Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Comic shop comics: November 7-14

Ame-Comi Girls #2 (DC Comics) This is the second issue of DC's paper comics version of digital material based on the series of manga/anime-style fan service statuettes the publisher's merchandising arm is responsible for, and thus the questions of how manga/anime the comic will be and how fan service-y it will be were already answered last month: "Not at all" and "not at all."

What the series is, then, is a fairly generic, old-school American superhero narrative which, by the second issue, seems to be this: All of the villains have teamed-up, in the service of a mysterious off-panel mastermind (if you notice the statuettes in the solicitations, however, you'll already know who that is), and now all of the heroines must band together to defeat them.

And there's not much more to it than that. The main innovation seems to be that all the heroes and heroines are female. Last issue focused on Wonder Woman. This issue's cover belongs to Batgirl Barbara Gordon, daughter of wheelchair-bound Commissioner james Gordon, and her Robin, who is her real-life cousin named Carrie. They fight Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn and Catwoman. Duela Dent and The Cheetah both reappear. We meet the Ame-Comi version of Steel, Natasha, who is apparently older than Barbara and Carrie.

Green's art is great, and is, in fact, one of the reasons I decided to pre-order this weird little series in the first place. He's inking his own work here, and it looks less smooth and polished than the last time I saw it, but it also has a rougher, slightly more ragged line that gives the art a fair amount of texture. His isn't a style I would think appropriate for this particular book, but as I mentioned at the top of the review, the book isn't at all the book one might expect from the source material.

Classic Popeye #4 (IDW) Another month, another pair of old-school Bud Sagendorf Popeye comics stories in a hefty, full-color, 48-page, ad-free, $3.95 package. The lead story is the superior one here, as an eccentric professor hires Popeye and company to take him to generic Western locale Dead Valley, where the Sailor Man gets to fight cowboys and move among desert settings.

I really like Wimpy's presence in these comics, particularly this story, as he is a sort of built-in antagonist who causes Popeye the most amount of trouble, but he's also his best friend. In this story, for example, Wimpy attempts to shoot Popeye to death (in order to save himself, of course), and Popeye later forgives him with, "Knowin' what a weak chracter ya is, Wimpy— I does not blame ya fer the things ya does."

My favorite part, however, is when the giant brute of a cowboy Big Pete Little Skull taunts Popeye into a fight with the words, "I hate boats and salt water is full of fish!!" Them's, apparently, fighting words.ue

The second half of the book belongs to a domestic story involving Swee'Pea and a crazy creature; as with the similar Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck comics, I find the stories where they are traveling tend to be more engaging than the ones where they are home.

Fantastic Four #1 (Marvel Entertainment) I think I'd like to talk about this at greater length somewhere else on the Internet tomorrow, so real quick-like: This is my first sampling of a "Marvel NOW!" book (and first off-the-rack issue of FF I've read since the late, great Dwayne McDuffie was writing it), a decision influenced by the creative team of Matt Fraction and Mark Bagley.

It doesn't feel at all like a brand-new series, or even much of a brand-new direction, so the #1 on the cover of such a particularly long-lived title seems particularly cynical, and the number of ads and big, fat "AR" symbols in the corners of panels made it a fairly unpleasant reading experience. I kind of want to give it a few more issues to win me over—I'm more interested in it's sister title, FF, which will feature art by Mike Allred—but if #2 and maybe #3 are as insubstantial and distractingly-packed with non-comics info as this one was, I can't imagine reading this serially for very long.

It may simply be that I read this (and Green Lantern) in the same hour or two that I read the ad-free Classic Popeye, Saga and SpongeBob Comics, but given how much visual noise there are in Big Two super-comics (almost all of if produced for house ads, by the way), it's a miracle anyone reads them serially instead of waiting for the trades.

Oh, and there are only 20 story pages in Marvel's $2.99 books...? I guess I haven't been reading enough of 'em to notice. But this has only 20 pages, three of which are full-page splashes. Feh.

Green Lantern #14 (DC) Like Marvel's Fantastic Four, this comic suffers from too-few story pages and too many ads, and thus takes about five minutes to read...about half of that time of which one is simultaneously being exposed to ads. I guess it would be like trying to watch the first five minutes of a television show, if the commercials were playing on half the screen while you were watching.

There are 20 pages here, including one full-page splash page and one two-page splash. A few pages have six whole panels, a few have just two panels, most have about three or four.

