Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Comic Shop Comics: May 20

Archie Vs. Predator #2 (Dark Horse Comics) Dustin Nguyen also drew one of the covers for this issue, but I went with the Dan Parent one, as it's in Archie "style" and features such a more intriguing story in its single image. I'm really enjoying the series so far, but I think it's worth noting that the stories suggested by some of the covers and pin-ups, those involving a Predator basically just joining the regular cast for regular Riverdale goings-on, have been even more interesting than the story itself.

For example, here we have the Predator apaprently hiding out behind the counter of the Chocklit Shoppe amid a pool of blood. There's a pin-up by Tim Seeley in the back, featuring a very realistically drawn Predator trying to stab an oblivous Veronica, wearing a skimpy bikini and filing her nails on a beach, while Betty (in an equally simpy bikini, one strap falling down) attempting to garrote the alien hunter with a jump rope.

Or check out the "next issue" image:
Wouldn't it be just as awesome if this were the story of a Predator attempting to take Veronica's place in the struggle against Betty for the romantic attention of Archie Andrews?

Maybe Dark Horse and Archie could just make this series an ongoing...?

After the gang met the Predator during spring break in Los Perdidos, it followed them back to Riverdale, and it begins to aggressively hunt them...apparently in an attempt to take down the most dangerous of them all, Veronica Lodge.

Alex de Campi, Fernando Ruiz and Rich Koslowski present us with the sort of imagery we're not used to seeing in modern Archie comics, or Archie comics of any era, really, like gratuitous cheesecake...
...and, um, Sabrina Spellman having her over-sized spine torn out of her lifeless corpse.
(Wait, did pencil artist Koslowski draw her spine too big, or her head too small...?)

I really liked the way that the characters tend to barely process all of this horror. For example, when they learn that the Blossoms were horribly killed, Jughead remains more interested in a chocolate cake Pop presents them with. And even when Pop's head explodes and the gang are covered in his blood, Jughead is torn between the brutal murder and the delicious chocolate cake.

And when they learn what's really going down, Kevin's dad passes out machine guns to the kids so they can hunt the PRedator together instead of, you know, leaving it to the army or town grown-ups or whoever.

The Preadator–a teenager of the species, we learn–makes short work of a large chunk of the cast, not only taking out Pop, Sabrina and Salem, but he also kills three characters in a single panel. Man, I can't believe Reggie Mantle went out like that; I had him pegged to be the second, maybe third-to-last man standing.

As with the first issue, there's a one-page Dark Horse/Archie back-up, this time featuring Little Archie (and Little Sabrina) and The Mask, drawn by Art Baltazar. It's not very good, and jumps around awkwardly, but it's only six panels.

Convergence #7 (DC Comics) Huh. It's the penultimate issue already. After a slow start in which it seemed as if nothing at all happened (starting with a #0 issue in which, in fact, nothing happened), the main, backbone Convergence miniseries suddenly exploded with characters and activity.

In the last issue, the "real" DC Universe (that is, The New 52-iverse/Earth-0) finally got involved, with various characters watching as Battleworld Telos began appearing in their universe. Also, the heroes of many of the stranded cities all teamed-up to fight Deimos, who enlisted the villians of the stranded worlds to fight back.

This issue, written by Jeff King and Scott Lobdell and drawn by Aaron Lopresti and Mark Morales, continues with those two main plotlines: The DC Universe reacting to the emergence of Telos, while the citizens of Telos all fight.

That fight fills up about 18 pages of the book, and is a pretty enjoyable crowd-of-heroes stories, full of characters that you might not have expected to be rubbing shoulders or trading blows with one another doing so (Ivan Reis' cover gives a pretty good taste of the range of characters from diverse eras of continuity and Elseworld stories that participate). Lopresti's no George Perez or Phil Jimenez, but he does pretty well drawing splash pages of up to 30 characters.

There remain choices that seem wrong in terms of which characters join which side of the battle, which is essentially the characters who are so good they refuse to fight or kill on Demios' say-so vs. the characters who are willing to kill others in order to rule the planet Telos. King seems to have decided that everyone from Kingdom Come is a bad guy and on the same side, for example, which is a little strange, given that Kingdom Come is all about various warring factions of superheroes fighting over their differing ideologies. And yet Jade, Superman, Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel all fight on the same side. (And speaking of Captain Marvel, I'm not sure how he's even participating; if the characters of Kingdom Come were plucked from a point prior to the climactic battle, than Captain Marvel would be mind-controlled; if they were plucked from a point after the battle, he'd be dead).

