Friday, September 07, 2012

Comic shop comics: September 5

Classic Popeye #2 (IDW) I'm still a little bummed I missed the first issue of this series and, sadly, my comic shop wasn't able to reorder me a copy of it. See, I had no idea what this comic book was exactly, until I saw Mike Sterling mention it on his blog. Basically, IDW's straight-up reprinting old Popeye comics, from cover to cover, and while it's at the regular $3.99 IDW price point I always avoid, it's actually twice the size of a regular comic, so $4 ain't so discouraging when you get 50 pages of full-color comics, with no ads, even!

See, when I first saw this first issue on the shipping lists, I assumed it was part of the new Popeye comics written by Robert Langridge IDW was printing, and thus didn't pay any attention. I actually have this problem with IDW all the time. They publish a ton of comics I'm theoretically interested in, but often at such volumes I get easily confused and don't know where to start (like, I like both the Transformers and G.I. Joe franchise, but good God IDW publishes a whole of comics featuring each, and there are several, like, different universes of each within their line, I think).

I was recently confounded by something called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Color Classics Vol. 1 from IDW that I saw on the new book rack. I would really like to get all of the Mirage Turtle comics in trade format eventually—there are probably still about a half-dozen or so issues of the first volume of TMNT that I was never able to track down over the years—but I'm not sure who they're collecting them, or which books to get. That particular trade, for example, had a Mark Martin Turtles story in it, and it also had a short from Anything Goes, I think...? I don't know; I put it back on the shelf, my head awash with cartoon question marks.

I suppose I just need to sit down and do, like, 20 minutes of research some day.

But anyway, IDW's Classic Popeye comics seem pretty great—fun, funny, all-ages comical comics in a traditional comic book format. The only thing that would make it more enticing would be if it were, like, two bucks or so, but given the state of the rest of the market, it's hard to beat a $3.99/50-page price point.

Glory Vol. 1: The Once and Future Destroyer (Image Comics) I already reviewed this at Robot 6, but am listing it again here just for the sake of complying to the "rules" I set up for myself with this column (That is, briefly discussing the comics I bought at the comics shop).

It's quite good, even a little surprisingly so, given I wasn't too terribly enchanted by the first issue, which had Ross Campbell's art going for it, but too much of a too-faithful Glory story by Joe Keatinge for my taste, a story which suggested Promethea a bit too. As it turned out, there was never more than a suggestion of Promethea, and Keatinge went on to do something very, very different in the following issues—I think this works much better as a trade than it did/would have as a serially published comic.

Fans of Ross Campbell (that's everyone, right?), fans of design work as applied to characters and world-building and fans of superhero-style ultra-violence (there are panels in here that make Geoff Johns at his goriest look like he's doing kids comics) should find a lot to like here.

Plus, and I can't stress this enough, this 120+ page trade costs only $9.99. That's the cost of like two-and-a-half issues of whatever piece of shit Bendis Avengers comic Marvel's publishing this month.

Green Lantern #0 (DC Comics) This is it! The one with that hilarious cover featuring a dark-skinned Green Lantern wearing a ski mask and levling a handgun at the reader on the cover! The one we've all been waiting for!

As it turns out, that's not a black guy under the ski mask, but an Arab-American guy—the first clue being the glowing green Arabic tattoo on his forearm ("Courage" it says, and it is the only thing about him not in the government's file on him!)

I got even more excited as I flipped the cover and got to the first page and say that at long last we would get a Geoff Johns-written Green Lantern story dealing with 9/11!
As you may have heard, the DC Universe was recently rebooted so that it is now only five years old, so Superman made his debut in September 2006 or so...the new DC Universe is and (retroactively) always has been a post-9/11 world now, which I guess saves writers from having to think up excuses for why Superman or the Justice League allowed 9/11 to happen in the first place, but I think DC has done a pretty good job of ignoring such questions throughout the last decade.

But now Geoff Johns, perhaps their least subtle writer, and one, not incidentally, who is a fairly big advocate of extra-judicial bullying, torture and lethal violence in his comics—with both villains and heroes being the actors—is here writing a story about an Arab-American from Dearborn Michigan who is an illegal street racer and car thief who has been arrested for terrorism and brought to an unnamed Guantanamo Bay or similar site to be tortured...!

