Thursday, November 01, 2012

Comic shop comics: October 31

Aquaman #13 (DC Comics) This is the long overdue conclusion of Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis and company's second story arc on the relaunched Aquaman, concluding a year-long reinvention of the character. Black Manta, whose father was accidentally killed by Aquaman in revenge for Black Manta accidnetally killing Aqauman's dad, has spent a couple of issues killing Aquaman's invented-for-this-story-arc-to-be-killed-off old teammates, "The Others." So Aquaman wants to kill him.

"Manta gutted Kahnia and blew Vostok's spine apart," A-Man tells his wife at one point. "I don't want you to watch what I do to him." And, a few pages later, he repeats the same charges to Black Manta, slightly altering the nature of the injuries: "You murdered my friends. You slit Kahina's throat. You severed Vostok's spine. But I should do even worse to you."

Oh God, how is Aquaman going to brutally torture his archenemy to death...?!

He decides not to brutally kill his archenemy, but instead simply brutally shatters his arm. He has grown! Sorta! He's not a grim, dark, emotionally-tortured, violent vigilante like Wolverine, but a grim, dark, emotionally-tortured, violent vigilante like "Lonely Place of Dying"-Era Batman!

"Don't be like the rest of the world, Arthur," Mera tells our hero during the emotional climax of the issue. "Don't undervalue who Aquaman truly is."

And thus the end of the first year's worth of Aquaman ends as it begun: With the characters histrionically declaring to readers that everyone thinks Aquaman is a joke, but that Aquaman is not a joke. Aquaman, Geoff Johns tells us, has changed. Aquaman, though? Not so much.

This is my last issue of the series. I've been contemplating dropping it for a few months now, but wanted to wait until the story arc ended. Because I am anal.

The issue also includes a seven-page "trailer"-style ad for J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis' shitty-looking sequel to their shitty-looking Superman: Earth One; which is a little longer than 1/3 of the story people paid to read in this book.

The Toledo Free Press wonders after why people are crazy for superheroes in movies and, increasingly, on TV, while no one reads superhero comic books. Interviewees Mark Waid suspects the relative lack of comic book shops might have something to do with it and Ethan Van Sciver suspects people might have a hard time reading comics. For real though? They're expensive, they're often of poor quality, they rarely offer a complete reading experience (This complete Aquaman story I just finished? It cost either $17.94 or $38.87, depending on whether you want to read the complete story, or consider the two chapters distinct stories of their own. That's more than a movie ticket, and more than a DVD), and there are seven-page ads for shitty-looking JMS original graphic novels in the back.

I like how Reis drew Aquaman's dog on the cover for no reason though, and that he gave him an Aquaman symbol for his collar. I fucking love superheroes' dogs.

Ghosts #1 (DC) Speaking of expensive comics, this 68-page, nine-story Vertigo imprint anthology costs $7.99. Comics pages-to-dollars, that's not outrageous or anything, but now that we're at $3-4 for 22-pages, these oversized things get to be kind of prohibitively, even ludicrously expensive. At that point, you might as well take out the house ads, ad a spine and sell it as an original graphic novel for $10-$12 bucks.

This another of the imprint's occasional themed anthologies, with this ones theme being ghosts, although not always in the literal, timed for Halloween release sense. In fact, in several of the stories the ghost element in merely metaphorical, and in others its downright tenuous. There's an all-star list of creators contributing, including several of my favorite comics artists (John McCrea! Joe Kubert! Phil Jiminez!), but the stories vary rather wildly. Let's take 'em one by one, shall we?

"The Night After I Took The Data Entry Job I Was Visited By My Own Ghost" by Al Ewing and Rufus Dayglo: This is an old-school horror anthology formula story, complete with twist ending, although recalibrated and set to "comedy" rather than "horror." Like most of those stories written on that formula, it's decent, all building to a "Heh, that's kinda clever" ending. Daylgo's art is a lot of fun, and made me want to find more Dayglo-drawn comics to read.

"The Dead Boy Detectives in Run Ragged Part One: The Isle of Dogs" by Toby Litt, Mark Buckingham (providing layouts) and Victor Santos (finishing Buckingham's pages): This is a fucking weird-ass story, and doesn't seem to belong. It stars a couple of tossed-off characters from Neil Gaiman's Sandman run, one who have been spun-off into enough other comics at this point that people who are not Neil Gaiman have probably written more of their appearances than Gaiman himself has. I'm not familiar with Litt at all, but this story is lame, although that may be the fault of it being crammed into this anthology. It's eight-pages long, features another story in a different style on its third page, and abruptly ends with "To Be Continued in the next Vertigo Anthology..."

Whatever it will be called, whenever it will be scheduled. I guess...?

"Wallflower" by Cecil Castellucci and Amy Reeder: this is one of those symoblic sorts of short stories that comics are quite ideally suited for, being able to tell a story completely through visual metaphor, although there's not much to it. People can become ghosts in one another's lives is the basic point. Nice Amy Reeder art. Like the recent Halloween Eve one-shot she drew for Image, this was a inoffensively so-so story with great art; I hope she gets a truly great script to draw at some point soon.

"The Boy and The Old Man" by Joe Kubert: This is the only piece that gets its very own introduction, perhaps for obvious reasons. I'll have more on it at Robot 6 today (UPDATE: Here, actually). It's great, though. You can see a few images of it, and, come to think of it, pages from most of the other stories, here at ComicsAlliance, if you want to flip-through it and didn't do so in the shop.

