Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Weekly Haul: September 23rd

Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror #15 (Bongo Comics) In the same way that the annual Halloween episodes of The Simpsons TV show tend to be the sharpest, funniest and smartest episodes of the season, the annual Treehouse of Horror specials tend to be the most exciting of Bongo’s year of Simpsons comics.

This year is no exception, as Kramers Ergot editor Sammy Harkham guest-edits, and brings along plenty of Kramers contributors, for what promised to be the artsy-fartsiest issue of them all.

The appeal of Harkham, Jordan Crane, Jeffrey Brown, Kevin Huizenga, Ted May and others doing short Simpson’ stories is obvious to the point that it probably need not even be stated. It’s the same sort of exciting weirdness that accompanies projects like DC’s Bizarro Comics anthologies or Marvel’s Strange Tales miniseries—the chance to see talented cartoonists you wouldn’t normally see on corporate-owned characters trying to make them their own, even if only for a few panels or pages.

In that respect, the book is already a winner before one even cracks the Dan Zettwoch-drawn cover, as a object of curiosity and conversation piece, if nothing else.

The insides are about as weird as you’d expect; weirder, actually, as Harkham lets his contributors do some pretty outrageous things, not merely in the degree of violence and gore (which is par for the course with these things, on TV as well as in comics), but in the narrative structures.

Whether you’re primarily a fan of The Simpsons or of these artists, this book is probably going to give you cognitive and aesthetic whiplash.

My favorite stories were C.F.’s completely random and surreal two-pager “The Slipsons” and Ben Jones’ “Boo-tleg,” in which over the course of ten brilliantly bright, eight-panel grid pages, the Qwik-E-Mart’s bootleg, poison candy kills off most of Springfield, and Apu and his co-conspirator replace the characters with shoddily made bootleg versions (the black Bart you may recall from t shirts from back when the show experienced its initial burst of popularity, for example, plus some increasingly insane off-model designs). Not all of Jones’ jokes hit—the first few vegan jokes were funny, but by the time Lisa’s brain wasn’t working right due to a lack of animal flesh, it got tedious and borderline offensive, and the Apu-in-al Qaeda joke seemed in poor taste—but the sight gag provided by the imagery more than makes up for it.

Many passed by without so much as lightly brushing past by funny bone, let alone tickling it, but the visuals kept my eyes quite happy, whether it was because it was simply neat to see weird, emaciated version of the characters as drawn by Huizenga or John Kerschbaun, or because the art like that of Will Sweeney and Jon Vermilyea’s was so distinct and trippy that it hardly mattered what it was doing, so long as it was there.

Detective Comics #857 (DC Comics) You know the score on this book by now, right? Gorgeous, gorgeous art by J.H. Williams III, art that’s way too good for the completely generic story Greg Rucka is telling, featuring those crime-worshipers that Rucka must be contractually obligated to include in every single story he writes for DC from now on no matter what and the least imaginative new Gotham City villain in recent memory.

There is some virtue in how completely generic Rucka’s story is though, since his lead is a lesbian. In a way, this is the ultimate “superhero who just so happens to be gay” kind of story, since it’s such a generic superhero story that almost any character could be starring in it. That in itself is sort of subversive, I suppose.

Nevertheless, I think this will be my last single issue of TEC for now, as the Question back-up is even more generic and tedious than the lead feature, and I think I’d rather just by Batwoman trades in a few months time than pay an extra $1 a month for a back-up I don’t like. While Cully Hamner’s artwork on it is great, it lacks the lush complexity of Williams’ that makes even a run-of-the-mill Bat-person story seem worth one’s time and money.

The Incredible Hercules #135 (Marvel Comics) The focus shifts back to the Amadeus storyline, with Herc only getting a single-panel cameo in his own book. I’m enjoying the Hercules-in-Asgard storyline a lot more than this one, but Fred Van Lente and Greg Pak aren’t exactly doing a bad job or anything here. Amadeus is trapped within a Russian doll set of synthetic realities he must fight his way out of, and one of them includes “Doctor Japanazi, the Man With Two Evil Axis Brains,” and he is awesome. If Marvel ever gives a Super-Villain Team-Up book another hot, I hope Doctor Japanazi, the Man with Two Evil Axis Brains gets to meet Sentry villain Cranio, the Man with the Tri-Level Mind.

