Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Comic Shop comics: May 16

Daredevil #13 (Marvel Entertainment) Well this is a weird comic book. Remember how Daredevil got his hands on that "external hard drive" full of information on five "megacrime" organizations that looks like a Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer DVD he's been hanging on to for some reason that escapes me, the thing that served as a maguffin in the three-part, three-book crossover entitled "The Omega Effect" that played out in this book two issues ago? Well, this is the belated conclusion to that storyline. Two issues after that story ended.

The way that particular conflict was resolved was a fairly satisfying one, and included a surprise I certainly didn't see coming, but why now, so long after the crossover that was sold as the culmination of that conflict?

I have no idea, but then, I don't really get this book. Like, why it's a weekly instead of a monthly, which means it requires a bunch of artists instead of one or two to get it in on the stands so often, particularly when the superior quality of the art was its major selling point.

This issue is drawn by returning fill-in artist Khoi Pham. The art's okay, but problematic, and far below the standards established by Marcos Martin and Paolo Rivera. Here, for example:
Does Foggy's expression seem appropriate given Matt's dialogue?

Hulk Smash Avengers #3 (Marvel) I recognize that the two artists arguing about the Avengers in front of Avengers Mansion are supposed to represent real people (I'm assuming the "Mark and Big John" the issue is dedicated to), but I didn't recognize who they were supposed to be. That kind of frustrated me, if only because it was clear that I was seeing something I didn't get.

This issue is set in the Avengers continuity of the '80s, which, through the magic of a sliding time-line, makes it possible for Janet Van Dyne to be romantically linked (at least through gossip) to George Clooney and Sean "P.Diddy" Combs (even though the latter was only 20 in 1989!). It's written by Roger Stern, penciled by Karl Moline and inked by Jay Leisten. The story slides between existing comics from that era, each referenced in footnotes, and basically serves as a check-in with those various characters, with Captain Marvel Monica Rambeau serving as our point-of-view character.

The Hulk is, at this point, a "smart" Hulk, which isn't a Hulk I'm particularly fond of (I like the caveman/child-like Hulk, and the cunning, asshole Hulk, myself). Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hawkeye, She-Hulk and The Wasp also all appear, and, because The Hulk is a smart Hulk, there's next to no fighting between him and the Avengers, which is sorta disappointing in a book called "Hulk Smash Avengers."

Gray-skinned, gangster Hulk is in next week's issue, so I imagine there will be some more smashing in that one.

The Lake Erie Monster #1 (Shiner Comics Group) I read an electronic review copy of this book already, which allowed me to review it for Robot 6 last week (You did read that piece already, right?), but my shop had a bunch of them on sale this week, so I bought one. Partly to support the work of the two talented creators, and partly because of the sickness within me that compels me to stockpile comic books. I'm not going to re-review it in this space; I'm just listing it because "the rules" for this column involve my discussing everything I bought at the comic shop during my most recent visit. But I liked it.

Saga #3 (Image Comics) This comic book still features a TV-headed humanoid dressed like a WWI officer who enters a room saying "My name is Prince Robot IV" (and expresses his anger in a way that made me giggle), a topless blond spidery lady with a big skirt (running on her many hands), and a giant lie detector talking cat apparently just called "Lying Cat."

In other words, it's still pretty awesome.

Saucer Country #3 (DC/Vertigo) The cast continues to expand, including a few more "types" familiar to the ufology (including an over-zealous, coaching hypnotist and a talk radio show guy), and relationships between some of the characters begin to cement. The striking cover, somewhat obscured by the logo, deals with the belief that some people replace aliens in their memories with various animals as a way to protect themselves. I've heard white owls and cats; here its rabbits, and there's a couple of eerie scenes where artist Ryan Kelly draws very out-of-place bunny rabbits, including a panel where a humongous rabbit peers into a car window.

Skeleton Key Color Special (Dark Horse Comics) This is actually a few weeks old, but my shop sold out of the few rack issues they originally ordered before I could get a copy, so they had to reorder it (Though hooray for Caleb having a shop that reorders stuff for him!). Andi Watson's Skeleton Key is one of my all-time favorite comic books, so it was a great pleasure to see it back, even for so short an engagement, so long after it ended.

One of the interesting things about reading through the series in its various trade collections (which I'd highly recommend you do at some point, if you haven't already), is seeing Watson's art evolve as he was telling his story. By the last chapters, it looks like the work of a completely different artist. The change is at first gradual, then remarkably rapid. Watson's art is even more different now—even more greatly simplified, and this being in color, it more greatly resembles the illustrated children's book look of his charming Glister books.

