Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Anne Goetzinger’s Girl in Dior, out this month from NBM, is as much art book as graphic novel. While there is a narrative thread to the story, it often looks very like fashion illustration, with models arrayed across the page, posing in careful contrapposto to show off the graceful curves of the dresses. Even panels that aren’t part of the fashion show often use this same format, with a gaggle of fashion writers or Dior employees filling the panel, each one with a single comment in a word balloon.
The plot is slight and beyond implausible, a mere pretext to bring us into the world of Christian Dior: Clara, a young girl who has just been hired as a reporter, covers Dior’s first show, is fired after a disastrous photo shoot, and ends up being hired as one of his models. She’s a pretty standard-issue character—young, smart, spunky—who exists mainly as a lens through which we get an insider’s view of the Dior atelier. Indeed, the book focuses as much on the life of the people who make and model the dresses as on the designer or even Clara herself.
That doesn’t mean it’s not a great story, though. Goetzinger brings us into the world of Dior on the day of his first show, which galvanized the fashion world. It was 1947, and although World War II had been over for two years, rationing was still in place and the French were still feeling the hardships of the war and its aftermath. Dior’s “New Look” (as it was christened by fashion writer Carmel Snow) swept that aside, replacing the practical shapes and short skirts that were the result of fabric rationing with long, flowing skirts and graceful wasp-waisted silhouettes. Goetzinger shows us the action behind the scenes as well as the buzz of the crowd, but most important of all are the dresses themselves, which she renders in loving detail.
Man, it must be super rough to follow a creative team like Matt Fraction and David Aja. When they, along with Ed Brubaker, left Immortal Iron Fist, the vacuum of talent was really felt. Nothing against Duane Swierczynski, but it just wasn’t the same, despite Travel Foreman’s awesome art.
Aja and Fraction made their mark on Hawkeye too, as “Hawkguy” became a classic hit and a place to set a first foot into the Marvel Universe. Hawkeye being a simple character to follow (guy who shoots arrows does heroic deeds), they brought him back down to a simple storyline and singular purpose; it’s easier to relate to a guy just trying to keep his apartment building safe as opposed to unraveling the great Hickman mysteries over in Avengers. He has his faults, his close friends seem to be more human next to him (Tony Stark helping him set up his VCR is one of my favorite dialogues in the series), the women in his life seem to have a reason to be attracted to or letting go of him; this seems like someone we know.
Every year, I participate in my city’s Community Reading Day, in which adults in various professions read a book to an elementary school class. Everyone loves to read to the little kids, so I always volunteer for the older grades, and of course I bring comics.
Sometimes I get a good response and sometimes I don’t, but this year was really great, because of both the book and the kids.
The book was a no-brainer: Raina Telgemeier’s Sisters, which was the top selling graphic novel in bookstores last year and the top pick on the Good Comics for Kids blog’s list of the best children’s graphic novels of 2014.
It was Mark Waid Week last week at Marvel, and the veteran writer penned two more winning installments of S.H.I.E.L.D. (issue #3) and Daredevil (issue #13).
For the latter, Waid and artist Chris Samnee (with colorist Matthew Wilson) poked fun at the old “loved one in danger” trope, as Daredevil fought to save Kirsten from an unknown opponent. Not only did this happen with the express acknowledgment that Daredevil’s relationships tend to have unhappy ends, it explored just who might want to abduct her, and put a couple of subplot-servicing twists on top just for good measure. Waid and Samnee have been so reliably good for so long on this title that they may risk being taken for granted, but this issue was a real treat. Done in one but with a final-page hint of future danger, Waid’s script was propulsive enough to keep the reader both involved and guessing throughout.
One of the neat things about this upcoming Secret Wars mega-super-hyper-combo event is that a lot of cool projects are coming out of the woodwork — not just to support the unfolding crash of realities, but to sneak in some books that make entirely too much sense. While Battleworld rages on, it would be ridiculous not to have a cadre of teen heroes roaming the field and making their way in the mighty Marvel manner. Since the Secret Wars themselves are happening to create a universal order on a massive scale and enforcing a set universe out of countless others, it makes sense that someone (or someones) are going to want to rebel against that universal order. Thus, the Runaways.
Drawn Onward, by Matt Madden (Retrofit Comics)
I’m mostly familiar with Matt Madden as someone who writes about the theory and practice of comics, as the co-author (with his wife, Jessica Abel) of Drawing Words and Writing Pictures, as well as the sole author of 99 Ways to Tell a Story, so I wasn’t too surprised that this comic would be an experiment in form. In fact, the name gives it away: Drawn Onward is a palindrome. The story, a tale of infatuation and obsession set almost entirely on the New York subway, reads at first like a straightforward tale of a woman’s encounter with a strange man who keeps bothering her—and with whom she becomes obsessed. But the last page of the comic is only the midpoint of the story: The narrator tells the reader to go back and read the comic backwards, and when you do, it’s the same story with the roles reversed.
This week brought some great news for fans of Stan Sakai’s long-eared ronin — Dark Horse announced that the ongoing Usagi Yojimbo will return this May.
While it’s been three years since we last saw an issue of the Usagi Yojimbo regular series, neither Sakai nor Usagi haven’t been absent from comic shelves. During that time Dark Horse released the Eisner-nominated 47 Ronin, by Sakai and writer Mike Richardson. And last year brought the War of the Worlds-inspired Usagi Yojimbo: Senso miniseries, a “What if?”-like tale that saw an older Usagi battling an alien invasion.
Since the late 1970s, on a weekly basis, I always have eagerly anticipated the day new comics were released. This week was faced with the greatest amount of anticipation, because of events in my personal life. In the early hours of this past Tuesday morning, a seizure of unknown origin rendered me temporarily unable to speak and unexpectedly hospitalized for a few days. One immediate change due to my hospitatlization, state law prohibits me from driving for the next six months. Fortunately, my wife was kind enough to drive me to the comic book store the day after my release from the hospital.
