Thursday, June 04, 2015

Comic Shop Comics: June 3

Age of Reptiles: Age of Egyptians #1 (Dark Horse Comics) I've only read Ricardo Delgado's dinosaur comics in trade format before, but it was such a light week and this looked so good I couldn't resist...although I might have had I realized it was $3.99 instead of $3.50.

As you might expect if you too have read any of Delgado's previous Age of Reptiles comics, it's great: Completely amazing in its detail and storytelling, there are no words, no sounds of any kind, but its action and drama are written so eloquently with pictures that one won't miss words a bit. Fuck you, words!

A Spinosaurus wanders to a river–or is it the sea? I see sharks in there, and I forget how long ago there were river sharks–and then swims along it, getting in fights, getting out to sleep, eating things. It's a lot more exciting than I make it sound there, trust me.

There are two quite remarkable things that Delgado does in this issue. One is that he shows just how full of life nature could be so long ago; his panels are literally teeming with drawings of living things, once Spinosaurus hits the water and starts swimming. The other is that he puts sauropods in the role of aggressor and therapod dinosaur in the role of victim. We see a small herd of some sort of gigantic sauropod brutally kill a predator, and then have a pretty tense face-off with our protagonist, with one of them taking a swing at him. Spinosaurus is an apex predator, but he's so dwarfed by the massive size of the sauropods and outnumbered by them that he seems small and insignificant before them; it's a neat trick recasting him as an underdog when challenged by these vegetarian giants.

I do wish the page devoted to a preview of the next issue's cover and a paragraph of text from editor Philip Simon could have given us some notes on which species of dinosaurs and other animals appear in this issue. I'm not bad on the subject of dinosaurs by any means, but I couldn't, like, identify what kind of sauropods those were or anything just by looking at Delgado's drawings, you know?

Airboy #1 (Image Comics) Wow. This was...different. Did you read It's a Bird...? Writer Steven T. Seagle's memoir about how stressed out he was about being asked to write Superman comics, which becomes a sort of meditation on the character intertwined with the writer's biography?

Well, this is sort of like way of Ennis and McCrea's Dicks. We open with James Robinson naked and pooping on a toilet, being cajoled by Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson into writing a new Airboy revival for Image, as the Golden Age character has fallen into public domain. Robinson, who feels typecast as the Golden Age revival guy, doesn't want the assignment, but reluctantly takes it when Stephenson offers to match his DC page rate.

I'm a big fan of actors playing fictionalized versions of themselves, and while it only rather infrequently happens in comics, I like it here too. I know almost nothing about James Robinson–I knew he was married to former DC editor Jann Jones for example, but I didn't know they had divorced–other than what he's written and that it tended to be pretty good (when it wasn't completely horrible), so it's difficult for me to tell how much of this is autobiographical and how much is exaggerated for comedic effect. Did Cully Hamner or Tony Harris tell Stephenson that Robinson was an egomaniac? I don't know; but I know those names, and it's funny to imagine they did.

I'm assuming that the drug-fueled night on the town, culminating with Robinson and Airboy artist Greg Hinkle having sex with a lady at the same time, didn't happen (Robinson assures Hinkle that his wife will never find out...a scene that made it into the comic, after all), just as I assume that Hinkle doesn't have the porn star penis he grants himself (the script must refer to it as pretty big, as Robinson's comics avatar calls it an anaconda at one point, but on the next page, it seems to be have grown a few inches in length and circumference).

So here we have the story of a middle-aged professional comic book writer, dissatisfied with his career and the public's perception of him, while aware that he's already peaked and that his recent DC Comics writing has been pretty terrible (Oddly, he doesn't mention his recent Marvel writing; nobody really read or liked your Fantastic Four or All-New Invaders either, James!*), taking an assignment he doesn't want out of desperation, dragging a younger, up-and-coming artist with him into a night of complete debauchery, and, on the cliffhanging last page, they're faced with Airboy in full-color glory, in sharp contrast to the two-tone coloring of the previous 19 pages, announcing "Gentlemen...this behavior will not stand!"

Is he a drug-induced hallucination, or has Airboy himself become real in order to manage his own revival? I don't know. But I'm looking forward to the next issue of this James Robinson-written comic book, which certainly isn't anything I ever said about his Earth 2 or Justice League of America or Cry For Justice...Holy shit, remember that? Cry For Justice? That was a real comic, right? I've tried to block my memories of it as much as possible, as I did with Identity Crisis, but, if I recall correctly, that was DC and James Robinson's response to Ultimates 3, right?