"A Bowl of Red" by Neil Kleid and John McCrea: This is a story about supernatural chili, created from a supernatural chili pepper. You've heard of the ghost pepper, but have you heard of the undead pepper...? It's safe to say this is the best supernatural chili comic I've read. Now that I'm thinking about it though, I don't remember any ghosts in it. Save for the ghost pepper, but I think that's cheating. I wonder how many of these were commissioned specifically for this anthology. There are four different editors, which makes me suspicious, and many of these seem like the sorts of stories that would have appeared in Vertigo's old Flinch anthology, which was a pretty good idea for a comic book, well-executed. I heart John McCrea, although I like his art better when it's inked by someone else and/or colored "old-school," I guess.

"Bride" by Mary H.K. Choi, Phil Jimenez and Andy Lanning: No idea who Choi is, but I do like the art team (but not crazy about Andrew Dalhouse's colors on their art; the focus is a little soft and luminescent). This is the story of a decadent, rich eccentric, morning the loss of another decadent, rich eccentric in a decadent, eccentric manner. Eh.

"Treasure Lost" by Paul Pope and David Lapham: Pope is credited with story and art, Lapham with the script. This one's ghost-free, save for this sentence of narration: "An explosion from within took out the pirates' cloaking device and the 'ghost ship' was no more." It's a sci-fi story, in that it has space ships and shit, the pirates being space pirate, but the people who care about the term "science fiction" and its application would likely argue with me calling this "sci-fi," as it's only sci-fi in that his has space ships and shit.

Anyway, it's Paul Pope drawing cool shit. It is a delight. I love the lightning bolt-shaped swords.

"The Dark Lady" by Gilbert Hernandez: The basic twist here is the same as in a recent movie, but I can't name it, or you'll know the twist. It's Gilbert Hernandez though, so, you know, you'll want to look at these pages. It's black and white too, although Lee Loughridge is credited as a colorist, so I guess someone else decided where some of those blacks went. This really makes it stand out from the rest of the book. Really, this is one anthology where individual stories really jump out as looking completely different from one another.

"Ghost-For-Hire" by Geoff Johns and Jeff Lemire: This one was probably the biggest disappointment for me, as it was the one I was most looking forward to checking out. That was mostly because of curiosity. I read a lot of Geoff Johns comics, and think he can be really good at doing what he does, although I do tend to bitch about his writing pretty much constantly (see above). The thing is, what he does is write pre-existing, corporate-owned DC heroes, tinkering with them, directing them, moving them through whatever paces he wants to move them through (or is directed to move them through), but he never writes anything else, so it's extremely difficult to answer simple questions like, say, "Is Geoff Johns a good comics writer?"

Is Geoff Johns a good Green Lantern writer? A good Batman or Superman of Flash or Aquaman or Justice League or Avengers writer? Those can be answered, but his work that isn't buttressed on pre-existing, pre-written characters, generally with a great deal of continuity already behind them, so that he's continuing someone else's story rather than writing his own stories? I can't even think of anything that fits into that category (I think he had an original graphic novel with Butch Guice at one point...?)

Well here's one! And, bonus, it's in an anthology about ghosts, which are scary! And Johns has been shoe-horning violence and horror into his superhero comics, sometimes a lot more than those characters and stories can support without bursting at the seams, for years now—a horror comic is exactly what Johns should be writing, if only to get it out of his system, right?

Well, this isn't really a horror comic story. It's a comedy, although it's not terribly original or funny.

It's about two brothers, one dead and one alive. And a scam they've put together, which is a half-Frighteners sting, essentially.

Lemire's artwork is always fun to look at, and it's quite appropriate for this story, but there's so little to it that it's a thunderous disappointment. Especially if you've been waiting years for a Geoff Johns comic that doesn't feature any character from the cast of any Superfriends cartoons in it, and especially if you wanted to see him tackle a mature readers horror story after years of writing over-the-top gore in his all-ages and "T For Teen"-rated super-comics.

Oh well; this has been a rough week in my love/hate relationship with Geoff Johns' writing, I guess.

Nice cover by Dave Johnson, as always.

Joe Kubert Presents #1 (DC) I'll discuss this at greater length at Robot 6 today (UPDATE: Click here to read that discussion), along with the Kubert story from Ghosts, but suffice it to say its an ad-free, 45-page comic book from DC, featuring a 22-page Kubert Hawkman story, a short story about a poor orphan boy by Kubert, an Angle and the Ape story by Brian Buniak and a war story by Sam Glanzman. As such, it's well worth the $5 price tag. The Hawkman pages especially are sit-and-stare worthy.

Superman Family Adventures #6 (DC) Art Baltazar and Franco really emphasize the Steel-as-the-Heroic-Opposite-of-Lex-Luthor in this story, which formerly inducts Dr. John Henry Irons into the Superman Family as Steel (costume could use a paint job, though), and introduces his niece Natasha into the cast as well. The conflict in this issue involves the introduction of a very Silver Age version of Metallo, made funnier and cuter in Baltazar's style (I love the "OPEN" sound effect that accompanies his chest plate opening to expose Superman to the Kryptonite heart in his chest). There's a nice blend of allusions to various other versions of the characters as well; for example, there's the old Supermobile (sadly, it has grasping claws rather than punching robot fists) and Superman's lead-suit from Superman: The Animated Series appearing in the same panel.

Great stuff, as always and, this issue at least, a little more adventurous and a little less gag-driven than the previous issues and this creative team's previous book, Tiny Titans.

1 comment:

David said...

From an interview JMS did, it sounds like the reason he aborted his Superman run is because DC wanted him to work on Earth One volume 2 immediately after they saw the sales of Earth One volume 1.