ring-slinging and marksmanship feats. Neither creator seems to have gone for a retro vibe in this issue, and that’s fine. However, O’Neil’s script is just flat; and even more so when compared to “No Evil Shall Escape My Sight!,” the historic (and, perhaps, histrionic) Green Lantern/Green Arrow kickoff from GL vol. 2 #76. I was hoping for something more obscure, which is to say something O’Neil and Grell did from the mid-’70s, but it’s hard to argue with such a classic tale.
Better is the Superman one-shot, although not necessarily because it feels more like a Superman comic from thirty-odd years ago. Barreto and Duce don’t seem to be channeling Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson, who defined the Man of Steel’s look for decades. In fact, at times it was hard to spot elements of Barreto’s distinctive style. Still, like Swanderson, the result is light on frills, but easy to follow. Like the GL issue, Pasko’s script touches on period-specific elements: everyone works for WGBS-TV, the villains are identified mostly with the late ’70s and early ’80s, and Superman talks regularly with the Kandorians and the hot-pantsed Supergirl. While the plot’s ultimate resolution is hardly revolutionary, it’s executed with the sort of nervous energy you’d expect from a good sitcom. This too is typical of the ’70s Superman, and it’s not unwelcome at all. Besides, the reprint is “Superman Takes A Wife!,” the story which celebrated Action Comics‘ 40th anniversary by marrying the original (i.e., Earth-2) Supes and Lois.
Perhaps most fun was the Justice League of America issue, which finds Adam Strange stranded once again in a place that doesn’t buy his stories of space adventure — only this time, it’s Earth-Prime, where he’s just a comic-book character. Fortunately, the Justice League knows just who to call to get Adam out of trouble — his editor, Julius Schwartz. (Naturally, Julie and Barry Allen have already gotten to know each other well, thanks to Barry’s many Earth-Prime visits.) There are a couple of obstacles in the way, of course; and it’s all part of Kanjar Ro’s plan to energize his cells to Superman-levels. Indeed, it risks being too familiar — but I have to say, it’s pretty cool to see Julie Schwartz as the JLA’s go-to guy, and in particular to see his reaction to meeting a couple of Leaguers for the first time. This is the kind of story which doesn’t take itself too seriously, but at the same time never loses its sense of wonder. Ironically, more mean-spirited is the reprint, one part of a JLA/JSA team-up involving a DC writer from Earth-Prime who goes bad. Pick up Crisis On Multiple Earths Vol. 4 for the whole story, I guess.
Back in the present, I thought Flashpoint: Project Superman #2 (by Scott Snyder and Gene Ha) did a good job fleshing out Flashpoint-Supes’ backstory. Along with info from the main miniseries and the Frankenstein mini, we’re getting to know the military’s various superhuman-weapon projects pretty well. As you might expect, Kal-El has had a pretty rough time of it in military custody, but he’s acquired an unlikely patron. This issue also plants the seeds for what I expect will be a pivotal relationship. In some ways it’s reminiscent of JMS’ and Gary Frank’s Supreme Power miniseries, which spent an inordinate amount of time showing its Superman-analogue straining to get out from under military control. Of necessity, though, it has to move faster, and thank goodness for that. Between the next issue of this miniseries, and Flashpoint itself, Kal-El looks to shake off that control pretty dramatically.
Finally, I recognize that not every comic I read is fit for the eyes of my (almost-) three-year-old daughter — but I was too engrossed in the harrowing Detective Comics #880 to notice her ambling over to my easy chair. “Who’s that?” she wondered innocently, looking at Jock’s nightmare-fuel portrait of the Joker.
I tried to play it off by showing the back cover. “That’s Green Lantern!”
She wasn’t fooled. “No, who’s that?”
Quickly I put the issue back in the stack and reached for something more innocuous (and not American Vampire– d’oh!). “Oh, that’s just the Joker. What do you want to eat?”