The letters page has no letters to publish yet, so instead there are testimonials from Robinson's friends/comics professionals Gerry Duggan, Matt Fraction, Jeff Lemire, Darwyn Cooke and Brian K. Vaughan.

Fraction's is terrible:
That's like four syllables better than Boris Karloff's Frankenstein might have managed in a review: "Airboy good!"

Also, there's no way of knowing if he's talking about the character, the original Golden Age comics, the Eclipse revival, or this comic.

Archie #666 (Archie Comics) I had a devil of a time choosing which of the six interlocking variant covers to purchase of this, the very last issue of Archie...before it's relaunched next month. Oh! It's the 666th issue! Now I see why I had a devil of a time choosing!

Honestly, I probably spent longer trying to pick a particular cover than I did reading it. Divided into chapters, all written by Tom DeFalco and drawn by Dan Parent, Fernando Ruiz, Rich Koslowski,Tim Kennedy and Pat Kennedy, the fairly simply story is that of Archie Andrews' 666th detention. He has to repair all of the damage accidentally done to a hallway in a single Saturday, or face expulsion. Meanwhile, all of the characters reminisce about Archie and how much they like him (It's actually an awful lot like the end of Life With Archie, although not as morbid). You can probably guess how things turn out; Pat Kennedy and Rich Koslowski get to draw a pretty good panel of pretty much everyone, although it's kind of too bad it's not a full-page splash.

Bat-Mite #1 and Bizarro #1 (DC Comics) I'll have full reviews of these two elsewhere later today (UPDATE: It's later; here), and am just listing them here for the sake of completeness and to fulfill the self-imposed rule of this particular EDILW feature (That is, listing and writing a little about each of the books I bought at the comic shop during a particular week; I don't know how valuable "I spent money on this comic" is as an indication of my perception of a comic's potential quality is, but there you have it). Neither was quite as good as I would have liked, but neither was bad at all, either. I think it's well worth noting of the primary creators involved in these books–writers Dan Jurgens and Heath Corson, artists Corin Howell and Gusvato Duarte–three are newcomers to DC Comics. Corson is an animation screenwriter who adapted some so-so Geoff Johns comics into not-very-good direct-to-DVD cartoon movies. Howell is an artist who has self-published in addition to working for Viz and Oni, was previously featured in the "Hire This Woman" column from former DC editor Janelle Asselin and is an honest-to-goodness lady (remember how many female artists were involved in the New 52 launch? That's right, zero; I think there was one female writer, and, like, a cover artist or two?). Duarte is a Brazilian cartoonist and comics artist, whose only previous work published in the states was via Dark Horse, I think (Duarte fans correct me if I'm wront).

In other words, not only are these books unusual for DC Comics in that they are comic comic books (i.e. they are comedies), or that they feature such radically different artistic styles, they are noteworthy for the fact that they are bringing new talent to DC Comics. That was one of my major criticisms of (and points of confusion regarding) The New 52 reboot and relaunch; DC seemed to be saying that they realized their books weren't as good as they could be, that they weren't appealing to as wide an audience as they should be, and that their plan to address that was to have the exact same people who were making those comics continue to make them, just reshuffling who was doing what, dressing the characters as if they were starring in superhero movies rather than superhero comics, resetting the numbering to #1 and giving the shared universe a new, secret history/continuity, completely unknown to anyone.

So this new, post-Convergence line revamp seems to be the sort of thing DC should have done in September of 2011, rather than June of 2015, but hey, better late than never!

Despite noting the artwork of Corin Howell and Gustavo Duarte, the image above is not drawn by either. Instead, it's from Bill Sienkiewicz, who drew it as a dream sequence in Biarro #1. I post it because as much as I've always admired and respected Sienkiewicz's art, I would have never guessed he was so goddam good at drawing unicorns. But look at that; those are some fine unicorns.

*Well, I liked them okay, as the reviews of the collections I wrote on EDILW should bear out.


Anonymous said...

When y'all gonna write about Zero? Waiting for the series to conclude before you tackle it...?

Evan Dawson-Baglien said...

There are several species of river-dwelling shark that are still alive today. I'm not sure when they first evolved, but I understand sharks haven't changed significantly for tens of millions of years at least.

I think one of the best things Convergence did was undo some of the events of "Cry for Justice." It happens in "Convergence: Titans," to be specific.