It hardly matters, I suppose, as the outcome involves all of the characters from both sides realizing they should really be dog-piling on Deimos, even Telos himself. And then, oddly enough, Parallax just vaporizes Deimos all on his own, which makes one wonder why he didn't do that in the first place. With Deimos seemingly dead, the vague power he acquired via...whatever he did to the time-travellers gets released, and shoots like reality-warping lightning out into the DCU proper, showing Superman, Supergirl and Martian Manhunter various versions of themselves, (hopefully permanently) destroying the big rock Fake Watcher and breaking all of reality apart. Wait, I meant and breaking all of reality apart!!!

It sure sounds like the start of another round of reality-rebooting changes within the DCU, more akin to those of Infinite Crisis/52 than those of Crisis On Infinite Earths or Flashpoint, but that's probably not likely to be the case. I guess we'll have to wait seven more days to find out.

Which is one thing I really love about a weekly schedule when it comes to big event series like this–we only have to wait seven days to find out.

Convergence: Swamp Thing #2 (DC) The perfect creative team for a Swamp Thing/Vampire Batman team-up comic, Swamp Thing co-creator Len Wein and Vampire Batman co-creator Kelley Jones, finish up their two-part Convergence tie-in. The first issue was mostly just a Swamp Thing story, premised around what would happen to Swamp Thing and Abigal were they to be trapped in a city for a year, with Swampy lacking his connection to The Green and unable to leave a small patch of land.

At the climax, vampires showed up.

In this issue, after a fleet five-panel recap of Swamp Thing's origin and the events of the first issue, Vampire Batman (i.e. The Batman from the Doug Moench/Kelley Jones trilogy of Elseworlds comics that kicked off with Batman and Dracula: Red Rain, arrives to challenge Swamp Thing, his opponent in the tournament of cities.

Like the conclusions of all the Convergence tie-ins after week five, there's an element of the anti-climax to that element of the series, as we already know that the city vs. city deathmatches have all been called on account of Deimos usurping Telos' power. But that's okay, as this is more of a Brave and The Bold-style, two-hero Elseworlds team-up comic anyway. Batman agrees to forfeit, since he's not all that crazy about his undead life anyway (in fact, Vampire Batman willingly goes to his death at the end of Crimson Mist anyway, so this Vampire Batman must have been plucked from a time before the end of that story). In return, he asks Swamp Thing to help him free his Gotham of vampires.
This page is even better if you imagine Vampire Batman reading the creator credits attached to each character name.
I know Swamp Thing has encountered vampires repeatedly in the past, first in a story written by Wein himself, and later during a chapter of Alan Moore's "American Gothic" storyline, but I don't recall Swampy using his formidable plant powers to be such a vampire-busting force before. Wein has him grow long oaken spikes where his fingers used to be, and breathe garlic from his mouth. Later, he's got wooden pointy parts coming out of him all over the place, and even makes a sort of garlic napalm.
Jones draws the hell out of all this insanity, of course; his Swamp Thing is gloriously weird and gross and scary and cartoonish, all at once.

I highly doubt I would have enjoyed this as much were anyone but Jones drawing it, but I guess I need not worry about it, as Jones did draw it. I'm curious if I would have liked it as much were I not so familiar with the Red Rain books, though; Wein is from the same era of writers as Doug Moench, and can over-write his super-comics in the same way, so he too is a pretty perfect partner for Jones on the slightly-silly, over-the-top dark horror hero stuff. This read quite well as a sort of alternate ending to the Red Rain trilogy, or a sort of epilogue, but I'm not sure how well it stands on its own. Certainly its considerable virtues would remain in tact, but I think it gains a lot of its fun from its context, which is what makes the Convergence books that work and play fair with their source material so fun (and what damns the ones that don't so abysmally disappointing).

Donald Duck #1/#368 (IDW) What a dirty trick! This 42-page first issue begins with a 24-page story by Romano Scarpa, that ends with a cliffhanger and a box saying "See you in thirty!" and "To be concluded!" No fair! There's still 18-more pages in the book! They totally could have published the whole thing. What about those of us who thought we might just try the first issue, to see how we liked it, what with non-Barks, non-Rosa duck comics being kind of a tricky proposition, and some of us don't like paying more than $2.99 for a single issues, so those more Scrooge-like among us would want to test the book for value before committing? We now have to buy the second one too, or else live forever not knowing why the kidnappers made such a bizarre ransom demand!