I'll be honest, I was more excited with each page turn, because this is all so...un-Geoff Johns, and the sort of thing I would be afraid/enthusiastic to see him screw-up in a spectacularly entertaining fashion.

He does fine though. It's a very mediocre, by which I mean not horrible as well as not brilliant, bit of Superhero Origin, Part 1.

It's pretty weird to see Johns introducing a new Green Lantern here though, as when he started writing for the franchise almost eight years ago now, he did so with the specific purpose of re-introducing the old, boring Green Lantern Hal Jordan and promoting him over the newer, cooler, better-liked later Lanterns John Stewart and Kyle Rayner, the latter of which was invented to be a more relevant replacement for Jordan (His '90s cool signifiers being that he was a freelance artist, he hung out in techno clubs wearing Nine Inch Nail t shirts and in coffee shops).

This new Lantern is Simon Baz, an Arab-American immigrant of Lebanese descent who who did time for illegal street racing (Like Fast and the Furious!) and, after the auto plant he worked at closed down (relevant!), he turned to car thievery (Like Grand Theft Auto!), but made the mistake of stealing a van with a pre-programmed bomb in it (?), and so was arrested for terrorism. He was about to be water-boarded by the federal agents questioning him at a place that might or might not be Guantanamo Bay, when Sinestro's Green Lantern ring from last week's annual rescues him.

And that's pretty much it, save a one-panel appearance by skinny Amanda Waller and a two-panel appearance by two members of the new Justice League, the first indication I've seen in this book that Green Lantern is set in the New 52iverse instead of the pre-boot DCU, and a three-panel check-in on Sinestro and Hal Jordan who, I was shocked to learn, weren't actually killed off last week!

The pencil art is by Doug Mahnke, and it remains superior work. He's inked, as per usual, by a bunch of guys, and colored by two. The art looks like it, but only because it's sharper in some sequences than in others.

While reading, I was pretty struck by the fact that this seemed more like a Green Lantern #1 than #0, and couldn't stop thinking about how effective a head-spinner this would have been if DC had waited for Johns to finish up his last 12-issue sequence, which ended with Hal and Sinestro seemingly being killed off and the ring seeking a replacement, before the reboot, and then started with this issue, in which Earth gets a new Green Lantern, one with what looks to be a new, emerging supporting cast, plenty of conflict to drive storylines and even a new cosmic threat lurking in the shadows.

Two other quick notes.
The cover's a bit weird here. When they first announced these #0 issues, each was teased with a full-color image of the hero bursting through a black and white version of the cover for the first issue of the series. This GL, whom one Facebook friend referred to as Gun Lantern, is actually ripping through three black and white panels from inside of the book for...some reason. I don't really get the motif anymore, or why it changed. It still jumped out at me off the rack pretty well though, even though so many of this week's DC books had essentially the same design. (The originally solicited version and the final version are shown above).

Finally, the book ends with a checklist of all the zero issues, and a full-page "Who's Who In The New 52!" feature with three paragraphs of information about the character Green Lantern (Hal Jordan flavor), like his first appearance (Which is, uh, Justice League #1 from 2011 now, apparently), his base of operations, powers and history.

It's a nice enough feature, and welcome given the stated goal of offering new jumping-on points to the DC line, although only a year into the New 52, it's not like any character's history should be too difficult to suss out, if they're doing the books right. Still, if this was your first issue of a Green Lantern comic, and there's no reason it couldn't be, then I guess that will be helpful.

Hawkeye #2 (Marvel Entertainment) Well Matt Fraction and David Aja did a good enough job on that first issue that I'm back for this second one, and have added Hawkeye to my pull-list...although maybe I should have trade-waited it...? I don't know. I really like reading comic books monthly, so I'm kind of torn about drifting to the trade format.

Like last issue, this one reads well as a comic book, being a nicely complete standalone story with it's own beginning, middle and end. This time, Fraction and Aja introduce Kate Bishop to the book—that was the girl with the bow and arrow in Young Avengers—and positions her as Hawkeye's partner...while simultaneously setting-up some kind of gross sexual tension (I don't have her driver's license in front of me or anything, but I'm pretty sure everyone in Young Avengers was a teenager, and I'm pretty sure Hawkeye is about twice her least).

