Friday, February 15, 2013

Comic shop comics: January 30-February 13

Ame-Comi Girls #5 (DC Comics) The artists for this installment is Santi Casas, whose work is probably the most appropriate of any of the artists to so far work on this comic based on the sexy, anime-style statuettes featuring female DC Comics characters: It's drawn in a very Asian influenced style (looking quite a bit like the work of Kia Asamiya, particularly in the faces), and the posing and positioning (in addition to the costuming) is all about prompting the male gaze and promoting the breasts, butts and thighs of the characters.

In short, it looks anime-like, and it's PG pervy, just like like the line of figurines it's based on.

What is most remarkable about this issue, however, is that Wonder Woman shows up in the last two panels to confront Supergirl, who has been rendered evil by exposure to black kryptonite, a la early issues of the awful Jeph Loeb/Ian Churchill Supergirl series, and feminist icon and champion of womanly love Wonder Woman calls the teenage cousin of a Superman a bitch. (As in, "If it's a real fight you're looking for,'ll find me more than happy to liberate your head from that skinny little neck!")

Well, at least she didn't use the C-word, huh?

Coupled with the bits of dialogue in the third issue in which a hero and a villain both pretty much call Harly Quinn retarded (Catwoman calls her "Short Bus" and Batgirl calls her "special," as in, "It's so sweet of you girls to to look after Harley...You know, what with her being special and all"), Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray's scripts for this series have proven to be remarkably crass and immature.

And I say that as someone who wishes it were much more exploitive, so as to at least fulfill the promise of its source material.

Oh well. This is my last issue anyway; after this the mini-series becomes an ongoing, and, after five issues, my curiosity is more than sated.

(In the plus column, Casas' Jor-El looks like an anime superhero version of Bill Murray).

Hawkeye #7 (Marvel Entertainment) This is the special issue that a certain amount of the profits from will got to help victims of Hurricane Sandy, so saying anything too mean about it would be kind of dickish of me, huh?

Well, good thing that the Matt Fraction-written title about what the dopey Avenger gets up to when he's not Avenger-ing remains of quite high quality, no matter how quickly Marvel pumps these things out and who draws them (So far, David Aja's issues have been the best, but Marvel hasn't hired any slouches to work on this book yet).

This issue doesn't hold up as tightly as the previous ones, as it is basically two separate stories that casually crisscross one another at a few points, and thus it lacks the admirable script-construction of each of the previous issues.

In the first half of the book, Clint Barton AKA Hawkeye helps one of his neighbor's visits a stock character from all disaster movies—the stubborn senior citizen who refuses to leave his or her home and is taken by surprise when the disaster proves to be so much more disastrous than usual. Steve Lieber draws that part.

In the second half of the book, Kate Bishop AKA Hawkeye attends an engagement party and ends up getting knocked out by looters. Jesse Hamm draws that part.

Both are great artists who Marvel should pay a lot of money to in exchange for a lot more art (on another book, though, as I really think Aja should be drawing this book all the time). I really like the way Hamm draws Kate's arms, and I wish I was in the same building as my scanner right now, so I could scan you some examples. Also, the scene where the crowd of folks in Jersey intimidate the looters? See the lady with the hedge clippers? That is awesome. High-five Jesse Hamm!

Joe Kubert Presents #4 (DC) More Redeemer, and now are reincarnating hero is a Confederate soldier during the American Civil War. I have no idea why the chapter of the story set in the far-flung future would come before the chapter set during the 19th century.

And, if you haven't read this yet, then you have no idea how fucking awesome Joe Kubert drawing a big, splashy panel of two Civil War armies running and riding into one another is, nor how awesome the bizarre "dragon" living in the southwest and protecting a golden treasure is (This story guest-stars Firehair, if you care).

Also in this issue Brian Buniak seemingly wraps up his "Angel and The Ape" feature, and the ape half of the team does furious battle with a robot velociraptor, ultimately snapping its jaws in the traditionally ape vs. theropod dinosaur techinque....only he does it using his hand-like feet instead of his hands. Why didn't you think of that Peter Jackson?

