Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Comic shop comics: October 10

Ame-Comi Girls Featuring Wonder Woman #1 (DC Comics) The "Ame-Comi Girls" line from DC Direct/DC Collectibles are little plastic statues featuring manga/anime-style "fan service" poses of heavily-redesigned DC characters...usually female ones, but you'll the get the occasional outlier like this Brainiac one.
At some point, DC decided to do a comic series based on them, which, in theory, is all well and good: Some of the costume designs are pretty great (all of them are certainly superior to those of their New 52 counterparts), it would be nice if DC devoted a sort of age-appropriate publishing "reservation" for their fan-service-y, ogle-storytelling that spares their main line from inappropriate choices while also not half-assing the fan-service and, personally, I like manga, drawings of scantily clad women and DC superheroes. Win win win, right?

Well, I had my doubts about the comic book series as soon as it was announced. It's written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, a (for me) hit-or-miss writing team (most of their hits haven't been for DC, by the way) and drawn, for the first issue at least, by Amanda Conner. None of those people are Japanese, you may have noticed, nor do any of them produce work that seems at-all influenced by Japanese pop culture. They do all sort of do okay with cheesecake, I guess; the writers, at least, seem interested in it, and Conner can draw it pretty well.

Well, after a first-life online, the paper version is in shops's about what I expected. The first issue, two-thirds of which is drawn by Conner, the third-third of which is drawn by Tony Akins and Walden Wong, is essentially a mildly tweaked, Elseworlds version of Wonder Woman.

As for it's fan-serviceishness, it's rated "T for Teen," and thus isn't terribly spicy. Wonder Woman and her mom and the other Amazons all wear very, very tiny costumes, with one of Wondy's being little more than a bikini with lots of accessories, but the amount of flesh is about what you would have found during the '90s when Mike Deodato was drawing a Barbie doll version of the character in her book. I have no idea why this, of all series, was rated "T for Teen" instead of "T+"—it is based on a series of statues like these, after all.
If ever there was a book to be T+, this was probably it.

Despite the lack of fan-service, it is incredibly violent, with an awful lot of stabbings and beheadings...
...most of which are committed by the blood-thirsty heroine Wonder Woman, seen here casually kicking a severed head:
I don't really like the ultimate warrior version of Wonder Woman, and that's what we get here (although, to be fair, this is a random, "imaginary" version of Wonder Woman, not the real one, so it's not as disappointing to see her slaughtering people left and right here as it might be in JLA or Wonder Woman).

Oh, and, um, WTF DC?:
One day I really want to see a "Mature" rated DC Comic just to see what they considered to be the highest level of violence. If you compare DC's four-tiered rating system of E, T, T+ and Mature to the MPAA's of G, PG, PG-13 and R, then this is the equivalent of a PG. (Ha ha, I'm just kidding; there's no such thing as a DC "Mature" assigned for violence. They can stick as much violence as they want in a T-rated book; "Mature" just means there's an f-word and/or a nipple in a Vertigo imprint book).

We do get a few panels of blood-spattered boobs though, which I often think of as the perfect symbol of DC Comics in the 21st century.

Neither the story-telling nor the drawing are at all influenced by manga or anime in the way that the statues so obviously were. Conners art is as great as always, and she's particularly good and drawing scantily clad women with vivid, easily-read facial expressions, but, I don't know, it doesn't seem quite right for the concept.

In that regard, it does seem like this series isn't really poised to do what that it seemed to promise, by, as an extra Wonder Woman comic with some pretty great art, it's fine (For contrast, in the last week or two I've read volumes of manga series Negima, Sgt. Frog and Soul Eater, all of which are rated for teens or older teens, and all of which featured much more fan-service—panty shots, "TV nudity", etc—integrated smoothly into the narratives with humor and a sort of innocent-feeling exploitation).

As a comic, this is too good of one to be honestly called half-assed, but there's plenty to nitpick the creative team over, and it's pretty unfortunate that Conner couldn't finish the fist issue worth of story; Akins, who has been doing fill-ins for Cliff Chiang on the DCU Wonder Woman book when needed, is a highly capable artist, and he and inker Wong put a great deal of effort into replicating Conner's style for the last ten pages of the book, but as hard as they try, it just ends up looking like bad Conner art.

