Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Comic shop comics: October 24 Mudman Vol. 1

Pretty much the definition of a light week this week. The only thing I walked out of the shop with today was Mudman Vol. 1 by Paul Grist, which actually shipped last week, but my shop didn't order a rack copy and I neglected to pre-order it, so they didn't have one to sell me until this Wednesday.

The only comic book-comic book I was planning to buy was Brandon Graham's Multiple Warheads: Alphabet to Infinity #1, which I also failed to pre-order, and which the shop also failed to order a rack copy of.

I spent a good half-hour browsing the hell out of the shop, though. I didn't see anything on the new rack that was cheap enough to justify an impulse buy (Mike Norton's The Curse GN looked pretty alright, but was about $15). I pawed through the 50-cent bins. I scanned the shelves for a reasonably-priced trade. I bemoaned the fact that they stopped carrying manga, as a $8-$12 digest always served me well as a desperation-buy on such weeks.

But I left with only the Mudman trade, which was actually kind of ironic. To me.

See, I wanted to read Mudman in serial format, and had planned on buying the first issue in its comic book form when it was first released, but my shop at the time didn't order a copy—they only pre-ordered Image Comics, never got any for the rack. I asked them to see if they could get me a copy, and they said they'd look into it, and never did.

So I quit going to that shop (Not just because of that; that happened pretty much constantly there, and all I was ever guaranteed able to get would be DC and Marvel books). Today I finally got to read Mudman #1...but not another new Image series I wanted to read serially.

Ah well.

So, it's super-late as I type this (11:50 p.m.!) and I've got some other writing to do before bed, so I'm gonna just do this real quick, and bullet point-like. Here are a few thoughts on Mudman Vol. 1:

1.) It includes the first five issues of the series, and yet costs only $10...or $2 an issue. Like the recent trades for Glory, Prophet and Saga, that is a hell of a bargain, of the you'd-almost-be-crazy-i>not-to-buy-it variety. I recommend all four of those books, by the by.

2.) The title character seemed to have the same powers as Batman villain Clayface, although he doesn't use them the same way in the book at all. He can turn into mud, he can throw mud and he can create a mudslide to ride on, like Iceman does with ice bridges, but he doesn't change shape or stretch and such. At least, not in these first five issues. It really weirded me out late in the volume where he fights a trio of "mud rats," little mud men that attack him, and they resemble exactly the Clayface from Batman: The Animated Series.

3.) The characters are set in the real world, and references are made to the Batcave, Flash Thompson and Jimmy Olsen; both our protagonist Owen and his older sister wear sweatshirts with Supemran's S-shield on them. I find that sort of thing super-weird; when superheroes refer to other superheroes the way we might refer to superheroes.

4.) Art, dialogue, coloring, lettering—everything on this book is absolutely perfect. Even the costume design on the title character; it looks vaguely Geo-Force-esque, which is perhaps appropriate.

5.) While much of it is standard fare of the teenage superhero origin variety, the fact that its British and, like, set in Britain gives it a more unique flavor. So even the more generic bits at least have an exotic accent.

6.) Perhaps it was the allusions to DC superheroes, but it got me thinking about The New 52. Like, here is a brand-new, likeable young superhero with pretty unique powers and a net costume having all-ages, no-doctorate-in-continuity-required adventures; a hero who seems perfectly toyetic and easy to adapt into a cartoon a TV series a video game or film franchise. Grist doesn't really reinvent the wheel at all, just presents a new wheel in a sincere and straightforward way, buttressed by a high degree of craft.

How hard would it have been for DC to go to Paul Grist and say, "Hey dude, got any new superheroes you'd like to share with us?" when they launched the New 52. Like, instead of 52 pre-existing characters and franchises, what if they had, like ten or five or two or even one brand-new character? (One they could, perhaps, share with the creator, so there's an incentive for those creators to share). DC does occasionally introduce new characters and concepts, or at least they did as recently as a few years ago (I'm thinking of Monolith and Bloodhound off the top of my head...although if you said who, I suppose that sort of explains why the closest we saw to a new character in the New 52 was the return of the once-new Resurrection Man from about a decade or so ago).

Similarly, "Marvel NOW!" is just creative team shuffling and a branding effort; same old heroes and teams of heroes.

Creating new superheroes isn't rocket science, yet it's still relatively rare when we see one from any publisher. Mudman is somewhat unique in that he's a new character who isn't an off-brand, analogue version of the sorts we most often see in non-Big Two comics. He reminded me of Ultimate Spider-Man, on account of being a 15-year-old with superpowers, and a bit of the Jaime Reyes version of Blue Beetle, but he's not a knock-off of either, or meant to be a stand-in for them. (I'm thinking of the heroes of Superbia or Incorruptible or The Boys and the dozens of other types of deconstructionist comics that use Not-Superman and Fake-Batman characters).

7.) Anyway: I liked this. And for just $10, it seems like an pretty easy comic to pick up and see if you do as well.


Akilles said...

I did have a good feeling about taht series.

Nick Ahlhelm said...

I liked Jack Staff better, but Mudman is good stuff.

I will say if you're an indie minded comic fan at all in the modern world, not using a comic shop's subscription service seems insane to me.

A Hero said...

I am pretty sick of the prevalence of knock off characters myself. While the occasional story can use knock offs to say something interesting about the originals or about comics in general (e.g., Watchmen), all to often they are used as dramatic shortcuts (e.g., "It would take too long to explain this character's motivation, but you know Superman, right?)