The premise of Skeleton Key is very simple, so even if you've never read it before, it's not hard to read this. Heck, Watson lays it all out in once sentence: "Using the Skeleton Key to open doors to different world and times, fox spirit Kitsune and school-girl Tasmin are trying to find their way home."

There are three short, eight-page stories in here, although each is a full, self-contained adventure, with a beginning, middle and end. Each is also wildly different in location and conflict, and Watson varies the colors and style slightly with each, but they all involve our heroes appearing somewhere strange, encountering a stranger still problem, and then solving it in a clever and or funny way.

I'd say it was the week's best book, but, like I said, it came out a few week's ago, and I'm just now reading it. But that's okay; I can call it the month's best book, and not be lying or even exaggerating about it.

You can see a preview of it here, which includes the first two pages of each of the stories.

Wonder Woman #9 (DC Comics) You can't tell by the cover, but this issue features the wedding of Wonder Woman. You know, that seems like the sort of thing that could have maybe been made a pretty big deal of, in the media, but not only did DC not seem to push it, they didn't even acknowledge the plot point on the cover. Now, I know it's not a real wedding, she's being forced to marry Hades/"Hell" after he shot her through the heart with one of Cupid's golden love-guns as part of a plan to rescue her human hanger-on Zola, but still: "Wonder Woman" + "wedding" is a formula for general interest, right?

Tony Akins is back in for regular artist Cliff Chiang; Akins is a pretty incredible artist. Not only is his style incredibly consistent with Chiang's (my opinion on that consistency might change if I ever see these comics collected side by side in graphic novel form, but reading them with a month between each installment, I don't get the slightest bit of visual whiplash going from Chiang to Atkins and back again, not like I get when going from, say, Samnee to Pham in Daredevil).

So in this issue, Wonder Woman gets ready for her wedding, and various family members—the redesigned Olympians and the British guy in a tracksuit, basically—talk about attending.

There's a lot of neat, fun design work in here, which has been the chief pleasure of writer Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang's horror/urban fantasy take on the character. We meet Aphrodite here, and they do a clever bit where they never show her face, leaving her beauty to the imagination of the reader. We also meet Persephone, who doesn't quite scan with my memory of mythology (if "Hell" won't ever let her leave hell, then why is there still spring and summer time on Earth...?), and I didn't get the bit about Hell's dad, either (Is Cronus in Hades...? Is this new?).

I love Diana's crazy wedding gown, though. Even if it, like the skinned horses she and Hell ride down the aisle, or the scene where War saunters through the charred corpses left after a bombing in Damascus don't exactly scream "all-ages."
Parts of the book remind me of Neil Gaiman's old Sandman, like some of the clever wordplay between the gods, and I suppose that may be the best way to approach this take on Wonder Woman, as a Vertigo Wonder Woman, minus the Vertigo logo on the cover. Of course, I don't think a Vertigo Wonder Woman means there can't also be a DCU, or all-ages, little girl-friendly Wonder Woman comic being published simultaneously...

ALSO! As I was about to head to the cash register, I noticed a half-dozen longboxes on a table that's not usually there, along with a sign reading "New collection! 50-cents each!" Here's what I purchased from within these boxes, for a mere two-bits a piece: Defenders #1-#2 (The new Fraction/Dodson/$4-an-issue series), Destroyers #1-#4, DC/WildStorm: Dreamwar #1 and Gotham By Gaslight. I might write about some of these in the near future; I don't know. In the mean time, I just wanted to note that two comics Marvel thought should be priced at eight dollars were on sale for 1/8th of that by my comics dealer, because apparently they won't sell at $4 a pop, and $1 in the hand is worth more than $8 in fantasy money.


Akilles said...

Big John is John Buscema, no doubt. Okay, a bit of doubt, but it`s him, most likely.

Does this mean that those rabbits who use to visit our yard, may be aliens...?

I want to buy "Gotham in Gaslight" as cheap as that. But then again, I`ve gotten alot of other great comics really cheap too. So I shouldn`t feel that desperately envious. Ah, who cares, I want to buy "Gotham in gaslight" that has a cheap prize tag!

Akcoll99 said...

I'm wondering if the "Mark" is supposed to be the late Mark Gruenwald...?