That story features Donald getting one of those random, temporary jobs that was so often the catalyst for his comics; here it's as a kinda sorta reporter for his Uncle Gideon McDuck's crusading, anti-crime newspaper (one of several elements that seems out-dated, making me wonder when this comic was originally created).

As for the rest of the issue, there's a one-page gag strip drawn by Andrea Maccarini in such a highly loose and expressive style that it seemed at odds with the rest of the comic, a 10-pager in which Donald tries to win Duckburg's Funniest Home Videos (another rather dated element) that's drawn by Mau Heymans (whose longer-necked, longer-billed Donald was probably my favorite design of any of the four artists who drew Donalds in this issue), and finally a six-pager featuring Donald's heroin addict cousin (Okay, it's actually Fethry Duck, and he's just a bit eccentric and annoying, but the way artist Al Hubbard draws him here, he looks particularly strung-out).

Lumberjanes #14 (Boom Studios) This struck me as the best issue in a while, probably since the first story arc wrapped up. That may be due to the return of original artist Brooke Allen (and her absence during the last few issues making them seem a bit like fill-ins), or a higher-than-usual ratio of awesome things to pages, like the return of the Scouting Lads, the introduction of a cool new character with a house where every room is full of a scary, overwhelming surprise and Rosie and The Bear Woman teaming-up:

The gang from Roanoke cabin and Jen try to survive a night in the wilderness, but a sudden summer blizzard and a pack of large, antlered wolf monsters separate the campers from their counselor, with the latter finding herself in even greater danger from her rescuer.

This issue also has maybe the only thing better than dinosaurs in it: A giant ground sloth. A stuffed one, mind you, but before it was shot and mounted, it was totally a giant ground sloth.

Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #10 (DC) Now that's a Wonder Woman cover! Great job, Francesco Francavilla, and great job editor Kristy Quinn and/or whoever decided to hire an artist who draws exceptional covers to draw a cover for this comic, which has a tendency to feature covers that range from terrible (#3, #4, #5) to not-so-hot (#1, #2,#6, #7).

This issue has two stories, a 19-pager followed by a 9-pager (unless I miscounted, and they are actually 20-pages and 10-pages, which would seem to be more right). The first is written by Sara Ryan and drawn by Christian Duce. Ryan's script is surprisingly well fleshed-out, introducing several characters with a decent amount of dimension and realiziation for such a short, one-off story. There are some fun, funny moments too, including Wonder Woman using the word "mansplaining" (the result of her lasso of truth encircling a particular character) and referring to a song as her jam).

The story follows Wonder Woman, oddly referred to as "Ms. Prince" at least once, who is called on to serve as extra security by a woman who provides security and tutoring to a teenage pop star. The message is a bit messily conveyed, I'm afraid, as the villain is a man who wants to prevent the pop star from going in a different direction. He wants her to stay a girl, "feminine, and sweet, and wholesome," and to "stand against what this sick culture want to make them into..."

He's specifically attacking the star and her fans because she wants to move from music into movies, and she plans on making a boxing movie about a tough, bad-ass boxer. The villain's opposition to her playing such a role, which he sees as hurting men as well, seems at odds with some of the other language he uses ("inappropriate," the above bit about a sick culture) and, when we see his "origin," he's upset about the fact that another pop star has become a tabloid target for being "arrested again," being photographed while drunk and swearing at a photographer. The narration says he prefers the earlier stage of her career, in which she's wearing pig-tails and is singing on what appears to be a amalgam of Sesame Street and Yo Gabba Gabba!

That pop star's name? "Normandy Shields," which seems awfully close to "Brittany Spears," whose career began with The Mickey Mouse Club before she grew up and began exploiting her sexuality in her videos and, later, became unfortuante tabloid fodder.

Of course, seeing little girl pop stars exploiting their entree into womanhood for fame and fortune, and the attendant problems with alcohol and/or other substances and/or bad behavior that sometimes accompanies it, is an entirely different thing than a little girl pop star wanting to make a serious film where she plays a bad-ass. I suppose the bad guy is a bad guy, and crazy enough to threaten a woman and try to kill her fans in order to keep her public persona the one he wants her to have, so we maybe aren't meant to think too closely about these things. But it's difficult to tell if he's conflating the two, because he's a crazy villain, or if the writer is.

