Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Weekly Haul: September 2

Achewood Vol. 2: Worst Song, Played on Ugliest Guitar (Dark Horse Comics) I don’t want to talk too much about this because a) so many more talented writers have written much more intelligently about Achewood before that I feel like I have little to say worth hearing, and b) I may stumble through a more formal review of it elsewhere in the near future. For the time being, I’ll just point out that this is exactly what I wanted from an Achewood collection, much moreso than Vol. 1: The Great Outdoor Fight (although that is a better introduction than this). Additionally, I finally feel like I understand certain elements of the strip’s premise that have always confused me, and, finally Chris Onstad is a really great prose writer. His characters are so well-rounded that hearing them talk and/or simply described in prose feels just as natural as seeing them in their home medium.

Agents of Atlas #10 (Marvel Comics) Jimmy and the Agents catch their breath between battles with their new enemy, The Jade Claw and her rival Great Wall organization, leading to a very effective, very full issue in which writer Jeff Parker spends a few pages on every character, teasing out characterization and advancing and introducing sub-plots. Great stuff, as always—actually, a little greater than usual, if you ask me. I also infinitely prefer the current art team of Gabriel Hardman and Paul Rivoche to original pencil artist Carlo Pagulayan, so I hope they’re here to stay…whatever the future holds for this title.

Daring Mystery Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1 (Marvel) I’m not going to lie, I love the Phantom Reporter. Not necessarily the character himself, whom I’ve had very little exposure to (basically, a few reprint comics from the Golden Age, and the first half of J. Michael Straczynski and Chris Weston’s abandoned miniseries The Twelve), but the name and the implied concept.

The marriage of two vastly different words together like that appeals to me—The Phantom Reporter!—dude sounds a bit like someone who would chase Scooby and the gang around for 20 minutes before being unmasked. His costume is kinda neat—The Spirit, only with a cape!—and, as a former reporter, I like the idea of a guy who spends all day reporting, then goes out at night and decides to just insert himself into the story, Jimmy Olsen-style. Like, what if Clark Kent were Batman, you know?

Anyway, this is a Phantom Reporter comic. It is written by David Liss, who is a writer of prose mystery novels, which might mean he’s a “get” for Marvel. I’ve never heard of him, but then, I’ve heard of relatively few prose mystery novelists.

I’m happy to report that he does a swell job on the script. There’s an awful lot of narration, something an awful lot of prose writers breaking into comics usually write an awful lot of, but given how big and full a story Liss is telling here, it’s completely understandable.

He works The Phantom Reporter’s origin story into a case/story that the reporter by day, Phantom Reporter by night character is working on and puts it in a framing sequence (set in modern days), with a bit of a twist ending.

It actually reminded me a bit of Vertigo’s Sandman Mystery Theater, which is of course a good thing.

Liss’ collaborator is artists Jason Armstrong, who not so long ago did a bang-up job on the Hellboiverse miniseries Lobster Johnson. He does great work here, too—dynamic lines, simple shapes building into a well-rendered, lived-in world, lots of scratchy, inky texture, and a maniacal expression on our boy when he goes all vigilante.

The back-up feature is a reprint of an old Phantom Reporter story which I’m almost positive Marvel already sold me in The Twelve #0.

Mystic Comics 70th Anniversary Special #1 (Marvel) Yes, Marvel published two of these 70th Anniversary specials this week, even though they haven’t published one since August 5, and aren’t planning on publishing next week. Why? Because they are always doing stupid shit like publishing seven Avengers or X-Men books to all be released on the same day. Hopefully the frozen head of Walt Disney can whip this company into shape, when it is attached to a robot body and takes over as Editor-in-Chief.

This issue features The Vision, and not the sensitive android Avenger whose costume makes me want to throw-up. No, this is the spooky, Golden Age version which I’ve only read one (1) story about before (That being Avengers/Invaders series Dynamite helped Marvel put together.

This was basically my introduction to the character then, and I’ve gotta say, he seems pretty rad. He appears out of smoke—kitchen fires, gun barrels, cigarettes—and Spectres up gangsters with weird illusions. It turns out that he is from a different dimension, and was brought here by an eccentric professor with a hot daughter, and has decided to stick around to destroy evil. That all sounds pretty awesome to me.

This story is by both written and drawn by David Lapham. I know his past superhero work has proven controversial among certain circles of super-fans—controversial as to if it’s good or not, that is—but I’ve always like it, and I like this one too. It introduces us to The Vision from the perspective of his enemies, and as they seek to learn more about him, so do we, and his origin story gets told as Lapham speeds along through a story that’s part period crime piece and part supernatural superhero punch ‘em up.

The two back-up stories, both credited to a Jack Kirby, are pretty much prefect Golden Age shorts. In the first, The Vision discovers a werewolf and kills it. In the second, The Vision faces a couple of rampaging dinosaurs, and destroys them. With dynamite. The art on both of these are rough, but still incredibly dynamic, with weird, twisty, off-kilter designs to the monsters.

Honestly, it’s hard not to love a comic book that ends with an exploding T-Rex.