The plot involves Marvel mainstays The Circus of Crime, here looking more Cirque d' Soleil than usual, robbing a collection of Marvel Universe bad guys. The two Hawkeyes attend a performance in order to stop them, and, simultaneously, rob the robbers who are robbing the bad guys.

As I said, it's a nice done-in-one, very grounded adventure story—like the first issue, it doesn't even really need to be a superhero story, or even be about Clint "Hawkeye" Barton—given how little superhero trappings and or Marvel Universe trivia is inserted in any way that matters much at all.

It's Aja's superior art work, and whatever alchemy between it and Fraction's scripting that leads to one inventive sequence after another, that really sells this book though. This comic looks so damn good it's almost too, I keep having this nagging thought in the back of my head that Aja's really wasting his time and talent here, but Marvel's lucky to have him, and I sure hope he's getting paid what he deserves here.

Once again, the heroes seem quick to kill their foes here, but, oddly enough, Fraction inserts narration and dialogue to assure us (rather unconvincingly, really) that (most of) the guys who get shot in the eyeballs or the back of the neck aren't really dead.
"They're not dead they're just blinded now," Kate tells CLint after she puts those arrows into those dudes' eyes.

And this part?
I didn't really get that part, as it looks like the back of the arrow hits him in the neck, and then in that bottom panel it looks like the colorist added a purple blot on the tip of the arrow to indicate the opposite...? I don't know...maybe there was some last minute disagreement on what exactly Hawkeye was supposed to be doing to that guy with the boss mustache, who I hope gets better and returns in future issues.

Anyway, this is a pretty great fucking comic book. Hell, look at the penultimate page, which does a "nothing but talking" sequence, and gets it done in one page rather than 22:
Though he's been writing for Marvel for a few years now, Fraction's still a new kid on the block compared to Brian Michael Bendis, but it looks like the latter could learn a lot from the former when it comes to conversation scenes in Marvel comics (Or maybe the lesson is simply "Work with David Aja"...?)

Bad news? Editor Steve Wacker is already threatening crossovers in the letters page. Like Daredevil, this is very much a book that's only good because of the creative team on it, so, like Daredevil, the thought of publishing too-many issues for that creative team to produce, or spreading the narrative into other books featuring other characters and creators, isn't likely to do anything remotely positive.

New Crusaders: Rise of the Heroes #1 (Archie Comics) Well, by at least one metric, Archie Comics' recent stab at resurrecting the old Red Circle family of sueprheroes has been more successful than DC Comics' J. Michael Straczynski-lead 2009 attempt: I bought an issue of this revival attempt (I suspect the fact that it's all happening in one book rather than several, and that the covers on the comics don't make me want to throw up has something to do with that).

Archie's attempt is digital-first, print-second, but, because I am old and afraid of computers, I naturally waited until I saw this on the shelf and gave it an impulse buy.

It's fine. Ian Flynn is the writer, and the art is by pencil artist Ben Bates and inker Gary Martin, working in a clean, smooth heavily manga-influenced style (the villain's eyes totally look like Akira Toriyama-drawn villain the extent that it's kind of uncanny. I kept thinking, "Vegeta...?" whenever he was on-panel).

The story is super-simple, and pretty much told by the cover image itself. The original Red Circle heroes have defeated all the villains and made the world a safe place in which to raise their kids, which is what they all concentrated on after going into retirement in their idyllic suburban town of Red Circle.

Then one of their villains attacks and blows them all up, save for the bearded Shield, who is apparently going to lead the kids into action as the next generation of The Crusaders.

I would read a second issue.

I'd also read collections of the original Red Circle heroes' comics, if Archie ever wants to publish those in an affordable format. Just in case anyone at Archie is wondering.

Prophet Vol. 1: Remission (Image) As with Glory, this was already reviewed by me this week, but I'm including it here because I did buy it at the comic shop this week.

If you read and enjoyed Brandon Graham's King City (that's everyone, right?) but wondered what kind of sci-fi he could cook up with that fevered imagination of his if he tried working straight, rather than in a more comic vein, well, here's your answer. Graham and a succession of incredible artists (including Graham himself) provide a series of sketches of various length about a series of human characters in a distant future trying to complete various portentous tasks, each quest involving a lot of killing, consuming and even occasional copulation.

Like Glory, this is another triumph of design work and world-building, and good God you should see the giant spiders and other alien monsters that Emma Rios draws...!

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