They're big, tough issues though, and maybe 20 pages or less isn't the best way to tackle them, especially when there's so much else going on. Let's put this under interesting failure then, shall we?

As for the back-up, it's written and drawn by Aaron Lopresti, and it too is an interesting failure...although it fails more than the opening story. Entitled "Casualties of War," its about the last dragon of a certain island attacking Wonder Woman's city (Washington D.C.? Gateway? Boston? London? It never says; a problem of these continuity-free stories, I suppose) in order to avenge the deaths of its kind, who were all killed by Wonder WOman's mom in the past. (To be fair to Hippolyta, she was attacking the pirates who shared an island home with the dragons; the dragons fought the Amazons simply because they were invading, and the Amazons fought the dragons because the dragons were fighting them.)

Wonder Woman tries to talk to the dragon for a while, but eventually is just like, "Fuck it," and kills it, and is then very sad about having to have killed the dragon, even though she didn't really have to. She doesn't use her lasso on the dragon at all, and is apparently not strong or smart enough to figure out a way to trap or defeat the dragon without throwing a metal pole into its heart.

There's a weird part where the dragon says it was told to attack Wonder Woman's city by "the dragon god," which Lopresti draws like a humanoid dragon in a robe, and Wonder Woman counters with, "You've been deceived! There is no dragon god--"

Okay, first off, Wonder Woman seems awfully sure about the fact that there is no such god as a dragon god. Just because you're pretty tight with the Greek pantheon doesn't mean there's no dragon god; what, you know all the gods now, Wonder Woman?

And secondly, even if Wonder Woman knows there's no dragon god–not simply doesn't believe there's no drgon god, but knows it, surely that doesn't mean the dragon can't believe in the dragon god. Like, I'm pretty sure if she were fighting a human being with certain religious beliefs who said their god or a supernatural figure particular to their religion, she wouldn't just yell at them that their god doesn't exist.

As to the deception, it turns out Wonder Woman was right! There's a helmeted figure posing as the dragon god, who is never named. I think it's meant to be Ares, even though Lopresti draws him differently than the Perez desgin that dominated Wonder Woman comics, although it could be The Duke of Deception, given that this is more his M.O....although, again, he doesn't really match up with Lopresti's depiction (and he's awfully obscure compared to Ares...but he did just appear in Scooby-Doo Team-Up, so who knows).

I understand what Lopresti was going for, but this is another of those Wonder Woman-as-reluctant warrior where she just seems like a failure; you wouldn't see Batman or Superman goaded into killing an opponent because they couldn't think of another way to deal with them without stabbing them to death.

Uncle Scrooge #2/#406 (IDW) This actually came out last Wednesday, but I neglected to purchase it, perhaps because I didn't expect it; it's seems like I had just read the first issue. This issue, I thought, was actually stronger than the first, but perhaps that simply a prejudice of certain types of duck stories over others: That first issue lead off with a Scrooge vs. Beagle Boys story, whereas this one features a big adventure story.

The lead story is by writer Jan Kruse and artist Bas Heymans, and is somewhat shaggy in nature, but in a pleasing way involving unexpected twists and turns, rather than straight up random events. Scrooge and his nephews all go fishing, encounter a haunted ship, are taken to an cursed island with cursed pirates, and engage in a quest to break the cures, during which they meet various bizarre obstacles and strangely rendered characters familiar from legends, like a fantastically designed Loch Ness monster.

That's followed by a one-page gag strip drawn by Andrea Freccero (whose style is similar to Andrea Maccarini's, who drew the gag stirp I didn't like in Donald Duck) and a Glomgold vs. Scrooge story in the rivals race to recover a meteor with strange, otherworldly effects.

1 comment:

ramapith said...

"This 42-page first issue [of Donald Duck] begins with a 24-page story by Romano Scarpa that ends with a cliffhanger [...] They totally could have published the whole thing."

Archival Editor David Gerstein here—wait, what? But... but the Scarpa story is actually 50 pages long! There was no fitting it all into our debut issue... so we ran it in the two halves that Scarpa originally designed.
Wait till you see his "What Happened Last Month" page next issue: it's exactly as he conceived it and full of priceless gags itself.

The story, by the way, is from 1956. By popular demand, we'll include original publication dates in the issues themselves starting soon.