Sunday, March 21, 2010

Comic shop comics

(Okay, so I'm going to try that out as the name of the recurring feature that used to be "Weekly Haul," back when I lived in a city with a comic shop and would actually haul comics home from it every week. I'm now going to be visiting a shop every 2-4 weeks depending on my travel and/or how often there are enough books built up in the pull file I've established to make it worth a special trip. Same basic rules as "Weakly Haul" though—these will be short-ish, hurriedly written first impression style reviews of only comics that I actually paid money for at an actual comic book shop. The schedule will simply be completely random now).

Avengers Vs. Atlas #3 (Marvel Comics) Due to the fact that I now live in a city completely devoid of a local comic shop and must travel 45 minutes to the nearest shop, I got the third issues of this series before the second (It’s a long, uninteresting story, but basically I didn’t establish a pull-list there in time to catch the second issue).

Writer Jeff Parker is sticking closely enough to the traditional Marvel team-up script, however, that it’s easy enough to keep up. The Agents spend the first half of the issue battling time-lost Avengers before realizing there’s been a misunderstanding and then teaming up to face common threats, so I think it’s safe to assume last issue was mainly devoted to Agents-on-Avengers violence.

The fact that Parker adheres to formula isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself; it’s all about the execution, really, and this is as well executed as Parker’s superhero stuff usually is.

It’s great fun seeing Parker get a chance to play with the “real” versions of the Avengers characters after having written them so long in Marvel Adventures Avengers, and to see the oddball Agents characters interacting with the more mainstream Marvel characters like Captain America, Iron Man and Hank Pym.

Similarly, it’s nice to see artist Gabriel Hardman getting the opportunity to apply his style to classic, Silver Age, Kirby-designed characters and costumes here.

This is $4 comic, but has a back-up to help take the sting out of price tag. It’s another Atlas solo story, this one featuring Venus and created by the Captain Britain and MI13 team of Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk. It features Venus speaking directly to readers while answering letters from various Marvel characters seeking romantic advice. (If you thought Avengers Vs. Atlas was one place to be safe from Deadpool, guess again!). I’m not sure I understand the whole Hulk-trying-to-date-his-cousin thing, but otherwise it’s a nice, light, silly piece, providing a welcome counterpoint to balance the super-team punch ‘em up of the lead story.

Hercules: Fall of an Avenger #1 (Marvel) So the immortal god Hercules “died” in the last issue of his ongoing series Incredible Hercules, and this is the first of a two-issue miniseries following up on that. It’s written by the regular Inc Herc team of Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, and to celebrate this important occasion, they’ve brought in the absolute worst fucking artist they’ve collaborated with on Hercules stories since they started telling them during World War Hulk.

That artist is Ariel Olivetti, who is actually quite a good artist (as demonstrated in some of the work he did in the late ‘90s or so), but he seems to be working incredibly hard to hide that fact in this issue.

It’s drawn in the faux photograph, painted-looking style he’s been working with for a quite a long time now, a style that just doesn’t float my boat the same way that good old-fashioned pencils and ink on paper does, which wouldn’t be so bad if the finished product didn’t look so half-assed.

The characters are all fairly well rendered, but the backgrounds in the first few pages are not-even-disguised-at-all-photographs, and shortly after that he quits bothering with backgrounds at all. The flashbacks tend to be a little better filled-out, but the panels set during the present feature figures floating in a white void of nothingness or, occasionally, before night sky lighting effects.

Four pages are wasted on double-page splashes, one featuring the arrival of Earth’s super-heroes at Herc’s wake, the second on the arrival of the Olympians. The first features only nine characters in medium shot, with a few silhouettes in the background (Maybe the Secret Avengers are attending?), the second features four characters in medium shot, a fifth in the background and another four or five silhouettes.

Pak and Van Lente’s script is as great as always—they manage to turn a clip-show style comic into a fun and funny exploration of the missing title character, and the many characters speaking about him. But the art is so lazy as to seem amateurish, and that’s too damn bad because Olivetti is a lot better than this.

In his defense, he does really make a few images work here.

For example, Herc and Thor downing Frost Giant-sized bottles in a drinking contest against the giants,
and the pair of divine heroes being cradled like babies in the arms of giantesses.

Although it’s not even teased on the front cover, this issue does contain an Agents of Atlas back-up (of sorts) as the last few issues of Inc Herc did. It’s called “Greek Tragedy” and features the lady Agents Venus and Namora traveling the globe letting everyone who had any kind of business dealings with Herc no that he’s died. It’s by Paul Tobin and Reilly Brown, and it’s pretty good stuff.

King City #5 (Image Comics) The new Image version of Brandon Graham’s series is still republishing material from Tokyopop’s original graphic novel in the oversized, comic book format, and I’m still enjoying reareading it. In addition to a lovely-looking, inexpensive format, the new covers and extra-material are well worth having. This issue ends with an elaborate two-page feature entitled “Anna’s Drawers,” in which Graham walks us through Anna’s wardrobe, the tools of her painting-mustaches-on-ads trade and the contents of her bedroom.

As I’ve noted before, a large part of what makes Graham’s comics so fun is that he’s a consummate designer and world-builder, and this huge drawing is basically him showing off his design chops and skill with wordplay and silly puns. From the names of the magazines she reads (Warm & Fleece) to the colors of her mustache paint (goteel, unibrown, etc), to her nautical bra (a “sea cup,” naturally), there’s a ton of fun stuff in the back up alone.


Anonymous said...

Caleb -

You apparently missed the moment in the Hercules issue in which it was 98% revealed that Hercules had engaged in sex with one of Marvel's MALE super-heroes!

Quite cool and funny!

Andy Mangels

Caleb said...

Oh, I caught it (Actually, I read that a few days before I even read the comic...I think Robot 6 or someone did a little piece on it). I just didn't have anything to add to it/say about it.