Also also, another installment of Sam Glanzman's U.S.S. Stevens article/stories, this one starting out to be the most boring one yet (it's very technical, essentially a few pages of technical drawings and text book-like info on World War II destroyers), but ultimately becomes the most fascinating one yet, with a very colorful member of the crew behaving very colorfully.

Legends of The Dark Knight #5 (DC) This issue features a single story, written by Joshua Fialkov and drawn by Phil Hester and Eric Gapstur. The star isn't the Dark Knight, but instead Gotham private eye Slam Bradley, with Batman in a supporting role. In the course of his work, Bradley becomes a likely suspect in a murder, and the harder he tries to clear his name, the guiltier he looks, with Batman among those trying to bust him. The Black Mask is also involved.

It's a very solid police procedural type script, like a very economical episode of a Law and Order with 100% more Batman than that show features, with a couple of clever bits. Hester's exciting, imaginative and downright inventive layouts and superior designs and renderings elevates it to pretty good comics, though.

The third page is full of airy white-space on a 16-panel grid (some of the panels missing, with horizontal narration boxes floating where the art might have been were they not missing), and it reminded me of that always graphically interesting Hawkeye book.

There's a lot of white space in this book, due to the fact that the pages aren't black, as is so often the case now, but white, and Hester plays with that space, having characters and objects move in and out of the colored panels, using white to form silhouettes and shadows and the borders of certain, the more I flip through this issue, the more I love it the art in it.

I don't even feel like putting this book away; I want to leave it out to flip through every couple days and remember how exciting the simple act of having good art put down on page in interesting ways can be.

It's been a while since I've seen Hester drawn Batman (Kevin Smith's Green Arrow run, maybe...?), but I really like his Batman, particularly his eyes (It no doubt helps that this is a more "classic" Batman, in a black and gray bodysuit, rather than the armored, robotic-looking New 53 Batman with the goofy kneepads).

Hester's Black Mask is great too—very skeletal, very creepy. For some reason, perhaps to keep the villain's presence in the story a surprise (Oops. Spoiler warning!), his minions don't wear masks.

This issue in particular is a good example of why it's a good idea to give their most popular characters an anthology-like series where different creators can offer their own personal takes. They should really try something like this with Superman. What could possibly go wrong?

Multiple Warheads: Alphabet To Infinity #4 (Image Comics) Hey did you guys take philosophy in college? Do you remember Plato's allegory of the cave? Most comics are merely the shadows on the blank wall that constitutes all that we readers can see while chained before it, shadows cast by objects passing before a fire and behind our heads.

The fourth and final issue of Brandon Graham's Alphabet To Infinity? It's one of the true objects casting the shadows. It's real comics, in the truest, purest form.

Saucer Country #12 (DC) The last page of this issue is a splash panel, featuring supporting character Professor Kidd standing on a chair and slipping a noose over his head. The next issue box reads simply, "Next: Goodbye Cruel World."

See what you did, Direct Market?! By refusing to embrace this series like you did Fables and Unwritten, you've driven one of its characters to the brink of suicide!

This book is now super-weird, with writer Paul Cornell apparently jumping over the 30-50 issues that probably should have occurred between the start of the series and its current climax in order to finish it as he intended before the cancellation kicks in.

See, a few issues ago our hero was in the middle of a primary fight with other members of her party, whereas now she's on the verge of winning the general election. I don't remember any "Six months later" narration boxes. But then, maybe Cornell's being all meta on us, and by cutting out a bunch of the story he's trying to get us to share the experience of lost time that often accompanies alien abduction...?

I don't know. I hope another, smaller publisher can pick this series up at some point, because as interesting as the race to the White House has been, "the truth" will only become apparent once our hero is actually president.

Star Wars #2 (Dark Horse Comics) You know one thing that rather bugs me about Star Wars? The way that various random alien-looking characters that appeared in a few seconds of the original three films would, in the "expanded universe" of the novels and video games and cartoons and the second trilogy, would become standardized as races, with home planets and histories and cultures of their own.