Sweet Tooth #1 (DC Comics/Vertigo) I do hope you all bought a copy of this at the shop today. It was $1…that’s 1/3 to 1/4 the cost of any other single issue on the shelf. Like, you can’t even buy a cup of bad coffee for a dollar anymore, can you? I guess you could get something off a fast food dollar menu, if you want to eat terrible fast food somewhere…But! A dollar! If this thing was completely terrible, it would probably still be worth the price you paid for it.

And hey, guess what? It’s not terrible. It's really quite good.

That’s really not all that surprising. It’s both written and illustrated by Jeff Lemire, of Top Shelf’s excellent Essex County trilogy and, more recently, the Vertigo graphic novel The Nobody.

I really, really like Lemire’s artwork, and it was especially cool to see it in this format—in full color (thanks to Jose Villarrubia), on the cheaper, pulpier paper stock, and in a comic book instead of a graphic novel.

I liked the portions of Lemire’s work I got from Top Shelf, but I like the nostalgia (and, in relation to Lemire’s work so far, the novelty) that this provides.

So, somewhere in an abandoned Nebraska wilderness sanctuary, there’s a kid named Gus, who has deer-like antlers growing out of his head. He lives all alone with his hard-working, religious father, and has never seen another human being, although someone seems to be lurking around the woods, given that candy bars occasionally appear, and the crack of far off gun shots can be heard.

When his father dies, Gus is on his own…but not for as long as he might like, as the guys leaving the candy bars and shooting things in the distance come after him, talking about catching “hybrids.”

Is a pretty intriguing set-up, one that ends with a nice cliffhanger, and, of course, it has Lemire’s art going for it as well.

Wednesday Comics #9 (DC) I will miss reading this, but I don’t think I’ll miss reviewing it.

Batman: Wow, that dude punched the hell out of Batman’s face, didn’t he?

Kamandi: The last panel is pretty much the best “here comes the cavalry” type of panel I’ve ever seen in a comic.

Superman: Aha. So it was a pussification beam that alien hit Superman with. Explaining why they last seven strips were so boring doesn’t make them any less boring, unfortunately.

Deadman: I enjoyed seeing a physical Deadman trading blows and jumping around avoiding fire in this strip, as it’s so different from what one usually sees in Deadman stories (i.e. him just being a ghost).

Green Lantern: Hal Jordan uses his ring to strip his old friend and rival completely nude. Hot.

Metamorpho: I will forgive this week’s strip being the exact same format as last week’s simply because it taught me how to say “suck it” in Latin.

Teen Titans: This last panel doesn’t even make any sense. Is there some dialogue missing in the last few panels or something?

Strange Adventures: Still gorgeous.

Supergirl: Aw, I like the panel of Streaky grooming. This is a particularly darling installment of the project’s most darling strip.

Metal Men: “Frak, yeah?” You are dead to me, Lead.

Wonder Woman: Huh. I wonder if Caldwell has been listening to critics, and to what degree, as this is the clearest, easiest to read installment yet. It features less panels, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality.

Sgt. Rock: Rock only manages to kill one stinkin’ Nazi before getting bludgeoned in the head again. Come on, Rock! There are only three issues left to go!

The Flash: Ever wanted to see Barry Allen drawn like Charlie Brown or Dagwood Bumstead? Neither did I…until I saw this page, anway.

Demon/Catwoman: I really like the fourth panel. That’s one nice, big image of Etrigan.

Hawkman: It’s no “I’m the goddam Batman,” but I did like, “I’ve got this! I’m Hawkman, dammit!” Dude, don't argue with Hawkman about how best to fight a T-Rex!


LurkerWithout said...

Soon there will be no more Wednesday Comics and Agents of ATLAS will be, at best, a back-up in some other comic...

I think I need a hug...

Michael Hoskin said...

>Teen Titans: This last panel doesn’t even make any sense. Is there some dialogue missing in the last few panels or something?

Most people I've talked to about Teen Titans have raved about the art and shrugged off the story, but after reading Strange Tales#1 today I'm wondering if the problem is the art; maybe this was supposed to be an avant-garde humour strip only they couldn't line up Kochalka or Kupperman to draw it.

KentL said...

The Mystic Comics one-shot was running late, which is why it showed up this week. It was due out last month (probably the final week of August).

Johnny Sorrow said...

No Strange Tales, Caleb?

Mory said...

There's a bit of cleverness in Agents of Atlas you may not have noticed: the novelist character that they're using to push the story toward Incredible Hercules is actually a character we've sort of met before. He wrote the text page in issue 2 of the miniseries.

ben c said...

it's just not the same without a WC prop picture.

Caleb said...

No Strange Tales, Caleb?

Nah. I waited like six years now, I can wait a few more months for the trade. I'm sure there were more than 22 pages in it, but it sure felt light to me for a $5 book.

There's a bit of cleverness in Agents of Atlas you may not have noticed: the novelist character that they're using to push the story toward Incredible Hercules is actually a character we've sort of met before. He wrote the text page in issue 2 of the miniseries.

I sure didn't notice that.

James said...

Caleb, Strange Tales is 47 pages of comics, with no ads. It's basically the Platonic ideal of 4.99 comic books.