This week, due to my health scare, I was just a smidge more appreciative than normal to see the release of the first issue for Jimmie Robinson’s new Image Comics creator-owned series, The Empty.
For the past week, Kamala Khan fans have been gathering at Kamalacon, a Tumblr celebrating the one-year anniversary of the first issue of Ms. Marvel. I have no idea whether this is a grass-roots thing or some clever guerrilla marketing by Marvel, but it’s fascinating to see the range of fans who have contributed cosplay photos, selfies with their collections, Kamala-themed playlists, and fanart that ranged from sketchbook drawings to animated GIFs to cookies and Funko sculptures. There was even a virtual gift exchange.
Kamalacon kicked off with a series of essays by readers about what Kamala Khan means to them. The first thing that struck me on glancing at them was the diversity of the writers. There’s something universal about Kamala’s story that appeals to many readers, from a Muslim woman who sees parallels to her own life to the white guy who compares it to Quasar to explain what makes Ms. Marvel good and Kamala bad—and makes a good point:
People talk about why they need diversity in comics, and usually it boils down to the importance of representation. But it also just makes better comics. Kamala Khan can tell stories and do things and go place that Wendell Vaughn simply can’t. When a publisher only stocks Wendell Vaughns in their creative toolbox, they’re putting artificial limits on the kinds of stories they can make. They cheat themselves and their audience. As long as Kamala’s on the beat, the industry’s headed in the right direction, however slowly.
Last month when writer Grant Morrison hyped Nameless, his newest Image Comics collaboration with artist Chris Burnham, by name-dropping concepts such as “nihilistic philosophy,” I found myself thinking “Christ on a crutch, that sounds dreadful.” Years ago I made my peace with how to appreciate Morrison. I do not dislike Morrison–I count his Animal Man and Doom Patrol runs among among my top 10 favorite comics series that I have read.
This past week, DC Comics revealed the new roster for its line of superhero books. Starting in June, the publisher is debuting 24 new titles (including a handful of miniseries) to go along with 25 returning series. Because these numbers don’t add up to 52 ongoing series, and because the phrase “The New 52″ doesn’t appear anywhere in either of DC’s press releases about the roster, many comics news sites (including CBR, ComicsAlliance, and The Beat) have deemed this to be the end of the New 52 brand.
This week, Ross Richie of BOOM! Studios wrote an editorial, and Matt Gagnon gave a thoughtful interview, on the topic of diversity in comics, and they followed it up with a Twitter hashtag, #comicsforward. It certainly got people talking, although perhaps not always in the way Gagnon and Richie intended.
The first thing that happened was exactly what they had in mind, which was a bunch of folks jumping onto Twitter to celebrate their favorite comics and creators or just applaud the idea. It’s definitely worth checking that hashtag to see some great recommendations.
When the first few pages of Wonder Woman ’77‘s inaugural installment finds the Amazon Princess squaring off against a trio of Soviet roller-derby assassins, clearly it’s setting a very specific tone. DC’s latest digital-first series borrows its core conceit from the successful Batman ’66, presenting new comics stories from the world of an old TV adaptation.
Indeed, so far it’s fairly faithful to the show’s then-present-day setting, with Diana Prince and Steve Trevor working for a fictional government intelligence agency (the IADC) and getting their exposition from IRA the computer. Accordingly, in terms of period pieces, it’s not exactly The Americans, but writer Marc Andreyko and artist Drew Johnson have done a great job capturing both the look of the show and the style of its leads. Their Lynda Carter is spot-on, and their Lyle Waggoner evokes TV-Steve’s sparkly toothed swagger perfectly. Johnson (with colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr.) draws an especially detailed 1977, from the subtleties of Wonder Woman’s costume to the crowds at Studio 52. (Of course it’s “Studio 52.”)
Sometimes after a tough week you just want to relax with something silly. Jaco the Galactic Patrolman, by Akira Toriyama, is just that, a goofy story about an alien who just wants to make everything right—as long as nobody annoys him.
The story begins with Jaco’s spaceship crashing on an island with only one inhabitant: Omori, an engineer (or maybe a research scientist—Toriyama doesn’t bother with fine distinctions) who lives alone, away from humanity. Omori’s backstory is that he tried to build a time machine, and the machine exploded and killed his wife. He lost his government funding, but he still spends all his time working on the machine, so he can go back in time and bring her back.
Jaco, who is basically a helpful guy, has come to earth to stop an alien projectile fired our way, but he collided with the moon along the way and his spaceship is damaged. Omori offers to fix it, but they need a special metal that is super expensive. While they ponder how to get that, they go to the mainland for supplies and Jaco ends up causing a scene when he rescues a girl named Tights from a group of thugs. Unfortunately, he doesn’t realize that the last two men that come running at her are policemen, and he tosses them in the air. A chase ensues, Tights helps him and the professor get away, and they all head back to the island.
Tragedy is easy, comedy is hard, which is why there are so many sad superheoes. It’s much easier to kill a character to make us cry than it is to make that same superhero draw a laugh. Humor is subjective, but shooting a loved one in the face is always going to be a terrible act. So I can see why not a lot of writers go for the joke; it could easily fall flat and ruin their story. It’s the fearless type of writer who throws angst to the wind and heads in feet first into comedy!
Ryan North and Erica Henderson are just that fearless. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl isn’t just a regular story with comedy bits sprinkled in, but a full-out funny book with all the trimmings. From the difficult-to-read stingers at the bottom of every page, to the wild squirrel network that alerts our heroine to danger, to the decorations of her college roommate (which I personally adore!), nothing is taken all that seriously.