Like, in the original film, the camera would pan across a smokey bar and you'd see something that looked like an elephant crossed with a couch wearing a robe that is just there because that's what the guys in the puppet department through together, and, in the ensuing years, Star Wars fandom would create not only that elephant/couch guy's whole life story, but the whole life story of his entire race. You couldn't just have a random, one-off, crazy-looking alien like, I don't know, Hammerhead, but that guy would turn out to be an Ithorian, who doesn't even like being called "Hammerhead," which is the name was on the box the action figure of him I got for that Christmas called him.

Eliminating the mystery of the various aliens by filling in the exciting, suggestive blanks with information sort of kills the appealing fantasy of Star Wars, I think, which goes a long way towards explaining why that second trilogy was so terribly disappointing (Well, in addition to the fact that its scripts were poorly ghost-written by Lucas' grade-school interns). Like, all I really needed to know about Darth Vader was that he was an evil robot wizard, not that he had a crappy childhood and messy romance and was drummed out of his fucked-up space samurai religion for not being celibate/abstaining from killing foks when he lost his temper. Boba Fett? He had a laser gun and jet-pack; all I needed to know. The Emperor? The aforementioned evil robot wizard's boss, who was so old it was literally scary and he had lighting hands. Never cared about his political machinations.

So I kind of groaned when half-way through the second issue of the latest Star Wars book, which I added to my pull-list based on the strength of the first issue, I saw the elite, black-ops squad princess/pilot Leia was assembling would include a member of whatever race that lizard-looking bounty hunter from Empire belongs to and a Twi'lek*, one of the lady aliens with a coupla big tentacles instead of hair on their head (like that one dancer in Jabba's palace, or the blue Jedi Aayla Secura**).

I know that the now rigorously patrolled continuity of the Star Wars universe doesn't really allow for the sort of random character creation that went into the original movies and the original Marvel Star Wars comics, but it was one of the things I most liked about the original films (being between the ages of 0 and 6 during their original release dates probably helped a little too), and their absence one of the things I least like about the expanded universe stuff.

God, what am I even talking about?

Oh, right. Star Wars #2. It's got some characters from races extrapolated from cameo appearances of random characters in the sequels (two seconds of lizard guy standing there next to Boba Fett and the Very Thin Android, a scene of a lady dancing) in it. That same scene includes a panel where Leia uses the word "starfightering" as one might use a verb. That was my favorite part.

This issue isn't as exciting and complete as the previous one was, but it's well-written, well-drawn, well-colored and features Star Wars characters I know/care about (um, as much as I care about any Star Wars characters, at any rate). It's far better than those old Marvel comics, which I've been reading in Omnibus collections lately, but I don't know, there's still something appealing about how anarchic those comics were compared to these ones; like, great care is taken to keep Chewbacca on-model and imitate his various Wookie words, whereas in those old Star Wars comics, he'd change size, shape and general hair-length depending on the artist...and sometimes page.

This is a good comic book though. I'm going to keep reading it.

*Warning: You can Google "Twi'lek", but be careful of Google Image-ing "Twi'lek," as you're going to find some...unusual fan art.

**One of the more fun articles I ever wrote for the Columbus-based altweekly I used to write for and edit a section of was a feature for which I interviewed Star Wars artist Jan Duursema (whom I've probably mentioned a few dozen times was the artist who drew Advanced Dungons & Dragons, the comic that got me into comics, and Amy Allen, who played her during her very brief appearance in the films, as both were going to be guests at that particular year's Mid-Ohio Comic Con. The character, who Duursema created with John Ostrander, was notable for being the first (I think?) to go from the comics to the movies, rather than the usual movies-to-comics path.


Jesse Hamm said...

*high fives*

kevhines said...

Amy Allen not Amy Adams. Right?

Caleb said...

Allen, yes. But maybe they'll get Adams for a Disney one...?