I got caught up with BOOM!’s Planet of the Apes this week (the fourth issue just came out). What a perfect marriage of words and art this series is. Carlos Magno has created a world I want to live in. Or would want to live in if not for all the damn dirty apes. It’s so rich and full with its quaint, European houses and stone bridges and medieval fashions. Of course, there are plots and wars being planned in those houses, the bridges are barricaded Les Miserables-style, and the fashions conceal all manner of weapons. Daryl Gregory has taken a beautiful place and filled it with intrigue and death. For which I’m very, very grateful.
I also went back and picked up Supergirl #66. I somehow missed it when it came out a couple of weeks ago, but really wanted to continue Kelly Sue DeConnick’s story about Supergirl undercover at a college on assignment for Lois Lane. It’s got secret tunnels, biomechanical rats, Supergirl trying to use her powers without blowing her cover, and Lois doing some Lois Laneing. Really fun stuff.
FF #6: Yeesh. Black Bolt speaks twice in a comic that used to be about Reed Richards and his pals. The first time he speaks, to convey the power of his spoken word a 2 pt type was used. OK maybe 4 pt type if I am lucky. But really, I could have dealt with 6 pt type and still gotten the effect letterer Claytion Cowles was going for. The second time he speaks loudly (which is saying something when it comes to old Bolty) he actually says: “I. am. awake!” Really. Did someone imply you were dozing on the job there, Blackie? Added bonus, nothing on the cover resembles anything that happens in the comic. A two-issue Black Bolt subplot has me asking: “If I were waiting for the trade, would this be a chunk of the book that would bore me to death?” (The answer is yes) I love the Inhumans as a concept, but Jonathan Hickman writing the Inhumans in an FF book is like reading a mixture of U.S. congressional and U.K. parliamentary proceedings: boring and nonsensical. And hey, Medusa really took the news Black Bolt now has multiple wives (one of them being a talking horse) in stride. A twisted part of me wishes Bolt had spoken at that point: “Wow.” I am leaning toward dropping this book from my monthly reading assignments.
Secret Warriors #28: Lest people think I dislike Hickman, let me quickly dispel that notion. This is the last issue of a book where I had a Nick Fury that entertained the hell out of me. And he ends the series with one of the best present day conversations between Steve Rogers and Nick. That alone made the issue a must read for me. And I love that A) Dum Dum Dugan gets to say the final words in the issue B) How Hickman leaves the Contessa subplot
Teen Titans #98: Yeesh again.How did Superboy-Prime come back? Don’t expect an explanation–he just appears in a pile of a rubble in the opening pages of this issue. Well that’s convenient and lame. Way to run toward issue 100, just to get to a milestone, DC…that means absolutely nothing. Faithful readers, please tell me anything that was memorable about this particular 100 issue run of this Titans incarnation. Off the top of my head, I can think of nothing.
Xombi #5: John Rozum has a whole lot to say through the characters in this issue. I mean a lot. (And it’s not overwhelming–plus there’s a whole discussion of the film Lost Horizon at one point). And Frazer Irving’s art is just exquisite. I hope there is some project in the DCNu for these two to collaborate again. But I really wonder if they’re not more suited for Vertigo.
Captain America and Bucky #620: One must assume there is a finite end to this particular series,but I could be wrong. In the meantime, Chris Samnee drawing 1940s era Captain America and Bucky stories? To quote Black Bolt: “I. Am. Awake.” Seriously though, beautiful art made even better by the colors of Bettie Breitweiser.
Avengers Academy #16: Stuck record time for long-time readers…Christos Gage continues to write the best Avengers book on the current market. The story he crafts with Veil in this issue has the reader feel a gamut of emotions with the character as you see the issue play out. And that’s just one-half, the opening half gives me more smart (albeit on the ropes) Hank Pym. I love me some smart Giant Man.