I plan on reading the rest of the series—despite the flaws, I like a lot of the artists involved with the remaining issues—but this isn't really all that good a comic book, even once you get past the disappointment of it not really fulfilling the mission statement of a comic based on pervy, Japanese-style statuettes created for pervy DC readers with too much disposable income.

Halloween Eve (Image Comics) This was the first of two impulse buys this week; it's a $4/32-page, full-color, ad-free (well, there are two house ads after the story) one-shot from Image Comics, written by writer Brandon Montclare, of whom I've never heard, and artist Amy Reeder, whose crisp, lovely line work is ultimately what sold me on the book.

It's the story of a girl named Eve, who works at a costume shop, and what happens to her there the night before Halloween (See, "Halloween Eve" works on multiple levels!).

It's okay. The story seems very much like a very polished short story that might come out of a college creative-writing class, which probably sounds like an insult or a back-handed compliment, but I swear I don't mean it maliciously—there's a lot of obvious symbolism and a few allusions, and while it's clever, it's clever in a self-consciously clever way and, it's not that clever. More creative-writing class clever than '90s Vertigo comic clever.

That's a long way away from being bad, though. It's just not great, and these days, what I'm really looking for in my comics is great. No complaints about the artwork though. That is great, and I think okay story + great art + typically solid value for your money = purchase you won't regret.

New Crusaders #2 (Archie Comics) Two issues in, and the kids still aren't in their costumes! Oh Ultimate Spider-Man #1-6, what have you wrought?

I picked the first issue up on a whim, and did the same with this issue—the first one was inoffensive and it was a slow week; this week was similarly slow. Writer Ian Flynn's storyline is progressing perfectly predictably, which is fine—I'm pretty sure this is mean to be a kids comic, and while it's not transcendent of those ambitions, it ain't bad either. I like Ben Bates and Gary Martins' super-simplified, mildly-manga flavored artwork. I'm eager to see how the kids bet super-powers and new costumes, even though based on the covers I don't think I'm gonna care for most of those designs all that much (They could be worse though; they could be DC's Red Circle designs!)

There's a back-up strip in which Flynn is joined by the very interesting art team of Mike Norton and Terry Austin (who, alas, don't gel all that well), which is very heavy on the continuity, which seems crazy to me, as I have no idea where this continuity is coming from.

Anyway, this remains a thoroughly decent superhero comic for kids that won't insult the tastes or aesthetic sensibilities of most comics-tolerant adults.

SpongeBob Comics #13 (United Plankton Pictures) Well, how about that? The 13th issue of this winning bi-monthly gag comic landed on October, which is a great excuse to do a couple of ghosts stories. I don't know if that's the particular reason why this issue has more and bigger-named guest-artists or not (see the cover), but, in addition to a couple of fairly straight, straight-outta-the-cartoon style strips drawn by Vince Jacob Chabot and Vince Deporter, and a couple of short contributions from regular contributors like James Kochalka, this issue boasts work from Tony Millionaire, Stephen Bissette and Al Jaffee (!!!).
The biggest and best of these is probably the Millionaire piece, in which he draws and letters an eight-page story of The Flying Dutchman (an actual character on the actual cartoon, I coincidentally discovered during my last visit to my nieces) and his interaction with Mister Crabs and SpongeBob. Unsurprisingly, a haunted pirate ship is perfectly suited to the skill set of the Maakies artist, and it's rather incredible to see Crabs translated into Millionaire's style. This books' been going for a while now, but I still think it remarkable how generous UPP is with letting artists bring their own unique styles to the characters, no matter how radically off-model they might be. Bongo Comics does this with their Simpsons stuff (particularly around Halloween), and it looks like Boom does so with some of their Adventure Time stuff; oh, how I wish DC's Scooby-Doo comics looked like SpongeBob Comics...!

Oh, as for those other all-star contributors? Bissette draws a Mermaid Man comic book sequence (Mermaid Man being Aquaman with a shell bra and starfish over his nose, if you're not fluent in the show's cast of characters), and Jaffee has a one-page, four-panel back cover strip, in which we get to see his versions of SpongeBob, Patrick and Gary.

1 comment:

Duffs said...

Hey, Caleb--
SpongeBob Comics is monthly now (as of issue 9)! And thanks for the nice words.

Chris Duffy