This picks up right where the previous issue left off, with Superman and the New 52 Justice League ambushing the new Green Lantern, literally punching first and asking questions later. To his credit, Geoff Johns does present a more traditional take on Superman and the League here, with the characters trying to talk it out, before the new GL tries to rabbit. There are updates on what perfidy the Guardians and Black Hand are up to, as well as what's up with the not really dead Hal Jordan and Sinestro as well.
Still no complaints about Doug Mahnke's excellent artwork (although whichever of his four inkers did the last few pages didn't do as tight a job as whichever of 'em did the early JLA sequences), and I was pleasantly surprised to find that while he doesn't quite rescue the costumes or anything, he draws the characters so well that they all look like "themselves," despite their Elseworlds costuming (It helps, I'm sure, that Mahnke had a nice, decent-sized run on pre-New 52 JLA).

Legends of The Dark Knight #2 (DC) This second issue is rather different than the first, consisting of a single 30-page story by writer B. Clay Moore and artist Ben Templesmith, rather than a trio of short stories by different creators.

In the final panels of the comic, Bruce Wayne asks The Joker, "What was the point of all this, anyway?" And The Joker, unaware of Wayne's other identity, responds condescendingly, "You're wasting your time looking for rules in this game."

That, unfortunately, seems to apply to the comic book story itself. It all seems rather random and pointless, the sort of move-the-action-figures-around storytelling that has come to dominate far too many Batman comics these days. It's not a bad comic, of course, there's just nothing to it, really.

The Joker's latest nefarious plot is this: He's kidnapped The Mad Hatter, tied him to a chair, and is then kidnapping prominent Gothamites, forcing The Mad Hatter to hypnotize them into thinking they're Batman, dressing 'em in homemade Bat-costumes, and then sending them off to play Batman and thus meet their the jaws of Killer Croc. Things go awry when he kidnaps Bruce Wayne and tries to give him the treatment.

Templesmith's art is as good as you would expect, and it's fun to see his particular, almost peculiar style applied to the Batman cast of characters. There's a dirty, luminescent look to the art, as if it was being lit through a used coffee filter, and there's a bold streak of cartooniness that runs through the designs, creating a tensions with the gritty brick backgrounds of sewers and back alleys in which the story is set.

Templesmith's Joker is a particularly strong design, featuring a stretched-out, pinned-back looking mouth with normal-sized, rather human set of teeth within his maw (The Joker dresses up as Commissioner Gordon during the brain-washing process, and the mustache and smile combo is kind of cool).
His Batman looks particularly Sam Kieth-inspired and his Madhatter has the facial structure of John Tenniel's, but his Killer Croc is probably the best of his versions of various Gothamites. I think Templesmith might be the first artist I've seen who is able to perfectly marry the post "Hush" killer, cannibal crocodile version of the character with the just-a-dude-with-a-terrible-skin-disease version to come up with a sort of synthesis of the two that could work for either interpretation.

Anyway: High-quality, continuity-free, owl-less Batman comic with pretty great artwork. Even if it ultimately lacks a point-of-view or reason for being (beyond filling up pages of comics, of course).

Saga #7 (Image Comics) Hazel meets her paternal grandparents, the reader meets Marko as a child and Fiona Staples draws a giant scrotum I wish I could un-see. Mark Bagley (and Matt Fraction) and Doug Mahnke(and Geoff Johns) should be ashamed of yourselves; if you look at the wasted space splashes in FF and GL, and then look at the splash page in Saga where Staples (and Brian K. Vaughan reveal a freakish-looking antagonist), the super-comics seem especially lazy and cynical. Why go big if you're not going to show the reader something that they haven't seen before/you actually need all that space to highlight...?

Saucer Country #9 (DC) Paul Cornell explains "Men In Black" sightings using the simplest, most obvious explanation, and providing another one of those instances where I can't tell if he's invented something that feels like an authentic part of UFOlklore, or if he's simply appropriated it and blended it so smoothly into his political drama narrative that it seems like it his, whether or not it existed before he started writing the comic.

Another great cover on this issue, too.

SpongeBob Comics #4 (United Plankton Pictures) SpongeBob cedes his starring role to the villainous Plankton in this issue, as our porous protagonist, Squidward, Patrick and Mr. Krabs are relegated to supporting roles in various Plankton comics by the likes of Chuck Dixon (!!!), Hilary Barta, James Kochalka, Joey Weiser, Vanessa Davis and others. Perhaps the most impressive of them all is the Robert Leighton-written, Jacob Chabot-drawn 64-panel, two-page story in which a giant SpongeBob image is divided into a comics grid, and Plankton runs in and out of his pores and pockets for the length of the "story," which is surprisingly sophisticated.

1 comment:

Akilles said...

I wish I could stop buying Marvel and DC. So angered to them. Maybe after I`ve finished buying a few series.

Saga and Spongebob seem awesome.

Saucer country and Popeye seem something I wanna read, even if I`ve read alot of stories like them.

Legends of theDark knight is something I`d wanna read, because of the art and the weird plot.