I started off this sultry week with the first two issues of Spontaneous. Joe Harris and Brett Weldele take one of the more bizarre true-mystery phenomena and wrap it into a pretty good story. The hero, Melvin, is fascinated by spontaneous human combustion for many reasons, and he has studied it so carefully that he can predict who will go up in flames next. An overbearing investigative reporter happens onto the scene as the fire claims its next victim in a mall food court, and she starts doing some research of her own. It’s a well told story, although the reporter is a bit much, and Wedele, whose luminous watercolor style made The Light such a beautiful comic, is the perfect artist for this book. I’m hooked.
A trip to the comics shop yesterday netted me a copy of Drew Weing’s Set to Sea. It’s pure indulgence, because I have already read the story online, but Fantagraphics’ small, almost jewel-like presentation is really beautiful. Weing tells his story one panel at a time, and each panel could be framed as a work of art in itself, so having it in a book, without the clutter of the web, is a worthy investment.
My biggest bargain at the comics store, though, was a vintage issue of Dark Horse’s Super Manga Blast for a quarter. With chapters of 3×3 Eyes, Club 9, and What’s Michael?, all flipped, in black and white, in a pamphlet comic, it’s a very different format for manga than the one I’m used to. With just a single chapter of each story, though, it’s more a curiosity than a good read, although it reminds me I want to check out Club 9.
Daniel Merlin Goodbrey
You catch me on my return from Comic-Con, so I’m reading a mix of stuff I picked up at the show and things that were waiting for me at Chaos City when I got back.
League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century: 1969: I read this through once on the plane back from San Diego. I’m re-reading it now with Jess Nevins’ annotations, just to appreciate the sheer lunatic everything-and-the-British-kitchen-sink-ness of it all. It’s Moore so it’s a great read of course, but the Century series does seem to be going to some rather bleak places as it progresses. Here’s hoping there’s a resurgence of Blazing-Kingdom-3D-wonderfullness before the sequence is complete.
The Boys #56: Some fun moments this issue, but it’s only part one of “The Big Ride” so it’s mostly just positional play at this point. While The Boys wears a disguise of just-Garth-having-a-laugh-at-superheroes, its secret identity is a fascinating and carefully constructed story world that’s kept me coming back month after month. Something I noticed on flicking back through the book is how prominent Terror is this issue. I do hope this isn’t a precursor to something bad happening to him later in the arc. Please don’t kill the good wee doggie!
Paradigm Shift Part Three: Emergence I notice I am using too many hyphens in these reviews. Clearly, this must stop. This third part of Dirk Tiede’s brilliant Chicago werewolf police procedural manga (look! No hyphens!) finishes out the story’s first arc but still leaves me hungry for more. This book is tightly plotted and beautifully illustrated and is an absolute must for fans of any of the subjects I didn’t put hyphens between in the last sentence. How the series hasn’t been snapped up by a major publisher yet is beyond me. Grab a copy of all three volumes now so that you can say you read back in the day, before they made the motion picture and everybody got the tattoo.
The Sixth Gun Book One: Cold Dead Fingers: A bit of a stunt review this, as so far I’ve only had time to read the first six pages of the book. Sixth gun, six pages. See? Anyway, I picked this up on the recommendation of a friend at San Diego and, judging by these six pages, the recommendation was a good one. I’ve already got a good feeling about the mystic old west setting and been given a clear idea about what kind of a scoundrel we have for a protagonist. Worth a look I’d say and I’m definitely looking forward to page seven.
Arsenic Lullaby: 10 Year Omnibus: I first read Arsenic Lullaby at San Diego in 2002, and I think I’ve picked up a new something or other from them at every con since. I’m about halfway through reading this 10 Year Omnibus at the moment and so far it’s been great, filling out the gaps in my reading and reminding me of old favourites. It’s the darkest, blackest, sickest and funniest book I’ve read in a while. Well worth seeking out, if you can stomach a few zombie foetuses and watching the antics of a government-sponsored serial-baby-killer is your idea of a good time.