Underground #1 (Image Comics) I’ll give this a full review on Blog@Newsarama this weekend (I know, something for you to look forward to. You’re welcome). But as per usual, I’m including it here on the “I hauled it home this week” technicality. It’s by Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber, and you can check out a preview of it here. I will note it’s the straightest work of Parker’s I’ve read, but nevertheless engaging, and it certainly made me want to pick up #2. And I must not have read any Lieber comics in a while, because I forgot just how good that guy is.

Wednesday Comics #12 (DC) The Wednesday afternoon I have been dreading—to the extent that one can dread a Wednesday afternoon—is finally here. This is the Wednesday afternoon n which I read my last issue of Wednesday Comics, as the three months are up and the weekly run has come to an end.

I’ll miss you Wednesday Comics! I miss you already!

Among the highlights in this final issue/edition are Batman, which has a very strange ending I keep looking at and trying to read different ways, but basically it looks like Batman totally kisses a dying woman to stop her from announcing his secret identity (how cool would Brad Meltzer and Geoff Johns comics be, by the way, if Batman just planted one on a fellow hero every time they tried to call him “Bruce?”); Supergirl, which reaches a critical mass of cuteness I didn’t even think was possible (and I was totally wrong with my guess about why the aliens’ ship was shaped and decorated like it was); The Demon/Catwoman, which regains the sense of flirty fun the initial installment had; and, of course, Hawkman, in which a half-dozen other Justice Leaguers cameo, and Aquaman gets to say, “I’ve got to get home and rule the seven seas!”

Everything else was pretty much the same as the previous 11 weeks, their various attributes and drawbacks still in place.

I should note that Teen Titans is just as terrible as week one, and never improved any (Way to wuss out and surrender there, Slade; and way to punch out a dude after he surrender there, Titans).

Oh, and are those five birds flying off in the last panel of Metal Men supposed to represent the souls of the five Metal Men who were destroyed in the course of this story? Because if so, I’m going to throw up. Actually, maybe I’ll throw up anyway, just in case.


Jeremy H said...

Pardon me for being the piss in the potato salad (I just made up that phrase; yeah, it needs work), but I don't see the big deal about Wednesday Comics. All told, there was a lot of unevenness, and while the good (Pope and Baker especially) was REALLY good, I don't know that I wouldn't have just rather had a regular one-shot comic by those guys instead of a page a week stretched over 3 months.

And it still annoys me that I had to pay for the awful Superman and Teens Titans stuff, and aggressive mediocrity of the Catwoman/Demon story, to get the good shit.

It's an interesting format and all, but it doesn't solve the inherent problem of all anthologies, which is that they are always a mix of trash and treasure.

Caleb said...

I don't eat potato salad anyway.

Patrick C said...

I eat potato salad, but only the piss-free variety.

I have mixed feelings about Wednesday comics. I think I loved the IDEA of it more than the actual practice. If they do a Wednesday Comics 2, it won't be an automatic buy for me - it will definitely depend on the creators involved.

And this was actually my first exposure to Kyle Baker! Officially count me in as a fan. His Hawkman was a favorite week in and week out, making it even better as it was the last strip. Ending on a high note!

Garumpe said...

I really looked forward to picking up Wednesday Comics every week, and now that it and the first arc of Morrison's Batman & Robin have ended, I'm in no hurry to return to my local comic shop anytime soon. My favorites in Wednesday Comics were definitely Supergirl, Kamandi, and Hawkman, and I particularly enjoyed seeing Pope's Adam Strange artwork in the larger format.

On the flip side, I had stopped reading the Teen Titans, Wonder Woman, and Demon/Catwoman pages long before the twelfth issue had arrived. A mixed bag for sure, but I do hope DC revisits the format next year.